A Clever Strategy in Iraq
Jude Wanniski
February 21, 2001


Memo To: Scooter Libby, Vice President Cheney’s chief-of-staff
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Showing Saddam who’s the Boss

The reason I am writing to you, Mr. Libby, and not Vice President Dick Cheney himself, is that I think you probably need to be brought up to speed on what’s going on in Iraq so you can help the Vice President help President George W. Bush avoid a very embarrassing entanglement. The foreign policy establishment of course agrees Friday’s bombing of radar sites around Baghdad was absolutely necessary. GWB had vowed during his campaign that he would be tougher than President Bill Clinton in dealing with Saddam Hussein. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is viewed as a peacenik by the bombers at the Pentagon, made a few growling sounds and his deputy, Rich Armitage, practically announced a while back that in the early days of the Bush administration there would be a display of force. Don’t mess with George W. Bush!!

First you should know, Mr. Libby, that I have been actively defending Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi “position” for several years, once I determined that our government, yours and mine, was acting in bad faith. That is, once I knew for sure our political establishment had determined there was NOTHING Saddam could do to get the U.N. economic sanctions lifted, I was forced to conclude that we were the bad guys and the Iraqis were in the right. I’m sure you will be shocked to hear that, but why else would I take the trouble of trying to inform you on what’s been going on in our nation’s Capital while you and Cheney have been working away in the private sector, trying to make a living by selling stuff to the oil-producing countries. When I saw your boss last month, I flat out told him that I was sleeping easier knowing he had been dealing with Arab oil producers and Islamic governments at Halliburton, and would not be easily hornswoggled by the Pentagon bombers who are so frustrated by Saddam that they would nuke all of Iraq if they got the green light. So I figure, even though we’re told the Friday bombing killed a couple of Iraqi kids, the price may be worth it, if behind all this maneuvering there is a clever strategy to bring the 10-year wrestling match with Saddam to a peaceful resolution.

Second, you should know that I have been in regular contact with the Iraqi government since I seriously began to look at the sanctions issue in 1996, when my old friend Jack Kemp was on the Bob Dole Republican presidential ticket. Remember the Labor Day bombing of Iraq, Mr. Libby, when President Bill Clinton kicked off his campaign with one of his “wagging-the-dog” routines? You may not remember, but the reason the President decided to bomb was that Iraqi ground troops had violated the “no-fly zone” in the Kurdish region abutting Iran and Turkey. That’s right, GROUND TROOPS! It seems the Iraqi provincial government run by Iraqi Kurds was besieged by Iranian Kurds and asked for Baghdad’s help. So Saddam sent some soldiers. Not airplanes -- soldiers. President Clinton then decided to remind the American people that he was commander-in-chief. I actually thought he violated the War Powers Act by not consulting Congress or our allies, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott thought so too, but Bob Dole thought it was okay, and that was that. Actually, Clinton could bomb anyone he wanted these last eight years because the knee-jerk bombers in the GOP saluted his every wish. Kosovo, Serbia, Iraq. What the heck.

Thirdly, Mr. Libby, some facts about the last decade of sanctions. President Bush keeps saying Saddam has never lived up to his 1991 agreement with the United Nations. And that he would have to do so in order to get the UN sanctions lifted. It meant he had to give up all development of weapons of mass destruction that he had undertaken in the previous period of war in the Middle East -- chiefly during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, when we helped Saddam as much as we could. I hate to tell you this, but Saddam lived up to the letter and the spirit of the 1991 agreement. If you check it out, you will find that by November 1991, all the sites where Iraq was developing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons were shown to the UNSCOM weapons inspectors -- and destroyed. There never has been anything since found by UNSCOM inspectors to indicate Saddam is developing more weapons of mass destruction (WMD). When I reported this to Jack Kemp at Empower America four years ago, he thought I must have been suckered by the Iraqis. So he sent his own folk to the UN files and was amazed to find I was right. Iraq has been in compliance with its agreement for almost ten years!!

Tell you the truth, I didn’t see how I could be wrong. Iraq is the size of California and then some. And you could put a chem/bio plant in a barn anyplace in that vast expanse. How would inspectors ever find it if they were not taken to it? Now, I did tell my Iraqi acquaintances that I could never believe they did not have few laboratories cooking away with WMD, but I assumed since they did not spring them on us in the Gulf War, there would have to be much greater provocation for Saddam to resort to stuff like that. From what I’ve been able to learn over the years, Colin Powell feels the same way.

This is why I am so hopeful that Secretary Powell’s visit to the Mideast will make some headway. Everyone knows now and has known for years and years that Saddam will let UN inspectors crawl all over his country looking for WMD if we lift the economic sanctions. He will let you look under his beds in all his palaces -- as he demonstrated three years ago when that was an issue. He is not going to let any inspectors back, though, on the promise that the UN will lift the sanctions as soon as the inspectors say they have looked in every barn and tent and cannot find a speck of WMD. Know what I mean? If you want further backup, Mr. Libby, I invite you to my website. In the memo index, you will find all kinds of interesting things, like how there is no evidence Saddam ever “gassed his own people.” That also has been part of the propaganda campaign Uncle Sam has been underwriting. Check it out.