Saddam Hussein has committed some of the biggest environmental crimes of all time. He may still commit even bigger ones. So environmentalists are leading — or at least supporting — the charge to oust Saddam, right? Wrong.

Most environmental groups have gone absent-without-leave when it comes to removing Saddam — even without the use of force. A few are protesting the war. Incredibly, some are even portraying the U.S. as the real threat to the environment.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam’s troops set 600 Kuwaiti oil wells ablaze "creating a toxic smoke that choked the atmosphere and blocked the sun," according to news reports. The smoke was so thick for a time that the temperature in Kuwait was 10 degrees below normal.

Iraqi troops dumped an estimated 50 million barrels of oil into the Kuwaiti desert, forming huge oil lakes and contaminating aquifers.

Another 4 million barrels of oil were dumped into the Persian Gulf — an act of eco-sabotage some 25 times larger than the accidental Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska.

The environmentalists almost gleefully have persecuted Exxon. Saddam, though, gets a free pass.

All the Sierra Club has to say about Saddam is that it supports the United Nations inspection process as a means of disarming him. Does that include taking away Saddam’s matches so that he can’t start any more oil well fires?

Coalition forces, after all, have only secured about 600 Iraqi oil wells. There are 900 others left to be secured.

The Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, both of which fret that carbon dioxide emissions from SUVs are contributing to global warming, have had nothing to say about removing Saddam — even though the Kuwaiti oil well fires emitted an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to the annual emissions from about 500 million SUVs.

The environmental groups’ silence is deafening — but understandable. Fenton Communications, their chief PR firm and former adviser to Nicaragua’s Marxist Sandinistas, has advised the environmental groups not to Dixie Chick themselves.

"Don’t issue a press statement about the war… Don’t hold a press conference," advises Fenton.

Not all of Fenton’s clients listen very well, though.

Greenpeace is actively protesting the war, even going so far as to mimic U.S. attempts to persuade Iraqi troops not to fight. Greenpeace used a hot air balloon to drop anti-war leaflets over a British air force base shortly before U.S. B-52 bombers took off for Iraq.

I wonder what would have happened had Greenpeace tried that over an Iraqi air force base.

Though Saddam is prepared to sabotage Iraq’s oil wells and oil pipelines and has already ignited oil-filled ditches surrounding Baghdad, some environmentalists seem to think we’re the bad guys.

"Environmentalists say that U.S. fighter jets, tanks, armor-piercing shells and ground-shattering Massive Ordinance Air-Burst (MOAB) bombs likely will destroy or seriously damage Iraqi water and sewage treatment plants and dams; ruin archaeological sites and harm what little remains of the Mesopotamian Marshlands, the primary source of freshwater in southern Iraq…," reported the Washington Post.

I guess they missed all the reports of our precision bombing capabilities, intention not to destroy key public works and commitment to rebuilding Iraq after the war.

Hard as this is to fathom, the real environmental criminal in the minds of environmentalists is not Saddam — it’s President Bush.

Environmentalists, who tend to range from the politically liberal to outright Marxists, react viscerally to President Bush, whose environmental policies, particularly withdrawing the U.S. from the Kyoto global warming treaty, have only added fuel to the fire.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, for example, has gone to great effort on its Web site to track and castigate President Bush’s record on environmental issues. Saddam, however, doesn’t rate any criticism from NRDC.

The environmentalists certainly hope that Operation Iraqi Freedom results in the removal of a president — but apparently that would be President Bush in the 2004 elections, not Saddam in Spring 2003.

They won’t admit that publicly, though. With 70 percent of Americans supporting President Bush and Operation Iraqi Freedom, "attacking Bush may be a no-go for awhile," advises Fenton.

While the environmentalists bide their time for a more appropriate opportunity to attack our President, going after the real threat to the environment, President Saddam Hussein, isn’t even on their agenda.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

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