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Center for Security Policy

  17 January 2001


Few in the West are cheering the 10th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm. Why such a subdued response? Simply put, a decade of living with the decision to allow Saddam Hussein to survive the war has clearly shown it to have been a mistake of epic proportions: Saddam continues ruthlessly to suppress his own people -- exploiting what remains of the UN's economic sanctions so as to inflict maximum hardship on the poor, the young and the unhealthy for the cynically ruthless purpose of engendering popular hostility to the United States and maximizing domestic and international support for his regime. He has also resumed his effort to amass weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and other dangerous offensive military capabilities that pose an increasingly grave threats to the region, and beyond.

Saddam's Malevolent Ambitions

For example, Saddam has not abandoned his ambitions on Kuwait. As General Amir Saadi, head of Iraq's missile program, once told the first Chairman of the UN Special Committee on Iraq (UNSCOM), Rolf Ekeus, "Iraq needs its military equipment. The war is not over. It was only a cease-fire."*1 As Ekeus subsequently told the U.S. Senate, "The Iraqi Government does not consider the Gulf War was a war with an ending. . . It was a battle of Kuwait, not a war of Kuwait."*2

Saddam's ambitions are also reflected in his continuing work on WMD and their delivery systems. Reports of his collaboration with the terrorism-, genocide- and slavery-sponsoring regime in Sudan to construct a Scud ballistic missile-manufacturing facility, suspicions about the resumption of his production of chemical and biological arms and his renewed pursuit of at least crude atomic weapons capabilities are ominous straws in the wind.

In addition, at the time of Operation Desert Fox at the end of 1998, then-British Minister of Defense (and current NATO Secretary General) George Robertson warned that Iraq was developing what he dubbed the "drone of death":

    In 1995, Saddam launched a new program using a converted training aircraft code-named L29. The first flights were started in 1997 and the testing program is still continuing. This aircraft has been fitted with two under-wing weapon stores capable of carrying 300 liters of anthrax or other nerve agents. If this were to be sprayed over a built-up area such as Kuwait City, it could kill millions of people. Once perfected, we suspect that Saddam had intended to deploy these drones of death in Southern Iraq as a direct threat to his neighbors.

Unsaid but self-evident is the fact that this drone's estimated 500-mile range would enable it to reach not only Kuwait but targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, as well.

The fact that Iraq never turned over any of its biological stockpile to UNSCOM is of particular concern. As a result, the full dimensions of this program remain what UNSCOM's second chairman, Amb. Richard Butler, has called a "black hole."*3 This is all the more striking insofar as the Iraqi BW program would be the easiest of Iraq's proscribed programs to reconstitute.

Dr. Seth Carus of National Defense University suggests that the explanation for Saddam's adamant refusal to reveal anything about this aspect of his WMD activities may lie in the fact that biological agents have DNA. All other things being equal, it would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to determine who had been behind it. But, if authorities had samples of the stockpile from which the biological agents used in the attack had come, DNA testing might enable them to assign responsibility. By maintaining the covert status of his entire biological stockpile, Saddam may believe he retains the option of carrying out biological terrorism with impunity.*4

Liberate Iraq

For the foregoing reasons, among others, one of the most worrisome legacies Bill Clinton is bequeathing to his successor is Saddam Hussein's abiding malevolence and increasing ability to translate it into violent attacks against his enemies. It is enormously heartening, therefore, that senior ranks of the incoming Bush-Cheney Administration are likely to be populated by individuals who have, in the past, condemned the feckless Clinton effort to "contain" the Butcher of Baghdad -- and advocated a dramatically different approach aimed at ending Saddam's misrule and the threat it poses to his own, long-suffering people and others beyond his borders.

Specifically, on 19 February 1998, Secretary of Defense-designate Donald Rumsfeld, his reported choice for Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and a number of others said to be under consideration for top posts (including John Bolton, Richard Armitage, Dov Zakheim, Zalmay Khalilzad, Jeffrey Gedmin and Douglas Feith) offered a blueprint for liberating Iraq in an Open Letter to the President.*5

The following were the elements of the "comprehensive political and military strategy for bringing down Saddam and his regime" recommended by these and thirty other former senior officials and experts:

  • "Recognize a provisional government of Iraq based on the principles and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that is representative of all the peoples of Iraq.

  • "Restore and enhance the safe haven in northern Iraq to allow the provisional government to extend its authority there and establish a zone in southern Iraq from which Saddam's ground forces would also be excluded.

  • "Lift sanctions in liberated areas. Sanctions are instruments of war against Saddam's regime, but they should be quickly lifted on those who have freed themselves from it. Also, the oil resources and products of the liberated areas should help fund the provisional government's insurrection and humanitarian relief for the people of liberated Iraq.

  • "Release frozen Iraqi assets -- which amount to $1.6 billion in the United States and Britain alone -- to the control of the provisional government to fund its insurrection. This could be done gradually and so long as the provisional government continues to promote a democratic Iraq.

  • "Facilitate broadcasts from U.S. transmitters immediately and establish a Radio Free Iraq.

  • "Help expand liberated areas of Iraq by assisting the provisional government's offensive against Saddam Hussein's regime logistically and through other means.

  • "Remove any vestiges of Saddam's claim to 'legitimacy' by, among other things, bringing a war crimes indictment against the dictator and his lieutenants and challenging Saddam's credentials to fill the Iraqi seat at the United Nations.

  • "Launch a systematic air campaign against the pillars of his power -- the Republican Guard divisions which prop him up and the military infrastructure that sustains him.

  • "Position U.S. ground force equipment in the region so that, as a last resort, we have the capacity to protect and assist the anti-Saddam forces in the northern and southern parts of Iraq."

The Bottom Line

The incoming members of the Bush-Cheney Administration and other signatories made clear that "It will not be easy -- and the course of action we favor is not without its problems and perils. But we believe the vital national interests of our country require the United States to [adopt such a strategy]." It is a tragedy for the people of Iraq and a potential nightmare for the rest of us that President Clinton did not act on this sound advice.

If there is to be any chance that the world will not observe additional anniversaries of the international failure to end his malevolence -- possibly marked by devastating examples of its lethal potential -- the strategy for liberating Iraq that was advanced three years ago by the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf must finally be adopted and fully implemented.



*1 - From an interview with Dr. Laurie Mylroie January 16, 1996. Dr. Mylroie is a member of the Center's National Security Advisory Council and her contributions to the preparation of this Decision Brief is greatly appreciated.

*2 - Testimony before Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Governmental Affairs, March 20, 1996.

*3 - Amb. Butler appeared last night on the hour-long Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program "Counter Spin" with, among others, Center President Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. In the course of the program, the former UNSCOM chief categorically rejected statements by his former inspector, Scott Ritter, to the effect that Saddam's BW capabilities (and, for that matter, all other WMD programs) have been eliminated.

*4 - Some experts believe that Saddam has already demonstrated his willingness to employ terrorism against Americans. See Dr. Mylroie's new book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinised War Against America (Washington D.C.: American Enterprise Institute Press, 2000).

*5 - A copy of the Open Letter appears on the Center's web site ( as an attachment to a Decision Brief published on 24 February 1998 entitled, "'Serious Consequences': If Clinton Means It, Here's the Alternative to His Failed Strategy of 'Containing' Saddam (No. 98-D 33).


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