Memo To: House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Bipartisanship Has Been the Problem
I do appreciate your friendlier tone in appearing with Republican leaders of the House, Speaker Denny Hastert and Majority Leader Dick Armey. I do remember you were capable of being pleasant when you were a back-bencher in your early years and it would be nice if that level of civility would replace the hard edge of recent years. But I suggest one of the central reasons for last weekís catastrophe has been the absence of partisan debate over issues involving the Arab/Muslim world. If there had been the slightest attention given to understanding the perspectives of the 1.2 billion people on earth who have no representation in our government there may not have been men of that universe who chose suicide to express their views in this horrific manner. In early 1998, I twice urged Sen. Jesse Helms to hold hearings of the Foreign Relations Committee to explore the reasons why Arab terrorists tried to blow up the World Trade Center and said unless we did so, others would be back and there would be no reason to disbelieve the prospect that this time they would succeed in bringing down both towers.
Iím certainly not suggesting the two political parties divide in our support of Israel, Dick, with one taking the side of the Palestinians and the other the side of the Jews. But as long as both parties have been totally closed to hearing the opinions of the Arab/Muslim world, this disaster has been inevitable. In most cases the closed political minds here have not even involved Israel. When was the last time you heard an argument made that we should be seriously considering a lifting of the embargo against Iraq? I have been making these arguments for several years, since it became clear to me that our policy was such that we were prepared to see every Iraqi die of starvation or disease rather than lift the embargo. Such arguments have been made by other countries, including our friends in Europe, but our press corps has refused to report on these with any even-handedness. When the NYTimes or Wall Street Journal or Washington Post gives a bit of space to these positions, they have invariably said the motives were commercial, as if the Russians or French would not worry about the dead and dying, but only rubles and francs. In other words, our entire political establishment has been geared to rationalize any actions by our government that result in the deaths of Arabs and Muslims rather than dig into the issues.
This isnít because there is an active bias against the Islamic world, I donít think, but because of the nature of our political system. Iíve made the point in my writing dozens of times that if you live anywhere on earth and are a Catholic, Protestant or Jew, you can find a Catholic, a Protestant or Jew in the U.S. Congress, in the White House, or in the Supreme Court, but if you are a Muslim, you will be out of luck. Go back to the early Reagan years and you will see that after Israeli security decided to bomb the nuclear power plant the Iraqi government was constructing, our reaction was swift and bipartisan. At the United Nations, the General Assembly voted to condemn the action, with only Israel and the United States voting in opposition. Because Israel can always count on the unconditional support of Democrats and Republicans on such matters, the passive bias against the Islamic world should be apparent and obvious. The fact that the power plant was being built under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency meant nothing to us. We assumed Israel blew the plant to bits, along with the civilians working there, because it felt threatened. To tell you the truth, that was my first reaction, but because I have been a reporter for most of my life, I conducted my own inquiries and found the plant not only was not of the type that could produce weapons-grade material, but that the IAEA had only a few weeks earlier inspected it and given it a clean bill of health. Iíll bet you did not know any of this, because you never bothered to look. A week ago Sunday, our Defense Secretary, Don Rumsfeld, actually cited the 1982 bombing of Iraqís power plant as a good thing!! Iíve known Rumsfeld since the 1960s, Dick, and I can tell you with certainty that he has never thought to make his own inquiries on such matters. He gets his intelligence briefings from people who represent one point of view. I could not believe he has been justifying the Israeli policy of assassination of Palestinian leaders. Nor can I believe our government is now considering changing the law to permit our security forces to assassinate those we suspect of wrongdoing.
No, we do not need bipartisanship if this is the direction our government is going to take. Before we bomb anything, we should first be sure we are not blowing up aspirin factories or schools or hospitals. We should never have bombed countries with whom we have diplomatic relations. It is because of this bipartisanship that our press corps has been corrupted, to the point where it has become blind to the evil acts we commit as a nation. Our people have no idea why last Tuesday happened because they have never been told of the bipartisan injustices we commit. Now they are forced to think in terms of foreign policy and the polls indicated they are ready to go to war, sacrificing blood and treasure. If Pakistan, for example does not allow us to launch a war against Afghanistan, we have high-level Pentagon civilians who are prepared to blow up Pakistan.
How many Americans know that several years ago the United States sold the Pakistan government a fleet of F-16 fighters for $645 million. We took their money and spent it. Then we decided not to deliver the airplanes, and further decided not to give back the money. Thatís not the end of it. Because we do not need the obsolete aircraft, we are storing them in hangers in New Mexico and charging Pakistan storage fees. Do you have some dim memory of this Mr. Minority Leader? I doubt that Vice President Cheney remembers it, as he was on Meet the Press yesterday saying the United States has never defaulted on its debt, going all the way back to Alexander Hamilton. He should have said, we have never defaulted on our debts, except to those of the Islamic world. Check it out, for goodness sakes. Hold hearings. Take off your blinders. Scrap this kind of mindless bipartisanship and debate the reasons the suicide bombers had to give up their lives. They were not religious fanatics. They were ďMuslim McVeighs.Ē And if you decide not to take the trouble, you can bet there will be more of them on the way.