As US President George Bush prepares to depose Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein, American nay-sayers have emerged in opposition. Notably, Brent Scowcroft, a close colleague of Bush's father, counsels "don't attack Saddam" for fear that this would "undermine our anti-terror efforts". Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, however, did the right thing when he offered Australia's support for a prospective American military campaign. Here's why it's urgent to take this step.
* Record. Hussein has a history of aggression. He invaded Iran in 1980. He conquered Kuwait in 1990. He assaulted Saudi Arabia and Israel with missiles in 1991. He blew up the Kuwait oil fields later that year. He's shot at US and British aircraft in the no-fly zone since 1992. He attacked the Kurdish regional enclave in 1996.
He is also linked to terrorism. Iraq harbours Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the gang that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. It also hosted the notorious Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, just found dead in Baghdad. He encourages Hamas suicide bombers by paying ,000 ($18,500) to their families. His terrorists tried to assassinate former US President George Bush Snr and the Emir of Kuwait. An Iraqi diplomat met Al Qaeda's Mohammad Atta before the September 11 suicide mission.
* Casus belli. Hussein has a history of violating international law and developing illegal weapons. In February 1991, he signed an agreement accepting all UN Security Council resolutions passed after his invasion of Kuwait seven months earlier. He recognised Resolution 687, which demands Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) be "destroyed, removed or rendered harmless," and requires inspectors be allowed into Iraq.
But Hussein then played cat and mouse with the inspectors. "Iraq released detailed records of how many ballpoint pens it ordered in the late 1980s," notes a US Government report, but left out vital information about its "missile warheads capable of delivering biological and chemical agents".
Nonetheless, over seven years, inspectors did destroy at least 27,000 chemical weapons, 500 tonnes of mustard and nerve agents and thousands of tonnes of precursor chemicals. They dissembled much of Iraq's nuclear program, which had continued in violation of Resolution 687.
* Dangers. Hussein has unquestionably used the past four years to build WMD. Adnan Saeed al-Haideri, an Iraqi civil engineer and a recent defector, informed American intelligence that Hussein was building WMD in eight locations throughout Iraq.
Khidhir Hamza, former chief nuclear scientist for Hussein's nuclear weapons development program and another Iraqi defector, estimates Iraq now has "12 tonnes of uranium and 1.3 tonnes of low-enriched uranium", giving Hussein "three to five nuclear weapons by 2005".
Australian Richard Butler, former chief UN weapons inspector, says it is "foolish in the extreme" to believe that Hussein is not hard at work on WMD. If Hussein does get his hands on nuclear weapons, he will exploit them fully. He is the only ruler in power to have used WMD having deployed poison gases against both Iranians and his own Kurdish population.
Bush rightly states that the world must "confront the worst threats before they emerge". How can anyone recommend waiting until Iraq has nuclear weapons and uses them before defusing this problem?
The argument for pre-emption is compelling. Australia should support and join an American military campaign to oust Hussein.