February 10, 2003
United Nations Risks Irrelevance
by Donald G. Mashburn

The United Nations will soon decide its relevance to world affairs. How it handles the Iraq situation will determine its validity as a forum for nations of the world.

After the cogent presentation of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the U.N. mustn’t dither in its actions on Iraq. Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council clearly exposed Iraq’s shell game with United Nations inspectors.

The two-day visit to Baghdad by the U.N.’s chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, may delay war temporarily. But one wonders if it’s possible for the chief inspectors to bring back evidence to satisfy those who oppose force against Iraq.

Led by the “usual suspects,” France, Germany, China and Russia, the hucksters of hypocrisy haven’t hesitated to wave the flag of anti-Americanism, while pleading for more time for inspectors. After 12 years of Iraqi deception, it’s hard to distinguish between gullibility and a desire to protect Saddam.

These chronic critics of the United States don’t discuss their countries’ valuable trading arrangements with Iraq. Is their hand wringing over force against Iraq merely disguised concern for their profitable dealings with the evil regime in Baghdad?

The four objectors now admit that Saddam’s a bad guy. Yet, after Secretary Powell’s compelling presentation, the gaggle of gullees claimed that force still isn’t justified against their friend, Saddam.

In the wake of Powell’s arguments, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said, “We must continue to seek a peaceful solution.” Well, what does the minister think the world has been doing for the past 12 years?

French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, still opposes force, and proposes a threefold increase in inspectors. The present 108 inspectors in Iraq are responsible for an area about the size of Arkansas and New Mexico, combined.

That’s some 1,600 square miles for each inspector, if they split up . But they move around in groups, looking for things the Iraqis don’t want them to find. They’re reduced to groping for needles in haystacks , in a country where a ruthless dictator has had 12 years to hide prohibited weapons from them.

After Powell’s careful and clear presentation, few objective international minds can believe United Nations inspectors hold the key to disarming Iraq.

Some of the soft-on-Saddam nations refused to deal with the Bosnian-Serbian problem in their own backyard, but cried for the United States to “do something.” Bosnia represented no threat to the world at large. Saddam Hussein’s weapons do.

Anti-American feeling is part of the equation in the effort to keep Saddam’s regime in place. But that’s not true for all of Europe. Eight European nations have publicly declared their support for the American position. Some of them, notably Great Britain, Italy and Spain, have independently gathered intelligence that led them to support action against Iraq.

Saddam has thumbed his nose at, and blustered his way around, nearly 20 U.N. resolutions, aimed at disarming Iraq. If the United Nations can’t take a credible stand against the madman in Baghdad, it might as well fold its tent.

Iraq finally allowed an Iraqi scientist to be interviewed without minders present. But only after Powell marshaled his evidence, and the “European Eight” took their stand with the United States. The interview was merely more of Saddam’s yo-yoing the U.N. inspectors. And as a defector from Saddam’s tyrantdom said, “Be sure the scientist had been told that if he divulged any information he and his family would be killed.”

Both Britain and the United States have labeled Saddam a threat to world stability. If the United Nations is to be a relevant and viable world forum, it must do the same. Empty words won’t suffice. The U.N. action must be decisive, and clear to Saddam Hussein.

If Iraq doesn’t fully disclose its weapons and cooperate with inspectors, the ''serious consequences'' mandated in the previous U.N. resolution should follow quickly.

Say, within seven days.

If the United Nations blows this one, it will have earned its label of irrelevance.