Saddam Hussein believed that he could avoid war by bribing the French:
Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions – which stopped him acquiring weapons – were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved every one.
To keep America at bay, he focusing on Russia, France and China – three of the five UN Security Council members with the power to veto war. Politicians, journalists and diplomats were all given lavish gifts and oil-for-food vouchers.
Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the “primary motive for French co-operation” was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.
Iraqi intelligence officials then “targeted a number of French individuals that Iraq thought had a close relationship to French President Chirac,” it said, including two of his “counsellors” and spokesman for his re-election campaign.
They even assessed the chances for “supporting one of the candidates in an upcoming French presidential election.” Chirac is not mentioned by name.
A memo sent to Saddam dated in May last year from his intelligence corps said they met with a “French parliamentarian” who “assured Iraq that France would use its veto in the UN Security Council against any American decision to attack Iraq.”
What’s interesting is while everyone is trumpeting the fact that Charles Duelfer’s report said that Saddam did not have stockpiles of WMDs at the time of the invasion, what he did find is damning.
- Iraq was preparing to restart WMD production once the sanctions were lifted.
- Iraq was using Oil For Food money to bribe foreign governments into lifting the sanctions.
- The sanctions regime was not constraining Saddam Hussein’s base of power in Iraq and the sanctions would have collapsed long before Saddam did.
- The Hussein government was not in compliance with UN resolutions and in violation of the Gulf War cease-fire agreement.
So, where does all this leave the case for war in Iraq.
The sanctions regime was crumbling, and Saddam Hussein was using his blood money from the massive corruption in the UN’s Oil-For-Food program to fund a campaign to wipe them away. Once he did so, he would have immediately restarted his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction including nuclear weapons. Saddam’s former nuclear weapons scientist Dr. Mohammad Obeidi has indictaed as such himself in his new book. As the President stated in his State of the Union address, it is no longer sufficient to merely assume that someone like Saddam Hussein is telling the truth. Unless Hussein could have produced documentary evidence of the destruction of his WMD stockpiles (which were believed to exist by the UN based on the evidence collected by inspectors prior to their being kicked out of Iraq in 1998), the logical assumption in such a case is to assume that Hussein was hiding something and to take the appropriate action. The counterargument states that the world should take a madman like Saddam Hussein at his word – such an assumption is deeply irresponsible.
Given what we do know of what was going in with the “containment” of Saddam Hussein it is clear that even though no concrete evidence of Iraqi WMDs being made post-Gulf War has been located, the argument that Saddam Hussein was innocent and should not have been removed does not fly. We know that Saddam Hussein was preparing to restart his WMD programs. We know that he was stealing humanitarian aid with the help of the corrupt UN. We know that he was using that money to lobby for the release of sanctions. We know that Hussein had illegal missile programs. We know that Hussein had supported terrorism, and was aware of the presence of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi in Iraq and stayed the arrest of some of his supporters before the war. We know that Hussein was buying weapons despite the UN sanctions.
In short, Duelfer’s report indicates that our intelligence on WMDs was wrong but the case for removing Saddam Hussein remains valid. If anything, the Oil for Food scandal shows just how corrupt the UN has become and why the decision not to wait for Security Council approval for military action was the correct choice. However, the media is predictably trumpeting the WMD findings while ignoring the rest – which only goes to show why those who get their news only from sources like CNN are simply not getting the whole story.