Please Don't Bomb Iraq
Jude Wanniski
November 3, 1997


Memo To: Sen. Jesse Helms
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Saddam Hussein

Before you agree to drop the H-bomb on Baghdad because Saddam is kicking ten Americans off the U.N. inspection team, please consider that for six years our United States government has been trying to destroy Saddam Hussein by a campaign that includes starvation of the people of Iraq. No matter what Saddam has done to comply with the U.N, laundry list, the list has lengthened. It is no secret that no matter what he does, he is not going to be able to freely sell Iraqi oil on the world market. This is our foreign policy, as Secretary Madeleine Albright has practically announced in so many words. In a world with at least 40 years of proven oil reserves, it is in the interests of the oil producing countries and the oil companies who try to manage scarcity to keep Iraq and its oil bottled up. Saddam is a handy excuse. When in the spring of 1996 the United Nations reported that as many as 500,000 Iraqi children had died of illnesses or malnutrition associated with the embargo, our U.N. Ambassador Albright brushed off the report by saying so be it. This is according to a report in Nation magazine.

Now I am not writing this to take issue with our policy toward Saddam and the Islamic world, although I disagree with it. I'm hoping that you will at least not kid yourself and the American people into using the current skirmish with Saddam as an excuse to spill more blood. First note that he has not insisted that the inspection team be removed, only the Americans on the inspection team. He is doing this with the sympathies of most of the world, which most recently voted down our latest provocation against Iraq our attempt to persuade the United Nations to isolate the Iraqi government by forbidding their foreign travel. Our two political parties have expressed dismay that our wishes would be thwarted by the U.N. on this matter, and have blamed the greed of those nations who wish to do business with Iraq as they have in the past. We simply will not acknowledge that the countries of the rest of the world can be motivated by anything other than commercial greed, unless they agree with us on any injustice we commit in the name of "democracy" and "human rights."

My earnest recommendation to you, Jesse, is that you soon hold formal hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to take the testimony of American experts on the situation in Iraq. I'd hope you would do so without trying to determine in advance of the hearings how you would like them to end. With the end of the Thompson committee hearings on campaign finance, which has wasted much of the year on wild goose chases, you could claim the spotlight by examining our relations with the Islamic world. These could be the most important hearings ever conducted under your chairmanship. With the end of the important hearings ever conducted under your chairmanship. With the end of the Cold War, the greatest security threat to the United States is no longer the USSR and Communist China, but an Islamic fundamentalism that feels totally isolated from the primary power center of the planet. Because we are a Judeo-Christian nation, our government has no trouble understanding the perspectives of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews. Their global perspectives are well represented in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the government. The one billion Muslims of the seven billion people on earth could be heard, as China is today, if they were concentrated in one country and had one uniform perspective. Its fragmentation into sects and branches has kept them divided for centuries. When they were united in the Ottoman Empire, of course, they were a match for Christian Europe and dominated parts of it.

The controversy over the U.N. inspection team provides the perfect opportunity for these hearings. I'm sure you understand that the kind of Islamic terrorism that has become a threat to our security and that of Israel is the direct result of a sense of political injustice in the Islamic world. There is no way to deal with this feeling of injustice by starving the Iraqi population into submission. Is there? There is no way to deal with it by forcing them into corners where they are supposed to stay until death do us part. Is there? I'm still troubled, as I'm sure you are when you think of it, that when Saddam marched into Kuwait to begin the Gulf War and all that followed, he had asked for and received the passive assent of our ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. Saddam is now viewed as a monster, but he was in good standing with us for months and years before he got this assent from our government. We viewed his conflict with the Kuwaiti emir as a border dispute with Kuwait going so far as to drill diagonally under the border to tap into Iraqi oil. And Senate Minority Leader, Bob Dole traveled to Baghdad only months before the Kuwait invasion to meet with Saddam and pronounce him a fine fellow.

At the time of the invasion, I first opposed our involvement on the grounds that Kuwait's neighbors seemed unconcerned, so why should we get excited? I was not alone in my skepticism. Our former ambassador, Jeane Kirkpatrick, also was dubious. We both changed our minds after receiving a briefing from the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar, who said his government had changed its mind about Saddam when persuaded that he was contemplating an invasion of Saudi Arabia and probably had designs on all the Arab monarchies. When I observed Egypt joining the coalition, I personally became a supporter of the joint effort to expel Saddam from Kuwait, although I sided with Colin Powell in arguing against marching to Baghdad. Why? I've never been convinced that Saddam was a threat to the entire region as we seem to have persuaded the Saudis with some aerial photographs taken by our naval intelligence. It never made sense to me that Saddam would ask our permission to invade Kuwait over a border dispute when his real intent was to knock off all the monarchs of Arabia. On a list of the world's bad guys, he has to be up there, but on a list of the world's stupid guys, he is well down. His maneuver on the U.N. inspection team is a perfect example of him dividing the coalition and causing us to spend considerable energies and cash to contemplate a diplomatic or military solution.

Do you really know what's going on over there? Do you trust the briefings you get? Do you trust the newspapers for your information on what Saddam is up to? My belief is that you could make history with a set of hearings, on this subject as on no other. You could ask Colin Powell to testify on his expert advice, and you would have almost as many people watching as watched the Ollie North hearings on Iran/Contra. You could invite Louis Farrakhan to testify, on the grounds that as the most prominent Muslim in America, he is in a position to give some unvarnished answers to questions clouding our foreign policy. Farrakhan is the one American who is on good speaking terms with every Islamic leader in the world, and one of the keys to solving our security problems with Islamic terrorism which he condemns as a religious leader.

It does us no good as the world's only superpower to plug our ears when people in other parts of the world say things we prefer not to hear. As Farrakhan recently told me, When people feel the outrage of injustice and have no institution to which they can turn for adjudication, they often turn into beasts. We can attempt to cage the entire Islamic world, but a billion is a big number and requires a big and perpetually costly cage. Please consider this a serious proposal, Jesse. As you are one of the few members of Congress who has never been afraid to tell the truth as you see it, it may be God's will that made you chairman of Foreign Relations for just this purpose.