With the bruising experience of the Gulf War behind him, where he was forced out of Kuwait by US-led coalition forces at a staggering loss of 30,000 men and billions in treasure, how do we explain Saddam Hussein’s intransigence and brinkmanship in the face of an impending US/UK invasion where he was about to lose everything? With 250,000 troops amassed on his southern border and no chance of military success what could have been going through Saddam's crazy Arab head that he took things to the brink then recklessly plunged himself, his sons and his Stalinist regime into the abyss of defeat and death? Before Operation Iraqi Freedom ended Saddam's 23 year reign three things I believe were at work in his head: 1) the delusional belief in his historical destiny as the savior and unifier of the Arab World, 2) the divided ethnic, tribal and religious composition of Iraq (which he forcibly kept together) and 3) the threat of Islamic-Shiite Iran which aspires to regional hegemony. 

In the early days after 9/11 when the United States was fighting in Afghanistan and threatening to invade Iraq the Baathist dictator bet his power, fortune, family and life that George W. Bush was bluffing; that in reality he was no different from his father and predecessor (Bill Clinton); that though he was threatening regime change by invasion like them he’d try to overthrow him from within (through insurrection or assassination). Saddam, in effect, was cocksure that Bush had the good sense not to invade Iraq because of the possible catastrophic consequences: the unleashing of sectarian, tribal and ethnic strife destabilizing the region and empowering Iran.


 Indeed, with Dick Cheney as Bush’s VP an invasion was inconceivable to Saddam...however tough the Vice President was talking of war and regime change at the time. For this was the same Dick Cheney who repeatedly defended Bush 41’s decision against invasion during the Gulf War, who studied and understood the sectarian and other differences dividing Iraq, and who told David Brinkley that “an invasion could trigger a civil war that would bog down our troops in a quagmire [like Vietnam].” Indeed, this was the same Dick Cheney who said on C-Span in 1994 that “the 146 troops killed in the Gulf War was an enormous loss,” and that the overthrow of Saddam “wouldn’t even be worth that many causalities” because of the “turmoil it could bring to the region with Iraq breaking apart.” In short, Cheney was a realist when it came to Iraq and fully understood the possible devastating consequences of an invasion and that Saddam remaining in power was the best of many bad options. In other words, with Cheney at Bush’s side and warnings from his dad on the hazards of such an undertaking George Bush would do nothing more serious than stage a second Desert Fox: attack Iraq with punishing missile strikes at military targets, suspected WMD sites and palaces which Saddam would easily survive.


In other words, Iraq’s inherent cultural conflicts and the regional threat of Iran protected Saddam from such a thing, he believed. It was a double guarantee against invasion. Surety that he would continue to rule and live to realize his destiny and grandiose dream of becoming "King of all Arabia" with a dynasty of terror (the House of Hussein) lasting generations. What American president would be so foolish as to destroy the region’s only buffer to Iranian power and ambitions? Among the three Axis of Evil States (as the Israelis said at the time) revolutionary Iran was by far the greater threat to U.S. interests in the region, by far a greater threat to the Persian Gulf and moderate Arab oil states. With Iraq’s large Shia population potential allies of Iran no American president would dare cross the line, invade Iraq and liberating its Shiites tip the scales of power in the region enabling and empowering Iran. No American president would so recklessly destabilize the status quo and reverse 1000 years of Mideast politics. No one, that is, except George W. Bush.   


Saddam didn’t change after 9/11 but perceptions of him did; magnified a thousand times by 3000 deaths and billions in damage Saddam began to look more menacing than ever taking on the dimensions of the man he worshipped, emulated and copied, the idol of his intoxicating dreams: the mass murdering Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. Suddenly Saddam became larger than life and more frightening than ever not only in Bush's mind but in the public imagination. After 9/11 Saddam  became a collective obsession of a coming terrorist nightmare worse than 9/11. Afterall, wasn’t this the man who recklessly invaded two neighboring states, used chemical weapons on Iranians and Kurds, and gave safe haven to Ramsi Yoeseff the Iraqi terrorist who masterminded the first bombing of the World Trade Center? Wasn’t this the man branded by Bill Clinton as a major funding source of international terror? and was accused by Janet Reno of assisting bin Laden and al Qaida in chemical weapon’s development? Wasn’t this the man who submitted an inventory list to the UN claiming to have stockpiles of WMDs, enough to kill multitudes? And didn't he keep his hundreds of nuclear scientists and technicians on the government payroll (while in possession of 550 metric tons of yellow cake uranium (see) raising reasonable fears that they were secretly at work building the bomb? Why would he keep these people and pay them millions if going nuclear wasn't his goal?


 Indeed, prior to 9/11 Stalinist Saddam had managed to become the most feared man on earth and was seen by the Clinton and two Bush administrations as the worst threat to US security and interests since the Soviet Union before its demise. Indeed, in the period leading up to 9/11 SADDAMOPHOBIA was growing and swelling to a degree that by the end of Clinton’s last term most members of Congress and the public faulted George H. W. Bush for not finishing the job in Iraq and leaving Saddam in power. 

In short, Saddamophobia existed well before 9/11 and was understandably amplified thereafter not so much by the Administration and its many real and fanciful fears as by Saddam’s continued headstrong defiance of the US and international law-in contrast to Iran which became more accommodating and compliant fearing US wrath because of its links to several 9/11 terrorists (see). The President, Cheney, Rice, Powell, the entire Administration and nation with few dissenting voices, became alarmed and wanted action demanding Saddam’s menacing head before he could develop the capability of striking us with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Before the storm clouds gathered and reigned down death he must be stopped; 9/11 must be the last mass murder attack on US soil-Bush, Cheney and the rest were hell-bent on making sure that they'd be no other.  


Indeed, what was the fugitive, stateless, relatively impotent Osama bin Ladin compared to the Butcher of Baghdad, the dictator of an oil rich nation of 25 million the size of Texas, with billions at his disposal, tons of WMDs, uranium and the expertise to develop the bomb? What, in truth, was al Qaida compared to the most powerful army in the Arab World? Who seemed the greater threat after we invaded Afghanistan and wrecked havoc on al Qaida and the Taliban? Though a secularist who put his racial identity above his faith, and his destiny above both, Saddam was bin Ladin tenfold…a bin Ladin with billions and a global reach far exceeding the powers of the hunted impotent terror master. Bin Ladin was one man hidden away in a vast region running from cave to cave difficult to find-the head of an organization that was being defunded, broken and smashed. But Saddam, on the other hand, was moving from palace to palace openly defying everyone and pissing off a fearful George Bush over his continued, headstrong non-compliance on WMDs, retention of nuclear scientists and funding of terror. Where was the comparison with the cave dwelling, on the run bin Laden? In the public mind there was none. Though Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 he was a different face of the same menacing Middle East enemy at war with America and the West; all of our insecurities, animosities and fears crystallized by 9/11 settled on Saddam turning him into the Avatar of Arab Evil planning to strike.

 To be continued.


8 thoughts on “SADDAMOPHOBIA, 9/11 AND THE IRAQ WAR, PT 1

  1. Those on the Left that believe in the idea that overthrowing Saddam sprung from the heads of Bush and Cheney forget an awful lot of history. In the 2000 election, both Bush and Gore spoke openly about the need to get rid of Saddam. In fact, Al Gore was actually more emphatic about his removal from power than was Bush. And In 1998, Congress passed and Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act making regime change in Iraq official US policy.

    1. Gore was in favor of invading Iraq and bringing down Saddam. Here are several of his quotes:

      “We know that he [Saddam] has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
      — Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

      “Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
      — Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

      1. Just as Gore is wrong about man made global warming so was he wrong about Saddam’s wmds.

        RAND PAUL 2016!

  2. Good post on “Saddamophobia.” Never heard that term before. When Clinton was president Saddam was regarded as America’s enemy #1. Clinton even signed a bill calling for an end to Saddam’s regime.

  3. Apollo writes: “.. in the period leading up to 9/11 SADDAMOPHOBIA was growing and swelling to a degree that by the end of Clinton’s last term most members of Congress and the public faulted George H. W. Bush for not finishing the job in Iraq and leaving Saddam in power.” I’ve spent the last half hour researching this and can’t verify it. Who in the Clinton Administration faulted Bush for not deposing Saddam? Give me a link please.

    1. Al Gore Iraq War Speech, Sept 23, 2002

      “I was one of the few Democrats in the U.S. Senate who supported the war resolution in 1991. And I felt betrayed by the first Bush administration’s hasty departure from the battlefield, even as Saddam began to renew his persecution of the Kurds of the North and the Shiites of the South – groups we had encouraged to rise up against Saddam.”

  4. Let’s take a walk down Leftist Memory Lane on Saddam’s WMD

    “(Saddam) will rebuild his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and some day, some way, I am certain he will use that arsenal again, as he has 10 times since 1983″ — National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Feb 18, 1998

    “Iraq made commitments after the Gulf War to completely dismantle all weapons of mass destruction, and unfortunately, Iraq has not lived up to its agreement.” — Barbara Boxer, November 8, 2002

    “The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retained some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capability. Intelligence reports also indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons, but has not yet achieved nuclear capability.” — Robert Byrd, October 2002

    “There’s no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat… Yes, he has chemical and biological weapons. He’s had those for a long time. But the United States right now is on a very much different defensive posture than we were before September 11th of 2001… He is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn’t have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we.” — Wesley Clark on September 26, 2002

    “What is at stake is how to answer the potential threat Iraq represents with the risk of proliferation of WMD. Baghdad’s regime did use such weapons in the past. Today, a number of evidences may lead to think that, over the past four years, in the absence of international inspectors, this country has continued armament programs.” — Jacques Chirac, October 16, 2002

    “The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists. If we fail to respond today, Saddam and all those who would follow in his footsteps will be emboldened tomorrow.” — Bill Clinton in 1998

    “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of September 11, 2001. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well affects American security.” — Hillary Clinton, October 10, 2002

    “I am absolutely convinced that there are weapons…I saw evidence back in 1998 when we would see the inspectors being barred from gaining entry into a warehouse for three hours with trucks rolling up and then moving those trucks out.” — Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen in April of 2003

    “Iraq is not the only nation in the world to possess weapons of mass destruction, but it is the only nation with a leader who has used them against his own people.” — Tom Daschle in 1998

    “Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.” — John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002

    “The debate over Iraq is not about politics. It is about national security. It should be clear that our national security requires Congress to send a clear message to Iraq and the world: America is united in its determination to eliminate forever the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” — John Edwards, Oct 10, 2002

    “I share the administration’s goals in dealing with Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction.” — Dick Gephardt in September of 2002

    “Iraq does pose a serious threat to the stability of the Persian Gulf and we should organize an international coalition to eliminate his access to weapons of mass destruction. Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.” — Al Gore, 2002

    “We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction.” — Bob Graham, December 2002

    “Saddam Hussein is not the only deranged dictator who is willing to deprive his people in order to acquire weapons of mass destruction.” — Jim Jeffords, October 8, 2002

    “We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction.” — Ted Kennedy, September 27, 2002

    “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime is a serious danger, that he is a tyrant, and that his pursuit of lethal weapons of mass destruction cannot be tolerated. He must be disarmed.” — Ted Kennedy, Sept 27, 2002

    “I will be voting to give the president of the United States the authority to use force – if necessary – to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.” — John F. Kerry, Oct 2002

    “The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but as I said, it is not new. It has been with us since the end of that war, and particularly in the last 4 years we know after Operation Desert Fox failed to force him to reaccept them, that he has continued to build those weapons. He has had a free hand for 4 years to reconstitute these weapons, allowing the world, during the interval, to lose the focus we had on weapons of mass destruction and the issue of proliferation.” — John Kerry, October 9, 2002

    “(W)e need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. …And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm. So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War.” — John Kerry, Jan 23, 2003

    “We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandates of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them.” — Carl Levin, Sept 19, 2002

    “Every day Saddam remains in power with chemical weapons, biological weapons, and the development of nuclear weapons is a day of danger for the United States.” — Joe Lieberman, August, 2002

    “Over the years, Iraq has worked to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. During 1991 – 1994, despite Iraq’s denials, U.N. inspectors discovered and dismantled a large network of nuclear facilities that Iraq was using to develop nuclear weapons. Various reports indicate that Iraq is still actively pursuing nuclear weapons capability. There is no reason to think otherwise. Beyond nuclear weapons, Iraq has actively pursued biological and chemical weapons.U.N. inspectors have said that Iraq’s claims about biological weapons is neither credible nor verifiable. In 1986, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran, and later, against its own Kurdish population. While weapons inspections have been successful in the past, there have been no inspections since the end of 1998. There can be no doubt that Iraq has continued to pursue its goal of obtaining weapons of mass destruction.” — Patty Murray, October 9, 2002

    “As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am keenly aware that the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons is an issue of grave importance to all nations. Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process.” — Nancy Pelosi, December 16, 1998

    “Even today, Iraq is not nearly disarmed. Based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM [the U.N. weapons inspectors] suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in sufficient quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute large-scale chemical weapons production.” — Ex-Un Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter in 1998

    “There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years. And that may happen sooner if he can obtain access to enriched uranium from foreign sources — something that is not that difficult in the current world. We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction.” — John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002

    “Saddam’s existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America, now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before, both against Iraq’s enemies and against his own people. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East.” — John Rockefeller, Oct 10, 2002

    “Whether one agrees or disagrees with the Administration’s policy towards Iraq, I don’t think there can be any question about Saddam’s conduct. He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do. He lies and cheats; he snubs the mandate and authority of international weapons inspectors; and he games the system to keep buying time against enforcement of the just and legitimate demands of the United Nations, the Security Council, the United States and our allies. Those are simply the facts.” — Henry Waxman, Oct 10, 2002

  5. I for one was always against the war. Both Iraq and Afghanistan could have been handled by Two Thermonuclear Hydrogen Bombs. (No I am not joking; you deal with countries like that by Dropping Bombs, and Keep Dropping Bombs until the Crater is so Deep you can see Hell!)

Leave a Reply