By Charlie Keenan

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell holds up a vial representative of the amount of anthrax it would take to kill thousands of people. The vial was part of a presentation before the UN Security Council on February 5.
(Photo: Elise Amendola/AP Wide World)

America may soon go to war with Iraq to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. U.S. President George W. Bush says Hussein is developing and hiding weapons of mass destruction from the UN weapons inspectors. The President is concerned that Hussein will use those weapons against U.S. allies, or will make them accessible to terrorist groups, such as al Qaeda, to use against the U.S.

So far, the U.S. is working with the UN Security Council to force Hussein to comply with UN demands to disarm. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1441 in November, requiring Iraq to prove it has destroyed any weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke before the council in February to argue that Iraq is not fully cooperating with the terms of the resolution.

The U.S. has built its own coalition of international countries in support of using force against Iraq. Bush says he will move to unseat Hussein as President whether or not the UN Security Council gives its unanimous approval of military action.

Hussein has a long history of dodging international demands on his country. Iraq also has a history of working with weapons of mass destruction, or chemical and biological agents that can harm entire populations. Hussein used chemical agents on the Kurdish people in northern Iraq in the late 1980s.

When Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the U.S.-led an international coalition that liberated Kuwait. The Persian Gulf War began in 1991 and sent Iraqi troops back inside their own borders within a matter of weeks. The UN then imposed economic sanctions on Iraq and demanded it disarm. Hussein has had 12 years to comply with the UN's demands, says Bush.

The case to invade Iraq also fits into a new American policy formed after September 11 of "preemption, not reaction." That means acting against nations before they act against us. The reasoning is that the attacks of September 11, 2001, may have been avoided if the U.S. had taken action against Osama bin Laden's base in Afghanistan sooner.

Some also argue that the administration is concerned about American access to oil. Iraq holds more untapped oil reserves than any country except Saudi Arabia. The U.S. does not import oil from Iraq, but American oil companies have close ties with the White House. Others say the U.S. wouldn't put the lives of its military personnel in danger for oil alone.

During recent inspections, UN teams have found documents on nuclear technology, and a dozen empty chemical warheads. But the Bush administration thinks Iraq is hiding a huge stash of chemical weapons. In early February Secretary of State Colin Powell testified before the UN Security Council. He estimated that Iraq has a stockpile of 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agents. Powell said 100 tons would allow Hussein to cause mass casualties across an area of almost five times the size of Manhattan.

"Should we take the risk that [Hussein] will not someday use these weapons?" Powell asked. "The United States will not and cannot run that risk to the American people. Leaving Saddam Hussein in possession of weapons of mass destruction for a few more months or years is not an option, not in a post-September 11 world."