Just tonight I heard an excellent, excellent interview with an author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure In Iraq, which is making some waves right now. With most any other talk show host, this would have turned into a shouting match, one-sided or not. Instead, although Hewitt did try to corral him, he let Ricks expound his view to his--and the listener's--satisfaction.
HH: There are a number of very fascinating passages in Fiasco, which is why everyone should read this, and I want to get to them serially, Thomas Ricks. First, I want to get to the WMD question. Any doubt in your mind that George W. Bush and his team and the Pentagon career believed there were WMD there when the war began?
TR: No doubt whatsoever. I think they drank their Kool-Aid, and talked themselves into it, on the basis of no evidence. But yeah, they believed it.
HH: When you write that Operation Desert Fox was tremendously successful, you're concluding that those WMD were there in 1998? Or did Clinton drink the Kool-Aid as well?
TR: Yeah, there were WMD facilities in '98, and they were taken out pretty effectively by those raids. The most effective aspect of the Desert Fox raids, though, which we didn't recognize at the time, it's very difficult to pull out, was the psychological effect. The message sent to Iraqi weapons scientists was Uncle Sam is not going to let Saddam Hussein have this stuff. And their hard work of seven years, after the '91 war, was taken out. It was destroyed.
HH: Can it really be said to be, "drinking the Kool-Aid", as you just said, to conclude that that which had been destroyed in 1998 would immediately be begun to be rebuilt, even as Saddam had begun to rebuild after 1991. Or would it have been prudent, post-9/11, to conclude that Saddam then, as Saddam now, is Saddam always?
TR: Well, that would, but it would be untethered from the realities of Iraq, which was that the country was becoming increasingly poor, weaker, had a less strong military, and that in fact, the '98 Desert Fox raids had almost toppled Saddam Hussein.
Very well rallied.