Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saddam Wanted Out, Bush Nixed the Idea, Then Lied About It

(cross-posted at C&L)

How much money does Bush think a US soldier’s life is worth?

How much money does Bush think the lives of our allies’ soldiers or innocent Iraqis are worth?

As we’re finding out, not very much. When given the choice between letting Saddam slip away with $1 billion or go to war, Bush chose the latter.

On March 17, 2003 President Bush issued the warning: “Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing ,” yet now thanks to a transcript leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, we learn that more than three weeks prior to that Bush had told former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar that “The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he’s indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he’s allowed to take $1 billion …” When confronted about the leaked transcript yesterday, Whitehouse spokeswoman Dana Perino did not dispute its accuracy.

Just last week we learned from former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan that the real reason behind the war in Iraq was oil , and now we are finding out that the entire war could have been averted for letting him get away with $1 billion. That’s just one tenth of 1% of what this insane invasion and occupation of Iraq, that continues claim the lives of our country’s bravest men and women, has now been forcast to cost. Think about that just for a second. Every single death, Iraqi and American coalition alike, could have been saved and Bush could have had at Saddam’s oil just the same, but apparently he didn’t even seriously consider it. Topping that, he then lied in public to the entire world about it just so he could have his war regardless. How’s that for compassionate conservativism?

[Update] Just to be clear, The full quote of what Bush said was "The Egyptians are speaking to Saddam Hussein. It seems he's indicated he would be prepared to go into exile if he's allowed to take $1 billion and all the information he wants about weapons of mass destruction." If you watch the video, CNN even discounts that latter part of Bush’s claim: “Analysts say he may not have had much technical knowledge of wmd to escape with,” so I didn't know what to make of that, especially considering that everything else to do with Saddam and WMD that publicly came from Bushco during this period was complete bullshit to prop up his case for war. I'm just trying to point out the glaring contradiction between what Bush was saying publicly and privately about Saddam leaving Iraq, but Juan Cole has a most convincing take on what this all probably meant.
The money would buy him protection from extradition, and the documents presumably showed that the Reagan and Bush senior administrations had secretly authorized his chemical and biological weapons programs. With these documents in his possession, it was unlikely that Bush would come after him, since he could ruin the reputation of the Bush family if he did. The destruction of these documents was presumably Bush’s goal when he had Rumsfeld order US military personnel not to interfere with the looting and burning of government offices after the fall of Saddam. The looting, which set off the guerrilla war, also functioned as a vast shredding party, destroying incriminating evidence about the complicity of the Bushes and Rumsfeld in Iraq’s war crimes. ...
In any case, the point I'm making here is that even before Bush issued his phony ultimatum to Saddam and his sons to leave Iraq to avoid the invasion, he had already eliminated that possibility and admitted that he was going to go ahead with his war in any case.
Bush said there would be "no guarantee" for Saddam. "He's a thief, a terrorist and a war criminal. Compared to Saddam, [former Yugoslav president Slobodan] Milosevic would be a Mother Teresa." [...]

Bush spoke openly about pressuring countries who were members of the United Nations Security Council at the time to support a resolution authorising force, but said that, whatever happened: "We'll be in Baghdad by the end of March."
Now, I don't think anyone really had any expectation that Bush would ever just let Saddam slip out, but then why was he issuing phony demands for Saddam to do just that right up until the eve of hostilities? Of course Saddam would likely have never been able to remain hidden unless he wanted to go hide in a cave like Osama supposedly is doing, and he always could have been caught and brought to justice at a later date at the Hague, and any rational person should have at least considered that before triggering the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country, and in any case if Bush weren't going to let Saddam leave to avoid a war, he shouldn't have lied and told the world that that is all Saddam had to do to avoid it.

Fred Kaplan at Slate has more.