Saddam Suddenly Looks Innocent

Email Print

Memo To: Attorney
General John Ashcroft
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Why is He Being Held at All?

I see in the papers, John, that our government has decided that
we will maintain physical custody of Saddam Hussein even after the
June 30 transfer of sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government.
An anonymous official told Associated Press the reason is the Iraqis
do not have a prison safe enough to hold Saddam, and I suppose there
may be some concern that if the Iraqi interim government got their
hands on him there may be no need for a u201Ctrial.u201D They might sooner
have him u201Cdie of natural causesu201D in his cell rather than have him
answer the charges of war crimes, which have yet to be brought against
him. But I now wonder why he is being held at all?

If you think about it, 18 months ago Saddam Hussein was sitting
in his office, the duly constituted president and prime minister
of Iraq, minding his own business. The United States did not have
diplomatic relations with Iraq and so did not formally recognize
him as head of state. But most of the rest of the world did, and
Iraq had a seat at the United Nations and in its proper rotation
could even take a seat on the Security Council. It was at this point
that President Bush decided Saddam had weapons of destruction and
was conspiring with Al Qaeda to menace peace-loving nations like
the United States. He took his assertions to the UN Security Council
and the Council agreed by a 15-to-0 vote to demand Saddam permit
UN inspectors back into Iraq to search for the WMD. If you followed
the U.N. proceedings over the following months, you will find that
Baghdad fully complied with every demand made upon it by the Security

Even if you missed the TV coverage, if you read the papers carefully
you would find no instance where Saddam thumbed his nose at the
Council. When he read of accounts from President Bush, Vice President
Cheney and Secretary of State Powell that he was still hiding stuff
from the inspectors that our CIA knew about, he said he would invite
the CIA to come and look in every nook and cranny. Remember? And
when the UN inspectors were given tips by the CIA on places to search
for WMD, they did so and found no traces of WMD. Not a teensy weensy
bit of evidence. So when President Bush asked the Security Council
for a resolution backing a war with Iraq, the Council turned him
down. The other members pointed out that U.N. diplomacy had indeed
worked and that the inspectors could clean up the last bits and
pieces in a few months and certify that Iraq was absolutely clean.

President Bush did have authorization from the U.S. Congress to
go to war with Iraq to get his WMD, but the resolution required
that before he committed troops he had to certify in letters to
the House and Senate that diplomacy had failed. Mr. Bush sent such
letters to the House and Senate two days before our generals led
coalition troops into Iraq from Kuwait. Some members of Congress
objected, but what could they do but sit back and wait for our troops
to defeat the Iraqi army and then locate the hidden WMD?

As we now know, Saddam Hussein was telling the truth. He had no
WMD, had in fact gotten rid of them in 1991 when the U.N. passed
a resolution demanding that he do so. Well, the administration of
which you are the chief legal officer then insisted the war was
justified because of Al Qaeda connections to Saddam's regime. We
don't need a permission slip from the UNSC if we see there is a
potential threat from a government somewhere, anywhere, that might
develop WMD and give them to Al Qaeda, who would then sneak them
into the United States and cause catastrophic loss of life. But
now we find Saddam was absolutely telling the truth that he had
no contact with Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden and that the one overture
that came from Al Qaeda to an Iraqi official several years ago,
asking assistance from Baghdad, was rebuffed. Apparently our intelligence
agencies knew all this, as the 9-11 Commission has since discovered,
but the administration you serve chose to believe otherwise. The
war went forward and the mission was accomplished, at least in its
formal military phase. Estimates of the number of Iraqi military
and militiamen killed in combat range as high as 60,000 and estimates
of the collateral damage to civilians range from 16,000 to 35,000

Saddam Hussein was eventually located in his spider hole and whisked
away, put under lock and key in a secure prison, with the idea that
he would eventually be turned over to a duly constituted court of
law and tried as a war criminal. President Bush on many occasions
has pointed out that Iraq is better off without Saddam because his
regime was known to have used u201Ctorture and rape roomsu201D at Al Ghraib
prison. Now you know President Bush did not order our military people
to use those same rooms to rape and torture Iraqi u201Cdetainees.u201D He
says so and I believe him. But I wonder if you have evidence that
Saddam ordered the Iraqi state or local police to u201Ctorture and rape,u201D
or might he also insist as Mr. Bush has that he was at the tippy
top of the national government and if he had known what excesses
were committed by local cops, he would have put a stop to it.

To tell you the truth, John, as far as I can recall, there have
been no assertions of the u201Cbrutalityu201D of Saddam's regime from anyone
but the Iraqi exiles associated with Ahmet Chalabi or those Kurds
who fought on the Iranian side in the Iran/Iraq war. There are all
kinds of anecdotes about Saddam doing dreadful things, entire books
written about them, but the source of all of them is the same pool
of people who have been feeding faked u201Cevidenceu201D of WMD and Al Qaeda
connections to our government. Can it be that there is nothing that
Saddam has done all these years that cannot be justified as the
permissible acts of a head of state acting in defense of his people.
Yes, he invaded Kuwait in 1990, but in retrospect that was a really
easy war to justify, given the economic warfare being conducted
against Iraq by the Emir of Kuwait. I mean easy in relation to now
having to justify this American invasion and destruction of good
chunks of Iraq, on false premises.

President Bush still has it in his head that Saddam tried to assassinate
his father in 1993, but if you did the smallest bit of digging you
would find this was a hoax perpetrated by the neo-cons. The President
also has it in his head that Saddam committed genocide against the
Kurds in 1988, killing tens of thousands of them with poison gas
and/or machine guns. If you lifted a little pinky to get to the
bottom of this story, you will find it is also made of neo-con whole
cloth. I'm not making wild assertions, John, because I have spent
countless hours on this subject and find no loopholes left. Just
call Human Rights Watch and ask if they have yet found the mass
graves of those tens of thousands of Kurds and they will sheepishly
admit they are still looking.

I'll have to admit there is no easy way out for the Bush administration
in explaining how it could have been snookered from first to last
about Saddam Hussein. I'm not suggesting you ask to meet with the
President and tell him he should go on TV and tell the American
people he made a Bigtime Boo-Boo. I'm only suggesting you go back
to your law books and, for your own good, get a good grip on why
Saddam Hussein is behind bars when it now turns out he doesn't seem
to have done anything wrong. You might then be in a better position
to advise the President on how to proceed in the best way to avoid
further Bigtime Boo-Boos.

24, 2004

Wanniski [send him mail]
runs the financial/political advisory service
(If you subscribe,
and check
in the referring website pull-down,
LRC gets 10%).

Wanniski Archives

Email Print