November Surprise?

Vacationing Bush Plots End of Iraq

The only certainty, it seems, is that the U.S. will attack. "I think this war will happen, and I think it's likely to be right after the midterm elections or sometime in winter 2003," says Chris Toensing, editor of MERIP Report, which tracks the Middle East. The thinking of the administration is that "the U.S. is strong enough that none of these countries [Britain or the Middle Eastern allies] can mount an individual challenge to the United States, and that they won't, and that they will protest until the last moment, and when it becomes clear that the war is going to happen, then they will be quiet and let it go on and assist in various ways, either quiet or open. . . . The group of policy-makers that's really pushing this forward, that's really driving the policy, the really hawkish group, believe in American unilateralism as a, not just a necessity, but a virtue. It's the first principle of their international relations."

Morton Halperin, senior director for Democracy at the National Security Council under Clinton and a present director at the Center for National Security Studies, thinks Bush will at least solicit the support of Congress before going in, but not because of the War Powers Act or any other legal requirements. "He will consult because people will tell him that this is going to be very expensive, it's going to be very complicated, we're going to have to stay there for a long time, and you don't want to do it without having gotten the permission of Congress," says Halperin. "And at the end of the day they're not going to turn you down." Turning dove on Iraq proved painful for Democrats before, he says, and they're not about to take that chance again.

These days, the smartest opposition to attacking Hussein comes from quarters like the left-leaning Foreign Policy in Focus, which has published a point-by-point rationale on its Web site,

• The war would be illegal, the group argues. The dispute with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction rightly belongs to the UN, not the U.S. If the U.S. on its own decides to attack Iraq because it violates a Security Council resolution, then any other member of the Security Council, acting on its own, can attack any other country, thereby creating international anarchy.

• Our allies in the region oppose the war. Kuwait itself has been mending fences with Iraq, which has agreed to respect Kuwait's sovereignty. Kuwait is opposed to a new attack by the U.S.

• There is nothing to show that the government of Iraq had links to Al Qaeda or other anti-American terrorists.

• None of the 9-11 hijackers were Iraqi, no major figure in Al Qaeda is Iraqi, and no Al Qaeda funding has been traced to Iraq.

• U.S. officials have admitted that there is no evidence that Iraq has resumed its nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons programs. After the 1991 war, all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems were destroyed. Before UN inspectors were withdrawn in 1998, they reportedly oversaw the destruction of 38,000 chemical weapons, 480,000 liters of live chemical weapons agents, 48 missiles, six missile launchers, 30 missile warheads modified to carry chemical or biological agents, and hundreds of pieces of equipment with the capability to produce chemical weapons. "In its most recent report," writes Foreign Policy in Focus, "the International Atomic Energy Agency categorically declared that Iraq no longer has a nuclear program."

• "Iraq's current armed forces are at barely one-third their pre-war strength," the group argues, with a nonexistent navy and a tiny air force. Military spending is one-tenth of what it was in 1990.

• Iraq is not a military threat to its neighbors, most of which have sophisticated air-defense systems. The think tank quotes Israeli military analyst Meir Stieglitz, who noted in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot: "The chances of Iraq having succeeded in developing operative warheads without tests are zero."

Research: Joshua Hersh, Gabrielle Jackson, and Cassandra Lewis

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