Memo To: Rep. Porter Goss [R-FL], chairman House Intelligence Committee
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Don’t Read the Newspapers
Three months ago, Congressman, I sent you an open memo in this space when I saw you tell Wolf Blitzer on CNN that “we,” the United States government, has to step up its efforts to combat propaganda. My advice back then to you was to stop reading the U.S. press, because it has become a conveyor belt for government propaganda. My wife Patricia and I watched you over this past weekend on Bob Novak's CNN show and concluded that you seem to know less now than you knew in June. You do not have any factual intelligence that requires we go to war with Iraq as soon as possible and you could not conceal that. You continue to say Saddam Hussein is threatening to develop this weapon or that weapon, but Baghdad has officially invited you and other members of Congress twice now to come to Iraq with hand-picked professional inspectors to look under all of Saddam’s beds and in his closets. And in the last month, Iraq has twice sent letters to the United Nations inviting inspection. It is not just that they say they have nothing to hide, but that they are willing to have to look anywhere you wish to look. It has also suddenly become inconvenient to hear Scott Ritter, the chief UNSCOM weapons inspector from 1991-97, now state publicly that when the inspectors left in December 1998, they were only a few pieces of paper shy of concluding that Iraq was completely disarmed of WMD, nuclear, chemical and biological, and that they could not have reconstituted their weapons programs without being spotted by satellite. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, you do have constitutional responsibilities separate and distinct from those of the chief executive, but you sidestepped those every time you were asked on the CNN program, deferring to the White House.
In case my last memo did not get through to you, here are the points I raised in June about all the reasons being given to go to war. They are still relevant:
Report: Saddam Hussein gassed his own people.
My Finding: Saddam Hussein did NOT gas his own people. The Iraqis who died at Halabja in March 1988 were caught between the Iraqi and Iranian armies in one of the last months of the eight-year war. Most of the hundreds of civilians who died were felled by Iranian cyanide gas, delivered not with the intent of killing civilians, but of driving out the Iraqi garrison. If any died because of Iraqi gas, it was collateral damage, not intentional.
Report: Saddam Hussein was behind an attempted assassination of former President Bush in early 1993, while he visited Kuwait City.
My Finding: Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with what Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker later in 1993 found to be an improbable story from first to last. The home-made bomb supposedly planted in the hotel where Bush was staying was actually found in a van miles away. Hersch noted in his report that it was NOT in Saddam’s interest to be involved. A mole inside the CIA named Jim Woolsey, the director, almost certainly cooked up the story to dissuade President Clinton from inviting a rapprochement with Baghdad.
Report: Saddam Hussein has been relentlessly seeking weapons of mass destruction.
My Finding: While Iraq had nuclear, biological and chemical weapon development programs during the Iran-Iraq war, which ended in 1988, there is no evidence he has been hiding any such efforts from international view since November 1991, when Iraq completed the destruction of all such programs in compliance with the UN Resolutions passed at the end of the Gulf War.
Report: The UN weapons inspectors were responsible for finding Saddam’s weapons programs.
My Finding: The UN inspectors found nothing before or since November 1991 that they were not shown by the Iraqi government.
Report: Iraq has weaponized anthrax.
My Finding: Iraq tried to weaponize anthrax during the war with Iran but gave up. No government has succeeded in weaponizing anthrax, unless one means delivering dried spores in envelopes.
Report: In 1998, Saddam “kicked out the UNSCOM weapons inspectors.”
My Finding: The UNSCOM inspectors left in 1998 after Saddam let them look anywhere they wanted for weapons programs. When they found nothing, they announced it was Saddam’s responsibility to take them to his hidden sites and because he did not, they were leaving. They did not want to be bombed by US and British aircraft who were punishing Iraq for not showing their hiding places.
Report: In 2000, Palestinian President Yasir Arafat rejected a generous offer of a Palestinian state at Camp David, clear evidence he is not interested in the peace process. He did not even make a counterproposal.
My Finding: The proposal was not generous and could not have been accepted by Arafat. His negotiations with the Israeli government of Ehud Barak continued in secret and were publicly resumed when the Clinton administration ended. Barak and Arafat suspended the talks on a high note in February 2001 while awaiting the outcome of the Israeli elections.
Report: The World Trade Center twin towers were blown up by Al Qaida Muslims because they hate the United States and resent the wealth of its citizens.
My Finding: Al Qaida targeted the WTC in order to make a point about U.S. refusal to consider the interests of the Islamic world in its management of the world political economy.
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As long as I have your attention, Congressman, I will tell you that twice in 1997 I warned GOP Senator Jesse Helms, then chairman of Senate Foreign Relations, that if he did not hold hearings to understand why the Muslims attacked the WTC in 1993, they would be back to bring down the twin towers. I assure you that I had no contact at all with the FBI or the CIA or the DIA. All I did was add 2+2. There wasn’t even any connecting of dots. It was a no-brainer.
In early January 1980, by the way, I spent three days in close quarters with former California Governor Ronald Reagan, with another 20 fellows helping him prepare for the presidential primaries. The record should show that in a discussion about the intelligence agencies, I suggested that we could do without the CIA and DIA and hire a smart college kid to keep track of where the International Monetary Fund was dispensing money, on condition the recipient nation take their economic advice. I told the Gipper we would find that in six months there would be riots in the streets.
This is a short list of all the persistent errors I find in the news media. It is not because journalists are dishonest or incompetent, but because they can only report what the politicians are saying about the flow of events. It does not matter that Louis Farrakhan never said "Judaism is a gutter religion," the press will continue to report that he did say he did until an important politician says it was a mistake, a misunderstanding, and other politicians are forced to agree. Global warming is a giant hoax, I think, but it lives on because enough people will profit by keeping the idea alive. Slobodan Milosevic was a good guy with whom we negotiated until it was decided he was a bad guy, at which time it served the purpose of our political class to have him branded a war criminal.
I don’t mean this to be disrespectful, Congressman, but I have little hope that the contributions of your intelligence committee will amount to a hill of beans as long as you believe what you read in the newspapers. You have to use your committee to begin asking questions nobody else is asking, and the news media MAY be there to report on the answers you get.