Thursday, March 27, 2008

Saddam Was Always Thinking Outside the Box

Now we find out that the anti-war trip to Iraq made by Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California in 2002 (“The Baghdad Democrats”), was paid for by Saddam’s intelligence agency. (“Charity Official Accused of Spying”):

Muthanna Al-Hanooti, who worked as a top official at Life for Relief and Development a charity in Southfield, Mich. allegedly coordinated U.S. congressional delegations to Iraq at the direction of executed dictator's intelligence service between 1999 and 2002.

In return, investigators say he received payoffs via the United Nation's Oil for Food program.

Al-Hanooti is also a CAIR director, and was named last year as an unidicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case. (“CAIR called 'turnstile' for terrorist suspects”).

Debbie Schlussel suggests that the third party mentioned in the indictment, but not charged, is Shakir Al-Khafaji, a Detroit- and Dearborn-area operator long known to have been a money-man for Saddam.

According to Steve Hayes,

Al-Khafaji first came to public notice after revelations that he gave former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter $400,000 to produce a film that criticized the United States for its role in the inspection process. Al-Khafaji, who is listed as a "senior executive producer" of the film, arranged meetings for Ritter with high-level officials in Saddam's government, a feat New York Times magazine writer Barry Bearak found "impressive." Ritter had previously been an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and issued dire warnings about the status of the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction. His sudden flip--he is now a leading apologist for Saddam's regime--and revelations about Ritter's 2001 arrest for soliciting sex with minors have fueled speculation about the nature of his relationship with al-Khafaji. (“Saddam's Cash: And the journalists and politicians he bought with it.”).

According to the Detroit News, that unindicted co-conspirator was

a former officer of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, and Al-Hanooti was paid by the Iraqi spy agency, the indictment alleges.

That Iraqi spy asked Al-Hanooti to publicize in the United States the harmful effects of U.S. sanctions against Iraq and to bring to Iraq delegations from the U.S. Congress, the indictment alleges.

Between 1999 and 2002, Al-Hanooti gave the Iraqi Intelligence Service a strategy on how to get the sanctions lifted and in 2002 he helped organize a trip to Iraq by a delegation of members of Congress, the indictment alleges.

(“Feds: Southfield Muslim charity official worked as Iraqi spy”).

The three anti-war Democrats have not been charged with anything. The feds say they were oblivious their trip was being underwritten by Saddam. I can believe it. The three were also oblivious that they were being used by Saddam as useful idiots. Saddam was trying to stave off military intervention while he continued to defy UN resolutions, and he wanted the sanctions regime to end so he could resume his WMD programs.

Bonior, McDermott, and Thompson were selected because Iraqi intelligence had identified them as weak links in American foreign policy. They could be used, (being oblivious the way they were), to sell the Iraqi line back home in the US that the sanctions should be relaxed or jettisonsed for the sake of the suffering Iraqi children.

A brief refresher might be helpful for some of our short-memoried countrymen.

After Operation Desert Storm, an international sanctions regime was put in place against Saddam’s Iraq, meant to choke off funding for his WMD programs, restrain his war-making impulses, and perhaps hasten the end of the Baathist dictatorship. This arrangement was necessary, in part, because the coalition nations had been unwilling to support US forces driving on to Baghdad and finishing off Saddam once and for all after liberating Kuwait. When Saddam realized we weren’t coming to destroy his Revolutionary Guards and arrest him, he promptly characterized himself as the victor of Desert Storm and began to, in modern parlance, "move on."

In addition to sanctions, there were supposed to be international weapons inspections to insure that Saddam got rid of and was no longer developing WMD. Then British and American forces had to set up no-fly zones to protect Shia in the south, and Kurds in the north, from being bombed by Saddam's air force. All of this just to keep Saddam "in his box."

The irony of all this now is that the only component of this arrangement that actually worked was the military one—the no-fly zones really did protect the people we were trying to protect.

But the sanctions weren’t otherwise so effective. Like every dictator could be expected to do, Saddam responded to the reduced oil revenue by simply using more of the remainder of Iraq’s assets for his own military, security, and palace-building projects, while the average Iraqis went without. The result was shortages of food and medicine, sick and starving children, and the international community blaming the USA for the effects of the sanctions instead of Saddam, who was the undeniable First Cause of the whole problem.

As writer Joshua Micah Marshall wrote in November 2002, “if Saddam's in a box, we're in there with him.”

Exposing the flaws in what he called "unworkable deterrence," Marshall said:

Every year the burden of sanctions weighs lighter on Saddam--the regime gets to sell more oil for humanitarian and other non-military purposes. As the flow of revenue rises, more can be skimmed off for military objectives. And every year the diplomatic capital we must expend to keep the sanctions in place grows. The Muslim world blames us for the civilian deaths, the images of dying babies--even if these tragedies are mainly due to Saddam's manipulation of sanctions rather than the sanctions themselves. Similarly, we pay a heavy price for the garrisons that we maintain in the region to keep Iraq contained. One needn't be an Osama bin Laden appeaser to recognize that the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia has been a major rallying cry for al Qaeda recruitment. All told, if Saddam's in a box, we're in there with him. Yes, war against Iraq would be violent, destructive, and destabilizing. What supporters of containment often ignore is that their policy has quite similar results--just spread out over time.

The policies didn't work at all in making Saddam cooperate with the world community. By March 2003 he had flipped off the UN and their feckless resolutions 16 times.

And the liberals of the world hated the sanctions. Or, rather, they hated us and the British for being the only ones trying to enforce the sanctions. Just as the world community hasn't shown much pluck in helping out in Iraq now, they weren’t going to stick with the sanctions for much longer back then, either. (And that was even without knowing then, as we didn’t know in 2003, just how successfully Saddam was using the oil-for-food program to buy influence and corrupt the process: at the UN (Kofi Annan), amongst the weapons inspectors, (Scott Ritter), and to buy off international Western leaders, (Jacques Chirac).

Even those who weren’t being bought off by Saddam couldn’t pass up the chance to blame the effects of the sanctions on America. The truth is that liberals hated the sanctions, but not because they care about starving children: but because they never feel more alive than when accusing the United States of crimes against humanity.

By 2000 it was to the point where a supercilious Amy Goodman got to interrogate then-President Clinton this way:

AMY GOODMAN: President Clinton, UN figures show that up to 5,000 children a month die in Iraq because of the sanctions against Iraq.

President Clinton, to his credit, flatly contradicted this, and explained that,

“If any child is without food or medicine or a roof over his or her head in Iraq, it's because he is claiming the sanctions are doing it and sticking it to his own children. We have worked like crazy to make sure that the embargo only applies to his ability to reconstitute his weapon system and his military statement.”

No matter. Goodman just came back with her next question.

"The UN says our policy is genocidal. How do you respond to that?"

(Oh, I don't know. How about: sanctions are the UN’s policy, too, Amy).
(“Bill Clinton on Sanctions Against IraqAmy Goodman interviews Bill Clinton”).

In 2001, four years before he crowned his career by becoming one of Saddam's defense attorneys, Ramsey Clark referred to the sanctions as “genocide,” and insisted they “must be completely removed immediately. Every day the sanctions continue adds to the death toll of the worst genocide of the last decade of the most violent century in human history.” (End Sanctions, Prohibit Assaults On Iraq).

Always a zealous prosecutor when indicting his own country, Clark charged that even America's efforts to resolve the worst effects of sanctions were stained with a criminal motive:

The U.S., realizing that world opinion will no longer tolerate the sanctions, is seeking to take credit for modifying them while its purpose will be to continue to control their implementation and cause their reinstatement for alleged violations by Iraq.

Then in December 2003 The Nation was crying that:

“The humanitarian disaster resulting from sanctions against Iraq has been frequently cited as a factor that motivated the September 11 terrorist attacks. Osama bin Laden himself mentioned the Iraq sanctions in a recent tirade against the United States. Critics of US policy in Iraq claim that sanctions have killed more than a million people, many of them children. (“A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions”).

Even the Vatican disapproved of the sanctions regime.

But now, after the Left has had five years to work out the kinks in their No War in Iraq at All Costs Policy, they discover that they love the sanctions. When challenged for their solutions to the ongoing instability Saddam's regime stood for in the wake of 9/11 , his threats to his neighbors, and his internal brutality, we’re told that “containment was working and that Saddam was still in a box”; wrote a repentant Jacob Weisberg at Slate recently, "[S]anctions were working…Saddam had given up his WMD programs.”
(“How Did I Get Iraq Wrong?I believed the groupthink and contributed to it.")

Containment, we're now told, was the obvious solution preferable to this “unnecessary war.” But the harping about the unnecessity of the war is just supposed to show that there was no necessity to do anything about Saddam, in 1992, 2001, 2003, or ever, which obviously wasn’t the case. But, reply the liberals--reply now, that is--military action was unnecessary, --because containment was working!

So are you able to follow this? Our criminal illegal war was unnecessary because our criminal, genocidal sanctions were working.

Which is intellectually unsatisfying, I find, as writer Jeff Weintraub points out:

Sanctions against Iraq are a crucial part of the "policy of containment." If the sanctions are criminal, then how can the policy be "working well"? And if the sanctions are removed, the "policy of containment" will collapse. You can't have it both ways.
(“Iraq sanctions & the moral contradictions of "anti-war" rhetoric”).

Jack Spencer at Heritage wrote,

Some claim we had Saddam "in a box" - that sanctions were working and war was unnecessary. How were sanctions working? Saddam kept a team of scientists on hand to resume WMD programs the minute the West looked the other way. His oppression and mass murder continued unchecked. The United States spent billions on its "no-fly zones" in the north and south, which ensured the Iraqi people would continue to starve even as their leader continued to build palaces and other monuments to himself. (“No Evidence of WMD Required”).

The fact of history, and fairly recent history, too, is that, short of removing Saddam's regime by force in what antiwar critics keep calling a “war without end,” we would have had sanctions without end, containment without end, US bases in Saudi Arabia without end, and, (big surprise), world resentment without end. Short of being made dead somehow by others, Saddam would probably have lived many more years, and Uday and Qusay would have survived, too, young, healthy, and ready to step into their dad’s hobnail boots. To paraphrase John McCain, under the sanctions policiy, we’d be in Iraq for 100 years.

The point is that sanctions hadn’t worked in to truly make Saddam harmless, except to keep him straining on his leash for several years. A leash that was ready to snap. Once the sanctions were gone, (since Saddam had already thrown inspectors out in 1998), he'd be back at it like a shot. (Again, this was what we already knew in 2003--before all the facts came out about the oil-for-food scandal, and the genius Saddam had for buying friends among world leaders to help him get around the sanctions.) As David Kay reported,

Saddam… had not given up his aspirations and intentions to continue to acquire weapons of mass destruction [and] intended to resume these programs whenever the external restrictions were removed. Several of these officials acknowledge receiving inquiries since 2000 from Saddam or his sons about how long it would take to either restart CW production or make available chemical weapons.

And among the things Saddam did to get out from under the sanctions was to manipulate the American left. That’s where McDermott, Bonior, and Thompson came in: they were some of the useful idiots he could use to help get those sanctions lifted. The war intervened, no thanks to McDermott, Bonior, and Thompson.

And because of the war to depose Saddam we don't have to worry about the sanctions regime any more, nor weapons inspectors, nor no-fly zones, nor a re-arming Saddam next door to a nuclear arming Iran, nor, for that matter, Saddam, Uday, or Qsay.

They're staying in their boxes now.

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