Iraq: Good Job, Kofi
Jude Wanniski
February 24, 1998


Memo To: Website browsers, fans, clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Relax and Enjoy the Charade

When a great power starts telling lies about its foreign policy, it has to tell more and more as time goes on to maintain the fiction. When the United States in 1991 lied about its intent to lift the sanctions against the government of Iraq if Iraq would cooperate in eliminating its weapons of mass destruction, it laid the foundation for a gigantic tower of lies. Because the foundation was not set plumb, the tower of lies grew up crooked and soon resembled the leaning Tower of Pisa. It's okay. Great powers make mistakes, but they can't admit them. This is the problem Saddam Hussein faced last fall when he manufactured the crisis, now ending to his obvious satisfaction, by expelling the Americans from the UNSCOM inspection team. He had to maneuver the U.S. into a position where it would appear to bring him to heel, but in exchange he would get the sanctions lifted. With the deal cut with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, it is going to be hard for the U.S. to keep the sanctions on after the UNSCOM inspectors paw through his bedrooms looking for anthrax and find nothing but pajamas.

The deal is that President Clinton gets to declare victory over Saddam Hussein, saving the world from the Third World War that Boris Yeltsin warned about two weeks ago. Saddam agrees to allow inspectors to crawl all over his palaces, which is what the President demanded, to save the world from Armageddon. On the other hand, he gets to stay in power, and after the inspectors look through the palaces, accompanied by UN diplomats, and find no secret caches of Weapons of Mass Destruction, the sanctions will be lifted. That has not been stated explicitly, but we must assume that everyone understands that it is implicit in the big deal. For if the UN can now look everywhere it wishes without time limits, and finds nothing after looking week after week, the UN will have to close the files and lift the sanctions. "Craziness Pays," is the headline on Thomas L. Friedman's "Foreign Affairstf column in today's New York Times: "The Administration needs to decide: Does it want to resolve the contradictions between the U.S. and its allies, or go it alone and live with the contradictions of its own policy? America's contradiction with its allies is summarized by the Middle East expert Stephen P. Cohen: Tor the French, the Russians and the Arabs there are no conditions under which they really believe it is O.K. to use violence against Saddam, and for the U.S. there are no conditions under which it believes sanctions on Saddam should ever be lifted.'"

If we flash back four months, we recall Saddam Hussein kicking out the Americans on the UN inspection team. Not all the inspectors, just the Americans. At the time, he was sure that unless he did something, the sanctions would remain forever. So he did something. What has happened in between then and now? The United States has spent several billion dollars sending fleets and bombers to the Gulf. The President's cabinet and various ambassadors have flown around the world, fibbing like mad, about the clear and present danger of a hollow Saddam Hussein, when they are simply trying to extricate themselves from the fibs they began telling seven years ago. (On this matter, the Bush administration began the little fibs and handed them off to the Clinton administration, where they grew into bigger fibs.)

The real crazies, those Republicans who are prepared to nuke Baghdad, even if it ismeans a little nuclear fallout over Israel, now will campaign to frustrate the deal that Kofi has struck with Saddam, which is a variation on the plan that Jack Kemp sproposed on January 7.1 genuinely believe the Kemp initiative paved the way for Kofi, because it revealed that Baghdad had no problem in opening up everything, including Saddam's pajama closet, as long as the sanctions would be lifted. Saddam knows the inspectors are not going to find anything. We have to assume that in a country of 170,000 square miles, there must be one spot UNSCOM won't find out about, probably more, but that he is not crazy enough to use what he has unless we decide to go back to the bombing option. New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli, my favorite Democrat, who just returned from a visit to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman, told the NYTimes today: "From the outset, the U.S. believed this was a military contest, and Saddam Hussein believed it was a political fight. In retrospect, he was probably right. It may be incredible for most Americans to accept, but Saddam Hussein actually won the public relations battle." And there's nothing wrong with that, folks. We can relax.