Wednesday, April 28, 2004

bribery, blackmail, and lechery

The oil-for-palaces scandal is looking worse and worse for France, Russia, the U.N. and the rest of the no-blood-for-oil crowd. While these political leaders where sanctimoniously declaiming Bush and the U.S. for threatening Iraqi children, they were participating in the criminal enterprise that was actually starving those children and leaving them without safe water or proper medical care. And where now are all the pundits who so critically examined Bush's actions for any hint of dishonesty or self-interest? Where are the politicians who said that we should let the U.N. be the final arbiter of international law and proper behavior? Where are the reporters who blanketed the news with reports of Halliburton and other financial scandals in private American companies? The silence is deafening.

And neither should we ignore the traction that the pro-Saddam movement received from France, Germany, Russia and Kofi Annan. Without this high-profile opposition to the U.S. and England, the pro-Saddam movement would have remained the minor collection of misfits it was during the war in Afghanistan. They never would have been able to put on those protests with hundreds of thousands of people. So it wasn't just the votes in the security council, Saddam's bribes managed to create an enormous world-wide political movement to defend him.

Of course, Saddam didn't keep all those detailed records because he is compulsive and it wasn't the ever-fainter hope for another windfall that kept Saddam's supporters in the outer world loyal. It was the fact that he had the goods on them.

In the midst of this, I've been wondering about another form of bribery that Saddam may have offered. It all started with the amazing conversion of Scott Ritter. In case you don't remember, Ritter was the American weapons inspector who embarrassed president Clinton when the arms inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq. He went around telling everyone who would listen that Saddam still had dangerous weapons. Then, after 9/11 Ritter started going around telling anyone who would listen that Saddam wasn't dangerous, that he had no weapons of mass destruction.

This was a dramatic turn-around, and it was one of the primary reasons that I was opposed to the war in Iraq. I thought that Ritter was knowledgeable and that he also had a track record of being critical of Saddam, so if he thought all the weapons were now gone, he was a pretty credible source. But it always gnawed at me a bit. I mean, how could he know what Saddam had done in the four years since Ritter left Iraq? How could he know that Saddam only had those kinds of chemical weapons that decay over time? I wondered, frankly if Saddam had found some way to bribe or blackmail him.

Then I read that Ritter had been charged with soliciting an under-age girl. I wondered, did Saddam's agents know about this penchant of his? Is that what caused Ritter's about face? Still, I didn't think it likely that Saddam had that kind of presence in the U.S. Shortly after that I read a piece about the children's prison in Iraq --the prison where children were kept to insure their parent's good behavior. The article had a quote from Scott Ritter who had visited the prison. Hmm. A pedophile visiting a prison for children. I wondered what he was thinking. Did he know about Saddam's rape rooms as well?

Remember the stories about Saddam's rape rooms? Political prisoners had their wives and daughters brought in and raped in front of them. When I was reading about that I wondered whether being assigned to the rape squad was a reward. For millennia, soldiers were given the opportunity to rape the women of the conquered people as part of their reward for fighting and I have no reason to think that people have changed since then. So now I started wondering: if Saddam used rape for punishment and reward might he have also have used it for bribery and blackmail? And if so, is there any reason to think that he would have cared about the age of the girls being raped?

This is all speculation, of course, but I'd like to know if anyone has interviewed the children in that prison and examined the prison records. Are there visitors records that show Scott Ritter visiting several times? Are there girls who remember seeing him? And what about other Saddam supporters who visited Iraq? I recall reading of several such, including British MP George Galloway. Did he visit the children's prison or any other prison? Once Saddam had photos of any western man raping someone, he pretty much could ensure the eternal loyalty of that man. Especially if the victim was a child.

Of course it isn't necessary to prove that any of these Saddam supporters were blackmailed in that way. It is pretty well established that they were bribed and that should be enough. But if this monstrosity did happen, I think people should know about it. Next time America has an opportunity to end a brutal dictatorship and some of us are reluctanct because we don't think the dictator poses a threat to America, we should be reminded that there are other victims.

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