This Q&A is from ZNet
From: “Eli Gothill”
Dear Professor Chomsky,
In your ZNet interview dated April 13th, your dismantling of U.S. war
rhetoric was partly based on the assertion that UNMOVIC “was doing a
good job in virtually disarming Iraq, and could have continued, if that
were the goal.”
My concern here is that UNMOVIC would not have been inside Iraq
disarming Saddam’s regime had there not been 300,000 American and
British troops stationed on its borders. It is quite clear that Saddam
Hussein conceded new inspections only in the face of the imminent
military attack; an attack which was opposed widely by those who
In this light, the anti-war movement’s proposition:
to inspect and disarm Iraq peacefully, seem at best wishful thinking;
and realistically somewhat erroneous. Even though little attention
should be paid to the flimsy “single question”; pragmatically,
opposition to war had to address mainstream rhetoric forthrightly to win
So, how should the anti-war movement have gone about this honestly and
I await your comments with interest.
Whether UNMOVIC or its predecessor UNSCOM could have continued its work without a huge build-up of troops is unclear. You could be right, but I don’t see the basis for your certainty.
What we do know is that UNSCOM had largely disarmed Iraq by 1998, to the point where it was the weakest state in the region, by a good margin. It might have continued its work after 1998 had it not been for US moves to undermine it. One reason goes back to the earliest stages of inspection: the US repeatedly insisted that it would not live up to the requirement that sanctions would end if Iraq was disarmed, which removed the motivation for compliance. That persisted to the end. A narrower reason was Washington’s use of UNSCOM for spying on Iraq, which had become pretty clear by 1996, and was not in question by 1998. That again undermined inspections, obviously. It was followed by the Clinton bombing in defiance of the UN (in fact, in a calculated insult to the UN, if you look at the timing). That ended UNSCOM for the time being.
However, there were possibilities for renewing the inspections in following years, prior to the US troop build-up. In July 2002, Iraq sought assurances that if inspections were renewed, they would not “just come to update the information [on Iraqi targets] and provide it to the US military and intelligence bodies to use in bombing Iraq,” as part of Washington’s plans to overthrow the government. They received no assurances from the US, and the Security Council was in no position to give assurances about US policy. Nonetheless, on Sept. 16, Iraq announced its acceptance of a return of inspectors “without conditions.” That’s all before the troop build-up. At that time, the government-media propaganda campaign [on] Iraq’s threat to US security and terrorist connections was just beginning.
A few days ago, chief inspector Hans Blix delivered a scathing attack on Britain and the US,?Eaccusing them of planning the war `well in advance?Eand of `fabricating?Eevidence against Iraq to justify their campaign,and also saying that Iraq was paying `a very high price’ — in terms of human lives and the destruction of a country. Reported in England (Guardian), though I haven’t seen it here.
So you might be right, but I think your confidence is misplaced. Another possibility is that if the US had accepted the original UN resolutions instead of flatly rejecting them, and had allowed inspections without undermining them, they might have proceeded from virtually disarming Iraq to completely disarming it.
Which immediately raises another question, namely the crucial paragraph in the main resolution (687) which calls for elimination of WMD and delivery systems throughout the region — a code word for the offshore US military base in Israel, which has 100s of nuclear weapons, probably chemical and biological weapons, and air and armored forces that are larger and technologically more advanced than any NATO power (let alone any regional power), according to IDF analysts.
And then in the background remains the solemn commitment of all the official nuclear powers, including the US, to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons.
I don’t know who you have in mind in referring to the anti-war movement, but the parts I know about (e.g., the parts that appear here) should have gone about all of this “honestly and realistically” in about the way they did. By repeatedly making these points in talks, interviews, etc.