Whistleblower's Trill on Iraq
It was UNSCOM's discoveries and defeats, over many years, that led Washington to come to the conclusion that the 1991 rules on Iraq could no longer apply. One might criticize the White House for changing official policy regarding the lifting of sanctions, but Iraq made it ever so difficult to conceive of a peaceful outcome. Thus emerged the on-again, off-again, on-again policy of seeking the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. It would probably be an overstatement to say that UNSCOM was enlisted in the effort. But the fruit of its work and its physical access to Baghdad were exploited. Policy-makers in Washington felt that the Iraq case was so extreme, the outcome so worthwhile, that they were willing to compromise the UN and threaten the future of disarmament.
A host of defections, UNSCOM's information and the eavesdropping bonanza also served to convince Washington that there was a chance that Hussein could be overthrown. Ritter, tactless and conceited, under suspicion of cutting deals with foreign governments to exchange information, was himself cut off from the intelligence take. If the intelligence was to be used to pinpoint the Iraqi leader's whereabouts to facilitate a coup, it appeared that no one wanted Ritter involved or in the way.
It's all over now. No UNSCOM, no access to Iraq, no overthrow in sight. And no diplomatic outcome is on the horizon either.
So what is the solution? Astoundingly, alpha dog Ritter suggests negotiating and monitoring, and a sort of backhanded reward for the Iraqi regime in the form of a "nation-building" Marshall Plan. Ritter naïvely goes one step further, suggesting that the United States and Iraq engage in "direct diplomacy" to iron out any misunderstandings. He comically suggests Richard Holbrooke as a potential negotiator. At least with bombs falling on Yugoslavia, Holbrooke is temporarily out of a job.
If this is the best that can be offered, it is no wonder that Washington thinks "sanctions until regime change" is a better alternative. Normal Iraqis are meanwhile held hostage because of the 1991 cease-fire principles and those damned weapons of mass destruction. Humanitarians can argue forever that enough is enough, but they will be vetoed by those who dispense international security.
The greatest damage Ritter does in his flawed book is in understating UNSCOM's achievements, thus also overstating Iraq's current potential for weapons of mass destruction. The commission probably completed 99 percent of its task. Iraq no doubt continues to conceal capabilities, but we now also understand the ease with which chemical or biological weapons can be made from "dual use" civilian resources. This means that 100 percent can probably never be guaranteed. Which argues in favor of a different solution.
The sad thing about Endgame is that the newly minted diplomat Mr. Ritter is correct in suggesting a nonconfrontational opportunity for the Baghdad regime to "confess" in exchange for a sure end to sanctions. His telling of the UNSCOM story, however, neither justifies this tack nor provides enough insight about Iraq to build a consensus behind why it is indeed a superior endgame.