THE DEBATE at the United Nations today should have made clear several things even to those skeptical of a war in Iraq: Hans Blix and Mohammed el Baradei are not serious inspectors; the French and the Germans are not serious allies; and the United Nations is no longer a viable, relevant international body.
First the inspectors. The tone of Blix's presentation this morning was disturbing, focused as it was on the rare instances of Iraqi cooperation rather than the obvious and disturbing pattern of Iraqi noncompliance. Blix's report of the February 8 and 9 meetings between inspectors and Iraqi weapons experts is indicative. He sees a glass half-full, when it is, in fact, empty.
Or, as Blix put it: "Although no new evidence was provided in the papers and no open issues were closed through them or the expert discussions, the presentation of the papers could be indicative of a more active attitude focusing on the important open issues."
No new evidence. No resolution of open questions. But, he says, the papers might reflect a "more active attitude" by the Iraqis?
BLIX WAS ENCOURAGED that Iraq has consented to "talks" with South Africa on how to disarm. He "welcomed" two new Iraqi "commissions" to search the country for proscribed weapons. And he was clearly pleased with the "presidential decree" Saddam Hussein announced two hours before the U.N. meeting. Blix revealed that he and Dr. el Baradei "had urged the Iraqi side to enact legislation implementing the U.N. prohibitions regarding weapons of mass destruction."
That's worth dwelling on for a moment. Iraq is a dictatorship. There is no such thing as "legislation" in any meaningful sense of the word. Saddam Hussein has lied about his weapons of mass destruction for 12 years. He currently says his country is "clear" of such weapons. If he could prove it, no one would be talking about inspectors.
That Blix and el Baradei would make such a recommendation is revealing. That they are encouraged by this decree, banning weapons Saddam Hussein says he doesn't have, is more revealing.
Blix spoke of the importance of intelligence and asked for more, a request clearly directed at the United States. Then, moments later, he spoke of Colin Powell's presentation last week. That 80-minute presentation was loaded with fresh intelligence further proving, for those who needed such proof, Iraq's ongoing concealment of the weapons of mass destruction programs. Blix referred to Powell's presentation twice. Once, to note a general "appreciation of the briefing," and the second to question one of Powell's conclusions about movement around an Iraqi weapons site.
Blix could have spoken at length about the strength of Powell's case. He could have singled out telephone intercepts demonstrating Iraqi concealment efforts. Instead, he chose to challenge the U.S. interpretation of satellite imagery.
Each time Blix's report strayed from a fact-based examination to a subjective analysis, Blix seemed keen to give Iraq the benefit of a decades' worth of doubts. On several occasions, including two clear "smoking guns," the facts proved stubborn.
Smoking gun number one: "The experts concluded unanimously that, based on the data provided by Iraq, the two declared variants of the Al-Samud II missile were capable of exceeding 150 kilometers in range. This missile system is therefore proscribed for Iraq pursuant to Resolution 687 and the monitoring plan adopted by Resolution 715."
Smoking gun number two: "With respect to the casting chambers, I note the following. UNSCOM ordered and supervised the destruction of the casting chambers, which had been intended for use in the production of the proscribed Bader (ph) 2000 missile system. Iraq has declared that it has reconstituted these chambers. The experts have confirmed that the reconstituted casting chambers could still be used to produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 kilometers. Accordingly, these chambers remain proscribed."
DESPITE these obvious violations, the French and Germans remain opposed to the "serious consequences" they established when they voted for Resolution 1441. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin claimed that the inspectors had made "significant gains" since the last report on January 27. Predictably, de Villepin casts Iraq's serious violations as proof that inspection are working. "We all realize that success in the inspections presupposes that we get full and complete cooperation from Iraq," he said. "France has consistently demanded this."
And, given that this is Iraq's umpteenth "last chance," have we seen such cooperation? Of course not. But de Villepin isn't discouraged. "Real progress is emerging."
What leads him to say this? Iraq says it will allow U-2 flights. De Villepin ignores the conditions Saddam has placed on his cooperation, namely prior knowledge of the flight patterns of the planes. Iraq, de Villepin argues, "has allowed Iraqi scientists to be questioned by inspectors without witnesses." Three times, if I'm not mistaken. Most others have refused to cooperate, some of them insisting on taping the interviews.
Are there any other signs of "real progress?" "A bill barring all activities linked to weapons of mass destruction programs is being adopted, which is in accordance with the long-standing request from the inspectors." Ah, yes. The decree from the dictator.
FOR GOOD MEASURE, de Villepin suggested that Colin Powell has not been telling the truth when he detailed links between Iraq and al Qaeda. De Villepin, citing French intelligence, dismissed these reports saying simply, "nothing allows us to establish such links."
Germany's Joschka Fisher told the gathering that he didn't see any evidence that Iraq was in material breach, reiterating his rather shocking comments from the previous day. "Iraq is not in material breach of U.N. Resolution 1441."
If the Blix and el Baradei reports were not silly enough, the absurdity of the session was punctuated when Syria--one of the world's preeminent state sponsors of terror--was the first Security Council member to respond to the inspectors, lecturing the world about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. (It's worth noting here once again that Libya chairs the U.N.'s human rights council and Iraq will soon head the disarmament committee.)
All of this took place against the backdrop of disappointing news from the Russians, who many administration officials thought would be the key to winning Security Council approval for the use of force in Iraq (again).
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the French press Thursday that he would block any resolution authorizing force.
"If it is necessary, we will use our veto," he told a French newspaper.
Stephen F. Hayes is staff writer for The Weekly Standard.