Senator Jesse Helms and Iraq
Jude Wanniski
January 27, 1998

 

Memo To: Chairman Jesse Helms, Senate Foreign Relations
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Invading Iraq

Many of our oldest mutual friends and allies in the Cold War have sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to forget diplomacy and "undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing." The letter, dated January 26, is on a letterhead of the "Project for the New American Century," the chairman of whom, Bill Kristol, is also editor of Rupert Murdoch's Weekly Standard. In the February 2 issue of the Standard, an article by Robert Kagan explicitly makes the case for a U.S. invasion of Iraq in order to end the regime of Saddam Hussein. Our old allies in the war against communism now argue on behalf of unilateral war against Islam, for that is what it would surely be.

The letter is signed, in alphabetical order, by some of the most prominent people in the national defense establishment: Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider Jr., Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, and Robert B. Zoellick. All of these men have served for one or more of the last three Republican Presidents, Nixon, Reagan, and Bush. The intent of the letter is to assure the President of their support during his current period of crisis should he choose to lead the charge.

As you know, Senator, I have been making the argument for the last few years that Iraq has been justified by its actions in provoking controversy from time to time. Having been demolished by our coalition forces in the Gulf War seven years ago, having been bled white financially by the embargo against oil sales, all Saddam has is the court of public opinion. There, he has been winning in the rest of the world, because our allies observe that we have never had any intention of lifting the economic sanctions as long as he is in power which could be another 20 years. The cost in human life, as the Pope has observed, is tragic, of holocaust proportions when we can talk in terms of a million or more civilian deaths.

The only reason the American people appear unified in their support of harsh action against Iraq is that arguments like mine are as rare here at home as they are commonplace elsewhere in the world. This is because President Clinton decided early in his presidency that he would not allow the Republican Party to be more devoted to "national security" than his administration. In effect, there has been no debate between the two political parties on the proper mix of diplomacy and force. Every time Saddam has met the conditions placed before him, new conditions have been placed. This reflects the hidden agenda of our Political Establishment, which has been to drive Saddam from power through the suffering of his people. Seven years after this began, we are surprised that he is still in power and still popular with his own people and even winning the sympathies of Muslims the world over for standing up to a bully which will use these kinds of tactics. In seven years, we know that whatever nuclear or chemical capabilities they had have been destroyed. The UN inspectors have found nothing to which they were not taken by the Iraqis, who at first believed that the sanctions would be lifted as promised if they led the inspectors to the relevant sites. It is because we never thought our hidden agenda would get this far that we are now in the position of looking for a biological capability that can easily be hidden, where other weapons of mass destruction cannot.

This is why Jack Kemp's proposal is so important and worthy of your consideration. He believes that the last steps which the UN chief inspector, Richard Butler, says must be taken to assure the UN that there is no biological capacity requires Iraq to open the entire country ~ which is 10,000 square miles larger than California, more than three times larger than North Carolina. Do you see the illogic of demanding that the inspectors enter every structure in North Carolina the size of a three-bedroom home to look for biological capability? This is why Saddam will not cooperate and why the Islamic world, plus the other members of the Security Council, do not believe we are serious. Kemp's recommendation is that while we insist that every square foot of Iraq must be subject to snap inspection, we will choose only 12 sites, two per month for six months, and if nothing is found to confirm UN suspicions, we will lift the sanctions. If Saddam would not comply with this, we and the world will assume he and his cabinet know they are hiding systems that could destroy their Middle East neighbors. By limiting and spotlighting the 12 snap inspections anywhere, anytime, day or night, we can assume the UN inspectors will choose their targets carefully, and not demand admission to Saddam's bedroom, using up one of the 12 and looking frivolous and foolish.

If our government were functioning as it should, there would be a national debate on how to resolve the Iraqi crisis without the spilling of blood on either side. It is because the President has been so weakened by his current situation, atop the fact that he came to the White House with no experience in foreign affairs and a history of opposition to the use offeree, that this imbalance exists in our policymaking apparatus. The fact that this is an Islamic nation makes it even more critical that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee give an ear to any arguments that it might not otherwise hear from that quarter. In my previous memo to you, I appealed to you as a man who understands communication, asking you to ponder how difficult conflict resolution becomes when we refuse to communicate. I now appeal to you to consider the proposal made by Jack, who has been another of our mutual friends and allies on matters of national security for the last quarter century. You have never known him to be a cut-and-run dove on matters of national security. He was never soft on communism. He has been a champion of the security interests of Israel. Please take all that into account as you think of the precipice we are approaching. You will be the guest this weekend on the CNN "Evans&Novak" show, I see advertised. My guess is that you will be asked about these critical matters, and about what Jack Kemp has proposed as Bob Novak devoted his column to it last Thursday. You will have my rapt attention.

* * * * *

January 26, 1998

Dear Mr. President:

We are writing you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War. In your upcoming State of the Union Address, you have an opportunity to chart a clear and determined course for meeting this threat. We urge you to seize that opportunity, and to enunciate a new strategy that would secure the interests of the US and our friends and allies around the world. That strategy should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power. We stand ready to offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.

The policy of "containment" of Saddam Hussein has been steadily eroding over the past several months. As recent events have demonstrated, we can no longer depend on our partners in the Gulf War coalition to continue to uphold the sanctions or to punish Saddam when he blocks or evades UN inspections. Our ability to ensure that Saddam Hussein is not producing weapons of mass destruction, therefore, has substantially diminished. Even if full inspections were eventually to resume, which now seems highly unlikely, experience has shown that it is difficult if not impossible to monitor Iraq's chemical and biological weapons production. The lengthy period during which the inspectors will have been unable to enter many Iraqi facilities has made it even less likely that they will be able to uncover all of Saddam's secrets. As a result, in the not-too-distant future we will be unable to determine with any reasonable level of confidence whether Iraq does or does not possess such weapons.

Such uncertainty will, by itself, have a seriously destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East. It hardly needs to be added that if Saddam does acquire the capability to deliver weapons of mass destruction, as he is almost certain to do if we continue along the present course, the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil will all be put at hazard. As you have rightly declared, Mr. President, the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century will be determined largely by how we handle this threat.
Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.

We urge you to articulate this aim, and to turn your Administration's attention to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam's regime from power. This will require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts. Although we are fully aware of the dangers and difficulties in implementing this policy, we believe the dangers of failing to do so are far greater. We believe the U.S. has the authority under existing U.N. resolutions to take necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the U.N. Security Council.

We urge you to act decisively. If you act now to end the threat of weapons of mass destruction against the U.S. or its allies, you will be acting in the most fundamental national security interests of the country. If we accept a course of weakness and drift, we put our interests and our future at risk.

Sincerely,

Elliott Abrams
Richard L. Armitage
William J. Bennett
John Bolton
Paula Dobriansky
Francis Fukuyama
Robert Kagan
Zalmay Khalilzad
William Kristol
Richard Perle
Peter W. Rodman
Donald Rumsfeld
William Schneider, Jr.
Win Weber
Paul Wolfowitz
R. James Woolsey
Robert B. Zoellick