Saddam promises more bounties for suicide bombers in Rather interview
In a much publicized second interview with CBS’s Dan Rather, Iraqi’s President Saddam Hussein insisted that continual American pressure had little effect. “Look at Afghanistan. Here it is almost October 2005, and America is still fighting the Taliban, so I don’t think they will dare come to our Iraq. But we are ready to be martyred nonetheless.”
The Iraqi president who was hosting Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas also denied rumors that Iraqi agents had attempted to assassinate former President Bill Clinton. On recent disclosures of a plot against him, President Clinton left nearby Kuwait, where he had lectured his hosts on the dangers of WMD proliferation in Iraq.
Among the more tense moments of the Rather interview was Saddam’s insistence that Iran’s nuclear program demanded an “Arab response.” The Iraqi leader also promised to increase his bounties to suicide bombers on the West Bank to $40,000 per family, and planned to expand the program to include martyrs who joined the Taliban resistance. CBS’s Rather grimaced, “I guess that $70-a-barrel oil give you a pretty wide berth, Mr. President.”
Terrorists in Baghdad?
In response to Iraq’s insistence that U.N. inspectors would not be allowed back in, and rumors that several terrorists were residing in Baghdad, Secretary of State Rice issued a call for a continuance of the controversial no-fly zones and the U.N. embargo. “We cannot relent; the moment we do there will be a holocaust in Kurdistan. We are in a war against terror. It is bad enough that we know Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas reside in Baghdad, but Saddam is also openly harboring Abdul Rahman Yasin and Ahmed Hikmat Shakir who were connected to the plot in 1993 to blow up the World Trade Center and other anti-American terrorism. This is intolerable after 9/11. Now we find out that this al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who fled our forces in Afghanistan is also with Saddam. And al Qaeda’s affiliated Ansar al-Islam is openly operating in Kurdistan with Saddam’s approval.”
No-fly zone weariness
Military officials reacted to Sec. Rice’s warnings with some skepticism. An unnamed Air Force general added, “Holy Cow, we are up to a half-million of these sorties, going on 15 years now. At some point, we have to ask whether or not it is worth trying to take away 2/3s of the guy’s air space. When does it all end?”
Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni who oversaw Operation Desert Fox seven years ago on Saddam’s weapons’ installations, warned, “We have no idea what he had, what we hit, what is left. As I said earlier, after the 1998 raid we took out 100 targets, killed maybe 2,000 Iraqis, and struck 85 percent of the WMD operations, but who knows what’s there now?
The Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani of the PUK reacted sharply to press accounts that the British and Americans were tiring of some 15 years of no-fly zone enforcements. “A day without planes means death to us, you must remember 1991 when you let him attack us from the air. We have Ansar Al –Islam doing Saddam’s dirty work, even though the Americans know these terrorists are connected with Osama bin Laden.”
Saddam’s new oil?
Reuters reported today of undisclosed arrangements concerning Saddam Hussein and French and Russian consortia to explore new areas of Iraq for possible petroleum development. But French officials hotly denied charges that they had accepted an offer of 75 percent of the revenues for each barrel pumped from all new fields developed. CIA analysts estimated that recent revenue increases of $30 to $40 per barrel in price hikes had given Saddam over $100 billion in windfall profits. One anonymous analyst asked, “Where does all this money go? Perhaps that is why France, Germany, Russia, and China are lining up to provide Saddam with anything he wants.”
U.N. to monitor windfall profits
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan promised that all the Iraqi windfall profits from recent oil spikes would fall under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program. To ensure transparency and public audit, Secretary Annan asked his son and special envoy Kojo Annan to fly to Switzerland to consult Swiss financial institutions about monitoring oil vouchers. “No other program except such a U.N. international effort could ensure the integrity of some $50 billion in commerce. The lives of Iraqi children are at stake and we take our humanitarian task very, very seriously. It is another reminder of why we need a strong United Nations.”
At the same time, Secretary Annan also warned that the U.N. program may soon have to come to an end. “After the American inspired crisis of 2003 passed, we now see a new willingness of our member nations in the General Assembly to bring Saddam Hussein back into the family of nations. No one really wants to see another American blunder like Afghanistan.”
Senators exasperated with Bush inaction
On the domestic scene both conservative and liberal spokesmen voiced disappointment with President Bush’s apparent vacillation and willingness to let Saddam violate the sanctions and U.N. inspections. A group of three Democratic senators–Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry–reminded the president that the Senate had voted overwhelmingly over three years ago to authorize the military removal of Saddam Hussein, and suggested that the old “Jim Baker/Frank Carlucci realpolitik” was at work again, or as Sen. Clinton put it, “Just pump that oil and it’s O.K. with us that he does pretty much what he wants to his people.”
Sen. Clinton went on to hammer the president, “We need leadership, not more of the same old, same old that we see with North Korea and Iran. Could I remind the president that three years ago we cited 23 reasons to remove Saddam Hussein and approved them all by a 77 vote, and that the House got nearly 300 votes in their similar resolution? And all this follows the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act passed by the Senate and signed by my husband.”
Sen. John Kerry recalled for President Bush that over three years ago he had been on record to remove Saddam, and recited his earlier statement in the Senate issued in 2002: “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force–if necessary–to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
Conservatives fault Bush wavering
The Project For The New American Century sent yet a third letter demanding the removal of Saddam Hussein. Spokesmen reminded President Bush that they had asked President Clinton for Saddam’s overthrow in 1998 (“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing.”)
Signers also pointed out to President George W. Bush that the group had written him as well, over four years ago and recited the key words of that September 20, 2001, warning, “…But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the [9/11] attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.”
One prominent signer sighed, “We are Bush’s base. If the losses mount in Iraq, he can always count on us–everyone of us who signed these letters is rock solid and will stick by their Commander-in-Chief, thick or thin. There is not a single one of us who is the sort who would ask for a war, then bail when it gets hairy.”
Pakistan nuclear antics?
CNN reported that Pakistan scientist Dr. A. Q. Khan, who some believe has been involved in international nuclear trafficking, was currently in Tripoli advising those directing Libyan weapons procurement. Dr. Khan issued a press release affirming the peaceful nature of his visit. “Libya, like Iran,” Dr. Khan noted, “is looking beyond oil and wishes to prepare itself for non-petroleum energy needs. Like Pakistan, Col. Khadafy is looking at peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
Saddam chides Arab League
From Baghdad the Arab League issued a statement praising President Bahsar Assad of Syria for the work of Syrian peacekeepers in Lebanon. President Assad replied, “We will always stay to show solidarity with our Lebanese and Iraqi brothers until the Zionists stop their plots and aggression against Beirut. Our brother Saddam Hussein has shown the entire Arab nation how we can resist the American imperialists and this lion has given us the courage to stay on in Lebanon.”
Saddam Hussein also announced to the delegates that over two million Iraqi children had starved from the ongoing U.N. boycotts. “The Zionists and British are American puppets who stir up the Kurdish and Shiite dogs against us. While the sons of the Arab world starve, the Arab nation does little. O brothers, where was the 40th SCUD? And where is the next dollar for our martyred brothers in Palestine?”
Galloway meets Aziz
British MP George Galloway congratulated Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz for his resistance to foreign pressures. “Thanks to Saddam, one of the twin virgins of Islam is still pure here in Baghdad,” Galloway reportedly told Aziz, “but the other in Jerusalem has fallen.”
“Foreign Minister Aziz has assured me,” Galloway went on , “that if the Americans come, thousands of them will never go back home. And so they wisely backed off. That should send a strong message of hope to our brothers in Damascus and Libya–and despair to all other the troublemakers in the shadows–about the American paper tiger. “
Uday, Qusay to visit Brussels
The two sons of Saddam Hussein, the crown princes Uday and Qusai Hussein, continued their triumphant tour of foreign capitals, seeking to cement details on the new proposed Iraqi pipeline through Turkey to the Mediterranean to reach potential European markets. “Fortunately our friends in Brussels do not believe the lies of the Zionists and the Kurdish criminals. They know we in Iraq operate under the rule of law and the Americans are the real killers of our Iraqi children. We see a good future for Iraq and its new European partnership.”
Mubarak, royal family see a new sanity in Washington
President Mubarak met with American officials and forecast a bright new chapter in Arab-American relations. “Now that this democratic frenzy about replacing the legitimate leader of Iraq has past, I see better relations between Washington and Egypt. Some of those troublemakers in Washington had insane notions about Saddam, and really believed such nonsense. Imagine the idea of Iraqis voting for their own constitution and leaders while American soldiers stood watching it all in Baghdad! It was all quite mad, and we are all happy that the Americans have returned to their past realism of letting us handle our own affairs in the Arab world. What were they planning–to let the Iraqis put Saddam on trial in Baghdad?”
An anonymous spokesmen for the royal family of Saudi Arabia echoed President Mubarak’s relief. “We, like Saddam, have oil to sell and you need oil to buy; what more is there to know? We have our own pace, our own customs. So we are glad to see President Bush leave Iraq alone, and stop these childish games of pushing democracy down our throats in service to the Kurdish zealots and Shiite apostates. Our own leaders know what is best for our people and that is why they want nothing to do with this Zionist effort to remove Saddam Hussein, who along with us alone has helped the martyrs in Palestine. Who wants another Afghanistan mess? Bravo, President Bush for remembering who your true friends are.”
Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and a teaching fellow at Hillsdale College for the month of September. His book A War Like No Other. How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War (Random House) appears this month.