Saturday, March 11, 2006
War Plans, WMD, & Saddam
Interviews, incidents, and documents demonstrating how fearful Saddam Hussein was of any possible upheaval, coup, or revolt from within Iraq that he took positive steps to thwart the work of his own army, according to the New York Times today (adapted from the book "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq" to be released by Pantheon Books March 14.) Saddam refused to permit communications between military units, denied requests for troop movements from Western Iraq (fro which Hussein believed the invasion would come) to meet the US Marines invading northward through the Karbala Gap (as his top Generals believed the invasion would come.)
American intelligence analysts, disguised as military historians, interviewed over 110 Iraqi officials and military officers to prepare a secret report detailing how Saddam Hussein prepared for and fought the war. Some officials were treated to lavish dinners while others were questioned at the Baghdad airport or Abu Ghraib Prison. Captured Iraqi documents were also reviewed - more than 600 of them. The investigators believe the accounts to be credible because of the similarity of accounts. The classified version was written in April 1995 and a declassified version will be released soon. The study entitled "Iraqi Perspectives on Operation Iraqi Freedom, Major Combat Operations," shows that Saddam dismissed the possibility of a full-scale American invasion. "A few weeks before the attacks Saddam still thought the U.S. would not use ground forces," former Iraqi deputy prime minister, Taiq Aziz, told the Americans. "He (Saddam) thought they would not fight a ground war because it would be too costly to the Americans."
Iraqi officers devised a strategy of fighting retreat and yielding territory as the Russians had done when Napoleon invaded and later when Hitler attempted to invade Mother Russia. This was one of many miscalculations by Saddam. He and his officers failed to recognize that the Russian Army defeated neither Napoleon nor Hitler - the Russian winter did. Iraq simply does not have Russian winters.
When Saddam compared the threat from the United States to the threat from his own generals and people, the US was not seen as much of a threat. From the experience of the the First Gulf War in 1991, Saddam saw the Coalition Forces stop their advance south of Baghdad which was interpreted as an unwillingness by Washington, D.C., Pres. George H.W. Bush, and the American people to accept significant loses. The President wanted to avoid the pitfalls of occupying Iraq and had no mandate from the UN nor the Coalition partners to do any more than remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Many historians doubt anyone would have complained too loudly if Baghdad had been taken and the Saddam regime ended in 1991, but the fact remains, that was not the plan nor the agreement.
When it came to WMD, weapons of mass destruction, the interrogators were told Iraq didn't have any. So secretive was the Iraqi dictator and tightly compartmentalized was information that his top military commanders were stunned when told by Saddam in December 2002, three months before the war started, that Iraq possessed no stockpiles of poison gas, no germ weapons, and no nuclear bombs. The commanders were completely demoralized. They had planned the defense of Iraq around those weapons and late in the game they were told the WMD did not exist.
The WMD were lies Saddam concocted to deter Iran and homegrown enemies. He had hoped the possibility of WMD would also deter the US and the Coalition forces. The goal Saddam sought was cooperation with the UN inspectors while preserving WMD ambiguity. General Hamdani of the Republican Guard called the strategy "deterrence by doubt."
In order to pass muster, Saddam ordered complete access to the UN arms teams. But, at the same time, he ordered a national spring cleaning in which all of the weapons sites would be scrubbed free of all vestiges of previous unconventional weapons research and manufacture. The cleaning included moving dirty material from the sites on trucks just before the inspectors arrived because the inspectors would change the destination enroute and the Iraqis didn't know exactly what site was to be examined. The Western powers saw this as a shell game and begame more suspicious.
Saddam Hussein's noncompliance in turning over all records pertaining to the destruction of weapons stockpiles, refusal to allow his weapons scientists out of the country were calculated to preserve "deterrence by doubt" and avoid war. Actually, the actions had the opposite effect.
Addressing the UN Security Council in February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell gave photographs and communications intercepts as evidence that Iraq was rapidly trying to sanitize the weapons sites. The efforts to spiff-up and remove residue were seen by Western intelligence agencies as trying to hide evidence of unconventional arms manufacture. The very actions Saddam had ordered the reduce the threat of war actually guaranteed a military confrontation.
Though he thought he knew all the government's secrets, the man in charge of Iraq's military industries, Abd al-Tawab Mullah Huwaish, was very impressed by Powell's evidence. The Bush Administration was so adamant the weapons did exist that Huwaish began questioning if Iraq actually had the weapons. After the war, he told interrogators, "I knew a lot, but wondered why Bush believed we had these weapons."
"We didn't believe it would go all the way to Baghdad," a senior Republican Guard staff officer later told his interrogators. "We thought the coalition would go to Basra, maybe to Amara, and then the war would end."
Saddam played a dangerous game of lies and deception in which only he knew the rules and the truth. The biggest risk is people may actually believe the lies and disregard the truth. Apparently, that is what happened and it led straight to war. President Bush did not lie about the WMDs. He only believed the lies perpetrated by a liar. The lies the President chose to act upon were the most dangerous if true and it was his duty to act upon the evidence at hand to protect the US, the citizens of America, and the people around the world who could have been harmed. Saddam brought this war on himself and the Iraqi people with his deceptions and subterfuges.
Is Iran playing the same dangerous game?
The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.