Sunday Star 29 September 2002
not the only state with deadly weapons
A VISITOR from Mars these days could easily
get the impression that Iraq is a pioneer in the field of weapons of mass
destruction. Indeed, such a visitor would almost certainly conclude that Iraq
alone is keen on hideously violent weapons, while the rest of the world directs
its technological expertise exclusively toward peaceful, constructive purposes.
It might be worth mentioning, at least,
that when it comes to violent weapons, Iraq is hardly breaking new ground.
Last week, Britain's Tony Blair
triumphantly released a dossier purporting to show evidence that Saddam Hussein
is assembling weapons of mass destruction. But if we're looking for evidence of
such weapons - real ones, which exist right now, which are mounted and ready to
be fired at this very moment and have the power to kill millions of people - we
don't need to go checking under bridges, tables and mattresses in Baghdad. There
are plenty closer to home.
The United States alone has 9,000 nuclear
warheads, as does Russia, while Britain, France and China have another 950
between them. By contrast, Saddam doesn't even have one, as even his fiercest
critics acknowledge. Instead, they accuse him of having chemical and biological
weapons (easier to produce and less potent in terms of sheer murderous
possibilities) and of trying to acquire nuclear weapons - that is, trying to
acquire the ultimately destructive weapon that others already have in abundance.
But oddly, it is Baghdad that is described
by U of T's Wesley Wark as having an "unquenchable appetite for weapons of
mass destruction." If Baghdad's appetite is unquenchable, how could one
characterize Washington's? Isn't this a bit like denouncing Donald Trump for
being inconsiderate to his ex-wife, while not saying a word about O.J. Simpson?
We also hear constantly about Iraq's
refusal to co-operate with international weapons inspections (although, of
course, Iraq has recently promised to submit to such inspections - an offer
Washington says can't be trusted).
One could easily be left with the
impression that Israel's nuclear arsenal - which arms experts believe contains
about 200 warheads - is regularly inspected. In fact, it has never been
inspected. That's because, like India and Pakistan, which reportedly have a
couple dozen nuclear warheads each, Israel has not signed the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty, so its arsenal exists outside international law and
beyond the reach of inspectors. (Iraq signed the treaty, and therefore is
required to submit to inspections.)
But even U.N. Security Council Resolution
687 - prohibiting Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction - declares in
its preamble that all states must do everything possible to "establish a
nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East." That would
include Israel. But as Washington's ally, Israel is under no pressure to comply.
It doesn't seem particularly surprising
that Saddam seeks weapons of mass destruction. He'd have to be some kind of
peacenik - or just a guy with a death wish - not to be scrambling to assemble
some heavy-duty weapons, given the long-standing, open hostility of Washington,
which has recently done everything short of announcing the date for its
The lack of focus here on Washington's
weapons of mass destruction is all the more striking given Washington's
astonishing moves this month to establish its right to enforce U.S. military
dominance through the use of pre-emptive attacks.
Still, faith in benign U.S. power persists.
Globe and Mail columnist Marcus Gee showed the power of this faith in a column,
which was aptly headlined: "Don't worry, Iraq is all he wants."
Gee mocked the "worriers" who
fear Washington will run roughshod over the globe, insisting it will only go
after really terrible leaders, like those who attack other countries. Saddam is
certainly a terrible despot, and under him, Iraq has attacked two countries,
Iran and Kuwait, in the past 22 years.
But such aggression is not unique The U.S.
itself has attacked far more countries in the past 22 years - a point made
powerfully last week by former U.S. attorney-general Ramsey Clark in a letter to
the U.N.: "In the same last 22 years," Clark wrote, "the U.S. has
invaded, or assaulted, Grenada, Nicaragua, Libya, Panama, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan,
Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and others ..."
Of course, there's also the troublesome
fact that the U.S., alone in the world, has actually used nuclear weapons in the
past - and appears to be thinking of doing so again, according to a Pentagon
document leaked to the New York Times last March. The document, called the U.S.
Nuclear Posture Review, identified Iraq and five other countries - including
non-nuclear nations like Libya and Syria - as "immediate
contingencies" for which "requirements for nuclear strike
capabilities" must be established.
It's amazing the things some people worry