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 u201Can 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.u201D
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 u201Cplead guilty to secretly lobbyingu201D 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 u201Coil-for-foodu201D 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 u201Csecretly lobbied,u201D 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 u201Ccriminalu201D phase. Should we wonder how Jack and Jimmy will look behind bars, with Martha Stewart in the next wing, for u201Csecretlyu201D trying to get sanctions lifted?
Pardon me if today I am generally disgusted with the Washington press corps.
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