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Reviews | Why authoritarians like Saddam Hussein confuse American presidents

Reviews |  Why authoritarians like Saddam Hussein confuse American presidents


On tape, as he talks about world affairs, his colleagues rarely daring to interrupt, Mr. Hussein can be incredibly insightful and prescient. In October 2001, days after Mr. Bush announced the U.S.-led war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Mr. Hussein asked his cabinet whether America would establish a new government in Kabul according to its desires, do you think this would end the war in Afghanistan? people's problems? No. This will add more causes to so-called terrorism instead of eliminating it. Faced with American hostility, he dodges and pretends, motivated above all by two objectives: to stay in power and conquer glory in the Arab world, preferably by striking Israel.

Mr. Hussein held deeply racist beliefs about Jews and was entangled in elaborate conspiracy theories about American and Israeli power in the Middle East. He believed that successive American presidents, under the influence of Zionism, were secretly and continually conspiring with radical Iranian ayatollahs to weaken Iraq. The Iran-contra conspiracy of the 1980s, when America briefly partnered with Israel to sell weapons to the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, cemented the beliefs of Iraqi leaders for years to come. That Iran-contra represents a form of farcical incompetence in American foreign policy did not occur to him.

Mr. Hussein's reasons for not clarifying that he did not possess weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to 2003 are rooted in his tragic, decades-long conflict with Washington: his furtive and distrustful collaboration with the CIA in the 1980s; the Gulf War of 1990 and 1991; the UN-backed struggle for Iraqi disarmament that followed; and the decisive confrontation after September 11.

Shortly after the Gulf War, he secretly ordered the destruction of its chemical and biological weapons, as demanded by Washington and the United Nations. He hoped that this action would allow Iraq to pass disarmament inspections, but he covered up his actions and repeatedly lied to the inspectors. He did not tell his own generals the truth, fearing inviting internal or external attacks. His decision to comply with international demands but lie to UN inspectors defied Western logic. But Mr. Hussein did not want to submit to public humiliation, partly because he thought it would not work. One of the mistakes some people make is that when the enemy decides to harm you, you believe that it is possible to reduce the damage by acting in a certain way, he told a colleague . In fact, he says, the harm will not be less.

Mr. Hussein believed that the CIA was virtually omniscient and so, particularly after 9/11, when Mr. Bush accused it of hiding weapons of mass destruction, he assumed that the agency already knew that he did not possess of dangerous weapons and that the accusations were only a pretext to invade.




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