Mitchell Bard 
Lecture Topics
Upcoming Lectures

© Mitchell Bard 2016

Wagging The Iraqi Dog

Saddam Hussein makes a great punching bag. With the exception of the Palestinians, a handful of Arab rogue states, and the Chinese and Russians, everyone enjoys seeing the United States give him a pummeling. The latest beating, however, was accompanied with such nonsensical justifications, and seems to have accomplished so little, that it is difficult for even the most ardent foes of Saddam to feel comforted.

First, how do we understand the timing of the attack? Attempt to divert attention from impeachment? "Ridiculous," said a parade of administration officials. The timing was dictated by the issuing of the UN report documenting Iraq's interference with inspections and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Excuse me while I try to digest this baloney.

The United States has been well aware of the fact that Saddam had no intention of cooperating with the inspectors and was not cooperating. They did not need to wait for a formal report. In fact, this issue drove us to the brink of an attack in November, that was called off at the last moment because of the bizarre idea that Saddam should get one more chance — after eight years of refusals — to comply with UN demands.

What about Ramadan? Well, who exactly was supposed to be bothered by an attack during Ramadan? The administration never said. The truth is that war is not prohibited by Islam during Ramadan. Iran and Iraq fought through about ten of them. Moreover, the administration specifically said that it was prepared to continue operations into Ramadan if necessary, so apparently it was only a problem to start a war during the observance, not prosecute one.

Couldn't we have waited until after Ramadan? No, administration officials said, that would have taken away the element of surprise and given Saddam another month to build up his nonconventional weapons capability. Saddam has survived in power a lot longer than any American leader, yet we continue to think he is stupid. Does the Pentagon really believe he'd be surprised by an attack? As Henry Kissinger once said, you're not paranoid when people are really out to get you. Saddam probably expects incoming missiles daily.

And what is it he could have done in the next month to build up his capabilities that he hasn't been doing for eight years? This brings us to the bigger issue of the purpose of the attack. If Saddam has such a dangerous arsenal of weapons, what exactly have we accomplished in the last eight years of inspections, attacks and sanctions? How is he continuing to build up his weapons under our noses? And, if he has been able to do this over such a long period, what makes anyone at the Pentagon think they could destroy in three nights of bombing what the coalition forces couldn't destroy in nearly two months of air and ground assaults?

Unfortunately, it is not only the commander-in-chief whose credibility is at issue. During the Gulf War, Pentagon officials kept showing us all those gee-whiz videos of what our weapons could do. Only later we discovered our forces were not nearly as effective as we'd been told. In the latest attacks, we learned early on the bombings were not destroying the targets they were aiming for. In fact, the Pentagon even showed photos designed to convince us of the effectiveness of their attacks, which did the opposite, as was the case with a photo showing a group of barracks that were not completely destroyed and others that were missed altogether.

If the President had come out and just said we're trying to kill Saddam, the raids would have at least made some sense, though the timing would still be suspect. Maybe these attacks did somehow weaken Saddam and it will take some weeks to see the results. For now, however, it looks more like another victory in the sense that Saddam is still there and, if the impeachment process runs its course (even though it appears unlikely), he will have outlasted yet another President who tried to defeat him.

The irony is that the Wag the Dog scenario worked in reverse. People were so distracted by the impeachment process that no one was willing to scrutinize the justification for the attack or how it reflected the ongoing failure of American policy toward Iraq.