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War games preceding the main event


Before the main event, there is often a preliminary or warm-up.

In boxing, there are often one or more preliminary bouts prior to a championship fight.

Before a concert by a well-known performer or band, the “warm-up” performance usually heightens the anticipation of what is to come.

The presence of United Nations weapons inspection teams in Iraq is basically the warm-up, the preliminary to the main event, which is likely to be a United States-led military action against Saddam Hussein sometime early in 2003.

In the two weeks inspectors have been on the ground in Iraq, they report no resistance to their efforts to inspect any site. The inspectors are looking for evidence of Iraqi chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programs -- either ongoing weapons production, or stockpiles of materials previously produced.

On Saturday, the Iraqi government issued a weapons report in excess of 12,000 pages to the United Nations. This report, according to Gen. Hasam Amin, will “answer all the questions which have been addressed during the last months and years.”

He added: “I reiterate here Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction.”

“If (the United States and their allies) have anything to the contrary, let them forthwith come up with it. Give it to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), give it to UNMOVIC (U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission),” said Gen. Amir al-Saadi, the Iraqi government's science adviser. “They are here. They can check it. Why play this game?”

Al-Saadi said the declaration had no additional evidence that Iraq has dismantled its weapons programs, but called it complete, current and accurate.

Of course, the United States puts no faith into any Iraqi declaration. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) said Sunday it would be one of the most shocking conversions in history for Saddam to begin telling the truth.

In this latest in a series of preliminary bouts, the Bush administration hopes to have the chance to review the documents submitted by Iraq, compare them with its own intelligence information about alleged weapons programs there, and then provide the inspectors with leads based on the intelligence information.

Sen. Bob Graham (R-Florida) of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Sunday that the U.S. has what he considers credible and reliable information that Iraqi weapons programs are indeed still underway. And he would know, as someone with direct access to the information. The Bush Administration has put a lot of resources, effort and political capital into building support for the disarming of Iraq, both domestically and internationally. It is very, very unlikely the administration would go as far out on a limb as it has to solicit the support of the international community without very solid, definitive evidence.

The administration’s approach has been to give Saddam enough rope to hang himself. The intelligence evidence has to be compelling enough for Bush and his advisors to believe that it’s only a matter of time before Saddam is caught in a lie, or caught trying to hide something. Either would be a “material breach” of the United Nations resolution calling for Iraq to completely disarm itself of any weapons of mass destruction.

A title fight consists of many stages of preparation before the actual event, and that’s where the United States and Iraq find themselves. The strategists for both sides, like trainers for prize fighters, are following the scripts which they believe will lead to ultimate victory. The United States strategy is clear: it’s inevitable that Saddam will violate some aspect of the United Nations resolution. And by waiting for Iraq to submit its claims to the United Nations, the U.S. will have what it believes will be at least some untruths, embellishments or outright deceptions in writing. When that is confirmed, all diplomatic channels to avoid a conflict will have been exhausted and the Bush Administration can proceed with its plan to disarm and eventually depose Saddam.

Both countries are complying with the deadlines and protocol of the United Nations resolution, but are also preparing for armed conflict which they both know is inevitable. As of Sunday, the United States had 60,000 troops in the Middle East region, and was conducting war game exercises in Qatar, a pro-U.S. Middle Eastern nation. Two hundred warplanes are there as well, and four U.S. battleships are expected to be in the region by sometime this week.

Iraq is also preparing, claiming that it has distributed weapons to hundreds of thousands, and perhaps millions, of citizens so they can defend themselves and the country in the event of a U.S. invasion.

All of the statements from both sides over the weekend represent nothing more than rhetoric, and are preliminaries to the main event. Both sides already know what will happen, when it will happen, and why it will happen. The world is just waiting for the warm-up act to run its course.

This column was written December 8, 2002, and published in several print publications across the country.

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