Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Saddam did try to kill an ex-president of the United States ... right? In The Nation (subscribers only), Scott Sherman says, er, maybe not:

A few weeks ago, Slate asked a number of "liberal hawks"--among them George Packer, Kenneth Pollack, Thomas Friedman, Paul Berman and Fareed Zakaria --to reflect on their support for the Iraq war. For several days, Slate readers witnessed a steady stream of linguistic acrobatics, graceful, guilt-ridden prose and, in some cases, genuine contrition. But if contributors like Pollack and Slate editor Jacob Weisberg expressed deep misgivings about their initial support for military intervention, they accepted Administration claims that, in Weisberg's words, "Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush." Weisberg and Pollack echoed what Bush himself said of Saddam in 2002: "This is a guy that tried to kill my dad." Is Saddam guilty as charged? Backtrack to spring 1993, when the Clinton Administration announced that Iraqi intelligence had attempted to assassinate George Bush Sr. with a car bomb during a ceremonial visit to Kuwait. In retaliation Clinton ordered a missile attack on Baghdad, which killed eight civilians. Our knowledge of the plot against Bush might have ended there if not for the efforts of Seymour Hersh, who revisited the episode in a lengthy piece for The New Yorker in November 1993. After numerous interviews with high-ranking US and Kuwaiti officials, along with electrical engineers and bomb experts, Hersh concluded that the key suspects in the plot were beaten (and possibly tortured) by Kuwaiti authorities, and that "there is no evidence that any of the alleged assassins took any overt steps to deploy any bombs." In February 2003, in a little-noticed article, the Baltimore Sun disclosed that "the former FBI chemist who tested the explosive recovered in Kuwait says he told superiors it did not match known Iraqi explosives"--a fact that does much to bolster Hersh's reporting. Do Weisberg and Pollack know something Hersh doesn't? One can only speculate, since they didn't return phone calls.

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