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Background notes about Martin Peretz, Editor-in Chief/Publisher, The New Republic, and the New Republic itself: * In the mid-1960s Peretz was one of now-Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's Harvard political science professors (E.g., see Melinda Henneberger, "A Test of Character, The New York Times, 21 June 2000) and became one of (if not the most influential of) Gore's "mentors." (E.g., see Howard Kurtz, "The Publisher's Winning Ticket," The Washington Post, 17 August 2000) * Peretz is a long-time advocate for Israel and Zionism (E.g., see Martin Peretz, "Zionism: the 'God' that did not Fail: if it succeeded, it did so not least because it was not a God. It was a morality, and a politics, of worldliness," The Gazette (Montreal) 25 April 1998, SECTION: THE REVIEW; Pg. B4 LENGTH: 2558 words) * In late 1990, "Among those leading the [Gulf] war campaign, one group is made up of former government officials and private-sector policy experts whose main concern has been to halt the spread of nuclear weapons. Individuals in a second, larger and more influential group share a long history of support for Israel, which has long seen Iraq as a major threat that it wishes to eliminate. Among the more publicly prominent members of that group are columnist William Safire, former Reagan Administration defense official Richard N. Perle and Martin Peretz, editor of New Republic magazine, all of whom have publicly campaigned for the Administration to adopt elimination of Hussein as its ultimate policy option." (David Lauter, "'War Lobby'" Urges Military Solution," The Los Angeles Times, 14 September 1990) * Just hours before casting his Senate vote to support sending U.S. troops to fight in the Persian Gulf, then-Tennessee Senator Al Gore consulted Peretz (John Aloysius Farrell, "Allegation Revived: Simpson Says Gore 'Shopped' Gulf Vote, The Boston Globe, 5 February 2000) * Robert Fisk, Correspondent, The Independent (UK), categorized The New Republic as "pro-Israeli" (Robert Fisk, "Pity the Nation: the Abduction of Lebanon," (New York: Atheneum, 1990), pg. 413) To E-mail a Letter to the New Republic: <email@example.com> To post a letter to the New Republic: 1220 19th St. NW Suite 600 Washington, DC 20036 tel: 202-331-7494 fax: 202-331-0275 "All letters should include the writer’s full name, address, and telephone number and be fewer than 200 words. Letters may be edited for space and clarity." <http://www.thenewrepublic.com/contact.html> ***************************************************************** http://www.thenewrepublic.com/103000/kaplan103000.html The New Republic Volume 223 Number 18 Rollback by Lawrence F. Kaplan 30 October 2000 "If their intention was to deter us from our mission of promoting peace and security in the Middle East," President Clinton declared upon hearing of the terrorist attack against the USS Cole in Yemen last week, "they will fail, utterly." But, as it happens, the young sailors on the Cole died on a mission its architects themselves no longer believe in. When attacked, the ship was en route to the Persian Gulf to enforce America's policy of containment against Iraq—a policy that is leaking like a sieve. There is, to begin with, the crumbling U.N. sanctions regime. Iraq currently exports more oil than any other country save Saudi Arabia, earns more from oil sales than it did prior to the embargo, and has been using those earnings to replenish its military arsenal. No one knows how fast that arsenal is growing because of the absence of U.N. weapons inspections, whose resumption the Clinton administration has blocked. Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein is fast being rehabilitated on the international scene. And, in recent months, emboldened Iraqi forces have violated the no-fly zone with impunity, test-launched missiles, and massed troops on their neighbors' borders. The Iraqi opposition, for its part, is weak and divided. Administration officials privately insist that these developments, though regrettable, are beyond their control. They're not. The truth is that Saddam didn't torpedo our Iraq policy; the White House did. The story of containment's unraveling begins with a shift in American policy early last year. In 1997 and 1998, the United States responded to Saddam's refusal to submit to weapons inspections with repeated buildups of American power in the Persian Gulf. In the hope that simply wielding the "big stick" would bring the Iraqi dictator to his senses, the administration advertised in detail the comings and goings of American aircraft carriers and the movements—by quantity and type—of warplanes. And then, when it was actually time to use them, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan or President Clinton himself would devise a fig leaf to permit the United States to back down. Finally in December 1998, after Saddam's intransigence became too much to bear, the United States responded with a fusillade of missile strikes. But even then America's air campaign was severely limited in purpose, scope, duration, and effect. The weakness of the Clinton administration's response sparked a torrent of Republican criticism, obliging the president to endure sustained public humiliation and utterly demoralizing his foreign policy team. With the aim of, as White House officials put it, "keeping Iraq off the president's desk," the Clinton team in early 1999 commenced an internal review of Iraq policy. "Saddam seemed to win everywhere there was a confrontation," explains Patrick Clawson, an Iraq expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, describing the mindset that prompted the review. "So the administration decided it would be better off with Iraq off the front page." A National Security Council staffer who participated in the process says, "The whole point was to get Iraq to disappear off the radar screen." As a result, the review generated three policy recommendations: de-emphasize the use of force in public pronouncements, shore up the U.N. sanctions regime, and bolster the Iraqi opposition. This last goal was the only component of the review that the administration publicly disclosed. And it was also the only one that, inside the administration, was not meant to be taken seriously. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger publicly argued that Washington was now "pivoting" to a policy of "regime change," and Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk characterized the new policy as "containment plus regime change." In November 1998, the president had signed the Iraq Liberation Act, which pledged financial and military assistance to the Iraqi opposition, and White House aides now began to echo Republican calls for a doctrine of "rollback" in Iraq. But an official who took part in the review says talk of regime change and of aiding Saddam's opponents was "purely for public consumption." Indeed, far from embracing rollback, the administration rolled over. It wasn't the first time. The Clintonites had abandoned Saddam's opponents once before, in 1996, when the Iraqi leader launched an attack against the rebels' CIA-funded bases in the Kurdish "enclave" of northern Iraq, refusing to provide them with desperately needed air support. With the administration's approval, Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, then launched a public relations offensive, declaring in speeches and interviews that "a weak, fragmented, chaotic Iraq ... is more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam is now." And, to underscore the Iraqi opposition's putative weakness, the State Department peddled a list of competing exile groups, while Berger publicly discerned in plans to topple Saddam the likelihood of another Bay of Pigs. Today, its policy review notwithstanding, the White House continues to impede implementation of the Iraq Liberation Act, releasing only $50,000 of the $97 million in Pentagon funds Congress has allotted to the opposition. Additional State Department "aid" has been used to fund such pressing needs as a conflictmanagement program for Saddam's opponents founded by Roger Fisher, the author of Getting to Yes. "There has been almost no action taken to support the Iraqi opposition," says Francis Brooke, the Washington adviser to the anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress. In fact, the very officials tasked with administering support to Saddam's opponents routinely denigrate them. Soon after calling for stepped-up aid to the Iraqi opposition, Berger hired as his Iraq adviser Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst who had just co-written an article titled "The Rollback Fantasy." Not surprisingly, Pollack—who had touted Iraq's military prowess in the run-up to the Gulf war and dismissed Saddam's opponents in the pages of Foreign Affairs and at Council on Foreign Relations soirees—has become a lightning rod for Republican critics and members of the Iraqi opposition, who accuse him of trying to stymie their efforts to undermine Saddam. In a similar vein, Frank Ricciardone, the State Department coordinator responsible for implementing the Iraq Liberation Act, says the United States won't supply arms to the Iraqi opposition until "we know that they represent fighters who are willing to die" for regime change. (Thousands of them already have.) Ricciardone, like many in the administration, tells opposition leaders, bizarrely, that the United States cannot provide them with weapons because that would violate the U.N. embargo. As for the policy review's second aim, shoring up sanctions, Baghdad's newly reopened Saddam International Airport has been disgorging a steady stream of politicians and businessmen on unauthorized flights from Russia, France, and the Arab world. And the air traffic has elicited hardly a peep from Washington. On the contrary, the administration is now negotiating with the U.N. Sanctions Committee to revise the rules governing flights into Iraq so it won't appear that sanctions are being violated. A senior White House official explains that "the battle has been lost" but insists the administration is actively working to "retain a consensus" for isolating Iraq at the United Nations. But there is no such consensus. One after another, members of the Gulf war coalition have reopened their embassies in Baghdad, sent dignitaries to commune with Saddam, and lamented the injustice of the embargo. Turkey has even threatened that it may soon curtail U.S. flights that patrol the no-fly zone from its Incirlik air base. And this week Iraqi officials will travel to Egypt to attend their first Arab League meeting in a decade. For its part, the United States last December signed off on abolishing altogether the U.N.-imposed ceiling on Iraqi oil sales, while, outside the auspices of the United Nations, Baghdad smuggles out an additional $2 billion in oil a year, using the profits to replenish its military and erect garish palaces. Despite—or more likely because of—the fact that much of that oil transits our allies Turkey and Jordan, the United States has turned a blind eye, refusing to issue so much as a démarche. ut if the policy review's recommendations on the Iraqi opposition and sanctions have gone nowhere, its goal of pushing military confrontation off the radar screen has been aggressively pursued. Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in particular, have been eager to ratchet down the campaign of attrition in which U.S. warplanes have been engaged. Problem is, the Iraqis won't let them. As soon as the 1998 strikes ceased, Iraqi jets began challenging the no-fly zone and firing anti-aircraft guns and missiles at U.S. aircraft. Nonetheless, Albright and Berger went so far as to argue that U.S. aircraft shouldn't be allowed to attack surface-to-air missile sites under construction in the no-fly zone—at least not until fired upon themselves. Still, the air campaign continued. But it did so in a curious way. Intent on keeping the skirmishes with Iraq out of the headlines, the White House instructed the Pentagon to stop providing reporters with details about air strikes. The Pentagon also devised a strategy whereby the Air Force would fill 2,000-pound bombs with concrete instead of explosives and drop them on Iraq. "The guidance equipment is still there, but the cement is less expensive," explained Lieutenant Colonel Michael Waters, spokesman for the allied air operation over northern Iraq. But cost wasn't the only reason the United States started bombarding Iraq with anvils. "The way we're conducting this is kept within the parameters of political acceptability," an administration official told The New York Times. "We don't want things to go wrong." But things have gone wrong anyway. Iraq has violated the no-fly zones on hundreds of occasions during the past year and massed its troops on the Kuwaiti and, most recently, the Jordanian borders. And last month Iraq even crossed what Albright likes to call a "red line": An Iraqi fighter flew across the southern no-fly zone into Saudi Arabia—the first time an Iraqi plane had violated Saudi airspace in a decade. The Times noted without comment that U.S. planes "were not flying that day and were unable to scramble quickly enough to challenge the Iraqi plane." What the Times didn't mention was that, according to senior administration officials, the planes weren't flying because the White House had grounded them: The president apparently didn't want any trouble while he was attending the U.N. millennium summit in New York. Alarmed Pentagon officials nonetheless issued prepare-to-deploy orders and drew up plans for several days of retaliatory air strikes. Their plans were dismissed out of hand. ut nowhere has the administration's determination to avoid another showdown with Saddam been more evident than in its revised approach to weapons inspections. Before Baghdad expelled the inspectors in 1998, the cornerstone of America's Iraq policy was a U.N. inspections regime that involved teams of international experts prowling Iraq in search of evidence of weapons of mass destruction. And last month the new chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix, planned to announce that his team was ready to return to Iraq to resume inspections. The declaration was long overdue. "In the absence of inspectors on the ground," Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker says, "we must rely on national technical means, which cannot provide the same level of assurance." Yet the administration, intent on averting a confrontation with Iraq, scuttled Blix's plan. A Security Council diplomat told the Post that the decision to block Blix derived from U.S. as well as Russian concerns "that this might create a climate of confrontation at an inappropriate time." Albright, indeed, has publicly ruled out the use of force in response to Saddam's intransigence. "There seem to be many people who are guessing that not much might happen before the American elections," Blix says. "I think that might be a good guess." If there's a silver lining in this policy disaster, it's that, one way or another, Berger, Albright, and Pollack will likely be returned to the private sector come January. And, by all accounts, either Gore or Bush would be far more hawkish toward Iraq. The Republican Party platform calls for overthrowing Saddam, and Bush counselors say they will transform the no-fly zones into "no-move" zones and even "detach" a piece of Iraq for opposition forces to use as a base. Gore, too, has called for "removing Saddam Hussein from power" and trying him for war crimes. As a spokesman for the Iraqi opposition puts it: "There won't be a change of government in Baghdad until there's one in Washington." Election Day can't come a moment too soon. LAWRENCE F. KAPLAN is a senior editor at TNR. ----------------------------------------------- FREE! 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