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December 14, 2004

Beheading ElBaradei


by Jude Wanniski

Memo to: The White House
Re: Terrorizing the IAEA

I hear reports today of public-opinion polls not only showing President Bush disliked by the great majorities of practically every European country, but also for the first time showing a narrow majority of Europeans disliking the American people. The reason, of course, is the war in Iraq. They could forgive us for making a mistake in believing once we got on the ground we would find those weapons of mass destruction and maybe even links to al-Qaeda and 9/11. But now they watch us destroying Iraqi cities and towns, adding to the estimated 150,000 military and civilians Iraqi deaths every day, and rigging "elections" with our handpicked interim government – all the while asking their political leaders in Europe to send money and troops to help out good old Uncle Sam.

And now, to top it all off, they see good old Uncle Sam seemingly eager to do it all over again in Iran. The same bloodthirsty neoconservatives who have packed your administration via the good offices of Vice President Cheney are now insisting that Tehran has a nuclear-weapons program. And unless we have "regime change" in Tehran, nothing else will satisfy them that an Iranian nuke is not just around the corner. That's why they have to get rid of Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Last week, the neo-crazies that populate your administration had UN General Secretary Kofi Annan in their gunsights, having long ago decided he keeps getting in the way of their plans for a New American Imperium. What a relief it was, White House, to see you allow President Bush to announce his support for Kofi and his own investigation of charges of corruption in the UN "Oil-for-Food" program instead of joining the GOP hardliners who are demanding his resignation. If Paul Volcker, arguably the most respected senior political figure in the U.S., doesn't have the credibility to conduct the investigation on behalf of the United Nations, we are really living in a madhouse.

Mohamed ElBaradei, whom the White House is openly campaigning against on the spurious grounds that he should only have two terms, is this week's neocon victim. And if there is any political figure in the world these days who has greater respect in the international community than ElBaradei, I can't imagine who it would be. Hans Blix, his counterpart in the UNMOVIC chem/bio inspection team, hardly distinguished himself during the UN Security Council hearings in advance of the war. While Blix took the slightest openings to question Baghdad's compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 1441, ElBaradei was absolutely firm in his conclusions that Iraq had no nukes, no nuke programs, and no means of reconstituting them. It was ElBaradei's IAEA that took only 24 hours to announce that the Niger "yellowcake" document proving Saddam was buying uranium on the sly – a document that U.S. and British intelligence swallowed as genuine – had been forged.

Dear White House: Don't you see that you are permitting the president to look ridiculous in the eyes of the world, by attacking the one man who we now can certify has been absolutely honest and accurate throughout these last troubled years? It is incomprehensible to a great many Americans, let alone Europeans, how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been asked to stay on for a second term when practically every last thing he did in the first term was tantamount to misfeasance, if not malfeasance. He should have been booted just over the Abu Ghraib scandal, not to mention the much graver errors he made in planning for the aftermath of the war he helped promote with his neocon pals. And I say this as an old friend and admirer of Rummy, whom I tried to promote as Reagan's running mate in 1980 (the job the president's father got instead).

So here you have Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been 100 percent correct in all his judgments, an international public servant who deserves the highest prizes for his competency, his honesty, and his diplomatic skills that are even now working to avoid further American blunders in Iran and North Korea. Yet, over the weekend, we discover through the Washington Post that you had authorized the wiretapping of ElBaradei's phone calls in his discussions with Tehran, hoping to find some dirt on him. And today, we read in the Australian press that your folks at State have been browbeating the Howard government asking it to browbeat Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to campaign for ElBaradei's job. The Aussie press reports Downer has run for the woods hoping to hide out from the neo-crazies until they get the message he does not want to topple the most respected Muslim public servant in the world and climb onto Uncle Sam's lap with Tony-you-know-who.

My recommendation, White House, is that you take this opportunity to invite ElBaradei to 1600 Pennsylvania for a fireside chat with the president, have the photographers in for a picture of the two men shaking hands, with the president smiling as big as he can, and have it be known that your boss has decided to get fully behind a third term for his friend Mohamed. What a nice holiday gift it would be to the world! I guarantee, people everywhere would see the picture and their political leaders would explain to them that George W. Bush seems to have turned over a new leaf for the New Year, and maybe Americans aren't so bad after all.


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Jude Wanniski, founder and chairman of Polyconomics, Inc., is a world-renowned political economist whose 1978 book The Way the World Works was named one of the 100 most influential books of the 20th Century by the editors of the National Review. He was an economic advisor to Ronald Reagan from 1978 to 1981.

Wanniski runs Wanniski.com. (If you subscribe, and check Antiwar.com in the referring website pull-down, we get 10%).

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