Apr. 27, 2003. 01:00 AM
questions remain in wake of Iraq war
And, where is Saddam Hussein? And his entourage, besides Tariq Aziz? In the same nether land as Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar.
What is it about the mighty American military machine that it can kill civilians but miss the real enemy? Or about American spy satellites that can hear culprits breathe but lose them the moment they melt away at the sound of approaching armies?
Speaking of Aziz, why the soft tone of the reportage of his surrender? That he, as a non-Tikriti and a Christian who likes whisky and cigars, just like we do, could not possibly have been a culprit of the same magnitude as Saddam's other scoundrels.
What deal did the wily deputy prime minister strike with the Americans before turning himself in?
He needs to be hauled before an international criminal court, along with Saddam and the rest of the clique — if they can be found, as they are likely to be if still alive, because Iraq is not the mountainous Afghanistan of a million caves.
As for Saddam's weapons, let's recall the inventory as cited by Bush back in January — 500 tonnes of chemical weapons, 25,000 litres of anthrax and 38,000 litres of botulinum toxin.
If Saddam did have such an arsenal, contrary to what the United Nations inspectors said, why did he not use it? Having not done so, why would he have destroyed it? If he did, how, without leaving a trace?
Bush acknowledged in his first detailed post-war interview (with NBC's Tom Brokaw) that he has a credibility problem.
"I think there's going to be skepticism until people find out there was, in fact, a weapons of mass destruction program."
American troops are yet to find it. So Bush is sending 100 more specialists to scour Iraq.
Experts are not hopeful.
"If we find something, great," said Scott Ritter, a formerly fervent American weapons hunter with the U.N. team in the 1990s who turned sour on Washington's manipulations and propaganda. "But I don't see how these weapons could exist.
"They defy the laws of industry, science and technology."
Expect the Americans in the weeks ahead to make a big show of finding and destroying inconsequential materials and machines. And watch American credibility nosedive further.
The only way to avoid that prospect is to reinstate U.N. inspections. Hans Blix is ready to return. But having shown himself impervious to American pressure, he's not likely to be invited back. A pity.
If America does find unconventional weapons — "we will find them," Bush said in that interview — most of the world would assume they were planted there. A greater pity.
The president's TV appearance was revelatory both of his candour and naïveté.
He let us glimpse his personal system of reward and punishment, when he said of French President Jacques Chirac: "I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch anytime soon."
Bush conceded, contrary to Donald Rumsfeld's bluff that the war went exactly according to plan, America was surprised by the "significant resistance" of Saddam's fighters.
He also acknowledged being taken aback by the power vacuum in post-Saddam Iraq and how quickly it was being "filled by Iranian agents."
He got that only half right.
To believe that the 1 million Shiites who turned up at the long-banned pilgrimage to the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and the thousands in Baghdad and elsewhere shouting anti-American slogans, and the clerics stepping into the role of instant leaders everywhere are all Iranian agents, or are being led by the nose by them, is to display breathtaking ignorance or to indulge in propaganda.
Non-Arab Shiite Iran was scrupulously neutral in the war. It was Sunni sheikhs in the Arab and larger Muslim world who issued fiery fatwas against the American invasion.
Different Iranian factions are cheering different Iraqi groups.
One of the two main Iraqi Shiite groups is vociferously opposed to the other precisely because of its exile base in Iran.
Part of the Bush administration seems to understand. "People should not over-interpret the capability of Shiite Iranians to influence the Shiite Iraqis," noted White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "They are not one and the same."
He needs to better coach his boss and others around him.
Equally, it needs to be said that Iranian interest in Iraq is far more natural than America's.
Iran, in fact, need not "interfere" formally to have religious and ideological influence. Such ties exist and will grow in a free Iraq. The only issue is how America will manage it: choking it off or letting it compete in the free marketplace of ideas.
Bush did well Thursday to rule out a war on Iran: "We have no military plans." Good.
Scapegoating Iran will not help manage post-war Iraq. It likely will make it worse.
It also helps to understand that the Iraqi Shiites are not saying anything that much different from what Sunni nationalists say.
With little or no appetite for long-term foreign occupation, any
heavy-handed attempt at pre-fixing the democratic outcome of Iraq to
American liking is bound to backfire. Besides, such manipulations belong
to autocrats, not democrats.
Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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