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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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July 18, 2005

Against the Case for War

The case laid out in the blog entry below by Paul Conti on UN resolution 1441 is a legal argument, which can only be part of the necessary argument for war. War always requires a moral argument, which has to do whether the dispute is important enough to kill people about.

The legal argument is that the U.N. authorized us to do it. Actually not the whole U.N., either, but just the Security Council, and actually not war, but an unspecified action. Had the U.S. government gone back and asked for an authorization to invade, it might not have got it.

Resolution 1441 says, in effect, ‘You disclose your chemical, biological and nuclear weapons to our satisfaction or else.’ This is asking to prove a negative—to prove that something does not exist, which is notoriously more difficult that proving what is. The burden of proof was on Saddam Hussein. “He failed to live up to his burden of proof,” Conti says. Well, his response didn’t satisfy the Bush administration—but what would have? Bush was not going to take “we destroyed them all” for an answer from Saddam Hussein, though in hindsight that was apparently true.

Paul Conti discounts the efforts of weapons inspectors, who he says were “hoping to find weapons that could fit in small jars and vials.” On May 4, 2001, I attended a speech by Scott Ritter, who had been a U.N. arms inspector in the mid-1990s. “Iraq has been disarmed,” he said. “There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction of any meaningful significance.” He said he was sure of this because such weapons require special factories, and that his team had found these places, dismantled their apparatus and destroyed their stocks.

Further, Ritter said that chemical and biological weapons degrade, so that if Saddam Hussein had any poison gas, etc., manufactured before the mid-90s-hidden in jars somewhere—those weapons would have been expired by 2001. “Iraq has no means of producing chemical weapons today,” he said. “From a military standpoint, Iraq presents zero threat to the United States.”

Maybe he was wrong; maybe there was some threat. But how large? Saddam was full of bluster, but when the tanks rolled, his army did not fight. He had no WMD, despite Colin Powell’s assurances to the UN. Behind the stink over the aluminum tubes, the yellowcake from Niger and the missiles with a range of 93 miles, Saddam hardly had a national defense.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at July 18, 2005 02:38 PM



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