Credibility in Iraq was hurt by Clinton bluffs

NY Post Editorial:

A US interrogator who debriefed Saddam Hussein is lending credence to a widely held theory about what happened to the Iraqi strongman's weapons of mass destruction: He never had any, but pretended he did to scare off an invasion from Iran.

Nor, FBI interrogator George Piro says, did Saddam fear the United States or take President Bush's warnings seriously.

There's certainly a valuable lesson in that last part - about America's reputation for using force. The nation (and anyone hoping to lead it from the White House) should pay close heed.

Piro, who spent months with the disgraced dictator after his capture, says in a "60 Minutes" interview tonight that Saddam told him his main worry was Iran.

That's certainly plausible: Iran and Iraq fought a bloody eight-year war in the '80s that claimed a million lives. And the Islamic Republic's interest in dominating the region is manifest.

At the same time, Saddam never really expected a full-scale US attack: If Washington thought Iraq was hiding WMDs, he figured, the worst it might do is launch something like the four-day pinprick bombing President Bill Clinton OK'd under similar circumstances in '98.

Saddam could live with that.

It turned out otherwise, but who's to blame him for thinking so, given the US record - not just in Iraq, but in other places where Washington's response has been heavily tempered?

By contrast, letting on that he really didn't have WMDs would have meant a loss of face that might not only tempt Iran but also compromise his regional standing.

Thus, Saddam would let the mullahs, and everyone else, think he had the weapons - even if it irked Washington. He'd wage an elaborate hoax - actually claiming he had no WMDs, but using ambiguous language and limiting access to key sites to make the world think he did.

It was clever. Too clever.

...

It also casts further doubt on the far left's claim that Bush "lied" America into war.

...

Saddam thought that Bush was bluffing the way Clinton bluffed in 1998. If Democrats had been in power, he probably could have called the bluff again, because as you listen to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton explain their votes to authorize the use of force in Iraq, it appears that in their mind they were just authorizing another bluff. That is what makes them so dangerous on the issue of national security. When the bluff is called your next challenge will also be ignored which makes the use of force even more likely.

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