It would appear that, despite Powell's best efforts today, the case for war is not being accepted by the other security council veto holders, or really anybody who wasn't convinced that war is necessary from the outset. I doubt that many in the security council believe that Powell's examples of Iraqi intransigence were wrong, although several were fairly circumstantial and subject to interpretation, and the tenuousness of the link between Al Qaeda really threw me; I was amazed it was added, as it seemed to weaken the rest of the case.
The problem is the reaction to the evidence. The Bush administration continues to argue that it means that war is the only option, whereas others interpret it as evidence that the inspection regime needs to be beefed up. In some respects I think the spectacle of what was essentially a strident American attack on the entire inspection process actually furthered this division; I know that when I read the transcript, the question that kept on popping up in my mind was "why wasn't Blix and Co. made aware of these issues", and the answer was that the Americans were setting them up; deliberately standing aside and gathering what they'd need to produce the attempt at a Adlai Stevenson moment that we saw today. I'm sure that Blix is spitting mad, for example; the same satellite tracking information that was used by Powell today could have been given to Blix weeks ago in order to give the inspectors an information edge that would have aided them in finding what they were looking for. The fact that this didn't happen says volumes about the American attitude towards inspections throughout the entire process, and the mentality involved: a desire not to disarm Iraq, but to justify the invasion.
In fact, this says a lot about the United States' opinion about the U.N. in general. It's no secret that the neo-conservative movement that forms Bush's political and intellectual base of support has little love or use for the U.N. This "gotcha" wasn't really aimed at Iraq (which was quick to deny everything, to nobody's surprise). It was aimed instead at the U.N. itself. The attack's nature is made abundantly clear by Powell's invocation of the continuing attempts by the Bush administration to imply that it is the credibility of the United Nations at stake, and that the United States has the ability and insight to be able to make that judgement (as well as to pose the question in the first place). While it may have been couched in the language of internationalism, today's presentation was a bullet aimed not at Saddam Hussein, but Kofi Annan: the U.S. is saying- in front of the entire world- that an uncooperative U.N. is both useless and dangerous- that if it stands against the United States it will be swept aside, just like Iraq. Maybe not militarily, because the U.N. isn't an organization whose legitimacy rests on force; but it will be cast aside, as the neoconservatives that now run the executive branch of the U.S. government begin to fully realize their ambitions.
So I leave this with just one question: after Iraq, what's next?