Memo To: Political Reporters, Editors
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Something Fishy?
Back in 1997, I did everything I could to get you folks interested in a story about how Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction, but all I got was blank stares. I did, though, manage to persuade my old friend Jack Kemp that we should at least make contact with the Iraqis at the United Nations to explore the possibility that Saddam Hussein might agree to allow intrusive inspections before President Clinton decided to start bombing Iraq. I’d earlier met with Iraq’s UN Ambassador at the time, Nizar Hamdoon, and not only found his representations credible, but supported by official UN records going back to the first Gulf War. To make a long story short, Jack met with Hamdoon in NYC, then with U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, and in early 1998, just when the neo-cons and their friends in the press were screaming for war against Saddam, a deal was made with Baghdad to permit the UN inspectors to go anywhere they wished, even if they wished to look under the beds in Saddam's palaces.
According to the NYTimes, now it turns out that “an Iraqi-American businessman who pleaded guilty this week to secretly lobbying influential Americans on behalf of Saddam Hussein pursued contacts with Democrats like former President Jimmy Carter and Republicans like Jack Kemp, the former vice presidential candidate, government officials said Friday. The businessman, Samir A. Vincent, is now cooperating with a federal investigation into corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food aid program for Iraq. He pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges that he had pocketed millions in hidden oil profits in exchange for helping the Iraqi government in its efforts to end economic sanctions imposed in 1990.”
Now I never heard of Samir A. Vincent before, but it is perfectly obvious that he learned of Kemp’s interest from those in Baghdad who knew Jack had met with Hamdoon, and did not contact Jack on a lucky guess. I don’t know why Vincent would “plead guilty to secretly lobbying” Kemp in '97 and Jimmy Carter in '99, to help end the sanctions, which the UN had estimated resulted in the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children. I was openly lobbying Jack, and if not for me, he never would have met Vincent. I do know that Jack and Jimmy Carter and former Georgia Democratic Senator Sam Nunn were in discussions about how to get the sanctions lifted. (Why not give Nunn a buzz, folks?). Is there a federal law against secretly asking three men who are out of office to help lift totally outrageous, deadly sanctions that are killing 500,000 kids?
Pardon me, political reporters and editors, but it sounds Orwellian to me, and I am baffled as to why your newspapers are not yelling in their editorial pages about why Mr. Vincent is being hounded by the Justice Department. It must be because, as a friend of the Baghdad government of Saddam Hussein, he was favored in the oil-for-food program in getting tickets to export Iraqi oil over all those who were enemies of the Baghdad government.
As for the “oil-for-food” scandal, you surely know my opinion, conveyed to you a number of times, that there was no scandal at all. The neo-cons of the Perle Cabal cooked that up with their pals in Congress (Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota at the top of the pile) and the right-wing news media, the WSJournal editorial page on the top of that heap. Where they first led us to believe that Saddam made off with $26 billion ($26,000,000,000) in funds because of U.N. mismanagement, now we’re advised that the audits show $1.5 million in questionable transactions. That’s $1,500,000. I’ve yet to see a news report pointing out that this kind of misplaced pocket change can be identified by the General Accounting Office for practically any administration bureaucracy, down to the tiniest. You know I don't exaggerate.
It should be plain to you that Mr. Salim Vincent has copped a plea in exchange for spilling the beans on who he “secretly lobbied,” just so the Wall Street Journal could announce to its readers, as it did last week, that the oil-food-scandal has moved into the “criminal” phase. Should we wonder how Jack and Jimmy will look behind bars, with Martha Stewart in the next wing, for “secretly” trying to get sanctions lifted?
Pardon me if today I am generally disgusted with the Washington press corps.
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Dear Website Fans, browsers, clients -- Here are some interesting items from the past:
“Saddam, a Perfectly Reasonable Statesman”
and the following “secret” memo I posted in this space on January 20, 1998
Jack Kemp’s Iraq Initiative
Memo To: President Bill Clinton
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The Iraqi Embargo
I’m sending this to you through your chief-of-staff, Mr. President, on the chance that you have not been told about Jack Kemp's initiative on the Iraq problem. On Friday afternoon, he issued a statement at Empower America recommending that the UN Security Council consider the idea of a limited number of snap inspections each month for six months, including the palace sectors, after which the economic sanctions would be lifted if no evidence of weapons of mass destruction is uncovered.
It is important that you read the statement carefully and take the initiative seriously, Mr. President, because your diplomatic team is now conveying the impression that your administration has no intention of lifting the sanctions, no matter if Iraq complies with UN demands or not. On FoxNews Sunday, your UN Ambassador Bill Richardson stated that full UN compliance with demands that he open all of Iraq to unlimited inspections will only "ameliorate" the situation. He indicated there was not much chance the sanctions would be lifted under any circumstances. On Meet the Press, your Secretary of State Madeleine Albright also indicated there would be no lifting of the sanctions unless Saddam Hussein exhibited good conduct in other unspecified areas. This is the public position she took last year that led the Iraqi government and the world diplomatic community to conclude that we are playing a game of charades, at the cost of several thousand civilian lives each month in Iraq.
The record is now becoming clear enough, Mr. President, that I believe you will not be able to avoid an extremely harsh verdict by history if you continue on this path. Yes, you inherited a policy from the Bush administration which assumed that the suffering of the Iraqi people would cause them to pull down Saddam. It is plain that the Iraqi people continue to support Saddam and that they blame the United States for the deaths of 1.4 million civilians -- including some 800,000 children under the age of 12. Unless you find a way off the path we are now on, it is plain enough that you are going to ask the American people to support unilateral military action against Iraq -- and that you will have to goad Saddam into providing a casus belli. If you watched the McLaughlin Group on Sunday, you will note that a definite impression is developing in our press corps that your people are looking for a way to provoke a war.
This is why Jack Kemp's initiative is so important and why you should not dismiss it out of hand, as Ambassador Richardson did on Sunday, rejecting any "political deal." Iraq's Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon, who also appeared on Fox News Sunday, indicated his government would be prepared to discuss any idea that could lead to the lifting of the sanctions when asked about the Kemp initiative. If you were to embrace the initiative and Iraq refused, it would help persuade the rest of the world that Saddam really does have a secret cache of weapons of mass destruction. The American people and the world would be much more agreeable to the use of military force to resolve the problem, if that is what it would take. On the other hand, if you reject this reasonable diplomatic solution, you would not have the support of the American people, who I believe would see it as a sensible way out of the logjam.
Economic sanctions that cause great suffering to a civilian population can be justified in war, but not in peacetime. This is only my opinion, but I think it is also the opinion of mankind and of history. You must have been informed, Mr. President, that during the Gulf War our military destroyed a significant fraction of the water and sewage treatment facilities of Iraq. This is one of the primary reasons for the continued high mortality rates among the children and elderly. On the excuse that Iraq could turn chlorine into a weapon of mass destruction, it is on the prohibited list of imports, as are a great many other chemicals that are critical to protecting the health of modern, urban populations. It is my personal opinion that we would not have permitted this degree of suffering if the people of Iraq were Protestants, Catholics or Jews, but that we have hardened our hearts to it because the people are Muslim. The 1.4 billion Muslims in the world may be of the same opinion, as I note that we have little support for our policy even in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. President, please do not look upon the Kemp initiative as a political ploy. You may know that as a matter of principle he opposes the use of economic sanctions in any case. The fact that the initiative comes from a Republican, who is prepared to defend his position within his own party, clearly makes it easier for you to move in this preferable diplomatic direction, even while making it more difficult to move in a military direction. The flow is in the right direction, especially with Pope John Paul II calling for a lifting of the sanctions. Reconciliation is in the air.
PRESS RELEASE FROM JACK KEMP AT EMPOWER AMERICA:
Empower America Co-director Jack Kemp today recommended that the United Nations Security Council consider the idea of "snap inspections" anywhere in Iraq as a way of breaking the diplomatic logjam that continues to threaten peace in the Middle East. Mr. Kemp said he believed that if Saddam Hussein would be willing to permit the U.N. inspectors to make a limited number of unannounced "snap inspections" each month of any site they choose, including all the presidential palaces, for six months or so, and they find absolutely nothing suspicious, then the economic sanctions could be lifted.
Kemp said: "We have unfortunately arrived at a standoff with Iraq over how U.N. inspections are to be conducted. The longer the standoff persists, the more dangerous the situation becomes. It is essential, therefore, that both sides give serious consideration to new approaches. If Iraq would agree to a number of snap inspections each month anywhere in the country, I believe it would become possible for the United Nations to satisfy its strong suspicions that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction and agree to lift all sanctions on Iraq at the end of six months.
"This might help break the diplomatic logjam because it would make it possible to determine whether Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction while at the same time giving Iraqi citizens some light at the end of the tunnel on lifting the sanctions. The spot checks could then continue for some negotiated period after lifting the sanctions, but at least there would be no further question among our allies that President Clinton is serious when he says there is a way for Iraq to comply.
"On the other hand, if the U.N. inspectors swoop down on a site and catches Saddam red-handed, we would have an end to the arguments among our allies and at the U.N. about the veracity and intent of Saddam. If Saddam were to refuse this offer, we would have to conclude that he really has weapons of mass destruction stashed, as the U.N. teams have been alleging.