Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has a lot of people to thank.
Thank you notes aren't usually my style, but I just had to tell you how grateful I am for all you've done lately.
Thanks so much for interposing your "diplomatic mission" just as the Americans' war fever was really heating up. It was masterful. Painted Bill Clinton right into a corner. He kept saying that he preferred a diplomatic solution, so how could he fail to bless your mission? And having blessed, how could he then fail to accept any agreement you came back with?
My dear Kofi, I am delighted with our accord. It leaves me no worse than I was before. I feared, briefly, that I might be yoked to some harsh new conditions, but all you asked me to accede to were the same stipulations free access for UN weapons teams that I've been acceding to for eight years. You even gave me a bonus, bowing to my demand that diplomats from the five key Security Council nations be permitted to join the inspectors. That will enable my Russian, French, and Chinese friends to stir up some mischief, eh? It won't be long before they're calling press conferences to dispute the claims of the weapons inspectors. Or even calling for the inspections to be phased out altogether. Just wait and see!
Anyway, Kofi, thanks for everything. Thanks for getting the UN to double my oil sales ceiling. Thanks for not mentioning during your press conference with Tariq that the real crisis is my refusal to abide by the norms of civilized behavior. Thanks for not reminding people that I have used nerve gas before and would readily use it again. What I'm saying is: Thanks for legitimizing me.
* * * *
Dear President Clinton:
Boy, do I owe you a big one. By being so lenient, by not making me pay any penalty for breaking my word, insulting Washington, menacing my neighbors, and obstructing the U.N. inspectors' work, you've allowed me once again to come out on top. You were so nice last fall, when I threatened to shoot down your U-2s and slandered your arms experts by calling them spies. I really never thought you would give me yet another chance to build up my stockpile of lethal toxins and viruses. But you did, and I am so grateful.
Thanks for telegraphing your fear of using force against me. Sure, you moved a lot of weapons and soldiers into the Gulf, but your body language said it all: The thought of projecting U.S. military power gives you the willies. You let me off this time without even the traditional pinprick missile strike. I can imagine what Ronald Reagan would have done! Thank you for not being Reaganesque. Or even Kennedyesque.
I loved how you stressed at your press conference the other day that the real issue was "clarity" -- as if my obligation to destroy my entire arsenal of mass destruction hasn't been shimmeringly clear all along. "He has admitted," you said, "that he has to honor commitments he made back in '91." Thanks for not repeating what you said at the Pentagon less than a week earlier: "Some day, some way, I guarantee you, he'll use the arsenal."
I know most of your countrymen don't trust me, Mr. President, so I'm glad you're willing to cut me some more slack. This time I really mean it: The inspections can resume. Really. Scout's honor. Cross my heart.
P.S. May I just reiterate how pleased I am that Bob Dole did not become president?
* * * *
Dear Mr. Turner:
I want to thank you and all the wonderful folks at CNN for that superb "town meeting" in Columbus, Ohio. I couldn't have asked for anything better. Who would have expected Madeleine Albright, Bill Cohen, and Sandy Berger — "Larry," Curly," and "Moe," we've been calling them here — to sit there like schnooks while a handful of protesters disrupted the proceedings? And who'd have thought that nobody would throw the hecklers out once it was clear that they weren't going to shut up?
But nobody did, and Columbus spooked Washington into thinking that Americans didn't support a war to drive me from power — even though every poll was finding the opposite. That only added to Clinton's paralysis, and his willingness to grab the fig leaf deal I cut with Kofi Annan. It was beautiful, Ted, just beautiful. Thanks for everything.
P.S. Do you ever see Peter Arnett? He's still my favorite journalist.
* * * *
Thank you. For everything. You are a true friend. I bless the day, so many years ago, when we first met. There was a time when I thought your KGB past would be a barrier to your success. I should have known better. We are brothers, you and I.
How I admired your skill at keeping America from reassembling its 1990 coalition! How I laughed when you got Boris Yeltsin to say that a US attack on my country would precipitate "World War III!" How I marveled as you worked Moscow back into a role of influence in the Middle East, frustrating the Americans at every turn.
You are a pro, Yevgeny. And a trustworthy ally. Soon very soon we shall savor the taste of revenge.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
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