There’s Still Time To Avert US War In Iraq

While President Bush appears hell-bent on invading Iraq this winter, there is still time, and a few favorable circumstances, to prevent a costly and bloody war.

We would be at war today if the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council had failed to approve a U.S.-British resolution calling for tougher inspections of Iraq’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. The 15-0 vote served to solidify the authority of the Security Council.

The President had told the United Nations General Assembly bluntly on Oct. 8, that if the U.N. “failed to meet its responsibilities,” the United States was ready to invade Iraq on its own.

While the U.S. can still wage war unilaterally, it, too, must comply with the rules and actions of the United Nations. Its representatives had to endure eight weeks of time-consuming, frustrating debates over the wording of the resolution in order to get the Security Council’s blessing.

Under the Council’s resolution, Iraq was given seven days from Nov. 8 to agree to the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Baghdad. Iraq accepted the terms, while repeating its claim that it had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons – to the disappointment of some Bush advisers who had hoped that Saddam Hussein would defiantly reject the seven-day ultimatum.

The next point of contention is the 30-day period ending Dec. 8, when Iraq will have to submit a complete list of all of its weapons programs. U.S. war strategists hope to catch the Iraqis in a violation (a “material breach”) that can be used as a reason for invading Baghdad. Bush has said: “We will not tolerate any deception, denial or deceit, period.”

That tactic may not work if the violation is trivial or remediable. It will still be up to the Security Council to consider any violation and determine what action is warranted.

If the U.S. continues to claim that Iraq is loaded with biological and chemical weaponry, it will have to present hard evidence to the arms inspectors.

Having the U.N. inspectors go to Baghdad is a hard-won victory for opponents of the war. Both Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have publicly opposed the use of weapons inspectors as a diversion from the urgency to invade Iraq.

The White House wants the public to believe that Saddam Hussein has craftily hidden his deadly weapons, far from the prying eyes of the inspectors. It’s an attempt to undercut the 280 or more top professionals who are armed with the latest surveillance technology and have a mandate to go anywhere and anytime to suspected sites. Saddam can’t maintain ironclad secrecy, since hundreds of Iraqis would have to be employed to produce the deadly weapons.

In the eight years before they were ejected from Baghdad, the inspectors found and destroyed virtually all of Iraq’s stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, delivery systems and the capability of producing such weapons.

The U.N. inspection teams should be allowed to do their work, as long as it takes, without pressure from the United States to end inspections as quickly as possible.

As long as the inspectors remain in Iraq, Saddam Hussein won’t find it easy to hide his chemical or biological weapons and won’t be able to use them against any nation.

Saddam was no threat to either his neighbors or to the U.S. for the twelve years we kept him holed up in Baghdad. He will be even less of a threat now, because U.N. inspectors, with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, will be able to watch his every move, on the ground and in the air.

There is therefore no need to send 200,000 Americans to fight in a war that can be averted. Nor do we have to wreak death and destruction on the Iraqi people and turn them into our bitter enemies.

And if there is to be a real “regime change” and a chance for democracy to flourish in Iraq, it will have to be done by the Iraqis themselves, not by armed outside conquerors.

“Labor and the War” appears every Friday on . Our weekly “LaborTalk” column is posted every Wednesday on the same Web site.

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