“Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter, and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.” - Al Gore, 2002 In July, the FBI released summaries of more than 20 interviews and casual conversations the agency carried out with former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Aside from creating a more robust picture of the conditions that led up to the Iraq War, the discussions flagrantly expose Hussein’s motives in resisting U.S. pressure to cooperate with U.N. inspectors. Furthermore, they provide an informative lens into his psyche during the months leading up to the invasion.
According to The Washington Times, “The new documents paint a picture of the Iraqi dictator in the final years of his life as arrogant, defiant and often delusional.” At points throughout the interviews, Hussein would often insist that he was still the president of Iraq. He denied ties to the al Qaeda and insisted that “…Iraq does not have orphans walking the streets.”
While the aforementioned elements are offsetting, the most startling revelation was Hussein’s own admission that he purposely misled the world to believe that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Even more alarming is the motivation he attributes to this self-proclaimed action. In the interviews, Hussein told officials that, in the months leading up to the Iraq War, he feared a nuclear-equipped Iran more than he did any reaction from the United States.
George Piro, Saddam’s FBI interviewer, wrote, “Hussein stated he was more concerned about Iran discovering Iraq’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities than the repercussions of the United States for his refusal to allow UN inspectors back into Iraq.” Thus, the reason for Hussein’s intended deceit - a trickery that led to intense regional and global instability - was rooted more in political posturing and survival than it was in his narcissistic desire to exponentially increase Iraq’s power in the Middle East.
Importantly, this admission raises a number of red flags. Since 2003, American liberals have railed against the U.S. government, stating that former President George W. Bush purposefully misled the American people in his affirmations that Iraq possessed WMD. According to those on the left, Republicans used weapons-based rhetoric as an excuse to initiate military operations in the region. However, the release of these transcripts devalues this notion.
Teamed with the countless pieces of evidence contradicting Bush’s alleged purposeful deceit, Hussein’s own admission provides a basis for amplified understanding that sheds light on the bluffs and malfeasances that led the U.S. to invade. It is with this information that a more rational understanding of U.S. operations can be processed.
Considering Hussein’s weapons bluff, it is not surprising that the United States was led astray. When placing Iraq’s violently aggressive history and non-compliance into context, there was surely reason to believe that the nation was, indeed, illegally cultivating and harboring WMD. In fact, politicians were candid about their belief that Hussein did possess weapons in the decade preceding the Iraq War.
Prior to the commencement of military operations in 2003, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi and others, from both sides of the political aisle, publicly stated Iraq’s threat to the international community. Following Iraq’s use of chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds in the 1980s and Hussein’s vocal hatred for the West, this caution on behalf of American political minds was fully justified.
However, when the war broke out, liberal politicians were suddenly less vocal about these dangers and, collectively, their tone changed dramatically in the years following its inception. Nonetheless, their prior warnings about weapons are well documented and corroborate the fears and insinuations that reinforced U.S. rationale in striking Iraq. On an episode of Larry King in 2003, President Bill Clinton said, “When I left office, there was a substantial amount of biological and chemical material unaccounted for.”
In a 2002 speech to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Al Gore reiterated Hussein’s insatiable lust for weapons when he said, “Nevertheless, all Americans should acknowledge that Iraq does, indeed, pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf region, and we should be about the business of organizing an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction.”
Hussein’s possession of WMD was universally accepted by Democrats and Republicans alike, as those individuals with access to privileged information - whether they were former presidents or members of Congress - all reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein either possessed or sought to possess dangerous materials. This, teamed with Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with the international community when questioning about said materials began, inevitably led to U.S. military action.
The historical record now shows that it was Hussein, not George W. Bush, who manufactured and allowed the fester the idea that Iraq possessed powerful weapons of mass destruction.