Be Careful, Washington Times
Jude Wanniski
October 29, 2001


Memo To: Bill Giles, Washington Times Managing Editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Marching to Baghdad

Now I know some of the editors of the Washington Times want to go to war with Iraq in the worst way. And maybe it will someday prove to be a good idea. But I think we should be careful about whipping up war fever with sheer propaganda. Don’t you? You know I am a longtime fan of the Washington Times and was supporting it when it was not popular to do so, with the Moonies in charge and all that. So when I suggest you really need to get the boys and girls to exercise some restraint in what they put into the newspaper aimed at Iraq, the facts should be straight. Maybe you could designate one editor to look at all stories mentioning Iraq or Saddam Hussein for baloney and slice it out. I would have been happy to do so if I had seen the op-ed piece by James Phillips “Expanding Beyond bin Laden,” before it went into your Sunday edition. He is identified as “a research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs in the Davis Institute for International Studies at the Heritage Foundation,” and I suppose he knows some stuff about the region. But after announcing in the lead paragraph that we have to finish off Saddam, he gives us what is almost pure baloney:

Saddam poses a greater threat to U.S. national security than bin Laden does. He's been busy building nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction -- and the missiles to deliver them -- without outside interference since the expulsion of U.N. monitors in 1998. He already has used chemical weapons in his war against Iran and against Iraq's Kurdish opposition. Now, he reportedly has the nuclear material necessary to build two atomic bombs and soon may finish building such a device, the ultimate terrorist weapon.

First of all, Iraq definitely has not been building nuclear weapons, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which regularly sends inspectors to Iraq to check for signs that they may not be in compliance with the provisions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Within the last few months, the IAEA went to Iraq on its schedule and returned, certifying complete compliance. If the Heritage Foundation, which has also been eager to go to war with Iraq for the longest time, is being nudged by its Middle East research fellow on the grounds that Saddam is about to nuke us or its neighbors, maybe it should get a second opinion as well. When the Gulf War ended in 1991, the United Nations gave authority to its UNSCOM inspectors to check out chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction, which they have not been able to find either. For Mr. Phillips to say Saddam has been busy building chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction for delivery by missile also indicates he has been eating lots of baloney. Scott Ritter, who was among the most skeptical of the UNSCOM inspectors, now says he thinks Iraq is clean of chem-bio. Iraq did have a program to “weaponize” chem-bio stuff like anthrax, but that was back in the days of its war with Iran. It gave up when it appeared to be as difficult as it still is to use gas for anything but a battlefield situation when the wind is blowing in the enemy’s direction.

You’ve known me, Bill, since you hired me back in 1965, when you were top man at the National Observer. You know I was a careful reporter back then and I am even more careful now, having seen how many difficulties Uncle Sam can blunder into when it is acting on bum intelligence. Our Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld, who signed a petition in 1998 urging war with Iraq on the advice of the same gladiators who are spoonfeeding the Heritage Foundation, admits that it is impossible to ever guarantee that Iraq is not making chem-bio weapons, because it can be done with household ingredients in the back of a warehouse. I figured out long ago that our government, yours and mine, was making believe Iraq could comply with UNSCOM bureaucrats like Richard Butler and we would lift the sanctions. Every diplomat in the world knows this is baloney, including all the members of our “anti-terrorist coalition.” The poor American people don’t know it because our press corps has failed them. You are one of the most straight-arrow, responsible journalists I have ever known in my life. It was a privilege to work for you at the old Observer. But I will bet dollars to doughnuts that you believe 100% that Iraq gassed its own people, simply because you read it so many times in all the major newspapers. I’ve been trying for years to nail this down and I must tell you, Bill, that the evidence is not there. I’m not saying he didn’t, but his government insists it didn’t, and the only official report I’ve seen, from the Pentagon in 1990, says it is more likely that the few Iraqi Kurds who were gassed were in the way of Iranian troops using cyanide gas in the latter stages of the Iran/Iraq war. There are plenty of people who are denouncing me for “defending the evil Saddam Hussein,” Bill, but I am only trying to make sure we are on solid ground before we commit the people of the United States to an unnecessary war.

Here is a link to an article written March 10 of this year for the internet news outfit, worldnetdaily, by a good friend of mine, Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who worked for the Pentagon in the Reagan years as deputy assistant secretary of defense for science and technology. Please read it carefully and pass it on to Wes Pruden and your editpage editors. You will learn a lot, I promise. And maybe, I hope, it will make a difference.