Lantos, D-San Mateo, was said to have made the comments to a member of Israel’s Labor Party when she visited Washington last week to push for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, the Tel Aviv daily Ha’aretz reported Monday.
“You won’t have any problem with Saddam,” Lantos reportedly told MK
Collete Avital. “We’ll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And in his place we’ll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for us and good for you.”
Lantos told Avital that the “dictator” would rule Iraq for five or six years, until an Iraqi leader could learn to run the state, Ha’aretz reported.
After the United States removes regimes of evil, Lantos told Avital, it will go to Syria and tell “young Assad that’s what will happen if he doesn’t stop supporting terrorism,” Ha’retz reported.
Lantos denied making the comments and said he never talked to Akiva Eldar, the Ha’aretz reporter who wrote the column.
“I am amused by the comments Ha’aretz attributes to me, because they fly in the face of my lifetime of work,” Lantos said. “I am a firm supporter of democracy.”
Lantos said he would never support a dictatorship in Iraq.
Lantos is co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus and the ranking democrat on the House International Relations Committee. He has been one of the Bay Area’s most hawkish legislators on Iraq.
The column titled “They’re jumping in head first,” discusses Lantos’ comments on Iraq and the possible aftermath of a U.S. war on the Middle Eastern country.
The comments angered Arab-American and Muslim groups, one of which called for Lantos to resign as chair of the Human Rights Caucus.
“Is he really fit for the job?” said Khalid Turaani, executive director of American Muslims for Jerusalem. “When he calls for a dictatorship, it really calls into question his work for human rights.” You can reach staff writer Justin Jouvenal at 348-4331 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .