Clinton Undermines U.S. Hero, Helps Saddam Dodge Inspections
Perlmutter, Amos, Insight on the News
If authoritative reports are true that President Clinton undermined, in 1996 and 1997, the courageous and penetrating work of the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, then he unwittingly has become an ally of Saddam Hussein. The continued efforts in the last two years on the part of the administration to compromise its own rhetorically asserted bold policy should be of utmost concern, for it directly impinges on the national interest, the credibility of the United States and its president.
The architect of this policy is Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. While touting during the January 1998 crisis that the United States would not tolerate anything short of an "unfettered" regime of inspections, if the reports are correct, both she and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger have deceived the American people. This cover-up was blown by inspector William S. Ritter Jr., the most experienced, effective and courageous member of the UNSCOM team. In an interview with the New York Times on Aug. 27, Ritter asserted that: "The Administration had been secretly trying since late last year to find a diplomatic solution to its confrontation with Hussein. In doing so, he said, it abandoned a policy in effect since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 to use sanctions and the threat of military force to compel the Iraqi leader's cooperation."
What was at stake was the effort of the administration to frustrate provocative and necessary UNSCOM inspection tactics. The most effective inspection is unannounced. In the past, surprise inspections have yielded more information about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction than what the inspectors call "perishable" inspections--i.e. the Iraqis, aware of the inspector's target, remove all evidence. What is most disturbing is Ritter's statement that, "The illusion of arms control is more dangerous than no arms control at all."
The question that emerges now is why would the administration undermine its own declared policy? In my view, it was not without purpose. To paraphrase Henry Kissinger, the administration's intention was to make the use of force "implausible." This is double deception. Not only did the administration undermine its policy, but also the pretense in January of a show of toughness by sending two U.S. aircraft carriers to the Gulf supposedly to affect Saddam's behavior, which turned out to be a bluff. Think of the cost we have incurred and continue to incur in a military exercise that Saddam is aware, by virtue of the administration's double dealing, is no threat to him. …