Now this is startling:
As American soldiers massed on the Iraqi border in March and diplomats argued about war, an influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman: Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal.
Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and they offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search. The businessman said in an interview that the Iraqis also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 who was being held in Baghdad. At one point, he said, the Iraqis pledged to hold elections.
The anti-war folks will tell you this story (if true, although I have no reason to doubt it) startles because we rejected such a generous offer. Surely, they’ll claim, the chance of inspections led by the US military and the promise of free elections made avoidable (or at least delay-able) the horrors of war.
Oh, please. Some back-channel promises made by a guy who knows a guy who knows Saddam weren’t going to stop a just and necessary war. And yet I still find this story a bit shocking.
Because of how brick-chewingly stupid Saddam was, yet again.
Here’s a guy with a decade’s experience in foiling the US and playing to the world’s (admittedly cynical) sympathies. And yet he still offered US weapons inspections and free elections through secret back channels.
What if Saddam had made his offer publicly? British public opinion might very well have forced even Tony Blair into abandoning an immediate war — and Saddam could have gone back to playing hide-and-seek, while the promised elections were quietly rigged (or sadly failed to materialize). And there you have it: the 21st Century’s Biggest Political Blunder.
Of course, the century is still young. . .