Has the Bush Administration suckered the United Nations into weakening Iraq prior to a mass murderous attack that was pre-ordained years ago?

The facts are these:

· Bush's original official stance was that the United Nations must force Iraq to disarm, in keeping with treaties signed after Iraq's 1991 defeat after invading Kuwait.  His charges that Iraq had failed to honor these promises led the United Nations to force it to further disarm;

· According to the official report of UN weapons inspectors, as delivered Friday, March 7 by Hans Blix, Iraq has made "significant" steps toward disarming, among other things destroying many of its missiles;

· According to additional reports, Iraq may have destroyed most or all of its chemical and biological weapons early in the 1990s;

· According to most credible reports, Iraq does not have the near-term ability to build nuclear weapons;

In short, by all internationally accepted standards, Iraq has moved toward significant compliance with the formal demands of the United Nations, and cannot be considered a credible threat to the United States.

At the behest of the UN, Iraq has significantly weakened its ability to defend its citizens from mass slaughter by an attacking superpower.

But George W. Bush says just such a mass slaughter may come no matter what the UN Security Council or its weapons inspectors say about Iraq's compliance with the UN's---and Bush's---original demands. 

At his press conference Thursday, March 6, Bush dictated a new requirement for avoiding mass slaughter on which the UN never voted, and which was never formally presented to the Iraqis:  Saddam Hussein must go.

Should Bush attempt to enforce this demand with mass violence, he will have used the United Nations---and Iraqi compliance with UN mandates---in a shell game to diminish the Iraqis' ability to defend themselves. 

Such a move would rank as one of the most cynical ploys ever used by any world leader.  It would forever pollute the reputation of the United States of America.  It would permanently cripple if not destroy the peace-keeping ability of the United Nations. 

There's little doubt Saddam Hussein may well have more to hide.  He is a violent dictator, like dozens of others the US has installed in victim nations over the decades. 

But Bush's homeland contempt for the US Bill of Rights and other Constitutional guarantees of personal freedom, privacy and human rights makes suspect the kind of "democracy" he might bring to a conquered Iraq.

Through the Project for a New American Century and other right-wing think tanks, key Bush cohorts such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, have long demanded a "regime change" in Iraq that would lead to US hegemony over Arab oil reserves.  Iraq would be the first Middle Eastern "domino" to fall definitively under direct US control.

But in 1996, Bush's father, former President George Herbert Walker Bush, warned that "to occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us, and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero."

Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, now Bush Junior's vice president, later said that a war in the streets of Baghdad "would have put large numbers of Iraqi civilians and hundreds of thousands of our troops at risk of being killed." 

Cheney added in 1997 that finding Saddam Hussein was worth "not very many" American lives.  "The only way to make certain you could get him was to go occupy all of Iraq and start sorting through Iraqis until you find Saddam Hussein."

Last year Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Bush Junior that an attack on Iraq without strong global support could be "much more complicated and bloody" than the first Gulf War.

That might be the understatement of the new millennium.  UN weapons inspectors have increased Iraq's vulnerability to martial conquest.  Through bait-and-switch, Bush has used the UN and its members as instruments of a military agenda they have not approved. 

It's hard to imagine the global firestorm of revulsion and fury that would explode should Bush now use the advantage they've given him to kill Iraqi citizens for regional hegemony, as he clearly intended to do all along. 

Harvey Wasserman is senior editor of and author of THE LAST ENERGY WAR (Seven Stories Press).