Congressman McDermott: Trust Hussein, distrust Bush

By Larry Elder

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, post-Sept. 11, held up a New York Post headline, “Bush Knew.” “Bush knew,” said Sen. Clinton. “The president knew what?”

Then Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., on a radio talk show, insisted that Bush not only knew, but intentionally avoided taking action so as to enrich his friends in the military business. “We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on Sept. 11th. What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of Sept. 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? What do they have to hide?”

Switch scenes to Baghdad. Congressmen Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and David Bonior, D-Mich., traveled to Baghdad. Standing in Iraq, McDermott incredibly insisted that Americans “have to take the Iraqis on their face value.”

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked McDermott, “Before you left for Baghdad, you said the president of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war. Do you really believe that?” Following a rambling reply, McDermott finally said, “I think the president would mislead the American people.” Thus, Congressman McDermott delivered this attack on the president’s credibility, not in the congressman’s home state of Washington, nor in Washington, D.C., but right there in Baghdad.

What about Khidhir Hamza, the Iraqi president’s former chief nuclear weapons engineer? For 20 years, before defecting, Hamza worked on the dictator’s nuclear-weapons program. In testifying before Congress, the scientist said:

The Iraqi nuclear-weapon program is a very serious one. It is built around turning Iraq into a nuclear power in the region. Buying materials on the black market is not a sure thing to do – to carry this program through. So, Iraq built a large portion – 90 percent – of its program to actually manufacturing the fissile material locally. My estimate is that Iraq is within two years of completing putting together enough facilities for full-scale production and within three years it will have enough for two to three nuclear weapons.

If Iraq is serious about allowing the inspectors back in to check its work under mass destruction program, it should allow the inspectors to take the Iraqi scientists into a neutral territory and allow them also – if it has nothing to hide – to take their families with them and the members they designate as their immediate families, and allow them – in a neutral territory without Iraqi minders – to be debriefed and talk to inspectors. My bet is Iraq will refuse this. My guess, any of these scientists, taken to a neutral territory with its family, would ask for asylum somewhere. Ninety percent of them would.

About McDermott’s statement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Vietnam POW, said Jane Fonda’s support of the Viet Cong is one thing. In Fonda’s case, you can write it up to her status as a misguided actress. But how to excuse the behavior of McDermott? A member of U.S. Congress on enemy soil, declaring greater trust and faith in the enemy than in his own president!

The give-inspections-a-chance-first crowd now adopts a new tactic – calling those who disagree “chicken hawks,” as in people advocating military action against Iraq, yet who never served in the military. Odd, the charge “chicken hawk” never seemed to stick to former President Bill Clinton, who clearly evaded the draft by promising the board to join the ROTC, yet failed to do so. Clinton pushed military action in Bosnia and in Kosovo, the latter with neither congressional nor United Nations resolutions.

McDermott played this game while in Baghdad, implying superior understanding, expertise and appreciation of the consequences of military action because, as he put it, “Both David [Bonior] and I were in that [Vietnam] War.” In the Vietnam War?

Actually, according to the Detroit Free Press, “[Bonior] enlisted in the Air Force after receiving his draft notice because enlisting meant he had more control over where he might be stationed; getting drafted most likely would mean being sent to Vietnam. He served in California in 1968-72 and earned his master’s degree at the same time.” As for McDermott, he served stateside as a psychiatrist in the mean streets of Long Beach, Calif. Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, described by some as a hawk on Iraq, served as a Naval aviator.

McDermott damaged America’s credibility, and presented a picture of a lack of American resolve. Imagine, during the war in Kosovo, a U.S. member of Congress, standing in Kosovo, suggesting Milosevic more trustworthy than Clinton. Politicians love television face time, and McDermott certainly received loads of it. Smile, congressman, you’re on Al-Jazeera.