Almost three years ago, I wrote:

In 1998 Saddam kicked out the UN inspectors and started to ramp up his WMD programs again. When 9/11 happened, and GWB called Iraq a founding member of the Axis of Evil, Saddam knew that having WMD would be very dangerous to his regime. However, he wanted to maintain the ability to reconstitute his WMD programs once the pressure of inspections, sanctions and GWB’s war on terror abated. So he buried as much as could, destroyed what he couldn’t hide, and threatened his scientists with death if they revealed anything.

Saddam also realized that his military was relatively weak, so he still needed WMD to deter his internal enemies, the Kurds in the North, the Shiite’s in the South, as well as Iran and Israel, which both had unfinished business with Iraq. He maintained the threat of WMD by letting his enemies believe he still had them. Perhaps some of the evidence that Powell described, such as radio intercepts, were part of a campaign of deception by Saddam. The US military certainly believed he had chemical weapons at a minimum.

At the same time, the failure of the UN inspectors to find any WMD allowed Saddam to plausibly deny their existence, making it difficult for the US to make its case to the world and assemble a coalition against him. But Saddam was too smart by half.

Saddam nearly got away with it. The inspectors were finding nothing significant, the French and Russians were placing roadblocks in the way of the US, and “peace” protests erupted around the world supporting Iraq. Meanwhile, his propaganda machine was telling the world that sanctions were killing thousands of Iraqi children, so there was mounting pressure for sanctions to be lifted.

Thanks to GWB, Saddam’s double-game on WMD failed.

If my musings are correct, the coalition will find a lot of hidden components of a WMD program but not much in the way of actual weapons.

What we are seeing now is his fall-back strategy. His loyalists are fighting a guerilla war against the US with the hope that the US will eventually turn tail and go home, just like they did in “Black Hawk Down.” With the US gone, he and his thugs would be able to claw their way back into power.

One more thought. There is no doubt that Saddam knows/knew about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and that the mad Mullahs would be dreaming of payback time. That is one more reason why he would be planning to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. I think we’ll find more evidence that he planned to do just that.

Here are the key WMD related quotes from the NYT report by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor:

The Iraqi dictator was so secretive and kept information so compartmentalized that his top military leaders were stunned when he told them three months before the war that he had no weapons of mass destruction, and they were demoralized because they had counted on hidden stocks of poison gas or germ weapons for the nation’s defense.

Mr. Hussein was also worried about his neighbor to the east. Like the Bush administration, Mr. Hussein suspected Iran of developing nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Each year the Iraqi military conducted an exercise code-named Golden Falcon that focused on defense of the Iraq-Iran border.

In December 2002, he told his top commanders that Iraq did not possess unconventional arms, like nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force established by the C.I.A. to investigate what happened to Iraq’s weapons programs. Mr. Hussein wanted his officers to know they could not rely on poison gas or germ weapons if war broke out. The disclosure that the cupboard was bare, Mr. Aziz said, sent morale plummeting.

To ensure that Iraq would pass scrutiny by United Nations arms inspectors, Mr. Hussein ordered that they be given the access that they wanted. And he ordered a crash effort to scrub the country so the inspectors would not discover any vestiges of old unconventional weapons, no small concern in a nation that had once amassed an arsenal of chemical weapons, biological agents and Scud missiles, the Iraq survey group report said.

Mr. Hussein’s compliance was not complete, though. Iraq’s declarations to the United Nations covering what stocks of illicit weapons it had possessed and how it had disposed of them were old and had gaps. And Mr. Hussein would not allow his weapons scientists to leave the country, where United Nations officials could interview them outside the government’s control.

Seeking to deter Iran and even enemies at home, the Iraqi dictator’s goal was to cooperate with the inspectors while preserving some ambiguity about its unconventional weapons — a strategy General Hamdani, the Republican Guard commander, later dubbed in a television interview “deterrence by doubt.”

That strategy led to mutual misperception. When Secretary of State Colin L. Powell addressed the Security Council in February 2003, he offered evidence from photographs and intercepted communications that the Iraqis were rushing to sanitize suspected weapons sites. Mr. Hussein’s efforts to remove any residue from old unconventional weapons programs were viewed by the Americans as efforts to hide the weapons. The very steps the Iraqi government was taking to reduce the prospect of war were used against it, increasing the odds of a military confrontation.

Seems that it wasn’t Bush that lied about Saddam’s WMD but Saddam himself.

Credit: Bill O’Reilly pointed out the NYT article.