Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Life under Saddam

More of Iraqi documents released last week by the the U.S. Joint Forces Command. This article confirms the connection between the Iraqi government and Abu Sayyaf, a Philippino Jihadist group founded by Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law.

A much longer article in Foreign Affairs summarises the findings of a group commissioned to study the documents by the U.S. Joint Forces Command.

There are some great snapshots of life in Saddam land. They are utterly typical of behaviour under dictatorship, of behaviour dictated by fear.

One senior Iraqi official alleged that the commission's leaders were so fearful of Saddam that when he ordered them to initiate weapons programs that they knew Iraq could not develop, they told him they could accomplish the projects with ease. Later, when Saddam asked for updates on the nonexistent projects, they simply faked plans and designs to show progress.
The source of the fear is not hard to find. Why is it that you want to laugh when you read stories like this of such a blatant display of brute power? Is the reminder of adolescent pique?
At one low point during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam asked his ministers for candid advice. With some temerity, the minister of health, Riyadh Ibrahim, suggested that Saddam temporarily step down and resume the presidency after peace was established. Saddam had him carted away immediately. The next day, pieces of the minister's chopped-up body were delivered to his wife.
Again, I want to laugh at the precautions a military commander needed to take before having a meeting. This sounds just like Soviet Russia.
The Second Republican Guard Corps commander described the influence of the internal security environment on a typical corps-level staff meeting:
"First a meeting would be announced and all the corps-level staff, the subordinate division commanders, and selected staff, as well as supporting or attached organizations and their staffs, would assemble at the corps headquarters. The corps commander had to ensure then that all the spies were in the room before the meeting began so that there would not be any suspicions in Baghdad as to my purpose. This kind of attention to my own internal security was required. I spent considerable time finding clever ways to invite even the spies I was not supposed to know about".
Is it any wonder that the intelligence out of Iraq was so bad?
For many months after the fall of Baghdad, a number of senior Iraqi officials in coalition custody continued to believe it possible that Iraq still possessed a WMD capability hidden away somewhere (although they adamantly insisted that they had no direct knowledge of WMD programs). Coalition interviewers discovered that this belief was based on the fact that Iraq had possessed and used WMD in the past and might need them again; on the plausibility of secret, compartmentalized WMD programs existing given how the Iraqi regime worked; and on the fact that so many Western governments believed such programs existed.
(via Melanie Phillips)

No comments: