House Majority Leader Dick Armey, Man on the Margin
Jude Wanniski
August 12, 2002


Memo To: Re. Dick Armey [R-TX]
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Breaking Ranks on Iraq

What a pleasant surprise, Dick! Iíve been waiting patiently for the Congress to produce a credible opponent to a pre-emptive military attack on Iraq and had begun to wonder if there would be one when you suddenly popped up. The Associated Press reported:

House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-TX, in a speech Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, cautioned against an unprovoked U.S. attack against Saddam. "My own view would be to let him bluster, let him rant and rave all he wants," Armey said, indicating a crack in Republican support for President Bush push to topple Saddam. "As long as he behaves himself within his own borders, we should not be addressing any attack or resources against him."

Speculation has been rampant about a U.S. attack on Iraq, but the White House said Thursday that Bush had made no decisions. Armey warned that striking Iraq without a clear and easily understood provocation would isolate the United States. "If we try to act against Saddam Hussein, as obnoxious as he is, without proper provocation, we will not have the support of other nation states who might do so," Armey said.

The reason Iím so surprised that it is you is that you are from Texas, which normally produces gunslingers. But on reflection, the Texans with the white hats have always waited for the bad guys to go for their guns first, before beating them to the draw. That seems to be what you are saying here. Iím in complete agreement, as you must know by now, that we do not have to worry about Saddam Hussein as a threat to the U.S. or to anyone in his neighborhood. If you have any doubts, you should ask Scott Ritter into the House Republican Conference for a briefing. It was astonishing to me that Ritter, for several years a key member of the UN weapons-inspection team in Iraq, was not invited to testify at Senator Joseph Bidenís hearings of the Foreign Relations Committee. In his recent television appearances, Ritter has been persuasive in arguing that if Saddam had been developing weapons of mass destruction we would know it because of our spy satellites.

The GOP vigilantes, who would prefer to string up Saddam on the assumption that he might rustle some cattle in three or four years, will of course try to talk you back into the fold. They may show you photographs or documents or films purporting to prove that Saddam has his eyes on his neighbors cows, but before you fall for that, please give me a jingle. Iíve been watching the vigilantes for several years now and know how they operate.

PS. Saddam never gassed his own people and he did not attempt to assassinate former President Bush in 1993. Those are wild rumors, never substantiated. When you call, Iíll explain. Meanwhile, we thank you for being the man on the margin. Now that you have broken ranks, you have made it safe for a lot of your colleagues to have reservations, especially if they want to hold on to their seats in November. The American people are not in the mood for shooting first.