The announcement that President Clinton had ordered missile strikes on Iraq made many people wonder if this was not designed to show the president to be a strong leader and to delay or divert attention away from the impeachment debate scheduled to begin the next day. This was the view of Scott Ritter, who resigned as a weapons inspector last August to protest the roadblocks Washington was putting in the way of UNSCOM?s inspections. The New York Post reported on Dec. 17 that Ritter charged that the U.S. government had “prodded inspection teams to return to Iraq last month to provoke a crisis to justify bombing.” Ritter said that Richard Butler, who heads UNSCOM, followed U.S. instructions in sending the inspectors to sites where they knew there were no weapons. He said this was a scripted scenario “designed to generate a conflict that would justify a bombing.” Ritter had been told three weeks earlier that “the two considerations on the horizon were Ramadan and impeachment.” In announcing the air strikes, Clinton said that the beginning of Ramadan was the key factor in the timing because Moslem countries would be offended if the action were taken during this holy month. Islamic experts disputed that.
Ritter charged that UNSCOM?s report to the UN had been “orchestrated” and the U.S. had made sure it left no “wiggle room.” Butler denied that he had taken orders from anyone in preparing the report he submitted to the UN on December15th. That was two days after Clinton ordered the Pentagon to prepare to launch air strikes against Iraq that week. Secretary of Defense William Cohen claimed he had no advance warning of the contents of Butler?s report. He said, “We were not going to take any action until such time as a report was filed.
The New York Times reported that Butler had informed administration officials on Sunday, Dec. 13th what his report would say. The Times said that the President “had issued a highly classified order to the Pentagon on Sunday morning that began a 72-hour countdown to the air assault.” What was missing was any explanation of what the administration expected to achieve by the air strikes apart from giving the public the impression that Bill Clinton was still a strong leader who did not shrink from making tough decisions.
Scott Ritter said, “You have no choice but to interpret this as ?wag the dog.?” Clinton rejected that charge, saying, “I do not believe any serious person would believe any president would do such a thing.” That?s true, but it doesn?t mean Clinton wouldn?t try it. He has a long history of lying outrageously and getting away with it.
He might very well have gotten away with the bold lie that he never had sex with Monica Lewinsky if she had not saved the dress that proved he had. His 70-hour war on Iraq was a military and diplomatic fiasco, but it accomplished its purpose. What, except for the bombing of Iraq, would explain the increase in his job approval rating in the polls after the House impeached him?