Colin Powell and the UN's moment of truth

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Posted by Esperanza from ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 3:24PM :

In Reply to: Ritter dismisses Powell report posted by andreas from ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 2:46PM :

Colin Powell and the UN's moment of truth

When Colin Powell speaks, the world listens.

Because of his intelligence, integrity and prudence, the U.S. Secretary of State enjoys unmatched credibility in international capitals. If the world sees George W. Bush (perhaps unfairly) as Washington's shoot-from-the-hip cowboy, it sees Mr. Powell as the voice of reason, a hawk in a nest of clamouring hawks. When Colin Powell says that Iraq is deceiving United Nations weapons inspectors, that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq may have to be disarmed by force, then serious people everywhere take heed.

So Mr. Powell's address to the UN Security Council on Wednesday was a historic moment, not just for Iraq and the United States but for the UN itself.

When the United Nations was formed in the ashes of the Second World War, the idea was not to provide a pleasant place in Manhattan for the world's statesmen to meet. It was to prevent what had just happened from happening again. Although the UN today has many roles and purposes, the Security Council was created to give the nations of the world a way to confront threats to their common security -- threats precisely like they are facing now. Saddam Hussein may not be Adolf Hitler, but his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction presents a clear threat to international peace.

How will the UN react to this threat? Will it rise to the challenge, as Mr. Powell urged? Or will it, as he warned, look the other way and doom itself to irrelevance?

The answer should be simple. The Security Council put its credibility on the line last fall when it gave Iraq one final chance to disarm. Resolution 1441 said that, if Iraq failed "at any time" to "co-operate fully" in its own disarmament, it would face "serious consequences."

It is now clear that Iraq is not co-operating. From the beginning, Baghdad said it had no program to produce weapons of mass destruction, a lie that in itself put the country in "material breach" of its obligations. Then it produced a 12,000- page "final declaration" that declared nothing. Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, reluctantly concluded that "Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance -- not even today -- of the disarmament which was demanded of it."

Mr. Powell's 75-minute UN presentation sealed the case. Making skillful use of U.S. intelligence data, he showed that, instead of actively co-operating with UN inspectors, Iraq is actively deceiving them. Far from handing over its weapons of mass destruction, it is trying to produce them. Mr. Hussein has had his last chance, and has thrown it away. As Mr. Bush said yesterday, "the game is over."

The Security Council's responsibility could not be clearer. It must enforce its own will. If it fails to follow through with those "serious consequences," if it lets Mr. Hussein wriggle off the hook one more time, if it lets Resolution 1441 become the 17th that Iraq has ignored, its reputation -- and the vision of collective action that it claims to stand for -- will crumble. And into the vacuum will step the United States.

The result will be what the leading Security Council members say they fear most: American unilateralism. If the UN fails to step up to the plate, the United States will have no choice but to go it alone, not just in Iraq but in future crises as well. The next time countries such as Canada tell Washington to act "through the UN," the Americans will be able to say: "Well, we tried that."

Yet the worldly statesmen on the Security Council show no sign of accepting the crisis they face. After sitting through Mr. Powell's comprehensive indictment of Iraqi deception, France's Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, would admit only that there were some "grey areas" in Iraq's co-operation with the UN. "Let us double or triple the number of inspectors and open new regional offices [in Iraq]," he said. Yes, that'll show 'em.

The foreign ministers of Russia and China were equally limp. Only British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw seemed to appreciate the gravity of the moment. "Saddam is defying every one of us. He's questioning our resolve and is gambling we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will."

Precisely. As Mr. Straw put it, the UN today is like the League of Nations in the 1930s. As fascism gathered strength, the League dithered and died. The same stark choice now faces the UN: Act now or fade away. There are only weeks to decide.

: Japan Today
: February 7, 2003

: Ritter dismisses Powell report

: TOKYO ? Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter on
: Thursday dismissed U.S. Secretary of State Colin
: Powell's allegation before the U.N. Security Council
: that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction as
: "unsubstantiated" and based only on "circumstantial
: evidence."

: "There's nothing here that's conclusive proof that
: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction," Ritter, a
: former U.S. Marine and outspoken critic of
: Washington's policy on Iraq who participated in U.N.
: weapons inspections there from 1991 to 1998, told
: Kyodo News in an interview.

: "Everything in here is circumstantial, everything in
: here mirrors the kind of allegations the U.S. has made
: in the past in regard to Iraq's weapons program," he
: said.

: Powell on Wednesday presented what he described as
: "irrefutable and undeniable" evidence that Iraq has
: been deceiving U.N. arms inspectors and hiding banned
: weapons. He played intercepted telephone conversations
: between Iraqi officials and showed satellite photos as
: part of the U.S. drive to convince the world of the
: need to disarm Iraq, by military force if necessary.

: "He just hits you, hits you, hits you with
: circumstantial evidence, and he confuses people ? and
: he lied, he lied to people, he misled people," Ritter
: said of Powell.

: Ritter argued that the United States is giving weapons
: inspectors too little time to do their job.

: He said many things in Powell's presentation should be
: properly investigated, such as a Nov 26 communications
: intercept in which two senior Iraqi military officers
: were overheard talking about the need to hide from
: U.N. weapons inspectors a "modified vehicle" made by
: an Iraqi company that Powell said is "well known to
: have been involved in prohibited weapons systems
: activity."

: "What vehicle? I mean, obviously Colin Powell's
: concerned, he presented it, so let's find out what the
: vehicle is ? but let's not bomb Iraq based upon that,"
: Ritter said.

: Ritter also questioned the veracity of Powell's
: allegation that Iraq still possesses vast amounts of
: anthrax and described as irrelevant his repeated
: references to dry powder anthrax contained in
: envelopes and sent through the U.S. postal system in
: the fall of 2001, which killed two people and created
: a national panic.

: "What anthrax is he talking about?" he said, adding
: that Iraq is only known to have produced liquid bulk
: anthrax, which has a shelf life of only three years.

: He said the last known batch of liquid bulk anthrax
: was produced in 1991 at a state-owned factory blown up
: in 1996.

: "Colin Powell holds up a vial of dry powder anthrax
: and he makes allusions to the attack in the United
: States through the letters. That was U.S. government
: anthrax! It had nothing to do with Iraq," Ritter said.

: Ritter accused Powell of engaging in "classic
: bait-and-switch" in his U.N. presentation, catching
: his listeners' attention with one piece of information
: and then putting up an irrelevant photograph "to make
: them think the two are the same when they're not."

: "I mean, the photographs are real but what do the
: photographs show," he said. "The Powell presentation
: is not evidence...It's a very confusing presentation.
: What does it mean? What does it represent? How does it
: all link up? It doesn't link up."

: "Iraq, anthrax, vial, dry powder ? what connection do
: they have? None," he said.

: Ritter termed a "fabrication" Powell's assertion that
: Iraq may have 18 trucks from which it can produce
: biological agents such as anthrax or botulinum toxin,
: and noted that U.N. inspectors who followed up on such
: U.S. intelligence based on defectors' testimony were
: only able to find two trucks used for testing food.

: "They had nothing to do with biological laboratories.
: That's what (U.N. chief inspector) Hans Blix says. He
: says, 'There's no mobile lab."'

: "You know who came up with the idea of mobile trucks?
: The inspectors...We sat back one day and said, 'If we
: were the Iraqis, how would we hide biological
: production? We'd put them on trucks,"' Ritter said.

: "So we designed it and we went out looking for them.
: But the problem is, you look for something that you
: have no evidence exists, but by postulating the
: existence you create the perception of existence. Now
: we look for trucks...and we don't find them," he said.

: In his presentation, Powell spoke of the futility of
: trying to find the trucks in question among the
: thousands that travel Iraqi roads daily without
: Baghdad voluntarily surrendering the information.

: Ritter, however, said Powell was merely trying to
: create an impression that U.N. inspections could never
: work.

: "You can never expect the inspectors to find these 18
: trucks," he said, because "these trucks don't exist."

: Defectors' reports, he said, could be misleading,
: especially those coming from people associated with
: the opposition Iraqi National Congress, who he said
: could have been "pre-briefed in advance to tell lies."

: "Are these legitimate defectors or are they
: deliberately out there falsifying testimony? I don't
: know. What I do know is I'm not willing to put
: American lives on the line based on the testimony from
: an Iraqi defector. I want something a little bit more
: solid than that," Ritter said.

: But he stressed he is not arguing that Iraq does not
: possess weapons of mass destruction ? merely that the
: U.N. inspectors should be given sufficient time to do
: their job in Iraq and make a final determination based
: on solid evidence. (Kyodo News)

-- Esperanza
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