Powell’s multi-media presentation at UN Security Council – no “smoking gun” and no iron-clad case for pre-emptive war against Iraq which will be  totally devoid of legitimacy, morality and sense

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, did not produce the “smoking gun” but the place the gun was laid before being removed ahead of UN inspections in his 80-minute multimedia presentation to the United Nations Security Council yesterday to justify a war against Iraq,  indicting the Iraqi regime for its  conspiracy to conceal banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD), conduct grotesque experiments on humans and financing, harbouring and training members of the al Qaeda organization. 

Despite Powell’s claim of  “irrefutable and undeniable” evidence, the US presentation can only comfort the converted but not persuade doubters and skeptics that Washington has a cast-iron case for war on Iraq. 

The world has however edged inexorably closer to war after Powell’s presentation. UN chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said that the clock was at five minutes to midnight for Iraq, and Powell had shaved another minute off that. 

After Powell’s presentation, four of the 15 security council members – Britain, Bulgaria, Chile and Spain – made strong statements indicating support for the US position.  This brings to five members,  when only a few days ago  there were only four of the 15-member security council – U.S. Britain, Bulgaria and Spain – who supported war against Iraq.  US and Britain have expressed confidence that they can further convert this into an overwhelming majority in favour of a resolution authorizing military action, securing an eventual majority of 13 out of the 15 members of the security council. 

What is really irrefutable and undeniable is that Powell’s multi-media presentation at UN Security Council is  no iron-clad case for pre-emptive war against Iraq which will be totally devoid of  legitimacy, morality and sense. 

Powell had failed to answer the  three crucial questions on “the unpredictability of consequences” posed to the Bush Administration by one of America’s most distinguished retired generals, Wesley K. Clark, former NATO commander who led the 1999 war that rescued Kosovo from Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic, who conceded that US military power would quickly crush Saddam Hussein’s military forces, viz:

  • First, are you sure you won’t destroy the international institutions you say you are supporting, and thereby undermining the war against terror?
  • Second, can you win the war quickly and smoothly, avoiding the collateral damage that would make you lose while winning?
  • And third, in the aftermath, can you prevent the growth of al Qaeda and control the weapons of mass destruction that may be hidden?

Clarke said that if the Bush administration can answer “yes” to all three, then the Iraq war will succeed, but he isn’t convinced. 

None of the three reasons which had been advanced by the Bush administration at one time or another for the war against Iraq, eliminating Hussein’s arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, reducing the threat of international terrorism and promoting democracy and human rights in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, is credible or bears scrutiny. 

Iraq undoubtedly has WMD, but so do many countries in the wider region, including Israel, Pakistan, India,  Iran and North Korea (Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iraq was years behind North Korea in nuclear ability). 

The fact that Iraq is not yet fully co-operating with UN inspectors should not be the basis for war. Even evidence of Iraqi violations of UN resolution 1441 or the original disarmament/sanctions in Resolution 687 does not represent a casus belli. 

The sane course is to strengthen the inspection teams and give them more resources, more reliable intelligence and time to disarm Iraq.  The objective of the international community in Iraq must be containment and deterrence and not war and invasion.  The Americans must learn to be good not only at fighting terrorists but also good at  fighting terrorism – how to dry up instead of fuelling the sources of terror.



* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman