There is no more delightful
way to pass a summer's day in Washington than going up to Capitol Hill to watch
senators jump ugly on Wolfie.
Many Democrats and
Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee felt they had been
snookered by Paul Wolfowitz, and they did not want to be played again.
They waited gimlet-eyed
yesterday while Wolfowitz of Arabia shimmied away once more from giving the cost,
in lives or troops or dollars, of remaking a roiling Iraq.
Instead, he offered a
highly dramatic travelogue of his recent Iraq trip, sleeping in Saddam's palace
and flying with members of the Tennessee National Guard, who made him "very
unhappy" when they told him about their nearly two years of active duty. (Gee,
whose fault is that?) He described Saddam's "torture tree," "unspeakable
torture," "torture chamber" and "a smothering blanket of
apprehension and dread woven by 35 years of repression."
"The military and
rehabilitation efforts now under way in Iraq are an essential part of the war on
terror," Mr. Wolfowitz proclaimed, capitalizing the "W" and the
"T" in his written testimony, and underlining the sentence for those
too dim to understand its essential importance.
Brazening out the failure
to find the Saddam-Qaeda links and W.M.D. the administration aggrandized before
the war, Mr. Wolfowitz has simply done an Orwellian fan dance, covering up the
lack of concrete ties to the 9/11 terrorists with feathery assertions that
securing "the peace in Iraq is now the central battle in the war on terror."
It is a new line of defense
that was also used by Dick Cheney in a speech last week ("In Iraq, we took
another essential step in the war on terror") and by the president in a
speech on Monday ("And our current mission in Iraq is essential to the
broader war on terror; it's essential to the security of the American
Even now that it's clear
the Bushies played up the terror angle because they thought it was the best way
to whip up support for getting rid of Saddam, the administration refuses to
level with the public.
It dishes out the same old
sauerkraut — conjuring up images of Al Qaeda by calling Iraqi guerrillas and
foreign fighters "terrorists." Meanwhile, the real Qaeda may be
planning more suicide hijackings of passenger planes on the East Coast this
summer, Homeland Security says.
Noting that the
administration is tamping down Iraq while Al Qaeda is bubbling up elsewhere,
Senator Russ Feingold pressed: "I would ask you, Secretary Wolfowitz, are
you sure we have our eye on the ball?"
Senator Lincoln Chafee,
Republican of Rhode Island, responded to Mr. Wolfowitz's oration about Saddam's
tyranny by noting sharply that Liberia's Charles Taylor is also a vicious tyrant
famous for dismembering and burning victims, and spreading war. "But we're
doing nothing in Liberia," he said. He objected to Mr. Wolfowitz's using
9/11 to push regime change in Iraq, even though the hawk had advocated getting
rid of Saddam all through the late 90's.
Senator Joseph Biden
excoriated Mr. Wolfowitz for his lack of candor and said his own review of the
Iraqi police force — "almost looked like the Katzenjammer Kids" —
had convinced him democracy was way off.
"I no more agree, just
for the record, with your assessment that Iraq is the hotbed of terror now than
I did [with] your assertions about Al Qaeda connections at the front end,"
Mr. Biden said, adding that if officials did not tell the truth to the public
about the costs in Iraq, they would lose credibility.
Spill all the facts? This
crowd? Fat chance. Only yesterday, the administration showed ingenious new
talent for insidious secrecy. President Bush refused to declassify the 28-page
redaction about the Saudi government's role in financing the hijackings, even
though the Saudi foreign minister flew to the U.S. to ask the president to do
that. (You know you're in trouble when the Saudis are begging you to be more
And Mr. Secrecy, John
Poindexter, had another boneheaded scheme canceled at the Pentagon, when stunned
senators learned that his department had started an online trading market, a
dead pool, where investors could wager on terror attacks.
Even Mr. Wolfowitz, who has shown an audacious imagination in refashioning the Middle East, thought the death wagers were over the top: "It sounds like maybe they got too imaginative in this area."
THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE THE BOTTOM LINE