Iraq's choice and U.S. resolve

By Howard H. Baker, Jr.
Special to The Yomiuri Shimbun

The United States, Japan, and the entire world face an immediate danger. For 12 years Iraq has reneged on its promise to the international community to destroy its weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix, in their presentations to the U.N. Security Council, and my friend British Ambassador Stephen Gomersall, in the pages of this newspaper, have detailed Iraq's intransigent opposition to all attempts at verifiable inspection. I would like to share my thoughts on the choices that lie ahead for Iraq and for the world.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 seemed to signal a new era of peace and prosperity. Unfortunately, the enemies of freedom stole that dream, and the threat posed by Iraq and other outlaw regimes is in many ways more serious than the threats we faced during the Cold War. The Soviet Union and its satellites at a minimum recognized international agreements. But Iraq has willfully evaded its international obligations ever since its invasion of Kuwait was stopped by the U.S.-led international coalition 12 years ago. Today, our security is threatened not so much by conquering states, such as the former Soviet Union, as by failing states led by dictators who oppress their own people.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein leads a failed state and he has terrible weapons pointed at his neighbors and has shown that he will use them. He is a threat to the peace of the region and the entire world. Iraq has failed to honor its international agreements, it has failed to honor the rule of law, and it has failed to respect the sovereignty of its neighbors. Saddam has failed his own people by his dictatorial and oppressive rule.

The United States and the entire world have taken a profoundly multilateral approach to combat Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Over 12 years, the U.N. Security Council has passed 17 resolutions expressing the will of the international community that Iraq must disarm. Last year, the United States worked closely with its partners and other like-minded states to secure U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 that passed by a unanimous vote of 15-0. This issue, therefore, is neither new nor bilateral. Iraq has had 12 years to respond to the will of the United Nations. The Japanese government has been in the forefront of this movement to persuade Iraq to disarm and Britain has been courageous in its leadership against terrorism, as have Australia, Spain and other nations. We all recognize that it is in our common interest to disarm Iraq. It invaded its neighbors and it continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. It is not the responsibility of the inspectors to find the weapons; it is the responsibility of the Iraqis to make it possible for the inspectors to verify compliance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.

The United States would welcome another U.N. resolution, and a new draft has been tabled, but let us recall that there have already been 17 resolutions. There is no indication that another resolution would bring Iraq closer to coming clean. Saddam's intentions are clear. As with the 17 other Security Council resolutions that he has ignored over the past 12 years, Saddam has chosen not to comply unless forced to. U.S. President George W. Bush told me personally in the Oval Office that he would like to avoid a war with Iraq. The United States did not sponsor Resolution 1441 to go to war. We sponsored Resolution 1441 to preserve the peace. The resolution gave Saddam one last chance to choose peace, but he has chosen confrontation and defiance.

After 12 years, diplomacy has nearly run its course. It is now time for the nations of the world to demonstrate their resolve to respond to Iraq's chosen path. While the United States has set no deadlines, it has established firm principles. Allowing Saddam to stockpile weapons of mass destruction and harbor terrorists is not an option.

Countries like Japan and the United States that believe in the rule of law have the responsibility to set standards of behavior and to address the challenges of dictators and tyrants who defy the will of the international community. As in Afghanistan, we cannot close our eyes to the threat posed by aggressive regimes or to the oppression and misery they wreak on their own people. Just a little more than a year after the successful liberation of Afghanistan from the horrible dictatorship of the Taliban, that country is slowly progressing in its struggle to establish representative government, generate economic growth, and restore the hope of a better life for its people. Japan has played a leadership role in that process by hosting the Afghan Reconstruction Conference last year and by hosting the Consolidation of Peace in Afghanistan Conference last month. Ask the people of Afghanistan if their lives are better today because an international coalition took decisive action to liberate them from an outlaw regime. They would answer with a resounding yes.

As we debate the merits of facing up to Saddam's flaunting of U.N. resolutions, let us remember that the beneficiaries of international resolve and action will be the Iraqi people. Iraq will not only rejoin the community of nations but the Iraqi people will also have the chance to rebuild their country after more than 20 years of oppressive rule. The nations of the world, including the United States and Japan, must demonstrate the resolve that will give meaning to 17 U.N. resolutions adopted over 12 years.

This article, originally published in The Daily Yomiuri, March 4, 2003, on Page 8, is reproduced here with The Yomiuri Shimbun's permission.