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Can We Trust America?

For all America’s skills in surveillance and espionage, in the eyes of much of the world, Saddam Hussein is still no proven possessor of weapons of mass destruction.

He’s a nasty piece of work, but we’ve known that for years – even when we were supplying him with arms and Donald Rumsfeld was visiting him in Baghdad. Saddam would sell his grandmother rather than surrender power. But is he the palpable threat to world peace that we’re painting him? Where’s the proof?

Colin Powell’s evidence last week didn't seem conclusive to the rest of us. Maybe Mr. Powell knows more than he’s prepared to reveal in public, but it's unfair to expect the international community to back up everything America does simply on trust. We know we can’t trust Iraq.

But you might be surprised to learn that, here in Europe, it's becoming an issue of: Can we trust America?

This Friday the weapons inspectors report back to the UN Security Council. Strangely enough, Hans Blix and his team seem to be getting somewhere. Very late in the day the Iraqi regime is starting to cooperate. And the more they do, the harder it is to argue for all out war. France, Germany and Russia say – triple the number of inspectors, send in a peacekeeping force to back them up.

But your administration rejects the idea. Why? I’m asking questions because millions of people are asking questions. Thousands will march in Britain a few days from now, against a war. Even Conservative politicians here – Republicans in everything but name – are privately dubious of this whole US led enterprise. Tony Blair, our Prime Minister, is under such intense political pressure at home that he needs a second UN resolution passed before hostilities commence. Mr. Bush doesn’t seem to be bothered. And even if that resolution were blocked - if one key member of the UN Security Council used the veto - then, from what I can gather, we all go to war anyway in order to show the UN what its job really is.

You are dead right to be suspicious of Saddam Hussein. But suspicion alone doesn’t confer the right to attack. He may be a threat to world peace. But do you now risk becoming a much bigger one?

By Ed Boyle