The real Bush plan

By Ellen Ratner

Many people, especially on the left, were surprised when Capt. Ahab Bush finally agreed to send U.N. inspectors to Iraq in search of the Great White Whale of Mass Destruction. Was our commander in chief, a formerly blustering unilateralist suddenly seized by an attack of bleeding-heart globalony? I don’t think so. Instead, I think Bush has a plan, which I would like to share with you, my devoted readers.

For starters, Bush has as much faith in Hans “Mr. Magoo” Blix as I have in Dick Cheney’s commitment to environmentalism. So why send him? After all, many on the right are fearful that Bush has entered what some call, “The U.N. Trap.” By agreeing to U.N. inspectors, some think that Bush has implicitly bound U.S. policy to whatever they do – or don’t – find. And while I wholeheartedly support Blix’s efforts and oppose this looming war, I also have to admit that these particular inspectors probably couldn’t find their head and its attached body. I also think that Bush knew that from the get-go. After all, Herr Blix was Saddam’s inspector of choice back in 1998 when Kofi Anan attempted to renegotiate the eviction of UNSCOM (the last U.N. inspection effort) from Iraq.

So what’s our president up to? Here’s a guess.

For starters, forget about the daily press briefings in Baghdad, New York and Washington. The more you look and listen, the dumber you get. Instead, keep your eye on the bouncing red ball – Dec. 8, 2002. That’s the date that Iraq has to come clean with an inventory of their weapons. And along with death and taxes, the only other thing you can be absolutely sure of is that right under the column labeled “Weapons of Mass Destruction” will be a fat goose egg. Zero. Bupkis. Nada.

For all I know, Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Or maybe they do. Saddam doesn’t call me with a daily count. But there’s one thing I believe, and that is that Bush never would have agreed to the inspections unless he knew – and could prove to the world – that Saddam’s sitting on some pretty bad bugs, ghoulish gasses or even nasty nukes. But here’s the twist – Bush doesn’t have much confidence that Blix will find them – but for coalition purposes, he had to pretend to “talk the talk” while he was preparing U.S. military force to “walk the walk.”

So here’s the bottom line: On Dec. 8, Iraq claims a “whistling-past-the-graveyard” weapons inventory of zip. Bush takes the weekend and a few days – maybe a week or so – to give No-fix Blix a chance to find “something.” If, or more likely when, the U.N. comes up empty handed, Bush then calls a JFK-style “Cuban Missile”-type press conference, complete with maps, charts, photos and any other evidence proving that Blix needs to see an optician and that, in fact, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Look for a presentation not only from the White House, but before the U.N. Security Council and perhaps even the General Assembly.

At least since 1991, the United States has been overflying Iraq with just about anything that can snap a picture, detect infrared, thermal, radio or radiation emissions. We probably have better maps of Baghdad than downtown Washington. These days, I have to figure that the combined number of U.S. Special Forces, CIA, French, British and Israeli intelligence agents in Iraq probably outnumber the native population. The point is that if Saddam’s got these kinds of weapons, we already know about it. And if the U.N. can’t find them, leave it to the famous regime-change consulting firm of Bush, Rumsfeld & Franks. And trust that if Blix blanks, Bush blusters – but probably with some pretty hard evidence.

For the sake of world peace, I hope that if Saddam’s got them, Blix finds them. Because at least then, the issue will go back to the Security Council with some glimmer of hope that the world can peacefully negotiate Iraqi disarmament. But if Iraq’s got them, and Blix doesn’t find them, then look out – the sequel to the Gulf War will be coming soon to your local TV screen.

It could make for a very hazardous holiday season this year. I just hope Santa Claus has Electronic Counter Measures built into his sleigh.