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Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Memo to Saddam:
Bluffing does you no good when you're up against an opponent who has five aces and unlimited weaponry up his sleeves, and who doesn't give a flying flip about what happens to his soldiers.

In the Peninsula Campaign in the Civil War, Confederate General John Magruder paraded his meager army around and around in view of Union scouts, convincing General McLellan that he had many more troops than he actually did. That bluff worked, and McLellan hesitated while the Confederates brought in reinforcements to defend Richmond.

In Iraq, if leaked reports of what Bushie David Kay said to Congress last week are to be believed, Saddam Hussein ordered chemical weapons attacks on invading US and British soldiers back in March. Kay apparently claimed to have evidence of the orders; he also apparently had no explanation why the orders weren't carried out with the non-existent weapons. In the Guardian article that is the source for this post, there is this sentence:

One possibility is that the orders were part of an elaborate bluff, in the hope that they would be intercepted by the US and deter an attack.

The Guardian doesn't attribute this idea to anyone in particular, leaving it unclear as to whether Kay may have proposed it or if it was just the reporter's explanation. It certainly would make sense, though. Many reports from both before the war started and since indicate that most if not all of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capability was destroyed by 1995, or 1998 at the latest. It may well have been reduced so much that Saddam decided that the military benefit of retaining them was outweighed by the danger of their being discovered. Still, he must have figured that his hold on power depended to some degree on the fear that his enemies, both foreign and domestic, had of those now non-existent weapons. He got plenty of help with this from American scaremongers, including Clinton and Bush.

But, if he did in fact give this order for chemical attacks as a bluff, it was just desperation which ignored several realities. First off, Bush had had the benefit of four months of UN inspections to verify what he probably knew all along--that Saddam had nothing. Second, Saddam was certainly mistaken if he thought Bush would hesitate for a minute about sending troops to a gruesome death. Third, as I'm sure the Bushies are aware even though they try to hide it from the American public, chemical weapons are really no worse than many of the weapons regularly used by American forces, such as cluster bombs, fuel-air explosives, depleted-uranium shells, and napalm. And fourth, I suspect that nothing would have pleased Bush more than to actually have a chemical attack take place--it would have surprised, him, certainly, but it would have helped him to justify his war for oil.

So, if Saddam was bluffing, it was clearly a waste of time. It will be interesting, though, if the Bushies actually try to use this argument to somehow justify the war now. "Well, see, Saddam, who we always said was a liar, was telling the truth just this once when he sent out this order, even though we can't find one shred of evidence that these weapons actually existed, we'll take his word for it."