U.N. inspections – Clinton vs. Clinton

By Larry Elder

“We ought to give that inspection thing one more shot.”

Former President Bill Clinton, on “Larry King Live,” recently offered this advice to President George W. Bush. “If he has chemical and biological agents, and I believe he does,” said Clinton, who opposes an immediate strike against Iraq, “he would have no incentive not to use them then, if he knew he was going to be killed anyway and deposed. He’s got a lot of incentive not to use them now because he knows he’ll be toast if he does.”

“One more shot” at inspection? Four years ago, former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter quit because he felt that the Clinton administration prevented him from doing his job. Upon his resignation, he accused the United Nations Special Commission of toothless enforcement – “Hobbled as it is by unfettered Iraqi obstruction and non-existent Security Council enforcement of its own resolutions,” said Ritter, “the fact of the matter is that since April 1991, under the direct orders and direction of the president of Iraq, the government of Iraq has lied to the Special Commission about the totality of its holdings.”

Determined to force inspections, Ritter felt double-crossed by the Clinton administration and, shortly after resigning, said, “We have been directly told, ‘Do not do these inspections.’ And since April [1998] we have not been allowed to do these tasks, largely because of pressure placed upon the Special Commission by administration officials.” Ritter even urged using military force to make Saddam comply.

“One more shot” at inspection? About the futility of resuming United Nations weapons inspections, Ken Adelman, former assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and former U.N. ambassador and arms-control director under President Ronald Reagan, recently wrote, “We can’t solve this problem by reinstating U.N. inspections, as British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw advocated Thursday [Aug. 22] on BBC radio. Contrary to international law and clear U.N. resolutions, Saddam has barred inspectors for four years running. Even if he were to acquiesce, they would do little good. His chief nuclear engineer, Khidhir Hamza, identified more than 400 sites in Saddam’s nuclear-weapons program – not counting those making chemical and biological agents.”

Clinton’s current assessment of Saddam Hussein as sane and rational stands in contrast with the former president’s earlier statements. In 1993, after Saddam’s assassination attempt on the first President Bush, Clinton said, “This attempt at revenge by a tyrant against the leader of the world coalition that defeated him in war is particularly loathsome and cowardly.” And in a 1994 Oval Office address, Clinton said, “Saddam Hussein has shown the world before, with his acts of aggression and his weapons of mass destruction, that he cannot be trusted.”

Clinton now encourages Bush to seek congressional approval, as well as support from our allies, before any military strike. Four years ago, President Clinton’s State Department spokesman James P. Rubin disputed the notion that Clinton needed congressional approval before attacking Iraq. “The president has the inherent authority to use force under the Constitution,” said Rubin, “and the Congress has authorized the president to use force against Iraq under the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution.” During a press conference on Sept. 3, 1996, a reporter asked, “Mr. President, why do you think that only Britain is supporting our move? Or why have the allies all retreated from any support?” Clinton responded, “Well, I believe that – first of all, you have to ask them their position – but I believe that we have historically, at least in recent history, taken the lead in matters like this. And I think this was our responsibility at this time.”

It is decision time for President Bush. Does Bush assume Saddam rational, despite his attack on Iran, invasion of Kuwait, possible complicity in the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, the use of chemical weapons against his own people, his authorization of an assassination attempt on the first President Bush, his shooting at American and British planes in the northern and southern no-fly zones and his refusal to allow United Nations inspectors for nearly four years? Does Bush wait for another Sept. 11, except with results even more catastrophic? Does he yield to the give-peace-a-chance crowd that instinctively distrusts American CEOs as dishonest and devoid of integrity, while simultaneously believing in the ultimate redemption of a murderous tyrant like Saddam Hussein?

This is where Bush earns his pay. As commander in chief, the president’s primary responsibility is the protection of this nation. Imagine the Monday morning quarterbacking should, God forbid, the country experience yet another attack, an attack possibly thwarted if only Bush had acted. Under such circumstances, how long before some Cynthia-McKinney-type, D-Ga., accuses the president of possessing yet failing to act upon prior knowledge of terrorist acts?

No, the path seems clear, the president must act – and soon.