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The case for invading Iraq put (before it actually happened)

The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq
Kenneth M. Pollack
Random House, 2002

The author, a (presumably ex-) CIA operative, has written this book, published in the Autumn of 2002, as an advocate of “regime change” in Iraq, listing the various alternative options, five in all: Containment, Deterrence, Covert Action, The Afghan Approach” and (the preferred one) Invasion (p. xxix and Part III, pp. 211-386).

Iraq’s History and Relations with the US to Gulf War I

Part I (pp. 1-108) Iraq and the United States, following a 30 page Introduction, gives a concise summary of Iraq’s history and relations with US, with greater concentration after the fall of the Shah turned Iran from a Western bulwark to Islamic menace. From someone regarded with repugnance, Saddam became the “man we can do business with”, which meant tolerating some ghastly atrocities in the chemical warfare line against rebel Kurds and Iran, which Saddam had rashly taken on after its armed forces had been purged by the mullahs and sabotaged by departing US and dissident technicians. If the US rescued Iraq by supplying weapons, others – China, Russia (still the USSR), France, Germany and Britain – followed suit, many selling the ingredients for the nuclear, chemical and biological programs that have subsequently given so much trouble (p. 19). Officially Saddam could claim a victory and emerged from the 1980-88 war with a large well-armed army, but with 200,000 dead, terribly in debt and his economy badly degraded. His decision to attack and occupy Kuwait for its wealth, in gold, goods and oil, was fortified by his mistaken belief that his army could defeat an American riposte, and not unassisted by misguided pacific overtures and reports by the US ambassador, Susan Glaspie – and what has happened to her, I wonder? Gulf War I, 1991

Kuwait was invaded and occupied on August 1st, 1990. Nearly 6 months later, following a month’s bombing of Iraq and its forces in Kuwait, on Sunday, February 24th, 1991 US and other forces attacked and, by the end of the week, had ejected the Iraqis and defeated them soundly enough to stop fighting. It is always, in retrospect, surprising how long it actually takes, compared with how immediate it seems viewed historically, for this kind of series of events to happen. I think everyone forgets the hesitations, negotiations and wobbles. Pollack leaves me in little doubt that the situation after the fighting had ceased (on our part) was badly mismanaged, basically because the US government (on whom everything depended) thought a) Saddam would be replaced by his own military and b) Iraq might otherwise fragment and a counterpoise to Iran be lost. Horrendous massacres of Shi ite rebels and Kurds were the result. Saddam rebuilt his strength and spent the next twelve years evading the conditions imposed by the UN. At first, especially when Saddam attempted to initiate another threat to Kuwait, there was consistent international consensus that he should be kept under pressure, and it became obvious from time to time, from information from defectors, that the UN weapons’ inspectors (UNSCOM) were being hoodwinked.

Saddam Survives …

After the first general disappointment that Saddam had not been removed by an internal coup, a number of efforts were made by the CIA to support one, but these, together with a Kurdish attack in March 1995 to promote Iraqi army defections, all failed. At the same time, however, the plight of the Iraqi people promoted international sympathy, the blame, with typical injustice, being laid at the US door. It was not until early 1996 that Saddam accepted the conditions for the “oil-for-food” (plus medicines &c, so, later “oil for stuff”, p. 100) program, not long after world opinion had hardened when a major defector revealed to what extent UNSCOM had been cheated (p. 77). However, during 1996 things improved for Saddam. He took advantage of the divisions amongst the Kurds to inflict a major defeat on one faction, after backing another. Then he uncovered a CIA-backed plot and destroyed the conspirators, his two defected sons-in-law inexplicably returned to Iraq and were killed in a shoot-out, and the resolution of the weapons’ inspectors weakened and they were systematically frustrated.

… and International Interest Weakens

The world was getting tired of the problem; to signal the way they were going, France, Russia and China abstained from a resolution rather weakly supporting the inspectors and when the US and UK started to get tough, almost immediately Arab and European governments began to distance themselves from Washington and London (p. 88).” Saddam had succeeded in splitting the Security Council and continued to be obstructive to the weapons inspectors who finally withdrew as a result. Four days of heavy US and UK bombing at the end of 1998 had some impact and stimulated a near-revolt in the Shi ah area, but Pollack obviously thinks it wasn’t persistent enough (p. 94). Also the amount of bombing it took to bring Milosevic to reason over Kosovo made the Clinton administration realise that bombing wouldn’t be enough to bring about regime change in Iraq, though this was announced as policy by Clinton himself (p. 94).

Pollack himself had by now been recruited to try to work out various methods to bring about regime change without invasion, but the external “Iraqi opposition was a mess (p. 96)” and at odds with their only US backers. Kosovo put regime change on the back burner in favour of containment. This relaxation benefited Saddam and sanction-breaking became blatant which Washington was virtually powerless to stop, while the Iraqi opposition fell apart. Clinton was busy trying to leave office with an Israeli-Palestinian accord to his credit but failed. The Palestinian intifadah that followed also aided Saddam by moving Arab sentiment onto his side. There was even a chance that Iraq and Syria might have attacked Israel and it is not clear which of them backed down (p. 104). When Bush II took office in 2001, he continued the containment policy, and got a resolution for “smart sanctions” through the UN, though this had little effect on smuggling. Sept. 11th changed the attitude of the American public into a more hawkish one. Although the immediate result was action against Taliban Afghanistan, it also made military action against Iraq more feasible.

The Iraq Situation in 2002

Part II (pp. 111-181) Iraq Today [i.e., 2002] starts with an account of the organisation of Saddam’s tyranny. “Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone else’s migraine. The fear is so omnipresent you could almost eat it. No one talks (p. 122).” reported John Sweeney of the BBC on June 22nd, 2002. A couple of pages elaborate on the regime’s methods of ensuring this. Then there is the post Gulf War I misery, occasioned by Saddam’s response to the UN sanctions set up in 1990. “It never seems to have occurred to anyone at the time that the regime would simply choose to allow its people to perish (p. 126).” and “It is important to remember that Saddam and his cronies were the most important element in Iraq’s humanitarian disaster … Saddam always had it in his power … to give up his WMD programs (p. 133).” Although there seems to have been enough food, the infrastructure, particularly sanitation and hospitals, went downhill, as did the economy in general, at least resulting in a decline in defence expenditure. Sanctions even helped the regime to increase its grip by its control of the rationing system. Because, aimed at manipulating world opinion, Iraqi statistics exaggerated the child death rate, no one can really know how many deaths sanctions actually caused. Pollack attacks critics that blame the US for this state of affairs, excusing Saddam “for his cruelty the way we could excuse a wolf for killing sheep,” but all the same, “there is a kernel of truth to this perverse argument … if you hand an ax to an ax murderer, can you consider yourself blameless when he plants it in someone’s back (p. 140)?” I can see how this leads to direct intervention, though this is not stated.

The Shi’ah and the Kurds are discussed; the Kurds (though disunited) are definitely more separatist; the Shi’ah fought for Iraq against Iran (though a Shi’ah state) and have no wish for independence; the Kurds do and under US protection have such de facto; virtually a normal existence and hope to stay that way. Pollack continues by outlining the threat that Iraq under Saddam posed (the tense applies to post Gulf War II) to its neighbours, the US, Israel and the world in general, emphasising that this is long rather than short term, in Iraq’s pre Gulf War II weakened state. I can see that while this is a perfect reason for pre-emptive action, it collides with what has become the UN “last resort” stance.

“Weapons of Mass Destruction”: Saddam Sacrifices $130-$180 billion to get them

“Saddam has given up anywhere from $130 billion to $180 billion worth of oil revenues to hang on to his WMD programs … [and] demonstrated for more than a decade that his WMD arsenal is more important to him than Iraq’s oil wealth, its people, its economy, or even its conventional military power (p. 175).” His goal was to lead the “Arab nation” to become a new superpower, comparable with China, the US and USSR (p. 150). This would involve control of all Middle East oil, to be used entirely for political, rather than economic purposes. In terms of conventional warfare, the Iraqi army had some strengths, in defence, movement and supply, but was poor in coordination and initiative and after Gulf War I it deteriorated from lack of money for maintenance. The airforce was next to useless. Pollack believes that since his conventional forces had become unable to face the US, Saddam had to concentrate his hopes on WMD (p. 168). Of all these, the nuclear is the most important: “if he has a nuclear weapon the world will have to treat him differently (p. 178)”. Pollack claims: “Just to be clear about this: in 1990, Iraq built a workable nuclear weapon. All it lacked was the fissile material (p. 174).” Given time and opportunity, Iraq could continue and complete its nuclear weapons program (p. 175).

Terrorism – Saddam Not Guilty (so far)

As for terrorism, this “is the least of the threats to … the United States … well below Iran, Syria, Pakistan and others” the main reason being that Saddam had distanced himself in 1982 from terrorist organizations because it needed US help against Iran (p. 154). After 1991 and Gulf War I the situation changed but Iraq had had no terrorist allies and its own terrorist management was amateurish. But would Saddam give WMD to terrorists? Pollack concludes this to be unlikely. It is one of several things Saddam might, in Pollack’s opinion, do if he got desperate – but which we have seen he didn’t do.

The Problem of Arab “Help”

In Ch. 6, “The Regional Perspective”, Pollack points out that the US need for Arab allies to help oust Saddam (minimally, to supply bases) conflicts with the universal Arab hatred for Israel, believed to be kept in existence by the US, while anti-British feeling goes back to Suez in 1956. Every Arab-Israeli crisis has exacerbated anti-US feeling, expressed in rioting &c, while the Arab “street” (shorthand for ill-informed public opinion, inflamed by the Internet and satellite TV) intimidates the mostly undemocratic regimes of the region. Also, the US had kept up the pressure on Iraq to such an extent that the surrounding Arab regimes saw Saddam as so little a threat that they could afford to resent the US presence. As a symptom of this, there was even a “mock rapprochment” between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq at the Arab Summit in Beirut in March 2002. The attitude of Saudi Arabia is thoroughly ambivalent: it would have loved Saddam to be got rid of, but saw no other way than by direct US military intervention, with no mucking about with limited means, or “covert action” – “Countless Saudi princes, officials and businessmen have asked me, ‘Why don’t you just invade?’ (p. 189)” However, Saudi Arabia was not going to cause itself any trouble by doing anything to help the US, as Gulf War II amply demonstrated. The Kuwaitis are naturally more pro-US: only US protection will save them from annexation by even a weak Iraq. Other Gulf States feel less threatened by Iraq and are consequently more anti-US. The Jordanian predicament is succinctly put (pp. 194-5); also Syria’s economic dependence on an Iraq despite or even because crippled by sanctions.

Turkey, Israel and Iran

When the book was written Pollack thought that Turkey, despite its misgivings about the possibility of Kurdish independence, could be brought to support a US invasion. In fact, though its government might have cooperated, it was prevented by its democratic institutions from doing so. Egypt’s government’s minimal cooperation, despite the generally anti-US popular feeling, is all the US needs or desires. Israel would have preferred the US to have dealt with Iran first, then Iraq: both are threats, but Iran provides most of the funds and intelligence to the Hizbollah. Iran – or at least the government there – hates Saddam for the enormous damage he inflicted on the country (400,000 dead in the Iran-Iraq War) and the US for the usual inadequate reasons. Although it would feel surrounded if Iraq were occupied, it may well feel now that the US has its hands sufficiently full and unlikely to do much about Iran.

The UN – Allies and Opponents of the US against Saddam

Pollack also gives a round-up of potential US allies and opponents in the UN, though his forecasts have sometimes proved incorrect. The UK is the US prime ally; Pollack states that “Its continued support is critical to any new policy of containment (p. 203).” He also says, giving a reference in both The Guardian (7/4/02) and The Washington Times (11/3/02), that “Tony Blair’s own remarks have made it clear that [he] would be willing to support a US-led invasion of Iraq to change the regime once and for all (p. 204).” He stresses, however, that the UK would very much like to have a clear green light from the UN” and is much more a stickler for international legality than the US is, an insight certainly borne out by events. France is characterised as “one of Iraq’s chief advocates” with sound economic reasons for being so. Pollack believes that the French realise that it is the US that will ultimately have to deal with Saddam if he obtains nuclear weapons, “and they are perfectly comfortable with that arrangement.” Pollack has been proved incorrect in saying that “if France becomes convinced that the US is absolutely determined to remove Saddam … they will likely flip and become supporters of the operation.” He generalises too much in having the Mediterranean countries line up with France and the Northern with the US. Russia also “has quite a bit at stake with Saddam Hussein’s regime” and “hates to see the US throw its weight around (p. 205).” But it would not do anything to save him (quite right there). He makes no mention of their common fear of Muslim terrorism. China also hates the US throwing its weight around. In all, Pollack seemed to have overestimated potential support for and underestimated international disaffection with the US, perhaps because Bush arouses greater antipathy amongst media opinion-formers than Clinton did.

Dealing with Saddam: The Five Options

Part III deals with the “The Options” – Containment, Deterrence, Covert Action, The Afghan” Approach, and Invasion. Each is analysed in detail, with the conclusion that only the last can bring about the desired result.

1. Containment

“For many years after the Gulf War, containment [by sanctions and inspections] did meet Washington’s minimal requirements. … It also had the huge advantage of being the policy of the UN … [and] benefited everyone except the Iraqi people.” But by the time of writing, it no longer worked and to set it up again would be extremely expensive, financially and politically. After the Weapons Inspectors had left in 1998 sanctions were being dismantled in effect, by France, Russia and China, who would see to it that they were not reinvigorated. The US would either have to compensate neutral sufferers or apply sanctions against the active sanction-breakers. Sanctions had already put the control of trade into Saddam’s hands and he used all his powers to favour sanction-breakers, ration-control his own people &c. In fact there was no chance of improving the sanctions regime (on, say the notional lines on pp. 222-4) because There is no meaningful support [for sanctions]. The vast majority of countries simply want the problem to go away (p. 225).” Nor can the US impose sanctions unilaterally, involving as it would penalising the evaders. No inspection regime will do any good; the new regime UNMOVIC (= Monitoring & Verification Commission) set up by the UN Resolution 1284 was even weaker than the already weakened UNSCOM (= Special Commission for the Disarmament of Iraq). Even if the US toughened the inspection regime by threatening to invade (as it did) we cannot hold a gun at Saddam’s head for as long as it would take to actually disarm Iraq,” something Saddam fully appreciated, for the US cannot keep an invasion force in the Gulf region for more than about six months (p. 247).” That the US should stop dithering and get on (with the invasion) or get out was the universal wish of the governments of the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. What their people would have liked was a different matter, but a major reason for that wish.

2. Deterrence

If containment was impracticable, what about simple deterrence, which, after all, has worked up till now with a number of nuclear-armed and mutually hostile states? Pollack argues that with Saddam, such a policy would have been extremely risky, since Saddam was an ill-informed, over-optimistic pathological gambler, as instanced by his behaviour after his invasion of Kuwait, evidence reinforced by the testimony of the Russian PM Primakov who tried to make him see sense. He simply did not believe that the US and its allies would do what they did – Pollack does not mention the usual wavering and havering at the UN, to say nothing of the same in the US Congress, that may have supported Saddam in his view.

3. Covert Action

Covert Action – i.e., trying to get rid of Saddam either by direct assassination or by supporting internal Iraqi plots was also a non-starter. Pollack makes it clear that Saddam’s security was so efficient that the chances were less than 10% that any plot could succeed – the wider the plot, the more likely it was to be betrayed – and that though under normal conditions this sort of initiative might ultimately work, the longer it went on for the more uncooperative the surrounding, potentially allied states would become (as with the containment option) and the CIA didn’t have a high rate of success with instigated plots anyway – nor did the KGB and nor did Mossad.

4. The “Afghan Approach”

After the rout of the Taleban, the so-called “Afghan Approach” seemed attractive to many because of its economy in US lives. Briefly, an organised indigenous fighting force of sufficient strength had defeated, in open terrain, with US logistical and air assistance, a fairly small, heterogeneous enemy, albeit with a fanatical core. Pollack had strongly backed this method for Afghanistan, but refutes its possible use in Iraq by carefully distinguishing the reasons for its success in Afghanistan, compared with its failure when attempted in Kosovo, about which he is especially scathing. Furthermore, there was nothing comparable in Iraq to the Afghan Northern Alliance and the Iraq Republican Guard showed itself quite competent to deal with what resistance there was among the Kurds and Shi’ah, even after defeat by US Marines, following heavy bombing. Bombardment of men and vehicles from the air is far less destructive than people would like to think, though it may have a catastrophic effect on units with poor training and hence low morale. Once again, the allied states, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, to say nothing of the other neighbours, would not favour the “Afghan Approach” and certainly wouldn’t help. As for the Kurds, they didn’t like the idea since they would certainly be crushed by Saddam if they participated and maybe if they didn’t; also “we should expect the Turks to be apoplectic (p. 322)” if the Kurds were used in any way. This is an option which the US would be seen to be participating in halfheartedly and regime change “is not the kind of operation in which we should be trying to cut corners (p. 334).”

5. Invasion

“It is the inadequacy of all other options towards Iraq that leads us to the last resort of a full-scale invasion,” Pollack begins. Every time I say or write this, I find myself wondering whether it is truly necessary. … [but] we need to recognize that we have run out of alternatives.” This is a “war as a last resort” position, obviously not persuasive to those who the author thinks hope that if we just think hard enough an unforeseen solution will materialise that will relieve us of the need to make the hard choice.” Admittedly Pollack has already rejected the UN solution of muddling along with Saddam indefinitely. In fact, the UN, despite figuring significantly in the book’s Index, merits little consideration in its text, and the potential of the Security Council to make trouble not envisaged. It may well be that Pollack did not see the need, let alone the advisability of having the UN sanction the invasion, but rather the collecting of allies the most important measure, even to worrying about the permission the Gulf States might withold. Yet he by no means chooses to ignore International Law, though his interpretion of it is generous, if commonsensical – “Indeed, if international law cannot condone the invasion of Iraq to remove from power one of the most odious, aggressive, dangerous and bloody dictators since Joseph Stalin, then there is something wrong with international law (p. 370)”. This is, however, in addition to more specific arguments. It seems probable that the cry “The war is illegal” would have surprised him, though he might have dismissed it as the protest of those who could give no better reason for their opposition.

The Campaign: Recommendations and Predictions

Pollack gets down to how the campaign should be run, and it is interesting to contrast his predictions, worst and best, with what actually happened. He opts for rather larger forces than were actually used: 200,000 to 300,000, favouring the higher figure, about twice as many as participated. He does not favour a prolonged bombing campaign; in the event the bombing and the invasion were more or less simultaneous. But his most optimistic forecast was something like what actually happened, though he does not give figures. What he does forecast as “the most likely case, [a campaign of] four to eight weeks [and] 500 to 1000 combat deaths, [with it] more likely that the error would be positive (a faster campaign with fewer casualties) than negative (p. 351)”. His worst-case forecast was 10,000 deaths, in a campaign of four to six months. He foresaw the likelihood of urban warfare, especially in Baghdad, and the possibility of chemical warfare, neither of which happened. He tends to disbelieve that the Arab “street” has any real threat behind it, but interestingly, however, finding it more destabilising after a US victory than before (p. 361).

And Afterwards: The Alternatives …

Rebuilding Iraq has a chapter to itself, preceding Conclusion. Pollack has few illusions about the mixed reception with which US liberation would be received. Interestingly, one of the attitudes he discovered amongst Iraqis is puzzlement as to why the US has inflicted so much misery by means of sanctions, when it is “omniscient and all-powerful” and could liberate them if it wanted to (p. 382). Though Pollack rightly emphasises the importance of rebuilding Iraq, he tends to question US will rather than US power; also “our allies might actually be better at this part than we are (p. 363)”. However, since this would preferably mean getting “the Europeans” on board before hostilities, this option must be regarded as more difficult now. He was clearly unable to see the sheer messiness of the aftermath, the looting, sabotage, random killing, religious hysteria, gut xenophobia and mutual distrust – all the irrational behaviour that is so much against everyone’s best interests that it tends to be discounted by someone trying to plot the options for an occupying force.

… The “Pragmatic” –

After a quick exit, with minimum political or economic reconstruction, or expenditure of US effort and money to aid the same, the result, in Pollack’s view “would inevitably be a form of warlordism”, similar, but worse, to what has happened in Afghanistan. Although the Kurds would have no wish to do anything but keep themselves to themselves, the other sections or fractions, Sunni and Shi’ah would probably start a civil war to gain overall control – much of the oil is in the Kurdish area, the rest in the Shi’ah, while the most aggressive, and till now dominant section has been Sunni. “At best it would produce … more of the ‘bad old Middle East.’ It would leave in place all of the autocracy that has alienated populations, the corruption and cronyism that has impoverished them, and the sectarianism and intrastate animosities that destabilised them (p. 392).” Pollack does not add, “and whatever happened the US would get all the blame,” but of course it would. In short, he roundly rejects the “pragmatic solution”.

… and The Reconstruction Approach

The need for this arises simply because, as Pollack believes, “the current Iraqi political and social framework cannot produce a government that is stable and legitimate (p. 392)”. It goes almost without saying that since instability has been a feature since independence in 1932, the emergence of a stable and legitimate government will take some time. Convening a consititutional convention could take place within six to twelve months after the end of combat operations, with legislative and executive elections a year to two years later (p. 407), a leisurely programme compared with what seems in fact to be happening. An alternative would be to start locally, at the bottom, as it were, with Iraqis gaining experience of the democratic process before national elections took place. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq had been a relatively prosperous and well-developed country until Saddam’s aggressions against Iran, the Kurds and Kuwait. Its abundant oil should make physical reconstruction relatively easy.


In his final chapter, Pollack reiterates the message of his book, the need for the immediate invasion of Iraq, and the arguments for it. It is the only route for long-term safety and must be done before Saddam obtains nuclear weapons, for no one can know the limits he will put to their use, or to what extent he can be deterred by threats of retaliation. Pollack makes much of the potential for Middle East stability of a regenerated, prosperous, democratic Iraq. He may be over-optimistic, but the alternative of inaction is the product of a quiet despair. His analyses tend to be over-rational; in his discussions on the attitudes of other countries and the role of the UN regarding Pre-war, Wartime and Post-war Iraq, there is no apprehension of the extreme hostility manifested by large sections of the public in the democratic “natural” allies of the US. Pollack perhaps discounts, as one formerly working for the Clinton administration might, the irrational hatred that the predominantly left-wing intellectuals who are well-ensconced in the media in Europe, Britain and the US itself, have for US Republicans and for Bush personally. Also missing is any real questioning of the extent of what might be called the stamina of US public morale, for the strength of which opinion polls provide little confidence.

15 comments to The case for invading Iraq put (before it actually happened)

  • Kelli

    A word of clarification: Pollack was an analyst, not an operative (big difference).

    More importantly, Pollack has all but repudiated his work subsequent to the actual invasion. The reality of the thing apparently failed to live up to his exalted vision of it.

    Still, a useful reminder of the myriad reasons for war in the first place.

  • Bender

    please show me where he repudated this analysis please. I seem to have missed this since reading it.

  • Julian Morrison

    To hell with Iraq, SS1 just went supersonic!

  • Chris Josephson

    Thanks for mentioning such an interesting book. I’ll have to get a copy at my library.

    I’d say things are going along pretty good in Iraq, with the following exceptions:

    – We do need more ‘boots on the ground’

    – The negative reporting is having an impact on
    US morale to stick it out. (This must be countered
    by the truth.)

  • John, Tokyo

    I’m not sure about this repudiation. Pollack is a Democrat and closely affiliated with the Clinton foreign policy team. I think he has been critical of certain aspects. My memory for this is not clear but I believe that he is in the camp of people like Tom Friedman who supported the invasion but not the Bush team’s handling of it. His opinion in these matters is definitely more credible than 99% of the other critics but I think one should still keep in mind that there are partisan factors to consider in Pollack’s recent critiques.

  • Sam

    Minor note: I thought the former ambassador’s first name was April , and googling support this.

  • Johnathan

    I read the book about 4 months ago. There is something quite odd about reading a book arguing for a war after said war has been fought. On the whole I thought Pollack makes a strong case, especially when he analyses the viability of the alternatives: sanctions, containement and assassinations of top Baathist officials.

    Pollack also does not try to make out that Saddam was implicated in 9/11; rather he says Iraq with WMDs would pose a serious regional threat to the whole MidEast and in the long run, the US.

    An impressive book and well worth a read. Also packed with footnotes and an extensive bibliography for those interested in other material.

  • mad dog

    “in 1990, Iraq built a workable nuclear weapon. All it lacked was the fissile material…”

    Only a technicality, of course, but a nuclear weapon without the fissile material is not a workable nuclear weapon. Or if it is – abandon hope now!

  • Ian

    “Saddam has given up anywhere from $130 billion to $180 billion worth of oil revenues to hang on to his WMD programs …

    Was this is reference to the oil deals done with the Russian, French and Chinese, pending the lifting of sanctions ?

    the main reason being that Saddam had distanced himself in 1982 from terrorist organizations because it needed US help against Iran

    I assume this is referring to the expulsion of Abu Nidal, who moved to Syria, then Libya, and then Egypt. But he moved back to Iraq at some point before 2002 where he died, whether this was associated with terrorist activity is questionable, and Iraq were very keen to distance themselves after his death as to why he was in Baghdad.

    Iraq had already threatened to use terrorist activity back in 1991 against the countries who were going to chuck them out of Kuwait, so I do find this “not guilty” verdict a bit premature.

  • Jacob

    Thanks for the long and informative summary of this interesting book.

    A question to the peacenik libertarians: have you read this book ?
    Can you still claim Saddam wasn’t dangerous, was deterrable, had no WMD …. ?
    Do you posses some detailed knowledge of facts that we don’t ? If you think Pollack is wrong you must show your alternate information that proves this.
    Just repeating the mantra “it’s all a pack of lies” won’t do – it would be putting your beleifs before the facts.

  • Alene Berk

    The oil revenues cited were from sales forgone under sanctions; ending pursuit of WMD and proving it would end sanctions and permit more oil to be marketed.

  • Kelli

    For those who wish to pursue the question of whether or to what extent Pollack has backtracked from his position, they can check the archives of NPR’s All Things Considered programme (NPR. org), and or Joe Conason’s stuff from May/June 03 in Salon.com (subscription only).

    John in Tokyo is correct, Pollack is a Democrat and as such is somewhat embarrassed to have his work used as justification for a Republican-led war. This is sad, but not unexpected.

    Pollack and other Democrats have cast doubts on both the intelligence that the Bush administration used to argue for war (though they found it a mite less objectionable last winter, when they proudly called it their own) and on the timing of the war. This latter point is extremely troubling, as I believe Bush invaded at the only moment feasible in terms of domestic politics.

    Think about it, he could hardly have invaded before he did. Yet to have left it any later would have risked a thorough meshing of a hot war with a hot reelection campaign. No sane politician would do that. Yet to have waited until after reelection would have run the risk that, had he lost, Saddam would been free to do his worst (for at least a couple of years, from 2003 to 04 or 05). Plenty of time to restock and organize.

    One doesn’t have to be Karl Rove or even particularly like GWB to recognize that the timing of this war was about as good as it could have been. Above all, it happened on OUR schedule rather than Saddam’s. Moreover, having gotten the war out of the way in 2003, we Americans now have ample time to observe and debate its outcome, making next year’s election essentially a referendum on the war. This is healthy for our democracy, even if it is a bit scary to think of Dean sitting in the White House.

  • bender

    Thanks Kelli – if you see any more on this.. um.. tell someone so I can maybe find it.

    Im scouring the archives at NPR now because im extremely interested in any backtracking he might have done after that book.

  • bender

    OK – im listening to NPR re-play form 24 May, 2003.

    NPR’s All Things Considered – Saturday, May 24, 2003

    Pollack starts out the interview by saying that his mind hasnt been changed in the way one would expect.

    The rest of the interview doesnt say much… im looking for more media to peruse..

    Oh – He does state that hes heard from his contacts that the pentagons intelligence group did have a reputation for paying too much attention to bad intelligence… now that may be partisan talk, it may not be.

  • Michael

    I am a life-long progressive Democrat who strongly supports the war. Didn’t the left used to stand for overthrowing tyrants? Unfortunately, too many liberals are caught up in the America-is-always-wrong, war-is-the-worst-thing-possible, and the military-is-a-reactionary-force mentalities.
    Military force used by liberal democracies (particularly USA) against totalitarian dictators is the bedrock upon which the world’s current transition to democracy was built. Finally, democracies are indisputably more powerful than tyrannies. Why should we wait for them to attack us while they massacre their own people? OK, enough ranting…

    For those interested in the Pollack’s recent stand, see Jan/Feb 2004 Atlantic. It is a very thoughful article by Pollack as to why the WMD intelligence was bungled up. But he still thinks the war was justified. An even better article by Fallows about how the Bush admin bungled the pre-war planning.