Jewish World Review Oct. 2, 2002 / 26 Tishrei, 5763
Not since Jane Fonda posed for photographers at a Hanoi antiaircraft gun has there been anything like Rep. Jim McDermott, speaking to ABC's "This Week" from Baghdad, saying Americans should take Saddam Hussein at his word but should not take President Bush at his. McDermott, in his seventh term representing Seattle, said Iraqi officials promised him and his traveling companion, Rep. David E. Bonior, a 13-term Michigan Democrat, that weapons inspectors would be "allowed to look anywhere."
Bonior, until recently second-ranking in the House Democratic leadership, said sources no less reliable than Hussein's minions told them that inspectors would have an "unrestricted ability to go where they want." McDermott said: "I think you have to take the Iraqis on their value -- at their face value." And: "I think the president would mislead the American people."
McDermott and Bonior are two specimens of what Lenin, referring to Westerners who denied the existence of Lenin's police-state terror, called "useful idiots." Perhaps Iraqi officials, knowing fathomless gullibility when they see it -- they have dealt with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- actually said such things. Or perhaps McDermott and Bonior heard what they wished to hear. Either way, these innocents abroad should have known that Iraq's proclaimed policy is:
The only permissible inspections would be those permitted by the 1998 agreement Hussein reached with his servant, Annan, who was last seen doing his Neville Chamberlain impersonation, waving a piece of paper (Iraq's recent letter promising weapons inspections "without conditions") that he said meant peace in our time. Under the 1998 agreement, various inspections are forbidden, such as any at eight "presidential sites" -- about 12 square miles of facilities, with thousands of buildings.
McDermott sided with Hussein in opposing what McDermott calls the "coercive stuff" -- inspections backed by force, which are the only kind that have even a remote chance of being productive. Parroting Hussein's line to perfection, he said "Iraq did not drive the inspectors out, we" -- actually, the United Nations -- "took them out. So they should be given a chance." His implication is that America, not Iraq, foiled inspections.
Bonior's contribution from Baghdad was to charge that "a horrendous, barbaric, horrific" number of cases of childhood leukemia and lymphomas have been caused by "uranium that has been part of our weapons system that was dropped here during the last war." These weapons "are coated with uranium that atomize and cause these serious health problems."
This familiar accusation, which struck Bonior as new, concerns the use of depleted uranium as a heavy metal (also used in the armor plating of U.S. tanks) to increase the armor-penetrating ability of anti-tank munitions. The radiation involved is much less than that occurring naturally in the Iraqi soil where tank battles occurred in 1991. At least a dozen U.S., U.N. and European studies, including one involving U.S. soldiers who still have depleted uranium in their bodies resulting from "friendly fire" accidents, show no grounds for believing in the health effects Baghdad and Bonior claim.
McDermott's accusation that the president -- presumably with Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld, Rice and others as accomplices -- would use deceit to satisfy his craving to send young Americans into an unnecessary war is a slander licensed six days earlier by Al Gore. With transparent Nixonian trickiness -- being transparent, it tricks no one -- Gore all but said the president is orchestrating war policy for political gain in November.
Gore and many other Democrats who supported the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, with which the Clinton administration endorsed regime change, are now engaged in moral infantilism -- willing the end but refusing to will any realistic means to that end. Such evasions define today's Democrats, even in domestic policy, as when Tom Daschle and others say Bush's tax cuts are calamitous but flinch from saying the cuts should be rescinded.
McDermott's and Bonior's espousal of Saddam Hussein's line, and of Gore's subtext (and Barbra Streisand's libretto), signals the recrudescence of the dogmatic distrust of U.S. power that virtually disqualified the Democratic Party from presidential politics for a generation. It gives the benefits of all doubts to America's enemies and reduces policy debates to accusations about the motives of Americans who would project U.S. power in the world.
Conservative isolationism -- America is too good for the world -- is long dead. Liberal isolationism -- the world is too good for America -- is flourishing.
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