Memo To: Attorney General John Ashcroft
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: What’s He Charged With?
Alas, John, I see you are running around the country trying to drum up support for the USA Patriot Act, which enables you to “sneak and peek” into the homes of people you believe are unpatriotic, maybe even terrorists. It will be a losing campaign, I think, as the more you speak out in support of the Act, the more your efforts will make grassroots Americans aware of the sneaking and peeking. In the end, you will have only the Wall Street Journal editorial page and the Weekly Standard on your side. When Congress returns from its August recess, it will no doubt reflect the view that the government has done more since 9-11 to promote terrorism than not, particularly with an unjustifiable war on Iraq that has Islamic crazies coming out of the woodwork.
The real reason I’m writing, John, is to ask what the heck is going on with our government’s imprisonment of Iraqi political leaders, from Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz down to an estimated 5,000 members of the Ba’ath Party. Yes, the friends of Richard Perle and Don Rumsfeld in the “Iraqi National Congress” are urging the arrest and imprisonment of practically anyone connected with the Ba’ath Party so they will have a free hand in running the political and commercial show. But doesn’t it bother you, as the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, that they have not been charged with anything? You know I say this as a fellow who once told you your background and experience as Missouri governor and U.S. Senator made you presidential timber. You’ve taken a lot of heat from the left, John, but there is a point where the line has to be drawn on civil liberties. Putting people in concentration camps without cause reminds me of the Third Reich. Aren't you getting a bit queasy?
So far, neither the public nor the press corps has made a peep out of this state of affairs, on the assumption that these are bad guys who should be treated as war criminals – because they were aiding and abetting Islamic terrorists, were hiding weapons of mass destruction, and had participated in the genocide of Iraqi Kurds. Now it turns out this was all a mistake and these may not have been bad guys at all -- or if they had done bad things we can identify, they should be given some sort of due process. The suspicion is growing that as long as they are kept “in custody,” away from the Iraqi public and international press, they will not be able to contribute to the sense that a big boo-boo was made by the Bush administration. Know what I mean? There are still suspicions that Saddam’s sons, Uday and Quesay, could have been taken alive, but the Pentagon preferred them dead… and that if Saddam is eventually located, he will also have little chance to set any record straight.
Did you see the Newsweek piece on Aziz in the August 20 issue, “A Mighty Fall”? His family says he was spirited away by the U.S. military in April, with promises that they would be able to talk to him once a week or every two weeks maximum, and none of that has happened. I also wonder what happened to Iraq’s chief scientist, Amir al-Saadi, who held a press conference when he gave himself over to the coalition’s military authorities. Everything he told the world about the non-existence of WMD has been borne out. Are these men going to be kept behind bars until they die of natural causes, or does it matter to you? I can see it would be a military matter if military or paramilitary men were taken prisoner and held for fear they will join the resistance. But Tariq Aziz is no military man, and it should be up to you, not Rumsfeld, to make the call on whether he should be held without any evidence of wrong-doing. No? Above all, John, I think of you as a good Christian, who would do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Or does that not apply to Iraqis?
Sincerely, as always