by Robert Fisk
October 4, 2002
It's the same old trap. Nato used exactly the same trick to ensure that it could have a war with Slobodan Milosevic. Now the Americans are demanding the same of Saddam Hussein – buried well down in their list of demands, of course. Tell your enemy that you're going to need his roads and airspace – with your troops on the highways – and you destroy his sovereignty. That's what Nato demanded of Serbia in 1999. That's what the new UN resolution touted by Messrs Bush and Blair demands of Saddam Hussein. It's a declaration of war.
It worked in 1999. The Serbs accepted most of Nato's Interim Agreement for Peace and Self-government in Kosovo, but not Appendix 8, which insisted that "Nato personnel shall enjoy ... free and unimpeded passage and unimpeded access throughout the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia."
It was a demand that Mr Milosevic could never accept. US troops driving through Serbia would have meant, in these circumstances, the end of Yugoslav sovereignty.
But now we have the draft UN resolution which Presidents Bush and Blair insist the UN must pass. Arms inspection teams, it says, "shall have the right to declare for the purposes of this resolution ... ground and air-transit corridors which shall be enforced by UN security forces or by members of the UN [Security] Council".
In other words, Washington can order forces of the US (a Security Council member) to "enforce" these "corridors" through Iraq – on the ground – when it wants. US troops would thus be in Iraq. It would be invasion without war; the end of Saddam, "regime change", the whole shebang.
No Iraqi government – even a Baghdad administration without the odious Saddam – could ever accept such a demand. Nor could Serbia have accepted such a demand from Nato, even without the odious Slobodan. Which is why the Serbs and Nato went to war.
So here it is again, the same old "we've-got-be-able-to-drive through-your-land" mentality which forced the Serbs into war and which is clearly intended to produce the same from Saddam.
America wants a war and here's the proof: if the United States truly wished to avoid war, it could demand "unfettered access" for inspectors without this sovereignty-busting paragraph, using it as a second resolution only if the presidential palaces of the Emperor Saddam remained off-limits.
Saddam can open his country to the inspectors; he can open even his presidential palaces. But if he doesn't accept the use of "Security Council" forces – in other words, US troops – on Iraqi roads, we can go to war. There's also that other paragraph: that "any permanent member of the Security Council may request to be represented on any inspection team." In other words, the Americans can demand that their intelligence men can return to become UN inspectors, to pass on their information to the Israelis (which they did before) and to the US military, which used them as forward air controllers for their aircraft once the inspectors were withdrawn.
All in all, then, a deal which President Saddam – yes, Saddam the wicked, Saddam the torturer, Saddam the lover of gas warfare – could never, ever accept.
He's not meant to accept this. Which is why the Anglo-American draft for the UN is intended to give us war, rather than peace and security from weapons of mass destruction.
Robert Fisk is an award winning foreign correspondent for The Independent (UK), where this article first appeared. He is the author of Pity Thy Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (Atheneum, 1990)