Memo To: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Price of Admission
The fact that I have been taking issue with assertions about Saddam Hussein that I believe to be false has made me something of a pariah in political circles. After several years of having a link on Matt Drudge’s excellent website, we were yanked without warning earlier this year and have heard Matt got tired of the complaints he was getting about my resistance to war. Townhall.com invited me to write for its popular website of commentators, but will only run on the front page those that deal with economics, as they say they get swamped by angry e-mailers when I write about the Middle East. Some of my own Polyconomics clients have recently been advising me to at least insert a sentence in my letters and memos noting Saddam’s evil nature and how I would celebrate if he got hit by a truck or a stray bomb by our “surveillance” aircraft.
My clients, who have been reading my analytics for years, at least know that I do not publish material I have not thoroughly vetted, have been nice about their recommendations. I get plenty of unsolicited e-mails from folks who think I am a “f****** traitor and demand I admit Saddam should be boiled in oil and the burn in Hell forever. I finally decided to write this memo when a regular thorn in my side wrote last week that it is well known Saddam puts children in foul and filthy prisons and treats them with unspeakable cruelty. As I try to answer all e-mails, I responded that this is good news to me, as I had earlier heard Saddam executes children who displease him. Last month, I read in London’s The Independent that Saddam’s favorite weekend hobby is drowning kittens. I subsequently remembered that the Independent is an anti-war paper and was surely making a joke, but one never knows. Maureen Dowd of the NYTimes thinks Saddam must be wacko because he does not turn down the front brim of his fedora. But Human Rights Watch, which is supposed to be a serious outfit, asks us to believe that in 1987 and 1988, Saddam rounded up 100,000 Iraqi Kurds -- men, women and children -- put them in trucks, hauled them south, then machine-gunned them to death and buried them in mass graves!! (HRW first said Saddam’s army used poison gas to kill these Kurds, but switched to machine guns when persuaded gas would be impractical.)
Up until now, I have been avoiding calling Saddam an ugly, evil monster on the basis of reports that I cannot verify independently. There is a persistent report that he once, in his office, pulled out a pistol and shot dead a cabinet minister who disagreed with him on some matter. There is another report he once executed eleven cabinet ministers because he suspected them of something or other. But these things I have not been able to verify. He is said to have ordered the assassination of a retired American President who was vacationing in Kuwait, and the son of that ex-President says that is one of the reasons he wants to get Saddam, dead or alive. But in running down this story, I find it was almost certainly the Kuwaiti government that cooked up this coo-coo story to discourage President Clinton from doing business with Baghdad.
On the other hand, Saddam Hussein has been complaining for years that the US Air Force and the British Air Force have been flying war planes over his country and, when they get the urge, drop some bombs or fire some missiles at Iraqi installations. The United States say they are only firing and bombing in self-defense, because the Iraqis either fire at them, or train their radars on them, which is a signal they might fire. The United States has been saying they have been doing this under UN Resolution 688 which was passed in 1991 to protect Iraqi citizens from military attacks by their government. Now I have checked into this and discovered that the “no-fly zones” we have been bombing all these years have been for “humanitarian reasons.” France, which in 1991 participated in the aerial protection of the Kurds in the north and the Shiites in the southern “no-fly zone” decided to stop when there was no evidence that Iraq was engaging in military attacks and if they did, there would be more than no-fly zones. I’ve also learned that UN General Secretary Kofi Annan has stated on several occasions that there is NO authority by the United Nations for the US and Brits to be flying around in Iraqi air space, let alone bombing Iraq, destroying Iraqi property and killing Iraqi citizens.
The Russian government, as a matter of fact, on Monday announced that continued United States bombing of Iraq is making diplomacy difficult in working out details to get the weapons inspectors back into the country. The Pentagon has been stepping up the bombings and the overflights, it seems, hoping the Iraqis will get lucky and shoot one of the planes down. This would be a clear signal for a massive bombing campaign and invasion. The U.S. Secretary of War, Donald Rumsfeld, who used to be called the Secretary of Defense, has pooh-poohed the Russian complaints, and now announced for the first time that the US and British airplanes can fly anywhere they want, because they are acting on Resolution 687!! Resolution 687, also passed in 1991, mandates Iraq's disarmament and required that Baghdad allow U.N. weapons inspectors into the country to certify it was no longer producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. What the US Secretary of War is saying, in other words, is that the fighter-bombers screeching over Iraq are peeking down now and then to look for weapons of mass destruction.
You may have thought these flights were authorized by the United Nations, people everywhere, but as you can plainly see from Mr. Rumsfeld’s little joke, they are not. Why doesn’t the UN General Assembly pass a resolution saying the US and Brits should stop these illegal flights? It is because the rules of the UN prohibit the General Assembly from acting on matters under the purview of the UN Security Council, which Iraq is, at the moment. Why don’t the other members of the Security Council present a resolution telling the US and UK to cease and desist? Because the US and Brits can veto the resolution. Why bother?