The Phony Crisis in Iraq
Jude Wanniski
November 17, 1997


Letters Editor
The New York Times
229 West 43 Street
New York, N.Y. 10036

Dear Editor:

Timesman Tim Weiner on November 16 ponders the question of why Iraq is willing to risk the wrath and bombs of the United States by hiding biological weapons from UN inspectors. But why assume Iraq has biological weapons? The UN's Richard Butler assures us Iraq now has no nuclear or chemical capability. On CNN's "Sunday Edition," Mr. Butler says Iraq finally had enough October 27 when his inspection team asked to examine a building it spotted from a U-2 flight, which Iraq insisted was "dilapidated" and on the presidential palace grounds.

Iraq's UN Ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, told "Face the Nation" that this October 27 request was the last straw, that the American inspectors were restrained out of "frustration" with U.S. failure to keep its promises. In almost seven years, more than a thousand sites had been inspected, and always the inspectors had one more building to examine. On November 7, your own "Foreign Affairs" columnist, Thomas L. Friedman, reported that our government has never had any intention of lifting the sanctions on Iraq, whether Saddam Hussein was a good boy, or bad. Our Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has been saying the same for several months, and now President Clinton says so too.

Because a biological weapon can be developed in a small room, and Iraq is about the size of California, the inspections and the sanctions would have to go on forever. This is why Edward Peck, our ambassador to Baghdad in the Carter administration and deputy director of President Bush's anti-terrorism task force, says the embargo should be lifted to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people with the U.N. continuing to monitor Iraq. The UN itself has reported that several hundred thousand Iraqis have died as a result of the sanctions, and 5,000 children each month die as a result of illnesses related to malnutrition.

Iraq's deputy premier, Tariq Aziz, has made such an offer. Jack Kemp, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 1996 and a longtime friend of Israel, told CNN on Saturday that we should set longtime friend of Israel, told CNN on Saturday that we should set specific conditions and lift the embargo as soon as they are met. President Clinton Saturday said we can't allow Saddam to "continue threatening us with weapons of mass destruction," but there is no record of such threats. If for some reason he does (why he would is the real mystery to me), Colin Powell, another Republican, assures us we have the power, the will and the coalition to obliterate him. There is no crisis unless the President insists on one.


Jude Wanniski