After several meetings with two local congressmen about the Iraq War, it's time to unleash the transcript. Democratic Reps. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton and Peter Deutsch of Pembroke Pines revealed their most intimate thoughts during the sessions, though they thankfully stopped short of any discussion about their precious bodily fluids.
It has been, nevertheless, a rather Strangelovian experience, beginning with a September 26, 2002, column titled "Hawking for Israel" in which I argued that Wexler and Deutsch were backing George W. Bush's ill-conceived war because of their blind loyalty to Israel. Both told me it wasn't true.
Dozens of readers sent passionate letters, half accusing me of being an anti-Semite and half thanking me for bravely speaking the truth. Either I was a Nazi sympathizer or I deserved the Pulitzer.
In reality, I'm just a columnist who was frozen for 30,000 years before being dug up and restored to life by your scientists. Your world frightens and confuses me. I don't know how to use your new "indoor plumbing" or what you mean by "Iraqi Governing Council," but I do know that when a criminal war is being waged by a bull-headed, recovering-alcoholic, court-appointed president in the name of "securing the peace," you should oppose it.
But enough about me -- this is about Wexler and Deutsch. The three of us had at least four meetings over the past 14 months on the issue of Iraq. At least, I think we had them. Maybe I just read it somewhere. I can't remember. Brain thaw can be a bitch. But don't worry -- my editor said he would add a footnote or two just to prove they said it.
Bob Norman: So do we need to bomb the hell out of Iraq to show those Arab bastards who's boss or what?
Robert Wexler: The only element that gets respect in the Middle East is force... is power. And ultimately, the United States can bring to bear a level of power in this region that no one else can. So when Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Jordan and the Israelis and Yasser Arafat realize that George Bush is just dead serious about going into Iraq and mopping Saddam Hussein out of the place and cleaning Iraq out of their complicity with terrorism, then I think you'll see even a more constructive attitude toward the peace process.1
Bob Norman: Wow, I've never heard war sound so, um, janitorial. A little dab of MOAB'll do ya, huh? So this is about world domination?
Robert Wexler: We're looking to simply avoid Iraq exercising the weapons of mass destruction that it has.2
Bob Norman: But we don't know that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
Robert Wexler: The issue is really not that complicated. We know that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons.3
Bob Norman: Well, I'm sure you wouldn't pull such a grave assertion out of your ass. You're in Congress, after all.
Peter Deutsch: Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are directed at us. Saddam Hussein's weapons aren't aimed at Sweden or France; they are aimed at the United States and Israel... We are talking about a potential disaster beyond any of our imaginations.4
Bob Norman: Yikes. But Saddam Hussein has been pretty quiet for the past decade, hasn't he?
Robert Wexler: He's kept a low profile because he doesn't want to stick his head out and be a target, but he needs to go.5
Bob Norman: But he's never attacked the United States or directly engaged in terrorism.
Robert Wexler: I am convinced that Iraq is the epicenter of the terrorist network in the Middle East. I think the possibility of Saddam Hussein attacking American interests in one way or another is not only likely but is imminently real. And it doesn't have to be by a missile flying over an ocean. It could be in the form of a chemical put in an air conditioning system. It could be on the bottom of a cargo ship coming in to Port Everglades.6
Bob Norman: Good God! Saddam might be in our air conditioning vents? I'm glad he doesn't have nuclear weapons.
Peter Deutsch: There is no proof yet of nuclear weapons, but I'm confident it will come. I won't vote to authorize the president to use force in Iraq unless he proves that Iraq has nuclear weapons and has both the means and intent to deliver them.7
Bob Norman: What about allies? You've been to Turkey several times, Rep. Wexler, trying to persuade that country to join the war effort.
Robert Wexler: Turkey will be with us in the end. I guarantee it.8
Bob Norman: If you say so.
October 2002, just after the vote by Congress authorizing Bush to invade Iraq:
Bob Norman: Well, Rep. Wexler, you said you would authorize the use of force, and you sure as hell did.
Robert Wexler: Not because I support the irresponsible manner and timing in which President Bush has proceeded with his plans for war, not because I support the president's attempt to handcuff Congress into granting a blank check for unilateral military action, and not because I accept the president's shameful neglect of our spiraling economic crisis and other domestic issues of imminent concern.9
Bob Norman: If you don't think the guy can drive, why'd you give him the keys?
Robert Wexler: Now is the moment in which Congress must act to defend freedom, confront a brutal dictator, and rid the world of his increasingly devastating threat.10
Bob Norman: Have you been channeling Joe McCarthy again? How about you, Rep. Deutsch? Bush never proved anything about nuclear weapons, yet you still voted yea.
Peter Deutsch: I believed that the evidence was there.11
Bob Norman: Oh, it must have been with Saddam's WMD at the bottom of a cargo ship in Port Everglades.
March 2003, just four days before the war began:
Bob Norman: Any misgivings about this war now?
Peter Deutsch: My preference is for Saddam Hussein to leave or people in Iraq to force him out. If they don't, it is necessary to use military force to do that.12
Bob Norman: Rep. Wexler, I see you're wringing your hands -- and here's a napkin for that sweat dripping off your forehead.
Robert Wexler: I think the American people... are totally confused. It's unfair, it's ridiculous to ask to predict how many people we're going to lose or how long it will take. But what I don't think is unfair to ask of the president is what's our plan when we win the war, if we have to fight it... We're committed to occupying Iraq? Or are we talking to our allies about how they're going to help us in the occupation?13
Bob Norman: Fine time to start asking questions.
Robert Wexler: For us to go to war before the time that many in the international community believe is warranted makes our job of winning the peace much more dangerous. And, more importantly, it jeopardizes our own homeland security.14
Bob Norman: You already voted for it -- and you said, "Don't wait for Europe."
Robert Wexler: The go-it-alone crowd needs to cool their jets.15
Bob Norman: How much more time do you think we need for proper diplomacy?
Robert Wexler: Another ten days or so.16
Bob Norman: But that doesn't sound like enough...
U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw [barging into room, a flag cape flowing behind him]: We are witnessing the United States of America bringing freedom and liberty to the people of Iraq! Further delay would only bring more deception, continued instability, and potential horrific consequences for American lives and interests around the globe!17
Bob Norman: Who invited that guy?
Bob Norman: Thousands of Iraqis and more than 400 Americans dead. About $200 billion spent. Baghdad is a bloody mess, and there is no end in sight. Any regrets?
Robert Wexler: The issue still remains, and I'm not ducking it, whether or not this president, President Bush, took this country to war on false pretenses.18
Bob Norman: How courageous of you, but aren't you complicit in this debacle too?
Robert Wexler: I gave the president military authority based on the fact that the administration presented facts that put the American people in grave danger. We now know that the president took us to a war based on false pretenses.19
Bob Norman: Come now, didn't you have your own agenda, beginning with your strong alliance with Israel?
Robert Wexler: The idea that Jewish people are responsible for this president pushing this war is harmful, hurtful, and it's also extremely ignorant.20
Bob Norman: Of course Bush had his own motivations -- world strategery, oil, private profiteering -- but Israeli leadership and lobby groups did push for this war. Let's not forget about Wolfowitz, Perle, and the rest of the neo-con architects of this disaster either. By the way, why hasn't this war brought peace to the Middle East yet?
Robert Wexler: Unfortunately, it's not George Bush's fault. It's not Ariel Sharon's fault. Right now, you have Yasser Arafat working to a certain degree in cahoots with Hamas, Hezbollah.21
Bob Norman: How surprising; the straight Likudnik line. What happened to Turkey? You promised they'd join us.
Robert Wexler: The administration has failed to persuade the Turks.22 And this administration didn't have a plan to reconstruct Iraq. That is the crime here.23
Bob Norman: Accountability isn't your bag, is it, baby? Wasn't this war really just a piss-poor idea in the first place?
Robert Wexler: We won an impressive military battle in Iraq. My hat is off to the president and to the military. We now have a disaster on the ground. And why doesn't the president take responsibility for that? Is it too much to ask, Bob, that the president of the United States have a plan?24
Bob Norman: What do you have to say, Deutsch?
Peter Deutsch: The world is in a worse position right now, in terms of security, than it was before we went to war.25
Bob Norman: Thanks. Do you admit now that Iraq had no nuclear weapons?
Peter Deutsch: I'm not convinced of that yet.26
Bob Norman: And you're running for Senate?
Jack Ripper [entering with a cigar clinched in his teeth]: Shut up, you idiots. We have work to do.
Bob Norman: Sterling Hayden?
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Jack Ripper: Call me Gen. Jack D. Ripper. That limey son of a bitch Kubrick keeps bringing me out of retirement. Were you ever a prisoner of war?
Bob Norman: No. But I thought you were dead.
Jack Ripper: Great movie characters never die, son. Now I need Deutsch and Wexler. We have some Arabs left to kill in the Sunni Triangle before Saddam tries to fluoridate our ice cream. Our ice cream. That's the way your hard-core Baathist works. Let's go, Mandrake!
[interview ends abruptly as Ripper hustles the congressmen off to a waiting Army tank. Deutsch and Wexler have second thoughts and flee in the opposite direction.]