The presence of weapons inspectors in Iraq could delay and perhaps derail the US drive to war, therefore they are part of the problem, not part of the solution, so far as the US is concerned.
A top US Senate foreign policy aide observed in May 2002 that: “The White House’s biggest fear is that UN weapons inspectors will be allowed to go in.”
When he addressed the UN General Assembly on 12 September, President George W Bush demanded the elimination of “all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material” in Iraq, “if the Iraqi regime wishes peace.”
He also demanded an end to Iraqi “support for terrorism”, an end to Iraq’s “persecution of its civilian population”, and an end to the oil smuggling which is the lifeblood of the regime.
Nowhere did the president demand or even mention the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.
The message seemed to be that even if weapons inspectors were re-admitted, the US could find another justification for a war against Iraq.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said in May, “US policy is that regardless of what the inspectors do, the people of Iraq and the people of the region would be better off with a different regime in Baghdad. The United States reserves its option to do whatever it believes might be appropriate to see if there can be a regime change.”
There is pressure on UN weapons inspectors to instigate a confrontation that can be used to justify war, perhaps over the US demand that inspectors take weapons scientists and their families out of Iraq for questioning (where they will be offered asylum by the US).
Iraq is expected to refuse to permit this, creating a ”justification” for war.
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix is reluctant, having said: “We are not going to abduct anyone. The UN is not a defection agency.”
The abduction of scientists is not necessary to verify whether or not Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but disarmament is not the goal. The US goal is to bring about the replacement of Saddam Hussein.
Thomas Friedman, diplomatic correspondent of the New York Times, said in July 1991 that economic sanctions would continue until there was a military coup which would create “the best of all worlds”: “an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein”.
A return to the days when Saddam Hussein’s “iron first” held Iraq together, “much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia”. This is not “regime change”; this is “regime stabilisation/leadership change.”
In October, Ari Fleischer, White House spokesperson, tried to deflect a question about the multi-billion-dollar cost of a US invasion by observing that the expense of a war on Iraq could be saved by the “cost of a bullet”. Asked if he was calling for Saddam Hussein to be assassinated, in contravention of US law, Mr Fleischer said, regime change was welcome “in whatever form it takes”.
This clarifies the meaning of “regime change” beautifully: delete the Supreme Leader, and slot in another Iraqi general in his stead.
In this viewpoint section on 12 December, Daniel Neep of the Royal United Services Institute commented that, in the event of war: “The ideal scenario is someone within Iraq, preferably within the army, killing Saddam and taking control. That would mean that entering Baghdad would not be necessary and would also solve the problem of who will govern once he has gone.”
The search for a replacement for the Supreme Leader has not gone well. The exiled general possessing the most “credibility” with the Iraqi military, General Nizar al- Khazraji, is being investigated in Denmark in connection with the war crime of gassing 5,000 Kurds in 1988.
Another US favourite is Brigadier General Najib al-Salhi, who has called for multi-party democracy in Iraq. The general rather gave the game away, however, when he stressed the need to encourage Iraqi military leaders to switch sides by promising that no more than 20 of Saddam’s closest henchmen would be treated as criminals by a new Iraqi Government.
The United States is not committed to the weapons inspection process, has never called for the return of weapons inspectors, and is interested in the inspectors only insofar as they can be manipulated into creating a war crisis.
That war has as its immediate goal the assassination and replacement of Saddam Hussein and his immediate entourage, and a continuation of the same regime (with minor modifications).
“Regime stabilisation with leadership change” will reinforce the stability of Washington’s clients in the region, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and re-establish US dominance of Iraq’s huge oil wealth.
This is a deeply cynical exercise, as well as being illegal and immoral.
MILAN RAI is author of War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War (Verso, 2002) and a member of Active Resistance to the Roots of War (Arrow). He is also co-founder of Voices in the Wilderness UK, which has worked for the lifting of UN sanctions in Iraq.