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10 October 2004

Saddam Hussein

What Saddam Was Really Thinking

For years, Saddam Hussein showed himself to be a master practitioner of the big bluff. Everyone outside Iraq and just about everyone inside believed that he harbored a secret stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. So imagine the shock his generals received in late 2002 when U.S. forces were massing on the country's borders for an imminent invasion, and Saddam suddenly informed them that Iraq had no biological or chemical or nuclear weapons at all. Longtime aide Tariq Aziz told U.S. interrogators that military morale plummeted the moment senior officers learned Iraq would have to fight the U.S. without those weapons. The dictator's cunning policy of deception had deceived the wrong side.

Saddam had always hoped to dictate how history would view him. In his mind, he was the successor to great Iraqi heroes like Nebuchadnezzar and Saladin, to be revered as a giant among them for millenniums. But the Saddam who emerges from the pages of a new, comprehensive CIA report on Iraq's alleged arsenal will be remembered for the colossal misjudgments that cost him his rule. The exhaustive detail compiled by the report's author, Charles Duelfer, chief U.N. weapons inspector in the 1990s and the Bush Administration's top hunter since January, richly fills in the previous portrait of a paranoid and brutal dictator who believed that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) were the prime tools with which to advance his extravagant ambitions. Drawn from lengthy interrogations of the core Iraqi leadership and Saddam during their months in U.S. custody, the Duelfer report sheds fresh light on the dictator's inner motivations and artful deceptions.

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