Looking beyond the al-Qaeda link
Last week Katherine Crane wrote an article in which she dismissed much of Colin Powell's speech to the U.N., as it failed to provide a direct link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. She missed the point, however, as the Bush Administration is not making its case based upon that alone. Some have argued that there is a connection, and the recent tape with bin Laden's voice on it suggests that he is willing to support Saddam against their common enemy, but that still isn't the point.
The White House is not arguing that Saddam was complicit in the September 11 attacks. What they are arguing is that he is a threat and needs to be taken care of, just as bin Laden is. The United Nations agreed on this matter, and passed U.N. Resolution 1441. It was in regards to that resolution that Powell spoke at the U.N. 1441 said that any efforts taken by Saddam to prevent the inspectors from doing their job was a material breach, and therefore, casus belli.
Crane argues that "people who are flatly opposed to a doctrine of pre-emptive warfare are unlikely to be swayed by a few minutes of intercepted phone conversations on the order of 'The inspectors are coming! Did you hide everything?'" In relation to Powell's speech, this is an irrelevant point. The United Nations passed the resolution, and if it wants to remain a relevant institution, it has to enforce it. The point is that those words alone prove that the inspections process is a joke, and that Iraq has no intention of complying with the U.N. Why haven't they found any weapons? Because Iraq has had ten years to practice hiding them.
Those who are against pre-emptive warfare have the right to protest, but the United Nations, that saintly multilateral institution that was the rallying point of all those opposed to bloody American cowboy unilateralism has already said that action should be taken against Iraq if it refuses to disarm. Those who spoke out against war with Iraq used the U.N. as a shield, claiming it was the only legitimate institution that could decide the future of Iraq. Now the U.N. has made its decision, and it is quite clear that Iraq has been deceiving inspectors and hiding arms. Chemical warheads have been found, mustard gas has been found, and there are huge discrepancies in what Saddam claimed to have in 1991 and what he claims to have now, in regards to tons of VX, anthrax, and other weapons.
The tie between terrorism and Iraq is not that the two are necessarily directly linked, but that they certainly could be; if not now, then in the future. Even if there was no conscious link, the mere proliferation of weapons and germs and chemicals in an unstable country like Iraq increases the likelihood that they would fall into the wrong hands, intentionally or otherwise. In this sense, it doesn't matter if there is a direct link. Understanding international terrorism as committed by extra-state entities requires a look at the potential sources of weapons. As it turns out, our own airports were a source of weapons, and we have taken precautions to ensure that those weapons will not be used against us again. Similarly, we are now looking to other sources of weapons, and that includes Iraq.
Crane finishes her pieces with that time-honored process of relating one's political opponents to Hitler. She attempts to make her point that Bush is unfairly tying Saddam to bin Laden by making the vague and absurd claim of similar politics between Hitler and Bush. Hitler grouped his enemies into one category, and Bush grouped America's enemies into one category (Evil Doers) and Hitler was a bad man and wrong, and therefore Bush is a bad man and wrong. Sadly, the transitive property does not always work in politics. Hitler created the Autobahn. Eisenhower created the Interstate. Doesn't make them the same thing. By the way, Hitler was also a vegetarian. Draw your own conclusion.