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Former Clinton White House adviser Dick Morris called it Hillary’s “badwill tour of Iraq.” Certainly Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s grousing to the troops brought no wild cheers, unlike the scene when President George W. Bush showed up unannounced on Thanksgiving Day to serve turkey to servicemen and women on combat duty in Baghdad. According to some reports, she is so unpopular among the armed forces that her Pentagon minders had to assign soldiers to greet her.
The former first lady, touted by many Democrats as their best hope at wresting the presidency from Bush in 2004, insisted that she had come to Baghdad to tell the troops that “Americans are proud” of them. But, she added, back home “many question the administration’s policies.” Then she launched into a personal attack on the president for having been “obsessed with Saddam Hussein for more than a decade.” It was not exactly what you’d call a morale booster, and the troops hated it.
Al-Jazeera, the Qatar government’s own jihad TV network, broadcast her remarks immediately in Arabic translation. To our enemies, the propaganda value of having a member of the U.S. Senate, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, come to a war zone to criticize her president and express doubts about the leadership of the U.S. military was crystal clear. Al-Jazeera also gave prominent play to comments by her companion, fellow Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who opined that the administration’s justification for the war was “tenuous at best” and that Americans “could look back and see the decision to attack Iraq was one that ended up being very, very costly.”
Former police captain Anwar Ibrahim is Iraq’s deputy minister of interior. Asked about earlier blasts against the president and the U.S.-led reconstruction effort by Democratic presidential contenders back in the United States, he told former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik that the Democrats would do better to keep their mouths shut.
“Our enemies all have satellite television and they are watching,” Kerik recalls Ibrahim saying. “When they hear this kind of thing, they think they are winning.” Such delusions cost American lives.
Kerik, who recruited Ibrahim to head up the effort to build a new Iraqi police department to fight the Ba’ath Party remnants on the ground, sharply criticized Congress for politicizing the postwar efforts. Every day Congress debated whether to consider the $20 billion for Iraqi reconstruction a loan or a grant spawned new U.S. casualties on the ground, he said, by delaying the training of new Iraqi recruits.
“We lost at least eight weeks of training – that’s 3,000 recruits,” he told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute.
Kerik recalled taking visiting NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw on a nighttime tour of downtown Baghdad at a time when U.S. TV networks were portraying the Iraqi capital as a nightmare of looting and lawlessness and where U.S. troops were sitting targets. Instead, Kerik says, they drove down street after street lined with refrigerators, air conditioners and other merchandise for sale with no guards and no looters anywhere in sight.
“In the U.S., what we don’t hear is the successes of our people in fighting the Ba’athists,” he said. “It is essential for the American people to know that we are not losing the battle; we are winning it.”
So were Sens. Clinton and Reed aiding and abetting the enemy in a replay of actress Jane Fonda’s infamous “Hanoi Jane” stunt at the peak of the Vietnam War?
Not so fast, says lawyer and author Henry Mark Holzer, who has written a book on Fonda’s exploits during the Vietnam War and published a recent monograph, “Why Not Call It Treason?”
What the former first lady did in Baghdad “may be comfort to the enemy, but it’s not treason,” he tells Insight. There have been no treason prosecutions in the United States since the World War II era trials of broadcasters Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally.
“Nobody has been charged with treason since,” Holzer points out, “not even Aldrich Ames or John Walker Lindh,” the U.S. Taliban recruit whom Holzer called “a poster boy for treason.”
Clinton’s trip to Baghdad “was a bit like a U.S. senator going to Omaha Beach just after D-Day and attacking President [Franklin D.] Roosevelt and the war effort,” Holzer says. “It was typically Clintonesque. It was overtly political, it was disloyal and it was pathetic. But it was not treason.” For stunts such as hers, the only possible remedy is at the ballot box. “It’s the price we pay for the First Amendment,” he says.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.