Memo To: People Interested in Iraq
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: A Letter to Senator Lott
Following is a letter Jack Kemp sent to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on December 18, urging Senate hearings on our military action in Iraq. It was subsequently distributed to the press, but got almost no attention.
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The Honorable Trent Lott
United States Senate
Congratulations on your courage in questioning both the timing of President Clinton's military attack on Iraq and the policy on which it is based. You have made the point that skepticism about the timing is justified because, in your words, the president had already "burned" us once by mistakenly bombing a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, while deceptively representing to the American public and the world that he had conclusive proof that the plant was a facility for producing weapons of mass destruction.
Far from being attacked for speaking the truth — as you are by Democrats and even some Republicans — I believe you deserve praise and the gratitude of the American people and our party for your courageous act of questioning the bombing of Baghdad "at midnight."
During the past two days, reports coming out of the Pentagon and from a former U.N. weapons inspector raise a number of serious and troubling questions that, in my opinion, vindicate your skepticism. These questions are so troubling that I believe they warrant immediate congressional inquiries. Therefore, I urge you to convene congressional hearings to dig into these questions as soon as possible.
Let me list just of few of the troubling questions arising from President Clinton's actions in Iraq during the past month.
o Did the White House "orchestrate a plan to provoke Saddam Hussein into defying United Nations weapons inspectors so that the president could justify air strikes on Iraq" as reported on the front page of today's Washington Times?"
o If the Administration's "ultimate aim was to remove those weapons [of mass destruction]," isn't it contradictory that "the strikes avoided the plants [suspected of producing chemical and biological weapons] out of fear of unleashing plumes of poisons and killing civilians," as reported in a front-page article in today's New York Times. Isn't this contradiction prima facie evidence that bombing Iraq is inappropriate if the objective is to eliminate hidden weapons of mass destruction and facilities to create them?
o Did United States officials consort with Richard Butler and UNSCOM to devise inspection scenarios guaranteed to provoke Iraqi actions that could be portrayed as less than "totally cooperative"?
o Did United States national security officials assist Richard Butler in any way, shape or fashion to author the U.N. report that found Iraq in violation of its pledge to give UNSCOM complete and total cooperation? Did U.S. officials have any communications with Richard Butler or his staff with respect to the inspections or the report relating to them between November 15 and December 13; and did any U.S. official play any role in shaping the text of Richard Butler's report?
o Did the president set the Iraqi air strikes in motion on Sunday, December 13, 1998 even before Richard Butler's report was submitted to the Security Council, as reported by the Washington Times on December 17? If so, why, and why did the White House spokesman maintain that the president did not order the strikes until Wednesday, December 16, based on the U.N. finding of noncompliance?
o How does the White House assertion that the president ordered the air strikes based on the U.N. finding of noncompliance square with the statement by Israeli spokesman Aviv Bushinsky that President Clinton discussed preparations for an attack with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just minutes before Mr. Clinton flew home from Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport on Tuesday, December 15?
o Why did Richard Butler take it upon himself, without telling his superiors at the U.N., to begin shutting down his inspection operations and removing his inspection team prior to Security Council consideration of his report? Did he have prior notice that the U.S. intended to initiate air strikes?
o Is there a danger that the administration seeks to use the resolution of support for our troops passed by the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday as a Gulf-of-Tonkin-like resolution to justify continued, open-ended military engagement (including the introduction of ground forces) in Iraq?
o Is it true, as U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan and Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon contend, that there were between 200 and 300 separate inspections between November 15 and December 13 and only five cited instances of "non-cooperation." Is there substance to the claim of Iraqi foreign minister Mohammed Said Al-Sahaf that even the cited instances were contrived?
o Is it plausible that the Iraqi government believes that nothing it can do will cause the United States to allow the economic sanctions to be lifted, given past statements of U.S. officials and the recently passed legislation appropriating $97 million specifically devoted to overthrowing the current Iraqi regime? (For example, as early as 1993, President Clinton said, "I have no intention of normalizing relations with him [Saddam Hussein]"; and on March 26, 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said: "We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted.") Is it realistic to expect any regime to cooperate with U.N. inspectors if it believes the United States has de facto declared war on it and that nothing it can do will lead to a lifting of the sanctions?
o Is it true that for seven years our government refused to have direct contact with Iraq? Is it true that our government refused to allow Iraq to state its case before the Security Council? Is it true that we even forbid our ambassador to the U.N. to talk to the Iraq ambassador? If so, why?
o Is it true that, "Around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying here every month from hunger and disease," as stated in a 1996 U.N. report on Iraq?
o Finally, now that the UNSCOM inspectors have left Iraq and bombing has begun, what is the "end game"? What specific purpose is the bombing meant to achieve: to get the inspectors back into Iraq, to topple Saddam Hussein, to inflict punishment? Or does it have no more purpose beyond venting frustration from years of failed policy?
Trent, we stand at a crossroads on foreign policy, and there are differing opinions on which path we should take. Before we make that choice, it is important that Congress deliberate and chart the road ahead. I urge you again to hold congressional hearings.
I am going to send Bob Livingston a copy of this letter and urge him to hold congressional hearings as well.
Your very good friend,