A Modest Proposal:
Giving Bush and Blair a Deadline
by Richard Falk and David Krieger*, March
There comes a time when the prevarications and
faulty logic of official policy become so extreme that only satire
can shed light on the truth. We have reached such a point with
respect to the warmongering of the United States and Britain in
relation to Iraq’s alleged possession of a threatening stockpile
of chemical and biological weapons.
George Bush and Tony Blair are trying to impose
a deadline of March 17th, just days away, for Saddam Hussein to
prove that he does not have weapons of mass destruction. If Bush
and Blair succeed in getting the support of the UN Security Council
for this, they are prepared to proceed to war. From their pronouncements,
they seem determined to proceed to war even without Security Council
But how can Hussein prove that he doesn’t
have something? What would the proof be that something doesn’t
exist? If he were asked to prove that he has something, he could
simply provide it and that would be the proof. To prove that he
doesn’t have something, however, is far more problematic.
You can’t just say, “Here is what I don’t have.”
Perhaps it is reasonable within the context of
the continuing UN inspections to seek a fuller accounting of the
stocks of chemical and biological weapons that Iraq claims to
have destroyed in the early 1990s. Iraq may be in a position to
give a more complete accounting or an explanation of whatever
gaps exist in its record-keeping. Once this has been done, then
to continue pressing Iraq to prove a negative is a deliberate
ploy to make the inspection alternative to war fail.
So what is Hussein to do? He has let the UN inspectors
into his country. He has opened his palaces to the inspectors.
He has been destroying missiles that are just marginally over
the permitted range. He has allowed U-2 overflights of Iraq. He
has permitted Iraqi scientists to be interrogated by inspectors
in circumstances that protect the confidentiality of the communications.
Each time that Iraq does more to cooperate with the inspectors,
it is dismissed by Bush and Blair as insufficient, as some sort
of insidious trick.
It seems an utter impossibility under these circumstances
that Hussein could prove his case to the satisfaction of Bush
and Blair in a few days time, or ever, for that matter. It seems
increasingly clear that the last thing that Bush and Blair seek
is for Hussein to prove his case convincingly.
Given the mindset of Bush and Blair and the impossible
task they have given to Hussein to prove a negative, it seems
apparent that they are simply setting a deadline to get on with
the war they seek for a series of undisclosed reasons. If the
Security Council supports such a deadline, they will be giving
the UN stamp of approval to this criminal form of lunacy. Setting
a deadline to go to war when the weapons inspections are succeeding,
as Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix and IAEA Director General
Mohamed ElBaradei agree they are, amounts to setting a timebomb
under the United Nations itself.
We would like to offer our own modest proposal.
Why not set a deadline for Bush and Blair to demonstrate conclusively
that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction? Surely if such
weaponry exists and could be found by means of war, it can be
demonstrated to exist by peaceful means. Surely, the vast intelligence
efforts devoted to Iraq over the course of the past decade, bolstered
by defectors and by interviews with Iraqi scientists and engineers,
would have established the existence of such weaponry if it exists.
This proposal does not contain the logical fallacy
of demanding the proof of a negative. If the US and Britain cannot
prove that Saddam is hiding weapons of mass destruction, then
the United Nations should immediately remove its sanctions on
Iraq, sanctions that have caused terrible suffering and death
to the Iraqi people for more than ten years. The US and Britain
should also drop their intrusions of Iraqi sovereignty that have
included almost daily bombings. Such a course would make far more
sense than accepting the Bush/Blair proposal. To be fair we propose
to give Washington and London until the end of March to prove
The burden of proof should be on those who propose
the use of force, not on those who oppose it. Most members of
the Security Council understand this. If Bush and Blair do not
meet this burden of proof within a reasonable time period, their
calls and planning for war should cease.
The UN inspections in Iraq can and should continue,
and in fact they should be used as a model for inspecting all
countries that have or are suspected of having weapons of mass
destruction, including the five permanent members of the Security
Council. This would be an important step in moving the world toward
transparency and recognition that weapons of mass destruction
are not suitable instruments in the hands of the leaders of any
country, including those presided over by Bush and Blair. If we
want to remove the menace of weapons of mass destruction, we need
to establish a reliable regime of prohibition that applies to
all countries and does not single out a few non-western states.
* Richard Falk is chairman and David
Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
They are co-editors of The Iraq Crisis and International Law.