Saddam’s Final Miscalculation

One of the rationales for the war in Iraq was that Saddam Hussein was someone with a history of major strategic miscalculation. He failed to assess what Iran would do after his attacks on Iran, sparking the Iran/Iraq War. He miscalculated the international response to his invasion of Kuwait. Now the world is learning of Saddam’s final miscalculation. After the capture of Saddam Hussein, FBI Agent George Piro was assigned to the interrogation of the former dictator. What he learned is now being shared with the public, and it demonstrates exactly where the deception was on the presence of WMDs in Iraq:

“And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?” Pelley asks.

“He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the ’90s. And those that hadn’t been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq,” Piro says.

“So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?” Pelley asks.

“It was very important for him to project that because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq,” Piro says.

Before his wars with America, Saddam had fought a ruinous eight year war with Iran and it was Iran he still feared the most.

“He believed that he couldn’t survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?” Pelley asks.

“Absolutely,” Piro says.

This has always been the most consistent and logical explanation—far more so than the conspiracy stories about the White House inventing the existence of Iraqi WMDs. Saddam Hussein lied to the world, his own people were probably lying to him and the West had no way of piercing Saddam’s inner circle in order to learn the truth. Saddam, despite having had the ability to prevent the war, chose to retain his strategic position with Iran. This miscalculation of American intent was fatal. The CIA, having plenty of evidence (however tenuous) that Iraq had WMDs believed that they had, in the words of Director George Tenet, a “slam dunk” case for the presence of Iraqi arms.

Saddam Hussein wanted the world to believe that he had weapons of mass destruction and was just crazy enough to potentially use them. He deliberately flooded intelligence channels with misinformation to keep up that ruse. It’s also quite likely that Saddam’s regime was lying to its own commanders, several of whom believed that WMDs were to be used in the fight against the US and the other coalition members. Iraqi troops were even given antidotes to chemical weapons agents which may never have existed. The web of deception was all designed to intimidate foreign powers from attacking Iraq. However, Saddam believed that the US would launch token air strikes, not take down his regime.

The real story of the war in Iraq isn’t one in which the US fabricated a causus belli but one in which Saddam Hussein was called on his own bluff. He managed to fool the Americans, the Germans, the British, the Egyptians, the French, the Iranians, the Russians and the United Nations into believing that he had an arsenal of deadly chemical and biological agents.

We may never know the full story of what really went on in the minds of Saddam Hussein and his inner circle, but these new revelations suggest that the common narrative of this war is wrong. There was a leader who lied himself into war—but that leader was Saddam Hussein.