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What Was Saddam Thinking?:
Tomorrow's New York Times has a fascinating story on Saddam Hussein's strategy leading up to the Iraq war. According to the account, Saddam was worried more about internal unrest than a U.S. invasion; he believed that the U.S. would never risk the casualties that would result from a ground war. Further, Saddam wanted the world to suspect he had WMDs as a deterrent; in particular, he didn't want enemies like Iran to know that he was vulnerable.
Cornellian (mail):
Based on the recent past, the calculation that the US would not invade was not an unreasonable one.
3.11.2006 8:37pm
Kazinski:
Saddam lied, people died.

The Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction, and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation's defense.
3.11.2006 8:50pm
Tom952 (mail):
I vote to sentence him to time served, and give it back.
3.11.2006 9:07pm
Kendall:
Kazinski - "Saddam Lied, people died."

I admit that is the general impression I'm left with. I do want to believe Saddam lied and that we were justified on the basis of those lies that we had a justification to go in and remove saddam. Its not that I fail to find removing him for the sake of the Iraqi people lacking in nobility, I simply believe a misrepresentation of evidence to be more compelling.

With that said I see nothing in the article about how Saddam "lied" I see plenty of support in the article for the proposition that people believed incorrect things.

I make this distinction because I believe accuracy is important. Saddam as I recall consistently told the UN that there were no WMD in Iraq. It seems the evidence thus far has largely born this assertion out (although absence of evidence is not in itself evidence of absence).

Also notable, from the article in question:
In December 2002, he told his top commanders that Iraq did not possess unconventional arms, like nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force established by the C.I.A. to investigate what happened to Iraq's weapons programs. Mr. Hussein wanted his officers to know they could not rely on poison gas or germ weapons if war broke out. The disclosure that the cupboard was bare, Mr. Aziz said, sent morale plummeting.

To ensure that Iraq would pass scrutiny by United Nations arms inspectors, Mr. Hussein ordered that they be given the access that they wanted. And he ordered a crash effort to scrub the country so the inspectors would not discover any vestiges of old unconventional weapons, no small concern in a nation that had once amassed an arsenal of chemical weapons, biological agents, and Scud missiles, the Iraq survey group report said.

Mr. Hussein's compliance was not complete, though. Iraq's declarations to the United Nations covering what weapons of mass destruction stocks it had possessed and how it had disposed of them were old and had gaps. And Mr. Hussein would not allow his weapons scientists to leave the country, where United Nations officials could interview them outside the government's control.

Seeking to deter Iran and even enemies at home, the Iraqi dictator's goal was to cooperate with the inspectors while preserving some ambiguity about its unconventional weapons — a strategy General Hamdani, the Republican Guard commander, later dubbed in a television interview "deterrence by doubt."


In other words, there were no WMD. Saddam never alleged that there were WMD. Saddam made every effort to give the UN full access. Saddam made every effort according to the article to "scrub" any remaining record of PAST stockpiles. The only thing Saddam did was try to create "doubt" as a deterrent, somewhat similar to our implication that if China invades Taiwan we'll step in with Nukes if necessary, we never explicitly say so, but we stand ready to respond.

Where in that is Saddam's lie? Honestly, I remember reading in the lead up to the war all these articles about how Saddam had this, saddam had that. I remember chuckling over his denials as being so totally unbelievable because of all the evidence of WMD. But we haven't found any. There weren't any there. Saddam said there weren't any there.

I'm NOT arguing that Saddam should be set free, his crimes against the Iraqi people ARE in fact well documented and he should be prosecuted. I'm also not saying that the Iraq war was not justifiable, based on the intelligence shown to the American people it seemed logical that we should go to war.As well, Saddam repeatedly attacked US planes in the no-fly zone in violation of our treaty ending the gulf war. He definitely should have been removed from power, that can't be argued and shouldn't be.

But none of that involves Saddam lying.
3.11.2006 9:16pm
Beerslurpy (mail) (www):
The costs of a top-down system. I've worked for companies like this and the mechanisms used to assert control directly compete with people's ability to accomplish anything meaningful. All the best employees leave to find a less overbearing employeer and the remaining ones work just hard enough to avoid the axe.

I imagine this is just as true for middle eastern militaries as it is for western governments or corporations.
3.11.2006 9:25pm
Enoch:
Saddam wanted the world to suspect he had WMDs as a deterrent

This is ridiculous because it was quite obviously the only thing that would provoke the US to come and get him.
3.11.2006 11:47pm
Humble Law Student:
Enoch,

Its quite reasonable. Saddam was a ruthless dictator who only stayed in power through fear and the appearance of strength - of which WMD played a major role. If he admitted that he didn't have WMD, he would lose his "credibility" before his own people and his perpetual enemy the Iranians. And, when he loses that, his persona and likely his regime, crumbles.
3.12.2006 12:06am
PaulV (mail):

Enoch, it is not ridiculus-Saddam was more afraid of uprising by the Kurds and Shia or Invasion by Iran than he was by attack by US. Was SH in violation of UN security resolution and did he corrupt UN in the Oil for Food scandals.
3.12.2006 12:09am
KMAJ (mail):
With the recently released tapes and documents and Gen. Sada's book, this NY Times article seems like a diversion, put out to cover their insistence there were no WMDs. The real fact is that we do not know. I have noticed their lack of coverage of the released tapes and documents. They would look pretty stupid if they found out the WMDs really did go to Syria with Russian help, because that Syria angle has been out there for some time, and both Kay and Duelpher said they could not discount that.
3.12.2006 12:37am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
Saddam was far from irrational for at least two reasons. First, as the above comments have indicated, the probability that the U.S. would invade if it believed Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction" was not obviously greater (and may have been less) than the probability that Iran would invade, the Kurds would declare independence and/or the Shiites would rebel if it was known that he didn't have such weapons.

Secondly, Saddam's expected value calculation depended not only on the probability of war, but the cost to him and those (anyone?) he cared about associated with that particular kind of war. The U.S. invaded, won, and Saddam is on trial. The Sunnis are being enticed back into the political system, and they are protected from the "democratic" tyranny of the 60% Shiite majority by the fact that it requires 2/3 of the National Assembly to form a government. I'm not sure the Iranians and/or Shiites, unrestrained by the U.S., would have been so kind.
3.12.2006 1:36am
The River Temoc (mail):
One important point to remember in all these discussions of Iraqi WMDs is that under the Gulf War I accords, the burden of proof was on Iraq to demonstrate that it did not have WMDs -- NOT on the anti-Iraq coalition to demonstrate that it did. I therefore find arguments that "there were no WMDs, hence the war was unjustified" to be wholly unconvincing.

It is also worth recalling that Saddam possessed, and used, WMDs in the during the Iran-Iraq war, as the example of the village of Halabja indicates.
3.12.2006 3:03am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
as the example of the village of Halabja indicates.
If anyone is interested, here is a short flash movie: Never Forget Halabja '88

NOTE: It bears a warning for sensitive viewers.
3.12.2006 3:13am
Broncos:

One important point to remember in all these discussions of Iraqi WMDs is that under the Gulf War I accords, the burden of proof was on Iraq to demonstrate that it did not have WMDs -- NOT on the anti-Iraq coalition to demonstrate that it did. I therefore find arguments that "there were no WMDs, hence the war was unjustified" to be wholly unconvincing.

The claim for the war was a 2-parter:
(1) Iraq has WMD, AND
(2) We are in imminent danger of having them used on us. We have no time to wait, try other options, we have invade right now. We are in dire jeopardy, and we're not going to wait for the mushroom cloud smoking gun.

Even if the evidence is inconclusive as to how strong the Administration should have thought the case for (1) was, there is little doubt that the Administration knew there was very little case for (2).
3.12.2006 3:20am
llamasex (mail) (www):
The River Temoc how would Saddam had gone about proving he had no WMD? Say I have not WMD? He did that Let inspectors in? He did that. What else was he to do?
3.12.2006 3:23am
Charles Chapman (mail) (www):
The claim for the war was a 2-parter:
(1) Iraq has WMD, AND
(2) We are in imminent danger of having them used on us. We have no time to wait, try other options, we have invade right now. We are in dire jeopardy, and we're not going to wait for the mushroom cloud smoking gun.

Even if the evidence is inconclusive as to how strong the Administration should have thought the case for (1) was, there is little doubt that the Administration knew there was very little case for (2).


I'm not so sure. The fear, and indeed my great fear now re: WMD in general, is that Iraq would supply the biological or chemical WMD to a terrorist group for an untraceable (or what Saddam believed would be an untraceable) attack on the U.S. or our allies. There may or may not have been a "case for" such an attack, but given the nature and degree of the danger I think there are significant questions regarding the standard of proof. Particularly after 9/11 (and yes, I know Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11) the previously unthinkable had to be considered.
3.12.2006 3:30am
Kendall:
One important point to remember in all these discussions of Iraqi WMDs is that under the Gulf War I accords, the burden of proof was on Iraq to demonstrate that it did not have WMDs -- NOT on the anti-Iraq coalition to demonstrate that it did.


How can one possibly prove a negative?

I therefore find arguments that "there were no WMDs, hence the war was unjustified" to be wholly unconvincing.


I do as well, but not because of silly posturing about shifting the burden of proof. The war was justified because we made the world safer removing Saddam Hussein. the WMD claim was a double edged sword from the beginning, yes it makes a strong, clear public case but having been indicated to have been overhyped it should now be addressed in a context that explains the other reasons for invading Iraq and removing a brutal dictator from power.
3.12.2006 4:18am
Broncos:

The war was justified because we made the world safer removing Saddam Hussein.

1. The point is that this war was sold as an immediately necessary action against an imminent threat. It wasn't. It was a war of choice.

2. Taking out Saddam made the world safer. True. What was the opportunity cost? We could have made ourselves as safe, or safer, by taking a number of alternative actions.

To choose three sets of random examples: (1) Pouring troops into and securing Afghanistan, finding Bin Ladin, not allowing Al Queda to escape and establish itself in the Pakistani hinterland, etc.; (2) Spending $250 BILLION on securing ports, package shipments, airline security, subway security, securing alternative sources of energy/sheltering businesses switching energy sources; etc; (3) Using the threat of excess military capacity &untarnished diplomatic credibility to ensure that N. Korea did not acquire nuclear weapons/take care of the nuclear weapons that N. Korean acquired.

All three sets of alternative options would have made us as secure, or more secure, than stationing significant numbers of troops (with minimal *total* troop commitments from the rest of the world) in Iraq for 5 plus years to reconstruct the country.

(And this doesn't deny that Saddam was a brutal dictator. However, if we wanted to run an armor-plated humanitarian mission, shouldering the overwhelming percentage of troop commitments, perhaps we should have started with, say, Darfur? The humanitarian threat seems a little more "imminent.")
3.12.2006 5:17am
steve k:
Bronco, you are simply wrong. Whether or not Iraq was an imminent threat, the war was not sold on that point. In fact, Iraq was, correctly, identified as a significant and serious threat (and that was only one of the reasons directly given for the war). The WMD part of this argument was often emphasized to get international support, since that was an issue that involved direct violation of UN resolutions. Don't forget we got unanimous approval from the UN to give Iraq "one last chance" before action was taken, regarding its WMD, which Iraq failed to meet. (It was only after it became clear the UN would never support a war--particularly France, Germany and Russia--that we invaded with a multi-country coalition.)

And yes, you CAN "prove a negative." It was Iraq's job to keep track of its WMD. It's perfectly normal for an Amry, or any company for that matter, to be able to account for its major assets. Iraq, as stated above, could not explain all sorts of missing WMD. Even if Iraq secretly junked or destroyed its WMD, that won't do. The UN properly found Iraq had violated its "last chance" resolution.

Since the war, we have discovered that Saddam had the material and other necessities to quickly make and hide WMD, and even apparently had the expectation of doing so when the heat was off. We also know, despite what you may believe you've heard, that he was seeking other WMD, including nuclear weapons, from outside Iraq.

It is not possessing WMD that makes us want to invade a country, since Israel, France, Pakistan and many others have them. It is the fear of what a murderous madmen, with a long and dangerous track record, may do with them.

The only thing this new report shows, if true, is that the Iraqi people should breathe a sigh of relief. If Saddam (probably encouraged by the friends he'd paid off in his money for oil deal) figured the US wouldn't invade, and most feared internal dissent, it looks like he was ready for yet another round of slaughtering tens of thousands of his people, perhaps hundreds of thousands.
3.12.2006 6:19am
Broncos:

Bronco, you are simply wrong. Whether or not Iraq was an imminent threat, the war was not sold on that point. In fact, Iraq was, correctly, identified as a significant and serious threat (and that was only one of the reasons directly given for the war).

Incorrect. We were making a case for "preemptive" war, remember? We might have had some evidence that Iraq had weapons which posed a "significant" threat, but we simply had no evidence that Iraq was posed to deploy this threat in an imminent manner; nor that it was coordinating with other states or non-state actors to deploy this threat imminently.
3.12.2006 6:23am
steve k:
I'm not saying we had or hadn't evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat. I'm saying we didn't go to war based on the claim that Iraq was an imminent threat. In fact, if we were sure it was an imminent threat, we shouldn't have waited a year trying to get the UN on our side.

I can remember making all these argument a few years ago. What a nightmare to have to make them all over again.
3.12.2006 6:27am
Broncos:
(The two paraphrases that stick in my mind are "we won't wait to be hit by a gathering threat," and "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." As though if we wait to build a case, we will be hit by a nuclear bomb.)
3.12.2006 6:29am
Brandonks (mail) (www):
They use his invasion of Iran as an objective lesson for the worst run military campaign of all time. Guess the guy has a real genius for being stupid.
3.12.2006 9:04am
Kendall:
steve k - .

I'm saying we didn't go to war based on the claim that Iraq was an imminent threat.


"This is about imminent threat."
• White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 2/10/0
3
3.12.2006 10:39am
Humble Law Student:
Broncos,

You are completely and utterly wrong. First, you fail to understand the concept of preemptive war. Second, the threat was NOT sold as being imminent. I'll take each in turn.

The whole idea behind preemptive war is that you strike BEFORE the threat is imminent. With the nature of modern warfare, particularly in the use of WMD, you may only realize the "imminence" of the threat as the SCUDS are being launched. If preemptive war was sold on the basis on the threat being imminent, then there would not have been the same outcry over the developemnt of preemptive war doctrine. The reason is that international law has always recognized that one nation may conduct a "preemptive attack" if another constitutes an imminent threat. That most obviously was not the case here. International law scholars were all in a tizzy precisely because they saw the Bush administration as seeking war against a nation that was NOT an imminent threat - an "illegal" action in their view. Bush wanted to attack before the threat became imminent - hence the hue and cry.

Second, Kendall's article only reinforces my point. Notice the sophistic trick played by the American Progress writer. The administration practically never used the word "imminent" because they didn't believe the threat was imminent. The words "grave" and such were not codewords to give the impression of imminence. "Grave" refers to the scope of the risk. "Imminence" refers to the time horizon of the threat - two categorically different adjectives. I can't help it if the some of don't understand that - but please, for the sake of honest discourse, give it a try.
3.12.2006 11:57am
Kendall:
Humble Law Student -

As the article points out DONALD RUMSFELD our secretary of defense useed the word "immediate" threat. I didn't post that because "immediate" is not verbatim "imminent" but its certainly close enough that the obvious point is that the Bush administration believes Saddam is a current threat that had to be taken care of because it posed a current danger to americans.

Its also not like Rumsfeld used the term "immediate" once and then forgot about it. 3 TIMES he referred to the "immediate threat" posed by Iraq. Once might be considered by a reasonable person a slip of the tongue or poor phraseology. 3 times though?
3.12.2006 12:20pm
Bottomfish (mail):
"The Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction, and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation's defense."

If the top generals thought there were WMD, why is it surprising that the Administration was deceived? How can you blame the CIA or any other intelligence agency? Even if we had an agent at the very top, we would still have been fooled.
3.12.2006 1:24pm
Chuck (mail) (www):
Let me get this straight. Saddam wanted to convince the international community that he DIDN"T have WMD? At the same time he wanted his domestic enemies to think that he did? I guess this would make sense if we was indeed more afraid of domestic enemies than of an invasion. In retrospect, we had not hitherto done much to convince him otherwise. Only a truly paranoid personality would keep such a secret from his own military, it seems to me.
3.12.2006 1:37pm
Kendall:
Chuck - I read the story as Saddam wanting to remove any question that he had an ongoing functional WMD program in the Imnternational community, but that he also wanted to plant "doubt" in the people of the region.

Its not wholly disimilar to the US policy towards Taiwan, we won't explicitly say that we will use Nukes to defend Taiwan if necessary, we won't even say we support an independant and free Taiwan. But is there any doubt that we're going to "defend" the island of Taiwan from the gov't of China should it choose to send its military there to quell the "rebel province"?
3.12.2006 1:56pm
Bottomfish (mail):
The NY Times has handed the Bush Administration a resounding propaganda victory. All that stuff about forged yellowcake documents, SISMI, the Joseph Wilson Op-Ed, "he lied, they died" has just expired in the most ludicrous way imaginable.
3.12.2006 1:59pm
KMAJ (mail):
All this parsing of words and who said what and when is an interesting exercise of trying to frame a debate. But it negates historical perspective and the real analysis that was in play. When Bush made his Spetember 2002 speech to the UN, WMD was not the first thing he mentioned, in fact, it was fourth on the list, his first was violation of UN resolutions, followed by human rights and genocide, renouncing all ties to terrorism and, finally, destroying his WMD. It was the media that chose to focus on the WMD. Certainly Bush could have tried to shift the focus harder, but the WMD storyline was a much more attractive one for journalists, especially in light of 9/11, and generated more interest among readers and listeners here. That is the genesis of how WMD became the focus, with terrorism secondary, to the obfuscation of UN resolution violations, genocide/ethnic cleansing, and human rights violations. Remember, we went into Bosnia and Kosovo for only genocide reasons to remove a dictator, without any of the other reasons, including national security or interest, terrorism or UN resolution violations.

Lost in the rush for sensational headlines was the process of evaluation that the government must go through in determining actions to be taken called risk assessment, or the 'What if' analysis. It weighs what if we do and we are wrong versus what if we don't and we are wrong, with what is known at the time. The 'if we are right' factor does not enter the analysis because if you are right, your action or inaction is justified. The consensus intelligence around the world was that he had WMD, we still do not know that to be untrue, only that they were not found 'in country'. The analysis thus comes down to doing nothing and being wrong while Saddam has WMDs and distributes them to terrorists versus being wrong and removing Saddam while he has no WMDs. It seems that, with the intelligence accepted at the time, it really would not be a very hard choice. That is not to say the above even remotely approaches the depth of analysis that was involved, from tactical military strategy, including weather, and far beyond, information that none of us have access to.

This is merely a NY Times attempt to cover its backside, and many others in the old media, if the new documents and tapes show they have been trumpeting lies for over two years.
3.12.2006 4:07pm
Enoch:
Its quite reasonable. Saddam was a ruthless dictator who only stayed in power through fear and the appearance of strength - of which WMD played a major role.

But that's not the bluff he presented. He did not say, straight out, "I have the bomb, and if you mess with me I will nuke everybody." He created just enough uncertainty to make him seem like a menace that had to be stopped before he went too far, but he did not present enough of a threat to deter people from taking action against him. This was the worst of all possible worlds!

If he admitted that he didn't have WMD, he would lose his "credibility" before his own people and his perpetual enemy the Iranians.

Saddam's power in Iraq in no way rested on his "credibility" - least of all with respect to WMD. His power in Iraq depended on a ruthless police apparatus and the willingness to crush internal dissent ruthlessly. The credibility of THAT threat could never be doubted by the average Iraqi.

it is not ridiculus-Saddam was more afraid of uprising by the Kurds and Shia or Invasion by Iran than he was by attack by US.

None of this requires WMD, or even its threat. He could keep the Shia and the Kurds - and even the Iranians - in check without any of that.

the probability that the U.S. would invade if it believed Saddam had "weapons of mass destruction" was not obviously greater (and may have been less) than the probability that Iran would invade, the Kurds would declare independence and/or the Shiites would rebel if it was known that he didn't have such weapons.

Absolutely incorrect. The probability that the US would crush him if he got WMD was clearly large. The probability that he would need WMD to crush the Shia or the Kurds was zero (he'd done it many times without WMD). The probability that Iran would invade (with or without Iraqi WMD) was obviously zero.
3.12.2006 4:22pm
Humble Law Student:
I'm sorry, but I love the parsing, just a bit too much. Yes, old Donny boy said "immediate threat" a few times, but look at how many times that phrase is mentioned compared to terms describing the level or gravity of the threat. You have to WILLFULLY ignore 90% of the quotes, to pick out the ones you want in support of your own contention.

See, when someone is talking about a subject, I usually assume the language they use the VAST MAJORITY of the time is indicative of their primary point. But, I guess I'm stupid or something.
3.12.2006 4:27pm
Humble Law Student:
Enoch,

Your first argument makes no sense in proper context. If he had come out and said he "had the bomb" he would only have given the US and the even the UN proper pretext for invading. He was smart enough to at least "try" to avoid that. As such, as other commentators have pointed out, he pursued a policy of ambiguity - which succeeded partly and ironically at great cost to him.

As to your second argument, yes he maintained a system of brutality and fear - of which his secret police and torture chambers were a great part. However, a large part of what many Iraqi's feared were his biological and chemical weapons. He used them numerous times to exterminate hundreds of Kurdish villages and towns (and some Shia tribes, I believe). Its much hard to beat the efficacy of gas in slaughtering thousands upon thousands quickly and efficiently. So, yes, his image of fear and brutality did to a large extent rest on the fear he would use such brutal measures again as he had many times in the past. So, I'm sorry but u're just plain wrong on this point.

Okay, this is getting tedious. As to your third point, Saddam had to engage in chemical/biological warfare against the Iranians in the war in the 80s, precisely because his conventional forces were getting slaughtered by the Iranian conventional forces. So, once again you are categorically wrong. Especially, since the Gulf War, Iraq's conventional forces were a shell of their former self.

To your last cost/benefit analysis, it is indicative of the whole problem in dealing with egomanical dictators like Saddam. It is rather unreasonable to be able to rely on them to (a) have the proper information to allow for informed decision making, and (b) to rely on them to act rationally in accordance with that information. (we can get into debates about the Rational Actor Model another time, but it suffices for now). There has been a lot of work done on the problems in confronting such individuals. It extremely difficult to be able to fashion a system of carrots and sticks to get the outcomes we want from such dictators, precisely because of the problems that are emblematic of such a figure. As such, while we may be able to determine what the proper course might have been for him - it is utterly foolish to think they will chose the "proper" courses of action.
3.12.2006 4:42pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Tom Clancy once told a group of journalists that they were lucky in their writing. Fiction, he said, has to make sense. None of the authors of the military technothrillers would even think about starting their war with something like the beginning of WW I. Not only would it take too long, nobody would believe it. It was crazy.

Point is, to be looking at SH as if he and his calculations were rational flies in the face of history. It is certainly possible to be certifiably insane and completely logical. The question would be with the premises, not the conclusions.

If you were watching the pre-war hunt for the WMD, you will recall it had been allowed to devolve to hide and seek. That was not the original intent.

SH could have mollified the UN by simply leading them to the last place the WMD listed earlier had been and demonstrating that they were defunct. To put it another way, the presumption was that SH would be proactive in leading the UN to them, not proactive in leading the UN away from them. Yet the latter case came to seem acceptable.

How do you know when the line between "imminent" and whatever comes just before that is crossed? I don't see it as an exaggeration to say that the smoking gun may be a mushroom cloud over an American city. How many of the anti-war folks would have agreed that an ICBM pointed at us but not launched was satisfactorily imminent? "Hell, we don't even know if they'll launch." The difference between that state and launch is...what? Back up by steps from the mushroom cloud. At what point to we back out of "imminent" and how easy is it to know?
3.12.2006 5:50pm
Bill Woolsey (mail):
Perhaps Saddam's mistake was using the rational actor model and applying it to George Bush II.

The threat of having Iraq handed over to Iran was just to great for us to attack given the true threat Iraq represented to the U.S.

Since the U.S. had inflitrated the UN weapons inspection teams with CIA agents who were actually conspiring with other baathists to overthrow him, obviusly we weren't really worried about these weapons of mass destruction.

He knew he didn't have any. Surely, the Americans could figure that out. (As so many people have said, but a few posters can't seem to imagine, Saddam's ambiguity wasn't aimed at the U.S. but rather Iran and perhaps another internal revolt by the 80% of Iraqis who absolutely despised him and had no thought that it could be worse.)

But, Bush isn't a rational man. His delusions of grandeur allowed him to believe that a new, united liberal democratic Iraq would replace Saddam. It would be a shining example for the Middle East. Just like Reagan is credited with the fall of the Soviet Block, Bush 2 would be credited with the creation of a democratic capitalist middle east. (Perhaps because Bush wished so hard? Or perhaps God would grant his prayers?) The likely result of a Shia theocracy allied with Iran and threatening to the authority of U.S. allied rulers in the Western Persian Gulf, well, Bush just didn't worry much about that. (I guess he prayed really hard that such a thing wouldn't happen.)
3.12.2006 5:51pm
Kendall:
HLS - Its true that the gravity of the threat might have been an overriding factor in deciding to invade Iraq, no one I think is arguing otherwise. However, as you conceed interspersed with the comments about the gravity of the threat are comments about its immediacy and the conception that the threat Saddam posed was for the current time. To conceed that the gravity of the threat is important does not suggest that the immediacy of the threat was either ignored or downplayed or disregarded by the Administration.

Your contention was merely

The administration practically never used the word "imminent" because they didn't believe the threat was imminent.

which on its face appears to be false according to Donald Rumsfeld and others in the administration. That's again, not to suggest other concerns were of greater import but to say that the administration felt there was no immediate threat from Iraq is factually inaccurate.
3.12.2006 6:17pm
Humble Law Student:
Kendall,

Fair enough, maybe "practically never" isn't the right phrase. But, when the VAST majority of the speeches and quotes involve the gravity of the threat and not its immediacy, and yet individuals such as yourself harp on the administration for trumpting the threat as immediate, I smell something a bit fishy.

I'll concede that three or so times out of HUNDREDS of speeches, members of the administration used poor word choices. If you'll concede that nit picking a few phrases in support of your theories is stretching the limits of reasonable discourse.
3.12.2006 6:29pm
Kendall:
I certainly conceed that there is a very limitted sample of claims by administration officials citing immediacy as a direct and primary reason for going into Iraq. I'm not harping on the Bush administration though, I initially supported the invasion of Iraq based on the evidence provided to us. I've found the shift away from initial claims and the total de-emphasization of WMD to be troubling but I still think the war was justifiable. I'm not a critic, I'm a skeptic.
3.12.2006 7:02pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Just a technicality,,,but wasn't Sarin gas found at some point during the invasion?? Its not a nuke, but it meets the defininition of WMD.
3.12.2006 7:10pm
Humble Law Student:
Kendall,

Okay, I can agree to that. I certainly agree that the administration did hype the WMD angle much more than it should have - particularly in retrospect. But even without the benefit of hindsight, they should not have let the discussion over the invasion become so dominated by only one argument.

Frank,

Yah, there have been a few very small finds. I remember some 80's era chemical artillery shells were found - not sure if that is what you are referring to or not.
3.12.2006 7:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
The question is not whether some shells filled with Sarin were found. The question is where the filler is now, where the factory that made the filler is, what shape the factory is in, and are there plans to start it up again if possible?

Keep in mind that the goal of the inspections was to end the sanctions and the inspections. Think about that. If the inspections had been successful, SH would have had all the money he needed, and some over, and privacy This wasn't all that good an idea, seems to me.

But the actual goal of the inspections turned out to be unnecessary. As reports prior to 2003 showed, and investigations subsequently, the sanctions were a joke and money flowed in quantity. The sanctions/inspection regime toward which we were moving--even without successfully completing the whitewash--would have been effectively similar to being free as a bird.

I agree the administration shouldn't have allowed the media to run away with the WMD issue, but the likelihood of controlling those bozos is slight.
3.12.2006 10:03pm
srg (mail):
In the Gulf War we discovered that we had drastically under-estimated the extent of Saddam's nuclear weapons program, so it was natural that we were determined not to make the same mistake again. All the more so since he had already used chemical weapons against Iran and against his own citizens.
3.13.2006 12:27pm
Jam (mail):
If the Bush Administration of these uS really thought that Saddam had WMDs would they have concentrated so many soldiers in such a small piece of land, like Kuwait?
3.13.2006 4:08pm