The case for forcibly removing Saddam Hussein and his Baathist Party from power in Iraq could not be clearer.
On the two charges that matter most to the American people -- Hussein's collusion with Al Qaeda's global terrorist enterprise and Iraq's ongoing development of chemical and biological weapons -- the growing body of publicly available evidence offers sufficient proof of Baghdad's mendacious designs to warrant the immediate use of force. President Bush's classified stash surely offers more; it is time for him to use it.
Since 1998, when United Nations weapons inspectors were forced to leave Iraq, Hussein has rebuilt an intricate, clandestine global procurement system to funnel banned materials and technologies into his weapons programs.
From 1998 to 2001, the Los Angeles Times' Bob Drogin has reported, a private Indian engineering exporter used front companies in Dubai and Jordan to supply Hussein's scientists with 3 metric tons of atomized aluminum powder, a key ingredient for making rocket propellant. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice referred to this illegal transfer in a New York Times opinion piece, citing Iraqi deceit in not declaring "its manufacture of specific fuel for ballistic missiles it claims not to have."
The same company shipped titanium centrifugal pumps and membranes used in constructing chemical weapons through its Middle East shell companies to a major Iraqi chlorine manufacturing plant. Titanium pumps enabled Hussein to churn out chlorine, a precursor chemical for everything from mustard and chlorine gas to blister and nerve agents, at much higher rates than anything Iraq could have hoped to use for civilian purposes. Then, in a blatant example of Hussein's deception and lies, the plant suddenly became "inoperable" in December as the new weapons inspectors came in.
Intelligence sources in the region indicate that Al Qaeda cells in Dubai may have financed the shipments using a traceless, underground money transfer system called hawala that is often employed by Islamist terrorists.
Other troubling data about links between Hussein and Al Qaeda have surfaced recently as well. During an October speech in Cincinnati, Bush identified a senior Al Qaeda leader as having received medical treatment in Baghdad in the months after allied bombing in Afghanistan. Since then, confessions that Jordanian police obtained from two Al Qaeda operatives accused of assassinating U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman, Jordan, show that they received money and weapons from this same man, Abu Musab Zarqawi. Zarqawi, a Jordanian with expertise in chemical and biological weapons design, is reportedly the No. 3 Al Qaeda official. He has lived at an Al Qaeda safe house in Afghanistan where traces of the poison ricin were found last year.
Zarqawi has been tied to a northern Iraqi terror group backed by Hussein to oppose Kurdish rebels. At minimum, Hussein's regime provided Zarqawi with safe harbor and free passage into and out of Iraq. In the worst case, Hussein provided chemical and biological agents directly to a senior Al Qaeda leader.
British intelligence reportedly believes that Zarqawi sent recipes for making ricin from raw materials to Al Qaeda cells in London and perhaps other European cities. Algerian terrorists said to be connected to Al Qaeda and the northern Iraqi group, several of whom worked for food preparation companies, were arrested in London three weeks ago.
How much clearer does the picture have to be before the international community's refusal to dismantle terrorism's nerve center results in another catastrophic attack against civilians? Iraq and Al Qaeda are working together. Hussein, the Arab nationalist, continues to build and stockpile dangerous chemical and biological weapons. His messianic partner, Osama bin Laden, is churning out brainwashed legions of homicidal maniacs to carry these weapons to their targets worldwide.
Whether the U.S. disarms Iraq now or later or never, Al Qaeda remains bent on destroying the civilized world, and Hussein is its chief enabler. Detoxifying Iraq is not a separate, unrelated thread but the most important next step in the global war on terrorism.