It turns out that the anti-war crowd was right that national leaders' decisions on what to do about Iraq were based on oil and greed -- they were just wrong about which countries' leaders. According to the new Iraq Survey Group study by intelligence analyst Charles A. Duelfer, Saddam Hussein systematically bribed or greased the palms of officials and businessmen from countries that are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- France, Russia and China -- with the goal of undermining the U.N. sanctions. Not only did that strategy work, but Hussein's corruption of the Oil for Food program also bankrolled his lethal projects.
Oil for Food was supposed to feed the hungry in Iraq, but it turned into a bonanza that delivered $350 million to Hussein's Military Industrial Commission in 2001. As Hussein said in 2000, "We have said with certainty that the (U.N.) embargo will not be lifted by a Security Council resolution but will corrode by itself." Duelfer told the Senate Armed Services Committee that "sanctions had steadily weakened to the point where Iraq, in 2000-2001, was confidently designing missiles around components that could only be obtained outside sanctions."
The bottom line: Those who argued that President Bush and the world should "let the sanctions work" had no idea that the sanctions were funding the planned return of weapons of mass destruction with missiles that could propel them beyond Iraq.
Worse, while Duelfer expects to find no militarily significant caches of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that doesn't mean they all were destroyed.
As his report noted, "We cannot definitively say whether or not WMD materials were transferred out of Iraq before the war. Neither can we definitively answer some questions about possibly retained stocks."
The lesson Hussein learned from the Persian Gulf War was that he should have had more WMD, and more powerful WMD, not that he should give them up. Hussein believed that Baghdad's biological and chemical weapons "deterred Coalition Forces from pressing their attack beyond the goal of freeing Kuwait."
Duelfer believed that Iraq would have developed more lethal weapons: nukes. As he testified, many senior Iraqis believed "they had blundered in invading Kuwait before completing their nuclear weapons program."
And: "Those around Saddam seemed quite convinced that once sanctions were ended -- and all other things being equal -- Saddam would renew his efforts in this field." ("This field" means nukes.) Coverage of the Duelfer report has concentrated on the politics of the report -- like all front-page stories, it is bad for Bush -- and Hussein's December 2002 announcement to top lieutenants that he didn't have WMD, so they would have to rely on a very different defense strategy.
(As an aside, let me note that if Hussein's top military men didn't know the regime lacked significant WMD until December 2002, maybe it's not a sign of gross incompetence that the CIA did not know either.)
Other bad news from the report:
"By 2003, Iraq would have been able to produce mustard agent in a period of months and nerve agent in less than a year or two."
Hussein was so unafraid of the United States and the United Nations after losing the Persian Gulf War that he used WMD on southern Shiite rebels in his own country in 1991.
Former U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks used to deride the Oil for Food program as "Oil for Palaces." The Duelfer report, however, paints the program as more like "Oil for Propaganda." And: Oil for WMD. Countries corrupted by Hussein's henchmen called for an end to the U.N. sanctions as the sanctions led to more suffering among the Iraqi people. With pockets bulging, leaders in these countries did the bidding of the one man who caused the suffering as he prepared to amass an arsenal that could spread death across the globe.
War critics in America, who will never look at the Duelfer report, will cite it as proof that the war in Iraq was ill considered. Apparently, they don't care that Hussein misled the world.
Or that he was gearing up to manufacture more lethal weapons.
Or that he killed Shiite Iraqis with WMD under the watch of the United Nations.
They only care about bashing Bush.