The most dangerous addict: why we need to destroy Saddam Hussein’s ability to terrorize the world

The most dangerous addict: why we need to destroy Saddam Hussein’s ability to terrorize the world

Mortimer B. Zuckerman

Someone who should know Saddam Hussein, Syria’s dictator Hafez Assad, said that Saddam is like a chain smoker, lighting another cigarette before he has finished the first. But Saddam’s addiction is not nicotine; it is bloodshed. Saddam’s flat eyes and eerily calm demeanor reveal nothing; but the drumbeat of war from him speaks insistently of his evil intent. Here is a man who used poison gas on Iranians and nerve gas on his own people. He invaded Iran in 1980; he began the gulf tanker war in 1984; the next year he bombed and rocketed Iran’s cities; he stopped firing at Iran in 1988 but hardly paused for breath before invading Kuwait in 1990; he suppressed the postwar popular uprising in his own country; he resumed the slaughter of Shiites and Kurds; the list goes on and on.

Our reaction to this catalog of crime has lost effectiveness. The United Nations condemns him. The United States threatens and sometimes even takes nominal military actions against him. Then Iraq backs down, militarily unharmed and politically strengthened, and the shell game goes on.

Killing fields. The defection of Saddam’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, in 1995 revealed what is at stake. Kamel supervised Iraq’s unconventional-weapons programs, and he disclosed that Saddam’s most lethal poisons survived the war. Weapons bearing anthrax and botulinum toxin have been created. Iraq has thousands of liters of anthrax– inhalation of one ninth of a millionth of a gram is usually fatal. It is also known that Baghdad had stockpiled four tons of VX, a nerve agent that can kill when one hundredth of a gram is ingested. Saddam retains the ability to produce more of these toxins and can put them on missiles that put hundreds of thousands of people in the war zone at risk. We, too, are threatened. Anthrax can be smuggled here in a suitcase.

An outlaw who has killed his own people cannot be given the benefit of a nanosecond of doubt. Our satellite surveillance makes clear the presence of piles of biological and chemical weapons within the 60 square miles of land around many of the presidential palaces that Saddam has placed off limits to U.N. inspectors.

Force is the only language Saddam understands. It must be effective force that deters him and the Saddam wannabes in the region. Iran, for all its supposed friendly overtures, is set on developing by late next year nuclear and chemical weapons, and missiles capable of delivering them 1,300 kilometers. Our targets must be the garrisons of Saddam’s protection forces, notably the Republican Guards and the Special Republican Guards who protect Saddam’s palaces and the hiding places for his secret arsenals. We must grind down his armed forces until his own key supporters turn on him. We must take whatever time we need to destroy from the air one target at a time, as we did during the gulf war.

Russia and France favor diplomacy over force. So would everyone–but not the kind of diplomacy that amounts to a sellout. We cannot allow the U.N. Security Council to endorse that, even if members are under pressure from the Russians, who are playing political games. Saddam must be made to comply with the U.N. resolutions to destroy all weapons of mass destruction and the means to make them. A fake “diplomatic” victory would be a betrayal. Let’s remember Margaret Thatcher’s admonition to President Bush when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990: “This is no time to go wobbly.” We cannot live with a mass murderer just days away from creating a new arsenal.

The issue with Iraq goes beyond Saddam’s failure to honor his promises. Civilized nations do not wish to live in a world threatened by weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction. Since World War II, we have pursued this goal through a mosaic of treaties–the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Treaty, the Biological Weapons Convention–and to waver now would be to question the credibility of the entire effort.

Like President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, President Clinton must be prepared to use surveillance photography and other evidence to demonstrate to Americans the need for action. He must take the matches away from the world’s most dangerous addict.

COPYRIGHT 1998 All rights reserved.

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