The Conqueror's Shifting Ground

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Following Iraq’s decision to allow an unconditional return of United Nations weapons inspectors to that country, a rational person might have acknowledged that such a humiliating capitulation represented at least the slightest indication of progress toward satisfying U.S. demands. The White House, however, immediately dismissed the offer, declaring: "This is not a matter of inspections." Not one inch was conceded — not that this was a welcome step forward, not that it could be the beginning of a peaceful resolution to the crisis, nothing.

For reasons that Jude Wanniski and other observers have pointed out, alleged "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq’s possession or that country’s defiance of the United Nations cannot possibly be the real reasons for the Bush administration’s belligerence toward Iraq, which is why it is so amusing to read a neoconservative punditry so at pains to defend these arguments. (Is any invasion of Israel planned for having defied the United Nations for 35 years over its occupations of the West Bank and Gaza?)

It is obvious enough that nothing the Iraqi government could have said would have satisfied the White House. Thus I have conjured up the following scenario:

Wire service, September 21, 2002:

"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein today put on the table a still bolder proposal: he will allow weapons inspectors from any country anywhere in the world full access to any site in Iraq they wish to investigate, and at Iraqi expense will be permitted to comb every inch of Iraqi soil for evidence of illicit weapon construction.

"The White House, however, is dismissing the offer as yet another example of Iraqi stonewalling. u2018This isn’t about permitting inspection of every inch of Iraqi soil on demand,’ a White House spokesman said. u2018This is about forcing Saddam Hussein to be forthcoming about his weapons programs and to come clean before the international community.’"

Wire service, September 26, 2002:

"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein put an additional offer on the table today: he will, again at Iraqi expense, authorize the deployment of a series of surveillance satellites to be used by the United States and any country that is interested, to keep constant watch over any Iraqi installation the international community indicates. Surveillance aircraft will also be permitted free access to the skies of Iraq, so that the development of any potentially illicit weapons may be monitored and prevented.

"u2018This isn’t about forcing Saddam Hussein to be forthcoming about his weapons programs,’ said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. u2018It is about transforming an irresponsible and despotic regime into one that will obey the will of the international community and the mandate of the United Nations.’"

Wire service, October 7, 2002:

"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, faced with overwhelming American intransigence, is now offering to establish a coalition government consisting of himself and officials from neutral countries designated by the United Nations. Diplomatic historians and political scientists around the world were unanimous in declaring such a move by Hussein to be absolutely without precedent in the history of international affairs.

"The White House, however, remained unimpressed. u2018This isn’t about transforming Saddam’s regime into one that will obey the United Nations,’ a White House source said. u2018It’s about ensuring that Iraq will be absolutely unable to threaten its neighbors or even the United States with weapons of mass destruction.’"

Wire service, October 14, 2002:

"Iraqi President Saddam Hussein made today what he says is his final offer. For the next three months, he says, every Iraqi citizen will lie prostrate on the ground and will remain motionless, with the exception of three meal allowances, which will be administered by UN personnel at Iraqi expense. Otherwise the entire Iraqi population will remain absolutely still for a full three months while UN officials take any action they consider reasonable or necessary to ensure that Iraq is not a danger to her neighbors.

"When asked for his opinion of this most recent Iraqi proposal, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters that the President was skeptical. u2018Saddam must be forthcoming and cooperative, and his persistent stonewalling and defiance are only trying the patience of the international community,’ Fleischer said. u2018The President has made his position very clear. The peace of the world, from New Zealand to Canada, is menaced as long as Saddam is alive.’"

Wire service, October 15, 2002:

"In a surprise move today, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein stepped up his diplomatic offensive, and said he would in fact commit suicide on live television if that was what it would take to forestall an invasion of his country. Physicians approved by the United Nations would perform all the necessary tests to verify his identity before bringing about his death by lethal injection.

"Asked for comment today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied that he was growing tired of Saddam’s lack of cooperation and reminded Americans that u2018this has never been about just one man.’"

Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [send him mail] holds a AB from Harvard and a PhD from Columbia. He teaches history, is associate editor of The Latin Mass Magazine, and is co-author (with Christopher A. Ferrara) of The Great Faade: Vatican II and the Regime of Novelty in the Roman Catholic Church (2002). The book (as well as a sample chapter) is available at greatfacade.com.

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