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Playing Hide And Seek With Saddam
Posted: Thursday, January 23, 2003

by Mark Steel; The Independent

Has anything ever been such a complete waste of time as these weapons inspections? Does anyone believe that Bush might announce, "Well, we've looked absolutely everywhere and fair's fair, there's nothing there. I didn't think Saddam had it in him to scrap the lot, but it just shows what even the worst of us can achieve when we really try. So thank you to all the frigates and airborne divisions and tens of thousands of ground troops and forces in Kuwait and battalions of strategists in the Pentagon, but you can all go home."

Blair admitted how pointless the inspections are when he justified military action by saying "The inspections can't go on forever." Which seems to miss out the point that the reason the inspectors are asking for more time is they haven't found anything. So another way for Blair to have put this would have been to say, "Saddam continues to try and hold up this war by not having weapons of mass destruction, and that is something we simply cannot allow. He consistently flouts the inspectors by not having a secret cave full of chemical warheads, with Tariq Aziz laughing loudly next to a giant map with a ring drawn round Chicago while a digital clock counts down, and that is, frankly, intolerable."

Blair went on to say he wasn't prepared to play "hide-and-seek" with Saddam, which again assumes the only possible reason why stuff hasn't been found is Saddam must be hiding it. You could apply this to anywhere and come up with a reason for war. After Iraq, Blair could send weapons inspectors into the Blue Peter Garden, and after six weeks announce that as no nuclear devices have been found, the only way to ensure peace was a full-scale invasion. Then, when the presenters started running round the studio with rifles and shouting "We're ready to make you die," Blair could say "See, it's working because they're rattled."

Admittedly the inspectors did find something, that pile of shells under the floorboards, but they can't be planning to launch war on account of those. I'm no expert on military hardware, but don't weapons lose a good deal of their potency once they're empty? Or are we going to have a war against packaging of mass destruction? Even then, the inspectors checked to see whether they'd been recently emptied of chemical weapons, as if the Iraqi army is like a group of students at a party when the police arrive. Every now and then a general shouts, "Hey, shut up everyone, it's Hans Blix. Quick, flush all your gear down the toilet." Then everyone opens the windows and desperately blows to clear away the smell of anthrax.

Whatever the inspectors turn up, even if it's nothing, it will be deemed enough to go to war. Saddam might as well have had a laugh with them. When they found the shells, he should have said, "Oh there they are, we've been looking all over the place for them. Hang on, there's a couple missing."

The march to this war has been relentless ever since the twin towers were knocked over. Not that Iraq had anything to do with that, but it created the perfect environment for the US military to do what they wanted to do anyway. As such, the war is unjustified whether or not it gets backing from the United Nations. I can see why many people are attracted to the idea that the conflict should be placed under the authority of the UN Security Council, as a brake on Bush and Blair, but adding Vladimir Putin's signature would be a highly limited brake. It would be like someone in the East End of London in the Sixties saying they would only support the Krays giving someone a knee-capping if they also got the backing of Mad Frankie Fraser.

A headline in The Financial Times recently stated "Putin demands share of post-Saddam oil", which suggests his support can be bought if needed, and most world leaders can be bribed or bullied into line if necessary. Imagine the uproar if a trade union held votes in the manner of the UN, and members who'd voted for strike action received a $4bn loan package and were given backing to bombard Chechnya.

Bush and Blair agreed to take the war to the UN and to send in weapons inspectors because of pressure from the genuine obstacle to their warmongering: a worldwide mass movement. But since then international opposition has continued to grow, as countless people dispute whether any good can come from ever-increasing US domination of the planet.

The question now is how much of that opposition becomes active opposition. The Pentagon can probably ignore passive opposition ? Donald Rumsfeld is hardly likely to call off his plans because millions of people are watching the news going "Tut, isn't it dreadful." But he will be concerned on 15 February, when globally co-ordinated demonstrations will result in the greatest ever number of demonstrators around the planet on one day in all history. Which means as a day out it offers the unique opportunity of preserving your sanity and saving the planet in one short walk.

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