BAGHDAD—Don Corleone once ordered his emissary to make someone an offer he couldn’t refuse. Later this week George W Bush is going to push ahead with a UN Security Council resolution Saddam Hussein couldn’t possibly accept. And what’s becoming abundantly clear is that that’s precisely the point.
What’s unfolding now is so cliché that it shouldn’t even be necessary to spell it out. At the end of the day, Saddam Hussein is going to reject peace. He will reject diplomacy. He will invite upon “his own people” a massive US attack and possible ground invasion. He will once again spit in the face of the “international community” that Bush has recently discovered (you know the insignificant folks that make up that soon to be debating society).
From his prison cell at the Hague, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic must be feeling Saddam’s pain. He knows what it’s like to reject America’s peace pipe. When Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright and company decided it was time to attack Yugoslavia in 1999, they gave Milosevic one last chance. At the talks at Rambouilet prior to the 78-day bombing, Yugoslavia was presented with a document that read like an occupation agreement. It said that NATO troops could deploy in Serbia and, along with their planes and vessels, would enjoy “free and unrestricted access throughout all of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,” and not just Kosovo. It said that NATO troops would be immune from prosecution for crimes committed during their presence in the country.
But back then, when it came time for “good reporters” to do their duty, they told it like it was: Milosevic had rejected peace.
Fast forward to this week. Iraq is facing the possibility of a US-forced security council resolution that says that if weapons inspectors return, the “teams shall be accompanied at their bases by sufficient UN security forces to protect them, shall have the right to declare for the purpose of this resolution no-fly/no-drive zones, exclusion zones, and/or ground and air transit corridors, (which shall be enforced by UN security forces or by member states;) shall have the free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed and rotary winged aircraft, including unmanned reconnaissance vehicles…”
Recent reports in the press have indicated that the Bush administration is developing plans to impose a military governor on Iraq. This resolution would certainly hurl the country in that direction. General Tommy Franks is probably trying on the UN fatigues as you read this.
The resolution then “Decides further that Iraq shall immediately cease, and shall not take or threaten hostile acts directed against any representative or personnel of the United Nations…”
From reading this, one would think that peacekeepers are being gunned down in Iraq, taken for ransom—that UN buildings are being stormed by the natives and firebombed. But in the 11 years since the Gulf War ended, Bush—or for that matter anyone—would be hard-pressed to name an incident in which any UN personnel came under attack from the Iraqis, including the time in 1998 when Baghdad uncovered that the US had infiltrated the weapons inspections regime with CIA spies. These days most UN officials here, while deriding the infamous Iraqi bureaucracy, speak of deep collaboration with the government in attempting to deal with the devastating impact of the US-led sanctions.
Of course, no resolution put forth by the Bush administration would be complete if it didn’t include that well-known bedrock of international law—using UN resolutions to conduct espionage. The remarkable thing about this resolution is that Washington is actually spelling it out in the draft: “…any permanent member of the Security Council [i.e. America, i.e. the Pentagon, i.e. the CIA] may request to be represented on any inspection team with the same rights and protections accorded other members of the team, shall have unrestricted, and immediate movement to and from inspection sites, and the right to inspect any sites and buildings, including unrestricted access to presidential sites…”
And then there is the issue of interviewing any Iraqi the US, pardon me, the UN sees fit. A shrewd Iraqi friend, who was educated in the US and trained as an engineer often says: “I could have a great life abroad. All I would have to do is ‘escape’ to Europe and claim to be a former technician on Iraq’s covert weapons program.” Parts of the US draft resolution read like a premeditated kidnap doctrine. It mandates “immediate, unimpeded, unrestricted and private access to all officials and other persons,” saying that the inspectors may “at their discretion conduct interviews inside or outside of Iraq, facilitate the travel of those interviewed and family members outside of Iraq…” It doesn’t mention in the draft resolution whether those individuals or their families would have any choice in the matter. Call it forced defection.
The inner circle in Iraq seems to be resolved to the idea that a massive attack is a fait accompli and that this resolution could well be the highly choreographed trigger. This resolution will ultimately constitute a sprawling text of fine print that most journalists won’t bother to read and most newspapers won’t bother to print. What matters is that it will be Saddam who has rejected peace. Bush and his cronies need not worry about any uproar from the media on this one. They know very well that you don’t need to read the manual of a product you know quite well how to use.
Jeremy Scahill is an independent journalist, who reports for the nationally
syndicated Radio and TV show Democracy Now! He is currently based in Baghdad,
Iraq, where he and filmmaker Jacquie Soohen are coordinating Iraqjournal.org,
the only website providing regular independent reporting from the ground in Baghdad.