Think tanks wrap-up

Nov. 1, 2002 at 12:05 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks.

The Hoover Institution

STANFORD, Calif. -- Iraq: The critics, then and now

by Robert Zelnick

Eleven years ago, 45 Senate Democrats and two Republicans voted against granting President George H. W. Bush authority to wage war against Iraq. For months, as Iraq cemented its stranglehold on Kuwait, witnesses before Sen. Sam Nunn's Armed Services Committee had urged caution.

Engage Iraq's desert-bred, battle-tested army, and the United States would suffer twenty thousand casualties or more. The "Arab street" would froth over with anti-American vitriol. Israel would get drawn into the conflict, and the alliance would come apart. Better to let the embargo bring Saddam to his knees. Time rewards the patient.

Had that advice convinced four more senators -- assuming the president decided to avert a constitutional crisis and comply -- Iraq would today dominate the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the other gulf states would be mere vassals; Kuwait, a wholly owned subsidiary. Iraq's arsenal would include nuclear weapons. The threat of a terrorist-inspired catastrophe dwarfing Sept. 11 would be terribly real.

That the critics were wrong a decade ago does not automatically make them wrong today. But their arguments are hauntingly similar.

Those who demand proof that Saddam's threat is real would not see it if it bit them. Weapons of mass destruction, or WMDs, have been central to Iraqi military doctrine since the mid-1970s. Saddam lied to United Nations inspectors about his nuclear, chemical, and biological programs and then kicked them out when their trail got hot. As the British Joint Intelligence Committee recently noted, hundreds of tons of chemical agents and thousands of tons of precursor chemicals were unaccounted for when the inspectors left in 1998.

What did Saddam do with those materials, eat them?

The same critics, who see no imminent threat from Iraq's WMDs, purport to see a Stalingrad-type threat from its shrunken, suspect army. Now the Republican Guards have a new tactic, urban warfare: Street to street they will fight to save Saddam.

Pure nonsense. Serbia and Afghanistan proved the lethality of the U.S. arsenal of precision weapons. Further, if the U.S. military has paid a fraction of the attention to information warfare its literature suggests, every Iraqi soldier will know before the battle begins that the only threat to his safety and that of his loved ones is Saddam Hussein: Fight for him and die. Get rid of him and the war is over.

My guess: Saddam will be out faster than a marine on liberty.

We hear other arguments. Saddam need not be preempted; he can be deterred. Or we must not act without Security Council approval. As for deterrence, it might possibly work, assuming Saddam correctly (for once) interprets U.S. intentions, and assuming further he chooses not to deliver his WMDs through clandestine agents who may be hard to trace.

As for Security Council approval, it would be nice to have the Russians, Chinese, and French endorse U.S. action. Almost as nice as it will be to see democracy begin to transform the Arab world, as those who cherish freedom fervently hope.

(Robert Zelnick is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and chairman of the Department of Journalism at Boston University.)

The Institute for Public Accuracy

(The IPA is a nationwide consortium of policy researchers that seeks to broaden public discourse by gaining media access for experts whose perspectives are often overshadowed by major think tanks and other influential institutions.)

WASHINGTON -- The Congressional Elections

-- Greg Palast, author of "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy," Palast is featured in the investigative documentary "Counting on Democracy," which is currently being shown on PBS stations.

"In 2000, Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State, ordered county elections officials to purge 57,000 citizens from voter registries as felons not allowed to vote in Florida. In fact, about 95 percent of these voters were innocent of crimes -- but 54 percent were guilty of being African-American.

Harris and the state admit that tens of thousands of black voters had been wronged, and with plantation noblesse have agreed to return them to the voter rolls -- at the beginning of 2003 ... In 2000, the 180,000 'spoiled ballots' came overwhelmingly from the blackest, poorest, most Democratic counties. Now, the old dogs of ballot-bending are learning some new tricks. Before resigning to run for Congress, Harris leaned hard on the counties to purchase touch screen voting machines. But not just any machines. Harris first authorized the use of machines by only one company, Election Systems & Software of Omaha ... It was ES&S machines that were used in Florida's 2002 primaries and were plagued by countless breakdowns. A report by the state Inspector General says that the company 'bears major responsibility' for the foul-ups. An ACLU study found that, once again, it was Miami-Dade's black voters who were disproportionately disenfranchised by 'lost votes' ... Most troubling of all, some of these practices are going national."

-- Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.

"The Bush administration has succeeded in driving issues of corporate power off the national agenda before this election. As a result, not only is the administration not being held accountable for their role in the debacles, but -- despite the scandal of telecom and energy deregulation -- the administration continues to advocate increased deregulation of these sectors."

-- Steven Hill, senior analyst for the Center for Voting and Democracy and author of the new book "Fixing Elections: The Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics."

"Even before the polls open on Election Day, we can tell you the winners in 76 percent of the races. For all intents and purposes, most House races have been over for months. No wonder that barely a third of adults will bother voting this year. More than 95 percent of incumbents will again cruise to victory, usually by huge margins. Most districts tilt strongly toward one major party or the other, courtesy of the redistricting process. That's when legislative district lines are redrawn by the dominant political party and manipulated to favor those already in power. We need to join most other modern democracies in transforming our 'winner take all' elections. We should break up the

single-seat districts and try multi-seat districts elected by a system of proportional representation."

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