Chemical and biological weaponry has been receiving such bad press that except for Baghdad, there appears to be agreement that it would be impossible to justify its use. This impression is erroneous. If the danger of occupation would hover over Washington, London, or Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, their leaders would consider using even radical measures. If such weaponry could have provided U.S. President George W. Bush with a way to prevent the September 11 attacks, he would not have passed it up.
International treaties distinguish between "conventional" and "nonconventional" weaponry, but they do not forbid using nuclear weaponry, just distributing it to states outside the club. However, it would be more realistic to distinguish between the target populations of non-conventional weaponry. In the military or domestic defensive context, it is a weapon of survival. Saddam Hussein set up his chemical warfare corps to overcome the Iraqi armor corps should it try to effect a coup d'etat. Using it against the Iranian forces advancing in Iraq (but not against Teheran in the missile "war of cities") has shown that Saddam distinguishes between stopping an enemy at home and crossing the border.
The chemical slaughter of the Kurds in Halabja was domestic, and in the murderous rule book of the region's dictatorships, was no different in essence from Syrian President Hafez Assad's slaughter of 20,000 Syrians in the city of Hama in 1982.
Survival is Saddam's ultimate goal. A mass attack on civilians in Israel is not the same as a preventive or military strike at conspirators and at a foe. That would be a counter-survival or post-survival act - the biggest suicide attack of all.
Israel seeks to deter anyone who threatens it with such a measure, and failing that, to punish the leader so harshly that he would have no heir or imitator. The effectiveness of a posthumous penalty threat against Saddam is about as limited as demolishing houses or deporting families of run-of-the-mill suicide bombers.
The very circumstances which might lead Israel to retaliate are those that will make such a move all but impossible. The American war in Iraq booby-traps Israel so that it cannot react to a chemical missile if one is launched from the depth of the grave closing in on Saddam. At that moment, there will be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of hostages near Saddam and all over Iraq and its strategic sites - Americans, their coalition partners, and locals, including prisoners, troops, and groups uprising against the dying regime. An Israeli retaliation in Iraq that will no longer harm Saddam on his way to perdition would endanger the Americans and their helpers, or at least undermine their desire to reduce infrastructure destruction and to hasten Iraq's rehabilitation.
A symbolic strike would be drowned in the din of Saddam's collapse, while a tremendous ringing blow would pose a real danger to the Americans and their project. This is the basic fallacy in the theory of those supporting deterrence based on an exclusive attack. If Saddam's last wish were to leave his stamp on history, his deterrence can be only a conscious one if he is persuaded that history would be rewritten by the Jews, the masters of the universe. We could also threaten, like the Americans, to persecute him personally to the bitter end.
Israel has no certain, deterring offensive response to that biochemical farewell volley from Saddam. Even if someone in the general staff says there is such a magic move, he will have difficulty convincing Saddam. The permanent presence of tens of thousands of American civilians in Israel - those with dual citizenship - and the temporary presence of hundreds of soldiers, Patriot crews and others who might get hurt beside Israelis is a greater deterrent. And if he is not afraid of American retaliation, Saddam will certainly not be scared of an Israeli one. The Iraqi missiles that do not work properly (like the surface-to-air missiles that fell in the Baghdad marketplace) and the Arrow, which will intercept them, are more effective in this case than a deterrent.
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