Saddam Hussein, George Bush and Military Deception

Posted: June 8, 2008 in america, Bush, lies, military, republicans, war, waste

I’d like to share a theory I’ve been working on for some time now. Many of you won’t like it, but so far no one’s been successfully able to argue against it. It pertains to the cluster fuck that is the Iraq war and the boneheaded, shortsighted, irresponsible and frankly incompetent non-planning that didn’t go into the invasion.

In a nutshell, the war in Iraq was doomed from the start. That’s obvious now, after 4,000 dead, 40,000 injured, over 400,000 Iraqi casualties and gas rocketing past $4.00 per gallon, but I’d like to take a step back and examine the history of the thing.

The End

We begin our tour at the end of the first Gulf War. Saddam Hussein’s army was defeated but not destroyed. The Republican Guard, his most loyal “elite” forces, had been shattered in a 100-hour live fire exercise staged by the U.S. Army. His military capability and capacity to make war outside his country’s borders was diminished to almost nothing. We could have taken him out then, but as then-SecDef Dick Cheney said:

We didn’t, because we didn’t want to “destabilize the region”, which is what would have happened if we had. So instead we left a weakened and diminished Saddam Hussein in control of Iraq, and a few relatively permanent bases in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to patrol his skies and monitor him closely.

At the end of the first Gulf War, Hussein had no military capability. He had no WMDs, and virtually no program to reconstitute them. He also had no money to do it with. Nuclear programs are hideously expensive and extremely difficult to accomplish, even for major powers. For a tiny, isolated rogue state like Iraq it would have been nearly impossible.

Now, Hussein wasn’t stupid. He knew what he had, and what he didn’t. He also knew how difficult it would be to actually rebuild his lost capabilities. So rather than try and create from thin air something he never really had to begin with (nuclear weapons), he embarked on a much more ambitious, and ultimately much more successful, plan of action.

He would plot the downfall of the United States.

Does that sound far-fetched? Keep reading, then decide.

The Art of War

In military operations there is an obscure and esoteric branch called “Information Operations”. Because it’s not “sexy” like bombers and tanks, and it rarely involves blowing things up, it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention from American war planners until fairly recently. But it’s essential in both peace and war. If you expect to “win hearts and minds”, you’ve got to know how your target thinks and what makes him tick.

Information Operations (IO) are not easy to execute properly, but when done right, they can make the difference between success and failure. Or, victory and “Mission Accomplished”. In a nutshell, IO breaks down into a few distinct disciplines, as explained in Joint Publication 3-13:

1. Electronic Warfare (EW) – using the electromagnetic spectrum to control the adversary’s access to information.

2. Computer Network Operations (CNO) – using “cyberspace” to dominate the information battlesphere.

3. Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) – a combination of Public Affairs and Civil Affairs operations designed to shape the target’s perceptions of the war, your intentions, or your actions. Sometimes erroneously referred to as “propaganda.”

4. Military Deception (MILDEC) – using tactics and methods designed to fool the target into believing something that isn’t true. Sometimes used with the intent of creating a diversion from your true military operation, or to make the target think you have a capability you don’t, or don’t have one that you actually do.

5. Operations Security (OPSEC) – keeping your information secure.

Properly executed IO plans require a strong backing of military intelligence operations and an element of believability to be successful. Note that I did not say “truth”. There’s often a big difference between what is true and what is believable. Many people believe things that are not true (creationism, astrology, and alien abduction, for example). When planning a PSYOP or MILDEC operation it’s always best to choose the easiest course of action. You have to know your target before you begin operations, if you want them to be successful.

What does this have to do with Saddam and Bush? Keep reading.

Unknown Unknowns

You know the old saying, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you?” Well, in war, most often, what you don’t know can kill you. Where that next land mine is, for example, or what the enemy’s plans are. Information is king in warfare, and the side that dominates the information battlespace can usually (not always) dominate the war. As Sun Tzu wrote over 4,000 years ago:

One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be in danger in a hundred battles.

One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes win, sometimes lose.

One who does not know the enemy and does not know himself will be in danger in every battle. (Sun Tzu, 3)

In 1991 Saddam Hussein had lost his army and much of his military construction capacity. He knew he could not challenge us militarily.  I believe he did the only thing available to him – he set about developing a progam to make us think he was trying to reconstitute his WMD program.

For 12 years he planned, refined, and ultimately executed the longest-running, most complex, and ultimately most successful campaign of Military Deception in history.  And its target was the United States.
His ultimate goal was to diminish our stature on the world stage, and bring to ruin the mighty American Empire.  It succeeded brilliantly, as I will explain in the next section.

Weapons of Mass Deception

At this point we need to consider a few important questions.  If you’re Saddam Hussein, with nothing on your side but time, with no money, no military, and virtually no allies, what do you do?  How do you wage your campaign against the Great Satan?  How will you put your grand plan into effect?

What’s easier, building a nuclear processing facility, or building a palace and making your enemy think there’s a “hidden facility” inside it?

What’s easier, developing “mobile chemical weapons labs” or building vans that look like they might be mobile chemical weapons labs?

What’s cheaper, building ballistic nuclear missiles, or building missiles that look like they might be used to deliver WMD payloads?

So rather than spend what little cash he had available on pointless and hideously expensive weapons research that would ultimately turn the world against him again, Hussein simply took the easy way out.  He bought artillery shells shaped like the “high speed centrifuges” so widely touted in the run-up to Gulf War II.  He built suspicious looking vans and parked them at strategic locations to make it look like he was up to something.  He built dozens of palaces all over the country, more than could possibly be inspected all at the same time, then limited inspectors’ access to them.

He knew the inspectors’ schedules.  He knew when our planes were flying and where.  Worse, he knew when our reconnaissance systems were flying over his country, and he had his people perform carefully staged maneuvers designed to make it look like he was “up to something”.

And in the 12 years between the wars, he continually probed the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones with his fighters and anti-aircraft artillery, just to give us a reason to keep bombing him and keep the sanctions in place.

The sanctions, of course, were key to his grand plan.  He needed them in order for it to succeed.  The sanctions gave him a powerful propaganda tool within his own borders, since he had complete control of the people’s access to information.  It also gave him an important bargaining chip with the international community.  Over 12 years the sanctions, and our enforcement of the SNFZ and NNFZ, had become increasingly unpopular internationally.  They were roundly blamed for the suffering of the Iraqi people, despite the clear evidence that it was Saddam using the sanctions as a weapon against his own people.

The Iraqi people probably knew who was the true author of their misery.  They just had no real power to do anything about it.

All of this combined to create an atmosphere of suspicion on our side, fear within the Iraqi borders, all while at the same time ensuring we had no idea what was going on inside Iraq.

Saddam’s New Army

Saddam Hussein wasn’t just spending money deceiving the U.S., though.  He always knew that a second war with the United States was inevitable.  He just wanted it to be on his terms.

And part of his plans involved rebuilding his shattered military and creating a personal army of secret police.  These became the Fedayeen Al-Saddam that caused the American military so much trouble after “Mission Accomplished”.  They were fanatical partisans and devoted Saddam loyalists, ready to fight to the death and wreak as much havoc as they could, once the Great Satan came looking for their leader.

Saddam Fedayeen

Image from CBS News

We didn’t plan on dealing with them, primarily because we didn’t know they existed.

Operations Security, remember, is essential to any successful IO plan.  Saddam practiced it very well – much better than we did.  He only allowed us the information he wanted us to have.  Dictators are very good at this – they practice on entire countries all the time.

The Fedayeen replaced Iraq’s Republican Guard, only they were much worse.  Trained in guerilla tactics and terrorist methods, they fought the U.S. Army almost constantly for over a year – and eventually were replaced by the current breed of fanatical “insurgents” responsible for over 4,000 American deaths to date.

These were to be the real Weapons of Mass Destruction – the men (and probably women) of the Fedayeen and other fanatical loyalists.

September 11, 2001, and after

Now we flash forward to 2001.  Saddam’s MILDEC program has been in full swing for several years.  It hasn’t borne fruit yet, and we’re still pursuing our highly successful policy of containment against him.  But Saddam is a patient man.  And now there’s a new man in the White House, and he’s not nearly as smart either militarily or strategically as his predecessors.  George W. Bush is his new target, and he proves to be a remarkably easy mark.

MILDEC, after all, requires a receptive audience, and GWB and his inner circle is highly receptive to the notion that Saddam is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.  He starts using agents outside Iraq to feed false information to the American intelligence community.  He plants false stories and trails that he’s looking for yellow-cake uranium from Nigeria.  He starts shopping around for anything that looks like it might be used in a nuclear program.  He steps up his MILDEC campaign into high gear, hoping to provoke a confrontation.

And then, without warning, he gets really lucky.  On September 11, 2001, an organization called Al Qaeda hijacks four American airliners and flies three of them into the symbols of American imperial power, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In retaliation, Bush turns America’s military might against the rogue Taliban government of Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda has been known to be training terrorists and insurgents for several years.  Afghanistan is well known in the Arab world as the Graveyard of Empires.  The British beat themselves to death in its mountains, inspiring Rudyard Kipling to write in his immortal poem “The British Soldier”:

When you’re bleedin’ and left on Afghanistan’s plains
and the women come out to cut up what remains
just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
and go to your gawd like a soldier.

Alexander the Great avoided it.  Ghengis Khan went through the Khyber pass, but only after negotiating with the Afghans.  The Soviets invaded it and brutalized it for four years, but ultimately the cost of holding it bankrupted their military and led to the fall of the Soviet Union.  Some have remarked that there are three national sports in Afghanistan – kite flying, soccer and guerilla warfare.  The Taliban had outlawed two of these.

No outside empire had ever successfully defeated Afghanistan.  Many had tried and failed.  And now it was our turn.

Saddam knew after Bush had finished with the Taliban, he was next on the hit list.  So he made preparations. He prepared his armies for the invasion and sent the Fedayeen underground.  He stepped up his deceptions, feeding us misinformation through a double-agent codenamed “Curveball” by the American intelligence community.

A curveball, as any good sports fan knows, is a baseball pitch that appears to be headed toward the batter but breaks outward at the last second before the swing.  It is the essence of military deception, and a well thrown curveball can be very hard to spot.

Saddam threw us a good one.  Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the inner circle swung, and missed – but convinced themselves they’d hit it out of the park.  They then proceeded to start a war that didn’t need to be started, based on information that had been thoroughly discredited even before the first plans were laid, and that would ultimately lead to an almost complete loss of our credibility in the international community.

Saddam won his war.  He played us like a Stradivarius.  We never found the hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction because they never existed in the first place.  We should have seen it coming, but were blinded by our own arrogance and hubris.

And now we’re paying the price.

  1. Interesting theory, however there are a few holes in it.

    “He knew the inspectors’ schedules. He knew when our planes were flying and where. Worse, he knew when our reconnaissance systems were flying over his country, and he had his people perform carefully staged maneuvers designed to make it look like he was “up to something”.”

    The majority of the inspectors that were actually allowed into the country executed random inspections half of the time.
    Also, US aircraft did not fly “bus routes”. There was no monthly schedule or pattern for Saddam to exploit.
    Our reconnaissance system was flying over his country 24/7 and could read the licence plate off of any car in the country whenever it wanted, the wonders of satellite survailence…

    Weapons of Mass Destruction do not necessarialy = Nuclear Weapons. The United States was worried that he was actively pursuing Chemical and Biological weapons. Weapons, that he was known to have used in the past, as the Kurds no doubt remember. These weapons are not so difficult and expensive as nuclear weapons, but they are oh so effective.

    “No outside empire had ever successfully defeated Afghanistan. Many had tried and failed.”

    Alexander the Great CONQUERED Afghanistan after 330 BC 😉

    And the only reason the Soviets failed was because WE helped the Afghani’s massively.

    “Saddam won his war.”

    I think you give Saddam WAY too much credit. This man was interested in one thing, his own power. He did so much to ensure that he would remain in it. To think that he would lure America into a war with him so that he could “hurt us” is crazy. He would not sacrifice his power, let alone his own life.

    I think the simple way of looking at it is, Saddam was power happy, and he had two options. One was to comply fully with the US and the United Nations and look soft, (which is not good when you rely on the “iron fist princible” to legitamize you rule) or his other, more risky option was to skirt the bondry between cooperation and defiance, which he did well for many years after the Gulf War.

    He got a little too cocky though, after 9/11 the United States was fed up with playing games.

  2. Afrit007 says:

    Thank you for the comment, and the clarifications. I may have gotten a few of my facts slightly off, but the central point remains.

    Alexander the Great conquered Afghanistan, but only after huge losses and repeated attempts at invasion.

    The Mujahedeen did have our help, but the cost of occupation ultimately bankrupted the Soviet Union.

    Satellite reconnaissance has its limitations. If you want to “read a license plate” from space, you lose a lot of other information that can be gained from a wider, lower resolution picture. In other words, you read that license plate, but ONLY that license plate.

    The rationale for war was that we must “not let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud”. Thus, while we were concerned about chemical weapons and biological weapons, what Bush et al were really worried about, and thus rationalized the war with, were nukes.

    I think Americans habitually underestimate their opponents. Saddam Hussein was no different. We have a high opinion of our capabilities and superiority, and it blinds us to our enemies’ strengths at times. The notion that a tinpot dictator like Saddam could have put one over on the big bad U.S. of A. is abhorrent to many, but the fact remains that we basically knew NOTHING about his WMD and nuke programs, and invaded his country at great cost to ourselves to find out he had NOTHING.

    He didn’t get “too cocky” after 9/11. We rushed into the war. Bush & Co. wanted to “take him out” and propagandized the news heavily to get the war they wanted.

    We have sacrificed American lives, American credibility, and untold billions of American dollars and gained nothing for it.

    I say again. Who won?

  3. “I say again. Who won?”

    Define what it is to “win”.

    Lets start with American dollers. If you were to look at our millitary spending without war costs, I think you would be quite surprised. I hear people screaming their heads off about all the billions we are throwing away in Iraq, and quite frankley that is just not true.

    According to the 2008 Air Force Almanac, May issue: The Defense department budget for 2008 is $669.5 Billion WITH war costs. That seems INSANE!

    Now lets put it into context, the same budget MINUS war costs (AKA Iraq war and Afghanistan) is $479.5 Billion. Were we to pull out of Iraq AND Afghanistan today we would still be spending nearly $500 Billion.

    $669.5-$479.5= $190 billion = (28% of total budget.)

    “We have sacrificed American lives, American credibility, and untold billions of American dollars and gained nothing for it.”

    And gained nothing for it??? Surely you must be joking… You should speak to some Iraqis.

    I have met many Iraqi’s since the invasion, and almost all of them have lived under Saddam’s rule. From the storys they have told of before and after, I can assure you we have accomplished a great deal.

    One of my best friends I would never have had the chance to meet if it were not for the war. She was not allowed to leave the country (Because she is a woman). Now she is teaching Arabic here in the United States and can not tell me enough how blessed she is, and we all are to live in this country.

    Do not say we have sacrificed American lives for nothing… Our soilders have brought freedom to that country, and now it is time for the Iraqis to pick up the sword and fight for that freedom we have given them.

    Saddam has not “won” He is just another nameless victim whom nobody in Iraq, nor the Middle East for that matter, will miss…

  4. By the way, I like the quote from Sun Tzu, have you read his work? That guy was a genius!

  5. Afrit007 says:

    It’s tempting to look at the costs of war in terms of the military budget, but sadly, that’s only a fraction of the actual costs. There’s the long-term costs of caring for wounded and traumatized veterans. There’s the costs to their families of the stress of repeated extended deployments. There are the social costs of thousands of veterans returning home to find themselves unemployed and undesirable as employees, and with dwindling support resources to turn to in their time of need.

    I’m glad for the Iraqis whose lives have genuinely been improved as a result of our mistake. They’re the lucky ones. I note with some interest that the friend you mentioned does not appear to live in Iraq. Why not?

    We may have brought a semblance of freedom to Iraq, but at a very high price. An estimated two million were displaced as a result of our actions, most of whom have yet to return. At least half a million civilians have been killed in the war. Who knows how many were maimed and wounded? Despite the recent lull in violence, Iraq is still not safe. It won’t be truly safe as long as we have troops there.

    I’m not suggesting that life under Hussein was peace, love and joy. There’s no doubt he was a very bad man. But was he the worst dictator we could have gone after? I think not.

    Take, for example, Kim Jong Il, arguably the worst dictator in the world and so-called “Dear Leader” of the world’s largest forced-labor camp. He routinely brutalizes his own people, works them to starvation, and has threatened our allies with annihilation. He is one of the leading exporters of weapon systems and has for years had an active nuclear research program. Why did we not invade North Korea and liberate them? Too hard?

    Or maybe Robert Mugabe, thug and brutalizer of Zimbabwe. His cronies and gangs have murdered, mutilated and wreaked havoc across his country, and the world wrings its hands in horror but does nothing. Why did we not “take him out?”

    Perhaps we should consider the Sudan, or the “Killers of Khartoum”. The paler-skinned leaders of the north have waged a war of genocide against the darker peoples of the south for years now, and gotten away with it. Millions have been killed, millions more maimed and tortured. Why have we done nothing about it?

    The list goes on. It appears we choose our battles very carefully, based on a narrow set of criteria.

    So, what have we really gained? Remember the $20/bbl oil that was held out as a carrot before the invasion? Yep, that happened.

    Remember when Rumsfeld said that Iraq could “finance its own reconstruction”? Yep, that happened.

    Remember when Cheney said that we’d be “greeted as liberators”? Some greeting. 4,000+ dead, 40,000 wounded. I’d prefer ticker tape myself.

    Our economy is a shambles, oil prices continue to rise with no end in sight, and our armies are breaking under the strain of repeated deployments. 75% of first-term soldiers are choosing not to re-enlist. Some deliberately injure themselves to avoid going back to that hellhole. Some are sent back anyway.

    Every justification for this war has turned out to be a lie. We were manipulated into this blunder by a foreign dictator and a President too dumb to know he was being used, but just politically savvy enough to use the lies to his own advantage.

  6. Afrit007 says:

    BTW, I love Sun Tzu. I wish our current “leaders” had read more of him!

  7. I could not agree more with your list of Countries that would benefit from our aid.

    “It won’t be truly safe as long as we have troops there.”

    You think that our troops=violence in Iraq? I would have to disagree. The vast majority of violence is sectarian and it will not just disappear when the United States leaves. If nothing else, we keep the sectarian violence in check. And it is still brutal. The answer lies with the Iraqis. They hold the future in their hands now. We opened the door, they have to walk through it.

    As far as Iraqis coming here, it is because we are still the place to be for hope and opportunity, even though there are people who try to paint us in another light. The number of people coming here speaks for itself ; )

  8. Afrit007 says:

    To a certain degree, yes – American presence Iraq means violence in Iraq. There has always been sectarian violence, starting with the death of the Prophet Muhammad, but as long as we are there to present a convenient target for BOTH sides, then we’ll be that target.

    The extremists hate us more than they hate each other. That’s a fact. It’s equally a fact that without us, and without a strong leader to keep it in check, sectarian violence will rise once we take our lightning rod away. I laugh every time I hear our politicians talk of “political reconciliation” as the solution to the problem. It reveals the true depths of their, and our, ignorance of the region.

    “We opened the door, now they have to walk through it.” With Bush’s latest proposal for a “Status of Forces Agreement” providing immunity from prosecution for American troops and mercenaries (excuse me, contractors) in Iraq, unlimited military operations for American forces, and 58 new permanent bases over there, we aren’t exactly holding the door open for them. We’ll have to step out of the way before they’ll be able to go through it.

    I hope more people keep coming to America. I think we benefit from the addition of new blood to our society. But I also hope that some of these same people decide to go back and work to improve the quality of life for people in their home countries. If it’s possible for them to do so.

    I must say, this has been most enjoyable and thought-provoking. I appreciate your perspective.

  9. indeed, it is not too often I get to discuss this topic with informed individuals. It if far more enjoyable when the discussion does not break down into insult flinging rather than a discussion of the topic.

    God bless.