April 19, 2004

DON'T HAVE A SEIZURE, DUDE (via Kevin Whited):

We Didn't Dare Wait (William Raspberry, April 19, 2004, Washington Post)

What follows is the speech the president didn't make at his news conference last week. He can use it now, with no further permission from me.

Before I take your questions, I would like to speak plainly for a moment to the American people.

We're having some tough times in Iraq, and many Americans are wondering how we came to be in such a tough spot. Some are asking: Isn't it time to just get out?

These are tough questions, but the people deserve some answers. From your president's point of view, the answers start with Sept. 11. That was the day the world changed. That was the day America changed. And that was the day, my fellow Americans, when your president changed. Up to that nightmarish day, the policy of the United States was to remain strong in the face of a foreign threat but to strike only if that threat became action. It was a policy that guided our nation for most of its history. Don't start anything with anybody, but crush anybody who starts anything with us. We were like the sheriff of the old Western movies, poised and ready, but waiting for the other guy to draw first.

My friends, Sept. 11 changed all that. Suddenly, waiting for the other guy to shoot first no longer made sense. That policy might have worked when the bad guys were armed with swords or six-shooters, when even the bad guys played by certain rules. It does not work in the face of evil that accepts no limits, that will not hesitate to destroy anything or anyone -- even fellow countrymen -- to achieve its objectives.

That is the evil we have faced since Sept. 11.

That's an adequate restatement of the President's Axis of Evil speech, but has rather little to do with why we deposed Saddam. As the President quite clearly told the UN, the case against Saddam was a straightforward legal one, stemming from the first Gulf War:
Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself. [...]

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

All Saddam Hussein had to do to avoid war was to fulfill his commitments to the UN, which, unfortunately for him, pretty much included his leaving office:
RESOLUTION 688 (1991)

Adopted by the Security Council at its 2982nd meeting on 5 April 1991

The Security Council,

Mindful of its duties and its responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance of international peace and security,

Recalling of Article 2, paragraph 7, of the Charter of the United Nations,

Gravely concerned by the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, which led to a massive flow of refugees towards and across international frontiers and to cross-border incursions, which threaten international peace and security in the region,

Deeply disturbed by the magnitude of the human suffering involved, Taking note of the letters sent by the representatives of Turkey and France to the United Nations dated 2 April 1991 and 4 April 1991, respectively (S/22435 and S/22442),

Taking note also of the letters sent by the Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations dated 3 and 4 April 1991, respectively (S/22436 and S/22447),

Reaffirming the commitment of all Member States to the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of Iraq and of all States in the area,

Bearing in mind the Secretary-General's report of 20 March 1991 (S/22366),

1. Condemns the repression of the Iraqi civilian population in many parts of Iraq, including most recently in Kurdish populated areas, the consequences of which threaten international peace and security in the region;

2. Demands that Iraq, as a contribution to remove the threat to international peace and security in the region, immediately end this repression and express the hope in the same context that an open dialogue will take place to ensure that the human and political rights of all Iraqi citizens are respected;

3. Insists that Iraq allow immediate access by international humanitarian organizations to all those in need of assistance in all parts of Iraq and to make available all necessary facilities for their operations;

4. Requests the Secretary-General to pursue his humanitarian efforts in Iraq and to report forthwith, if appropriate on the basis of a further mission to the region, on the plight of the Iraqi civilian population, and in particular the Kurdish population, suffering from the repression in all its forms inflicted by the Iraqi authorities;

5. Requests further the Secretary-General to use all the resources at his disposal, including those of the relevant United Nations agencies, to address urgently the critical needs of the refugees and displaced Iraqi population;

6. Appeals to all Member States and to all humanitarian organizations to contribute to these humanitarian relief efforts;

7. Demands that Iraq cooperate with the Secretary-General to these ends;

8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.

They stopped being seized, so we took care of it for them.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 19, 2004 12:47 PM

I thought Raspberry had actually seen the light - most of the "speech" is actually a very good restatement of the key points GWB has been trying to make all along - until I got the end and I found, predicably, that he collapsed into a weak whimper for the international community to come in and take over. Er, Mr. Raspberry? Bush and Blair are working right now with Mr. Brahimi on the plan for the transitional government, and Mr. Brahimi was a pretty senior UN official the last time I looked. I'd say that's "turning to the international community" myself, but just possibly my definition is inadequate.

Posted by: Joe at April 19, 2004 5:09 PM