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Indecision killin' me

How times change.

April 24, 2003:

The world must focus on the issue of nonproliferation, says President George Bush.

“One of our goals and objectives must be to strengthen the nonproliferation regimes and get the whole world focused on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he told Tom Brokaw of the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) during an April 24 interview aboard Air Force One on his way to Canton, Ohio.

Of the U.S.-China-North Korea meetings held in Beijing this week, Bush said the message to the North Koreans and the world is: “(W)e’re not going to be threatened.”

“On the other hand we, the world, must come together to make sure institutions like the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) are effective at stopping proliferation,” he said.

May 5, 2003:

A senior U.S. official said on Monday Washington saw no immediate role for the United Nations in its quest for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The remarks by U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton spelled further frustration for International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, who along with chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix hunted for the banned arms, at being kept out of post-war Iraq.

“I don’t think there is any role for the U.N. in the short term in searching for, or identifying, or securing weapons of mass destruction, but we do not necessarily rule out some kind of U.N. role down the road,” Bolton told reporters in Moscow.

The facilities that the IAEA wants to inspect were under IAEA seal. Nobody’s ever denied that there were potentially dangerous materials inside ‘em. However, Iraq didn’t unseal them. Had they done so, the IAEA would have reported this and provided a causus belli, which perhaps speaks to why Iraq left them the hell alone. The IAEA has good records of what was inside and is the agency most capable of determining the extent of the looting.

The IAEA acts in Iraq under the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 687 (PDF). This is one of those Security Council resolutions that we treat with such respect, even when the Security Council itself won’t. We won the war, but that doesn’t make the resolution vanish. Consider: if Iran had invaded and defeated Iraq, would that mean inspections were unnecessary? Nah. We can trust ourselves, of course, but if the IAEA wants to inspect the nuclear sites, where’s the harm?

It doesn’t create any dangerous precedents other than that the IAEA has the right to carry out actions decided upon in the Security Council. That seems pretty safe to me. What’s more, it’s precisely what Bush said they should do on April 24th — and that’s the meat of the issue. I could respect a consistent stance vis a vis international bodies, but it’s hypocritical to talk about making the IAEA effective while refusing their legitimate, Security Council-backed request.

How effective does the IAEA look when Bush is turning them down out of hand? Not very.

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