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International Opposition to New U.S. War with Iraq

BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
from the nationally syndicated radio newsmagazine "Between The Lines"
http://www.btlonline.org
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A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints on national and international issues under-reported in major media

For release March 4, 2002

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White House Drive for New War with Iraq Faces International Opposition
Audio Link: http://www.wpkn.org/wpkn/news/halliday030802.ram
Interview by Scott Harris.

* Denis Halliday, former U.N. under-secretary general in charge of Iraq's oil for food program, examines the Bush administration's war plans and the potential threat that Iraq poses to its neighbors and the U.S.

Since President Bush declared Iraq, Iran and North Korea an "axis of evil" in his January State of the Union address, speculation is running high that a U.S. military attack on Saddam Hussein's government is imminent. While the White House has failed to substantiate any link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, many leading Republicans and Democrats support targeting Baghdad in the next phase of the war against terrorism.

The threat of military action is being used to pressure Iraq to accept the return of U.N. weapons inspectors who the Bush administration maintains must go back to neutralize the threat of Hussein's alleged stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. U.N. inspectors withdrew from Iraq in 1998 soon after it was discovered that some members of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM), were engaged in espionage. The U.N. monitors left Iraq just before a U.S.-British bombing campaign began. Many of Iraq's neighbors, and several members of the U.N. Security Council, oppose a U.S. assault on Iraq and warn that unilateral action by Washington would undermine the coalition that supported America's war on the Taliban government in Afghanistan.

Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Denis Halliday, former under-secretary general at the U.N. in charge of Iraq's oil for food program, who resigned his post in protest of economic sanctions in 1998. Halliday examines Washington's war plans and the potential threat that Iraq poses to its neighbors and the U.S.

Denis Halliday: Saddam Hussein has a huge following on the "Arab Street," the regular people throughout that part of the world, because he is the one Arab leader who is independent of the United States and has had the courage to snub his nose, so to speak I suppose, at U.S. foreign policy. That's not true obviously of Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, or some of the Arab states in the Gulf, nor Kuwait. This gives him all sorts of credibility in the Middle East.

To take on this endeavor to attack Iraq and to damage lives and kill further civilians in Iraq is just going to backfire on the leadership of the United States worldwide and on the leadership of the United States in the Middle East. Clearly that role which Mr. Bush has let slip a little bit is essential if we're going to see peace between Israel and Palestine which we all want and which we must have an endorsement from Iran and Iraq to see it stay firm and be long lasting.

Between The Lines: Of course, when the Bush administration talks about Iraq being part of this "axis of evil" they talk about a continuing weapons program in Iraq to develop biological, chemical and atomic weapons. What is the reliability of the reports that Saddam Hussein is continuing to pursue these weapons programs?

Denis Halliday: Well, I am not an arms expert, but I rely on others. And you may recall when Defense Secretary xxxxx Cohen left office he said that Iraq presents no danger to its neighbors nor to the United States. When Mr. Powell took over as Secretary of State he said, likewise, that Iraq presents no danger. Richard Butler, former chairman of UNSCOM has likened Iraq's position at the end of 1998 to being three-quarters of the way through the last lap of a four-lap race. And Scott Ritter who was a disarmament expert in Iraq for six or seven years also believes and still has a strong position that Iraq presents no danger. I mean, there may well be lurking capability for biological or chemical weapons, but Iraq apparently has no delivery systems, no ability to use these weapons, fortunately.

The fact is, we have created a situation now where Iraq is militarily weak with outdated equipment surrounded by very aggressive and heavily armed neighbors who have all the weapons of mass destruction and would appear perhaps ready to use them, at least from the Baghdad perspective. Certainly in Baghdad I think they understand that there would be nuclear warheads pointed at Baghdad from Israel. So I think we have to see both sides of the story. I think the potential is there but the danger is not a real one, and it's somewhat of a fictitious development to sustain our aggression against Iraq and to watch out for American interests in the Middle East.

Between The Lines: In as far as the return of United Nations inspectors to Iraq to verify the destruction of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons that they are thought to possess or be developing, what are the chances that those inspectors will be allowed to return with the threats implicit from George W. Bush's recent "axis of evil" speech?

Denis Halliday: I don't think the threats of Mr. Bush will help at all, because you're talking about a country and a leadership that's very big on sovereignty, dignity and honor and so on, and to be threatened by Mr. Bush carries no weight whatsoever. In fact, I think it has the reverse impact. Secondly, Iraq has had military inspections since 1991, there's been a lot of collaboration between the U.N. and Iraq: massive destruction of capabilities within the country, whether it's missiles or production capacity for chemicals, biological or nuclear weapons. I mean, we forget the long years of cooperation when Rolf Ekeus was in charge of UNSCOM. To now ask Iraq after the spying endeavors of UNSCOM under Mr. Butler which were recognized by Washington to be true, I think is unrealistic. I mean (Hussein) has a domestic political situation, he has to deal with his own survival in power just like Mr. Bush here in this country. I don't think he can allow military inspections under the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) in Iraq any more than Mr. Bush would allow inspections under the germ war convention of the United Nations, which he has rejected recently.

I think the best we can hope for is to lift the economic embargo and then Iraq has to agree it will allow United Nations monitoring of its various weapons capacities, which is already being undertaken in that the Atomic Energy Agency had an inspection team in the country three weeks ago.

Between The Lines: In terms of the political environment here in the United States, you have Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), former Democratic party vice presidential candidate and many other moderate and conservative politicians, strongly advocating a military invasion of Iraq. What do you think the chances are that we'll see that come to pass?

Denis Halliday: Well, clearly attacking Iraq, condemning Saddam Hussein, the demonization of Saddam Hussein is very good "domestic politics." The allies and friends of the United States, not just in Europe, but those around Iraq in the neighborhood: Turkey to Saudi Arabia and even Kuwait; they've all expressed reservations and concerns about a military adventure against the Iraqi people, the loss of life, further death to Iraqi civilians and Arab brothers and sisters and so on. I think there's no support and there's great concern that the U.S. would "go it alone" and create a whole new threat to peace in the Middle East. It's just a nightmare scenario for most thinking people outside of the United States.

I think many Americans, if they really understood what is being considered, and the dangers that may result from this crazy military action, would oppose it. But you know most Americans are in the dark.

To get more information on the international campaign to end economic sanctions on Iraq that target civilians, call Voices in the Wilderness at (773) 784-8065 or visit their Web site at http://www.vitw.org

See related links and listen to an excerpt of this interview in a RealAudio segment or in MP3 on our Web site at: www.btlonline.org

for the week ending 3/8/02.

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Scott Harris is the executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines, for the week ending March 8, 2002.

To subscribe to Between The Lines Q&A, e-mail btlqa-subscribe@topica.com


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