Relaxed and self-confident as ever, Bush 43 told CNN's John King in an interview during the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum that "History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made for Iraq I'm a content man."
Already he is being viewed more kindly than when he left office. And it may be that like Presidents Truman and Eisenhower before him, whose reputations declined briefly after leaving office, history will judge President Bush to be one of America's greatest presidents.
In assessing the decisions President Bush made for Iraq, however, historians should take a closer look at the little discussed defection to Jordan on August 8, 1995, of Saddam Hussein's cousin and son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel al Majid, and the latter's brother, Saddam Kamel al-Majid, along with their wives, Raghad and Rana, the first and second daughters of Saddam Hussein. With them, they brought crates of secret documents on Iraq's past weapons programs.
When Hussein Kamel defected, he was regarded as the regime's number two man.
Several factors probably motivated Hussein Kamel to defect: Deep hatred of Saddam Hussein's son Uday; disagreements on foreign policy with Saddam; concern over the decline of Iraq; fear for his life; and the nave notion that he could gain American and British support to overthrow Saddam and replace him as president.
During his six months sojourn in Jordan, Hussein Kamel provided incredibly useful information to the CIA and to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection teams assigned to look for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, including the revelation that Iraq had a biological warfare program before the Gulf War, the locations for facilities and huge amounts of documents.
Notably, Hussein Kamel stated that he personally ordered all Iraq's biological, chemical, missile, nuclear weapons destroyed in 1991 after the end of the first Gulf War and that all had been destroyed. All that remained were blueprints, computer disks, microfiches and production molds that Saddam Hussein had hidden in hope of being able to resume production once sanctions were lifted and inspections ended.
Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel returned to Iraq with their wives on February 23, 1996, after Saddam Hussein assured them that all would be forgiven. Cold shouldered by Jordan, the Iraqi opposition, other Arab countries and the U.S. once he had been drained of everything he knew, he apparently felt he had no other choice.
If there were any concerns that Hussein Kamel's defection was part of a deception operation by Saddam Hussein to mislead the world into believing that all his WMD had been destroyed so he could get sanctions lifted, such doubts should have ended when the regime quickly turned over new material, alleging to have just discovered it on Hussein Kamel's chicken farm, invited inspectors to visit previously unknown facilities, and had not only Hussein Kamel and his brother killed when they returned to Iraq but also their father, a third brother, a woman and her children.
Hussein Kamel's 1995 revelations about Iraq's WMD having been destroyed in 1991 were not made public for another seven years. Newsweek first surfaced them in a February 24, 2003 report on its website with the headline "The Defector's Secrets" but used the misleading "nothing new here" subheading "Before his death, a high-ranking defector said Iraq had not abandoned its WMD ambitions." "The Defector's Secrets" said that Kamel's revelations were "hushed up" because inspectors "hoped to bluff the Iraqi dictator into revealing still more." This was only days before our 19 March 2003 attack on Iraq and no other news media picked up the story.
"In the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Bush administration figures-including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Colin Powell-repeatedly cited Kamel's testimony as evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, even though Kamel had openly stated that he had overseen the destruction of all such weapons. The suppression of Kamel's statement that all of the weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed, while accentuating Kamel's description of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction before they were destroyed was but one example of the intentional lies, deceptions, misstatements and exaggerations used by President Bush and members of his administration to justify the attack on Iraq. Other examples of dishonesty used by the Bush administration included the topics: 'Iraq had sought to import yellowcake uranium from Niger,' 'Aluminum tubes,' 'Iraq/Al-Qaeda links,' 'The weather balloon trailers,' and 'Powell's U.N. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hussein_Kamel_al-Majid"
Shortly before we invaded Iraq, UNMOVIC (which had superseded UNSCOM) declared that UNSCOM had successfully dismantled Iraq's unconventional weapons program during the 1990s. The IAEA's head, Han Blix, accused the US government of dramatizing the threat of WMD in Iraq in order to strengthen the case to invade. Former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter, an American citizen, vociferously protested that Iraq had no WMD and invading would be a disaster.
It appears, then, that Bush 43 invaded Iraq, not because he feared Iraq had WMD, but because he knew it did not. This point was not lost on North Korea and Iran and almost certainly is why North Korea restarted its nuclear weapons program shortly before we invaded Iraq and Iran appears to want a nuclear weapon. Bush 43's war to remove Saddam Hussein opened the Middle East to Al-Qaeda, gave the Taliban time to reorganize, strengthened Iran's position and almost caused our economic collapse.
Historians will have much to look at in ranking Bush 43 amongst America's past presidents. In the meantime, we should never again let the military-industrial complex, hawkish media and politicians "sleepwalk" us into another war in the Middle East.
***The thoughts outlined above represent my personal views and not the views of my former employer.
Dennis Lamb retired from the CIA in 2002 after serving 30 years in its Directorate of Operations as a Case Officer and as an Intelligence Analyst.