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Impearls: Saddam's Terrorific Threat

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Earthdate 2005-07-11

Saddam's Terrorific Threat

People anti the war in Iraq incessantly make the claim that prior to that war “Saddam Hussein was no threat” to America, nor a threat to his neighbors.  This, I'm afraid, is false, tragically false.  On the contrary, Saddam was a terrific threat to the U.S. and the West.

Saddam at last had gotten sense enough to temporarily put his weapons of mass destruction away and place the Iraqi programs to resurrect same on the back burner.  If Saddam had only taken the next step and been willing to prove to the UN and weapons inspectors (as UN Security Council Resolution 1441 explicitly demanded) that he'd discarded his WMD, the Security Council would certainly have been more than happy to drop the sanctions and release full sovereignty back to Iraq.  Freed from external interference, Saddam could and would thereupon have simply reconstituted his WMD — including nuclear — programs (as the investigations post the Iraq invasion amply demonstrated was his intention), then acquired intercontinental ballistic missiles from, say, the North Koreans, and the Western world and Middle East would really have been in deep shit.

People seem to forget — perhaps they never knew — that Saddam was within a few months of completing his atomic bomb when Gulf War I broke out (and no one at the time dreamed he was that far along).  This meant that since that war he already had the exact plans for the bomb (a synopsis of which was actually published in Aviation Week and Scientific American magazines, if I recall correctly, in the year after the first Gulf War).  Possessing that design, all Saddam needed do was to plug fissionable material (which, post-sanctions, he could either make, or steal from ex-Soviet poorly guarded post-cold war storage facilities) into the probably already built or easily manufactured external matrix for the bomb, and he'd be off and running with nuclear weapons.  Thank God Saddam invaded Kuwait before finishing up his nuclear program!

Ever read Larry Niven's science fiction stories about the “Kzinti” — tiger-like beings with something of a tiger's personality?  In Niven's stories of “Known Space” (e.g., here, here, and here) the Kzinti attacked mankind again and again, with savage viciousness; however, as Larry described them, they lacked patience and always attacked too soon, before they were really ready — and as a result, humanity was able to beat them back, though with tremendous destruction and loss of life each time.  Slowly, however, almost against their very nature, the Kzin finally began to learn to hold off — not so they could have peace (an incomprehensible concept to the aliens), but so they could finally complete their preparations before leaping on their prey.

Saddam's like that.  The great danger to the Middle East as well as to civilized world was that he might have finally learned to be a bit more patient and do what it took to throw off the UN sanctions, then complete his WMD programs and get everything ready — before ultimately leaping.  Fear of that very thing gnawed at me all through the 1990's, and evidence gleaned from thorough investigation following the Iraqi invasion (read the report! see also here) reveals that Saddam almost made that ultimately lethal move.  Overweening pride and hubris kept him from taking the final step of proving to the weapons inspectors that he had discarded his WMD (which he was fully capable of doing if he'd wanted to), and then George W. Bush and the war in Iraq overthrew Saddam's position at the pinnacle of Iraqi power and eliminated that extraordinary risk.  I salute the President for his boldness.



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