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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Friday, July 04, 2003

The Fleischer Challenge

On the subject of Saddam and the mysterious Weapons of Mass Destruction, Mr. Fleischer, speaking at a White House press conference, said:

"I think the burden falls on those who think he didn't have them to explain when he destroyed them, and why, after he destroyed them, he didn't tell anybody or show anybody. He, instead, decides to suffer the consequences."

As to the question of why Saddam did not want to admit that his weapons had been destroyed, this seems to be the new Administration talking point, since Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently made a similar point. And we have the same answer we had a while back:

First, in evaluating Saddam's behavior, it is worth keeping in mind that he might be insane. We might be looking for logic in all the wrong places.

Secondly, Saddam was a regional strongman because he had defied the US and the UN, and because he might have the weapons to destroy Israel, or other enemies. For Saddam to admit that the UN had disarmed him would represent a tremendous loss of face and influence. Preserving the WMD illusion helped preserve his power, until he misjudged the intentions of the US and the process at the UN.

Thirdly, admitting that he had disarmed might have led to a lifting of the sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions hurt the Iraqi people, and hurt the image of the United States in the Arab world. Did they really hurt Saddam? People have argued that the sanctions on Cuba make it easier for Fidel to control his economy. Saddam might have made a similar calculation.

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