Memo to Baghdad
Jude Wanniski
January 24, 2001


To: Nizar Hamdoon, Deputy Foreign Minister, Iraq
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Time for Creative Diplomacy

I’m sure you have heard from your United Nations ambassador that the Monday New York Times had a front-page story about how you folks have “Rebuilt Weapon Factories, U.S. Officials Say.” President George W. Bush had not even had his first national security briefing in the Oval Office, Nizar, and the hawks at the Pentagon were promoting action against your government. According to the reporters: “The new intelligence estimate could confront President Bush with an early test of his pledge to take a tougher stance against President Saddam Hussein than the Clinton administration did.”

Now you and I know this is a bunch of baloney. All the U.S. has are satellite photos that show bombed-out factories that used to produce castor oil and fertilizer are being rebuilt, so Iraq can produce castor oil and fertilizer again. Our “intelligence” agencies spend tens of billions of dollars a year peering down upon various places around the world. It is no surprise that they would justify their existence by showing President Bush photographs of rooftops of buildings that might be inhabited by scientists cooking up batches of anthrax instead of aspirin. If I were director of Central Intelligence, I at least would ask CNN to send a reporter around to look at the factories up close before we decide to drop some bombs. There are plenty of Western and Arab governments that are now on good terms with Baghdad, surely willing to supply a few scientists who you would permit to come in and look around. If President Clinton had been a little less trigger-happy during his Monica travails, we would have discovered that the aspirin factory in Khartoum was an aspirin factory, and would not have bombed and killed innocents.

The fact is, Nizar, that there is a full-blown campaign underway by the “bombers” in our government, the term privately favored by our new Secretary of State, Colin Powell. They aim to persuade President Bush to “finish the job” that his Daddy failed to finish in 1991, when he did not send our troops into Baghdad to wipe out Saddam. The hawks, led by Richard Perle and his protégé at the Pentagon, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense to Donald Rumsfeld, are orchestrating the effort to isolate Powell, who we can be sure is going to oppose the bombing of aspirin factories. The newspaper columnists and media people who are friendly to the hawks have spent the last few weeks making fun of General Powell as a man who opposed the Gulf War to begin with and who is afraid of the sight of blood, even if it isn’t his own. The “bomber” campaign also warns that Vice President Dick Cheney better behave himself and back his old pal Don Rumsfeld, or he will also be cast as a wimp. The “bombers” will not forget that when Bush the elder had to decide on whether or not to stop at the Kuwaiti border when your Red Guards were straggling home under white flags, Cheney (as Secretary of Defense) backed Colin Powell and said yes. For this reason alone, I think you know, Cheney and Powell are held in high regard throughout the Arab/Islamic world. You also may know that Powell told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently that the widespread use of trade embargoes and other forms of sanctions "shows a degree of American hubris and arrogance that may not, at the end of the day, serve our interests all that well....I would like to participate with you in discussing how to get rid of most of them."

In other words, I think you should use your diplomatic skills to “counter-attack” with some creative diplomacy. Remember the “bombers” are really old Nixonians, the hawk side of the late President. Nixon was of course a supporter of the Gulf War and before he died, he advised his followers to not end the sanctions against your country unless Saddam Hussein was gone. Now I think if Nixon were alive, he would have long ago found a way to shift gears and come to terms with Baghdad. As he looks down upon us, I’m fairly certain Nixon is horrified that the sanctions and continued bombing have cost the lives of more than a million Iraqi civilians, including a half million children, according to the United Nations. His followers, alas, still are following the instructions of their dead leader.

Richard Perle, who may think the final solution would be to wipe out all of Iraq, is quoted in Tuesday’s NYTimes to the effect that “Re-energizing sanctions is a mistake... Ten years later, they’re an obvious failure.” The NYT actually quotes Perle, a private citizen, as if he were in charge of Iraqi policy: “‘What we have in mind is making it clear to Saddam and the world that we’re in favor of seeing this regime change,’ Mr. Perle said. ‘We’ll support freedom fighters who are prepared to engage in a long-term struggle.’”

What I would recommend, Nizar, is that you indicate to your allies in the United Nations that you would be open to a delegation of private U.S. citizens that would have the passive support of the Bush administration. Because you already had face-to-face talks with Jack Kemp when you were still at the UN, and because he has discussed with you the idea of a mission to Baghdad that would include former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, I think this is the most likely opening -- although there may be others. You may recall that in 1993, when we were about to bomb Port-au-Prince and send the Marines in to expel the Haitian military regime, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole urged President Bill Clinton to first send a diplomatic mission to meet with the generals. The three men included former President Jimmy Carter, Sam Nunn and Colin Powell. And guess what: It was Powell who successfully cut a deal with the regime. There were no bombs, no deaths.

It is because of my investigations, Nizar, that I’ve known for years your government has been willing to allow unlimited inspections of aspirin factories in search of weapons of mass destruction, because you essentially destroyed all those weapons in hand and in development by the end of 1991. All you need is a lifting of the embargo so you can rebuild your economy. The problem is that the U.S. government has acted in bad faith throughout, with President Clinton these last eight years unable to be less hawkish than the Nixonian Republicans. You never will have a better chance than right now to find a diplomatic solution. I believe the Vice President and Secretary of State would weigh heavily on that side in their consultations with our new President. The idea of reconciliation is in the air, but it may not be long before bombs are there instead.

P.S. I hope this e-mail gets through to you directly. Sometimes they get kicked back. But to be sure, I will send a copy to your UN Mission in NYC. Good luck.