- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2004

Far away lands

The last time we wrote about Dallas B. Lawrence, then-spokesman for Education Secretary Rod Paige, he’d embarked with his boss on a snow-sled trek across the Alaskan tundra to reach a one-room schoolhouse in the tiny village of Savoonga.

It was part of a four-day journey to Alaska, including travel by Black Hawk helicopter to tour a native Alaskan village and schoolhouse in Tuntutuliak, to see firsthand the unique education needs of rural America.

Mr. Lawrence has now departed Washington again, bound this time for Baghdad, where in recent days he’s assumed the post of “press officer, Office of Strategic Communications, Coalition Provisional Authority — Baghdad.”

His very first day on the job was almost his last.

“Obviously, the events of today have put a damper on spirits,” Mr. Lawrence writes to Inside the Beltway, after a suicide bomber on Sunday detonated an estimated 1,000 pounds of explosives outside the U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad, killing 31 persons and wounding 123 others.

“‘Welcome to Baghdad!’ Those were the words uttered to me today by a stranger I passed in the hallway while trying to find my way to the ‘attack shelter’ in the early-morning hours,” he continued. “It was 7:55 and I had just completed breakfast and had made my way to my office to start my first ‘real’ day. I decided to place a call home to let my mother know that I was doing well and that all was safe and sound in the ‘Green Zone.’

“As we were saying our goodbyes an enormous blast shook the room I was sitting in and the entire building fell silent. It is hard to describe the sound an explosion of this magnitude makes. The explosion was felt almost as deeply as it was heard. … Until this moment it had been academic, something I had seen on TV in far away lands.”

Trusting Byrd

When it comes to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or lack thereof, it’s too bad President Bush can’t read a page from the January issue of Military magazine when he delivers his crucial State of the Union address tonight.

The magazine’s military-minded editors, who know more about WMDs than the rest of us, have an intriguing item surrounding what certain politicians said in the not-so-distant past about former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s possession of these deadly weapons.

Let’s start with critics who continue to charge that it was Mr. Bush who said Iraq’s WMD program was an “imminent threat.”

“Sorry, he never said that,” says Military’s editors. “He wanted to get them ‘before they become an imminent threat.’ It was instead Senator Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia Democrat, now a Bush critic, who said, ‘I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat.’”

It gets better, at least for defenders of Mr. Bush.

President Clinton’s National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger, for instance, warned Feb. 18, 1998: “He [Saddam] will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has 10 times since 1983.”

While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, added Dec. 16, 1998: “Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology, which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons-inspection process.”

Then there was Mr. Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright stating Nov. 10, 1999: “Hussein has … chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies.”

Finally, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, declared with utmost certainty Oct. 3, 2002: “We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical- and biological-warfare capabilities.”

Israel in Iowa

Wesley Clark wasn’t the only no-show at yesterday’s Iowa caucuses.

“I can’t believe I am not in Iowa today — it’s killing me,” says veteran Washington campaign consultant and pollster Jennifer Laszlo.

So where are you?

“This season I am biting my fingers since I am the founder and president of a new non-profit, the Israel Project, which works to help promote an accurate image of Jews and Israel in the press and public,” she tells us. “The nonprofit really took off, and to keep it ‘kosher’ with the [Internal Revenue Service], I am taking a pass on the political season.”

While she herself has not been on the Democratic campaign trail, Mrs. Laszlo’s nonprofit has been sending teams to Iowa and New Hampshire to educate candidates and the press about Israel.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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