Wednesday, July 06, 2005

This one's for you Tidd.

Guess when this happened

Okay, contestants, when did this news story break?

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CNN) -- The Bush administration's plan to launch a military strike on Iraq ran into plenty of flak in the American heartland Wednesday. At a town meeting held in St. John Arena at Ohio State University and aired exclusively on CNN, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice encountered a noisy, opinionated crowd and considerable opposition to another war with Iraq.

Powell was drowned out at one point by a group chanting, "One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war," as he tried to explain U.S. policy to the audience of 6,000.

The heckling became so intense at one point that Powell interrupted CNN's Judy Woodruff and said, "Could you tell those people I'll be happy to talk to them when this is over. I'd like to make my point."

Similar outbursts greeted Rumsfeld and Rice as they laid out again a U.S. position that is familiar to those who have followed the building crisis in the media.

They said the United States would prefer to see a peaceful resolution and hopes that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will make significant progress when he visits with Iraqi officials this weekend.

But if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein doesn't allow U.N. arms inspectors to have unrestricted access to all weapons sites in Iraq, they reaffirmed that a U.S.-led coalition will respond with military force.

How many times....?'

While those opposing a "racist war" were a tiny, if vocal, minority, there were many others in the audience who agreed with a veteran who asked if "we're going to do it half-assed the way we did before?"

A caller from Oklahoma echoed that sentiment, asking, "How many times are we going to send our children and our children's children to fight Saddam Hussein?"

"We've spent seven years containing him at no loss to U.S. lives," Rumsfeld said, adding that an attack would reduce the threat of "chemical and biological weapons that will pose a threat to your children and grandchildren for the future."

Another caller noted that the U.S. encouraged an uprising in southern Iraq but did not help those who responded, and that they were subsequently "slaughtered" by Iraqi troops."Our policy has been to support opposition groups, and it continues to be our policy," Rumsfeld began, but he was drowned out by chants of "Bull----! Bull----!"

Another member of the audience screamed at the chanters, "Shut up!" One young man asked Powell why the United States is willing to attack Iraq while ignoring actions by other countries. Powell responded, "No one has done what Saddam Hussein has done, or is thinking of doing. He is producing weapons of mass destruction, and he is qualitatively and quantitatively different from other dictators."

Powell scolds questioner
As shouts erupted from the audience, he added, "I'm really surprised that people feel they need to defend the rights of Saddam Hussein." "You're not answering my question, Mr. Powell," the questioner said. Powell said, "I suggest, sir, that you study carefully what American foreign policy is. Every one of the violations has been pointed out on what is not right, and I would be happy to spend 50 minutes with you after the forum to explain it."

Rice told the audience that should military action be necessary, "the cardinal principle of the planning of this operation has been to seek to minimize civilian casualties." Obviously, that's not possible (to eliminate them altogether), especially when you're dealing with someone who uses people as human shields. But we have no intention of trying to wreak havoc on the Iraqi people."

One heckler who made his way to a microphone asked how Powell, Rumsfeld and Rice could sleep at night, knowing that innocent Iraqis would be killed and injured by any military strike."We will not send messages to Saddam Hussein with the blood of the Iraqi people," he said. "If you want to deal with Saddam, deal with Saddam, not the Iraqi people."

'What democracy is all about'
"What we are doing," replied Powell, "is so that you all can sleep at night. I am very proud of what we are doing. We are the greatest nation in the world ..." He stopped as the audience rose and applauded.

"... and what we are doing," he resumed, "is being the indispensable nation, willing to make the world safe for our children and grandchildren, and for nations who follow the rules."

A caller from Germany who identified himself as a member of the U.S. armed forces, told the panel that he agreed with what they were trying to do. "And if lives need to be lost," he said, "let it start with mine." Although surprised by the opposition they encountered, the officials adjusted to the noise level and the probing questions.

"This is a tremendous example of what democracy is all about," Rumsfeld said. "People expressing opposition ... would not be allowed to do this in a number of countries, including Iraq."

A State Department spokesman played down the tone of the meeting, and said Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld "enjoyed it. They came away feeling that the overwhelming majority of the audience was very supportive of the goals of the administration."

If you guessed 2002, you're wrong. In fact, this whole exercise is a cheat.

The story is from Feb 18, 1998. And the cast of characters was not Powell, Rice and Rumsfeld. It was Madeleine Albright, Sandy "Scissorhands" Berger and William Cohen.

Fascinating how evil and dangerous Saddam Hussein was during the Clinton presidency. As Albright said:

No one has done what Saddam Hussein has done, or is thinking of doing. He is producing weapons of mass destruction, and he is qualitatively and quantitatively different from other dictators.

But today's historical revisionists say Saddam was no threat, and that Bush lied (Downing Street memo, blah blah blah).

Hypocrisy is always ugly.