Posted on Tue, Feb. 03, 2004
Weapons of mass destruction
analysis. Bush's actions reasonable, not so Hussein's.
By Carlos Alberto Montaner.
President Bush was mistaken. In Iraq, as it has been suspected for
months, there are no ''weapons of mass destruction,'' whose existence
was the main reason invoked by the White House to hurl its devastating
offensive against Iraq last March.
How could such a mistake occur? George W. Bush built his error upon
several objective and subjective elements bound together by a specific
strategic vision. Among the objective elements were reports from the
U.S. intelligence services that pointed in that direction.
Why did the spies and analysts err? Because they relied on a history of
deceit. Between 1981 and 1991, Saddam Hussein was able to carry out
clandestinely a program for the development of nuclear weapons that the
inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency discovered only
after the 1991 Gulf War.
On the other hand, there was no doubt that Iraq possessed -- or had
possessed -- chemical and biological weapons, because it had used them
to murder Kurds and Shiites in the past.
Adding to this picture was a troubling bit of information: Western
intelligence services knew of Iraqi scientists who asked Hussein for --
and obtained -- large sums of money to allegedly research and develop
this type of armament.
What the Western gumshoes learned recently was that those experiments
were, in fact, scams run on the dictator within an environment of
The subjective factors that disoriented Bush also are quite evident. The
attacks against the United States committed by al Qaeda on Sept. 11,
2001, instilled in the White House and the Pentagon a justified fear of
a nuclear aggression perpetrated by terrorists linked to one of the
so-called ``rogue states.''
Could anyone doubt what Osama bin Laden might have done if he possessed
an atomic bomb? If Hussein, a bold intriguer, had dared to invade
Kuwait, how could anyone discard the possibility that he might use
nuclear weapons against his U.S. foe or that he might pass them on to a
band of fanatics?
And if to these reasonable fears you add the Iraqi attempt to
assassinate the first President Bush, an act that inevitably added a
human component of personal grudge against the chief plotter, it's easy
to perceive the origin of the error: President George W. Bush wanted to
see -- and did see -- weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The intellectual factor that reinforced that position and placed it in
the category of a strategic vision was the hypothesis posed by U.S.
theoreticians who maintained that Iraq and other regions of the Islamic
world had behaved irresponsibly.
Libya blew up commercial airliners in mid-flight. Syria, Iraq and Iran
nurtured terrorist gangs that rendered impossible the pacification of
Palestine. Sudan was a nest of sinister terrorist organizations and
served as a gathering place for all the psychopaths on the planet. The
resounding use of force against Iraq might bring order to the madhouse.
That instructive regime change, together with the public proclamation of
the United States' determination to unleash preemptive wars to protect
the potentially threatened integrity of the United States, might modify
the behavior of Baghdad's neighbors.
That thesis appears to be accurate, judging from Moammar Gadhafi's
sudden change of heart in Libya and certain hopeful signs emerging from
the dark dictatorships in Syria and North Korea.
Bush had all the pieces of the puzzle he needed to start the war: the
reports, a subjective will and a theoretical justification. It is not
strange, then, that he moved in that direction. A lot more
incomprehensible was the behavior of Hussein.
This sordid character knew that he did not have weapons of mass
destruction but acted suspiciously, as if he had them, when the simplest
thing to do might have been to cooperate 100 percent with the United
Nations, as Gadhafi just did. If he had, he might still be in power,
much to the sorrow of the hapless Iraqis.
But where Hussein's behavior reaches total absurdity is when he learns,
30 days before the outbreak of war, that the United States is about to
attack him, and instead of desperately seeking a way to avoid the
invasion -- or preparing a heroic defense and dying as an Islamic martyr
-- he sends several truckloads of dollars and gold out of the country,
orders Iraqis not to offer resistance and hides in a rat's nest.
Why did he do such a stupid thing? My guess is that he had structured
his authority in such a rigid and inflexible manner that he could not
afford one step that might be considered cowardly or shameful by his
terror-stricken staff. He became paralyzed inside the character he had
created for himself.
Bush was led astray by rationality; Hussein by the fiery image of an
indomitable leader that had long served him to subjugate his people.
This is not just a question for politicians and military officers. Send
in the shrinks.