Punish Saddam, Good Boy or Bad
Jude Wanniski
November 6, 1997


Memo To: Tom Friedman, Foreign Affairs columnist, NYTimes
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Saddam Hussein, Good Boy/Bad Boy

As I've made clear to you over the years, your column on the world's geopolitics is among the best in America. I read every word of every column, admiring your courage in standing aside from the pack when you see the truth differently than the established view. Your column today on Saddam Hussein, "Head Shot," stands out again for your insights on why are we again engaged in a showdown with the Iraqi leader ~ although I emphatically disagree with your conclusions. Alone among commentators, you correctly point out that we have told Saddam that it does not matter to us whether he is a "good boy" or a "bad boy." In either event, if he complies with the U.N. resolutions and demands of its arms inspection teams, or not, we will not lift the sanctions. Our Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, has publicly indicated this is the case, and over the last six years since the end of the Gulf War, we have by our actions indicated to Saddam this is the case. You conclude that Saddam now has pushed the situation to a crisis point because he figures why be a good boy if it gets him nowhere: "Therefore Saddam is no doubt asking himself: 'If my choices are sanctions with constant U.N. weapons inspections or sanctions without the U.N. inspections, let's have sanctions without them.'" After pondering the problem, you decide "the U.S. has to try to destroy him." A "head shot," you say, after arguing that if he complies with the demands upon him and we lift the sanctions, he will rebuild the weapons of mass destruction which we have been searching for these past six years, without success.

Is this the New World Order, Tom? You now propose the equivalent of a father and a son, where father tells son that whether he is a "good boy or a bad boy," he will be punished. In your column, you use exactly those words. Is this how things are run in the Friedman household? I'm certain it is not. The only way to deal with a bad boy or with Saddam Hussein is to give them the conditions under which they will be admitted back into the good graces of the family, and when they comply, reward them as promised, with the condition that if they slip again into bad behavior, the punishment will increase in severity. In that way, the entire family observes the justice of the father.

Fourteen months ago, President Clinton ordered the bombing of Iraq for no good reason (except to kick off his re-election campaign), and without consulting Congress or our Gulf War coalition allies. I then wrote a "In Defense of Saddam Hussein" which made the point you make today, that we have over the years made it clear the U.S. will not allow Saddam to sell oil no matter what he does. I also made the point that our problems with Saddam Hussein can be traced back to American mistakes, not his. If you recall, he invaded Kuwait in August 1990 after first asking for and getting the passive assent of our government. It was his grievous mistake to take us at our word. At the time, Saddam was our ally in the Middle East. Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole had just met with him in Baghdad and pronounced him a fine fellow. When the Kuwaiti monarchy approved a decision to sink producing oil wells at a diagonal under the Iraqi border, thereby stealing oil from its Islamic neighbor, Saddam decided he had to put an end to the practice by marching into Kuwait. First, though, he summoned the U.S. Ambassador, April Glaspie, and asked her if the Bush administration had any objections. By all accounts, Ms. Glaspie did not raise objection, and the Iraqi army moved into Kuwait. Only then did the Bush administration conclude that Saddam was "worse than Hitler."

I'm not suggesting, Tom, that Saddam is a little angel, but on the record as our government has presented it over the years, he has been no Hitler. This week, Edward Peck, who was ambassador to Baghdad in the Carter administration (chief of mission), told CNN that Saddam has been and remains widely popular among his own people. This is because over his tenure as head of state, he shared the oil wealth of his country with the people, by building schools, hospitals, libraries, museums, etc., and living simply himself, while the oil monarchs of the Middle East live it up. Peck also argues that if we have not found weapons of mass destruction in six years, maybe there aren't any.

As good a reporter as you are, Tom, why not inquire of experts if there is any possibility of being sure that in some obscure location of Iraq there could be chemical or biological weapons being developed that no inspection team could ever find. How big a building do you absolutely have to have to be a threat to your neighbors with such weapons? 10,000 sq. ft.? 1,000 sq. ft.? A room 10x10? My guess is that no matter how many inspectors we put into Iraq, we will never be sure, and that we better try something else. As the U.S. now has a policy of telling Saddam that it does seek to destroy him (as you recommend), why not goad him so sharply that he is forced to actually use his weapons of mass destruction? If he has a suitcase nuclear bomb, perhaps he will have it delivered at the NYTimes office on 43rd Street. Or maybe at the Washington Bureau's offices near the White House. When it explodes, we will then be able to definitely tell that he has been a bad boy all along. Because you are such a good fellow, I hope you will be on assignment somewhere in the antipodes when the bomb goes off, or the bad stuff gets slipped into the DC drinking water.

On the other hand, maybe we should rethink our foreign policy. To that end, I have recommended to Chairman Jesse Helms of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that hearings be held on Islam's role in the New World Order. How about that idea?

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