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Freud's Take On A Madman

Reader comment on item: About Those Iraqi WMD

Submitted by John R. (United States), Apr 27, 2006 at 22:02

YOU: The great mystery of the 2003 war in Iraq - "What about the WMD?" has finally been resolved. The short answer is: Saddam Hussein's persistent record of lying meant no one believed him when he at the last moment actually removed the weapons of mass destruction.

ME: Whether Sadaam actually had WMD or not, removing him was the right thing to do. And the probabiliy, likely as we saw it, of him having weapons of mass destruction at the time made removing him a necessity, as we saw it, because it was a threat to our security. In a way too we are trying to be the policeman of the world. Many policemen actually because there are other representatives there from other countries; they support us. I agree with you that we have won a war. We have removed Saddam. People talk as if we're a failure totally. Saddam is gone, that is one victory. We are just having a hard time, or we need more time, to restore order and create a democracy in Iraq. This is no victory yet.

YOU: In a riveting book-length report issued by the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command, Iraqi Perspectives Project, American researchers have produced the results of a systematic two-year study of the forces and motivations shaping Saddam and his regime. Well written, historically contexted, and replete with revealing details, it ranks with Kanan Makiya's Republic of Fear as the masterly description of that regime. (For a condensed version, see the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs.)

ME: He's a madman. That is the reason. Why is he a madman? Do we really need to dig deep into that ? There simply are madmans.

YOU: It shows how, like Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Soviet Union, Saddam's Iraq was a place of unpredictably distorted reality. In particular, Saddam underwent a change in the mid-1990s, developing a delusional sense of his own military genius, indeed his infallibility. In this fantasyland, soldiers' faith and bravura count far more than technology or matériel. Disdaining the U.S. military performance from Vietnam to Desert Storm, and from Somalia to the Balkans, the tyrant deemed Americans a cowardly and unworthy enemy.

ME: Another interpretation is he is what he is because he's a madman.

YOU: Also about this same time, Saddam began insisting on only good news, isolating himself further from often harsh realities. As ever-fewer underlings dared to contradict the boss's perceptions, his determined self-deception wreaked havoc outward from the presidential palace to the entire Iraqi government and beyond. The lead author of Iraqi Perspectives Project, Kevin M. Woods, and his four co-authors note, "By the mid-1990s, most of those near the regime inner circle recognized that everyone was lying to everyone else." Deceits were reinforced and elaborated. In the words of an air defense officer, "One [officer] lied to another from the first lieutenant up, until it reached Saddam."

ME: Sounds like something for the psychiatrists. Actually it is because he's a madman. Could we have prevented the psychology, the processes, of how he became a madman? I do not think so. We just have to accept the fact that there is a delusional person ruling Iraq. Or I think you are simply trying to say he posseses the qualities of a madman, or simply he's a madman. We probably say the same thing but I say it concisely: He's a madman.

YOU: That no one really knew what was going on was symbolized by the widespread credence in the wartime nonsense spouted by the Iraqi minister of information (mockingly dubbed Baghdad Bob by Western reporters) as he regaled the world with glowing accounts of Iraqi victories; "from the point of view of Iraq's leaders, Baghdad Bob was largely reporting what they were hearing from the front." A militia commander confessed to being "absolutely astonished" on encountering an American tank in Baghdad.

ME: There was nothing we could have done about how he became a madman.

YOU: The same situation extended to the military-industrial infrastructure. First, the report states, for Saddam, "the mere issuing of a decree was sufficient to make the plan work." Second, fearful for their lives, everyone involved provided glowing progress bulletins. In particular, "scientists always reported the next wonder weapon was right around the corner." In such an environment, who knew the actual state of the WMD? Even for Saddam, "when it came to WMD there was always some element of doubt about the truth."

ME: ... Sadaam is a madman therefore he cannot be trusted.

YOU: Iraq's strategic dilemma complicated matters further. Realizing that perceptions of Iraqi weakness could invite attack, from Iran in particular, Saddam wanted the world to think he possessed WMD. But eventually he realized that to fend off the coalition, he needed to convince Western states that his regime no longer possessed those very weapons. As coalition forces geared up for war in late 2002, Saddam decided to cooperate with the United Nations to establish that his country was clean of WMD, as he put it, so as "not to give President Bush any excuses to start a war."

ME: Interesting I have to say though.

YOU: This lucid moment, ironically, fell victim to his long history of deceiving the United Nations; Iraqi steps to comply with the inspections regime had the paradoxical effect of confirming Western doubts that the cooperation was a ruse. For example, intercepted orders "to remove all traces of previous WMD programs" were misinterpreted as yet another ploy, and not the genuine effort they really were.

ME: The intrigue continues.

YOU: Saddam's belated attempts at transparency backfired, leading to what the report authors call "a diplomatic and propaganda Catch-22." Monumental confusion followed. Captured senior Iraqi officials continued for many months after the 2003 war "to believe it possible … that Iraq still possessed a WMD capability hidden away somewhere." Coalition intelligence agencies, not surprisingly, missed the final and unexpected twist in a long-running drama. Neither those agencies nor Western politicians lied; Saddam was the evil impostor whose deceptions in the end confused and endangered everyone, including himself.

ME: .... these sound like a script, a story, for a Hollywood movie. A movie that deals with..... wait.... I suddenly had a thought. You can actually use these information to give to authors who might write an autobiography of Saddam Hussein. A book. A movie. How did a man become what he is today. You know that James Bond movie, Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig? You see they are making it different from the rest of the Bond films. They want to create a movie that explains why James Bond is what he is today as opposed to the rest of the James Bond movies that make us simply accept what he is. How did I end up talking about Hollywood now?


YOU: Apr. 25, 2006 update: I have received many questions about the disposal of the WMD - Syria? Belarus? - and wish to clarify that I purposefully did not deal with this question in the above article (just as the Iraqi Perspectives Project did not). The topic here is exclusively the functioning of the Saddam Hussein regime in relation to the WMD mystery. Any thesis of what was done with the WMD is compatible with the above background explanation.

ME: Yes, like you said, mystery. That is another element for a movie on Iraq. Hollywood is listening to you, Dan. Although there's nothing we can do about it, it makes for a very good movie.

John R.

Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".


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Reader comments (58) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
CELEBRATION OR MOURNING [155 words]Balarabe AbbaJan 9, 2011 12:12181669
1whom you like ? [60 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
amitJan 2, 2007 01:2071402
not good muslim [77 words]tamannaDec 23, 2008 04:5871402
And the name of those Eastern Mediterraneans? [88 words]yuval brandstetter MDJul 5, 2009 09:5771402
1CELEBRATION OR MOURNING [138 words]balarabeabbaJan 5, 2011 09:1671402
sadam was good [15 words]shahApr 30, 2006 04:2344588
Did we honestly expect to find anything? [138 words]Bryan JacksonApr 28, 2006 14:4044434
Iraq WMD Disappearance [55 words]Allan GoodridgeApr 28, 2006 08:4244416
It's really quite simple [206 words]Sword of IslamApr 28, 2006 00:5844379
Bigger picture basically [231 words]JayApr 27, 2006 23:2544375
Freud's Take On A Madman [1253 words]John R.Apr 27, 2006 22:0244371
"About those Iraqi WMD's" [85 words]Peter MountainApr 27, 2006 10:3144322
Iraq wmd v Iran wmd [10 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
storrs warinner pilotApr 27, 2006 00:0944291
Believeable, but not likely [68 words]Darwin BarrettApr 26, 2006 18:5944278
WMD's in Syria?? [105 words]GideonApr 26, 2006 12:5844249
Syria! [62 words]HarrakApr 26, 2006 16:2644249
Which movie is that? [21 words]yuval brandstetter MDApr 27, 2006 15:4044249
show details [160 words]HarrakApr 28, 2006 16:1944249
harrak i hear you but.. [98 words]quebecoiseApr 28, 2006 19:2144249
good suggestion! [178 words]HarrakMay 2, 2006 20:4544249
Saddam's "only good news" policy similar to Bush's bubble [137 words]ChrisApr 26, 2006 11:4744245
Slight correction -- or modification [48 words]ddsApr 26, 2006 10:0644239
Rush to War [41 words]IraApr 26, 2006 09:4044238
Iraqi WMD [24 words]Robert J. GalvinApr 26, 2006 08:5044237
Saddam should have been allowed to continue under strict supervision [509 words]true believerApr 26, 2006 06:0444218
disagree [66 words]SaraJun 12, 2009 04:4244218
Iran [22 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Johanna StephensApr 26, 2006 03:3644210
Saddam removed the WMD's in Iraq and sent them to Syria [47 words]GregApr 26, 2006 00:1044188
Reply To Greg ; Saddams WMDs [62 words]Seamus MacNemiJul 25, 2007 00:0144188
What about the Russians [157 words]Paul M. NevilleApr 25, 2006 19:5644172
Reply to Paul M. Neville [7 words]Seamus MacNemiJul 25, 2007 22:0044172
Contradiction with Book by Dr Hamzer, "Saddam's Bombmaker" [46 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Alexander StroliApr 25, 2006 19:4544169
if what you claim is true [88 words]staffordApr 25, 2006 17:5244156
What about the Shi'a and the Kurds? [379 words]PatApr 26, 2006 14:5844156
Did Bush Care? [103 words]Avram KaliskyApr 25, 2006 17:3644155
Plenty of ground to cover [91 words]David W. LincolnApr 25, 2006 16:4544142
re Saddam's delusions [73 words]Jascha KesslerApr 25, 2006 16:2544139
The fat lady has not sung yet [188 words]yuval brandstetter MDApr 25, 2006 16:0844138
The Real WMD and the need for a smile [71 words]HARRAKApr 25, 2006 16:0644137
Wow [111 words]BradMay 3, 2006 17:0444137
the why wow weigh in [231 words]HarrakMay 4, 2006 18:2644137
maybe; maybe not [372 words]john w mcginleyApr 25, 2006 15:4044135
He lied [61 words]Donald W. BalesApr 25, 2006 15:3844134
an alternative view [77 words]leo solomonApr 25, 2006 17:0644134
All bureaucrats tell the boss what he wants to hear . . . [171 words]MaureenApr 25, 2006 15:0344131
Arab delusional thinking [236 words]rickApr 25, 2006 14:5644130
Response to Rick [9 words]Seamus MacNemiJul 25, 2007 22:2144130
good article. If the French and Germans had not betrayed us ... [92 words]Christopher GameApr 25, 2006 14:1544124
Some Still Say Saddam Did Have WMD [34 words]AlexApr 25, 2006 13:4144117
Concur with Alex [59 words]kierenAug 31, 2007 15:3544117
Iraq did have WMDs after all!! [163 words]pctripsApr 25, 2006 12:5244113
Iraq's WMD [77 words]Dan RusenApr 25, 2006 12:5244112
WMD.....only one problem [209 words]Marc MayersonApr 25, 2006 12:4544111
self-congratulations are outdated [76 words]G.BisvasApr 26, 2006 05:0144111
WMD & Iraq success [296 words]Don WeberApr 27, 2006 01:4844111
Re: Only One Problem [356 words]jr565Apr 27, 2006 18:4644111
A question. [12 words]concernedApr 25, 2006 11:4744104
Remember What's His Name [84 words]BlackspeareApr 25, 2006 20:4644104

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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