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Crunch Time

It's crunch time in Washington.

Last week, Vice President Cheney made a compelling case for the liberation of Iraq. This week, President George W. Bush must give compulsory orders to liberate Iraq.

Why the nation's first MBA president -- one with a master's in business administration, and from Harvard Business School no less -- should allow his management team to lose its direction and momentum of late is a mystery. Why he allows his key advisor, Secretary of State Colin Powell, to differ so fundamentally is as perplexing.

Secretary Powell now advocates the very type of U.N. inspections that Vice President Cheney decries as producing nothing but a false sense of security.

So what should happen now? That's the main question. President Bush must cease fiddle-faddling and manage -- no, lead -- his administration by backing up Cheney's words with his actions.

Bush must lay out the case for removing Saddam with as much conviction and logic as he did for demolishing Al Qaeda a year ago. That's not tough to do, since the case against Iraq is even stronger than that against Al Qaeda.

A terrorist network like Al Qaeda is horrible. Yet a terrorist nation like Iraq is even worse. Why? Iraq has the economic, scientific and military assets of a state. And that's a far more daunting prospect than the piecemeal assets of a private group.

Terrorist states can thrive without terrorist networks. But terrorist networks can barely exist without terrorist states. They must reside somewhere, and have real trouble operating if being hunted down furiously -- like Usama bin Laden now (if he's still alive). And they must rely upon sophisticated institutions to move their money and agents around the globe.

Unlike bin Laden, who slithered around caves in Afghanistan, Saddam slithers around a national capital. He has his grubby hands on billions of dollars in state oil receipts, hundreds of thousands of troops, scores of scientific laboratories, and myriad manufacturing plants cranking out weapons of mass destruction.

The moral imperative for ousting Saddam is powerful. With a whole nation of victims, he oppresses more people daily than bin Laden in his lifetime.

Saddam, like bin Laden, is clearly an international terrorist. He was involved in the unsuccessful effort to flatten the World Trade Center in 1993. He ordered his goons to assassinate the first President Bush. He now bankrolls the families of homicide bombers in Palestine, who killed five young Americans recently.

For years, Saddam provided a safe haven for that godfather of terrorism, Abu Nidal, who was expelled by Moammar Gadhafi for being too vicious and radical (if you can imagine).

While the evidence connecting Saddam to Sept. 11 is less of a smoking gun, it remains significant. Ringleader Mohamed Atta made the 7,000-mile round trip to Prague a few months before Sept. 11 and there met the top officer of Iraqi intelligence, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani.

But the prime argument for demolishing Saddam rests not so much on Sept. 11 but on the potential for future terror attacks.

Rather than come after America directly, Saddam could covertly hand off chemical, biological or nuclear weapons to any number of terrorist groups. Their attack with his weapons of mass destruction would make last year's attacks pale in comparison.

We can't solve this problem by reinstating U.N. inspections, as Secretary Powell now advocates. Contrary to international law and clear U.N. resolutions, Saddam has barred inspectors for four years running. Even if he were to acquiesce, they would do little good. His chief nuclear engineer, Khidhir Hamza, identified more than 400 sites in Saddam's nuclear-weapons program -- not counting those making chemical and biological agents.

In his book Saddam's Bombmaker, Mr. Hamza describes how Saddam -- after Israel obliterated his Osirak nuclear plant in June 1981 -- decided not to put all Iraq's nuclear assets in one basket. Iraqi uranium enrichment facilities were spread around -- some behind farmhouse façades, some disguised to look like schools or warehouses. International inspections would need a veritable army to cover this expansive covert program.

Every day Mr. Bush holds off liberating Iraq is another day endangering America. Posing as a "patient man," he risks a catastrophic attack. Should that attack occur and be traced back to an Iraqi WMD facility, his presidency would be relegated to the ash heap of history.

Why risk that? Why risk us? Why any further fiddling?

Kenneth Adelman is a frequent guest commentator on Fox News, was assistant to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from 1975 to 1977 and, under President Ronald Reagan, U.N. ambassador and arms-control director. Mr. Adelman is now co-host of TechCentralStation.com.

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