"Working together for a free Cuba"




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 generalized corruption.

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.