A Monday story in the WaPo which I missed because I was traveling discusses the state of Iraq in the days before the ground invasion began. Tariq Aziz is quoted heavily, and it makes for very interesting reading. Among the nuggets I find most interesting are:
Aziz, who surrendered to U.S. authorities on April 24, has also said Iraq did not possess stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons on the eve of the war, an assertion that echoes the previously reported statements of other detained Iraqi leaders and scientists.
I’d be interested to know if anyone really said “on the eve of the war.” Maybe they know which day the trucks reached Syria, for instance. Just a thought.
Interrogators asked Aziz whether Hussein was also trying to bluff Iran, fearful that his hostile neighbor might be developing weapons of mass destruction. Aziz replied, according to the senior U.S. official familiar with his interrogation reports: “Every time I brought up the issue with Saddam, he said, ‘Don’t worry about the Iranians. If they ever get WMD, the Americans and Israelis will destroy them.’ “
So now it’s not just France, Germany, and Saudi Arabia that take American protection for granted, but IRAQ, too? I thought we were the bully on the playground of the world, but apparently everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, acts more like we’re the hall monitor.
American and British interrogators have asked dozens of generals who served in high-ranking command roles in Iraqi army divisions during this year — some imprisoned, some living freely — why Hussein did not use chemical weapons to defend Baghdad. A number of these generals have said that they, too, believed chemical weapons would be deployed by Hussein for the capital’s defense. Yet none of the officers admitted receiving such weapons himself.
“The only consistent pattern we’ve gotten — 100 percent consistent — is that each commander says, ‘My unit didn’t have WMD, but the one to my right or left did,’ ” said the senior U.S. official involved. This has led some American interrogators to theorize that Hussein may have bluffed not only neighboring governments and the United States, but his own restive generals.
If that is really the case, it sort of shoots down the whole “Bush lied” and “the intelligence agencies failed” scenarios, doesn’t it? I mean, it would have been an intelligence coup to get info from an Iraqi general, but all he might have told us was that chemical weapons will be used against US troops. If a bunch of guys in Langley say Saddam doesn’t have WMD, and four agents in Iraq report that several Iraqi generals swear that they will be used, how do you play the game? Even if you suspect the generals might be wrong (or lying), you MUST act as if they’re telling the truth.
Never mind that I don’t think that the presence or absence of WMD in Iraq really matters to our strategy in this war or to justification for invasion.
Remember that Tariq Aziz is slippery fox. He may be merely saying things that he thinks his captors want to hear. In no stretch of the imagination do I think he’s being completely truthful or completely forthcoming. In particular, he has quite a bit to say about the relationships between France and Russia and Iraq. Since there seems to be little other evidence of the grand schemes he tells about, I choose to leave them out of this post. But that doesn’t mean I’m discounting the claims completely.