Along the Tracks

Friday, February 07, 2003

Iraq’s last chance came last summer

In the sheer force and volume of Colin Powell’s Wednesday indictment of Iraq, something I believe is important has received scant attention: The United States was offering Iraq a path out of its dilemma as late as last summer.

I’m speaking of the revelation that the U.S., through a “third party intelligence service,” requested the arrest and extradition of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the senior al Qaeda agent who had escaped to Baghdad for medical treatment. The Iraqis, Powell said, were given specific information which would have made the arrest simple - especially in a police state like Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s refusal may have been his true “last chance,” as far as President Bush was concerned.

Remember, the discussion of action against Iraq really gained steam in late July-early August of 2002, and in August, Powell convinced Bush to follow the U.N. route to action against Iraq. Those meetings last August loom larger than ever now; our last olive branch to Saddam had been rebuffed, so the principles gathered at the Bush ranch to decide not whether action against Iraq was necessary, but which course to follow. The resulting U.N. route has been window dressing for the military preparation. I’m not saying the administration has not maintained a sincere hope the Iraq issue could be resolved peaceably; rather, I’m saying they were ultimately realists. After all, if Saddam would not take the chance to quietly assist us while maintaining his rule, why on earth would he back down under public threats?

The October assassination of the American diplomat in Jordan by Zarqawi’s Baghdad cell was proof positive that, not only was Iraq harboring terrorists, it was complicit in their operations against Americans - something far too dangerous to allow.

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