tensifies, and threatens to boil over into a general Mideast conflagration,rnit is fair to ask; Who is reallv endangering “the securit)-‘rnof all the rest of us”?rnThe idea that the Iraqis “have the capacity’ to hit Tel Avi'”rnwith chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons, irresponsiblvrntouted by U.N. disarmament overlord Richard Butler in arnspeech to a gathering in New York, is contradicted by the publicrnstatements of his predecessor, Rolf Ekeus. As head of thernU.N. Special Commission on Iraq, Ekeus announced that Iraqrnno longer posed a military threat to its neighbors. “I do notrnthink that Iraq could constitute a threat to the region,” Ekeusrntold a news conference in the summer of 1995. Just back fromrna trip to Baghdad, he descried “a 180-degree change” in Iraqirncompliance with U.N. demands for full disclosure of Iraq’s militaryrnarsenal. At the same time, the International Atomic Energ-rni’genc’ declared that “there is no possibilit}'” that Iraq wasrndeveloping nuclear weapons, and its spokesman announcedrnthat “there is a new atmosphere of transparency. We are satisfiedrnthat the information we received looks ery credible.”rnAs for chemical weapons, Iraq was given a clean bill ofrnhealth by Israel’s army chief, Major General Amnon Shahak,rnwho told a parliamentary committee in 1995 that Iraq “nornlonger had chemical weapons,” according to an Israeli official.rn”According to our estimates,” said the official, “there are nornlonger chemical weapons in Iraq.” Not only that, but Shahakrnalso pronounced Iraq bereft of any missile deliver’ system ofrnconsequence.rnWhat happened between the summer of 1995 and thernwinter of 1998 to make the Iraqis such a menace? Wernare asked to believe that, under the constraints of the embargornand the most intrusive and comprehensive industrial surveillancernsystem ever instituted, Iraq managed not only to maintainrnbut to expand its covert weapons program. Yet not one scintillarnof evidence exists to support this conclusion.rnIn response to Iraqi compliance, the United States and GreatrnBritain upped the ante: instead of lifting the deadly sanctions,rnthe West tightened the screws and made more demands. Thernmonitoring system set up by the U.N. was to be extended intornSaddam’s official residences, the infamous “presidentialrnpalaces,” previously denounced by American officials as emblematicrnof the Iraqi dictator’s hedonistic lifestyle: Saddam isrnbuilding luxurious palaces, they said, while the Iraqi people arernstar’ing. ;s the propaganda campaign gathered steam, however,rnthese symbols of Saddam the Sybarite began to take on arnmore sinister aspect: hidden in Saddam’s many basements, wernwere told, are enougli toxins to wipe out the world’s populationrnseveral times over!rnThe Iraqis even took Western reporters on a tour of these fabledrnpalaces, stuffed to the rafters with ornate furniture, marblernmosaics, and bronze statues of the Iraqi leader in a thousandrnheroic poses. Asked why the presidential sites were beingrnopened to reporters but not to U.N. inspectors, Deput’ PrimernMinister Tariq Aziz replied: “You are guests. You are not inspectors.rnGuests are allowed, inspectors are not allowed. Ven,’rnsimple.”rnThe Iraqis make the charming argument that asking forrnaccess to these presidential sites would be like asking the U.S.rnto open up the White House or Camp David for inspection.rnThis old-fashioned idea that the same standards apply everywherernto all nations and governments belongs to our republicanrnpast. Now that we are a full-fledged empire —a “globalrnhegemon,” as Weekly Standard editor William Kristol likes tornput it—all acts of defiance, no matter how small, are acts oilesernmajeste, and must be severely punished, lest others get ideas.rnSaddam won’t open the doors of his harem to “weapons inspectors”?rnLet the bombing begin!rnThe most bizarre and ominous aspect of all this was the positionrntaken by the Republican congressional leadership: bothrnTrent Lott and Newt Gingrich declared that another bombingrncampaign would be futile and that Saddam must “somehow”rnbe forced from power. What these two cagey politicians leftrncarefully unsaid, but forcefully implied, is openly proclaimedrnby the “hegemonists” over at the Weekly Standard, wherernRobert Kagan, the neoconservative Clausewitz, bewails “Saddam’srnImpending Victor)'” and bemoans the fact that “air powerrnis not enough to bring the Iraqis to their knees.” Having assuredrnus throughout the debate leading up to Gulf War I thatrnair power would indeed be sufficient to make short work of Saddam,rnthe interventionists have now turned on a dime—without,rnof course, acknowledging that any such turnabout hasrntaken place. “Only ground forces can find and destroyrnweapons-production facilities with a high degree of confidencernthat they have been destroyed.” Therefore, according to thisrnloony logic, the United States must occupy every square inch ofrnIraqi territory. New York Times columnist William Satire hasrnchimed in with the suggestion that an invasion ought to culminaternin “teaching the Iraqis how to hold an election.”rnSuch an election, amid smoldering ruins, was recently heldrnin Bosnia, where Serbian nationalist radio and television stationsrnwere shut down by American troops and all opposition tornthe occupation was banned as “hate speech.” This Pollyannishrnscenario ignores the history and culture of the region: Saddamrnmay perish in the conflagration, but there will be other Saddamsrnwho will rise to take his place—a resurrection engineeredrnby U.S. policymakers, who fail to appreciate the power and significancernof martyrdom in the political culture of Islam.rnAmid signs of a rapprochement with Iran—signaled by thernadvent of a Tocqueville-quoting Iranian President—thernpossibility of Gulf War II is ominous indeed. For what itrnpromises is the dismemberment and division of Iraq, America’srnpermanent occupation of the Iraqi oilfields, and a leap into arnmorass from which there will be no extrication.rnBoris Yeltsin was vilified for daring to suggest that Americanrnactions in the Gulf could set off World War III. Anyone canrnsee, however, that the end of the Cold War has not eliminatedrnthe danger of a third—and perhaps final—world war. In Iraq,rnthree out of the four great civilizational powers intersect: Islam,rnthe West, and a defeated and resentful Slavic empire. Saddam,rnas the leader of the Baathist or socialist tendency in the Arabrnworld, fits in nowhere neatly: as a secularist modernizer, he isrnanathema to fundamentalists, who swear allegiance tornTeheran. He is an intransigent nationalist, and thus the swornrnenemy of the West. Only the Russians have shown any sympathyrnfor the Iraqis, but Moscow is reduced to playing the role ofrnmediator and cannot offer military protection: in any showdownrnwith the United States and Britain, the Iraqis are on theirrnown.rnSaddam and the Iranian mullahs represent the two great tendenciesrncompeting for cultural and political dominance in thernArab world, one modernist and the other medievalist. Thernstruggle broke out in open warfare during the Iran-Iraq war,rnwhich devastated both countries. The demonization of Sad-rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn