TCS Daily

Old Europe's Duplicity

By Duane D. Freese - February 7, 2003 12:00 AM

"Secretary of State Colin Powell presented the United Nations and a global television audience yesterday with the most powerful case to date that Saddam Hussein stands in defiance of Security Council resolutions," intoned the ever wary, anti-Bush administration New York Times.

"Powell lays out convincing evidence," USA Today's editorial stepped up.

"I'm persuaded," wrote Washington Post syndicated columnist Mary McGrory.

"Irrefutable," the Washington Post editorial went to the mat.

Those reactions from generally liberal media icons amount to a grand slam for Secretary of State Colin Powell in his speech to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday.

There is no question that the evidence presented by Powell before the council gave the media and the public a clearer view of the duplicity of Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi regime. And those with an open mind will accept the proof. Only, as conservative columnist George Will noted, those "people committed to a particular conclusion will get to it and will stay there."

And there are a number of them. The ever Bush-disparaging 82-year-old Hearst columnist Helen Thomas at a White House news briefing on Thursday insisted again, without any evidence, that "isn't this just about oil?" And an equally unclear thinking, Nelson Mandela, declared: "We are not going to listen to the United States of America." And Congresswoman Maxine Waters can tell CNN's Talkback live audience, "We shouldn't act without proof."

A fringe left-wing journalist; an aged, if respected, revolutionary and a rabidly partisan member of Congress can get away with such self-delusion because they aren't privy to the most secret intelligence and they don't hold people's lives in their hands. But Western leaders are privy to such information and do. So, they can't get away with delusional thinking.

The most troubling thing about both Powell's presentation and the reaction to it by some leaders is that those leaders, by playing as ignorant pacifists, actually increase the likelihood, even the necessity, for using force in Iraq.

McGrory in her column said she was "as tough as France to convince" that "Saddam Hussein, with his stockpiles of nerve gas and death-dealing chemicals, is more of a menace than I had thought."

But the point is, French President Jacque Chirac, and with him, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, shouldn't have needed any convincing of Hussein's danger. They knew Hussein was shuffling and hiding and cheating and retreating. Their intelligence services had to have told them.

In regards to France, its Defense Ministry spokesperson Jean-Francois Bureau admitted as much Thursday when he answered questions about what French intelligence knew by saying, "There are a certain number of questions evoked by Mr. Powell that we had information on. Others, perhaps less."

What did Chirac know and when did he know it? Well, he had to know about Iraq's Al Qaeda connections that Powell exposed Thursday prior to Jan. 20. Britain had found the deadly poison ricin in a northeast London home Jan. 5 and broke into a mosque on Jan. 20 arresting seven people that British Prime Minister Tony Blair connected to Al Qaeda. At the same time, Spanish anti-terrorist forces arrested 16 suspected Al Qaeda terrorists in the process of launching chemical attacks. And where did the Spanish get their tip? From French police, after a police raid there had gathered in a terrorist cell in Paris.

Yet, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on Jan. 20 sandbagged Powell at a U.N. meeting on terrorism that he had gotten Powell to attend when he declared: "If war is the only way to resolve this problem, we are going down a dead end. Already we know for a fact that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs are being largely blocked, even frozen. We must do everything possible to strengthen this process."

Will called de Villepin oleaginous - oily, overly ingratiating. In truth, he and his master, Chirac, demonstrated at that point, knowing what they had to know about Saddam and the terrorists, that they were duplicitous.

Meanwhile, German Prime Schroeder was even worse. Back in August, in an attempt to curry favor with pacifist German sentiment, he said, "As far as military intervention against Iraq goes, I believe we should be restrained. That means that Germany will not participate."

Prior to Powell presenting his new evidence to the United Nations, he vowed again that Germans would "'not let up in our efforts to resolve this conflict without a war."

For a president of a nation to unilaterally rule out the use of force ahead of time is basically to tell the enemy: Do your worst, we don't care. To do so in the face of intelligence that demonstrates a grave threat to one's people defies sanity.

Schroeder knew in November

As The New York Times reported on Feb. 3, a confidential government memorandum from German Health minister Ulla Schmidt last fall warned: "It is to be assumed that countries such as North Korea and Iraq have access to viral strains that could present a potential threat. It was stated earlier that no one would use these because of the risk of self-injury, but it is the case, given the numerous suicide bomber attacks, that there is a completely different situation. Therefore, the danger cannot be excluded that someone could infect himself to launch a suicide attack."

That Schroeder took the threat seriously is demonstrated by his agreeing in mid-December to launch a $118 million program for stockpiling smallpox vaccine for all of Germany's 82 million people.

Yet as an opposition legislator Friedbert Pflueger, an influential Christian Democratic Union legislator from Hanover, said in an interview quoted in the Times' story that the Schroeder's government continued to try "to give the impression that it is a fantasy of George W. Bush that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

This had the effect, as Pflueger noted, of misleading the German people about the dangers of Iraq.

Indeed, both Chirac and Schroeder have misled their citizens about the threat that Iraq poses. Despite knowing the reality of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, they continued to put the onus on the Bush administration to proving that he had any, leading to the false impression among many people that inspectors would be a sufficient means to contain Hussein's ambition.

Worse than that, though, they also provided comfort to Hussein that he could play the old game of cheat and retreat because those opposing him were divided in actually dealing with his weaponry, and thus action against him might again be forestalled as it was throughout most of the 1990s.

The new reality created after Sept. 11th made such a miscalculation, as Powell noted, impossible.

President Bush on Thursday said, "The game is over." His target was Iraq, but it is time that Chirac and Schroeder get the message, too. Their playing ignorant, putting the burden on the United States to prove Iraq was a danger, their unwillingness to stand united behind measures to disarm him, has done nearly as much to necessitate the use of force against Saddam as Saddam's own game playing.

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