Remembering the President's Words, Redux
Well, I'm not the only one who recently looked back at what Clinton had to say about Iraq and WMD. Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit posted a screed from James Lileks, who looked back at Clinton's 1998 speech and US policy then. The bottom line, but for the name Bush, nothing has changed. But we knew that. Good though to see a man of Lileks' wit and rage as well as Reynold's popularity (I think his is the most highly viewed weblog) to be on the point.
But Lileks also went further than the speech to see what the GOP reaction was as well as our friends at the UN. Some interesting foretelling of the reaction today.
One interesting thing I found, was that when I searched for Clinton's speech, I found a host of articles, mostly from the far left, but also from the far right, that bashed Clinton in much the same way that Bush has been bashed. The real difference then however, was that it was the fringe. So, not a lot of attention was paid to those views. Also, Clinton bombed only for 4 days, so the opposition never got terribly mobilized (although, in those 4 days, we dropped more tonnage of bombs than in the whole 1991 Gulf War, which is remarkable). Now, however, some of those fringe views have become mainstream Democrat positions. And that really is the subtext to Lileks' piece.... the blatant hypocrisy is somewhat amazing. Anyway, here is what he said:
"Okay, well, outtakes: went back to the microfilm today to February 1998, when the Clinton adminstration was making the case for attacking Iraq. How things change. Clinton was arguing that Saddam not only had WMD, but that one day he might want to make more WMD, and this wasn’t acceptable. Interesting to read between the lines - the Clinton administration seemed to be arguing that the potential for future production was itself a valid reason to strike. Military force is never "the first answer,' Clinton said, “but sometimes it’s the only answer.” “It Saddam isn’t stopped now,” the AP story said, quoting Clinton,“’He will conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of devastating destruction. And someday, someway, I guarantee you, he’ll use that arsenal.’” Thus spake Clinton in 1998. He went on to note that the strikes planned could not possibly destroy Saddam’s arsenal, because A) they didn’t know where everything was, and B) they didn’t want to kill Iraqis by unleashing clouds of toxins. And it gets better: a sidebar noted that this war plan – Desert Thunder – had been prepared weeks before, in case Saddam stiffed in the inspectors.
Bill Clinton had a plan to go to war before the crisis flared! What does that tell you? Obviously, he was looking for any excuse! Halliburton! We all know about the ties between Clinton and Halliburton – he gave them a sweet no-bid contract after his Balkans war, you know.
Anyway: it's deja vut all over again. You want to talk imminence? WMD? Democratic concern and conviction? Go back to the papers of 1998; it’s all there, right down to the terrorist links: Hezbollah, for example, swears it will strike Israel if the US attacks Iraq. (A poll of Palestinians showed that 94% supported Iraq, and 77% wanted Iraq to kill Jews if the US attacked Iraq.) Bob Dole was quoted as supporing the strikes but urging Clinton to seek Congressional Authorization. A story on Bush 41’s reaction said that the former president would completely support Clinton if he decided to attack, but noted that Bush 41 urged Clinton to get more international support - which was lacking at the time.
And indeed, Kofi struck a deal. Which fell apart by summertime. Which lead to cruise missile strikes. Which lead to boredom and disengagement. Which lead to half a decade of Saddam on the throne and the dissidents in the shredders and the tots in the gulag and dead people heaped in ditches and oil-for-palaces deals and Uday and Qusay pleasuring themselves in Rapeland Incorporated and Abu Nidal putting his feet up in a Baghdad apartment, pouring a nice cool glass of tea, and thinking: ah. This is the life.
I’m so old I actually remember when the Democrats cared about Iraq."