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.

25cnd-iraq.3.468.jpg
© 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.