I don't remember when I stopped believing, but I do recall how exciting it was to wake up on that glorious morning and discover that the Easter Bunny, a.k.a. my mother, had eaten a portion of the carrot stick I left on the kitchen table the night before.
I can still see the teeth imprints Mom was careful to leave behind on the nibbled carrot, which, for me, was indisputable proof the Easter Bunny did exist. Never mind what the older kids said.
Today I find it difficult to believe in the Easter Bunny diplomacy called U.S. Iraq policy, even though the bite marks of Saddam Hussein are real. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iraq should be handled with a policy of "three baskets," acknowledging that U.S. Iraq policy is "falling apart" like a Chinua Achebe novel.
The "three baskets" he proposes are "smart" sanctions, no-fly zones and "regime change." This is being touted as "new" policy recommendations and may appear to the uncritical eye as strategic wisdom that doesn't put all of our eggs in one basket.
The only thing "new" here is that the Bush administration admits what the Clinton administration denied: the sanctions have been a colossal failure and have only strengthened Saddam's hand while the people of Iraq are unnecessarily punished.
As early as 1991, renowned defense consultant, Norman Friedman, pointed out: "It seemed virtually inevitable that countries badly damaged by the enforced cutoff of trade with Iraq would eventually disown any sanctions."
"Thus it was unlikely that the sanctions would ever force Saddam out of Kuwait, let alone that they would last for much more than a few months. By mid-January 1991, they had probably done all that could have been expected of them," he explained.
Nevertheless, the Clinton administration pursued a policy of containment. "The Clinton team's insistence on maintaining sanctions regardless of Iraq's compliance, a fundamental flaw in American policy toward Iraq, destroyed the coalition, for which the Clinton team deserves harsh criticism," wrote former UNSCOM chief inspector Scott Ritter in his 1999 book "Endgame: Solving the Iraq Problem - Once And For All."
In the spirit of Easter, with an Orwellian twist, Powell is resurrecting claims put forward by Madeliene Albright. Saddam Hussein "is hurting the Iraqi people, not us. There is more than enough money available to the regime now to take care of the needs they have," he said in defense of basket one.
The argument crumbles in light of the fact that the oil-for-food money Powell is talking about goes into an escrow account in France and is controlled by the U.N. Security Council. So, as anti-sanctions activist Kathy Kelley points out, it's no surprise to learn that tremendous profits are being made from black market oil sales when the sanctions "create intense desperation for needed goods."
Plus, whatever money the Iraqi government derives from illegal oil smuggling cannot begin to pay the estimated $100 billion needed to rehab Iraq's destroyed infrastructure.
"It is difficult to see how this circular policy of sanctions and sanctions relief is anything other than self-defeating," Ritter says. "The inherent inhumanity of economic sanctions damages those who impose it. As an American, I resent having my national character stained this way... . Iraq, having no incentive to cooperate, will provoke, counting on its ability to absorb punishment, until the United States exhausts its political capital in dishing out military punishment."
Basket two. The no-fly zones violate international law and are not part of the U.N. resolution to eradicate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program - a program effectively dismantled by 1997 and impossible to re-constitute without the necessary industrial capacity, according to Ritter.
Yet, Powell told the Senate subcommittee "we reserve the right to strike militarily any activity out there, any facility we find that is inconsistent with their obligations to get rid of weapons of mass destruction." Evidently, basket two amounts to substituting inspectors with bombs.
Basket three is "regime change." Powell said he supports additional funding for the Saddam opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress. Ritter's insight is again valuable.
Iraq's Special Republican Guard "would be reduced to so many corpses in a fight with the U.S. Marines or the U.S. Army, but they are well trained to destroy the very type of rebellion that the supporters of the INC would like to see. INC fighters on the ground in Iraq would need a lot more help - direct, massive intervention by the United States military, including ground troops that would inevitably see combat."
While it may be a comforting notion, Easter Bunny diplomacy spells disaster. The Bush administration should be applauded for its review of the failed policy, but concerned Americans should keep policy-makers' feet to the fire.
For information on what you can do, check out www.endthewar.org.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist.
Copyright © 2001 Cape Cod Times