December 17, 1998
By Joseph Sobran
WASHINGTON -- When asked about the suspicion that he is bombing Iraq to delay his impeachment, President Clinton replied that few Americans would suspect "any" president of doing such a thing. But Bill Clinton is not just "any" president. That's why he's facing impeachment.
True, the hawks in his administration probably didn't present the bombing option to him in those terms. I can't imagine Secretary of State Madeleine Albright or Defense Secretary William Cohen walking into the Oval Office and saying, "Mr. President, why not bomb Iraq and get this impeachment monkey off your back?" any more than I can imagine Clinton himself saying, "Now Monica, I want you to commit perjury, if necessary, to conceal our adulterous relationship." These things tend to be tacit.
Obviously Clinton's hawkish advisers knew that Clinton is in trouble, and he knew they knew, and they knew he knew they knew. After all, they had dutifully repeated his original lies last winter, and none of them has resigned in protest since those lies were exploded.
So all parties in the inner circle were well aware of the political situation this week when bombing was proposed. Nobody had to bring up the subject. There was already lots of explicit skepticism about Clinton's motives when he bombed Sudan and Afghanistan in August. Even then, everyone was citing the movie "Wag the Dog."
Many of us were enraged when George Bush pushed for war with Iraq in the summer and fall of 1990. But nobody suspected Bush of the kind of motives it's only natural to suspect in Clinton. Bush was in no danger of impeachment, and he hadn't attained notoriety as a liar, perjurer or adulterer. He had a certain level of honor, and he used ordinary English words in their ordinary senses, without quibbling.
Unlike Bush, Clinton has long since forfeited the normal benefit of doubt. Even his defenders know, and often acknowledge, that he's a sneaking liar, egregious even among politicians. And we're supposed to trust his motives when he launches a war the day before the House votes on whether to impeach him!
But now Clinton has learned that he can indeed postpone his hour of reckoning by waging an unconstitutional war, with the enthusiastic approval of many Republicans who want to impeach him. One of the few Republicans in Congress who seem to care about the Constitution is Ron Paul of Texas, who correctly points out that if launching an undeclared war isn't a "high crime," nothing is.
The Constitution says Congress may declare war for "the common defense of the United States." There is no provision for random or aggressive or "humanitarian" war.
Is war on Iraq "defensive"? To say so is to endow plain words with Clintonian elasticity. This war is strictly optional, not defensive. Even its timing is arbitrary -- so much so that Clinton says he chose this moment to strike because he didn't want to hit Muslems during the holy month of Ramadan. Imagine Franklin Roosevelt, on getting the news from Pearl Harbor, consulting Japan's calendar before deciding when to strike back, lest he violate a Japanese holy day.
The people of Iraq might be pardoned for harboring their own skepticism about Clinton's goodwill gesture. He has never proposed to suspend U.N. sanctions during Ramadan, though those sanctions have resulted in the deaths, by disease and malnutrition, of hundreds of thousands of infants and small children.
One of the reasons we were given for the 1991 Gulf War was that Iraqi soldiers were killing Kuwaiti babies in incubators. Remember? That turned out to be a lie. Worse than the direct lie, though, was the implicit lie that the U.S. government and the "international community" objected to the killing of babies. They have since made it clear, to all the mothers in Iraq, that they couldn't care less.
The "international community," by the way, is less than unanimous about Clinton's war. The Russian, French and Chinese governments were quick to condemn it. Evidently they don't agree that Saddam Hussein threatens world peace.
Saddam Hussein is a reminder that criminals often rise to the top. But we don't particularly need to be reminded.
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