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All roads lead to Iraq: Wolfowitz & the hawks versus the coalition builders

By Jackson Murphy
web posted October 22, 2001

The Letter

It took roughly a week for the 'hawks' to make their desires known after the attacks of September 11th. It was a letter drafted by the Weekly Standard's William Kristol and signed by prominent conservatives such as William Bennett, Charles Krauthammer, Francis Fukuyama, Frank Gaffney, and Richard Perle and sent to the President.

They endorse the war on terrorism and advocate the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network. The letter also stated that, "even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the 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."

Many believe that conservatives basically fall into two camps. David Plotz of Slate neatly describes that there are, "the Kissinger-style realists [who] believe that the US can work with any regime, however nasty to maintain the balance of power." The other group is the "moralizing neocons" such as those who work for the Weekly Standard who, "wish to spread American values everywhere, backed by American military power, and damn the geopolitical consequence."

Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz

Then there is Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz. Newt Gingrich describes him as a little like "Kissinger without all the flamboyance." He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from Cornell and his doctorate in political science from the University of Chicago and that helps to explain his calculated and smart approach to threats. Business Week wrote during the 2000 election that Wolfowitz would give a Bush II administration the "vision thing."

Think of Wolfowitz as one of the hard-liners who during the Cold War advocated not just a face off with Communism but the rollback of Communism around the world. Only now it is the rollback of threats -- in this case terrorism and those who harbor or sponsor it.

Wolfowitz is the North Pole to Colin Powell's South. The two heavy weights of the administration offer Bush two vastly different approaches, which he can choose from depending on the issue.

The letter has prompted a response from the usual suspects such as the New York Times and some unusual such as supply-sider Jude Wanniski. Anthony Lewis from the Times suggests that, "reports indicate that deputy secretary of defense Paul D. Wolfowitz, and others are still pushing for an invasion of Iraq in order to oust President Saddam Hussein."

Lewis goes on to say that; "An attack on Iraq would be American unilateralsim in extreme form, anathema to Britain, other European allies and Muslim states." Lewis's belief is that any action on Iraq will result in the "overthrow of friendly Muslim regimes." Wanniski, founder of Polyconomics Inc. and former editor at the Wall Street Journal, claims that Wolfowitz became "bored with Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden long before the strike began" on October 7th.

His beef is that this desired action would make it difficult for Bush and Powell to hold together the coalition, "when the Islamic world everyday reads in the public prints or sees television commentary about how Iraq is next on the list."

Why Iraq?

But if this war on terrorism is going to accomplish its task it means that all terrorism must be wiped out including any sponsored or harbored in Iraq. And to be fair the letter outlines a plan that involves providing a safe-zone in which the opposition can operate and a place the US military can use to back them up.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein meets with members of the Revolutionary Command Council on October 7
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein meets with members of the Revolutionary Command Council on October 7

An International Herald Tribune article reported that some Pentagon officials were working to mobilize support for a military operation designed to oust Saddam Hussein. The story suggests that the "Wolfowitz cabal", so labeled by members of the State department and Capitol Hill, has developed a strategy that will use Iraqi opposition in the south to seize the oilfields to finance itself and support a northern Kurdish opposition as well.

Wanniski is more concerned with Richard Perle who signed the letter and is chair of the Defense Policy Board because he has his minions Kristol in Washington and William Safire in New York to report these hawk positions. The board met for 19 hours on September 19 & 20th and agreed for the need to take on Iraq after the first phase was over -- Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were in attendance for parts of the meeting.

Board member Gingrich said in an interview that, "if we don't use this as the moment to replace Mr. Saddam after we replace the Taliban, we are setting the stage for disaster."

In his memo to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and posted on his website, Wanniski concludes that the only thing he can do is to fire Paul Wolfowitz.

The Iraq Report (http://www.rferl.org/iraq -- report/ ) was created three years ago as a byproduct of Radio Free Iraq by Congress to provide news to the Iraqi people and has documented the regimes unending quest to acquire and develop weapons of mass destruction.

In April the report printed news that the German Intelligence service BND had learned that Iraq was developing a new class of chemical weapons for the production of poison gas and that German companies were delivering the components to accomplish this. In August the report wrote that both China and Russia were providing Baghdad with expert assistance in rebuilding its Chemical and biological weapons and on October 5th the report reprinted news from a London paper about an Iraqi defector who said that while Iraq had abandoned its desire for nuclear weapons it had resumed its desire for manufacturing chemical toxins and the means to deploy them.

The evidence against Iraq is growing day by day. Shortly after the attack Bill Gertz of the Washington Times reported that the hijacker's ringleader Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi intelligence over a year ago.

To connect the recent anthrax reports at the Capital building and major news organizations many are relying on Egyptian intelligence that believes Iraq handed over anthrax to one of the suicide bombers of 9/11. Former UN weapons inspector Richard Butler told CNN that, "it's possible that many months ago anthrax, a small quantity of it, was handed over in Prague to Mohammed Atta . . . and the person who handed it over was an Iraqi."

The only evidence that Iraq has been warned were comments by US ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, who warned his counterpart Iraqi envoy Mohammed Douri that, "there will be a military strike against you and you will be defeated," if Iraq starts some trouble.

The Knight-Ridder newspaper group reported that former CIA director James Woolsey went to London to gather evidence linking the attack and Iraq. The evidence Woolsey was looking for was whether convicted terrorist Ramzi Youssef was actually an Iraqi agent. It is interesting to note that Youssef fled the US after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and later tried to plot the bombing of a dozen planes over the Pacific Ocean, which was foiled only when the bombing materials went up in flames in Manila.

In another Slate article David Plotz begins by asserting that the "Iraq hawks are circling." He points to the work of Laurie Mylroie who publishes a newsletter called Iraq News and was former professor at the US Naval War College. Her theory is that Iraq probably sponsored the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and put two and two together to suggest that they are behind this one as well.

Her book Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America (2000) puts forth the hypothesis that prosecutors and journalists were wrong to find that the 1993 bombing was inspired by Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. Instead she believes that Youssef was an Iraqi intelligence agent.

Coalition builders versus the hawks

And many commentators, conservative or otherwise, realize that the best way to defend against terrorism attacks, especially biological, is not to hand out Cipro but to go on the offensive against those regimes which support or use terrorism as an extension of policy. It is no surprise but must be pointed out nevertheless that US public support for bombing has begun to rise, as increasing reports of anthrax become known.

Not all support comes within the Republican circles. "As long as Saddam is there, Iraq is not just going to be a thorn in our side, but a threat to our lives,'' Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told reporters. Even if Al Gore had won the presidency last year the debate over expanding the war to a second front would get play with Lieberman.

Not everyone agrees. "Throwing Iraq into the mix of targets associated with the terror attacks against the United States -- absent any verifiable linkage -- should be avoided at all costs," wrote Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector in a recent Los Angeles Times Op-ed.
William F. Buckley wrote in a recent article that, "The evidence at hand is not what we would need in a court of law. We would not, in 1942, have been able to prove that Adolf Hitler was exterminating the Jews." His point is that we do not need conclusive proof to ask to see inside the country and see what Iraq is up to.

In other words why wait for the other shoe to drop and awake one morning to find that there is a large-scale biological attack. Iraq is the reason for this fear. Only Iraq and before Russia have developed and stockpiled such a capacity for terror -- Russia can't deal with the weapons they have, and Iraq's leader is just crazy enough to use them.

It brings us back to the two evolving camps within the Bush Administration. On the one side the "Coalition builders" under Powell, which includes his top aids Richard Armitage and Richard Haass. This group also has tacit support from Bush I's National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft who along with Powell ensured the temperate internationalist solution to the Gulf War in 1991.

On the other side are the "Hawks". Paul Wolfowitz was saying the same things in 1991 about Iraq and sees this scenario as a last chance to deal with this problem once and for all. He is supported by Cheney's chief of staff Lewis Libby and of course Perle.

But the Real power of the Bush II war cabinet resides in current NSA Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. And both have remained pretty much neutral so far -- meaning Powell and the doves haven't won yet.

Had Bush I gone all the way and dealt with the problem then, this wouldn't even be an issue. Couple that with the eight years of neglect in Iraq policy in the Clinton Administration that showed Hussein, bin Laden, and others that America was not serious about stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or stopping terror. But now chickens have come home to roost -- and while it is Bush II the players, give or take a few, are the same. Can they come to a different conclusion than they did in 1991 with cases of Anthrax hitting major news organizations and seats of power?

Can any 'war on terrorism' leave in power a man who has for over a decade sought weapons of mass destruction? The answer to the question is an obvious no.

Saddam Hussein brags about his militia of seven million volunteers ready to fight Israel. Even if that figure is true, which seems impossible, we cannot just leave him alone and bush should side with Wolfowitz this time. If this means that the 'coalition' will wither, then so be it.

Jackson Murphy is a young independent commentator from Vancouver, Canada writing on domestic and international political issues. He is a frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and writes weekly at suite101.com. You can reach him at jacksonmurphy@telus.net.

Buy Laurie Mylroie's Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America at Amazon.com for only $24.95

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