Proving a Negative in Iraq
Jude Wanniski
November 16, 1998

 

Memo To:Sen. Arlen Specter [R PA]
From:  Jude Wanniski
Re:  Setting a Bad Precedent

Over the many years Iíve known you, weíve disagreed on a great many issues and been on the same side on many others. Iíve always appreciated your consistency in applying the law according to well-defined principles. Your support of the Supreme Court nomination of Clarence Thomas almost cost you re-election when the feminists decided to make you pay for your scruples. It was not surprising, then, to see you break ranks with your Senate Republican colleagues in arguing that Congress should at least be consulted before the President began dropping bombs on Iraq. Yes, you said you would probably agree to take military action after discussing the options, but at least you indicated you wanted to hear the options. As long as I have been involved in national politics, Iím still genuinely shocked to see how so many senior members of Congress are prepared to disregard the Constitution and bomb without debate.

Thatís why I suggest you push ahead and make this issue your own. I mean, take it on as advocate for the defense. So far, all weíve had is prosecution. Doesnít Iraq deserve a defense? For seven and a half years, after its humiliating defeat by our armed forces, the Baghdad government has done everything we asked it to do a dozen times over. Unhappily, it was never our intent to lift the economic embargo on Iraq, so Saddam Hussein eventually realized he had no recourse but to irritate the superpower in order to find a reasonable solution. We are now at the point where the UNSCOM inspectors are back at work in full, unfettered fashion, a hundred or so men and women wondering where to look in a country bigger than the state of California.

In other words, Arlen, if we are going to get the rest of the world to have a respect for the rule of law, you are the perfect fellow to nail down the principles involved. Iím not asking you to nail down all the principles, only one: The Global Superpower should never demand that a minor nation prove that it didnít misbehave in order to avoid our wrath. We should never ask a major nation to prove a negative either, but it is especially important when it comes to the little powers. In this case, Iraq. As a man who began his career in public service as district attorney of Philadelphia, you are more familiar than most with the difficulty of asking a defendant to prove they did not do something he or she has been charged by the government with having done. The way our system of justice works, the government must prove a positive, beyond reasonable doubt. In other words, if the government were to demand that I prove I did not commit perjury in order to avoid severe punishment what could I do?

And yet, this is what we have come to with Baghdad. We have searched and searched for seven years and have found nothing. No weapons of mass destruction. No materials that can easily be converted into mass destruction. No nuclear, no chemical, no biological weapons. Every blasted weapon destroyed since the Gulf War had been destroyed since November 1991, and the UN inspectors had been led to all of the sites by the Iraqi government. Now you now that, donít you? All we have found since are pieces of paper suggesting there might be an extra few canisters of mustard gas that may or may not have been destroyed. And the inspectors found traces of VX gas that Iraq had acknowledged had been produced, but not weaponized, back during its long war with Iran.

Now we ask Iraq to prove to us that it does not have any more weapons of mass destruction. If I were to accuse you of having committed robbery, but having no evidence, demanded that you prove you did not commit robbery, what kind of law would that be:? What kind of respect would the law get from you and from all others whose lives were put in jeopardy because the state demanded the prove themselves innocent? This is no small thing, Senator. If we are to be the Global Sovereign, we had best set a good example, and not simply rely upon our B-52s and cruise missiles and overwhelming military power. There is no way the United States can have 100% security by the sheer force of its own security forces. As mighty as our Goliath becomes, there will be a David with a slingshot to bring us down if we give it no other choice.