Propaganda Wars #2
Jude Wanniski
April 13, 1999


Memo To: Tim Weiner, NY Times Washington Bureau
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Reviewing Scott Ritter's book

I should not have been pleasantly surprised to read your review of Scott Ritter's Endgame in the Sunday NYTimes "Book Review." That's because I've come to value your byline as a conscientious reporter on stories most other reporters handle with the frivolity common to the journalism of the age. Because Saddam Hussein has been so demonized thoroughly by the propaganda machine of our Political Establishment, it only was natural that the Establishment press corps that does its bidding without question, would celebrate Ritter, who quit his job as an UNSCOM inspector a year ago. Ritter, after all, quit supposedly when his conscience told him the U.S. was interfering with the Good Guys who were serious about finding Weapons of Mass Destruction hidden in Saddam's secret places. I automatically assumed your book review would find his heroics invaluable and fascinating. Instead, you correctly diagnosed Ritter as a fraud. "‘Endgame' reads like a sputtering argument written in anger, laid out in fits and starts, and printed hastily before the author's 15 minutes expire." The 240 pages disclose Ritter's frustration in spending seven years looking under rocks and behind trees for weapons of mass destruction, and not finding any. Someone must be blamed!

The propaganda surrounding our eight-year effort to starve 20 million Iraqis to death to cover up the botched job of our Political Establishment in that sorry land has been among the most effective of the century. More than a year ago, after several years of living with what I knew to be stacks of baloney in the news media, I arranged to meet with Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's UN Ambassador. I told him I had come to believe our government was lying through its teeth, Democrats and Republicans, because there was nobody around with the guts to tell it to stop. The Republicans want everyone to believe they are TOUGHER than the Democrats, and the Democrats don't want anyone to believe they are weenies. So the starving goes on.

Anyway, Tim, I offered to be devil's advocate to Saddam, to fill the leadership vacuum on the planet. But I had to have Hamdoon's assurance that whatever he told me could be verified as truthful. Otherwise, I would look like a dope, instead of merely a TRAITOR to those in our government who are bent on killing all Iraqis through malnutrition and disease. He said that was jake with him. He would be straight with me. So I asked him first when was the last time UNSCOM destroyed any weapons of mass destruction. He said "November 1991." That was hard to believe, Tim, and I was quite shocked. So I asked him again and he again insisted that in the previous six and a half years, no WMD had been destroyed. Not one lousy, crummy nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon, not a little bitty one. I looked him in the eye and made him tell me a third time that he was not fooling around, and he held my gaze and said, "No fooling."

Then I asked him how many WMD had been found and destroyed by UNSCOM inspectors WITHOUT the help of the Iraqi government in the seven months between the end of the Gulf War in early 1991 and November 1991. He looked me in the eye and said "None." Every WMD that had been destroyed in that period was as the result of UNSCOM being taken to a WMD site and shown the stuff, either stuff that already had been destroyed, or stuff awaiting destruction. This was especially hard for me to believe, and I suspected Hamdoon was playing verbal tricks on me, like not knowing what "is" is. So I asked him in several different ways to make sure he was not playing me for a sap, the way certain political leaders played certain federal grand juries for a sap. Hamdoon hung in there.

Back in Washington, I ran into Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, and told him the story about Hamdoon's answers to my questions. He said, "No way, Jude boy, you have got to be wrong. The UNSCOM inspectors are finding WMD every day of the week, except Sundays, which they observe as a Day of Rest." (Now I may not have gotten the quote exactly right, because I didn't have a notebook with me, but as this has become a common practice among today's journalists, I made up the quote to reflect the disbelief I saw in Trent's eyes.)

Next I told Jack Kemp at Empower America, who normally believes everything I tell him, as if it were Gospel. This time he could not believe his ears. Why, everyone KNEW the famous UNSCOM inspectors were digging up WMD all the time, in all the secret places Saddam had located in Iraq, which can hold lots of secret places because it is 10,000 square miles bigger than California. Know what I mean, Tim? So without telling me he didn't trust me, Jack had one of his Empower America empowerers spend two days at the UN offices poring over UNSCOM records. It was only then that Jack told me I appeared to be advocating an honest devil, as there were no UNSCOM records showing WMD found without the help of Baghdad, and none destroyed since November 1991.

I wrote all this up and sent it around to various powerful people, in case you had not heard, including Sen. Jesse Helms, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee; I also sent the stuff around to the newspapers and magazines, including The Wall Street Journal and your own newspaper. Maybe you heard. In any case, Tim Weiner, nobody paid any attention to me. My stuff was too inconvenient. Everyone inside the Beltway appeared to have a stake in Saddam Hussein being an Evil Guy who was hiding WMD, so everyone agreed to keep quiet about my advocacy on behalf of the devilish fellow. That's the way propaganda works. You just have to accept the fact that the good old USA engages in Propaganda at many levels, just this way, and the press corps goes along with it, because to do otherwise would be bad for careers.

P.S. We all know that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. Your colleague at the Times, Bill Safire, has said so a million times, and so has Abe Rosenthal. I checked it out. There is no evidence that this is so. Maybe he did, but nobody in our government has anything that confirms this bit of fact, except a lot of newspaper clippings signed by Safire and Rosenthal. Know what I mean?