Thursday, January 16, 2003

Speed Bumps

Countdown to Invasion: 15 Days.

Lest anyone think we aren't serious about invading Iraq soon, check out the statements by Rumsfeld and Myers at this press conference. Note that we will not let a dying UN stop us; note the refusal to play by Saddam's rules (and France's and Sheryl Crow's rules that say we must find what he has hidden); note that acceptance that the anti-war crowd cannot be convinced that war is just and necessary; note the quoting of the President that we will not be stalled; note that he says the choice for war has essentially been made by Saddam; note the dismissal of any bluffing; and note the proper placing of blame for harm to any of the so-called 'human shields' lies with the Iraqis, showing that they are no shields at all. But read for yourself:

Rumsfeld: Good afternoon. After United Nations (U.N.) inspectors briefed the Security Council last week, a number of the observers seemed to seize on the inspectors' statement that they found "no smoking gun" as yet. Conversely, if the inspectors had found new evidence, the argument might then have been that inspections were in fact working and, therefore, they should be given more time to work. I guess for any who are unalterably opposed to military action, no matter what Iraq may do, there will be some sort of an argument.

Another way to look at it is this; that the fact that the inspectors have not yet come up with new evidence of Iraq's WMD program could be evidence in and of itself of Iraq's non-cooperation. We do know that Iraq has designed its programs in a way that they can proceed in an environment of inspections, and that they are skilled at denial and deception.

The president has repeatedly made clear -- and it bears repeating -- that the burden of proof is not on the United States, it's not on the United Nations or the international community to prove that Iraq has these weapons. The burden of proof is on the Iraqi regime to prove that it is disarming, and to show the inspectors where the weapons are.

As the president said, "The inspectors do not have the duty or the ability to uncover weapons hidden in a vast country. The responsibility of inspectors can only be to confirm the evidence of voluntary and total disarmament by a cooperative country. It is Saddam Hussein who has the responsibility to provide that evidence, as directed and in full." Unquote.

Thus far, he has been unwilling to do so. We continue to hope that the regime will change course and that Iraq will disarm peacefully and voluntarily. No one wants war. The choice between war and peace will not be made in Washington or, indeed, in New York; it will be made in Baghdad. And the decision is facing the Iraqi regime.

This is a test for them, to be sure, but it is also a test for the U.N.. The credibility of that institution is important. Iraq has defied some 16 U.N. resolutions without cost or consequence. The Security Council unanimously approved a new resolution, which required that Iraq, quote, "provide a currently accurate, full and complete declaration," unquote, of its WMD programs, which asserted that any false statement or omissions in the declaration submitted by Iraq shall constitute a further material breach of Iraq's obligations, and which declared that this was Iraq's final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations, unquote. That is what the resolution said.

When the U.N, makes a statement like that, it puts its credibility on the line. To understand what's at stake, it's worth recalling the history of the U.N.'s predecessor, the League of Nations. The league collapsed because member states were not willing to back up their declarations with consequences. When the league failed to act after the invasion of Abyssinia, it was discredited. And the lesson of that experience was summed up by Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who declared at that time, quote: "Collective bluffing cannot bring about collective security," unquote. The lesson is as true today as it was at the start -- as it was back in the 20th century. The question is the -- whether or not the world has learned that lesson.

General Myers?

Myers: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And good afternoon.

I'd like to begin by speaking briefly of Iraq's recruitment of human shields and the International Law of Armed Conflict.

As many of you know from news reports in Reuters and AFP, the London Observer, and in many other newspapers around the world, Iraq announced in late December that it will recruit and receive volunteers from Arab and Western countries to serve as human shields who would be deployed to protect sensitive sites. This is a deliberate recruitment of innocent civilians for the purpose of putting them in harm's way should a conflict occur. The last time Iraq used people as human shields was in December of 1998, when Iraq failed to comply with U.N. arms experts and coalition forces began Operation Desert Fox. A year earlier, the Iraqi encouraged hundreds of Iraqi families to put themselves at risk as voluntary human shields at palaces and strategic facilities in Iraq when Iraq refused to allow U.N. inspectors access to government sites.

I'd like to note that it is illegal under the international law of armed conflict to use non-combatants as a means of shielding potential targets. And Iraq action to do so would not only violate this law, but also be considered a war crime in any conflict. Therefore, if death or serious injury to a non-combatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields would be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention.

We are going to invade, let there be no doubt.

On to Baghdad.