Memo To: Ari Fleisher, White House Press Secretary
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: He is sometimes misinformed.
In his almost 14 months in the Oval Office, I'm almost positive the President has never lied to the American people. There may have been some "stretchers," as Mark Twain referred to the occupational hazard of the political class. But I don't think he has ever consciously told an untruth. The thought occurred to me the other day when I heard him speak of his determination to deal with Saddam Hussein, a man so evil that "he gassed his own people." Now I'm not sure that is true, Mr. Fleisher, but I know it has been a factoid in the papers and on TV so often that he believes it is absolutely true, and is one of many good reasons to send our military into Iraq to replace him with a new "regime." As his press secretary, you are the one person who stands directly between President George W. Bush and the Fourth Estate. You might want to have one of your assistants call over to the Pentagon and ask for its 1990 report, "Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East," which concluded the Iraqi Kurds who were gassed were probably the victims of the Iranians. At least, "it seemed likely that it was the Iranian bombardment that had actually killed the Kurds."
Why would this information be ignored now that the President is contemplating war with Iraq? It is because the people who want to go to war with Iraq find it inconvenient. There is nobody in either party in the Congress who wishes to appear to be defending the monster, Saddam Hussein. Oh, by the way, the papers also insist Saddam tried to assassinate the President's father, after he had left the presidency and was visiting Kuwait City in April 1993. Our Central Intelligence Agency, which gets much of its information from our newspapers, also seems to think so, although it bases its conclusion on the Iraqi whisky smuggler who confessed under torture by the Kuwaitis to having been sent by Iraqi intelligence. After he was convicted and before he was executed, he said he was not sent by Iraq, but was seeking revenge against President George Bush, Sr. who had killed 16 members of his family in the Gulf War. I've always thought the idea improbable, as the never-planted bomb was not only of questionable origin, but the timing was not right. It was "discovered" by Kuwaiti police in a van only a few weeks after President Bill Clinton was inaugurated. Clinton had publicly said he would try to resolve problems with Saddam, and Saddam had no incentive to disrupt that possibility. The Kuwaitis did and so did Perle & Co.
If you really want an independent assessment, read Seymour Hersh's report of November 1, 1993, "Case Not Closed." Show it to the boss. It might cool him off a bit. And remember, Clinton bombed Iraq on June 26, 1993, killing eight civilians when the missiles went off course, including one of Iraq's most gifted artists. No wonder the CIA still has to say Saddam did it. Whoops!
There is so much to read these days that one never knows what is the truth and what is a "stretcher," Mr. Fleisher. For your own guidance, you should know that anything written about Iraq on the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal or Washington Times is actually dictated by the second most powerful man in Washington, Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board and a fellow I've known for over 30 years. Richard, known to his close friends as "The Prince of Darkness," is responsible for most the stretchers told about Saddam Hussein, as far as I can tell, although there are surely a lot of skeletons in Saddam's closet that have not been stretched. There has been a rumor that Paul Gigot is the editorial page editor of the WSJ, but I can tell you for certain that Perle is the de facto editor who runs that page. He ran it for years when Bob Bartley was editor, at least on national security matters. Perle has a vast network of warriors scattered all over Washington, which he has cultivated over the years with his sidekick, Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard is the primary house organ for Perle Propaganda in Washington. His buddy Bill Kristol is the editor. Perle also dictates William Safire's NTTimes columns on national security and the Middle East (yesterday's was a pip, about that Monster, Yasir Arafat), and ABC's George Will has been a Perle-handled pistol for more than 30 years. Just ask around and you will find well over half of all members of Congress have Perle acolytes on their staffs -- Senator Joe Lieberman, who was on the ticket with Al Gore, among them.
Perle’s themes and variations go into the columns of Richard Lowery, editor of the National Review, and the reportage of Bill Gertz of The Washington Times. Syndicated columnist Frank Gaffney, who appears regularly on the tv news shows, is Perle's deputy sheriff, with a license of kill by character assassination. Then there is Jim Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration, who has been fetching Perle's coffee and donuts for the last 30 years, rewarded with the CIA job when Perle snuck him into the Clinton administration in 1993, as he had been a nominal Democrat from his days as a Senate staffer. Woolsey is the designated propagandist of the Defense Policy Board, which is why he gets so much air time. Over the weekend, he announced that we should not even bother with weapons inspectors in Iraq, that the only way to be sure Saddam is no longer a threat is to go in and kill him. It was Woolsey at the CIA in 1993 who urged the bombing of Iraq on the evidence Saddam had tried to kill your boss's Dad. Read Hersh's story and you should see Perle's coffee-and-donut man was "stretching." It is highly likely that Perle and Woolsey orchestrated the whole thing with their Kuwaiti contacts. The same PR outfit that was supposed to run the Office of Strategic Influence was behind the stories of atrocities by the Iraqi army in 1990, stories later found to be bogus. In its expose of the OSI last month, the NYT made that connection. The OSI was supposedly killed, but do not believe it, Mr. Fleisher. The PR firm is still working at the Pentagon, cooking up stories.
Perle, by the way, does not mind collateral damage, as witness the 1.5 million Iraqi civilians who have been sacrificed to Allah in accord with Perle's plan to bring down Saddam by starving Iraq until the people decided to overthrow the guy. If you go back further, Mr. Fleisher, you will find that a lot of this junk began piling up when Perle masterminded Israel's bombing of the Iraq nuclear power plant in the early days of the Reagan administration. Perle was then inside the Pentagon, in daily contact with the Israeli government. He seems to have concluded, with his mentor, the late Albert Wohlstetter, that if the new French-built power plant were permitted to open, just outside Baghdad, that it could not be bombed, as radioactivity would be released and Israel would be condemned for the massive loss of life. So the Israeli Air Force bombed it before the French delivered the fissile material. I was told Perle celebrated at the Pentagon with his staff. Of course, all of the above pressniks hailed the bombing at Osiraq. The excuse was that if Iraq were to open the plant, it would learn how to deal with nuclear stuff and might someday make a nuke, to match Israel's nuke. History reveals that Iraq at the time did not have a nuke weapons program and was (and is) a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, which is why the French were allowed to provide it with fissile material. But after the bombing, for which the Israelis offered "not a brass farthing" for compensation, Saddam embarked on his nuke program. By the way, the press corps keeps writing that Saddam is still trying to make a nuke. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which regularly inspects Iraq, says he ain't. Please advise the President of this information, Mr. Press Secretary.
And if you want more leads on strategic misinformation, you know how to get hold of me. Maybe my facts are not always right, but at least I try to get them, and I don't ever, ever do stretchers.