Slouching to World War III
Jude Wanniski
February 18, 1998


Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-TX] made a superhawk speech to her Senate colleagues last week, but her objective was to stop the boys from passing a “Gulf of Tonkin Resolution” that would have given President Clinton open-ended power to deal with Iraq. That she did. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott also talked superhawk, as required by the Republican manual, but said the President had to produce an “end game” before he could offer support for military action. There is no stomach for ground troops, except among the GOP’s armchair warriors, the intellectuals who think it would be interesting. In his speech at the Pentagon yesterday, President Clinton finessed Lott’s maneuver that demanded an “end game” by changing the objectives. The administration no longer says it needs to take out Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, which would require ground troops. Now the mission is to “degrade” Iraq’s ability to threaten its neighbors with conventional weapons. This means massive bombing of all the armories where Saddam is known to stash guns and bullets and anything else they can think of. This is why the Iraqis complain about inspection teams “spying” instead of looking for chemical or biological facilities, which Baghdad insists have not existed for years. The U.S. spies are hunting for conventional weapons, which then degrades Saddam Hussein’s ability to defend Iraq in a subsequent invasion. Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich are in the position of propping up the weakened President so he can distract the electorate from his personal crisis with a massive bombing campaign sure to cause the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi military and civilians. Boys will be boys.

KEMP INITIATIVE: At the request of his friends in Congress, Messrs. Lott and Gingrich, Jack Kemp had been quiet ever since he proposed his January 7 diplomatic initiative aimed at providing a bloodless way out of the mob scene that is gathering. As all other options run out, Kemp is becoming aggressive in seeking support for his, hoping to head off a blunder at least as bad as the mistake President Kennedy made in early November 1963. Maybe even WWIII. On both CNN’s "Evans&Novak" last weekend and "Larry King Live" last night, Kemp noted that “the Law of Unintended Consequences” cost 50,000 American lives in the Vietnam war, after JFK okayed the coup against South Vietnam President Ngo Dinh Diem which set up a series of eight American puppet governments. Kemp argues that if Iraq would agree to a specific, limited number of snap inspections over a period of several months, anywhere in the country, we should agree to lift the sanctions and thereafter use the deterrence of massive retaliation if Iraq menaces its neighbors. After Kemp made his proposal, I met with Iraqi UN Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon at the mission in New York City, who had expressed “interest” in the idea to Bob Novak. While Hamdoon advised me that his government could not react to such a proposal until it had some imprimatur from government, either the White House or from Congress, or the UN, he told me the concept of a specific time frame rather than the open-ended demands of the United States was appealing.

CLINTON: In his speech at the Pentagon yesterday, the President built much of his case for massive bombing on a specific, fraudulent argument that has spread through both parties. He said that Saddam’s son-in-law, who defected to Jordan in 1995, had been in charge of developing weapons of mass destruction: “He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more. Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more... What did it admit? It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability -- notably 5,000 gallons of botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 156 aerial bombs.” My information is that when Iraq learned of Hussein Kamal’s defection, it immediately notified the chief UN inspector, Rolf Ekeus, and took him to Kamal’s chicken farm, where he found the papers enumerating the material that the President cited in his talk. The material had already been destroyed in 1991-92. Since 1992, there have been no “weapons of mass destruction” destroyed. All that remains are the paper discrepancies in the files. When Hamdoon told "Larry King Live" on Monday that there have been no weapons discovered or destroyed without the cooperation of the Iraqi government, Sen. Carl Levin [D-MI] who followed him insisted that Hamdoon was not telling the truth. It seems more likely that Levin is being fed selective truths. Does the President know he is stretching the truth? Of course he is. The whole administration seems to be caught up in a web of untruths from which it cannot escape.

WALL STREET JOURNAL: The Journal this morning finally decided to join the bombers, in an editorial, “Waiting for a Pirate,” that dispenses with any serious intellectual analysis and says it has come down to this: “Who’s in charge here, Iraq or the United States?” One might ask “Who’s in charge of the editorial page?” The Journal’s editor, Robert L. Bartley, obviously gave some junior member of the staff responsibility for beating the war drums. The author fondly remembers: “In 1981 Israel bombed and destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor under construction, no doubt delaying Saddam’s expansionist instincts. Oh yes, critics of the moment said the Begin government had ruined Iraq’s ‘drift toward the West.’” What really happened was that Iraq, a signator to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, had built a power plant at the urging of western governments, including the United States, which said the world was running out of oil. At a cost of several billion dollars, mostly spent on western engineering and material, the plant was supervised by the International Arms Control Agency, which signed off on the plant and would monitor it into the future to make sure it wasn’t producing bomb stuff. Israel’s spymasters, the Mossad, decided it was too much of a threat anyway and blew it up. The UN General Assembly condemned the action, but the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. Saddam immediately began secret work on nuclear weapons. Boys will be boys.

READING MATERIAL: In his "Larry King" appearance last night, Kemp made the point to Sen. Joe (“Bomber”) Biden that a great superpower should not act without the best possible information. The White House and the Republicans in Congress are making an enormous effort to discourage anyone from getting information other than their own. Those of you who watch our website will find today and tomorrow some thumbnail history on how all this happened, stuff our newspapers will not print because it might spoil a good war. If you want to learn more, there are several interesting books I’ve read lately that put things in perspective. All regard Saddam as a fellow who easily kills anyone who threatens him directly. The broader story is not so simple. The best is Iraq, from Sumer to Saddam, by Geoff Simons, St. Martin’s Press. Also, Unholy Babylon, by Abdel Darwish and Gregory Alexander, St. Martin’s Press, and Saddam Hussein, a Political Biography, by Efraim Karsh & Inarti Rautsi, Free Press. In analyzing the current situation, it is best not to do it from our perspective or from Baghdad’s, but from those of Iraq’s neighbors, none of which are happy with the idea of WWIII starting in their neighborhood. Can you blame them?