December 19, 2003

That Was Then, This Is

That Was Then, This Is Now

This WaPo story has to be seen in the context of major fears of Iranian fundamentalism spreading through the Gulf post '79.

But it's still embarrassing how we soft-pedaled and couched our denunciation of WMD use to Saddam.

And don't miss this encapsulation of a certain strain of Whitehall think (crusty Etonian tendencies also espied during the killing fields of Bosnia by so very sanguine Douglas Hurd and others; in this vein, recall too Bismark's remark that the Balkans were "not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier"):

"The declassified documents also show the hope of another senior diplomat, the British ambassador to Iraq, in working constructively with Hussein.

Shortly after Hussein became deputy to the president in 1969, then-British Ambassador H.G. Balfour Paul cabled back his impressions after a first meeting: "I should judge him, young as he is, to be a formidable, single-minded and hard-headed member of the Ba'athist hierarchy, but one with whom, if only one could see more of him, it would be possible to do business."

"A presentable young man" with "an engaging smile," Paul wrote. "Initially regarded as a [Baath] Party extremist, but responsibility may mellow him."

Responsibility, alas, didn't "mellow" him. Though the spider-hole may have.

Oh, and apparently other British observers were intrigued by his smile too. Here's another example:

"I recall how, when he smiled--which he did far too much--his lips would slide back from his teeth too far, so that his warmth turned into a kind of animal leer. It didn't look like this on television. But when you were there, next to him, breathing the same bit of air, that is what you saw."

UPDATE: In terms of various countries' culpability vis-a-vis being in bed with Saddam pre-Gulf War I and such don't miss Dan Drezner's post on the matter.

Posted by Gregory at December 19, 2003 12:03 PM
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