- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000


Al Gore stands squarely behind a policy to free the Iraqi people of Saddam Hussein's despotic grip, the vice president said in a letter sent to the leadership of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) earlier this month. He claims he is ready for action in Baghdad, someday.
"I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of the pain and agony Saddam Hussein has inflicted on the people of Iraq. It is precisely because of this conviction that I support a policy not only designed to contain the threat posed by Saddam's brutal regime, but also to help Iraqis one day secure a government worthy of them," wrote Mr. Gore. The vice president's sentiments are noble indeed, but his rhetoric is unsettlingly familiar.
In 1993, Mr. Gore told the INC leadership: "I assure you that we will not turn our backs on the Kurds or other Iraqi communities subjected to the repression of Saddam Hussein's regime … I made a solid commitment to INC representatives in our meetings and we pledged our support for a democratic alternative to the Saddam Hussein regime."
About three years later, as Saddam launched an attack on CIA-trained freedom fighters in the town of Erbil in northern Iraq, Mr. Gore's pledge was tested. Opposition fighters pleaded for U.S. air cover as Saddam's tanks were seen in the distance steadily approaching the base. None arrived. As expected, the opposition troops were slaughtered.
Unfortunately, the White House's negligent policy towards Iraq will continue to hurt U.S. credibility in the region even after the current administration is gone. Even if Saddam is someday toppled, it will be difficult for the Iraqis to forget Erbil.
The INC is an umbrella group of political groups that are vying to topple Saddam and establish a democratic government in Iraq. In 1998, Congress passed and the president signed the Iraqi Liberation Act, which appropriated $97 million to the INC and established official U.S. opposition to the brutal tyranny in Iraq. In his February letter to the INC, Mr. Gore referred to the $97 million in funding: "We must continue to work together to ensure this assistance is used to the greatest possible effect in replacing the despotic regime in Baghdad with a government that respects its commitments both to the international community and to all the citizens of Iraq."
Unsurprisingly, of the $97 million approved for the INC, the Clinton administration last year approved only $5 million for office space and equipment and public relations training. Of that mere $5 million, only $20,000 has been spent to train four INC members on civilian military affairs. Mr. Gore's claim that the administration has tried to maximize the approved $97 million is therefore disingenuous and dishonest.
This is most unfortunate, since last week a defector from Iraq's special security organization provided the first real evidence that Saddam has continued building chemical weapons since U.N. inspectors left Iraq more than a year ago. Saddam's position in power threatens global security and has devastated the Iraqi people. Rather than write conciliatory letters, Mr. Gore should see to it that the INC receives the funds appropriated by Congress. The White House's containment policy is causing a security and humanitarian crisis. It is high time Mr. Gore put his stated convictions to work.

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