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Saddam's Salesmen By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 27, 2008


“If being used means that we’re highlighting the suffering of Iraqi children, or any children, then yes, we don’t mind being used.” – Rep. James McDermott, D-WA, on his 2002 trip to Iraq, financed by Saddam Hussein.
We’ve long contended the terrorists could not buy better representation than the Democratic Left gives them for free. We never knew how right we were.

The media revealed last night that Saddam Hussein personally funded the trip of three Democratic Congressmen to Iraq on the eve of the war that led to his ouster. Saddam’s Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) reportedly bribed an American Muslim activist with two million barrels of oil to arrange the fall 2002 trip for left-wing Congressmen Jim McDermott, D-WA; David Bonior, D-MI; and Mike Thompson, D-CA.

David Horowitz and I thoroughly chronicled the event in our new book, Party of Defeat. On September 29, 2002, the ignominious trio appeared on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, via satellite hookup from foreign soil, to extol the truthfulness of Saddam Hussein, decry the already weakened sanctions imposed by the United Nations, and call President Bush a liar bent on war. David Bonior – who long served as House Democratic Whip, the second-highest ranking post in the House of Representatives – laid the blame squarely on the United States of America. Bonior denounced the regimen of multilateral sanctions, already weakened by the Oil for Food program, as “barbaric” and “horrific.” He backed this up with anecdotal evidence gleaned from the group’s well-supervised tour of Iraqi hospitals. Worse, the U.S. had been “trying to push and dictate” Iraq, namely by requiring its dictator verify his compliance with the cease-fire that ended the first Gulf War and the 17 UN resolutions he was currently defying. Although Saddam Hussein had frustrated all previous weapons inspections, Bonior blithely announced that he would now allow inspectors the “unrestricted” autonomy “to look anywhere.” (Of course, the inspectors’ job was not to play hide-and-seek with Iraq’s prewar WMD cache; it was to verify that he had destroyed all WMDs, as he had agreed to do as a precondition of peace in 1991.) Rep. James McDermott echoed that none of the arms imbroglio was the Iraqi regime’s fault, anyway, as “Iraq did not drive the inspectors out; we took them out.” Again, the United States was blaming the victim and punishing innocent children for her own misdeeds. When pressed about believing the promises of a murderous international pariah, McDermott said, “I think you have to take the Iraqis at their face value,” but he offered no such quarter to the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military. “I think the president would mislead the American people,” he declared.

On the eve of the war, three sitting U.S. Congressmen treated Saddam Hussein as President Bush’s moral superior.

The Iraqi media multiplied the propaganda value of their visit. The Iraq Satellite Channel reported that the three were scheduled to “visit hospitals to see the suffering caused by the unjust embargo.” Yet the three expressed no regrets for acting as Saddam’s stooges. Jim McDermott told CNN’s Jane Arraf, “If being used means that we’re highlighting the suffering of Iraqi children, or any children, then yes, we don’t mind being used.”

Unholy Alliance, Meet the Party of Defeat

We now know they were indeed being used by a hostile leader with an anti-American agenda. They were also doing the bidding of a domestic fifth column inside the U.S. Islamist movement. The Associated Press has reported that federal officials have indicted Michigan Muslim activist Muthanna al-Hanooti for “conspiracy to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, illegally purchasing Iraqi oil, and lying to authorities.” For seven years, Al-Hanooti worked for the Detroit-area Muslim charity Life for Relief and Development. Investigators say for the first three of those years, he moonlighted for Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS). According to the Detroit Free Press, al-Hanooti is also, coincidentally, “former head of the Michigan branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations.” He is current president of Focus on American and Arab Interests and Relations. After his stint with Saddam, al-Hanooti went on to become a paid lobbyist for the Iraqi Islamic Party, whose “philosophy is based on the Islamic Shari’a”and which has praised the “heroic Iraqi resistance.” That such a man could operate smoothly in the U.S. Islamist movement speaks volumes about its radicalism.

The feds assert that al-Hanooti earned his money compiling lists of Congressmen favorable to lifting the sanctions against the Hussein regime. This confirms Charles Duelfer’s finding that Saddam Hussein plotted to get UN sanctions lifted, so that he could resume his relentless pursuit of WMDs. To underscore the ineffectiveness of those sanctions, Saddam paid al-Hanooti two million barrels of oil diverted from the Oil for Food program, which he serially abused for his personal aggrandizement and to influence foreign policymakers.
            
Useful Idiots from Central Casting

What is remarkable about Bonior, McDermott, and Thompson is that apparently no bribe was necessary to procure their services; their ideology placed them at odds with their own nation’s security.

The three had acted on this ideology before and after the 2002 junket to Baghdad. Following the first attack on the World Trace Center, Vermont Representative, and self-professed socialist, Bernie Sanders introduced an amendment to cut a minimum of 10 percent of the funding of each intelligence agency ten times. David Bonior then Democratic Whip, voted for the Sanders amendment all 10 times. Bonior did all he could to end a 1990 FBI program to cultivate intelligence sources within the Muslim community...the kind of sources that could have prevented 9/11, or informed on al-Hanooti earlier. As a reward, Bonior received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Sami al-Arian.         

Bonior left the Congress shortly thereafter, but “Baghdad Jim” stayed to carry on the good fight against his own country during the ensuing war. When U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein, McDermott accused his miliary of complicity in a Republican war sham, saying they could have nabbed the Tikriti tyrant “a long time ago if the wanted.” After the New York Times and The Washington Post published articles disclosing the existence of classified anti-terrorism programs – the warrantless wiretapping of al-Qaeda partisans and the rendition of those captured, respectively – McDermott hailed the security breaches for “breaking through the administration’s secrecy.” Again, he blamed his own commander-in-chief, accusing President Bush of trying to impose “censorship”...of classified war techniques.

The Irrelevant Fallout

The history and ideological mania of the principals has long been known; only the official Iraqi sponsorship remained a mystery. Last night’s revelation leads to two conclusions:

First, the Democratic Party and its apologists will emphasize that the three Congressmen had no idea Saddam Hussein had financed their trip. They will point out it had been cleared by the appropriate offices of the U.S. government, shifting the blame to Bush administration bureaucracy. McDermott’s office has maintained the Washington State Democrat “thought the trip was put on by a Seattle church,”and a spokesman said the Congressman went only to observe “the plight of Iraqi children.” Rep. Thompson’s office has echoed that he had no knowledge of improprieties in the underwriting of his subversive sojourn.

It is almost certainly true that the three had no such knowledge. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd has stated that investigators “have no information whatsoever” to that effect. However, the government must make an exhaustive investigation to ascertain that this is the case.

Second, what the Left will obscure is the irrefutable fact that their prior knowledge is immaterial. The three knew beforehand that they were traveling to the capital of a nation, which had for years regularly fired on U.S. aircraft, as part of a tightly controlled tour of a dictatorship on the brink of defying its way into full-blown war with their constituents. And they shilled for the man who authorized the torture of rape of his children as though he had only their best interests at heart and as though he were prevented from expressing his immense love for his people only by heartless Republicans. After all, they deny health care to Americans; why wouldn’t they deny it to Iraqis?

In other words, when Third World dictators need someone to run interference, they know who to contact: leftist Democrats. Bonior, McDermott, and Thompson received nothing for their troubles, but al-Hanooti’s more than earned his bounty – yet as we note in Party of Defeat, “moderate” voices of the Democratic Party spoke not a word of condemnation. Democratic Minority Leader and 2004 presidential hopeful Dick Gephardt remarked merely that “every member has to reach...their own conclusion.” [sic.] When asked if he would condemn McDermott’s statements, conservative Texas Democrat and then-Congressman Martin Frost replied with a terse “No.”

When North Korean extremists need to stall for time to develop weapons for nuclear blackmail, they call Jimmy Carter. By 2004, the Axis of Evil nations endorsed John Kerry. On election eve, Osama bin Laden released a tape strongly influenced by Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and his rhetoric since then has hewed closely to the Left’s party line – earning him an increasingly positive assessment from its membership.

Today, even as American troops are succeeding militarily via the surge strategy proposed by John McCain, the Democratic Left’s leadership demands unilateral withdrawal that would not merely maintain a thuggish and repressive, if stabilizing, status quo; it would vacate the battlefield, create a failed state, and give the perpetrators of 9/11 a new national base of operations.

But now, just as six years ago, certain leftists “don’t mind being used” by those with a thirst for massive bloodletting.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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