Next Step: Strip Saddam’s Diplomats of Their ‘Legitimacy’
Even while the 3rd Infantry Division and I Marine Expeditionary Force begin to consolidate their hold on Baghdad, we are still being subjected to diatribes from the Iraqi Information Ministry, or from one or another of the senior Iraqi officials still able to speak to the public.
With our troops literally rolling through the streets of downtown Baghdad, these Ba’athist mouthpieces (read this as spokesmen for Saddam Hussein) still insist that we are dealing with a “Tale that Wagged the Dog” situation, referring to the Clinton-era movie that details a fanciful situation wherein the U.S. government “creates” a “war by reporting,” using actors and studio props to convince the world that we are in a real war, while distracting attention from presidential dalliances.
We have stated in no uncertain terms that the “government” of Iraq is illegitimate. We have launched a war to remove the men we have labeled as criminals, in order to establish a legitimate democratic government in its place.
Why, then, are we allowing these criminal thugs access to the media and more specifically, access under diplomatic immunity to the United Nations and other diplomatic venues?
One argument for continuing this farce is that if we do not recognize the “legitimacy” of current Iraqi “diplomats,” we place our own diplomats in danger worldwide by undermining the nearly universally accepted principle of diplomatic immunity.
On the other hand, we have declared the Ba’athist government in Baghdad to be illegitimate and are actively working to eliminate it. If the government is illegitimate, then so too are its representatives. The logic of this can be explained by any Logic 101 college student – even one from the University of Baghdad.
Although we have made tremendous progress in our surge into Baghdad, we have not yet fully occupied the city, nor have we completely removed the remaining elements of the illegitimate Baghdad government. This means that we cannot yet stop broadcasts emanating from the unsecured areas.
What we can do is jam the transmissions and take all possible measures to prevent any such communication. And we can detain or kill all representatives of this criminal government wherever we find them.
Before we take this second step, however, we need to establish a legitimate interim Iraqi government, perhaps in exile for the first few weeks, but relocate it to a secure place within Iraq as soon as possible. We would immediately recognize this government as the official representative of the Iraqi people. The interim Iraqi government would then immediately establish its worldwide legitimacy by presenting its credentialed diplomats to the countries of the world, one by one as they recognize its legitimacy.
News reports earlier today that the U.S. military has begun airlifting hundreds of soldiers belonging to an Iraqi exile group into southern Iraq suggest that the U.S. government is doing just that.
Following our recognition of the new Iraqi government, a presidential decree would remove American recognition of diplomatic status from all the Iraqi “diplomats” from the Ba’athist regime wherever they are located. Those on American soil, even if they are ostensibly within the United Nations, we can simply arrest and place in detention for the remainder of the conflict. They can be brought to trial as war criminals when the time comes.
We can insist that our allies recognize the new government and pull the diplomatic status of and extradite those Ba’athist Iraqi “diplomats” in their respective countries. Where this doesn’t happen, we should consider sending in covert teams to take them out as rapidly as possible.
Is this a draconian solution?
No more so than our war to replace the illegitimate government of Iraq, and to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. In fact, this solution is simply a logical extension of our reasons for this war.
Will the world object? The French will, and the Germans, and the Russians … perhaps the Chinese, and the Arab states, of course. But if we give them an immediate face-saving alternative – the new Iraqi government in exile. Most objections will dissolve in the face of a reality they can’t control anyway.
Will our diplomats be in greater danger? Do you mean like the late Lawrence Foley in Jordan, who was assassinated by an al Qaeda thug linked to Iraq?
I believe American diplomats already face the greatest possible danger. Eliminating criminals posing as diplomats will not significantly increase the danger our diplomats already face. A concerted imposition of American force wherever and whenever this danger is realized will go a lot farther to lessen the danger than kowtowing to European and Arab appeasement of a criminal Iraqi regime.
What we don’t want is to look back ten years from now and complain that once again we didn’t wipe the slate clean.
Robert G. Williscroft is DefenseWatch Navy Editor