Back to Baghdad

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BAGHDAD: Itís business as usual for the U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq today. "We will start our inspections as soon as possible," Maj. Gen. Nils Carlstrom, head of the UNSCOM monitoring office, said as his team arrived from Bahrain. Iraqis will no doubt be pleased to learn that there are only four American inspectors returning, as opposed to the six who left. UNSCOM chair Richard Butler says this is "part of the normal rotation."

Meanwhile, both sides continue to declare victory in the aftermath of the three-week standoff. Saddam has declared that November 20 will henceforth be known as the Day of the People, a celebration of "victory over the enemies and the covetous ones." In Washington ó home of the covetous ones ó National Security Adviser Sandy Berger emphasized that Saddam was given "no understanding, no deal, no concessions" to resolve the crisis.

As if to underscore the fact, the Pentagon is sending another 32 warplanes to the Gulf, where the aircraft carrier USS George Washington arrived Friday to join the USS Nimitz. And let's not forget the six F-117A stealth fighters arriving in Kuwait. There's more than enough firepower in place now to severely punish Iraq in the event of any interference with the UNSCOM inspections ó the question is, after the events of the last three weeks, will America ever again be diplomatically capable of carrying out an air strike?