Arms inspectors back in Iraq; Perle says ‘so what?’

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. Bush hawk Richard Perle, however, says they don’t matter.

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© 2002 Reuters

United Nations arms inspectors, led by Hans Blix, arrived in Baghdad yesterday to start the thankless job of determining whether or not Saddam Hussein has been up to no good since 1998, when the last inspection team left the country. The team has said it will “freeze” sites to prevent evidence from being smuggled out.
“We are fully conscious of the responsibility we have on our shoulders,” said Jacques Baute, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Committee (UNMOVIC). “We have an access anywhere and access anywhere is translated into inspections to any type of facilities.
It may not make any difference, however, if this report from the Mirror in the U.K. is to be believed. Richard Perle, chairman of the civilian Defense Policy Board and noted Bush Administration hawk, told British MPs that the United States would attack Iraq even if UNMOVIC comes up empty.
“I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know,” Perle allegedly said. “All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction.”
Well, hell. You can’t prove a negative, as the logicians say, but Perle seems willing to bet that the U.S. can find someone to finger Saddam as man with his finger on the button. “Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents,” Perle allegedly said.
Former defense minister and Labour Party member Peter Kilfoyle said that the United States would be satisfied with such claims, which is alarming to say the least. Remember the story about the dead Kuwaiti babies in the run-up to the first Gulf War? That bit of media manipulation was brought to you courtesy of PR giant Hilton & Knowlton and the daughter of the Kuwati ambassador to the United States, all in a (successful) attempt to enrage public opinion against Iraq. (For the record, it appears this incident never happened.) If Perle is willing to accept someone’s testimony at face value, the people of Iraq don’t have a prayer.
Of course, it’s quite possible Perle is the public hard-liner who espouses positions so far to the right that they make the Bush administration look reasonable in comparison. I’ve fired off an email to Mr. Perle, but as yet have had no response. I will reprint it in full if and when I hear back from him.

Who is Reuel Marc Gerecht and why is he full of it?

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” Forgive me my skepticism.

In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute claims that “An Iraq War Won’t Destabilize the Mideast.” He argues that Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has so thoroughly co-opted religious leaders that there is no threat to from raging mobs in the street angry over American bellicosity. And Saudi Arabia is sound as a pound, too. The maligned Shi’ites of the eastern provinces “aren’t going to riot on behalf of Saddam Hussein, who has brutally oppressed his own Shiite majority.” Tellingly, though:

“Saudi militancy is mainly financial and expressed through proxies. The Saudis held a telethon to support Palestinian militants. They spend millions of dollars to support organizations that spread hatred of the United States and Israel. Yet they have not once rioted in significant numbers for the Palestinians or against the royal family’s American protectors. This is as true for the fundamentalist heartland in the Najd region as it is for the more cosmopolitan Hijaz. Remember, Osama bin Laden stands out among both rich and poor because he is a Saudi who actually did something himself.”

This is supposed to reassure me? Forgive me my skepticism. While the House of Saud may not fall to Islamists in the wake of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, I infer from Gerecht’s statement that militants and financiers will step up their efforts to fund people like bin Laden. That makes me feel so much better, thanks. And just because Saddam has oppressed his Shi’ite minority, that doesn’t mean the United States will be seen in a favorable light. While the Saudi Shi’ites may not like Saddam, they like America even less.
He then goes on to reassure his readers that Turkey and Jordan aren’t in threat of revolution from angry Islamists. Well, who the hell thought they were? I mean, this is a strawman argument if there ever was one.
Left out of this mix is Pakistan, which in my opinion is the closest to falling to Islamists of any of the United States’ allies in its war on whoever the hell pisses it off next. President Pervez Musharraf’s candidate for prime minister, Zafarullah Khan Jamali of Baluchistan province, won in Paliament by a one-vote whisker in a contest in which the rigging was only thinly disguised. And radical Islamist candidates won big in October’s parliamentary elections. The country is ready to fall at any moment — and they’ve got nukes.
Gerecht’s column is no doubt part of a public relations campaign to reassure people here and abroad that things are under control. But his attempts are undermined, for me, by his ties to the American Enterprise Institute, a noted right-wing think tank peopled with with conservative cognoscenti with deep ties to the Bush Administration. Lynne Cheney, the veep’s wife, is one of its scholars, along with Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Jean Kirkpatrick and (drum roll, please) Richard Perle, the bombastic hawk who’s been itching to invade Iraq since before Bush ever got into office.
War is never anything but unsettling and destabilizing. And certainly don’t believe a new war with Iraq will leave the sands of the Middle East undisturbed.