That's what's happening in Iraq right now. According to multiple witnesses, many Iraqi soldiers are dressing as civilians, shooting from houses, traveling in civilian cars, using pedestrians as shields, and firing artillery from residential neighborhoods. In the first Najaf incident, they began to use a tactic that Iraqi officials promise to exploit further: disguising themselves as civilians to commit suicide bombings. They're making British and American soldiers afraid that every sheep could be a wolf in sheep's clothing. The danger raised by this serial deception isn't that the Brits and Americans won't believe it when a wolf is coming. The danger is that they won't believe it when a sheep is coming.
In the fable of the boy who cried wolf, the deceiver pays the price. But in the twisted version unfolding in Iraq, only the victims and dupes suffer. More civilians die, because U.S. and British troops have trouble distinguishing them from disguised soldiers. And outrage against the invaders grows, because nobody blames the wolves who dressed as sheep on Saturday or Sunday for the sheep who were mistaken for wolves on Monday. That's the moral of the story: When scrutiny is reserved for the other side, crime pays.
Monday, March 31, 2003
1:15 p.m.: On Saturday, Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan issued the following statements about Iraqi military methods and targets:
1) "We will use any means to kill our enemy in our land, and we will follow the enemy into its land."
2) Arabs should "turn every country in the Arab world into a battlefield, not only against those who wear the military uniforms of the United States and the United Kingdom, but against all who support them."
3) "If the B-52 bomber can kill 500 people at one time, I am sure that our operations by freedom fighters will be able to kill 5,000 people."
At face value, these statements dispense with months of debate over covert, indirect Iraqi sponsorship of terrorism. Iraq, represented by its third-highest ranking official, now embraces terrorism openly and directly. Any regime that threatens to "use any means to kill," "follow the enemy into its land," "kill 5,000 people" at one time, and take the battle to "all who support" American and British troops—not just "those who wear the military uniforms"—is implicitly targeting civilians. By any definition, that's the essence of terrorism.
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted unanimously last November, threatened Iraq with "serious consequences" based on Resolution 687 of 1991. Paragraph 32 of Resolution 687 required Iraq "to inform the Security Council that it will not commit or support any act of international terrorism … and to condemn unequivocally and renounce all acts, methods and practices of terrorism." Paragraph 33 stipulated that a cease-fire of the Persian Gulf War was contingent "upon official notification by Iraq … to the Security Council of its acceptance of the provisions above." In other words, if Iraq violated its pledge to renounce terrorism, it would void the cease-fire and renew the war.
As permanent members of the council, France, Russia, and China voted for Resolution 687. So did Belgium, which held a rotating membership on the council at the time.
All of which raises two questions. To the government of Iraq: How can Vice President Ramadan's statements be reconciled with your obligations under Resolution 687? And to the governments of France, Russia, and China: If the statements can't be reconciled with the resolution, will you honor the resolution and rejoin the war?