Iraq | The president held his ground, and the United Nations finally came around

Issue: "Jim Talent: Majority maker," Nov. 23, 2002

In January he called Iraq part of an "axis of evil." In June he went stubborn on critics who claimed it was "undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong," telling West Point graduates, "Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place ... and in America we will call evil by its name."

In September he took that tough message to the United Nations, pointing out that the Iraqi regime has violated UN rules without penalty for over four years. Security Council members balked. At least one election was won (in Germany) by comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler. But last week President Bush emerged the winner in a year-long quest to stir the world against Iraq.

Opposition to a UN resolution on Iraq fell quickly out of fashion after President Bush's Republicans prevailed in mid-term elections. Three days after the elections, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a stern resolution cornering Saddam Hussein.

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The resolution demands "immediate, unimpeded, unconditional, and unrestricted access" to sites in Iraq selected by UN weapons inspectors. Under the timeline laid out in the resolution, Iraq will be cooperative before Thanksgiving, weapons inspectors will begin work before Christmas, and they will report back to the Security Council before President's Day 2003.

For those who believe the conflict will now proceed along a timeline, that means bombs could begin dropping by late February. But diplomacy could give way to more serious medicine-including war-at any point. "Nothing in this resolution handcuffs the president," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.

Iraq is already telegraphing its intent to make war with germs and other toxins. Baghdad ordered from Turkey over a million doses of the drug atropine. The drug is used not only to revive heart attack patients, but also to counter the effects of nerve gas. The discovery is one more reason Security Council members should turn their attention now to unraveling the UN's corrupted "oil for food" program with Iraq. Under its "smart sanctions," atropine as a dual-use item-one that has both civilian and military application-was overlooked.


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