But at the time, still certain that stockpiles would eventually be found, I said something almost prophetic. I said that, given the consistent intel of a decade, the only way it made sense that Saddam didn't have WMD's was if his own people spent years fooling him, or he spent years fooling his own people. Now the ISG report is out, and it turns out that my second guess was correct.
While the Kerry-Edwards campaign is running around waving the Duelfer Report and screaming the Deaniac campaign song that BUSH LIED, those of us who have done some serious reading into the new ISG report are seeing something entirely different. After having access to all the top kicks in the Hussein regime, including Saddam and his generals and even "Chemical Ali", Duelfer came to the conclusion that Saddam spent years trying to keep the international community fooled into believing that he had stockpiles of WMD's, even long after he had had them destroyed.
After the decimation of his forces in 1991, Saddam was worried that he was wide open to an attack from Iran. His second concern was getting the sanctions lifted. So he maintained the fiction of having WMD's even as he complied with the ceasefire agreements and destroyed them, and gamed the inspectors into thinking he was concealing them while (truthfully!) maintaining that he had destroyed them. He even kept his own generals in the dark.
"The Iranian threat was very, very, palpable to him, and he didn't want to be second to Iran, and he felt he had to deter them. So he wanted to create the impression that he had more than he did," Duelfer, the Iraq Survey Group head, told members of the Senate on Wednesday.
And, the man known for colossal miscalculations made perhaps his greatest strategic blunder by refusing to believe that President Bush would make good on threats to forcibly remove him from power.
"He kept trying to bargain or barter, and he had not realized the nature of the ground shift in the international community," Duelfer said. "That was Saddam's intelligence failure."
Saddam systematically corrupted the Oil-For-Food program, using the revenues to bribe key officials at the U.N. and in France, Russia, and elsewhere. In return, they helped him buy (non-WMD) armaments to shore up his weakened military, resisted U.S. calls for the Security Council to enforce the sanctions, and watched happily as the U.S. played the bully and guaranteed their windfalls.
The "friends and allies" that Kerry and Edwards say we should have deferred to were stabbing us in the back the entire time. Our vigiliance and steadfast enforcement of the ceasefire provisions was making them rich. They would never have agreed to enforce the penalties. They would never have sent troops. They were doing entirely too well under the status quo to rock the boat.
The Deulfer Report doesn't have a lot of good news for either the Bush administration or the Kerry campaign. It lays out how Saddam snookered the entire intel community in all the major nations into believing he had WMDs. It details how we were fooled. It shows that Saddam worked hard to maintain his technological base so that he could resume WMD production after the sanctions were lifted, that he (easily) bribed our "friends and allies" into helping him along, and that had he stayed in power he would indeed have become what we thought he already was, a clear and present danger to both the United States and the entire region.
It's a painful lesson, noting how we got suckered and how little faith we can place in our "friends and allies" in Europe. But in the end, Saddam suckered himself. After years of dealing with the U.S., he simply never believed Bush would actually do as he said he would, until he did. And then it was too late.