GETTING SADDAM: THE MOST IMPORTANT FOREIGN POLICY INITIATIVE IN THE ‘STATE OF THE UNION’ ADDRESS?

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(Washington, D.C.): In the transparent
White House effort to manipulate and
inflate public expectations about
President Bush’s State of the Union
address Tuesday night, there has been
scarcely any mention made of a foreign
policy agenda. Presumably, this is merely
a matter of political handling and spin
control. It appears to be an entirely
predictable response by an Administration
consumed with its standing in the polls
— polls that show, at the moment, a
public angry with what it perceives as
the President’s preoccupation with
foreign affairs and his neglect of
domestic issues.

In fact, of course, this speech will
have to deal at some length with the
State of the World, and Mr.
Bush’s view of the U.S. role in it. At a
minimum, this is so because he must
explain how it is that he can safely
undertake the radical reductions his
Administration now proposes (according to
officially sanctioned, so-called
“structured leaks” to the
press) to make in defense spending,
nuclear forces and military-industrial
production. Such an explanation will
require more than a footnote about
dramatic events in the former Soviet
Union — events which offer considerable
hope of a dramatically reduced threat
from that quarter but which, ironically,
he did everything imaginable to impede
through his open-ended support for
Mikhail Gorbachev.

The Saddam Question

Both the national interest and Mr.
Bush’s personal political fortunes will
oblige him to speak as well to the great
unfinished foreign policy business of the
last year — the incomplete victory over
Saddam Hussein. The Nation needs to know
just what are the security implications
of the President’s decision to stop the
war short of removing the Butcher of
Baghdad and his ruling clique from power.
And the campaign to date has made clear
that what was supposed to be the
President’s ticket to a virtual free ride
to a second term has disappeared in the
face of Saddam’s continued, malevolent
rule in Iraq.

There is considerable evidence that
the Bush Administration is currently
seized with the problem posed by Saddam
Hussein — the man it frequently, and
correctly
, characterized as a
Hitleresque figure — remaining in
tyrannical control in Baghdad. For
example, there have been renewed calls
from presidential press spokesman Marlin
Fitzwater for a popular uprising against
Saddam. In the absence of any evidence of
a greater American willingness to render
critical logistical and military support
to so risky a business in a police state
like Saddam Hussein’s, however, these
statements merely serve as an appalling
reminder of Mr. Bush’s earlier
encouragement to, and then abandonment
of, the Kurds and Shiites at war’s end.

Accordingly, there have also been a
number of apparently “structured
leaks” from the Bush Administration
suggesting that the United States is
undertaking to organize, facilitate or
otherwise support a coup against the
ruling Iraqi regime. New York Times
Columnist William Safire recently hinted
that the White House is working on an
“April surprise,” aimed at
removing Saddam from power far enough in
advance of the November election to
obtain positive political benefits
without laying the President open to
charges of doing it for purely
political
reasons.

Administration sources also revealed
to the Times on 19 January 1992
that they were responding favorably to
pressure from Saudi Arabia for “a
large covert action campaign in Iraq
aimed at dividing [its] army and toppling
Saddam Hussein.” The paper reported
that the Deputies Committee, the senior
subcabinet interagency decision-making
body, has been working actively
“since mid-December to consider and
refine military and covert action options
for Iraq.” National Security Advisor
Brent Scowcroft is said to have
“argued that the use of American air
power to support rebel Iraqi military
units could have the decisive effect of
breaking the back of Mr. Hussein’s core
security force in Baghdad.”

It’s About Time

If such reports are true, they would
be most welcome. Indeed, the Center for
Security Policy has, from the moment of
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, insisted
that the removal of Saddam Hussein from
power was absolutely essential. The
following are illustrative examples of
the Center’s reasoning:

  • 2 August 1990:
    “The Center believes that
    the West has now been put on
    notice: Returning to the
    status quo ante is not enough;
    the vital Persian Gulf region and
    indeed the larger international
    peace will not be safe as long as
    Saddam Hussein remains in power.

    Accordingly, U.S. policy — and
    that of all civilized nations —
    should be aimed at securing the
    downfall of the present Iraqi
    regime using the full array of
    diplomatic, economic and, if
    necessary, military measures at
    the West’s disposal.” (Signal
    Allied Willingness to Release Oil
    Stocks Now!: Buy Time to Forge
    Punitive Response Against Iraq
    ,
    No.
    90-P 72
    )
  • 1 December 1990:
    “The Center for Security
    Policy believes that a negotiated
    settlement that left Saddam
    Hussein in power, in absolute
    control of his country and with
    an immense arsenal — including
    weapons of mass destruction — at
    his disposal would be a disaster
    for U.S. vital interests in the
    region
    and for friends
    and allies there.
  • “While the possibility
    cannot be precluded that such a
    settlement might even result in a
    temporary Iraqi retreat from
    Kuwait, not even a restoration of
    the status quo ante will ‘solve’
    the present problem. Instead, it
    will simply postpone the day when
    American forces will have to be
    committed to resist Saddam
    Hussein’s aggression — and, as a
    result, increase the costs of
    doing so.” (‘Fatal
    Attraction’: U.S. Interests in
    Gulf, Beyond Jeopardized by Bush
    Personal Diplomacy Obsession,

    No.
    90-P 113
    )

  • 27 February 1991:
    “The reality is that brute
    force has kept Saddam Hussein and
    his ruling clique in power for
    over almost two decades. Even if
    humiliated, even if clearly
    disgraced, what will likely
    determine Saddam’s future ability
    to threaten Western allies and
    interests in the region will be
    his ability to continue to
    exercise brute force.
  • “The Center believes that —
    as positive as the wholesale
    destruction of Iraq’s offensive
    military potential is — if
    Saddam’s police state apparatus
    is not similarly destroyed, the
    Iraqi people will be denied an
    opportunity for self-governance
    too long denied them
    .
    For Iraq, this would be a
    tragically lost opportunity; for
    the other nations of the region,
    it would probably represent a
    precursor to a future
    conflict.” (On To
    Baghdad!: Liberate Iraq
    , href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=91-P16″>No.
    91-P 16)

  • 25 March 1991:
    “The Center believes that
    perpetuating the present
    situation runs a far
    greater danger for long-term U.S.
    interests
    , however: If
    the United States continues by
    its actions to appear largely
    indifferent to Saddam Hussein’s
    persistent reign of terror — yet
    partly responsible for stymieing
    Iraq’s physical rehabilitation,
    the political and strategic
    benefits that should accrue from
    the American role in liberating
    Kuwait could be seriously
    jeopardized.
  • “Accordingly, the Center
    urges the Bush Administration to
    issue an ultimatum to Saddam
    Hussein and his ruling clique: Surrender
    power within forty-eight hours or
    face the prospect of being
    removed by coalition forces.

    Either way, an interim
    government, ideally representing
    all Iraqi factions, must be
    swiftly installed. Its principal
    tasks should be to organize and
    conduct within six months under
    UN auspices free and fair
    elections to determine a
    successor regime and to begin the
    process of rehabilitating that
    devastated nation. (On To
    Baghdad!: Liberate Iraq (Take
    Two)
    , href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=91-P23″>No.
    91-P 23)

  • 12 June 1991:
    “It is past time that the
    West recognized the facts of
    life: Only by removing Saddam
    Hussein and his ruling clique
    from power can there be any hope
    for lasting peace either within
    Iraq itself or between Iraq and
    its neighbors….Wishful
    thinking must give way to concrete
    steps
    to accomplish this;
    indirect measures like sanctions
    must be augmented by direct
    action
    .
  • “…Under present
    circumstances, the imperative of
    halting the depredations of a
    murderous outlaw like Saddam
    Hussein argues for taking a page
    from the history of American
    frontier justice: A
    bounty should be placed on Saddam
    Hussein
    — a sizeable
    cash reward for anyone who can
    end the reign of terror he and
    his ruling clique are evidently
    determined to perpetuate
    indefinitely. In addition, all
    appropriate resources of the
    United States government should
    be devoted to removing him from
    power.” (Wanted: Saddam
    Hussein, Dead or Alive
    , href=”index.jsp?section=papers&code=91-P49″>No.
    91-P 49)

Time Is Not on Bush’s Side

Whatever the state of the Bush
Administration’s internal deliberations,
its public stance remains
defensive about the decision not to
prosecute the war to the point where
Saddam was toppled. Its spokesmen
continue to describe narrowly the purpose
of the conflict — and the U.N. mandate
and congressional resolutions authorizing
it.

Events on the ground, however, are
bearing out the Center’s warnings. They
are making increasingly untenable the
posture President Bush has maintained
since the cease-fire was announced — one
of wishing Saddam would go away but
declining to enunciate a policy designed
to bring that about, let alone
implementing such a policy. Consider just
a few of these developments:

  • The war with Iraq did
    not, as President Bush once said,
    “put Saddam out of the
    nuclear-bomb-building business
    for a long time to come.”

    To the contrary, numerous IAEA
    inspections have revealed a far
    more comprehensive, ambitious and
    far-advanced program than the
    United States believed was in
    place in Iraq at the time of
    hostilities. As a result, some
    facilities sheltering scientists
    and equipment involved in
    developing Iraq’s nuclear,
    chemical and biological weapons
    capabilities and ballistic
    missile-related activities were
    unscathed by coalition attacks.
    To the extent that the U.N. has
    not yet uncovered all aspects of
    this hydra-headed undertaking,
    there may even be some that are still
    in business
    .
  • International sanctions
    are not preventing Saddam from
    pursuing his weapons of mass
    destruction programs.

    The London Sunday Times
    of 5 January 1992 reported that
    Western intelligence now believes
    that the Iraqis and the Algerians
    may have formed a nuclear axis to
    build a nuclear weapon — the
    “Islamic bomb.” Algeria
    is thought to have enough
    plutonium to build a weapon by
    1995; its Chinese-supplied
    reactor is scheduled to begin
    production next year.
  • According to Whitehall sources
    quoted by the Times,
    Hussein has sent a team of
    scientists to Algeria that could
    enable the two countries to
    “produce two Nagasaki size
    bombs a year every three
    years.” In addition, Iraqi
    communications describing how ten
    tons of natural uranium were sent
    by truck through Jordan and then
    by ship to Algeria were
    reportedly intercepted by Western
    intelligence.

  • If sanctions are relaxed
    or removed, Saddam will shortly
    reacquire weapons of mass
    destruction capabilities.

    Director of Central Intelligence
    Robert Gates recently testified
    that, because Iraq had hidden
    critical equipment for making biological
    weapons
    , it could begin new
    production “in a matter of
    weeks” once sanctions were
    lifted. Iraq could produce
    “modest quantities of chemical
    agents
    ” almost
    immediately and “could
    recover its pre-war capability in
    a year or more.”
  • Gates summarized by saying:
    “In our opinion Iraq will
    remain a primary proliferation
    threat at least as long as Saddam
    Hussein remains in power.”
    He added that “the cadre of
    scientists and engineers trained
    for these programs will be able
    to reconstitute any dormant
    program rapidly….”

  • The prospects are not
    good for retaining international
    sanctions much longer.

    Thanks to Saddam’s continuing
    absolute and tyrannical control,
    the devastating effect of the
    present international sanctions
    has fallen disproportionately on
    innocent Iraqi citizens.
    Documentary evidence is mounting
    daily that he has diverted such
    resources and commodities as are
    available for the purpose of
    cushioning the impact on his base
    of support — the army, the
    ruling Takriti clique and the
    Ba’ath party. Even so, elements
    within these groups are said to
    be experiencing some hardship and
    may be becoming restive. But the
    effect they feel is nothing like
    that being felt by the Kurdish
    and Shiite populations (most
    especially their women, children
    and elderly) and other vulnerable
    groups. It seems unlikely that
    Western nations will be able to
    stomach for much longer a
    sanctions regime with these
    results.

Conclusion and
Recommendation

Under these and foreseeable
circumstances, it is incumbent upon
President Bush to enunciate a clear and
resolute policy toward ending Saddam
Hussein’s reign of terror. It is
commendable if, as has been reported,
notwithstanding the Administration’s
public stance, he is pressing forward
with a covert operation to accomplish
this goal.

Were Mr. Bush to persist in denying
publicly that bringing about Saddam’s
downfall has become his express
purpose
, however, he would abdicate
the leadership role that is required if
such a policy is to enjoy the support of
the American people and their elected
representatives. What is more, further
duplicity — if that is what it is — on
this point will not provide
“plausible deniability” in the
event a U.S.-backed initiative against
Saddam Hussein fails. To the contrary, in
such an event, it is likely that the
costs of failure for Mr. Bush and his
Administration would simply be that
much higher
should it be established
that he was telling the public one thing
while doing the opposite.

For these reasons, the Center for
Security Policy strongly encourages
President Bush to use the “bully
pulpit” of his State of the Union
address to explain his true
intentions with respect to Saddam Hussein
and to build the base of popular support
that can, and must, be energized on
behalf of doing the right thing.

Center for Security Policy
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