'Sodom' Hussein's Iraq"
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN - Dec 1, 2002The U.N. inspectors in Iraq have begun their investigation of various Iraqi factories and military sites. Pay no attention. They will find nothing. The key to this whole inspection gambit — indeed, the key to whether we end up in a war with Iraq — will come down not to where the inspectors look inside Iraq, but whom they decide to interview outside Iraq, and whether that person has the courage to talk. The fate of Iraq will all come down to the least-noticed paragraph in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441: Point 5.
The framers of this resolution had learned their lessons from previous Iraqi inspections. They knew that Saddam Hussein was an expert at hiding his war toys and, having had four years without inspections, had probably buried everything good under mosques or cemeteries. That means the only way we can possibly uncover anything important in Iraq is if an Iraqi official or scientist — a Saddam insider — tells the U.N. where it's hidden.
And that is why the Security Council insisted on Point 5 — something I did not appreciate at first, but do now. Point 5 says: "Iraq shall provide [the U.N. inspectors] and the [International Atomic Energy Agency] . . . immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access to all officials and other persons whom [the U.N.] or the I.A.E.A. wish to interview in the mode or location of [the U.N.'s] or the I.A.E.A.'s choice, pursuant to any aspect of their mandates." The U.N. and I.A.E.A. may "conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, may facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq, and . . . such interviews may occur without the presence of observers from the Iraqi government."
In other words, the chief U.N. inspector, Hans Blix, can invite any Iraqi general or scientist to come outside Iraq and reveal what he knows. And should that Iraqi worry about personal safety, U.S. officials would be prepared to give his whole family green cards and money to live on. And why not? "I am happy to pay for that," a senior Pentagon official said. "It will be a lot cheaper than going to war to find these weapons."
But there are two weak points to worry about here. The first is Mr. Blix, an I.A.E.A. veteran. Although the U.N. has given him this authority, he is not entirely comfortable with it, U.N. officials say. The whole I.A.E.A. inspection process and culture was never set up to be prosecutorial, and it isn't in most countries. In most countries, the host government provides full cooperation. Mr. Blix, and the U.N. generally, are not used to such an "aggressive, adversarial approach" — effectively subpoenaing Iraqi officials — one U.S. official said. And that's why it's not clear when — or if — he will opt for interviews.
But this is where the U.S. will have to hold the U.N.'s feet to the fire. "The key is finding a defector" through interviews, a senior U.S. official said. "That's the only way we're going to find anything."
But this leads to the second issue, which is a deeper moral question. Is there an Iraqi Andrei Sakharov? Is there just one Iraqi scientist or official who wants to see the freedom of his country so badly that he is ready to cooperate with the U.N. by submitting to an interview and exposing the regime's hidden weapons?
It takes just one person in Iraq who wants these inspections to be real, who wants Saddam to be exposed, and the whole house of cards comes down. And that person does not really have to risk his life or his family to do it. He can get everybody out. If there is not one such person in Iraq, well, that tells us something about the Iraqi people's own quest for freedom and a different future.
"In the past year we've seen Arab extremists' risking their lives to attack others — is there one Arab democrat willing to risk his life to save his own country?" asked the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen. "Think about the refuseniks in Russia who went to prison. Think about the reformers in Iran who speak out every day, knowing that it will land them in jail or with a death sentence. It's really an Abraham-like situation, when God told Abraham he would not destroy Sodom if he could find just 10 good men there. Are there 10 Iraqi refuseniks who dare to say, `Enough is enough,' and will whisper to Blix the truth? Is there one?"
Because if there isn't one such Iraqi, we will have to ask, and many Arabs will ask, "Exactly who are we fighting this war for?" And if there is one, or 10, no one will ask that question if we go to war. So watch this issue. This is the real drama.