May 1, 2005

The Prewar Evidence (or Lack Thereof): Saddam Hussein’s Collaboration with Terrorists and His Deterrability



Introduction


To justify the Iraq war two years ago, you had your pick of reasons. Since 1979 Saddam Hussein had unremittingly brutalized the Iraqi people, sprayed poison gas on his enemies, foreign and domestic, and waged an arguably genocidal[1] campaign against Iraqi Kurds—whom, since 1975, the United States had repeatedly betrayed.[2] By continually harassing and eventually ejecting international weapons inspectors in 1998, he had violated both the 1991 cease-fire he signed with the U.S. and myriad U.N. resolutions. With 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, and 600 miles from Saudi Arabia’s 25 percent, he sat astride the chokepoint of the global economy. He had invaded Iran in 1980, raped Kuwait in 1990, fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and Israel in 1991, and shot at American and British aircraft patrolling Iraq’s no-fly zones since 1992. He also held an incorrigible craving for a nuclear weapon—his progress toward which the world drastically underestimated before the Gulf War—untold petrodollars to buy one, scientists and engineers with the know-how to build it, and a peerless police state to conceal it all.

Yet the casus belli I find most compelling are Saddam’s collaboration with terrorists, past, present and potential, and the question of his deterrability. Specifically: Was Iraq involved in the attacks of September 11, 2001? To what extent did it have a relationship with al Qaeda? Of what significance was its relationship with non-Qaeda terrorists? And what does Saddam’s past aggression—in his wars against Iran and Kuwait; his assaults on the Kurds, Israelis and Saudis; and his response to American actions from the Gulf War to the start of the present one—reveal about his susceptibility to deterrence? I believe these questions form the most important criteria to assess the threat Iraq posed to the United States as of March 2003.

Although answers may now appear inconsequential, as the jailed tyrant awaits trial for war crimes and a democratic Iraqi government organizes itself, the answers herein are historically significant because they derive exclusively from material publicly available before the war began. Of course, some may see such use of 20-20 vision more as a handicap than a benefit. To this end, I have footnoted extensively and structured my analyses around counterarguments.


Collaboration with Terrorists
Collaboration with al Qaeda on 9/11


Two days after September 11, 2001, James Woolsey, a C.I.A. director under President Clinton, and Laurie Mylroie, coauthor of Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf (1990), separately suggested that the attacks were, in Woolsey’s words, “sponsored, supported, and perhaps even ordered by Saddam Hussein.”[3] Five days later, a U.S. official leaked to the Associated Press that “the United States has received information from a foreign intelligence service that Mohamed Atta,” the ringleader of the 9/11 gang, “met earlier this year in Europe with an Iraqi intelligence agent.”[4] As the story unfolded over the next month,[5] the world learned that in early April 2001,[6] Atta had allegedly rendezvoused with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, a vice consul in Iraq’s embassy in Prague but actually a spymaster. (Less than two weeks following the alleged meeting, after surveillance cameras caught Ani casing the downtown headquarters of Radio Free Liberty/Radio Liberty, the Czech Republic expelled him for “activities incompatible with his diplomatic status,” a euphemism for espionage.[7] According to the Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Hynek Kmonicek, who ordered Ani’s expulsion, “I told the Iraqi chief of mission [in Prague] that [Ani] was involved in activities which endanger the security of the Czech Republic.”[8]) The meeting would have been Atta’s second[9] time in the Czech capital in less than a year, having passed through the city’s airport en route from Germany to New Jersey in June 2000, and was the sole evidence tying Saddam to 9/11.

Accordingly, the so-called Prague connection underwent storied scrutiny. On October 12, Stanislav Gross, the Czech Interior Minister, announced that he could not confirm the meeting.[10] But in an interview two days later with Frontline and the New York Times, Sabah Khodada, a former Iraqi army captain, said that 9/11 “was conducted by people who were trained by Saddam.”[11] In his column in the Chicago Sun-Times on October 15, Republican confidant Robert Novak wrote that his intelligence sources agreed with what Lord Robertson, NATO’s Secretary General, had told U.S. senators the previous week: there was “not a scintilla” of evidence implicating Baghdad in 9/11.[12] On October 20, the Times reported that some of those making the allegation were small businessmen accusing their competitors of doing business with terrorists.[13]

On October 26, Gross called a news conference to assert that Atta had, in fact, been in Prague in early April,[14] a corrective shared by U.S. federal law enforcement officials.[15] In early November, the Czech Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, qualified Gross’s statement, telling C.N.N. that “Atta contacted some Iraqi agent,” not to plot attacks on America, but on the building in Prague that houses Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.[16] (The international communications service incurred Baghdad’s wrath when it began broadcasting anti-Saddam programs into Iraq that year.) Back in Prague, however, Gross; Jiri Kolar, the chief of the B.I.S., the Czech domestic intelligence service; and a government spokeswoman promptly added that Zeman was merely suggesting one of multiple hypotheses.[17] Three weeks later the Czech president, Vaclav Havel, told C.N.N.’s Larry King that his government was “70 percent sure” the meeting occurred.[18]

None of this fazed classified-information virtuoso William Safire, who in one his November New York Times columns proclaimed the meeting an “undisputed fact.”[19] Likewise, first on 60 Minutes II two days later, then on Meet the Press with Tim Russert in December, Vice President Richard Cheney declared that the meeting was “pretty well confirmed.”[20] Yet a week later, several theories developed that indicated a case of mistaken identity. Some believed that Ani was a low-ranking diplomat with the same name as a more important Iraqi intelligence agent; others thought Atta strongly resembled a used car dealer from Nuremberg—Atta went to college in Hamburg—with whom Ani often met. Still others conjectured that the Mohammed Atta who sojourned to Prague in April was not the hijacker but a Pakistani of the same name. “Interviews with Iraqi defectors, Czech officials, and people who knew the Iraqi diplomat,” the Times wrote, “have only deepened the mystery surrounding Mr. Atta’s travels through central Europe.”[21]

On December 17, Jiri Kolar announced that there were no documents showing Atta had visited Prague in 2001.[22] In February, despite misgivings from some of their colleagues, “senior American intelligence officials” concluded otherwise.[23] Then, at least among the mainstream media, a consensus emerged. In his Washington Post column in March, David Ignatius referred to “senior European officials” who believed the Saddam-Osama relationship was “somewhere between ‘slim’ and ‘none.’”[24] Four days later, C.I.A. Director George Tenet told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the jury’s out.”[25] In a speech on April 19 to the Commonwealth Club of California, F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller outlined the extent of his agency’s fruitless investigation: “We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts.”[26] A week later, Newsweek reported that “a few months ago, the Czechs quietly acknowledged that they may have been mistaken about the whole thing. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials now believe that Atta wasn’t even in Prague at the time the Czechs claimed.”[27] In May, Time magazine labeled the meeting “discredited,”[28] and the Post and Times quoted a senior Bush administration official who concurred.[29] In August, the Los Angeles Times noted that “the C.I.A. and F.B.I. concluded months ago that they had no hard evidence.”[30]

In September, a month before Congress would vote to authorize the war, Dick Cheney told Tim Russert, “I want to be very careful about how I say this. . . . I think a way to put it would be it’s unconfirmed at this point.”[31] The same day, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told C.N.N.’s Wolf Blitzer, “We continue to look at [the] evidence.”[32] In October, the congressional Joint Inquiry on 9/11 unclassified testimony George Tenet had given on June 18.[33] While the C.I.A. was “still working to confirm or deny this allegation,” Tenet said, “We have been unable to establish that Atta left the U.S. or entered Europe in April 2001 under his true name or any known aliases.”[34]

Three days later, United Press International quoted “[s]enior Czech intelligence officials,” who “now have ‘no confidence’ in their earlier report” validating the meeting. “We can find no corroborative evidence . . . and the source has real credibility problems,” said “a high-ranking source close to Czech intelligence.”[35] The New York Times added that “Czech officials who have investigated the case now say that Mr. Zeman and Mr. Gross spoke without adequately vetting the information or waiting for the Czech internal security service to substantiate the initial reports.”[36] Indeed, the Times reported, President Havel had advised Washington earlier in the year to disregard the meeting. (He did so discreetly, to avoid publicly embarrassing other prominent officials who had vouched for the meeting.[37])

Of course, two days later, the Times quoted Havel’s spokesman that the “president never spoke with any American government official about Atta, not with Bush, not with anyone else.”[38] Meanwhile, Ministers Gross and Kmonicek (who had since become ambassador to the United Nations) continued to insist that the meeting occurred.[39] “I do not have the slightest information that anything is wrong in the details I obtained from the B.I.S counterintelligence. I trust the B.I.S. more than journalists,” Gross sniffed.[40] This too remained the position of the White House, Pentagon and National Security Council.[41]

* * *

So, on one hand, the B.I.S., who by virtue of proximity had the best data, held that the rendezvous happened. It was certainly plausible, since before communist Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Iraq had been a major buyer of Czechoslovak arms.[42] Additionally, according to Richard Perle, then the chair of the Defense Policy Board, an influential advisory group to the Pentagon, operations like 9/11 “are not planned in caves; they’re planned in offices by people who have secretaries and support staffs and research and communications and technology.”[43] Espionage analyst Edward Jay Epstein concurs. Only states have embassies protected by diplomatic immunity, by which they can transfer weapons via courier planes, which by treaty cannot be searched. Only states have consulates to issue travel documents underhandedly. Only states have banks via which they can transfer money virtually untraceably. And only states have internal security services to threaten relatives of prospective agents.[44] Finally, as James Woolsey, who visited England to investigate the case on behalf of the Justice Department, contends, even with all the ambiguity, the evidence was “about as clear as these things get.”[45]

On the other hand, counters Daniel Benjamin, the director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 1998-1999, it is “very difficult to hide serious ties” between a regime and a terrorist client. For in collaborating, “they negotiate over targets, finances, materiel, and tactics.”[46] Similarly, the apparatuses of bureaucracy—including employees who will swap secrets for cash—afford ample opportunity for spying on governments. This is why state sponsors, like Libya vis-à-vis the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and Iran vis-à-vis the 1996 attack on the Khobar Towers, have historically left ample trails.

And yet the only Iraqi trail pertaining to 9/11 was one meeting in Prague, during a month for which neither the F.B.I. nor C.I.A. could uncover any visa, airline or financial records showing that Mohamed Atta had left or reentered the U.S. (Their research placed him in Florida two days before the meeting.)[47] Second, all the evidence rested on the uncorroborated allegation of a single informant,[48] who could produce neither any audio nor visual recordings. Third, no one could verify what Atta and Ani had discussed—for instance, whether Atta requested help or updated Ani on his progress. Accordingly, as Secretary Rumsfeld admitted to Bob Novak in May 2002, “I just don’t know” whether there was a meeting or not.[49]

But circumstantiality is not a basis—or even a partial basis, really—for taking a country to war. After all, the burden of proof always falls on he who asserts a positive. In the 16 months between 9/11 and the Iraq war, despite considerable efforts,[50] hawks failed to meet this burden. Consequently, neither of the administration’s two most publicized arguments for the war—the State of the Union address (1/28/03) and Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the U.N. Security Council (2/5/03)—even mentioned Prague.[51] And lest we misconstrue the subtext, on January 31—seven weeks before the war began—Newsweek asked the President specifically about a 9/11 connection to Iraq, to which Bush replied, “I cannot make that claim.”[52]


Collaboration with al Qaeda Outside 9/11


Of course, because al Qaeda and Iraq did not collaborate on something as risky as the 9/11 spectacle does not mean they did not do so elsewhere. To the contrary, we often forget that numerous Clinton-administration officials[53] linked Iraqi nerve gas experts to the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, in which Osama bin Laden had a large financial interest[54] and which, in 1998, the U.S. bombed in retaliation for al Qaeda’s attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.[55] Indeed, the C.I.A. had “solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda going back a decade,” as White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced in September 2002[56] and C.I.A. Director George Tenet wrote to the chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in October.[57] In his U.N. presentation, Colin Powell confirmed that “members of both organizations . . . met at least eight times at very senior levels since the early 1990s.”[58]

The strongest of these links derived from a murky group of about 150 jihadists known as Ansar al-Islam.[59] Though it existed in various forms since the 1990s, when its founder launched a rebellion against the two feuding secular factions that divvy up Iraqi Kurdistan,[60] only recently had Ansar become the nexus between al Qaeda and Iraq. That nexus focused on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Ansar’s boss and a senior bin Laden associate.[61] After suffering wounds from the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, where he had run a poisons training camp, Zarqawi fled to Baghdad, where he arrived in the spring of 2002. While recovering, a number of his cohorts converged on the capitol to establish a base of operations.[62] When healthy, Zarqawi helped establish another poisons camp in an enclave of northern Iraq that Ansar controlled.[63]

Since Iraq’s intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, purportedly maintained a mole in Ansar’s most senior levels,[64] Ansar would not have harbored Zarqawi without Saddam’s implicit imprimatur. As Donald Rumsfeld explained, “In a vicious, repressive dictatorship that exercises near-total control over its population, it’s very hard to imagine that the government is not aware of what’s taking place in the country.”[65] The columnist Christopher Hitchens elaborates: “To believe that Zarqawi was innocent of al Qaeda and Baathist ties, or to believe that he does not in fact represent such a tie, you must believe that a low-level Iraqi official decided to admit a much-hunted Jordanian—a refugee from the invasion of Afghanistan, after September 11, 2001—when even the most conservative forces in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were keeping their distance from such people and even assisting in rounding them up.[66]

To be sure, dozens of Qaeda refugees did slip into northern Iraq. But they were holed up, not in Iraq proper, but in Iraqi Kurdistan, which for most of Ansar was native land.[67] Moreover, under the no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War and patrolled 24 hours a day since by the U.S. and U.K., Kurdistan stood outside Baghdad’s grip. Thus, though Saddam was aware of Ansar’s activities, his influence over them was at best circuitous and most likely inoperative.[68] According to the C.I.A. and British intelligence, he regarded Zarqawi and his ilk more as a threat than an ally.[69]

Likewise, although Ansar certainly had ties to al Qaeda, it was not under its thumb.[70] For while Zarqawi and bin Laden cut their teeth together against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, their mutual presence there in the 90s merely cohered with the postbellum status: host to myriad jihadist groups, from Uzbeks to Chechens to Pakistani fighters for Kashmir.[71] With their own camps and agendas, and amid a civil war, terrorists both worked with and against one another. As George Tenet told the Senate Select Intelligence Committee in February 2003, Zarqawi “conceive[d] of himself as being quite independent” of al Qaeda.[72]

Second, as George Tenet acknowledged in his aforesaid letter, “Our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability.”[73] This was because the evidence came not from spies on the ground, the field’s gold standard, but from defectors and exiles. As Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt explain in Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence (2002), while the latter can provide unique insight, they have a strong incentive to tell interviewers what they want to hear. They also may have been gone so long from their country of origin that their knowledge is obsolete;[74] they “may be greedy; they may be somewhat unbalanced people who wish to bring some excitement into their lives; they may desire to avenge what they see as ill treatment by their government; or they may be subject to blackmail.”[75] Newsweek elaborates: “Historically, with a few noble exceptions, intelligence peddlers have been a pack of liars and swindlers. That was true during the Cold War, when double and triple agents in spy Meccas like Berlin and Vienna sold made-up secrets to the highest bidder, and it has been especially true in the Middle East, where conspiracy is a way of life.”[76]

In Iraq, such stories began in 1998, when the United Nations Special Commission evacuated. When these weapons inspectors suddenly left, writes Kenneth Pollack, a former director for gulf affairs at the National Security Council, Western “intelligence agencies were caught psychologically and organizationally off balance. Desperate for information . . . they began to trust sources that they would previously have had UNSCOM vet.”[77] The main supplier soon became become the Iraqi National Congress, a London-based umbrella group of anti-Saddam activists, led by the controversial businessman Ahmad Chalabi. With the backing of such principals as Cheney, Rumsfeld and Richard Perle, the I.N.C. put its members with compelling tales in touch with reporters. The resulting articles spun dramatic accounts about the Baghdad-bin Laden axis, among other things. Crucially missing, however, in keeping with the I.N.C.’s history of coloring facts to suit its agenda, was independent corroboration. A typical result was that reports of Iraqis training Qaeda operatives in chemical and biological agents[78] came from but one informant.[79]

Third, whereas in his presentation Powell sought to persuade laymen to pass a second resolution authorizing war, the State Department’s annual Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002 report logged the less dramatic facts informatively for specialists. For instance, that al Qaeda had established a “base of operations” in Baghdad, as Powell alleged, indicates far more Iraqi complicity than if “small numbers of highly placed al Qaeda militants” were “present” there,[80] in the description of the State report. (George Tenet’s letter likewise used the word “presence.”) Sponsorship is not tolerance. This is not to say that Saddam was not harboring senior Qaeda leaders—he was—but to append the needed niceties to declarations, like that of Donald Rumsfeld, that the evidence was “bulletproof.”[81]

Fourth, and most important, the 2002 N.I.E. indicated that if Saddam struck an American target, he would very likely rely on his own operatives rather than outsource.[82] To be sure, consider the Palestinians, his cause célèbre in recent years. The media regularly aired stories about checks from Iraq to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. If Saddam were willing to encourage with terrorists this blatantly, wouldn’t he do the same—or worse—with al Qaeda?

On one hand, while divergent ideologies and ambitions would have circumscribed any Iraqi-Qaeda relationship, mutual antipathy toward the “great” and “little Satan” (America and Israel), as toward the House of Saud, indicates they would have suspended their differences for tactical and temporary synergy. As the pacts between such sworn archenemies as the Soviets and Nazis, and, later, the Soviets and Americans, show, “expediency, not affinity,” often governs such partnerships, as one analyst observes.[83] This is why even the Prophet Muhammad cooperated with outright pagans, in the Treaty of Hudaibiyah (628 AD); why Afghan mujahedeen took handouts from the U.S. in their jihad against the Soviets; and why, a month before the Iraq war began, in an audiotape released by Al-Jazeera, bin Laden assured his followers that “there will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists [like Saddam] in the fight against the crusaders.”[84] Likewise, following Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Saddam was not principled but Machiavellian, and so harnessed the potency of religious extremism to thrust against his adversaries.[85]

On the other hand, in a post-9/11 world, in the event of another attack against the U.S., Saddam had every reason to believe that, at a minimum, he would be a top suspect. Whether he was involved or not wouldn’t initially matter; given the Bush administration’s zealous pursuit of casus belli against him—in 2002 the president called the tyrant the “guy who tried to kill my dad”[86]—Iraq would certainly suffer guilt by association. This is why, during the anthrax scares in New York, Washington and Florida in October 2001, early suspicions fell on Baghdad.[87]

Moreover, Saddam received great utility from publicly awarding his $25,000[88] checks. It was a way to swashbuckle onto the world stage, to present himself as spitting in the face of the invincible “Zionists,” thereby gaining prestige on the Arab street and moving himself closer to realizing his dream as uniter and overload of the Arab world. His goal was symbolic, not strategic; as the Mideast scholar Fouad Ajami observes, “The norm has been for Iraq, the frontier Arab land far away from the Mediterranean, to stoke the fires of anti-Zionism knowing that others closer to the fire—Jordanians, Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians, and Lebanese—would be the ones consumed.”[89]

It is equally unlikely that once he attained a nuclear weapon, Saddam’s megalomania would have allowed him to fork over what he had spent billions of dollars on and worked decades for. Just as the U.S. did not share all its nuclear expertise with its allies, so the Soviet Union balked at giving nukes to China, despite repeated Chinese requests and ideological sympathies. A handoff of conventional weapons, including biological or chemical ones, would have been likelier, but still unlikely, since despite 20-plus years of collaboration with the Palestinians—who reciprocated rhetorically in spades for their avuncular hero—Saddam never once gave them any weaponry from his vast arsenal.

Even less likely was Saddam to have smuggled weaponry to al Qaeda, whose to-the-death avowals included toppling secular regimes like his and who might well turn on him. After all, Osama bin Laden had long viewed the Saudi Wahhabi theocracy as insufficiently Islamic and repeatedly called Saddam an “infidel”[90]—so much so that when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, bin Laden offered to deploy his mujahedeen to battle the Baath and protect the land of Mecca and Medina.[91] To trust such proxies with such responsibility would have been exceedingly uncharacteristic for a Stalanist paranoid. And, as a student and admirer of the Soviet tyrant, Saddam knew how the Stalin-Hitler pact turned out—with the former double-crossed and almost destroyed by his Nazi “ally.”[92]

And yet, Saddam need not have had a formal alliance with Osama, a la the Taliban or as with Soviet satellites during the Cold War; operational collaboration with the group responsible for 9/11 would suffice as a casus belli. But this was far from the case on the road from Baghdad to Kabul, a road of dots, not of lines. “We are talking about channels, contacts, communications,” said one senior administration official,”[93] or moral rather than physical support. There was nothing substantial, nothing beyond some scattered, inevitable feelers.[94] Granted, as Christopher Hitchens notes, Baghdad would continue to shelter some of bin Laden’s men and to send envoys “to seek accommodation and understanding . . . with the newest and most serious anti-American force in the region. How could it be otherwise? It was the Mukhabarat’s job to do such things.”[95] The evidence indicates, however, that Saddam had drawn a line short of arming al Qaeda, so that consequential ties between the two were at best tenuous.[96]


Collaboration with Terrorists Outside al Qaeda


But what about Saddam’s well-known collaboration with terrorists outside al Qaeda? In 1985, after Abu Abbas hijacked the Achille Lauro Italian cruise ship and rolled the wheelchair-bound American, Leon Klinghoffer, off the side to his death, the Palestinian flew to Baghdad for refuge. Ditto for Abu Nidal, who, before the emergence of Osama bin Laden, was the world’s most prolific and hotly pursued terrorist, and who later became, as Christopher Hitchens notes, “an arm of the Iraqi state, not an asylum seeker.”[97] Nor should we forget Saddam’s harboring of Abdul Rahman Yasin, whom U.S. prosecutors indicted for helping to mix the explosive chemicals in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[98]

Additionally, in 1993, Saddam dispatched his goons to kill the first president Bush when the latter made a ceremonial visit to Kuwait. In 1998, after defecting ultimately to the U.K., Ahmed Ani’s predecessor, Jabir Salim, divulged that Saddam had given Salim $150,000 to blow up the headquarters of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Prague.[99] Most recently, as discussed above, Saddam had become an overt sugar daddy of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Clearly, then, Baghdad was a state sponsor of terrorists who often murdered Americans. The attempted assassination of Bush 41 might arguably have been the last straw, but in June 1993, President Clinton retaliated by firing 23 Tomahawk missiles at the headquarters of the Mukhabarat.[100] Furthermore, as deadly as Saddam’s network of terrorists was, it no longer posed a threat to Americans; as of February 2002, the C.I.A. had no evidence of Iraqi-related terrorist operations against the U.S. in nearly a decade.[101] (According to the State Department, for the past several years Iraq directed its energies mostly at domestic opposition.[102]) This is not to say that time exonerates criminality: once a murderer, especially a mass murderer, always a murderer. War, however, seems belatedly excessive to bring half a dozen terrorists to justice. Admittedly, anything less would never drain the swamp that Iraq was for such thugs. But the safety of Americans does not require, as President Bush vowed days after 9/11, “ridding the world of evildoers.”[103]


Deterrence


A year before she became National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice described U.S. policy toward Iraq in the Foreign Affairs journal: “[T]he first line of defense should be a clear and classical statement of deterrence—if they do acquire W.M.D., their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration.”[104] Until 9/11, this reasoning constituted America’s national security strategy, and kept the Cold War cold. But deterrence only works if the deterree is rational, that is, if he appreciates that attacking the deterer will beget massive retaliation. Hawks argued that since Saddam was “unbalanced”[105] (Bush), we could ill “afford to trust [his] motives or give him the benefit of the doubt” (Rice).[106]


The Iran-Iraq War


Exhibit A: In September 1980, a year after he became president, Saddam invaded Iran. For the Third World the war reached unprecedented losses of blood and treasure: eight years cost 150,000[107] Iraqis their lives and Iraq nearly half a trillion dollars.[108] Yet, ultimately, Iraq gained no territory. Michael Sterner, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under President Carter, thus describes the invasion “as one of this century’s worst strategic miscalculations.”[109] Surely such a headstrong catastrophe shows that Saddam was too reckless to be deterrable.

A closer examination suggests otherwise. Formed by the confluence of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and stretching for 120 miles before emptying into the Gulf, the Shatt al-Arab waterway forms the Iraq-Iran border in southern Iraq. Both countries have claimed the Shatt for centuries, and in the early 1970s, to divert Iraq’s resources, the Iranian dictator, Reza Shah Pahlavi, began arming and fomenting turmoil among Iraq’s sizable, separatist Kurdish minority. So devastating was this meddling—after all, its large population (roughly three times that of Iraq), oil reserves and strong U.S. support made Iran the Persian Gulf’s most powerful state—that to retain Kurdistan, Iraq acceded to Iran’s demand to demarcate the Shatt al-Arab along its thalweg. This Algiers treaty of March 6, 1975, humiliated the Iraqis, but it reduced interstate tensions.

That is, until February 1, 1979, when a tumultuous backlash against the shah and his American patron swept into power the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. A “fanatic whose judgments are harsh, reasoning bizarre and conclusions surreal,” in the description of Time naming him Man of that Year, Khomeini sought to “export”[110] his theocratic order to surrounding Islamic countries, aiding Muslims whose rulers he thought corrupt, like the Arab gulf monarchs, or secular, like Saddam. Khomeini was also a Shiite, and despised the secular Sunnis who ran Iraq, marginalized Iraq’s Shiite majority, and governed Iraq’s six Shiite holy shrines.

Realizing his peril, Saddam strove to ingratiate himself with the Iranians, to tie Arab nationalism to Islamic fundamentalism and to preserve the status quo. By late 1979, he had made various public gestures of piety and invited Tehran to arbitrate their differences. The revolutionaries, however, spurned the diplomatic notes—Khomeini remained “impervious”[111]—and “reject[ed] resort to all means of peaceful settlement.”[112] Instead, they goaded the Kurds and Shiites to depose Saddam, as Iranian operatives tried to assassinate senior Iraqi officials. By the time they nearly killed Tariq Aziz on April 1, 1980, border clashes, including artillery bombardments and occasional air raids, were spreading and intensifying, largely at Iran’s instigation.

Furthermore, whereas Saddam was a tin-pot dictator in a region that knew only dictatorships, Khomeini instilled singular and global fear. “[H]is hooded eyes and severe demeanor, his unkempt gray beard and his black turban and robes conveyed an avenger’s wrath,” wrote the Mideast journalist Milton Viorst.[113] The United States was particularly agitated, since rabid antipathy toward it had largely fueled Khomeini’s coup, which his partisans soon parlayed into taking hostage, for 444 days, 52 Americans from the U.S. embassy in Tehran.[114] Summarizes one history textbook: “T.V. images . . . of blindfolded hostages, anti-American mobs, and U.S. flags being used as garbage bags rubbed American nerves raw.”[115] “It was America’s first modern encounter with . . . Islamicists, and the first time Americans heard their country called ‘the Great Satan,’” observes Mark Bowden, a veteran military affairs journalist. “Hundreds of thousands of gleeful Iranians celebrated in the streets around the embassy night and day, burning [President] Carter in effigy and chanting ‘Death to America!’”[116]

With his ear ever attuned to world opinion, Saddam recognized Tehran’s isolation, as well as its growing unemployment and rising disaffection among its professional classes and ethnic minorities. Iraq also maintained significant tactical advantages: its Arab and largely Sunni Muslim neighbors were unlikely to support Iran’s Persian Shiites; Iran had minimal defenses in the Shatt al-Arab; a Western embargo had caused Iran spare part shortages and lack of equipment maintenance; and military officers, whom the regime had purged en masse, were now divulging their former country’s vulnerabilities to Iraqi authorities. The gulf’s once mightiest military was crippled, its readiness temporarily undercut, and its leader’s hegemonic ambitions unequivocal.

Conversely, Iraq’s economy was awash with money and record oil revenues. Given Egypt’s suspension from the Arab League following its 1978 peace accord with Israel, its prestige and relations in the Arab world were also at their highest and most cordial. Thus, after securing the backing of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Saddam seized a long-awaited initiative and invaded his historical foe. He aimed principally to snatch back in a quick strike a large slice of the Shatt al-Arab.

Although Saddam struck the first formal blow, “What made war likely—even inevitable,” argues Shahram Chubin, coauthor of Iran and Iraq at War (1988), was Iran’s “neglect of, and disdain for, the (traditional) military balance obtaining between the two countries.”[117] In the analysis of Efraim Karsh, editor of The Iran-Iraq War (1989), Iraq’s invasion was preemptive, “an offensive move motivated by a defensive strategy.”[118] Additionally, whereas the potential fruits of an attack were immense, the risks were minimal.[119] “Objectively,” judges the military historian John Keegan, “the resort to force was a logical option.”[120] Indeed, only force would have, as it did, thwarted Khomeini and kept Saddam in power. “War with Iran,” security scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt conclude, “was not a reckless adventure; it was an opportunistic response to a significant threat.”[121]

Moreover, while Saddam severely underestimated Khomeini’s acolytes, their zealotry, not his, perpetuated the fighting. As Shahram Chubin explains, for Tehran the war “came to represent a test of the revolution,” epitomizing “all the themes of suffering and martyrdom which the leadership seemed determined to cultivate.” In time, the war and the revolution merged, so that the war, like the revolution, was to be “unsullied by practical considerations.” For this reason, Iran continually snubbed the cease-fires Iraq offered throughout the years. Indeed, Iran’s “definition of the absolute stakes that the war represented (which brooked no compromise) helped fuel it long after it made any sense.”[122] Mark Bowden elaborates: “[A]rmed with only prayer and purity of heart,” young Iranians had “stormed the gates of the most evil, potent empire on the planet, booted out the American devils, and secured the success of the mullahs’ revolution.”[123] Against such “heady romanticism,”[124] the Baath was fighting for its survival.


U.S. Tilt


That the war raged so statically also resulted from the complicity of the United States, which strove to ensure that neither country emerged victorious. For at the same time the Reagan administration was secretly arming the ayatollahs (in violation of federal law), it also was generously “tilting” toward Baghdad. After all, this was the Cold War, and under the theory that the friend of my friend is my enemy, U.S. foreign policy was to coddle anti-communists. As Franklin Roosevelt reportedly said of Nicaragua’s dictator Anastasio Somoza, “He may be a son of a bitch, but at least he’s our son of a bitch.”


The Gulf War
Causes


Two years after its ceasefire with Iran, Iraq embarked on another adventure, savagely occupying and plundering Kuwait. Expressing the view of many in retrospect, Mark Bowden argues that Saddam’s decision ranks as “one of the great military miscalculations of modern history.”[125]

Again, context paints a different picture. In 1980, Iraq had $35 billion in foreign exchange reserves. By 1990, an $80 billion foreign debt—about one and a half times the country’s G.N.P.—was saddling Saddam. Reconstruction costs were huge, unemployment was rampant, inflation was raging; with their existing loans unpaid, creditors in Europe, Japan and the U.S. were reluctant to extend new ones. As one journalist elucidated, “Saddam was not the regional colossus of popular legend, but a bankrupt dictator fighting for survival.”[126] Indeed, in January he had narrowly escaped an assassination by army officers, who, like their war-weary compatriots, were awaiting the promised peace dividend and anticipating democratic reforms, a la trends in Kuwait, Yemen and Jordan. Equally ominous was the popular revolution in Romania, which in just one week in December had brought the tyrant, Nicolae Ceausescu, before a firing squad.[127] The influx of Soviet Jews to Israel only exacerbated this tinderbox.

With such alarms ringing in his ever-vigilant mind,[128] Saddam contended that he had thwarted Iranian expansionism on behalf of all Arabs, which entitled him to relief from the $30 billion debt he had racked up with his ethnic brethren. Iraqis paid with our blood, he believed; the gulf states should pay with their dollars. The Kuwaitis—whose overseas investments, estimated at $100 billion, provided them with more than $6 billion a year, a sum roughly equivalent to their oil revenues—disagreed, and refused to forgive $10 to $20 billion they had loaned Iraq.[129] The Sabahs, Kuwait’s ruling family, also enjoyed the first Arab stock exchange, the first Arab department store comparable to any in the West, five-star hotels, superhighways, luxurious shopping malls, office towers and a $400 million conference center—all of which made Saddam, given his far greater population and land, look down on his pocket-sized neighbor with envy and chagrin.[130]

Adding insult to injury, when, via the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Iraq tried to raise the price of oil by production cuts, Kuwait instead continued to prime the pump, doubling its quota violation. Combined with similar incorrigible cheating, for the past two years, by the United Arab Emirates, the glut had depressed the average price of an OPEC barrel from $20.50 in early January to a mere $13.60 in June.[131] Since Iraq relied on oil for 95 percent of its export revenues, every $1 drop in the price of oil cost it $1 billion a year. “As Saddam saw it,” Time commented, “the Kuwaitis might as well have been stealing from his treasury.”[132]

Then there was the quarrel over the rich, vast Rumaila oilfield, which lies mostly in Iraq but whose southern tip dips slightly into Kuwait. Insisting that when he was engaged against Iran, Kuwait had siphoned off oil from the Iraqi side of the field, Saddam demanded $2.4 billion in reparations.[133] There was also the issue of two Kuwaiti islands, Bubiyan and Warba, which blocked most of Iraq’s mere 18 miles of access to the gulf. For an oil exporter, being so landlocked was an enormous disadvantage, yet despite a coastline of 310 miles, Kuwait refused Saddam’s requests to lease the islands.[134] Finally, Baghdad had historically considered the sheikdom part of its second largest city, Basra, as it had been under the Ottoman Empire. In this analysis, British imperialists had merely drawn a line on an empty map in 1922, carving off Iraq’s alleged 19th province.

And so, as Time concluded, “There sat Kuwait . . . bulging with enormous reserves of oil and cash, boasting an excellent port on the Persian Gulf—and utterly incapable of defending itself against Iraq’s proficient war machine. Saddam Hussein, hungry for money . . . knew before the first of his soldiers crossed the border that it would be a walkover—and it was. In 12 hours, Kuwait was his.”[135]


Mixed Signals


And yet, rather than invade impulsively, Saddam first put out feelers. On February 11, 1990, he met with John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, in Baghdad. The next five years, Saddam said, would determine whether the U.S. used its hegemony for “constructive purposes,” or whether it would blindly follow Israel.[136] Kelly responded that the tyrant was a “force for moderation in the region, and the United States wishes to broaden her relations with Iraq.”[137]

But those relations, as Saddam suggested 12 days later at a summit of the Arab Cooperation Council in Amman, would now be more one-sided. For the first time in a decade, the Iraqi president called Americans imperialists, bent on dominating the Middle East. The solution, in order to influence U.S. foreign policy, was for the Arab world to withdraw the petrodollars it had invested in the West and to expel American ships from the gulf. There was no place among “good” Arabs, Saddam argued, for “the fainthearted who would argue that . . . the United States will be the decisive factor, and others have no choice but to submit.”[138]

The rhetorical ratcheting up derived from two events between the Kelly meeting and the summit. On February 21, the State Department had released its annual human rights report, which called Iraq’s record “abysmal.”[139] And on February 15, Voice of America had broadcast in Arabic an editorial titled, “No More Secret Police,” which in its own words was “reflecting the views of the U.S. government.”[140] Inspired by the recent overthrow of Ceausescu, the editorial subduedly expressed hope that comparable regimes, including Iraq among seven others, would meet the same fate.

Saddam received these common criticisms with great indignation. As April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, cabled stateside, Baghdad “read the editorial as U.S.G.- [U.S. government] sanctioned mudslinging with the intent to incite revolution.”[141] Glaspie then penned a statement of “regret,” to Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, that the editorial “left . . . open . . . [an] incorrect interpretation. It is absolutely not United States policy to question the legitimacy of the government of Iraq nor to interfere in any way with the domestic concerns of the Iraqi people and government.”[142] Back in Washington, William Safire, who via a Freedom of Information request obtained Glaspie’s cable, reported that “John Kelly excoriated those democracy-pushers at the V.O.A. who were undermining his seduction of Saddam Hussein and demanded they be slapped down. Secretary Baker agreed; he told the U.S. Information Agency to get written clearance” from State on future commentaries regarding the sensitive subject of Saddam.[143]

Nor did the seduction wane when on March 16, on trumped-up charges of espionage, Baghdad summarily hanged Farzad Bazoft, a 31-year-old journalist with the London Observer. It was the first time a government had executed a foreign journalist in at least a decade, but whereas Britain recalled its ambassador to Iraq and denunciated the execution as “barbarism deeply repugnant to all civilized people,”[144] the White House went mute. “[W]e don’t have a lot of details on the case,” said spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.[145] All the State Department could muster was to “deplore Iraq’s decision.”[146]

Saddam’s next public speech came on April 1; one line stood out amid his usual rambling. “By God,” he thundered, “we will make fire eat up half of Israel if it trie[s] [anything] against Iraq.”[147] This unprecedented reference to chemical weapons made headlines worldwide. In a rare unambiguous moment, the State Department, in line with White House, called the remarks “inflammatory, irresponsible and outrageous.”[148]

Significantly, Saddam panicked. Turning to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, by April 5 he was engaged in a four-hour discussion with Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the kingdom’s ambassador to the U.S. Saddam asked Bandar to assure the U.S. and the U.K. that he wanted good relations with them and had no intention to attack Israel. Rather, he sought their guarantee that Israel would not attack him, as it had done in 1981 by preemptively destroying a nuclear reactor in Osirak, Iraq.[149] The White House took the tyrant at his word.

The quintet of senior senators—Robert Dole (R-KS); Alan Simpson (R-WY); Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH); James McClure (R-ID); and Frank Murkowski (R-AK)—who met Saddam in Mosul on April 12, was equally unquestioning. As the soon-to-be “Butcher of Baghdad,” but at the time “Mr. President,” carped that he was the victim of a Western propaganda campaign, like the V.O.A. editorial, Bob Dole asserted, falsely, that the V.O.A. commentator had paid for his mistake with his job. Indeed, Dole declared, “[O]nly 12 hours earlier President Bush . . . assured me that he wants better relations . . . with Iraq.”[150] Ambassador Glaspie, who was also present, interjected: “As the ambassador of the U.S., I am certain that this is the policy of the U.S.”[151] When Saddam persisted in reprobating Israel, Senator Simpson bootlicked: “I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the U.S. government. . . . [Ours] is a haughty and pampered press; they all consider themselves political geniuses.”[152] Finally, after revealing that he was “a Jew and a staunch supporter of Israel,” Senator Metzenbaum commended the creature who, just two weeks prior, had threatened to gas the Jewish state: “I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace.”[153]

On April 16, an interagency Deputies Committee, reviewing U.S. policy toward Iraq, reached the same verdict. Yet National Security Directive 26, which cosseted Saddam via commerce, remained predominant and unequivocal. As John Kelly told a House subcommittee on April 26, “We believe it is important to give the government of Iraq an opportunity to demonstrate that it does, indeed, wish to reverse this deterioration in relations, and we are, therefore, opposed to legislation to impose economic sanctions.”[154]

Kuwait was the next deer in the headlights. At a summit of Arab heads of state in Baghdad on May 28, Saddam iterated his grievances. Then he accused the Kuwaiti emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah, of waging economic war against Iraq.[155] Washington’s attention, however, was elsewhere, since the same day, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev had arrived in the U.S. capital for a four-day summit meeting with Bush. Further, since Saddam made the threat in private, neither the Washington Post nor New York Times immediately reported it. Yet when the news “filtered back to official circles,” as veteran journalist Don Oberdorfer later reported, “it sparked only passing interest.”[156]

July brought the crossing of a new and final threshold. In a letter, dated July 16, 1990, to the Arab League Secretary General, Tariq Aziz charged Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates with “direct aggression.”[157] Although the letter was not made public for several days, the gist of Saddam’s Revolution Day radio address the next day had been overt since February. Proclaiming that the neglect by unnamed gulf states—widely known to be Kuwait and the U.A.E.—to Baghdad’s predicament was like “stabbing Iraq in the back”[158] with “a poison dagger,”[159] Saddam warned, “If words fail to protect Iraqis, something effective must be done to return things to their natural course and return usurped rights to their owners.”[160] “Iraqis will not forget the saying that cutting necks is better than cutting the means of living.”[161] This was Saddam’s acknowledgement that he intended—besides having the capability—to undertake military action to redress his grievances. In its July 21 issue (printed, as per weekly magazine dates, a week earlier, and written the week before that), the Economist surmised that Iraq’s vituperations “sound alarmingly like a pretext for invasion.”[162]

Appropriately enough, on July 18, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad presented Iraq with formal demands for clarification. But the demands were dropped after six days in vain. Also on the 18th, State spokesman Richard Boucher promulgated language that would soon become rote: the U.S. remained “strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the gulf with whom we have deep and longstanding ties.”[163] Under questioning, Boucher refused to disclose whether the U.S. would provide military help to its friends in case of an Iraqi attack.

On July 19, State cabled Glaspie both to stress friendship with Iraq and establish that the U.S. was “committed to ensure the free flow of oil from the gulf and to support the sovereignty and integrity of the gulf states.” The cable added, “We will continue to defend our vital interests in the gulf,” and repeated the line about being “strongly committed to supporting” the self-defense of our gulf friends.[164] More pointedly, Dick Cheney, who was then Secretary of Defense, told journalists that the U.S. commitment, made during the Iran-Iraq War, to defend Kuwait if it were attacked remained valid.[165] So far, so clear—even if Cheney’s spokesman soon added that his boss was quoted with “some degree of liberty.”[166]

By July 20 Saddam had begun deploying military vehicles southeast—though it was a foreign military attaché traveling along the highway from Kuwait City to Baghdad, not U.S. spy satellites, who first reported the movement. Within hours, U.S. analysts estimated that Iraq had frontiered two divisions of the Republican Guard, its best troops, equal to 30,000 soldiers. Kuwait’s entire army was roughly 20,000 men.[167] Iraq made no effort to hide the buildup, so many experts believed that Saddam was just flexing, trying to intimidate Kuwait to comply with his demands, rather than preparing to invade it.[168]

By this time, the Pentagon had dispatched its Mideast warships to positions closer to Kuwait. Similarly, in an unprecedented request from an Arab country, the U.A.E. asked the U.S. to supply it with two large KC-135 aerial-refueling tankers, so it could keep patrol planes airborne around the clock to monitor any Iraqi aggression. The White House approved the request on July 23, and on July 24 the Defense Department announced the deployments—the U.S. military’s first notable activity in the region since the Iran-Iraq war’s ceasefire—as a demonstration of support to the two emirates. “We also remain determined,” the Pentagon statement read, “to insure the free flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and to defend the principles of freedom of navigation and commerce.”[169] Again, on balance, so far, so clear—even if the statement continued, “Our continuing efforts . . . are not directed against any single country.”[170]

But July 24 was a busy day. In Baghdad and Kuwait, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried mediation, one of a series of visits, calls and messages involving senior Arab leaders. After returning to Cairo, Mubarak related that Saddam had assured him he had “no intention” to invade Kuwait.[171] According to Mubarak, the trouble was only a “summer cloud,” the kind in Cairo that produces no rain.[172] Accordingly, State’s spokeswoman, Margaret Tutwiler, pussyfooted. “There is no place for coercion and intimidation in a civilized world,”[173] she recited. At the same time, “We do not have any defense treaties with . . . or security commitments to Kuwait.”[174] Asked if the U.S. would help Kuwait if Iraq attacked it, Tutwiler emphasized the “strongly committed” slogan.[175] Secretary Baker was less mealymouthed. Although resolving disputes by coercion was “contrary to U.N. charter principles,” he enjoined American ambassadors in Arab capitals, the U.S. “take[s] no position on the border delineation raised by Iraq with respect to Kuwait.”[176]

* * *

How a rational person would decode these mixed signals is debatable. Which is why, on July 25, a week before he invaded, Saddam made the extraordinary request to see Ambassador Glaspie personally. The tyrant was earnest, stern and shrewd. “[W]hat can it mean,” he riposted in reference to Tutwiler’s remarks and news of the naval exercises, “when America says it will now protect its friends? It can only mean prejudice against Iraq. This stance plus maneuvers and statements which have been made has encouraged the U.A.E. and Kuwait to disregard Iraqi rights.”[177] Evidently, yesterday’s words and deeds had got Saddam’s attention—and his goat; at the least he suspected the U.S. might intervene.[178]

This was it, then, the opportunity to strengthen or to sap that impression, to crystallize all the foregoing bureaucratese, to deter Saddam or to disregard the Sabahs. Glaspie unambiguously chose the latter, “in the spirit of friendship—not in the spirit of confrontation,” she explained.[179] She reminded Saddam that President Bush had rejected imposing trade sanctions on Iraq because the U.S. sought “better and deeper relations” with him.[180] Like Senator Simpson, she rebuked the U.S. media as “cheap and unjust,”[181] and referred to an apology from the American Information Agency. “Your stance is generous,” replied the megalomaniac.[182]

Then came the selling point heard round the world, the Rubicon, the fait accompli. “I know you need funds,” Glaspie affirmed. “We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. . . . James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction” (my italics).[183]

Saddam was equally forthright. Regarding Kuwait and the U.A.E., he asserted that “when planned and deliberate policy forces the price of oil down without good commercial reasons, then that means another war against Iraq.”[184] Regarding the U.S., he asserted, “If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. . . . We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you.”[185]

As the meeting concluded, Saddam announced that the Kuwaiti crown prince/prime minister had agreed to meet the vice chair of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council in Saudi Arabia, and later in Baghdad, to begin defusing the crisis. The tyrant said that he had given Hosni Mubarak his word that he would not “do anything until we [Iraqis] meet with” the Kuwaitis. If “we see that there is hope,” he continued, “then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death, even though wisdom is above everything [else].”[186] Like President Carter, who lamented that his Soviet counterpart, Leonid Brezhnev, had lied to him before invading Afghanistan in 1979,[187] the Bush administration embraced this verbal promise-warning[188]

To be sure, in March 1991, Glaspie testified for two days before the House Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations committees. She denied her reputed obsequiousness and maintained that the Iraqi transcript of the meeting, the only one taken, was “maliciously” edited, deleting both her warnings that the U.S. would object to military force against Kuwait and Saddam’s promise not to do so.[189] Indeed, the transcript was officially abridged, prepared in Arabic and, like all documents from a police state, doctored. In whom, therefore, do we place more credibility: a 25-year veteran of the foreign service, one of America’s top Arabists and the first woman to head a U.S. embassy in the Middle East,[190] or Saddam Hussein?

Regrettably, the differences are not that diametric, since in her testimony, Glaspie conceded the transcript “was about 80 percent correct,” and admitted to her fateful no-sides sentence.[191] Likewise, the cable she sent stateside after the meeting so matched the transcript that State officials described the latter as “essentially accurate.”[192] Nor did State explain why, upon receiving Glaspie’s cable, it did not direct her to deliver a tougher message. Instead, the U.S. government refused to correct the transcript, or to release the cable for 30 years. More tellingly, three days after Glaspie’s meeting with Saddam, Jim Baker (who many believe scapegoated the loyal envoy) whisked her away into silenced obscurity at a desk job in Washington.

In case Saddam was obtuse, on July 28 State wired him a three-paragraph message in President Bush’s name, which in part read: “[W]e believe that differences are best resolved by peaceful means and not by threats involving military force. . . . Let me reassure you, as my Ambassador, Senator Dole and others have done, that my administration continues to desire better relations with Iraq. We will also continue to support our other friends in the region with whom we have had longstanding ties. We see no necessary inconsistency between these two objectives. As you know, we still have fundamental concerns about certain Iraqi policies and activities, and we will continue to raise these concerns with you in a spirit of friendship and candor.”[193] The cable made no mention of or even hinted at vital interests, protection of sovereignty, or the 100,000 Iraqi troops hovering over Kuwait.[194]

With the handwriting on the wall, the last days of July saw a flurry of last-ditch meetings and telephone calls. At its midyear meeting in Geneva, OPEC voted, and Kuwait and the U.A.E. agreed, to limit production and raise the target price of a barrel for the first time in a decade.[195] In Washington, in defiance of President Bush,[196] the Senate and House voted to impose economic sanctions, with the tougher Senate bill proposing to cut off $1.2 billion in loan guarantees to Iraq and ban the sale of weapons and sensitive technology thereto. [197] King Hussein of Jordan reassured Bush that Saddam would not resort to military force, and Hosni Mubarak and King Fahd affirmed that the greater Arab Nation was handling and would settle this Arab quarrel. All counseled the President to refrain from upsetting the diplomatic applecart.

By July 31, Iraqi troops along the Kuwaiti border now exceeded 100,000,[198] far more than were necessary for mere saber rattling. Asked what the U.S. would do if Iraq invaded Kuwait, John Kelly told a House subcommittee, “That, Mr. Chairman, is a hypothetical or a contingency question, the kind of which I can’t get into. Suffice it to say we would be extremely concerned, but I cannot get into the realm of ‘what if’ answers.” Pressed if it were correct that the U.S had no treaties that would obligate it to intervene, Kelly replied, “That is correct.”[199] Within minutes Saddam heard the hearing on the B.B.C. World Service.[200] Two days later, “what if” was “what now?”


Prewar Deterrence


Could the world have known that Saddam would invade Kuwait? Referring to Pearl Harbor, security specialist Roberta Wohlstetter found it “much easier after the event to sort the relevant from the irrelevant signals. After the event, of course, a signal is always crystal clear; we can now see what disaster it was signaling, since the disaster has occurred. But before the event it is obscure and pregnant with conflicting meanings. It comes to the observer embedded in an atmosphere of ‘noise,’ i.e., in the company of all sorts of information that is useless and irrelevant for predicting the particular disaster.”[201] This was not the case in the spring and summer of 1990, since for six months Saddam had been sounding the tocsins of war publicly without apparent effect.[202] As the Economist later summated, between February and April, Saddam “had demanded the withdrawal of the American navy from the gulf, called on fellow Arabs to reactivate the oil weapon, and threatened not just to attack Israel . . . but to burn it with chemical weapons. Add Iraq’s challenge to Syria in Lebanon”—Saddam had been funneling arms and money to the Christian militia fighting Damascus, his main regional rival[203]—“plus a relentless arms build-up, and the evidence was plain: the bad old . . . Iraq was back again.”[204]

It seems that the Bush administration didn’t want to hear this. As Christopher Hitchens puts it, “A revised border with Kuwait was self-evidently part of the price that Washington . . . agreed to pay in its long-standing effort to make a pet of Saddam Hussein.”[205] Nor did the administration, with the exception of a small minority of specialists,[206] suspect an invasion. Among the findings from a monograph published that year by the Army War College: “For the foreseeable future, debt repayment will fully occupy the [Iraqi] regime; it will have neither the will, nor the resources to go to war. . . . Baghdad should not be expected to deliberately provoke military confrontations with anyone.”[207]

Furthermore, even after the C.I.A. realized on July 25, pace the initial consensus, that Baghdad was not bluffing,[208] nobody thought “the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait,”[209] as Ambassador Glaspie recalled. Instead, the thinking went, they would just annex some contested territory along Kuwait’s northern border. And so what if they did? The corollary consensus was that while military force concerned the U.S., the U.S. would not take sides in what it perceived as a no-win, thankless, inter-Arab conflict. Observed a senior U.S. administration official: “I can’t see the American public supporting the deployment of troops over a dispute over 12 miles of desert.”[210]

A pattern thus developed: the Iraqi regime would do or say something brash or provocative. With several notable exceptions early on, the U.S. avoided inflammatory responses, conveying what Jeffrey Record, in Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War (1993), terms “a combination of indifference and appeasement.”[211] Of course, bellicosity unchallenged is bellicosity aggrandized. This is especially true in Saddam’s world, where, the Mideast scholar Amatzia Baram notes, when you bluster, “you expect to get a counterthreat. If you don’t, it means weakness . . . and eventually retreat.”[212]

In this way, writes another Mideast scholar, Janice Gross Stein, U.S. policy “was inconsistent, incoherent, and unfocused in the critical two weeks preceding the invasion.”[213] So negligent were we, concludes Jean Edward Smith in George Bush’s War (1992), that “the United States bears substantial responsibility for what happened.”[214] For while no one may have intended to green light Saddam’s invasion, our collective winks and nods—sins of omission and commission—effectively did just that. “[H]e probably felt free to move on Kuwait,” Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan’s ambassador to the U.N., told a House committee in December 1990.[215] Therefore, as Mearsheimer and Walt conclude, “Deterrence did not fail in this case; it was never tried.”[216]

The second condition that facilitated Saddam’s aggression was Kuwaiti pertinaciousness and superciliousness. Admittedly, as Stein notes, the U.S. “strengthened Kuwait’s resolve,”[217] given the absence of impellence and our regular proclamations about “deep and longstanding ties” with “our friends in the gulf.” At the same time, as historian Theodore Draper observes, emboldened by their immense wealth and international financial connections, the Sabahs “behaved as if they were invulnerable.”[218] According to the authors of Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (1991), they interpreted Saddam’s demands “as a bargaining [position] rather than an ultimatum. . . . They suspected that some concessions might be necessary, but were determined to reduce them to the barest minimum.”[219] Kuwaiti’s financial minister, Sheikh Ali al-Khalifa al-Sabah, was blunter. Ten of OPEC’s 13 members were quotabusters, he told the National Press Club in November 1990. “Those who could, did. Those who couldn’t, complained.”[220]

This does not mean that defying extortion invites invasion. For one, since Baghdad had formally recognized Kuwait’s independence in 1963, its border claims derived less from history than from opportunity.[221] Yet some of Saddam’s grievances were eminently fair. Besides the oil glut, many experts agreed that Kuwait was slant drilling into the Rumaila oilfield.[222] As Time later opined, “A payment to Baghdad for past deprivation and a guarantee of a more equitable distribution of oil resources in the future [wa]s both doable and just.”[223] The Sabahs, however, never gave such propositions their due; and, as political scientist Christopher Layne notes, “When diplomacy fails to adjust an unacceptable status quo, an aggrieved state often uses or threatens to use force, which remains the ultima ratio in world politics.”[224]

Finally, as with Iran, Saddam again grievously miscalculated in plunging into war. But, again, he did so because while he was vulnerable, his victim was more so. He weighed his options warily and had compelling reasons to believe his attack would not cause retaliation. To the contrary, he had recently been building alliances with his neighbors. In February 1989, he had helped charter, and became the first president of, the Arab Cooperation Council, an economic group uniting Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and North Yemen,[225] which Western diplomats saw as a force for moderation.[226] The next month, he had inked a nonaggression treaty with the Saudis.[227] And since April 1990, when he made his infamous threat to Israel, the Arab street had showered praise on their new Saladin, the Muslim commander who liberated Jerusalem from the crusaders.[228] Invading Kuwait, therefore, was less the impulsive irrationality of a “serial aggressor”[229] than the bold coercion of a tyrant. Recalled a U.S. diplomat in the Mideast: “If I had been sitting where he was sitting and getting the signals he was getting from Washington and elsewhere at the time, I would probably also have gambled on the invasion of Kuwait.”[230]

Similarly, while invading a nonthreatening neighbor is wantonly immoral, morality matters little to tyrants, in whose calculus the end justifies the means. Indeed, by raping Kuwait, Saddam cut his Gordian knot. With one swift blitz, he doubled the oil under his control to 20 percent of the world’s known reserves, second only to Riydah’s 25 percent.[231] And not only would Kuwait’s petrodollars now flow into Iraq’s coffers, the tyrant could also manipulate the emirate’s output to ensure a high price for Iraqi oil. Call it the Willy Sutton theory of international relations: Why seize Kuwait? “Because that’s where the money is.”


Prewar Compellence


As Baghdad installed a puppet government in Kuwait City and its troops plundered their new real estate, a stunned world moved rapidly in unprecedented concert. Working through the night until the morning of August 2, the United Nations Security Council overwhelmingly passed Resolution 660, calling for Iraq’s immediate and unconditional withdrawal from all Kuwait. Following the U.S. lead, France, England, Italy, Germany, Belgium and Japan all froze Kuwaiti and Iraqi assets in their countries. The Islamic Conference Organization, the Arab League Council and the Gulf Cooperation Council all condemned the invasion. The European Economic Community imposed a boycott on Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil, and, as China and Russia would soon do, ended all arms sales thereto.

By August 5, though he had initially told reporters he was “not discussing intervention,”[232] President Bush declared, “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”[233] The next day was even more historic: for the first time in 23 years, the U.N. passed strict economic sanctions, without dissent. By August 8, the same day Iraq formally annexed Kuwait, Bush announced that he had deployed 210,000[234] troops to Saudi Arabia.[235] For their part, the Saudis invited the U.S. to stage military operations from the soil of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest sites in Islam. Cuba and Yemen, both of which abstained in the U.N. vote for sanctions, fell into line in condemning the annexation (Resolution 662). Even Switzerland, despite its decades-old policy of neutrality, joined the blockade, just as the Arab League, breaking the old taboo against colluding openly with Israel’s closest ally, dispatched troops to fight shoulder to shoulder with the Americans against their Arab brothers.

During the next few months, as the U.N. passed seven more resolutions, the French, Soviets and Arabs tried to initiate negotiations. Nothing significant occurred, however, until November 8, when, surprising even Congress, President Bush announced that he was doubling U.S. forces in the gulf to more than 400,000.[236] Three weeks later, in its first authorization of offensive military action since the Korean war, the U.N. issued Saddam an ultimatum: disgorge Kuwait by January 15, 1991, or be evicted by “all necessary means.”

The last ditch came on January 9, when James Baker met Tariq Aziz in Geneva. The purpose of the meeting was to disabuse the Iraqis of any misperceptions and assure them of the gravitas of the crisis. To this end, Baker carried a letter from President Bush to Saddam, the most important part of which read: “[T]he United States will not tolerate the use of chemical or biological weapons or the destruction of Kuwait’s oil fields and installations. Further, you will be held directly responsible for terrorist actions against any member of the coalition. The American people would demand the strongest possible response. You and your country will pay a terrible price if you order unconscionable acts of this sort.”[237] Although he studied the letter as if to memorize its key points, Aziz refused to accept it, professing that its language was inappropriate for communication between heads of state.[238] Four hours later, the meeting ended in vain; three days later, Congress voted to authorize military force; and four days after that, 19 hours after the U.N. deadline expired without effect, the Gulf War began.

* * *

In retrospect, Saddam’s intransigence appears mad. “Seen . . . from afar,” Time remarks, he “comes across as a figure seldom found outside the pages of comic books or pulp fiction: the villain who will stop at nothing.” Did this “Arab Dr. No”[239] actually believe he could fend off what, by January 15, was the largest deployment of the United States military since Vietnam? Add the coalition, and the troops at his doorstep totaled almost 600,000, against the 545,000 he had deployed in and around Kuwait.[240] Does not such a delusion neutralize deterrence?

Let’s review the delusion arguments. To borrow from the Mideast historian Daniel Pipes (albeit in a slightly different context), “This mistake can best be explained as the result of Saddam inhabiting the uniquely self-indulgent circumstance of the totalitarian autocrat, with its two key qualities: (1) hubris: the absolute ruler can do anything he wants, so he thinks himself unbounded in his power; and (2) ignorance: the all-wise ruler brooks no contradiction, so his aides, fearing for their lives, tell him only what he wants to hear. Both these incapacities worsen with time and the tyrant becomes increasingly removed from reality. His whims, eccentricities and fantasies dominate state policy.”[241] Indeed, as Time noted, the tyrant lived “in hothouse isolation, in limited contact with any ideas but his own. Except for three and a half years in Egypt . . . in 1960 . . . and brief visits abroad in the early 80s, he knew little of the world outside Iraq. During a 1990 interview, Saddam twice expressed amazement that the U.S. had no laws to jail people who insulted the American President—as Iraq does.”[242]

To be sure, prematurely quitting Kuwait would have undermined Saddam’s honor on the Arab street, on which the humiliation of capitulation—or its perception—is often worse than defeat.[243] Likewise, to prevent domestic revolt, Saddam needed to prove to his countrymen that his regime was still fearsome. But as Pipes notes, “[T]he spin doctors in Baghdad kn[e]w how to portray retreat as victory.”[244] The political psychologist Jerrold Post concurs: Saddam’s “past history reveals a remarkable capacity to find face saving justification when reversing his course in very difficult circumstances.”[245] He could have pointed to the financial gains the invasion enabled, the punishment of the Sabahs, or that the international coalition dared not confront Iraqi forces.

To further be sure, for the first few months of the crisis, one might have analogized Saddam’s outrageous offers of negotiation to the style of Israeli-Palestinian talks: only after beginning with the most extreme position does one make concessions. One might also note that in order to avoid war, Saddam eventually released foreigners he was holding as hostages;[246] that he invited to Baghdad such personalities as Austria’s Kurt Waldheim, Britain’s Edward Heath and Germany’s Willy Brandt;[247] that to influence votes at the U.N. he offered the Third World free oil;[248] and that he instructed his ships to submit to searches by Western vessels enforcing the embargo. “Saddam was not trapped into war,” writes Janice Stein.[249]

“But it [all] seemed more public relations than reality,”[250] as Time put it; the tyrant’s bellicose actions undercut such trial balloons. For example, the annexation of Kuwait cut off any easy way out, and the initial use of the hostages as human shields was gratuitous. On the military front, Iraq continually reinforced its troops, and dug an elaborate defensive line along the Kuwait-Saudi border. Most self-defeatingly, Saddam availed himself constructively of none of the various proposals to avert war—especially when a mere gesture would have greatly bolstered the arguments against war.

And yet, despite all this, Saddam had considerable reasons to think hanging tough would work. First, the Bush administration equivocated in explaining the casus belli to the American people. For instance, during a senate debate in October, Bob Dole spelled out the one reason why the United States was in the gulf: “O-I-L.”[251] A week later, protestors chanting “No blood for oil” forced President Bush to reply, “The fight isn’t about oil, the fight is about naked aggression.”[252] Yet in November, in order to bring the rationale “down to the level of the average American citizen,” Jim Baker told reporters, “If you want to sum it [the crisis] up in one word, it’s ‘jobs.’”[253] Consequently, Americans were unsure whether they were fighting for their president’s “new world order beginning to emerge in the aftermath of the Cold War,”[254] or to make the world safe for gas guzzlers, as a Boston Globe cartoon in early August suggested.[255]

Similarly, Americans were dubious about restoring the Kuwaiti government—an autocratic, anti-Semitic, anti-American regime that, to paraphrase Bismarck’s comment about the Balkans, was not worth the bones of a single U.S. soldier.[256] During the congressional debate to authorize military force—which passed by only 52 to 47 in the Senate and 250 to 183 in the House—Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) recalled his experience with the Sabahs while ambassador to the U.N. They were “singularly nasty,” the senator said, and “conspicuously poisonous.”[257] A similar attitude prevailed at the first post-invasion meeting of the National Security Council. As one official remembered, “Hey, too bad about Kuwait, but it’s just a gas station, and who cares whether the sign says Sinclair or Exxon?”[258] “Surely it not American policy to make the world safe for [monarchy],” the New York Times wrote on August 12, 1990.[259]

Third, an avid viewer of C.N.N., Saddam was listening closely to this intense debate,[260] which he interpreted, with reason, as evidence that such a divided country would not go to war. Iraqi newspapers routinely quoted antiwar senators,[261] and Saddam undoubtedly took comfort from the parade of skeptics counseling delay before the Senate Armed Services Committee in early December. Baghdad further construed the firing of U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Dugan (in September for disclosing details of U.S. attack plans), like the ouster of the hawkish British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November, as a sign that war was increasingly unpopular.[262]

Fourth, many Western military experts estimated that with the world’s fourth largest army, consisting of almost one million soldiers, 500 combat aircraft and 5,500 tanks,[263] Iraq would mount a formidable defense. Its war against Iran, Secretary Cheney told the House Armed Services Committee, had “left Saddam with a warhardened military—disciplined, organized, and tough.”[264] “[I]f he chooses to,” predicted General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded U.S. forces in the gulf, Saddam “could bring a tremendous amount of . . . might to bear in an attack on Saudi Arabia.”[265] Moreover, until August 8, the U.S. had no troops in the region, having relied instead on a policy of “offshore balancing,” Then, as they began to pour into Saudi Arabia, the deployment was so extraordinary that Bush needed to call-up 180,000 regular reservists[266]—whom civilian aircraft had to ferry to the gulf[267]—and, for first time in 20 years, to activate the Individual Ready Reserve, the pool of “weekend warriors” designed for national crises.[268] Further, as Saddam himself recognized, the U.S. had “weapons that strike from afar,” but victory would “depend on a soldier who walks on the ground and comes with a hand grenade, rifle and bayonet to fight the soldier in the battle trench.[269] Military historian Robert Pape agreed: “Airpower alone cannot compel” Baghdad’s retreat; “we must be prepared to commit immense ground forces as well as air forces for a protracted campaign, and be ready to pay a high price in blood and treasure.”[270]

Recent history, however, showed that Americans were distinctly unwilling to bear this burden. By cutting and running from Beirut in 1983, after Hezbollah bombed a barracks and killed 241 marines, and by evacuating Mogadishu 10 years later, after guerillas slaughtered 19 G.I.s, the U.S. government had fostered the widespread impression that it could be chased out of a country at the first sight of bloodshed. Our collective nonchalance to the subsequent attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993, the Khobar Towers in 1996, and the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 only reinforced contempt for our resolve. The interpretation of Osama bin Laden, from an interview in 1998, is instructive: “[O]ur boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger. . . . After a few blows, [America] . . . rushed out of Somalia in shame and disgrace.”[271]

Saddam, too, was keenly sensitive to this trend. In fact, so much did he relish Black Hawk Down (2001), the movie that dramatized the Somalian debacle, that he distributed it to his senior command.[272] “Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 dead,” he had taunted April Glaspie,[273] whereas Iraq had proven its ability, throughout the past decade, to absorb massive casualties. Tariq Aziz made the implication explicit: “[I]f the American leader[s] think[] that this is a vacation like they had in Panama or Grenada, they are mistaken. . . . It will be a bloody conflict.”[274]

Indeed, the question was never whether the coalition would defeat Iraq; it was at what cost. It was not for nothing that coalition troops were donning gas masks, stockpiling a full range of inoculation kits, and deploying elaborate decontamination equipment.[275] For this reason, further Baathist pronouncements about the “mother of all battles,”[276] or—most memorably, the promise from the Minister of Information that Iraqis would eat any downed American pilots[277]—were not simply typical Arab rhetoric but strategic. In Saddam’s plausible analysis, as the war dragged on and the morale of his adversaries withered, a stalemate would ensue, thus increasing Iraq’s chances for a respectable draw.[278] He knew he would lose militarily, as he told Soviet and French envoys in October and early January,[279] so he emphasized symbolic victory, on winning in psychological terms.[280] To borrow the assessment of Iraq today from military historian Victor Davis Hanson, while Saddam knew that he couldn’t blow up enough Abrams tanks or even Humvees to alter the battlefield, he could certainly maim or slaughter a few hundred Westerners with pomp, knowing that C.N.N. would magnify the trauma and savagery, and do so often enough to render the taxpaying citizens back home exhausted with the entire “mess.”[281] Observed columnist Mike Barnicle: “War is popular for the first week or month our soldiers are engaged in combat. . . . Toss a few hundred [flag-draped coffins] into the mix, add 120 women to each state’s roster of Gold Star Mothers, and popularity wanes.”[282] This Achilles’ heel was not lost on President Bush, who in a news conference in late November vowed, “This will not be a protracted, drawn-out war. . . . I pledge to you: there will not be any murky ending.”[283] In announcing the commencement of hostilities, Bush repeated, “[T]his will not be another Vietnam.”[284]

Fifth, even those inclined to support war first favored sanctions,[285] which unlike the last ones the U.N. imposed, in 1977 on South Africa, were mandatory for all member states, barring them from buying anything from or selling anything to Iraq or Kuwait, except on humanitarian grounds. In an interview in mid-September, General Schwarzkopf explained the logic: “If we figure, as has already been announced, that Iraq is losing one billion [dollars] in revenues every day the sanctions are in effect, then it’s going to be interesting to see how much loyalty he [Saddam] has in his armed forces when he’s unable to pay their salaries, feed them, and resupply them with fuel and spare parts and ammunition.”[286] The flip side was that Saddam could probably endure the sanctions well until the middle of 1991[287]—all the while consolidating his grip on Kuwait and hoping the world would insure itself to the change of an “emirate” to a “republic.”

Sixth, as time wore on, it became increasingly thorny to hold the coalition together. Indeed, if the coalition for the Iraq war were a “coalition of the bribed . . . and the extorted,”[288] as Senator John Kerry (D-MA) called it, then the coalition for the Gulf War was its precedent: an extremely fragile united front among disparate states. Consider the votes at the United Nations; from the cases we know, we may infer others. After the U.N. delegate from Yemen received some acclaim for casting a negative vote, Secretary Baker retorted, “I hope he enjoyed that applause, because this will turn out to be the most expensive vote he ever cast.” Which it was, as Bush abruptly cut off $70 million to Yemen in foreign aid and excluded it from the 1992 U.S. budget request.[289] For Egypt, the U.S. and the gulf states each forgave about $7 billion of debt.[290] Although Syrian troops contributed little to the fighting, Damascus benefited from tacit U.S. approval for Hafez al-Assad’s establishment of a Pax Syriana in Lebanon, the lifting of economic sanctions and $200 million from the European Community, a Japanese loan of $500 million, and more than $2 billion from the Arab world.[291] Russia received credit guarantees and $1 billion from Saudi Arabia and the U.S.[292] For not exercising a veto, China’s foreign minister received a reception at the White House after suffering diplomatic isolation for a year and a half following the Tiananmen Square massacre.[293] Even the foreign minister of Cuba got some schmoozing, albeit fruitless, in a 90-minute chat with Secretary Baker—the highest-level public meeting between the two countries since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.[294] Again, none of this escaped the rapt attention of Baghdad.

Seventh, Saddam’s invasion put the Arab world in several catch-22s. For one, he played heavily on the idea that the U.S. employed a double standard in defending Israel’s occupation of the mostly Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip, while denouncing Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. The linkage was logically untenable, but so hypersensitive was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that it reflexively rallied all Arabs. For another, while the Saudis, Egyptians and others made a virtue of necessity, the presence of foreign forces, inextricably linked with past Arab humiliations, was increasingly inflaming Arab xenophobia and resentment.[295] The regimes wanted American help, but in a way that wouldn’t confirm the aggressor’s claim that the rich gulf states were surrogates for American interests.[296] As Fouad Ajami puts it, “Saddam had sacked a country, but . . . [t]he gullible saw him as a Robin Hood, an avenging Saladin fighting ‘the Franks’ and their local collaborators, erasing the colonial boundaries imposed after World War I.”[297] “Even some who admire neither the repressive dictator nor his rape of Kuwait are attracted by his rhetoric of Arab greatness,” commented Time. “Saddam’s populist message against corrupt regimes”—“emirs of oil” he called them[298]—“and the swagger of a leader who can and will fight them, has had an intoxicating effect” on those who “believe they can only benefit from a violent reshuffling of the regional status quo.”[299] For these reasons, Arab rulers, most prominently Jordan’s King Hussein, continually urged the U.S. to show restraint while they attempted to forge an “Arab solution.”[300] This of course was music to Saddam’s ears, as he exploited this diplomacy to consolidate his grip on Kuwait. Then, when push came to shove, King Hussein—like Algeria, Yemen, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Tunisia and Sudan—openly sided with Iraq.

Finally, there was the so-called nightmare scenario,[301] whereby a diplomatic victory might result in a larger crisis. For instance, Saddam might partially pull out from Kuwait, or if he pulled out completely, he might leave troops just north of the border. What the coalition would do then was a very debatable question. “The unhappy reality of the situation,” recalled National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, in a book he later coauthored with Bush, “was that an Iraqi withdrawal would leave us in a most difficult position.”[302] For this reason, according to the veteran White House insider Bob Woodward, by January 1991 the president had decided that war was unavoidable;[303] “We have to have a war,” Bush told his advisors.[304]

Thus, the choice for the Gulf War lay with both Saddam, who thought he could forestall or weather it, and Bush, who needed it. Both men displayed inflexibility: Saddam, in his refusal to negotiate in good faith; Bush, in his insistence on unconditional withdrawal. It’s also worth remembering, as Jeffrey Records points out, that Presidents Kennedy and Johnson could have withdrawn American forces from Vietnam at any time before the Tet Offensive. “Like Saddam in Kuwait, however, the United States by 1968 had invested enormous prestige in Vietnam, and believed it could ultimately prevail, or if not, that it had to endure whatever was in store in order to uphold its honor and reputation for at least a willingness to fight for perceived vital interests. Saddam’s refusal to quit Kuwait except under fire is in hindsight no more or less objectively nonsensical than America’s refusal to abandon Indochina even after all hope for a military decisive solution was lost.”[305]


Intrawar Deterrence


But if Saddam were deterrable, why, after the U.S. had threatened dire consequences for doing so, did he order his troops to blow up 750 Kuwaiti oil wells as they retreated?[306] (The flames, which took years to extinguish, caused an ecological catastrophe; the largest previous oilfield blaze—only five fires—occurred in Libya in 1965.[307]) More shockingly, why, the day after the U.N. issued its deadline, did Iraq load three types of biological agents—botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and bacteria capable of causing anthrax—into roughly 200 missile warheads and aircraft bombs, which it then distributed to air bases and a missile site?[308] Ken Pollack argues that such brinksmanship shows that Saddam was an “an inveterate gambler and risk-taker[,] who regularly twist[ed] his calculation of the odds to suit his preferred course of action.”[309] His thirst for revenge, remarks Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Bush fils administration, tempted him to throw caution to the wind.[310]

The truth is more nuanced. Faced with three ultimatums (put to him via Tariq Aziz at Geneva), Saddam calculated that the U.S. was unlikely to nuke his country because of a terrorist attack or burning oil wells; the real fear, and emphasis of deterrence, was always on poison gas and germ warfare. For instance, in his memoirs, James Baker writes that he “left the impression” with Aziz that if Iraq used a chemical or biological weapon, the U.S. would retaliate with a tactical nuclear one. Baker adds that he “promise[d]” that such an act would change the U.S. war aim from liberating Kuwait to overthrowing Baghdad.[311]

Aziz—and thus Saddam—got the message; as Time reported of the meeting, “Clarity reigned.”[312] In fact, five days after the meeting the White House released the full text of President Bush’s letter,[313] and when U.N. inspectors scoured Iraq after the war, they found that “everywhere they went” Iraqis had copies of the text.[314] Finally, in 1995, Aziz confirmed to Rolf Ekeus, who at the time headed UNSCOM, that he had interpreted the letter as threatening the Bomb.[315] Which is why, as Aziz admitted in an interview with P.B.S. in 1996, that Baghdad refrained from using its chemical weapons.[316]

Further, even with our nuclear deterrent, the Bush administration relayed mixed signals. For one, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor in August, Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Dugan acknowledged that the U.S. had “no plans” to use chemical or nuclear weapons if war broke out. “We would avoid in every possible circumstance even talking about deploying . . . chemical weapons,” Dugan said. “We’ve made a national policy of getting rid of” such arms.[317] Iraq had also signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty in 1968, and official U.S. policy, which had never been repealed, prohibited Washington from using a nuclear weapon against a signatory.

To be sure, in late December, Secretary Cheney declared that “were Saddam Hussein foolish enough to use weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. response would be absolutely overwhelming and it would be devastating.”[318] Two weeks later, however, the Washington Post reported that “administration officials say such forceful language should not be interpreted as meaning the United States plans to use nuclear or chemical weapons,” any use of which the U.S. had ruled out.[319] To break such taboos, explained C.I.A. Director William Webster, would risk world opprobrium.[320] Two days later, Secretary Baker, and by extension President Bush, retreated to language similar to Cheney’s.[321]

As with America’s prewar diplomacy, how a rational person would interpret these signals is debatable. Yet the fact remains, as political scientist Barry Posen concludes, that despite “a variety of oblique [nuclear] messages,”[322] the suggestion that we would use our most potent weapons deterred Saddam from using his.

* * *

Of course, making good on his prewar pledges,[323] Saddam assaulted Israel—a nuclear power[324]—with 40 Scud missiles. He also lobbed another 48 at Saudi Arabia and three at Bahrain.[325] Concludes Ken Pollack: Saddam “play[ed] dangerous games without realizing how dangerous they truly [were].”[326] “In the end, he has frequently proven inadvertently suicidal.”[327]

To the contrary, Saddam was shrewd, not stupid. He knew that the United States was lobbying Israel to hold her fire. This full-court press was both diplomatic and military-based, and resulted in the deployment to Israel of two Patriot anti-missile battalions, complete with American crews. [328]Similarly, he knew that any response by Israel would sunder the pivotal and fragile coalition against him. As such, Saddam had considerable latitude to taunt Tel Aviv, whose retaliation was likely only in the event of a chemical or biological attack.

Yet although Saddam possessed these weapons, he fired missiles armed with conventional tips. According to Khidhir Hamza, the highest-ranking scientist to defect from Saddam’s Iraq and author of Saddam’s Bombmaker (2002), “[W]hat he used against Israel was very low-tech—warheads sometimes filled not even with explosives but with concrete.”[329] As Pollack acknowledges elsewhere, “Few knowledgeable observers doubt” that Israel’s nuclear threat deterred Saddam from striking it unconventionally.[330] The tyrant equated such bravado with suicide.

Finally, Saddam’s attacks arguably were payback. After all, a decade earlier, nine Israeli F-16s had destroyed Iraq’s nearly operational 75-megawatt, $275 million nuclear reactor.[331] Expressing world opinion at the time, the New York Times editorial board condemned this “aggression” as “inexcusable and short-sighted.”[332]


Past Use of Unconventional Weapons


But Iraq was one of the largest producers of chemical weapons, and Saddam was the only living head of state to have used them, to cow domestic dissidents and subdue external enemies. Surely, this willingness to employ repeatedly what Winston Churchill reportedly dubbed “that hellish poison” demonstrates such a lack of restraint as to brand Saddam unpredictable.

First, while the use of nerve agents is sickening, they are not “weapons of mass destruction” in any meaningful sense. Writer Gregg Easterbrook explains: “Since the gassing of the trenches in World War I and the Holocaust a generation later, people have been terrified by the thought of death by gas—partly because chemical agents are invisible, partly because we visualize ghastly, helpless choking rather than vanishing in the flash of an explosion. But pound for pound, chemical weapons are less lethal than conventional explosives and more difficult for an attacker or terrorist to use.”[333] In his memoirs Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, crystallized the difference: “A chemical attack would be a public relations crisis, but not a battlefield disaster.”[334]

Second, since Saddam’s victims—Iranian infantry and Kurdish civilians—lacked any comparable arms, they could not respond—or even threaten to, in kind. Moreover, until Iraq engulfed Kuwait, the world had disregarded accusations from the former country and treated accusations from the latter dubiously. Saddam’s calculations would be entirely different in facing the United States, which possesses the world’s most nuclear devices and its biggest microphones. Indeed, if revenge overwhelmed him, if Saddam were irrational, then sometime during past decade—every minute of which American and British planes have enforced no-fly zones over the north and south of his country—he would have undoubtedly let loose something fierce from his vast arsenal. In fact, though Iraqis intermittently shot at their overseers, who returned fire, they limited themselves to surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns.[335] To up the ante, Saddam undoubtedly recognized, would have been his loss.


Was Saddam Deterrable?


And yet, as the columnist David Brooks notes, the United States “has continually misjudged the appetites of voracious tyrants like Saddam Hussein.” During the Cold War, analysts assumed that it was irrational for the Chinese to intervene in Korea. Oops. Ditto for the U.S.S.R. to overspend on defense. We also couldn’t comprehend why the Soviets would try to get first-strike nuclear capability, so we missed that too. Then they invaded Afghanistan—oblivious to the lessons of Vietnam.[336]

With Saddam, we thought that his war with Iran had exhausted his adventurism. Then came Kuwait. The aftermath of the Gulf War revealed that we had also radically underestimated his nuclear weapons program. “[W]hy would a cash-strapped leader devote himself so fanatically to such a goal?” Brooks asks.[337]

His answer: “[A]nalysts are always imagining that foreign dictators will behave as they—social scientists with PhDs and homes in suburban Virginia—would behave in similar circumstances.” We assume that such creatures “will be deterred by U.S. military preponderance because, after all, that’s the rational reaction.”[338] The problem with these “bloodless compilations of data” are that they anesthetize the each individual’s unique personality—his passions, his ambitions, the influence of his wife. Pride, honor and rage are incredibly important outside the West.[339] And “[w]hen you try to analyze human affairs using a process that is systematic, codified and bureaucratic . . . [y]ou don’t produce reason—you produce what [the political scientist] Irving Kristol called the elephantiasis of reason.”[340] Not everyone acts by restaurant economics.

Seen this way, Saddam Hussein emerges as Hitlerian, “dangerous to the extreme,” as Jerrold Post told the House Armed Services Committee in 1990.[341] Lacking any scruples, he was comfortable “carry[ing] a bluff to the edge of a precipice,” in the words of Youssef Ibrahim, then the Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times.[342] And his sense of mission could taint his judgment, according to a C.I.A. report issued in the weeks before the Gulf War.[343] Accordingly, Ken Pollack argues that Saddam’s “personality and his history [could] only lead us to expect the worst.”[344] For his “continued survival [wa]s far more attributable to luck than . . . to prudence.”[345] Is not such precariousness a disaster waiting to happen?

First, as foreign policy expert Mark Strauss reminds us, such trepidation is all-too familiar. State Department reports contended that Gamal Nasser would “merge the resources and emotions of the entire Middle East into a single assault against Western civilization.” C.I.A. analyses described Fidel Castro as “messianic,” “erratic” and “in a high state of elation amounting to mental illness.”[346] Throughout the 1970s, the U.S. saw OPEC countries as led by fools who would bring down the global financial system, even if it meant their own economic destruction.

Of course, it turns out that First World bombast can be just as bad as Third World bombast; dictators—who, by necessity, are supremely cunning creatures—can be both bloodthirsty and rational. And as political scientist John Mueller points out, “[E]gomania is standard equipment for your average Third World tyrant.”[347]

But perhaps such masquerades were the point all along; for being perceived as maniacal can be a useful tactic in international relations. “An uncouth, cigar-chomping Curtis LeMay frightened us in peace,” observes Victor Hanson; “[W]e may not have won without him in war.”[348] Or consider a story recounted in an unclassified 1995 study by the U.S. Strategic Command. On September 30, 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut. Two days later, Moscow delivered to the leader of the Islamic Liberation Organization a package containing a single testicle—that of his eldest son—with a note that said in no uncertain terms, “Never bother our people again.” The Lebanese got the message. “Such an insightful tailoring of what is valued within a culture,” the STRATCOM authors advise, “is the type of creative thinking that must go into” deterrence strategy.[349] In their aforementioned promises about the hellish fate awaiting Americans if we intervened in 1990-91, the Iraqi leadership thought the same way.

Indeed, STRATCOM continues, “[I]t hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool-headed.”[350] Rather, as the character playing Henry Kissinger in Oliver Stone’s Nixon (1995) puts it, since “the communists only respect strength . . . they will only negotiate in good faith if they fear the madman Richard Nixon.” Nixon replies: “Exactly. Unpredictability is our best asset.”[351] Thus, as Mark Strauss concludes, “[M]aybe, just maybe,” the best way to navigate the international system is to convince your enemies “that you’re crazier than they are.”[352] (Although he was, rightly, strongly paranoid, there was no evidence that Saddam suffered from mental illness.[353])

Second, as dangerous as it were, Saddam’s gambles paid dividends. Remember: even though Egypt militarily lost its 1973 war with Israel, Anwar Sadat became a hero to the Arab world for his willingness to strike, and initially force back, the previously invincible Israelis. Likewise, in 1981, Libya mounted an air attack on an American F-14 Tomcat fighter after it had crossed the so-called line of death in the Gulf of Sidra. Even though the U.S. subsequently destroyed Gadhafi’s jets, the conflict so elevated his status that actually he thanked President Reagan.[354] With Saddam, “Never mind that his forces were routed in Kuwait,” as Time observes; with some justification, he deemed himself triumphal because he resisted the onslaught by 40 nations.[355]

Moreover, by 1998 the Iraqis were physically harassing the U.N. weapons inspectors—on one occasion firing two rocket-propelled grenades into an UNSCOM building in Baghdad, on another grabbing the controls of an UNSCOM helicopter in flight and nearly causing it to crash.[356] Then, in October, Saddam expelled all American inspectors. The response? While UNSCOM initially withdrew, and returned a few weeks later, it withdrew again in December, along with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The U.S. and the U.K. then bombed Iraq for four days in Operation Desert Fox. Yet both international groups remained banned (until 2002, when under threat of war Iraq invited them back). Saddam’s risks had again bred rewards.

Third, Saddam’s heart lay in dominating the Middle East, not the United States. (Without any intercontinental ballistic missiles, he also lacked the capability to reach North America.) Time explains: “He . . . longed for his name to go down in Arab history alongside those of the culture’s great heroes, like Nebuchadnezzar, who drove the Jews into Babylonian captivity, and Saladin . . . He wanted to fulfill the modern-day promise of . . . Nasser, restoring Arab unity and the greater Arab nation to its rightful place in the world.”[357] For this reason, throughout the 80s when we were plying Baghdad with computers and chemicals, we considered the tyrant to be a rational actor. What changed was not Saddam, but U.S. foreign policy.[358]

Fourth, some commentators saw in Saddam a Masada complex, which would drive him to a martyr’s death rather than acquiesce. In 1996, William Safire envisioned a scenario in which “the U.S. president warns Iraq of total annihilation, [and] the dictator shrugs it off as his way to heaven.”[359] But as Jerrold Post countered in 1990, “This is assuredly not the case, for . . . survival is [Saddam’s] number one priority.”[360] “Why would he have so many tunnels and escape routes under his various castles?” asks political scientist Chris Matthew Sciabarra.[361] “[B]ecause he loved life more than he hated us,” says the columnist Thomas Friedman.[362]

Indeed, in March 2003, Saddam was beginning his fourth decade in power as the ruler of a congenitally tumultuous nation. Whatever his fevered fantasies, he had made his regime “coup-proof”[363] and perfected the art of Teflon politics. For instance, on August 15, 1990, 13 days after he had devoured Kuwait, Iraq found itself facing an ominous military buildup. Yet instead of perpetuating his war against Iran while trying to fight another against the U.S.-led coalition, Saddam cut his losses of eight years and conceded to almost all Tehran’s demands. He was nothing if not pragmatic.

Finally, in 2002-03, Iraq retained a shadow of its pre-Gulf War power. A decade of economic sanctions and limited military campaigns had devastated the Iraqi people, land, economy and military. Yes, these inferences parallel those which prevailed before Iraq rolled into Kuwait, but for one difference: 9/11. While Saddam might have had an itch to attack the U.S., he would only have scratched it if he could do so with impunity. “[S]eeing the fate of the Taliban,” columnist Steve Chapman notes, “he [couldn’t] have [had] any illusions about the price he would pay.”[364]

* * *

In the run-up the Iraq war, President Bush compared Saddam to Stalin,[365] but, as the security scholar Richard Betts summates, he drew the wrong lesson. Like Saddam, Stalin miscalculated in invading South Korea in 1950—because President Truman, like Bush pére, did not try to deter him. In fact, Secretary of State Dean Acheson had indicated publicly that South Korea was outside the U.S. defense perimeter. Conversely, Stalin never invaded Western Europe, where the NATO deterrent was clear. In the same way, Saddam acted foolishly when the consequences of his gambles were unclear, but backed down when the threat was credible.[366]


Coda


Although I believe this thesis captures the final word on Saddam Hussein’s deterrability, it does not address the questions, best articulated by the columnist Charles Krauthammer, if deterrence is less preferable to rollback or if it has become obsolete.[367] Rather, my assumption is that deterrence, while not risk-free, is less risky than the alternatives. Add this to the absence of significant collaboration between Iraq and al Qaeda, and you get a strong argument for vigilant containment.

Steve Chapman frames the argument by reference to the Cold War: “What is the United States supposed to do when faced with the following danger: a belligerent . . . tyrant with whom we once fought an inconclusive war, who has worked with violent groups that have opposed us abroad, and who is bent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction? Can we afford to let him pursue that ambition, or should we act with decisive military force to erase the threat?

“That was the dilemma presented in 1963 by Mao Tse-tung, the fanatical Communist who ruled over China. When he embarked on a program to build an atomic arsenal, President Kennedy considered a preemptive[368] strike to stop him.” But in the end the U.S. chose to rely instead on deterrence. “So far, we’ve won the wager.”

Indeed, not only did we deter Mao, “who had fought us to a standstill in Korea and liked to boast that China, with all its people, could easily endure a nuclear war”; we also deterred Joseph Stalin, “who had shown his ambitions by forcibly colonizing half of Europe.”[369] Thus, “To view Saddam as an intolerable danger is to say, as Columbia scholar Kenneth Waltz puts it, that though the strong can deter the strong, the strong cannot deter the weak.”[370]


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Footnotes

[1] In ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide (2002), Samantha Power argues that although Saddam’s 1988 Anfal campaign was primarily instrumental, rather than ideological, the distinction does not matter, legally or morally. “Genocide was probably not even Hussein’s primary objective. His main aim was to eliminate the Kurdish insurgency. But it was clear at the time and has become even clearer since that the destruction of Iraq’s rural Kurdish population was the means he chose to end that rebellion. Kurdish civilians were rounded up and executed or gassed not because of anything they as individuals did but simply because they were Kurds.” Samantha Power, ‘A Problem from Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic, 2003 [2002]), p. 172.

[2] “Washington has repeatedly encouraged the Kurds to revolt but then abandoned them to Baghdad’s mercies: selling them out in 1975, standing by while Saddam slaughtered them in the nightmarish 1987-88 Anfal campaign, sitting on the sidelines after Desert Storm in 1991, and conducting only token strikes after Saddam’s encroachment into northern Iraq in 1996.” Daniel Byman, Kenneth Pollack, and Gideon Rose, “The Rollback Fantasy,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 1999.

[3] R. James Woolsey, “Blood Bath,” New Republic Online, September 13, 2001. (The print version appeared under the same title in the New Republic’s September 24 issue.) Laurie Mylroie, “The Iraqi Connection,” Wall Street Journal, September 13, 2001.

[4] Karen Gullo, “Criminal Charges Filed in Probe,” Associated Press Online, September 18, 2001.

See also Paul Kelso, Nick Hopkins, John Hooper and Richard Norton-Taylor, “F.B.I. Believes Plotters Planned to Seize Six Airliners for Attack,” Guardian (U.K.), September 19, 2001; John Donnelly and Bryan Bender, “Hijacking Suspect Said to Have Met with Agent,” Boston Globe, September 19, 2001; David Ensor, “U.S. Casts a Wary Eye toward Iraq,” CNN.com, September 19, 2001.

[5] See for instance Peter Finn and Charles Lane, “Will Gives a Window into Suspect’s Mind,” Washington Post, October 6, 2001; Stephen Engelberg and Matthew Purdy, “Countless Questions, a Few Answers,” New York Times, October 7, 2001.

Curiously, Newsweek initially reported that Atta met not with Ani but with Farouk Hijazi, Iraq’s ambassador to Turkey. Evan Thomas, “Cracking the Terror Code,” Newsweek, October 15, 2001, p. 45.

[6] In October 2001, the New York Times dated the meeting as April 8. Patrick E. Tyler with John Tagliabue, “Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met with Terror Ringleader,” New York Times, October 27, 2001.

Subsequent Times articles, however, referred only to “early April,” and the 9/11 Commission Report cited April 9. The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), p. 228.

[7] As quoted in Peter Green and Ben Fenton, “Prague Confirms Hijack Leader Met Iraqi Agent,” Telegraph (U.K.), October 27, 2001.

[8] As quoted in Michael Isikoff with Warren Getler, “Hard Questions about an Iraqi Connection,” Newsweek, October 29, 2001, p. 6.

[9] According to the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes—quoting from a top secret, 16-page memo, dated October 27, 2003, from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Douglas Feith, to the chair and vicechair of the Senate Intelligence Committee—Atta had also visited Prague in December 1994 and October 1999. The committee, which was investigating the administration’s prewar intelligence claims, asked Feith to annotate his July 10, 2003, testimony, and his leaked memo indexed in 50 numbered points what the various alphabet intelligence agencies (C.I.A., F.B.I., D.I.A., N.S.A.) had collected about a bin-Laden-Baghdad axis. Stephen F. Hayes, “Case Closed,” Weekly Standard, November 24, 2003, pp. 20-25.

On the heels of Hayes’s article, however, the Department of Defense issued a statement labeling “inaccurate” reports of “new information” regarding Iraqi-Qaeda contacts. [Unsigned], “D.O.D. Statement on News Reports of al Qaeda and Iraq Connections,” United States Department of Defense, November 15, 2003.

Newsweek similarly took the Feith memo to task. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, “Case Decidedly Not Closed,” Newsweek Web, November 19, 2003.

(For a summary of the above, see Jack Shafer, “Case Open,” Slate, November 18, 2003.

For an analysis of the memo, see Daniel Benjamin, “The Case of the Misunderstood Memo,” Slate, December 9, 2003.

Nonetheless, as of the eve of the war, the mainstream press—the sole source of information for the American public and this section of my thesis—corroborated neither the ’94 nor ‘99 meeting.

[10] [Unsigned], “Police Investigating whether Atta Ran Business in Czech Republic,” Czech News Agency (CTK), October 12, 2001.

[11] Sabah Khodada, Interview with [Unknown], Frontline and the New York Times, October 14, 2001.

[12] Robert Novak, “No Evidence against Iraq,” Chicago Sun-Times, October 15, 2001.

[13] John Tagliabue, “No Evidence Suspect Met Iraqi in Prague,” New York Times, October 20, 2001.

[14] [Unsigned], “Czechs Confirm Suspected Hijacker Met Iraqi,” CNN.com, October 27, 2001.

[15] Patrick E. Tyler with John Tagliabue, “Czechs Confirm Iraqi Agent Met with Terror Ringleader,” New York Times, October 27, 2001.

[16] As quoted in [Unsigned], “Czech PM: Atta Considered Prague Attack,” CNN.com, November 9, 2001; Alan Sipress, “Czech Leader: Atta Plotted Radio Free Europe Attack,” Washington Post, November 10, 2001, p. A20; Brian Whitmore, “Atta Role; Anti-U.S. Plot in Prague Detailed,” Boston Globe, November 10, 2001.

[17] MS, “Zeman[’]s Words about Atta one of Hypotheses—Intermin, BIS,” Czech News Agency (CTK), November 9, 2001; [Unsigned],“Czech Government Plays down Comments over Radio Strike Plan,” Agence France-Presse, November 10, 2001.

[18] Vaclav Havel, Interview with Karry King, Larry King Weekend, December 2, 2001 [taped November 27, 2001].

On November 18, National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told Tim Russert, “I don’t want to comment on” the Prague connection. Condoleezza Rice, Interview with Tim Russert, Meet the Press with Tim Russert, N.B.C. News Transcripts, November 18, 2001.

[19] William Safire, “Prague Connection,” New York Times, November 12, 2001.

See also William Safire, “Protecting Saddam,” New York Times, March 18, 2002; William Safire, “Mr. Atta Goes To Prague,” New York Times, May 9, 2002; William Safire, “Missing Links Found,” New York Times, November 24, 2003.

[20] Richard Cheney, Interview with Gloria Borger, 60 Minutes II, November 14, 2001; Richard Cheney, Interview with Tim Russert, Meet the Press with Tim Russert, December 9, 2001.

[21] Chris Hedges with Donald G. McNeil Jr., “New Clue Fails to Explain Iraq Role in Sept. 11 Attack,” New York Times, December 16, 2001.

[22] Peter Green, “Iraq Link To Sept. 11 Attack and Anthrax Is Ruled Out,” Daily Telegraph (U.K.), December 18, 2001.

[23] James Risen, “Terror Acts by Baghdad Have Waned, U.S. Aides Say,” New York Times, February 6, 2002.

[24] David Ignatius, “Dubious Iraqi Link,” Washington Post, March 15, 2002.

[25] George Tenet, Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Federal News Service, March 19, 2002.

[26] Robert S. Mueller III, Speech, “Partnership and Prevention: The F.B.I.’s Role in Homeland Security,” Commonwealth Club of California, April 19, 2002.

[27] Michael Isikoff, “The Phantom Link To Iraq,” Newsweek Web, April 28, 2002. The print and slightly shorter version of this online exclusive appeared under the same title in Newsweek’s May 6, 2002, issue, p. 36.

[28] Daniel Eisenberg, “We’re Taking Him Out,” Time, May 13, 2002, p. 38.

[29] [Unsigned], “U.S. Drops Last Link of Iraq To 9/11,” New York Times, May 2, 2002; Walter Pincus, “No Link between Hijacker, Iraq Found, U.S. Says,” Washington Post, May 1, 2002.

[30] Bob Drogin, Paul Richter and Doyle McManus, “U.S. Returns To Theory of Iraqi Link To Sept. 11,” Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2002.

[31] Richard Cheney, Interview with Tim Russert, Meet the Press with Tim Russert, N.B.C. News Transcripts, September 8, 2002.

[32] Condoleezza Rice, Interview with Wolf Blitzer, C.N.N. Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, C.N.N. News Transcripts, September 8, 2002.

[33]Speeches and Testimony,” 2002, Director of Central Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency.

[34] George J. Tenet, Prepared Testimony, Unclassified, Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001, June 18, 2002.

[35] Martin Walker, “Czechs Retract Terror Link,” United Press International, October 20, 2002.

[36] James Risen, “Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting,” New York Times, October 21, 2002.

[37] James Risen, “Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting,” New York Times, October 21, 2002.

“Through extensive interviews with key Czech figures, [the Prague connection] emerges as a complex . . . tale of political infighting among Czech leaders and feuding between rival intelligence services, topped off by a series of simple blunders and overheated statements.” James Risen, “How Politics and Rivalries Fed Suspicions of a Meeting,” New York Times, October 21, 2002.

[38] Peter S. Green, “Havel Denies Telephoning U.S. on Iraq Meeting,” New York Times, October 23, 2002.

[39] “The meeting took place,” Kmonicek told the Prague Post (Czech Republic). As quoted in Frank Griffiths, “U.N. Envoy Confirms Terrorist Meeting,” Prague Post (Czech Republic), June 5, 2002.

[40] As quoted in [Unsigned], “Gross Insists on Meeting between Atta and Iraqi Diplomat Here,” Czech News Agency (CTK), April 29, 2002; [Unsigned], “Hijacker ‘Did Not Meet Iraqi Agent,’” B.B.C. News, May 1, 2002.

[41] James Risen and David Johnston, “Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties To al Qaeda,” New York Times, February 2, 2003.

[42] James Pitkin, “Czechs: Hijacker Met with Iraqi Spy,” Prague Post (Czech Republic), May 8, 2002.

[43] James Schlesinger et al., “Defense Policy,” National Interest, Thanksgiving 2001. p. 83.

[44] Edward Jay Epstein, “Al Qaeda, Pawn of Nations,” April 2, 2003, in Edward Jay Epstein and Daniel Benjamin, “Saddam and Terrorism,” Slate, March 31, 2003-April 2, 2003.

[45] As quoted in Bill Keller, “The Sunshine Warrior,” New York Times Magazine, September 22, 2002, p. 53.

[46] Daniel Benjamin, “A Prague Orgy,” April 2, 2003, in Edward Jay Epstein and Daniel Benjamin, “Saddam and Terrorism,” Slate, March 31, 2003-April 2, 2003.

[47] Michael Isikoff, “The Phantom Link To Iraq,” Newsweek, May 6, 2002, p. 36; Romesh Ratnesar, “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?,” Time, September 2, 2002, p. 34.

[48] Michael Isikoff, “Looking for a Link,” Newsweek, August 19, 2002, p. 10; James Risen, “Prague Discounts an Iraqi Meeting,” New York Times, October 21, 2002; Brian Whitmore, “Hijacker-Iraqi Meeting Disputed Differing Reports on Whether Prague Encounter Occurred,” Boston Globe, October 23, 2002.

[49] Robert Novak, “On Atta, Prague and Iraq,” Chicago Sun-Times, May 13, 2002.

In September 2003, Cheney told Tim Russert the same. “[W]e’ve never been able to . . . confirm[] it or discredit[] it. We just don’t know.” Richard Cheney, Interview with Tim Russert, Meet the Press with Tim Russert, September 14, 2003.

[50] For instance, on 10 separate occasions, Donald Rumsfeld asked the C.I.A. to investigate Iraqi links to 9/11. Daniel Eisenberg, “We’re Taking Him Out,” Time, May 13, 2002, p. 38.

Similarly, Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, urged Colin Powell’s speechwriters to include the Prague connection in his U.N. address. Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler, “Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked by Cheney,” Washington Post, September 29, 2003.

[51] On July 2, 2003, U.S. troops arrested Ani in Iraq. The Iraqi denied ever meeting Atta, a denial that officials found credible. Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, “Case Decidedly Not Closed,” Newsweek Web, November 19, 2003; Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler, “Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked by Cheney,” Washington Post, September 29, 2003.

Also in July, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence declassified the much-delayed report of their Joint Inquiry into 9/11. Tellingly, nowhere in 858 pages does the report mention Iraq’s purported involvement in the day of infamy.

A year later, the 9/11 Commission Report concluded: “[T]here are no U.S. records indicating that Atta departed the country [U.S.] during this period [April 6, 9, 10, 11]. Czech officials have reviewed their flight and border records as well for any indication that Atta was in the Czech Republic in April 2001, including records of anyone crossing the border who even looked Arab. They have also reviewed pictures from the area near the Iraqi embassy and have not discovered photos of anyone who looked like Atta. No evidence has been found that Atta was in the Czech Republic in April 2001. . . .

“These findings cannot absolutely rule out the possibility that Atta was in Prague on April 9, 2001. He could have used an alias to travel and a passport under that alias, but this would be an exception to his practice of using his true name while traveling (as he did in January and would in July when he took his next overseas trip). The F.B.I. and C.I.A. have uncovered no evidence that Atta held any fraudulent passports.

“K[halid]S[haikh]M[ohammed] and [Ramzi] Binalshibh both deny that an Atta-Ani meeting occurred. . . .

“The available evidence does not support the original Czech report of an Atta-Ani meeting [in April 2001].

The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), pp. 228-229.

[52] As quoted in Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, “No More Hide and Seek,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 46.

Eight months later, in September 2003, President Bush again put the Prague connection to rest. “We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with September the 11th,” he told reporters. As quoted in Helen Thomas, “Hussein Link Was Sales Job,” Miami Herald, September 27, 2003.

[53] According to Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering: “We see evidence that we think is quite clear on contacts between Sudan and Iraq. In fact, Al Shifa officials, early in the company’s history, we believe, were in touch with Iraqi individuals associated with Iraq’s VX program.” As quoted in Jane Perlez, “Iraqi Deal with Sudan on Nerve Gas Is Reported,” New York Times, August 26, 1998.

According to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, “Iraq has assisted in chemical weapons activity in Sudan. Samuel R. Berger, “Why the U.S. Bombed,” Washington Times, October 16, 1998.

Richard Clarke, the national coordinator of counterterrorism and computer security programs, said he was “sure” that Iraq was behind the Al Shifa EMPTA, a powdered substance that, when mixed with bleach and water, becomes the nerve agent VX. As quoted in Vernon Loeb, “Embassy Attacks Thwarted, U.S. Says,” Washington Post, January 23, 1999.

Former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay also concurred: “Sudan is not a state that you’d normally expect to understand by itself the intricacies of the production of VX. I think most people suspect there was Iraqi help in this.” As quoted in Ann Kellan, “VX: The Most Toxic of Nerve Agents,” CNN.com, August 21, 1998.

[54] “Al Shifa was part of a larger entity run by the Sudanese government, the Military Industrial Corporation, in which bin Laden had a large financial interest.” Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror (New York: Random House, 2002), p. 354.

[55] In The Age of Sacred Terror (2000), Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon note that U.S. intelligence officials obtained from Al Shifa a soil sample containing EMPTA; that EMPTA “had no commercial use anywhere in the world,” and while “[t]here are several different methods for making VX . . . the only one known to involve EMPTA is Iraq’s . . . [T]his information was never contradicted, but few found it persuasive.” Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror (New York: Random House, 2002), p. 355.

See also Daniel Benjamin, “The Case of the Misunderstood Memo,” Slate, December 9, 2003; Stephen F. Hayes, “Bill Clinton Was Right,” Weekly Standard, July 5-July 12, 2004; Christopher Hitchens, “Clarke’s Progress,” Slate, March 29, 2004.

[56] As quoted in Karen DeYoung, “Unwanted Debate on Iraq-al Qaeda Links Revived,” Washington Post, September 27, 2002.

[57] “C.I.A. Letter To Senate on Baghdad’s Intentions,” New York Times, October 9, 2002.

[58] Colin L. Powell, Speech, “Iraq: Failing to Disarm,” Security Council, United Nations, New York, New York, February 5, 2003.

[59] Bradley Graham, “Al Qaeda Presence in Iraq Reported,” Washington Post, August 21, 2002.

[60] Romesh Ratnesar, “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?,” Time, September 2, 2002, p. 33.

[61] Colin L. Powell, Speech, “Iraq: Failing to Disarm,” Security Council, United Nations, New York, New York, February 5, 2003; George W. Bush, Speech, “World Can Rise To This Moment,” February 6, 2003; George Tenet, Hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Federal News Service, February 11, 2003.

Zarqawi was also responsible for the killing of Laurence Foley, an American diplomat in Amman, in October 2002, and in January 2003 he had been linked to a ricin lab in London. Karl Vick, “Jordanians Arrest Two in Death of U.S. Envoy,” Washington Post, December 15, 2002; Walter Pincus, “U.S. Effort to Link Terrorists To Iraq Focuses on Jordanian,” Washington Post, February 5, 2003.

[62] Colin L. Powell, Speech, “Iraq: Failing to Disarm,” Security Council, United Nations, New York, New York, February 5, 2003.

[63] Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, “Overview of State-sponsored Terrorism,” Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002, April 30, 2003.

[64] Colin L. Powell, Speech, “Iraq: Failing to Disarm,” Security Council, United Nations, New York, New York, February 5, 2003; Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Great Terror,” New Yorker, March 25, 2002, pp. 68-70.

[65] As quoted in Bradley Graham, “Al Qaeda Presence in Iraq Reported,” Washington Post, August 21, 2002.

[66] Christopher Hitchens, “In Front of Your Nose,” Slate, October 25, 2004.

[67] Romesh Ratnesar, “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?,” Time, September 2, 2002, p. 33; Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Great Terror,” New Yorker, March 25, 2002, p. 65.

[68] Walter Pincus, “Alleged al Qaeda Ties Questioned,” Washington Post, February 7, 2003.

[69] Mark Hosenball and Evan Thomas, “Spies, Lies and Iraq,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 49.

[70] Walter Pincus, “Alleged al Qaeda Ties Questioned,” Washington Post, February 7, 2003.

[71] Eric Umansky, “Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Slate, June 29, 2004.

[72] George Tenet, Hearing of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, Federal News Service, February 11, 2003.

[73] “C.I.A. Letter To Senate on Baghdad’s Intentions,” New York Times, October 9, 2002.

[74] Ahmad Chalabi left Iraq the same year the Dodgers left Brooklyn. Harold Meyerson, “Preemptive Peace,” Washington Post, April 8, 2003.

[75] Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt, Silent Warfare: Understanding the World of Intelligence, 3d ed. (Dulles, Virginia: Brassey’s, [1991] 2002), pp. 16-17.

[76] Mark Hosenball and Evan Thomas, “Spies, Lies and Iraq,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 48.

[77] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong,” Atlantic Monthly, January-February 2004, p. 86.

[78] On September 25, in an interview with Jim Lehrer, Condoleezza Rice alleged that Iraq had trained Qaeda members in the development of chemical weapons. Patrick E. Tyler, “U.S. and Britain Drafting Resolution to Impose Deadline on Iraq,” New York Times, September 26, 2002.

Twelve days later, President Bush declared, “Iraq has trained al Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases.” George W. Bush, Speech, “President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat,” Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 2002.

In his U.N. presentation on February 5, 2003, Colin Powell spoke of how a bin Laden operative, who was seeking help in acquiring poisons and gases, had forged a “successful” relationship with Iraqi officials in the late 1990s. Powell also alleged that, as recently as December 2000, Iraq had offered “chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates.” Colin L. Powell, Speech, “Iraq: Failing to Disarm,” Security Council, United Nations, New York, New York, February 5, 2003.

[79] Eric Schmitt, “Rumsfeld Says U.S. Has ‘Bulletproof’ Evidence of Iraq’s Links To al Qaeda,” New York Times, September 28, 2002; Karen DeYoung, “Unwanted Debate on Iraq-al Qaeda Links Revived,” Washington Post, September 27, 2002.

Regarding Colin Powell’s presentation, Newsweek reported that the “C.I.A. said it could not confirm some of the material that the most hawkish Pentagon officials insisted would be killer points . . . (Much of it is provided by Iraqi defectors the Pentagon has decided to adopt, but who are considered unreliable by intelligence professionals.)” Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, “No More Hide and Seek,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 45.

In the same issue, Newsweek also noted: “At the Pentagon, a special intelligence-analysis unit set up by the hawkish Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz claims to have evidence showing that Saddam has ties to al Qaeda . . . Top spooks at the C.I.A., however, are skeptical. In not-for-attribution conversations, they routinely cast doubt on tips and analyses emanating from the Pentagon hardliners.” Mark Hosenball and Evan Thomas, “Spies, Lies and Iraq,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 47.

Two months into the war, the New Yorker’s Sy Hersh related the following story: A former Bush Administration intelligence official recalled a case in which Chalabi’s group, working with the Pentagon, produced a defector from Iraq whom an agent from the D.I.A. interviewed overseas. The agent relied on an interpreter the I.N.C. supplied. In the 2002 summer, the D.I.A. report, which was classified, was leaked. In a detailed account, the London Times described how the defector had trained with al Qaeda terrorists in the late 1990s at secret camps in Iraq, how the Iraqis received instructions in the use of chemical and biological weapons, and how the defector was given a new identity and relocated. A month later, however, a team of C.I.A. agents went to interview the man with their own interpreter. “He says, ‘No, that’s not what I said,’” the former intelligence official told me. “He said, ‘I worked at a fedayeen camp; it wasn’t al Qaeda.’ He never saw any chemical or biological training.” Afterward, the former official said that “the C.I.A. sent out a piece of paper saying that this information was incorrect. They put it in writing.” But the C.I.A. rebuttal, like the original report, was classified. “I remember wondering whether this one would leak and correct the earlier, invalid leak . . . [I]t didn’t.” Seymour M. Hersh, “Selective Intelligence,” New Yorker, May 12, 2003, p. 48.

In July 2004, Newsweek reported that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was evidently the source for the specific al Qaeda-Iraqi claims made by Bush and Powell (see footnote 78), had now recanted. Michael Isikoff, “Iraq and al Qaeda,” Newsweek, July 5, 2004, p. 6.

[80] Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State, “Overview of State-sponsored Terrorism,” Patterns of Global Terrorism 2002, April 30, 2003.

[81] As quoted in Eric Schmitt, “Rumsfeld Says U.S. Has ‘Bulletproof’ Evidence of Iraq’s Links To al Qaeda,” New York Times, September 28, 2002.

[82] Key Judgments, Iraq’s Continuing Program for Weapons of Mass Destruction, “National Intelligence Estimate,” National Intelligence Council, October 2002, p. 8.

[83] Edward Jay Epstein, “Saddam and Osama,” March 31, 2002, in Edward Jay Epstein and Daniel Benjamin, “Saddam and Terrorism,” Slate, March 31, 2003-April 2, 2003.

[84]Bin Laden Tape: Text,” B.B.C. News, February 12, 2003.

Most unprincipled were the Koran-toting 9/11 hijackers, some of whom bedded down with escorts and frequented go-go clubs. Dave Wedge, “Terrorists Partied with Hooker at Hub-Area Hotel,” Boston Herald, October 10, 2001; Evan Thomas, “Cracking the Terror Code,” Newsweek, October 15, 2001, p. 44; Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, “The Hijackers We Let Escape,” Newsweek, June 10, 2002, p. 26.

[85] As Time noted in March 2003, “In recent years the standard-bearer of secular Baathism even turned to prayer to exploit Islamic ardor, building gigantic mosques and lacing his speeches with the language of jihad.” Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s Head,” Time, March 31, 2003, p. 58.

After the Gulf War, he placed the opening declaration for an Islamic prayer, “Allahu akbar” (God is great), on the Iraqi flag in his own handwriting, and augmented his patronage of Palestinian religio-terrorist groups. Christopher Hitchens, “Covering the ‘Quagmire,’Slate, April 29, 2004.

(Of course, the mosques did not honor Allah but Saddam, a major heresy.)

[86] As quoted in John King, “Bush Calls Saddam ‘The Guy Who Tried to Kill My Dad,” CNN.com, September 27, 2002; [Unsigned], “Got Him, but Now What?,” Economist (U.K.), December 20, 2003.

[87] See for instance Richard Butler, “Who Made the Anthrax?,” New York Times, October 18, 2001.

[88] Ken Layne, “Saddam Pays $25K for Palestinian Bombers,” FoxNews.com, 3/26/2002.

[89] Fouad Ajami, “Iraq and the Arabs’ Future,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2003, p. 13.

[90] Dana Priest and Walter Pincus, “Bin Laden-Hussein Link Hazy,” Washington Post, February 13, 2003; “Bin Laden Tape: Text,” B.B.C. News Online, February 12, 2003.

[91] Jason Burke, “What Is al Qaeda?,” Observer (U.K.), July 13, 2003.

This article is an excerpt from Burke’s book, Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror (2003).

[92] Gene Healy, “Why Hussein Will Not Give Weapons of Mass Destruction To al Qaeda,” Cato Institute, March 5, 2003.;

[93] As quoted in Michael Hirsh and Michael Isikoff, “No More Hide and Seek,” Newsweek, February 10, 2003, p. 46.

[94] Although the phrase “scattered, inevitable feelers” comes from a postbellum article, the antebellum evidence supports it. Robert S. Leiken, “The Truth about the Saddam-al Qaeda Connection,” National Interest, November 2004.

[95] Christopher Hitchens, “The Price of Victory,” January 16, 2004, in Paul Berman et al., “Liberal Hawks Reconsider the Iraq War,” Slate, January 12-16, 2004.

[96] Romesh Ratnesar, “Iraq and al-Qaeda: Is There a Link?,” Time, September 2, 2002, p. 34.

[97] Christopher Hitchens, A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq (New York: Plume, 2003), p. 13.

[98] Alison Mitchell, “U.S. Informer Is New Suspect in Bomb Plot,” New York Times, August 5, 1993.

According to the F.B.I.’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, Yasin “possibly has a chemical burn scar on his right thigh,” presumably from mixing said chemicals. “Most Wanted Terrorist: Abdul Rahman Yasin,” Most Wanted Terrorists, Federal Bureau of Investigation.

[99] Michael Isikoff, “The Phantom Link To Iraq,” Newsweek, May 6, 2002, p. 36; Peter Finn, “Czechs Confirm Key Hijacker ‘Contact’ with Iraqi Agent in Prague,” Washington Post, October 27, 2001.

[100] Additionally, the veteran political reporter Seymour Hersh has argued that the evidence for Saddam’s involvement in that plot is “seriously flawed.”[100] Seymour M. Hersh, “A Case Not Closed,” New Yorker, November 1, 1993, p. 80.

[101] James Risen, “Terror Acts by Baghdad Have Waned, U.S. Aides Say,” New York Times, February 6, 2002; Dana Priest, “U.S. Not Claiming Iraqi Link To Terror,” Washington Post, September 10, 2002.

[102] Dana Priest, “U.S. Not Claiming Iraqi Link To Terror,” Washington Post, September 10, 2002.

[103] As quoted in Manuel Perez-Rivas, “Bush Vows to Rid the World of ‘Evildoers,’” CNN.com, September 16, 2001.

[104] Condoleezza Rice, “Promoting the National Interest,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2000, p. 61.

[105] George W. Bush, Speech, “President Bush Delivers Graduation Speech at West Point,” United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, June 1, 2002.

[106] As quoted in James Risen, David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker, “In Sketchy Data, Trying to Gauge Iraq Threat,” New York Times, July 20, 2003, p. A1.

[107] According to Phebe Marr, author of The Modern History of Iraq (1985), “Although figures are notoriously unreliable, estimates place Iraq’s casualties at about 400,000, of whom 150,000—about 4 to 5 percent of its military-age population—were killed.” Phebe Marr, “The Iran-Iraq War: The View from Iraq,” in Christopher C. Joyner (ed.), The Persian Gulf War: Lessons for Strategy, Law and Diplomacy, (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1990), p. 70.

The military historian John Keegan puts the number at 100,000. John Keegan, The Iraq War (New York: Knopf, 2004), p. 69.

[108] According to Kamran Mofid, the total economic cost of the war to Iran and Iraq exceeded $500 billion in each case. Kamran Mofid, “After the Gulf War II: The Cost of Reconstruction,” World Today (Royal Institute of International Affairs, London), March 1989, p. 49.

[109] Michael Sterner, “The Persian Gulf: The Iran-Iraq War,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1984, p. 130.

[110] Milton Viorst, “Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini,” Time, April 13, 1998, p. 167.

[111] Shahram Chubin and Charles Tripp, Iran and Iraq at War (Boulder: Westview, 1988), p. 29.

[112] Majid Khadduri, The Gulf War: The Origins and Implications of the Iraq-Iran Conflict (New York: Oxford University, 1988), p. 102.

[113] Milton Viorst, “Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomeini,” Time, April 13, 1998.

[114] Interestingly, Khomeini was not informed of the takeover in advance, though, by the time the geroga-girha (hostage-takers) presented him their spectacle, it was so popular that he officially anointed them national heroes. Mark Bowden, “Among the Hostage-Takers,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, p. 84.

[115] Paul S. Boyer et al., The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, 4th ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000), p. 906.

[116] Mark Bowden, “Among the Hostage-Takers,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, pp. 82, 84.

[117] Shahram Chubin, “Iran and the War: From Stalemate To Ceasefire,” in Efraim Karsh (ed.), The Iran-Iraq War: Impact and Implications (New York: St. Martin, 1989), p. 13.

[118] Efraim Karsh, “Introduction,” in Efraim Karsh (ed.), The Iran-Iraq War: Impact and Implications (New York: St. Martin, 1989), p. 1.

[119] Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 38.

[120] John Keegan, The Iraq War (New York: Knopf, 2004), p. 61.

See also Efraim Karsh, “From Ideological Zeal To Geopolitical Realism: The Islamic Republic and the Gulf,” in Efraim Karsh (ed.), The Iran-Iraq War: Impact and Implications (New York: St. Martin, 1989), p. 30.

[121] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “Can Saddam Be Contained? History Says Yes,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, November 12, 2002, p. 4.

[122] Shahram Chubin, “Iran and the War: From Stalemate To Ceasefire,” in Efraim Karsh (ed.), The Iran-Iraq War: Impact and Implications (New York: St. Martin, 1989), pp. 14-15.

[123] Mark Bowden, “Among the Hostage-Takers,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, p. 82.

[124] Mark Bowden, “Among the Hostage-Takers,” Atlantic Monthly, December 2004, p. 92.

[125] Mark Bowden, “Tales of the Tyrant,” Atlantic Monthly, May 2002, p. 47.

[126] Helga Graham, “U.S. Oil Plot Fuelled Saddam,” Observer (U.K.), October 21, 1990.

[127] An old joke went that whenever Saddam went for a haircut, his barber would ask about Ceaucescu. Irritated, Saddam would demand to know why he mentioned the deposed dictator. “Because every time I do, sir,” the barber replied, “the hair on the back of your neck stands up, which makes it easier to trim.”

[128] Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 207.

[129] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, pp. 19, 20.

[130] Theodore H. Draper, “The Gulf War Reconsidered,” New York Review of Books, January 16, 1992, p. 49.

[131] Lisa Beyer, “The Crude Enforcer,” Time, August 6, 1990.

[132] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, p. 18.

[133] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, p. 19.

[134] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, p. 19.

[135] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, p. 16.

[136] As quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 20.

[137] Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University, 1993), p. 36.

[138] As quoted in Ofra Bengio (ed.), Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis: A Collection of Documents (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1992), p. 43.

[139] Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1989 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990), p. 1411.

[140] As quoted in William Safire, “Broadcast To Baghdad,” New York Times, September 10, 1990.

[141] As quoted in William Safire, “Broadcast To Baghdad,” New York Times, September 10, 1990.

[142] As quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 22.

[143] William Safire, “Broadcast To Baghdad,” New York Times, September 10, 1990.

[144] As quoted in Craig R. Whitney, “Denying Pleas, Iraq Hangs British-Based Reporter,” New York Times, March 16, 1990.

[145] As quoted in [Unsigned]. “White House ‘Regrets’ Appeals Unheeded in Journalist’s Execution,” Associated Press, March 15, 1990.

[146] As quoted in Craig R. Whitney, “Denying Pleas, Iraq Hangs British-Based Reporter,” New York Times, March 16, 1990.

[147] As quoted in Ofra Bengio (ed.), Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis: A Collection of Documents (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1992), p. 60.

[148] As quoted in Alan Cowell, “Iraq Chief, Boasting of Poison Gas, Warns of Disaster if Israelis Strike,” New York Times, April 3, 1990.

[149] Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 23.

[150] As quoted in “U.S. Senators Chat with Saddam,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds.), The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Random House, 1991), p. 119.

[151] As quoted in “U.S. Senators Chat with Saddam,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds.), The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Random House, 1991), p. 120.

[152] As quoted in “U.S. Senators Chat with Saddam,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds.), The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Random House, 1991), p. 120.

[153] As quoted in “U.S. Senators Chat with Saddam,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds.), The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Random House, 1991), p. 121.

[154] John Kelly, Hearing of the Europe and the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Federal News Service, April 26, 1990.

[155] Simon Henderson, Instant Empire: Saddam Hussein’s Ambition for Iraq (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1991), p. 218.

[156] Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 36.

[157] As quoted in [Unsigned], “Saddam’s Gulf of Threats,” Economist (U.K.), July 21, 1990, p. 37; as quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 37.

[158] As quoted in [Unsigned], “Saddam’s Gulf of Threats,” Economist (U.K.), July 21, 1990, p. 37.

[159] As quoted in Caryle Murphy, “Iraqi Leader Gets New Title As Kuwaiti Anxiety Grows,” Washington Post, July 20, 1990; as quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 38.

[160] As quoted in Caryle Murphy, “Iraq Accuses Kuwait of Plot to Steal Oil, Depresses Prices,” Washington Post, July 19, 1990.

[161] As quoted in Caryle Murphy, “Iraqi Leader Gets New Title As Kuwaiti Anxiety Grows,” Washington Post, July 20, 1990.

[162] [Unsigned], “Saddam’s Gulf of Threats,” Economist (U.K.), July 21, 1990, p. 37.

[163] As quoted in Caryle Murphy, “Iraq Accuses Kuwait of Plot to Steal Oil, Depresses Prices,” Washington Post, July 19, 1990; as quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 38.

[164] As quoted in Leslie H. Gelb, “Mr. Bush’s Fateful Blunder,” New York Times, July 17, 1991.

[165] As quoted in Caryle Murphy, “Iraqi Leader Gets New Title As Kuwaiti Anxiety Grows,” Washington Post, July 20, 1990.

[166] As quoted in Elaine Sciolino with Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Gave Iraq Little Reason Not to Mount Kuwait Assault,” New York Times, September 23, 1990.

[167] Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 37.

[168] Caryle Murphy, “Iraq Expands Force near Kuwaiti Border,” Washington Post, July 31, 1990; Don Oberdorfer,

“Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 37.

[169] As quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Deploys Air and Sea Forces after Iraq Threatens Two Neighbors,” New York Times, July 25, 1990.

[170] As quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Deploys Air and Sea Forces after Iraq Threatens Two Neighbors,” New York Times, July 25, 1990.

[171] As quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 39.

[172] As quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 38.

[173] As quoted in Nora Boustany and Patrick E. Tyler, “U.S. Pursues Diplomatic Solution in Persian Gulf Crisis, Warns Iraq,” Washington Post, July 25, 1990, p. A17.

[174] As quoted in Elaine Sciolino with Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Gave Iraq Little Reason Not to Mount Kuwait Assault,” New York Times, September 23, 1990; as quoted in Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 39.

[175] As quoted in Elaine Sciolino with Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Gave Iraq Little Reason Not to Mount Kuwait Assault,” New York Times, September 23, 1990.

[176] As quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “Pentagon Objected To Bush’s Message To Iraq,” New York Times, October 25, 1992.

[177] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 64.

[178] In the Glaspie meeting, he says, Saddam says, “I have read the American statements speaking of friends in the area.” “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 63.

[179] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 69.

[180] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 68.

[181] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 67.

[182] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 67.

[183] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 68.

[184] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 63.

[185] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 64.

[186] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 71.

[187] Pace conventional wisdom, Carter never used the word “lie.” Instead, he said Brezhnev was “not telling the facts accurately,” and added, “My opinion of the Russians has changed most dramatically in the last week than even the previous two and a half years before that. It’s only now dawning on the world the magnitude of the action that the Soviets undertook in invading Afghanistan.” “Transcript of President’s Interview on Soviet Reply,” New York Times, January 1, 1980, p. 4.

In Détente and Confrontation (1985), Raymond Garthoff explains that “[t]his statement was subsequently considered so embarrassing to Carter that it was not included in the official Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Nor does he, Brzezinski, or Vance refer to it in their memoirs, although it drew heavy press attention and was cited by political opponents in the next election campaign as evidence of Carter’s naiveté.” Raymond L. Garthoff, Détente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon To Reagan (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985), p. 950.

[188] To be sure, as Jean Edward Smith recounts in George Bush’s War (1992), “[D]etails [of the meetings] are sketchy and each side asserts its own interpretation,” so we cannot automatically fault the Iraqis. Conversely, “Since they had been warned by King Fahd, King Hussein, [and] Hosni Mubarak . . . that Saddam meant business, it is difficult to understand why [the Sabahs] continued to stonewall.” Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), pp. 22, 23.

[189] April Glaspie, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Federal News Service, March 20, 1991.

[190] Christopher Ogden, “In from the Cold!,” Time, April 1, 1991, p. 36; Elaine Sciolino, “Envoy No Longer Silent: April Catherine Glaspie,” New York Times, March 21, 1991.

[191]April Glaspie, Hearing of the Europe and the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Federal News Service, March 21, 1991.

[192] As quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “Envoy To Iraq, Faulted in Crisis, Says She Warned Hussein Sternly,” New York Times, March 21, 1991.

See also Christopher Ogden, “In from the Cold!,” Time, April 1, 1991, p. 36; William Safire, “I’ll Remember April,” New York Times, March 25, 1991; David Hoffman, “U.S. Envoy Conciliatory To Saddam,” Washington Post, July 12, 1991.

[193] As quoted in Michael R. Gordon, “Pentagon Objected To Bush’s Message To Iraq,” New York Times, October 25, 1992.

[194] Leslie H. Gelb, “Mr. Bush’s Fateful Blunder,” New York Times, July 17, 1991.

[195] Patrick Cockburn, “OPEC Ministers Agree [To] Price Rise,” Independent (U.K.), July 28, 1990.

[196] On July 27, State spokesman Richard Boucher said that while “much in Iraq’s recent behavior has caused us concern,” “the kinds of legislative measures now under consideration would not help us to achieve U.S. goals.” Mary Curtis, “U.S. Weighs Anti-Iraq Measures,” Boston Globe, July 28, 1990.

[197] After complaints from representatives in rural districts, the House voted again to allow the Secretary of Agriculture to waive the sanctions if he determined they harmed American farmers more than they did Iraq. Steven A. Holmes, “Congress Backs Curbs against Iraq,” New York Times, July 28, 1990.

[198] Caryle Murphy, “Iraq Expands Force near Kuwaiti Border,” Washington Post, July 31, 1990.

[199] John Kelly, Hearing of the Europe and the Middle East Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Federal News Service, July 31, 1990.

[200] John K. Cooley, Payback: America’s Long War in the Middle East (McLean: VA: Brassey’s, 1991), p. 188.

See also Alexander Cockburn, “West Vacationed while Saddam Burned,” Wall Street Journal, September 6, 1990, p. A15.

[201] Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (Stanford, CA: Stanford University, 1962), p. 387.

[202] Theodore H. Draper, “The True History of the Gulf War,” New York Review of Books, January 30, 1992.

[203] Judith Miller, “Gulf Impact: Hurting U.S. over Time,” New York Times, October 11, 1990; Youssef M. Ibrahim, “A General Surrenders,” New York Times, October 15, 1990.

[204] [Unsigned], “The Signals That Were Sent—and the One That Wasn’t,” Economist (U.K.), September 29, 1990, p. 20.

[205] Christopher Hitchens, “Realpolitik in the Gulf: A Game Gone Tilt,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 56.

[206] Michael R. Gordon, “Iraq Army Invades Capital of Kuwait in Fierce Fighting,” New York Times, August 2, 1990.

[207] Stephen C. Pelletiere, Douglas V. Johnson II and Leif R. Rosenberger, Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Mid

dle East (Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania: U.S. Army War College, 1990), pp. x, 41, 39.

[208] Don Oberdorfer, “Missed Signals in the Middle East,” Washington Post Magazine, March 17, 1991, p. 40.

[209] Elaine Sciolino, “Deskbound in U.S., the Envoy To Iraq Is Called Scapegoat for a Failed Policy,” New York Times, September 12, 1990.

[210] As quoted in Elaine Sciolino with Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Gave Iraq Little Reason Not to Mount Kuwait Assault,” New York Times, September 23, 1990.

[211] Jeffrey Record, Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War (Washington, DC: Brassey’s: 1993), p. 24.

[212] As quoted in [Unsigned], “The Signals That Were Sent—and the One That Wasn’t,” Economist (U.K.), September 29, 1990, p. 22.

In the Persian Gulf, “the only unforgivable sin is weakness.” Margaret Thatcher, “Don’t Go Wobbly,” Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2002.

[213] Janice Gross Stein, “Deterrence and Compellence in the Gulf, 1990-1991: A Failed or Impossible Task?,” International Security, Autumn 1992, p. 155.

[214] Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), p. 62.

[215] Jeane Kirkpatrick, Hearing of the House Committee on Armed Services, Federal News Service, December 19, 1990.

[216] John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “Can Saddam Be Contained? History Says Yes,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, November 12, 2002, p. 5.

See also Richard K. Betts, “Suicide from Fear of Death?” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2003, p. 39; Janice Gross Stein, “Deterrence and Compellence in the Gulf, 1990-1991: A Failed or Impossible Task?,” International Security, Autumn 1992, p. 155.

[217] Janice Gross Stein, “Deterrence and Compellence in the Gulf, 1990-1991: A Failed or Impossible Task?,” International Security, Autumn 1992, p. 164.

[218] Theodore H. Draper, “The Gulf War Reconsidered,” New York Review of Books, January 16, 1992, p. 50.

See also Jean Edward Smith, George Bush’s War (New York: Henry Holt, 1992), pp. 30-31.

[219] Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (New York: Free Press, 1991), p. 212.

[220] As quoted in Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley, 1991), p. 199.

[221] For example, as David H. Finnie, author of Shifting Lines in the Sand: Kuwait’s Elusive Frontier with Iraq (1992), explains, “Iraq confirmed the validity of the 1963 Agreed Minutes by its conduct after the document was signed. The two countries entered into a number of other agreements on the basis of sovereign equality; they established diplomatic relations and exchanged ambassadors.” Further, while the joint boundary commission the countries formed to demarcate their frontier never completed its mission, “by participating in its work Iraq is presumptively estopped from reneging” on the ’63 agreement. David H. Finnie, Letter To the Editor, in David H. Finnie, Elliott A. Cohen and Theodore H. Draper, “The Gulf War Reconsidered,” New York Review of Books, January 16, 1992.

[222] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley, 1991), p. 199; Michael Kramer, “Must This Mean War?,” Time, August 27, 1990, p. 19; Paul Gray, “The Man behind a Demonic Image,” Time, February 11, 1991.

[223] Michael Kramer, “Must This Mean War?,” Time, August 27, 1990, p. 19.

[224] Christopher Layne, “Why the Gulf War Was Not in the National Interest,” Atlantic Monthly, July 1991, p. 76.

[225] Alan Cowell, “Arabs Are Forming Two Economic Blocs,” New York Times, February 17, 1989.

[226] [Unsigned], “Same Old Saddam,” Economist (U.K.), August 4, 1990, p. 30.

[227] Ami Ayalon (ed.), Middle East Contemporary Survey (Boulder: Westview, 1991), p. 587; Barbara Slavin and Andrew Gowers, “Saudis and Iraq Sign Pact of Nonaggression,” Financial Times (U.K.), March 28, 1989.

[228] [Unsigned], “The Signals That Were Sent—and the One That Wasn’t,” Economist (U.K.), September 29, 1990, p. 22.

[229] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Next Stop Baghdad?,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2002, p. 33.

[230] As quoted in Russell Watson, “Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle with Saddam?,” Newsweek, April 1, 1991, p. 17.

[231] Lisa Beyer, “Iraq’s Power Grab,” Time, August 13, 1990, p. 16.

[232] George Bush, “Remarks and an Exchange with Reporters on the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, August 2, 1990.

[233] George Bush, “Remarks and an Exchange with Reporters on the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, August 2, 1990.

[234] Dan Goodgame, “‘What if We Do Nothing?,’” Time, January 7, 1991, p. 24.

[235] George Bush, “Address To the Nation Announcing the Deployment of United States Armed Forces To Saudi Arabia,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, August 8, 1990.

[236] George Bush, “The President’s News Conference on the Persian Gulf Crisis,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, November 8, 1990.

[237]Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on President Bush’s Letter To President Saddam Hussein of Iraq,” George Bush Presidential Library, January 12, 1991.

[238] Lisa Beyer, “Last Gasps on the Negotiation Trail,” Time, January 21, 1991, p. 30.

[239] Paul Gray, “The Man behind a Demonic Image,” Time, February 11, 1991.

[240] Andrew Rosenthal, “U.S. and Allies Open Air War on Iraq,” New York Times, January 17, 1991.

[241] Daniel Pipes, “W.M.D. Lies,” New York Post, October 7, 2003.

[242] Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s Head,” Time, March 31, 2003, p. 58.

Fed urban myths by ill-informed aides, Third World rulers often misunderstand the United States in fundamental ways. Even today, at a meeting in February 2005 with George W. Bush, Russian President Vladimir Putin was convinced that his counterpart had fired C.B.S. Evening News anchor Dan Rather, who, during the previous year’s presidential campaign, had aired now-infamous forgeries rebuking the Bush’s service in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. At a previous summit, Putin asked if American chicken producers run two kinds of plants: those for domestic consumption and lower quality ones that process substandard produce for Russia. John F. Dickerson, “Vladimir Putin, C.B.S. News Loyalist,” Time, March 7, 2005, p. 18.

[243] Michael Kramer, “The Moment of Truth,” Time, January 21, 1991, pp. 23-24.

[244] Daniel Pipes, “War Now—or War Later,” New York Times, October 23, 1990.

See also Michael Kramer, “The Moment of Truth,” Time, January 21, 1991, p. 24.

[245] Jerrold M. Post, “Explaining Saddam Hussein: A Psychological Profile,” Prepared Testimony, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Persian Gulf Crisis, December 4, 1990.

[246] For a compilation of the hostages, see Nigel Holmes, “Caught in the Conflict,” Time, August 27, 1990, p. 25.

[247] [Unsigned], “The Caravan To Baghdad,” Economist (U.K.), November 10, 1990, p. 48.

[248] Subhy Haddad, “Iraq Offers Free Oil To Thirsty Third World,” Financial Post (Toronto), September 11, 1990.

[249] Janice Gross Stein, “Deterrence and Compellence in the Gulf, 1990-1991: A Failed or Impossible Task?,” International Security, Autumn 1992, p. 172.

[250] Lisa Beyer, “Pausing at the Rim of the Abyss,” Time, September 10, 1990.

[251] As quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “And Now the Hard Part: Making Hussein Give In,” New York Times, October 21, 1990.

[252] As quoted in Dan Balz, “Bush Bashes Congress on Budget Mess,” Washington Post, October 17, 1990.

[253] As quoted in Thomas L. Friedman, “U.S. Jobs at Stake in Gulf, Baker Says,” New York Times, November 14, 1990.

[254] George Bush, “Why We Are in the Gulf,” Newsweek, November 26, 1990.

[255] As cited in Thomas L. Friedman, “U.S. Gulf Policy: Vague ‘Vital Interest,’” New York Times, August 12, 1990.

[256] Christopher Layne, “Why the Gulf War Was Not in the National Interest,” Atlantic Monthly, July 1991, p. 68.

[257] Congressional Record, January 12, 1991, p. S109.

[258] As quoted in Dan Goodgame, “‘What if We Do Nothing?,’” Time, January 7, 1991, p. 22.

[259] Thomas L. Friedman, “U.S. Gulf Policy: Vague ‘Vital Interest,’” New York Times, August 12, 1990.

[260] Elaine Sciolino, “Hussein’s Errors: Complex Impulses,” New York Times, February 28, 1991.

[261] Daniel Pipes, “Will Saddam back down—or Fight?,” Wall Street Journal, December 20, 1990; Mark Danner, [Untitled], New Yorker, December 20, 1990.

[262] Michael Kramer, “Deadline: January 15,” Time, December 10, 1990.

[263] The Military Balance: 1990-1991 (London: Brassey’s: 1990), p. 105.

[264] As quoted in [Unsigned], Crisis in the Persian Gulf: Sanctions, Diplomacy and War (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991), p. 529.

[265] As quoted in Richard Pyle, Schwarzkopf: The Man, The Mission, The Triumph (New York: Signet, 1991), p. 156.

[266] Peter Applebome, “Ripples of Pain As U.S. Dips Deeper into Military,” New York Times, January 31, 1991.

[267] Michael Kramer, “Must This Mean War?,” Time, August 27, 1990, p. 16.

[268] George J. Church, “Weekend To Full-time Warriors,” Time, September 10, 1990.

[269] As quoted in Patrick E. Tyler, “Adding It All Up,” New York Times, February 10, 1991; as quoted in Elaine Sciolino, “Hussein’s Errors: Complex Impulses,” New York Times, February 28, 1991.

In August Saddam had told Dan Rather of C.B.S. News, “The United States relies on the Air Force.” As quoted in “Excerpts from Interview with Hussein on Crisis in Gulf,” New York Times, August 31, 1990.

[270] Robert A. Pape Jr., “Airpower Can’t Dislodge Iraq,” Christian Science Monitor, October 15, 1990, p. 19.

[271] Osama bin Laden, Interview with John Miller, Southern Afghanistan, May 1998.

[272] Romesh Ratnesar, “Sticking To His Guns,” Time, April 7, 2003, p. 40; Thomas Barnes, in Harry Kreisler and Thomas Barnes, Interview with Robert H. Scales, “Conversations with History,” Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, March 9, 2004.

[273] “The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Touchstone, 2003), p. 64.

[274] As quoted in James Ridgeway (ed.), The March To War (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1991), p. 62.

[275] Neil C. Livingston, “Iraq’s Intentional Omission,” Sea Power, June 1991, p. 29.

[276] In Alan Cowell, “Leaders Bluntly Prime Iraq for ‘Mother of All Battles,’” New York Times, September 22, 1990.

[277] Amatzia Baram, “Calculation and Miscalculation in Baghdad,” in Alex Danchev and Dan Keohane, International Perspectives on the Gulf Conflict, 1990-91 (New York: St. Martin’s, 1994), p. 32.

[278] Jerrold M. Post and Amatzia Baram, “’Saddam Is Iraq: Iraq Is Saddam’ (until Operation Iraqi Freedom),” in Barry R. Schneider and Jerrold M. Post (eds.), Know Thy Enemy: Profiles of Adversary Leaders and Their Strategic Cultures, 2d ed. (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: USAF Counterproliferation Center, 2003), p. 183; Amatzia Baram, “Calculation and Miscalculation in Baghdad,” in Alex Danchev and Dan Keohane, International Perspectives on the Gulf Conflict, 1990-91 (New York: St. Martin’s, 1994), p. 45.

[279] Elaine Sciolino, “Hussein’s Errors: Complex Impulses,” New York Times, February 28, 1991.

[280] Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s Head,” Time, March 31, 2003, p. 57.

[281] Victor Davis Hanson, “The Power of Will,” National Review Online, October 29, 2004.

“The most successful group by far in this exercise has been the Palestine Liberation Organization. The P.L.O. was founded in 1964 but became important in 1967, after the defeat of the combined Arab armies in the Six-Day War. Regular warfare had failed; it was time to try other methods. The targets in this form of armed struggle were not military or other government establishments, which are usually too well guarded, but public places and gatherings of any kind, which are overwhelmingly civilian, and in which the victims do not necessarily have a connection to the declared enemy. Examples of this include, in 1970, the hijacking of three aircraft—one Swiss, one British, and one American—which were all taken to Amman; the 1972 murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics; the seizure in 1973 of the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum, and the murder there of two Americans and a Belgian diplomat; and the takeover of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro, in 1985. Other attacks were directed against schools, shopping malls, discothèques, pizzerias, and even passengers waiting in line at European airports. These and other attacks by the P.L.O. were immediately and remarkably successful in attaining their objectives—the capture of newspaper headlines and television screens. They also drew a great deal of support in sometimes unexpected places, and raised their perpetrators to starring roles in the drama of international relations. Small wonder that others were encouraged to follow their example—in Ireland, in Spain, and elsewhere.” Bernard Lewis, “The Revolt of Islam,” New Yorker, November 19, 2001, p. 61.

[282] Mike Barnicle, “Earlier Battles, Lingering Fears,” Boston Globe, August 21, 1990.

[283] George Bush, “The President’s News Conference,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, November 30, 1990.

[284] George Bush, “Address To the Nation Announcing Allied Military Action in the Persian Gulf,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, January 16, 1991.

[285] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991), p. 230.

[286] As quoted in Richard Pyle, Schwarzkopf: The Man, The Mission, The Triumph (New York: Signet, 1991), p. 155.

[287] Lisa Beyer, “Pausing at the Rim of the Abyss,” Time, September 10, 1990.

[288] As quoted in Thomas Beaumont, “Kerry: Bush Should Bend on Iraq,” Des-Moines Register, March 9, 2003.

[289] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991), pp. 237–238.

[290] John Bulloch and Harvey Morris, Saddam’s War (Winchester, MA: Faber & Faber, 1991), p. 159.

[291] Daniel Pipes, “Is Damascus Ready for Peace?,” Foreign Affairs, Fall 1991, p. 41.

[292] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991), pp. 237.

[293] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991), pp. 237.

[294] Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991), pp. 239.

[295] Lisa Beyer, “The Center Holds—for Now,” Time, September 3, 1990, p. 36.

[296] Jeffrey Record, Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War (Washington, DC: Brassey’s: 1993), p. 33.

[297] Fouad Ajami, “Iraq and the Arabs’ Future,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2003, p. 6.

[298] As quoted in “Fighting the War of Words over Kuwait,” New York Times, August 12, 1990.

[299] Otto Friedrich, “‘He Gives Us a Ray of Hope,’” Time, August 27, 1990, p. 26.

[300] Joel Brinkley, “Jordanians Meet Frustration in Search for ‘Arab Solution,’” New York Times, September 21, 1990; William Drozdiak, “Jordan, Algeria Pressing Arab Solution To Crisis,” Washington Post, December 10, 1990; Claude Rakisits, “The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy,” in Kevin Clements and Robin Ward (eds.), Building International Community (St. Leonards, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 1994), p. 99.

[301] R.W. Apple Jr., “U.S. ‘Nightmare Scenario’: Being Finessed by Iraq,” New York Times, December 19, 1990.

[302] George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York: Knopf, 1998), pp. 437-438.

[303] Bob Woodward, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), p. 187.

[304] As quoted in Bob Woodward, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999), p. 185.

[305] Jeffrey Record, Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War (Washington, DC: Brassey’s: 1993), p. 38.

[306] Matthew L. Wald, “Experts Worried by Kuwait Fires, New York Times, August 14, 1991

[307] Tom Wicker, “Kuwait Still Burns,” New York Times, July 28, 1991.

[308] R. Jeffrey Smith, “U.S. Says Iraqis Prepared Germ Weapons in Gulf War,” Washington Post, August 26, 1995.

See also David Johnston, “Saddam Hussein Sowed Confusion about Iraq’s Arsenal As a Tactic of War,” New York Times, October 7, 2004.

[309] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Next Stop Baghdad?Foreign Affairs, March-April 2002, p. 36.

[310] Paul Wolfowitz, “Clinton’s Bay of Pigs,” Wall Street Journal, September 27, 1996.

[311] James A. Baker III with Thomas DeFrank, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), p. 359.

See also Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University, 1993), p. 257.

[312] Michael Kramer, “The Moment of Truth,” Time, January 21, 1991, p. 23.

[313]Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on President Bush’s Letter To President Saddam Hussein of Iraq,” George Bush Presidential Library, January 12, 1991.

[314] [Unsigned], “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” United States Strategic Command, 1995, p. 6.

[315] R. Jeffrey Smith, “U.N. Says Iraqis Prepared Germ Weapons in Gulf War,” Washington Post, August 26, 1995.

[316] Tariq Aziz, Interview with [Unknown], “The Gulf War: Oral History,” Frontline, Public Broadcasting Service, January 9, 1996.

“Senior Iraqi wartime civilian and military leaders (including Saddam’s son-in-law) have claimed that while U.S. conventional threats were insufficient to stop Saddam Hussein, implicit U.S. nuclear threats did deter his use of C.B.W. [chemical and biological weapons].” Keith Payne, “Nuclear Deterrence Provides U.S. Irreplaceable Option,” Defense News, April 13-19, 1998, p. 21.

[317] As quoted in Lawrence J. Goodrich, “U.S. Won’t Use Chemical Arms in Gulf, Air Force Chief Says,” Christian Science Monitor, August 14, 1990.

[318] R. Jeffrey Smith and Rick Atkinson, “U.S. Rules out Gulf Use of Nuclear, Chemical Arms,” Washington Post, January 7, 1991.

[319] In his memoirs, James Baker confirms this. James A. Baker III with Thomas DeFrank, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989-1992 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), p. 359.

[320] R. Jeffrey Smith and Rick Atkinson, “U.S. Rules out Gulf Use of Nuclear, Chemical Arms,” Washington Post, January 7, 1991.

[321] Three weeks into the war, in response to a reporter’s question as to how he would respond to a chemical attack, Bush said, “I think it’s better to never say what option you may be considering or may or may not do. . . . [H]e [Saddam] ought to think very carefully about doing that—very, very carefully. And I will leave that up to a very fuzzy interpretation because I would like to have every possible chance that he decides not to do this.” George Bush, “The President’s News Conference,” George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, February 5, 1991.

[322] Barry R. Posen, “U.S. Security Policy in a Nuclear-Armed World; or: What if Iraq Had Had Nuclear Weapons?” Security Studies, Spring 1997, p. 19.

[323] See, for instance, “Iraqi Leadership Statement[:] Oil Fields to Be Destroyed in Event of Attack,” B.B.C. Summary of World Broadcasts, September 24, 1990.

[324] Although Tel Aviv has neither signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty nor confirmed or denied that it has a nuclear weapon program, in July 1998, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres acknowledged what is widely believed: that Israel had “built a nuclear option[,] not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo.” As quoted in Michal Yudelman, “Peres Gives Sign of Nuclear Capability,” Jerusalem Post, July 14, 1998.

[325] Mark Grossman, Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War (Santa Barbara: CA: ABC-CLIO, 1995), p. 307.

[326] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Why Iraq Can’t Be Deterred,” New York Times, September 26, 2002, p. A19.

[327] Kenneth M. Pollack, “A Last Chance to Stop Iraq,” New York Times, February 21, 2003, p. A27.

[328] Joel Brinkley, “Israeli Tension Eases a Bit, As New U.S. Help Arrives,” New York Times, 1/21/1991; “Joel Brinkley, “Israel Says It Must Strike at Iraqis but Indicates Willingness to Wait,” New York Times, 1/20/1991.

[329] Khidhir Hamza, Interview with Daniel Pipes, “Khidhir Hamza: ‘I Can Forsee Saddam Controlling the Middle East,’” Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2001, p. 69.

[330] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Next Stop Baghdad?Foreign Affairs, March-April 2002, p. 36.

[331] Arnold Beichman, “Israel’s Right To Self-defense,” Washington Times, February 9, 1998.

[332] [Unsigned], “Israel’s Illusion,” New York Times, June 9, 1981.

[333] Gregg Easterbrook, “Term Limits,” New Republic, October 7, 2002, p. 22.

[334] Colin L. Powell with Joseph E. Persico, My American Journey (New York: Ballantine, 1996 [1995]), p. 455.

[335] Vernon Loeb, “‘No-fly’ Patrols Praised,” Washington Post, July 26, 2002.

[336] David Brooks, “The Elephantiasis of Reason,” Atlantic Monthly, January-February 2003, p. 35.

[337] David Brooks, “The Elephantiasis of Reason,” Atlantic Monthly, January-February 2003, p. 35.

[338] David Brooks, “The Elephantiasis of Reason,” Atlantic Monthly, January-February 2003, p. 35.

[339] Fareed Zakaria, “The Wealth of Yet More Nations,” New York Times Book Review, May 1, 2005.

[340] David Brooks, “The Art of Intelligence,” New York Times, April 2, 2005, p. A15.

“[R]ationalism may be defined as a case of elephantiasis of the spirit of rational inquiry.” Irving Kristol, “Rationalism in Economics,” in Daniel Bell and Irving Kristol (eds.), The Crisis in Economic Theory (New York: Basic, 1981), p. 203.

[341] Jerrold M. Post, “Explaining Saddam Hussein: A Psychological Profile,” Prepared Testimony, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Persian Gulf Crisis, December 4, 1990.

[342] Youssef M. Ibrahim, “The Man Who Would Be Feared,” New York Times, July 29, 1990.

[343] Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s World,” Time, May 13, 2002, p. 31.

[344] Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq (New York: Random House, 2002), p. 280.

[345] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Why Iraq Can’t Be Deterred,” New York Times, September 26, 2002, p. A19.

[346] As quoted in Mark Strauss, “A Rogue by Any Other Name: The Adjustable Language of Foreign Policy,” Chronicle Review, December 15, 2000, p. B12.

[347] John Mueller, “Deterring the Egomaniac du Jour,” in John Mueller and Brink Lindsey, “Should We Invade Iraq?,” Reason, January 2003, p. 47.

[348] Victor Davis Hanson, “Great Leaders Are Forged in War,” Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2001.

[349] [Unsigned], “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” United States Strategic Command, 1995, p. 4.

[350] [Unsigned], “Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence,” United States Strategic Command, 1995, p. 7.

[351] President Nixon famously tried convincing the Communists that he might literally go nuclear if they didn’t behave. “I call it the Madman Theory,” he explained to his chief of staff. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war.”

[352] Mark Strauss, “A Rogue by Any Other Name: The Adjustable Language of Foreign Policy,” Chronicle Review, December 15, 2000, p. B13.

[353] Jerrold M. Post, “Explaining Saddam Hussein: A Psychological Profile,” Prepared Testimony, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Persian Gulf Crisis, December 4, 1990; Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s World,” Time, May 13, 2002, p. 29.

[354] James DeHart and Jerrold Post, “Responding To Qaddafi,” Christian Science Monitor, January 7, 1992, p. 18.

[355] Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s Head,” Time, March 31, 2003, p. 57.

[356] Kenneth M. Pollack, “Spies, Lies, and Weapons: What Went Wrong,” Atlantic Monthly, January-February 2004, p. 86.

[357] Johanna McGeary, “Inside Saddam’s Head,” Time, March 31, 2003, p. 57.

[358] Saddam “did not change overnight into a ruthless tyrant; what changed was the attitude of the United States toward him.” Mark Danner, [Untitled], September 10, 1990, New Yorker, September 10, 1990, p. 35.

“World Politics Changes. Cruel, Ambitious Dictators Do Not.” Flora Lewis, “Between-Lines Disaster,” New York Times, September 19, 1990.

[359] William Safire, “Anti-Missile Issue,” New York Times, August 22, 1996.

[360] Jerrold M. Post, “Explaining Saddam Hussein: A Psychological Profile,” Prepared Testimony, Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee on the Persian Gulf Crisis, December 4, 1990.

[361] Chris Matthew Sciabarra, “Don’t Bother to Examine a Folly,” Liberty and Power Group Blog, History News Network, December 15, 2003.

[362] Thomas L. Friedman, “People Power,” New Republic, June 28, 2004, p. 28.

[363] Kanan Makiya, “How Saddam Held onto Power,” in Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf (eds.), The Iraq War Reader: History Documents, Opinions (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003), p. 123.

[364] Steve Chapman, “No, Even if Saddam Has Nukes,” September 27, 2002, in Jacob Weisberg et al., “Should the U.S. Invade Iraq? Week 1,” Slate, September 26-September 27, 2002.

[365] George W. Bush, Speech, “President Bush Outlines Iraqi Threat,” Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 7, 2002.

[366] Richard K. Betts, “Suicide from Fear of Death?,” Foreign Affairs, January-February 2003, p. 40.

[367] Charles Krauthammer, “The Obsolescence of Deterrence,” Weekly Standard, December 9, 2002.

[368] Actually, like Operation Iraqi Freedom, this would not have preemption but prevention. According to the Defense Department’s official definitions, preemption is “initiated on the basis of incontrovertible evidence that an enemy attack is imminent.” “Preemptive Attack,” Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, October 7, 2004.

Prevention is “initiated in the belief that military conflict, while not imminent, is inevitable, and that to delay would involve greater risk.” “Preventive War,” Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, October 7, 2004.

In other words, “[A] preventive war is a preemptive war in which the imminence requirement is recast from temporal to probabilistic terms.” David Luban, “Preventive War,” Philosophy and Public Affairs, November 3, 2004, p. 230.

Put another way, preemption is interceptive, whereas prevention is anticipatory. Yoram Dinstein, War, Aggression and Self Defense, 2d ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 172.

Interestingly, NSC-68, the National Security Council document from 1950 that helped shape U.S. Cold War military doctrine, deplored the latter. “It goes without saying that the idea of ‘preventive’ war—in the sense of a military attack not provoked by a military attack upon us or our allies—is generally unacceptable to Americans.” [Unsigned], “United States Objectives and Programs for National Security,” National Security Council, April 7, 1950.

[369] Steve Chapman, “Iraq Not,” Slate, November 29, 2001.

[370] Steve Chapman, “No, Even if Saddam Has Nukes,” September 27, 2002, in Jacob Weisberg et al., “Should the U.S. Invade Iraq? Week 1,” Slate, September 26-September 27, 2002.