Weapons Inspection caveat.(COMMENTARY)
Byline: James Phillips, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Who says the Iraqis don't have a sense of humor? After all, they slipped anabsolute howler into the letter they sent to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan offering to welcome back weapons inspectors.
"The government of the Republic of Iraq has based its decision concerning the return of inspectors on its desire ... to remove any doubts that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction," the letter stated.
Of course, when it comes to question of whether Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD), there are no doubts to remove. It does. Intelligence from many different countries, U.N. inspectors, defectors from Saddam Hussein's weapons program and high-resolution photography can't all be wrong. They indicate Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons now and is within months of having a nuclear weapon if he can acquire fissile material - the key ingredient in creating a nuclear bomb - either by making it directly or by buying it on the black market.
So send the inspectors back in, some observers say. But, according to the defectors, inspectors likely won't find much. Saddam has had nearly five years since he thwarted the last batch of inspectors to build his WMD program and find better ways to hide the evidence. His son-in-law and others who have escaped from Iraq say previous inspectors didn't come close to finding everything they should have - and there's no reason to assume the next group will fare any better.
In short, new inspections won't solve the problems Saddam poses to international security and regional stability. He must be removed, not merely inspected. Inspections focus on the symptoms - the WMDs. But the world community must focus on the cause - Saddam's dangerous regime.
Saddam himself has removed any doubts he'll use his weapons if he's not disarmed and deposed. He has used missiles against Israel, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. He has used poison gas against his own countrymen and against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88. He has invaded three of his neighbors - Iran, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. He tried to assassinate former President Bush. He's done what he can to destabilize the situation in Israel, even to the point of paying $25,000 bounties to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. …