Tuesday, July 15, 2008

President Bush was Right, As Evidenced by This Month’s Sale of Saddam’s Uranium and More

If anyone doubts the need to have ousted Saddam, a news release in the past few days should put such doubts to rest. The report is that the US has sold 550 tons of yellowcake uranium that had been found in Iraq to Camco, a Canadian company. The uranium will now be used as fuel and poses no severe risk if properly stored and sealed.

While the report contains no new information per se, it brings to the forefront pertinent facts that, while widely available, were also widely ignored. But when analyzing military and security matters, we can ill afford to ignore any factual information.

Yellowcake is often used as seed material for nuclear weapons, a process that requires the use of centrifuges. Saddam’s ability to convert the uranium to weapons grade was hindered at the end of the first Gulf War, when Iraq was forced to turn it over for isotopic dilution. However, the uranium could still have been enriched and not only did Saddam show no sign of abandoning the prospect of doing so, he actually took bold and decisive steps in the other direction.

The extent that Saddam went to was profound. At the start of the Gulf conflict and beyond, the allied coalition began to monitor Iraq’s importation of centrifuges and laser equipment needed for conversion of yellowcake to weapons grade uranium. What did Saddam do to bypass the monitors? He simply poured $8 billion into building calutrons, equipment that was used in the 1940s to build the first a-bombs, as Richard A. Muller explained in detail in MIT’s Technology Review (published Oct. 2002). To say the least, this does not seem like the action of someone who had abandoned his nuclear ambitions.

Many of today’s Democrats like to tell tales of Bush “lying” (although the idea that a president, any president, would knowingly mislead a nation, at the expense of his reputation and legacy, is ridiculous and offensive to logic). They also like to chant the story line that “there were no WMD in Iraq” and even that “Saddam posed no threat.”

These same people would be well reminded that in Oct. of 2004, Sen. Joe Biden spoke of the fact that Saddam’s Iraq had dangerous quantities of uranium, saying at the time that, “everybody acknowledges there's over 350 metric tons of this stuff somewhere.” It also bears mentioning the New York Times report of May 22, 2004, that 500 tons of uranium had been found in Iraq, 1.8 of which had already been converted to low-grade enrichment status.

The same Democrats have criticized President Bush for attacking Iraq, dubbing 18 months of persistent warning to comply with a 12 year old and 12 years broken cease fire treaty a “rush to war.” In their attempt to move the argument any which way, they also fault the President for “ignoring” the “greater” threats posed by Iran and North Korea and concentrating on Iraq.

The truth is, as President Bush said at the time, if we had not taken action against Iraq to enforce a ceasefire after 12 years of warning, we would have been viewed by other rogue nations as deliverers of empty rhetoric. Iran and North Korea would have laughed at us and negotiations would have been doomed from the start, as our threat of consequences would have been shown to be obsolete.

Furthermore, an analysis that Iran and North Korea posed more pressing threats than Iraq fails in its entirety to recognize the true nature of the threat that Saddam actually presented. Iran and North Korea are only interested in build up for a long term confrontation, not in inflicting mere casual damage. By contrast, Saddam was content with taking small, damaging strikes at the West without even the remote possibility of victory, as evidenced by his planned attack on former President Bush.

Any logical person would have known that an assassination attempt against a former US President would have resulted in severe strikes against Iraq and possibly in Saddam’s ouster. Yet that didn’t dissuade him from trying. Unlike Iran and North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq would not wait until it presented a real military challenge. Saddam would have been happy to launch deadly attacks against us, even if he couldn’t win the larger battle. For this reason, it made sense to try to negotiate and pressure with the other two nations, while acting quickly against Saddam.

Saddam did not need nukes to hurt us and no one disputes that he sponsored individual acts of terrorism in other countries. His plethora of gas weapons and even lower caliber weapons could have been given to rogue agents. And while there remains no evidence that Saddam had any conversations with members of al-Qaeda, there is clear and compelling evidence that he spoke with and supported plotters of terror outside of Iraq.


Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the war in Iraq was right for humanitarian reasons. Aside from the fact that Saddam had killed a total of 2 million people, or about 100,000 for every year of his rule, the sanctions imposed by the West against Iraq were truly horrendous. While they had no affect on Saddam, they did hurt innocent Iraqi people and contributed more to anti-Western sentiment than any other action.

Right after 9-11, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of Iranian Muslims who had immigrated to the West. All of them expressed clear condemnation of the attack on America. Furthermore, all were highly critical of the Iranian regime for several reasons. But when it came to Iraq they expressed an equally strong consensus, that while Saddam posed a threat to the entire Middle East, U.N. sanctions were inhumane and affected only civilians, people that Saddam had little care for and who had often been the target of his cruelty. And these sanctions did nothing to curb his rule.

In the early days of the current Bush administration, there was a fair amount of consideration given to the lifting or easing of sanctions against Iraq, for the very reasons stated above. That was before 9-11, when the need to prevent rogue leaders with a proclivity for causing small to midsized terror attacks abroad from trying to bring their fantasies to fruition became clear. Nonetheless, it would have been the right thing to do, as was getting rid of Saddam.

We should be thankful that we have a President who saw the need to oust Saddam and to try to rebuild the Iraqi people. Even at its worst, post-Saddam Iraq enjoyed relative peace in 14 out of 18 of its provinces. Now that the steps to rebuild it are largely succeeding, we can hopefully view the entire situation logically. In doing so I’ve been hard pressed to find anyone who can provide a factual reason that counters the real need to have ousted Saddam, an action supported by the best military and intelligence analysts we have.

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