If only the questions on tests at school were this easy:
"Who's telling the truth, A. Iraq, which claims it has met all the U.N. resolutions regarding inspections of weapons of mass destruction and therefore should have eight-year-old economic sanctions lifted immediately, or B. chief U.N. arms inspector Richard Butler, who says he has abundant evidence that Iraq has failed to comply with U.N. orders to destroy all long-range missiles and chemical, nuclear and biological weapons?"If you circled "A" you're either Saddam Hussein, one of his surrogates or you can't read.
Both Iraq and Butler presented their cases to the U.N. Security Council this week. As usual, Iraq was long on rhetoric and short on facts. Butler was just the opposite.
And until Butler can give evidence that at least indicates Iraq is complying with basic policies agreed to after the Persian Gulf War, the United Nations must remain firm in its resolve to maintain sanctions on what is an outlaw nation.
Iraq's strategy is based on the premise that the U.N. at some point will grow weary of the unending headaches caused by trying to implement its own resolutions and cave in to Iraq's demands.
Updated reports by Butler of noncompliance notwithstanding, Saddam's plan seems to be working.
Three of the five permanent members of the Security Council - Russia, France and China - are urging the U.N. Special Commission to accelerate its accounting of Iraqi weapons so that sanctions can be lifted. What they are really saying is they are content to close their eyes to obvious violations in order to end the sanctions and gain favor with Iraq.
The commission, headed by Butler, is not at fault at all in the slow accounting process. All the blame is due to Saddam and his henchmen. They're the ones who have stonewalled, refused to comply with agreed-to mandates and even kicked the inspection team out of the country.
The United States and Britain are right to demand compliance before the end to sanctions. While meeting with Defense Secretary William Cohen Wednesday, British Defense Minister George Robertson aptly stated, "Before sanctions can be lifted, before Saddam can see the light at the end of the tunnel, full disclosure must be made."
That approach is the one the other members of the Security Council need to take as well.
Failure to take a hard line with a despot such as Saddam always results in disastrous consequences. Far better to deal with him in a tough manner now than when he has had an opportunity to replenish and expand his weapons of mass destruction.