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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, November 12, 2002

In Iraq: There's still no al-Qaida smoking gun

The impressive vote of confidence the Bush administration received from the United Nations undoubtedly boosts its determination to take on Saddam Hussein, one way or another.

The one way, of course, is to follow the U.N. resolution and see to it that Iraq disarms, completely and immediately. The other is to invade. And clearly the Bush administration is moving swiftly ahead in planning for that contingency.

The invade scenario is built around the assumption that Iraq will not cooperate fully with weapons inspectors, as the U.N. resolution requires.

One danger is that even if Iraq does cooperate, it might not be enough for the United States.

For instance, the Bush administration insists there is strong evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaida. But that evidence has not been publicly revealed, and many intelligence analysts, including those in Europe, believe that it just isn't there. In fact, Saddam's resolutely secular regime is anathema to Osama bin Laden and his fundamentalist followers.

There are plenty of reasons to be suspicious and wary of Iraq and its leader. But unless there is believable evidence introduced about ties between Iraq and al-Qaida, making claims about such a connection simply weakens the Bush administration's case for military action.

And if inspectors do get access to Iraq, they should remember that their job is to look for evidence of weapons of mass destruction, not to see if there are signs that Osama has been in the neighborhood.