Wednesday :: Jan 7, 2004

Iraq WMD Program Existed Only On Paper


by Steve

After months of on-the-ground inspections of tens of staff looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq since the fall of Hussein, the Washington Post reports this morning that the best that David Kayís Iraq Study Group has been able to find is a weapons program on paper only. Neither the US or Great Britain have found any evidence of actual missiles, biological or chemical weapons stocks, or nuclear weapons materials or programs. In short, according to Barton Gellmanís long Page One story in todayís Post, any capability that Hussein may have had was years away, and there is evidence that Hussein stopped his programs in the mid-90ís out of fear of being caught by UN inspectors after his son-in-laws defected and gave detailed briefings to the CIA.

At most, the story states that Hussein was guilty of deception, as Bush has claimed. But Hussein was covering up a program that existed on paper only, one that was virtually nonexistent after years of economic sanctions and UN inspections, the same sanctions and inspections during the Clinton Administration that Bush claimed werenít working.

(Modher Sadeq-Saba) Tamimiís covert work, which he recounted publicly for the first time in five hours of interviews, offers fresh perspective on the question that led the nation to war. Iraq flouted a legal duty to report the designs. The weapons they depicted, however, did not exist. After years of development -- against significant obstacles -- they might have taken form as nine-ton missiles. In March they fit in Tamimi's pocket, on two digital compact discs.

But investigators have found no support for the two main fears expressed in London and Washington before the war: that Iraq had a hidden arsenal of old weapons and built advanced programs for new ones. In public statements and unauthorized interviews, investigators said they have discovered no work on former germ-warfare agents such as anthrax bacteria, and no work on a new designer pathogen -- combining pox virus and snake venom -- that led U.S. scientists on a highly classified hunt for several months. The investigators assess that Iraq did not, as charged in London and Washington, resume production of its most lethal nerve agent, VX, or learn to make it last longer in storage. And they have found the former nuclear weapons program, described as a "grave and gathering danger" by President Bush and a "mortal threat" by Vice President Cheney, in much the same shattered state left by U.N. inspectors in the 1990s.

A review of available evidence, including some not known to coalition investigators and some they have not made public, portrays a nonconventional arms establishment that was far less capable than U.S. analysts judged before the war. Leading figures in Iraqi science and industry, supported by observations on the ground, described factories and institutes that were thoroughly beaten down by 12 years of conflict, arms embargo and strangling economic sanctions. The remnants of Iraq's biological, chemical and missile infrastructures were riven by internal strife, bled by schemes for personal gain and handicapped by deceit up and down lines of command. The broad picture emerging from the investigation to date suggests that, whatever its desire, Iraq did not possess the wherewithal to build a forbidden armory on anything like the scale it had before the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Late last month, fresh evidence emerged on a very old question about Iraq's illegal arms: Did the Baghdad government, as it said, rid itself of all the biological arms it produced before 1991? The answer matters, because the Bush administration's most concrete prewar assertions about Iraqi germ weapons referred to stocks allegedly hidden from that old arsenal.

The new evidence appears to be a contemporary record, from inside the Iraqi government, of a pivotal moment in Baghdad's long struggle to shield arms programs from outside scrutiny. The document, written just after the defection of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law on Aug. 8, 1995, anticipates the collapse of cover stories for weapons that had yet to be disclosed. Read alongside subsequent discoveries made by U.N. inspectors, the document supports Iraq's claim that it destroyed all production stocks of lethal pathogens before inspectors knew they existed.

Intertwined with internal deception, many analysts now believe, was deception aimed overseas. Hussein plainly hid actual programs over the years, but Kay, among others, said it appears possible he also hinted at programs that did not exist.

Hans Blix, who was executive chairman of UNMOVIC, the U.N. arms inspection team, said in a telephone interview from Sweden that he has devoted much thought to why Hussein might have exaggerated his arsenal. One explanation that appeals to him: "You can put a sign on your door, 'Beware of the dog,' without having a dog. They did not mind looking a little bit serious and a little bit dangerous."

All of which could have been confirmed with ongoing inspections and maintaining the sanctions. Yet George W. Bush needed to start his war in March 2003 before the inspectors were able to confirm the lack of an imminent threat and his case unraveled.

Now, after hundreds of US deaths, thousands of dead Iraqis, and upwards of $200 billion in costs to the US taxpayer over the next several years, with terrorism unabated by this personal vendetta, we find only a threat on binder paper.

Steve :: 7:00 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!