[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Sat, 29 Nov 1997 12:50:50 -0600
Message-Id: <199711291850.MAA25498@radish.interlink-bbs.com>
From: alghassa@sol.racsa.co.cr
Reply-To: Iraq-l@interlink-bbs.com
To: Iraq-l@interlink-bbs.com
Subject: IRQ-NEWS: Some analysts questioning U.S. policy of demonizing

Some analysts questioning U.S. policy of demonizing Saddam

By John Diamond, Associated Press, 29 November 1997; 12.23 p.m. EST (1723 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) The Bush administration likened Saddam Hussein to Hitler. The Clinton administration portrays him as irrational and deceptive.

But now, as the latest U.S.-Iraqi crisis appears to have eased, some Middle East experts question whether the United States gains anything by painting Saddam as a villain.

The policy has its downsides, they say: it isolates the United States among its allies who don’t share the same loathing for Saddam; it makes it politically difficult for any U.S. administration to consider lifting sanctions on Iraq so long as Saddam is in power, and therefore limits U.S. options; and it plays into the Iraqi strategy of pointing to the United States as an international bully.

The biggest problem with the U.S. policy is that every day Saddam survives turns into a victory for him, said Richard Haass, a foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution and former senior national security aide to President Bush. Demonization and highlighting the demon tends to play into his hands and make him look like someone who can stand up to the United States.

Retired Marine Corps Gen. Bernard Trainor, coauthor of a book on the Gulf War, said the U.S. rhetoric against Saddam began as part of an effort to win support for deploying troops to the conflict.

The American people focus on villains. We demonize Hitler, Togo, Mussolini. We have to have somebody to embody the cause, Trainor said.

The vilification of Saddam has gone through three phases, Trainor said. Before and during the Gulf War, U.S. officials spoke of Saddam as a mad, irrational leader. President Bush compared Saddam to Hitler and called him, this brutal man. In a diary entry during the Gulf War, Bush wrote, Hope to see the madman (Saddam) is gone.

The second phase was of Saddam as an incompetent and stupid military leader for taking on the United States in the Gulf.

Trainor says U.S. leaders are only beginning to come to grips with the third phase in how Saddam is perceived in the United States.

The guy is very shrewd. He’s still around. He’s got complete control of his country, Trainor said. He’s managed to take the focus off his violation of the U.N. resolutions and put the focus on the sanctions and paint the United States as the bully.

Former CIA Director John Deutch found out how dangerous it is to articulate that idea. As CIA chief, he testified last year that Saddam’s incursion into northern Iraq against U.S.-backed Kurds had left Saddam in a stronger position. Weeks later, Deutch found himself out of the running to become secretary of defense. Later he acknowledged hearing complaints from administration officials about his testimony.

The CIA was hardly soft on Iraq. Saddam’s military move against his Kurdish population in 1996 broke up a CIA covert operation designed to generate indigenous opposition to Saddam, and, perhaps, spark a coup. This wasn’t the first U.S. attempt to topple the Iraqi leader.

During the Gulf War, according to an official Air Force account, U.S. strike planners intentionally targeted headquarters, command bunkers and palaces in hopes of killing Saddam. At one point, analysts realized through TV footage that Saddam spent some time moving about in a Winnebago mobile home. For a time, U.S. warplanes conducted a hunt for a Winnebago.

The White House is giving no sign of softening. Clinton said of Saddam, What he has just done is to ensure that the sanctions will be there ’til the end of time, or as long as he lasts.

Former top Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos openly advocated assassinating Saddam. On ABC’s This Week program two weeks ago, commentator Sam Donaldson said the United States could probably do business with a successor to Saddam. That’s why we should kill him, Stephanopoulos said.

And Sen. Robert Kerrey, D-Neb., says of the rhetoric directed at Saddam, It’s not useful if you’re not prepared to back it up. Kerrey says Clinton should shift from a policy of containment of Iraq to one of replacement of Saddam with a democratic government.

The Bush and Clinton administrations have always had plenty of material to work with: Saddam’s gas attacks on his own people, the summary execution of subordinates who displease him, the assassination plot on former President Bush, and the killing of Saddam’s own relatives.

After all the rhetoric, though, what would the United States do if Saddam did the unexpected and behaved, giving countries such as France and Russia leverage to invite Iraq back into the family of nations?

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who favors covert and overt action to topple Saddam, raised this issue, saying last week, There’s a danger here that we’ve got to acknowledge, which is that somehow this process has led to a legitimization of Saddam Hussein, and I think we pay for that eventually if that’s what has happened.

Having committed itself to an anti-Saddam policy, Trainor said, the United States may find it hard to shift. And as long as Saddam remains in power, the U.S. policy is, by definition, failing.