March 21, 2006

AP: Saddam, the Frustrated Innocent Victim

Hatched by Dafydd

An Associated Press laugher today from Charles J. Hanley introduces a "frustrated" Saddam Hussein, appealing Iraq's innocence of WMD-related charges to his inner circle, unable to understand why the meanies at the UN and the United States won't believe that Iraq long before gave up any ambition to develop WMD.

Mr. Hanley subsequently asserts -- perhaps forgetting the bright line AP always maintains between commentary and news reporting -- that this is all true: the assertion that Iraq maintained WMD programs (if not "large stockpiles") was a dreadful mistake (or lie) all along, Hussein was innocent, and (Mr. Hanley insists) the Iraq Survey Group's final report completely vindicated Saddam Hussein:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on,
and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

-- Wm. Shakespeare, the Tempest

The final dispatch of Charles Duelfer's ISG investigation? Good; let's take that as our "gold standard." Let us compare it to the sheer audacity of Mr. Hanley's misstatements, sly inuendo, and outright fabrications. The result may astonish anyone not familiar with AP's modus operandi.

All right, let's kick on the afterburners and get this crate airborne....

(I know some readers dislike long posts; but sometimes, especially with fiskings, you just gotta do it. Apologies in advance.)

Exasperated, besieged by global pressure, Saddam Hussein and top aides searched for ways in the 1990s to prove to the world they'd given up banned weapons.

"We don't have anything hidden!" the frustrated Iraqi president interjected at one meeting, transcripts show.

At another, in 1996, Saddam wondered whether U.N. inspectors would "roam Iraq for 50 years" in a pointless hunt for weapons of mass destruction. "When is this going to end?" he asked.

Huh... can we figure out any reason -- other than pure anti-Saddam bigorty and prejudice on the part of the international community -- why the UN would intensify inspections in 1996, despite the fact (as Mr. Hanley sees it) that Iraq was not hiding anything, because (he states) they had nothing to hide?

Perhaps we can turn to the gold standard, the final Duelfer report. This is the section discussing the infamous "chicken farm" documents... which Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel had hidden in his chicken ranch, and which he revealed when he defected.

Kamel was one of Saddam Hussein's sons in law. He defected in August 1995 along with another son in law, Col. Saddam Kamel al-Majid; both began cooperating with UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission). Although Kamel insisted that he had ordered all the pre-Gulf War WMD destroyed, the fact that there was so much more than anyone had suspected, more than the UN had found, and tremendously more than Iraq had ever revealed, shook the confidence of the UN that they could rely in any way upon Hussein's cooperation.

(Later, both Kamel and al-Majid were lured back to Iraq, where they were both slain "resisting arrest" by the Iraq security forces.)

When Saddam discovered that Kamel and al-Majid had gone over, he panicked. The Iraqis had no idea what Kamel was telling UNSCOM, but they knew that he knew a lot. They also knew they had to get out in front of the information. Since it was compromised anyway, Saddam believed that they could quickly release the evidence themselves and make some PR gains -- all oriented towards getting the sanctions, including the inspection regime, permanently lifted.

In February 1996, the Iraqis "discovered" the chicken-farm documents and released them to UNSCOM. But Saddam's hopes were dashed that this would help the case to lift the sanctions:

Although Iraq’s release of the “chicken farm” documents initially created a more positive atmosphere with UNSCOM, the relationship grew strained as UNSCOM and the IAEA inspections became more aggressive. The release destroyed the international community’s confidence in the credibility of follow-on Iraqi declarations of cooperation. UNSCOM concluded that it had been successfully deceived by Iraq and that the deception effort was controlled and orchestrated by the highest levels of the former Regime. UNSCOM therefore directed its efforts at facilities associated with very senior members of the Regime and designed inspections to uncover documents rather than weapons. The situation eventually reached an impasse then escalated to crisis and conflict. From this experience, Iraq learned to equate cooperation with UNSCOM with increased scrutiny, prolonged sanctions, and the threat of war. In response, Baghdad sought relief via a weakening of the sanctions regime rather than compliance with it.

Might that possibly explain why UNSCOM increased the frequency and intensity of their inspections in 1996?

Let's see what else Mr. Hanley has to say....

[Inspections] ended in 2004, when U.S. experts, after an exhaustive investigation, confirmed what the men in those meetings were saying: that Iraq had eliminated its weapons of mass destruction long ago, a finding that discredited the Bush administration's stated rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 - to locate WMD.

This is the familiar trope: that the only reason the Bush administration ever enunciated prior to the invasion was WMD... and now that we haven't found "large stockpiles" of WMD, that has "discredited" the "rationale" for the war.

But in fact, each of the following was offered before the war as casus belli:

  • The WMD programs;
  • To enforce UNSC resolutions, particularly 1441;
  • Because of his non-compliance with his treaty obligations, primarily in refusing to cooperate with UNSCOM inspections;
  • Hussein's links with terrorist organizations -- including al-Qaeda, whose members he gave sanctuary to after they were routed from Afghanistan; but also including Hamas and Hezbollah, and (we now discover) al-Qaeda affilliate Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines;
  • Because of his staggering record of crimes against humanity;
  • In order to liberate the Iraqi people from the dictator; these first six can be found, e.g., in the president's 2003 State of the Union Addressed (January 28th);
  • In order to establish a democracy in the heart of the Middle East to serve as a model for other Moslem countries (February 2003);
  • Because Iraq had repeatedly attacked American fighter jets patrolling the no-fly zone and had tried to assassinate former President George H.W. Bush in 1999 (both put forward September 2002).

Well, quite a number of enunciated reasons other than WMD, all promoted extensively and very publicly prior to the invasion, which began March 19th, 2003. Yet Mr. Hanley seems completely unaware of, even oblivious to, their existence. Either he has forgotten (most reporters have the memory of a mayfly), or else he never even noticed at the time. I wonder which he would claim?

Here he comes again:

Even as the documents make clear Saddam's regime had given up banned weapons, they also attest to its continued secretiveness: A 1997 document from Iraqi intelligence instructed agencies to keep confidential files away from U.N. teams, and to remove "any forbidden equipment."

Since it's now acknowledged the Iraqis had ended the arms programs by then, the directive may have been aimed at securing stray pieces of equipment, and preserving some secrets from Iraq's 1980s work on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Thus are great nonsense arguments promulgated. Like the King of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, we begin with the verdict -- that "Iraqis had ended the arms programs by [1997]" -- and any subsequent evidence that they had not (the warning to remove "forbidden equipment") is reinterpreted in light of the preexisting conclusion. It's magic!

What does Mr. Hanley's gold standard say about this time period?

Throughout 1997-1998, Iraq continued efforts to hinder UNSCOM inspections through site sanitization, warning inspection sites prior to the inspectors’ arrival, concealment of sensitive documentation, and intelligence collection on the UN mission.

Pretty odd behavior for a regime that had ended their arms program long before and sought only to preserve a few "secrets" from their WMD efforts a decade earlier.

Saddam's inner circle entertained notions of reviving the programs someday, the newly released documents show. "The factories will remain in our brains," one unidentified participant told Saddam at a meeting, apparently in the early 1990s.

At the same meeting, however, Saddam, who was deposed by the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is now on trial for crimes against humanity, led a discussion about converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses.

When a subordinate complained that U.N. inspectors had seized equipment at the plants useful for pharmaceutical and insecticide production, Saddam jumped in, saying they had "no right" to deny the Iraqis the equipment, since "they have ascertained that we have no intention to produce in this field (chemical weapons)."

Not that Mr. Hanley would ever editorialize in the middle of a news story, but -- converting bio-chem factories "to beneficial uses"? Doesn't he actually mean converting to civilian use? How do we know the uses were "beneficial," when there is a persistent charge that what Iraq really did, following the Gulf War, was convert their WMD programs to dual-use capability, military and civilian -- and then argued that having at least a potential civilian capability meant the stockpiles could not be considered WMD.

In the end, the Iraqis persuading the CIA... which of course desperately wanted to be persuaded, since that would damage Bush. And we did find tremendous stockpiles of potential (dual-use) WMD: for example, drums of cyclosarin-based "pesticides" concealed in camouflaged bunkers and ammo dumps, where they sometimes sat within feet of empty chemical rockets and shells. Iraq, by the way, is one of the few countries that used cyclosarin as a chemical weapon (for example, during the Iran-Iraq war). Other countries used the related but far more effective (and impossible to hide as "dual-use") sarin instead of cyclosarin.

Kenneth Timmerman has documented this extensively, for example in his piece in Insight Magazine -- which alas has exceeded its expiry date and is no longer available on Insight's website. It is available on Timmerman's own site, however (though in annoyingly large type).

And in fact, Duelfer himself reported that the Iraqi chemical-weapon scientists had been retained at "civilian" pesticide production facilities, such as the Tariq Company in Fallujah. I wonder why?

So what Mr. Hanley reports, with a straight face, as "converting chemical weapons factories to beneficial uses," actually means, though he may be ignorant of it, converting chemical weapons factories to dual-use capability, knowing this would mean the international community (which includes the American CIA and State Department) would rush to exonerate Saddam Hussein if the dictator gave them even the smallest hook to hang their hats on. As Pat Collins, the Hip Hypnotist, proved, the easiest thing in the world is to hypnotize those who urgently want to be hypnotized.

Repeatedly in the transcripts, Saddam and his lieutenants remind each other that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s, and shut down those programs and the nuclear-bomb program, which had never produced a weapon.

The image of Hussein and his top regime officials loudly and emphatically "remind[ing] each other" -- at a meeting they themselves were videotaping -- that they had destroyed all their banned WMD reminds me of the lousy science fiction writing that frequently appeared in magazines edited by Hugo Gernsback in the early 1930s...

"Golly, Will-X2283, it is amazing that today, in 2034, we can sit in comfort while traveling at more than one hundred miles of an hour in this evacuated subway tube."

"Why yes, Jon-K1119! If a traveler from one hundred years ago were to be magically whisked to this time period, he would be amazed not only at our transportation innovations but also by the fact that our underground hydroponics fields can feed four thousands in the same space that, in his day, would only feed four hundreds."

It doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Hanley that videotaped meetings at which people vigorously "remind each other" of facts they all know are probably meant for eventual public consumption... or at least later legal cover.

In any event, Charles Duelfer himself -- Mr. Hanley's gold standard -- noted that Saddam Hussein was very suspicious even of his own top people and concealed from them much of the WMD work that was ongoing. He was contradictory and contrary, often telling a person they had no WMD on one day, and a few days later telling the same person that they had superweapons that would drive the infidels and crusaders from the land.

In any event, whatever top regime officials may have "remind[ed] each other" of during those meetings, the fact remains that in the early 1990s, Saddam had every intention of maintaining and reconstituting his WMD. Duelfer reports in the section "Decline (1991-1996)":

Many former Iraqi officials close to Saddam either heard him say or inferred that he intended to resume WMD programs when sanctions were lifted. Those around him at the time do not believe that he made a decision to permanently abandon WMD programs. Saddam encouraged Iraqi officials to preserve the nation’s scientific brain trust essential for WMD. Saddam told his advisors as early as 1991 that he wanted to keep Iraq’s nuclear scientists fully employed. This theme of preserving personnel resources persisted throughout the sanctions period.

Since the next section of the final report is titled "Recovery (1996-1998)," the alert reader can probably surmise Duelfer's conclusion.

Two quick hits show the extraordinary depth and subtlety of Mr. Hanley's reasoning:

"We played by the rules of the game," Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said at a session in the mid-1990s. "In 1991, our weapons were destroyed."

Why yes... by us. Aziz is quite correct: Iraq's weapons were destroyed in 1991 -- by the Coalition forces operating under UN authority. That is, we destroyed what we found.

But did we find it all? Mr. Hanley has an answer to that, too:

Amer Mohammed Rashid, a top weapons program official, told a 1996 presidential meeting he laid out the facts to the U.N. chief inspector.

"We don't have anything to hide, so we're giving you all the details," he said he told Rolf Ekeus.

Mr. Hanley says that Rashid in fact "laid out all the facts" to Ekeus... but then he quotes Rashid saying only that he told Ekeus that he'd laid out all the facts. Evidently, Amer Mohammed Rashid's word is good enough for Mr. Hanley. After all, the mere fact that a man is a tyrant, a terrorist, and guilty of crimes against humanity is no reason to impugn his character, is it?

And at last we come full circle, by a commodius vicus of recirculation, to where we began, with Mr. Hanley's remarkable claim about the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, written by the CIA's Charles Duelfer:

In his final report in October 2004, Charles Duelfer, head of a post-invasion U.S. team of weapons hunters, concluded Iraq and the U.N. inspectors had, indeed, dismantled the nuclear program and destroyed the chemical and biological weapons stockpiles by 1992, and the Iraqis never resumed production.

So what does Charles Duelfer say for himself about the latter period leading up to the war?

Saddam invested his growing reserves of hard currency in rebuilding his military-industrial complex, increasing its access to dual-use items and materials, and creating numerous military research and development projects. He also emphasized restoring the viability of the IAEC and Iraq’s former nuclear scientists. The departure of UN inspectors and Iraq’s refusal to allow their return permitted MIC to purchase previously restricted dual-use materials and equipment that it needed for both weapons development and civilian applications. In addition, MIC had greater flexibility in adapting civilian technology to military use....

There is an extensive, yet fragmentary and circumstantial, body of evidence suggesting that Saddam pursued a strategy to maintain a capability to return to WMD after sanctions were lifted by preserving assets and expertise. In addition to preserved capability, we have clear evidence of his intent to resume WMD as soon as sanctions were lifted.

Perhaps I'm not adept at reading between the lies, but that really doesn't look much like saying the WMD programs "never resumed production." To me, it looks more like Iraq was gearing up to go back into full production the moment sanctions were lifted -- and even earlier, using dual-use technologies.

But then, it's Associated Press. Perhaps that's all I really needed to say.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 21, 2006, at the time of 9:28 PM

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The following hissed in response by: justphishing

Are you familiar with with the writings of Thomas P.M. Barnett? His WEBLOG can be linked fron his home page at I learned of him today. He is a skilled and experienced military strategist and is reported to have a factual based article that shows the fallacy of sending a larger force into Iraq during the March 2003 invasion.

The above hissed in response by: justphishing [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 2:05 AM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Given the larger strategic goal of establishing a stable, functioning democracy in the heart of the Middle East (that is, in Iraq), TPMB is quite correct. This is also why, e.g., John McCain is just dead wrong to suggest we up the force level to 500,000 soldiers now to "destroy the insurgency."

I have thought for some time that the Democrats want Iraq to be Vietnam so they can make us lose again... and McCain and many older Republicans (William F. Buckley, George Will, Bill Kristol) want Iraq to be Vietnam so that we can fight Vietnam all over again -- and this time win it, by jiminey!

But I'm with Donald Rumsfeld: I want Iraq not to be Vietnam, because Vietnam was the last big replay of World War II in terms of tactics... massive force maneuvered as if we were refighting Iwo Jima.

But we were no longer fighting an imperial power like Japan; we were fighting true Communist insurgents in Vietnam (with a national front and everything). We beat them, but it was a horribly bloody war... what, 58,000 dead? Is that what McCain wants?

Iraq is a completely different animal. Note:

  • No superpower opposing us in the field;
  • No national front;
  • No ideologically based insurgency (the true insurgents in Iraq -- the Iraqis who fight against American soldiers -- just want all the foreigners out, and maybe a few bitter-enders want Saddam back);
  • The Iraqis really do back the United States;
  • Most of the deaths are caused by foreign jihadi terrorists, not Iraqis.

In Vietnam, there already was a democracy (of an Asian sort) in the South; we were trying to preserve it. In Iraq, there has never been a democracy; the country is fictional; and we're trying to jump-start history.

Rumsfeld had exactly the right idea: as small a footprint as possible, as little infrastructure damage as we could, de-Baathify the institutions, dissolve the army and build a brand new one, dissolve the police and build a new one.

He didn't get that last item on the wish list because, while Defense was responsible for the Iraqi Army, the State Department (the CPA and Paul Bremer) was responsible for the Iraqi Security Force (the cops)... and State, as always, prefers to work with existing structures, even when they're corrupt and flawed, rather than break them and build a new structure. (They're diplomats: to them, every problem looks like a treaty opportunity.)

Thus, the cops consist of existing tribes -- with all their tribal rivalries -- and the top officers are the same ones who were there when Saddam ruled the roost.

Interior is run by the top tribal chiefs among the Shia, as is the prime ministership, whether it's al-Jaafari or Abdul-Mahdi.

The areas that were under Don Rumsfeld's control are doing great; the areas where the major decisions were made by Colin Powell and his agents are the parts that are still broken.

I haven't read Barnett's piece, but I would probably agree with it.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 3:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: justphishing


It's good to read your comment, because I too agree with the Rumsfeld/Franks strategy. Rumsfeld and Bush have admitted that they didn't get the Army training program right initially; trying to get greater numbers into the field too quickly. But everybody agrees even that part is going good now.

I thought that one of the lessons learned from Vietnam was to let the Generals run the war. It is a lesson that Rumsfeld and Bush have remembered, but which McCain and Kerry have forgotten.


The above hissed in response by: justphishing [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 3:30 AM

The following hissed in response by: leftnomore

Dafyyd, this may be the damn ugliest blog ever designed, but you are the brightest brain in the blogoshpere. You face down an army of hissing serpents in the media, and they don't stand a chance against you... I'm happy you are on the GOOD side.

No, this is not from his wife or old high school teacher... just a dedicated reaader who knows brilliance when he reads it.

The above hissed in response by: leftnomore [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 5:42 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Dafydd, this may be the damn ugliest blog ever designed, but you are the brightest brain in the blogoshpere.

Huh, that's strange: the usual critique of this site is that the design is spiffy... but those clowns who actually write the posts on Big Lizards are real cement-heads!


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 22, 2006 7:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: Jesse Brown

Huh, that's strange: the usual critique of this site is that the design is spiffy... but those clowns who actually write the posts on Big Lizards are real cement-heads!

As a libertarian I have to agree with Leftnomore. Spiffy is not the word I would use. Content overlayed with a hard to read "skin", i.e. brown text on a mottled brown and yellow background. Very hard on the eyes especially when trying to read these long posts.

Liked the post though (as he rubs his eyes).


The above hissed in response by: Jesse Brown [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2006 7:57 AM

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