Calling to account

William Safire

September 18, 1990|By William Safire

SAN FRANCISCO — HERE ARE three officials who ought to be looking for new jobs:

1. The chief legal counsel in the Mossad has just made an oxymoron out of "Israeli intelligence" and deserves to be fired.

A disgruntled young man, after 14 months as a cadet in the Mossad, vents his spleen in a book that may endanger agents' lives, making wild charges that Israel could have WilliamSafiredone more to warn U.S. forces in Lebanon to beware of terrorists.

The sensible reaction would be to protect vulnerable sources and ignore or dismiss the book as the work of a malcontent. If necessary, Mossad should counter the poison by showing how closely Israeli and U.S. intelligence worked in 1983.

Instead, a legalistic Mossadnik blew his stack and attempted to get an American court to stop publication here.

Result: instant best seller, with the enriched author posing as a putative Salman Rushdie and Israel suffering a deserved black eye. Such abysmal lack of judgment in Jerusalem calls into question the vaunted Mossad's effectiveness in the field.

2. The architect of appeasement of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in our State Department should receive no reward for transgression.

Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly's kowtowing in Baghdad on Lincoln's birthday led the Iraqi dictator to discount American resolve. Kelly later instructed our ambassador there, April Glaspie, to apologize for a strong Voice of America editorial on human rights.

One week before the invasion of Kuwait, Kelly killed a July 25 broadcast that would have warned Iraq that "the U.S. remains strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of its friends in the Persian Gulf."

On that day, our Ms. Glaspie was taking a tongue-lashing from Saddam, who threatened terrorist response to any U.S. pressure for restraint.

Instructed by Kelly to be soothing, she did not respond to the blustering insults; instead, our overly distraught diplomat pleaded for "better relations," which further emboldened the dictator. (He released a tape of that session to demonstrate our weakness; his bugging habit may boomerang at a war crimes trial.)

In that last week before invasion, U.S. intelligence was warning of some sort of move into Kuwait. Revealingly, Glaspie later said, "Obviously, I didn't think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait."

Not all -- just part -- and despite that assessment, no strong warning was permitted to be given Iraq privately or broadcast publicly to potential hostages.

Kelly then did something strange: though warned of imminent hostilities, he pulled our ambassador out of her post of duty.

That is why Glaspie was homeward bound when Iraqi troops crossed the border; her career is now being ruined, as Kelly tries to make her the scapegoat for Secretary of State James A. Baker III's policy of appeasement.

3. The Commerce Department's see-no-evil officials -- who fought for the sale to Iraq of machinery that could be used for making nuclear weapons -- should be given early access to the revolving door.

Dennis Kloske, undersecretary of Commerce for Export Administration, is one of those responsible for the steady shipment of "dual use" materiel to Iraq, often over the protest of Defense Department officials.

Even though the manufacturer of a $10 million furnace useful in the production of nuclear components revealed its dangerous potential, Kloske and his mindless minions OK'd its shipment. It took the National Security Council to cancel this act of folly in the nick of time.

To this day, Kloske derides Pentagon watchdogs as "shameless," while Sen. Ernest F. "Fritz" Hollings, D-S.C., of Senate Commerce is asleep at the oversight switch.

The Defense Department has its own explaining to do: the failure of our "fast sealift" to do the job it was paid to do cannot be dismissed as a "glitch."

The Justice Department's two-year botch of the Lavoro scandal, an Atlanta banking dodge that enabled Iraq to finance billions in arms purchases, cries out for oversight from Senate Judiciary.

Around the world, democracies need not be burdened by the foolish, the feckless and the fatuous. We know who the miscreants are and some of the damage they have done; they should be called to account before they do any more.

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