The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
The following draft is being written for publication (so please excuse the oratory). I'd appreciate any observations regarding the truth of the central claim, that "no new weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since just after the Gulf War". Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA --- Last November, a commentary published in the Washington Post said of UNSCOM that "no new weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since just after the Gulf War ended and that those discovered at that time were disclosed by Iraqi officials." The claim was promptly drowned out by the impeachment uproar (and, ultimately, Desert Fox), but this is a serious question that deserves re-examination. Is this statment true? And if so, how important (in an arms-control sense) is it? A brief history: Robert Novak (the prominent political commentator) made the above statement in his Washington Post column of November 16, 1998. In this, he echoed charges made by former Republican Vice Presidential candidate, Jack Kemp. Novak's column went to press only after he received unsatisfactory explanations on this issue from State Department officials. Nine days after Novak's column appeared, the Washington Post printed Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin's response (Rubin is the State Department's chief spokesman). In analyzing this response, it's clear that Rubin does *not* rebut Novak's statement (though he strives to give every appearance of doing so). The subtle distinction to be made is this: Did UNSCOM find undisclosed weapons in Iraq - or did UNSCOM merely unearth evidence revealing the extent of Iraq's pre-war weapons programs. And as regards Iraq's "obstruction", was Iraq hiding a threat from UNSCOM? or merely hindering UNSCOM's archeology? All of Rubin's arguments (see below) provide evidence of the latter: that UNSCOM did, in fact, force Iraq to admit to pre-war WMD efforts it had previously denied. However, Rubin gives no examples of hidden weaponry discovered by UNSCOM. (Rubin's artfully-worded 2nd paragraph refers, I believe, to weapons which were disclosed and destroyed per the agreements ending the Gulf War; in other words, Rubin is not referring to the destruction of material discovered by UNSCOM, just the postwar disarmament bonfire.) Given the extremely high stakes surrounding the issue at the time (UNSCOM's unceremonious final exit from Iraq occurred within weeks, and Desert Fox soon followed), the very weakness of Rubin's evidence is damning. In preparing Rubin's letter, the UNSCOM archives were, no doubt, thoroughly inspected. But apparently - as in Iraq - the evidence just wasn't there. Of course, just because UNSCOM failed to find any weaponry isn't proof it doesn't exist. However, the IAEA, Richard Butler, and (more emphatically) Scott Ritter are all on record as stating Iraq's disarmament is nearly complete. (To quote Ritter, "When you ask the question, "Does Iraq possess militarily viable biological or chemical weapons?" the answer is 'NO!' It is a resounding 'NO'.") And of course, weapons programs are in themselves threatening and de-stabilizing; and evidence uncovered by UNSCOM shows Iraq's programs were more advanced than many thought[5,6]. Concealment of these programs may reasonably be taken as evidence of intent to reconstitute once restrictions are removed. But Iraq - sitting atop its big money pit of oil while surrounded by historical enemies in the most heavily armed region of the world - is hardly alone in these efforts. UNSCOM operated under Security Council Resolution 687, which stressed (in Article 14) the importance of regional disarmament ... a fundamentally noble goal, though we wait breathlessly to hear of UNSCOM's adventures in reputed or soon-to-be nuclear powers Israel and Iran (and possible WMD holders Syria and Egypt). Remember, we live in a world where a blind, eccentric monk can marshal the forces to manufacture and deliver sarin to the subways of Tokyo. We live in a world where the disintegrating Soviet states harbor just under 20,000 nuclear warheads and fissile material for three times that number. We live in a world where abortion clinic mail is frequently screened for anthrax. We live in a world where the Trade Center bombers had contingency plans to use chemical weapons. We live in a world where -- according to the Pentagon's last proliferation report -- "more than 25 countries have or may be developing NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) weapons along with the means to deliver them". The 'threat of Iraq' has been used to justify the U.S.-inspired, UN-enforced economic embargo, now in its ninth year and during which time an excess 500,000 deaths of young children have occurred. As a recent issue of "Foreign Affairs" notes, this embargo has now killed more civilians than have been killed by all weapons of mass destruction throughout history: more than the sums of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the chemical attacks of World War I. Think of it: 500,000 infants and toddlers dead -- an obscene figure, weighing heavily among the atrocities of the decade ... and upon the American conscience. Because sanctions enforce a morally flawed directive: they hold the Iraqi people hostage to pressure a dictator to disarm. And by the evidence yet presented, Iraq's threat is one of understandable enmity, only, and is neither immediate nor particularly unique. Regards, Drew Hamre Golden Valley, MN USA ---  See the earlier CASI posting from Glen Rangwala at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss/1998/334.html  Novak's column isn't available online. In printed/microfilm editions, see "One-Man Show on Iraq" by Robert D. Novak (The Washington Post, Op-Ed page, November 16, 1998).  Rubin's letter (below) remains available online from the Washington Post online archives, and is attached for convenience: IRAQ'S CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL ARSENAL LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Wednesday, November 25, 1998 Page A20 In his Nov. 16 op-ed column, "One-Man Show on Iraq," Bob Novak alleges that "no new weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since just after the Gulf War ended and that those discovered at that time were disclosed by Iraqi officials." This is not true. In fact, more of Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction capability has been destroyed since the war than during the war -- despite Iraq's delays, deception and violation of the commitment it made at the end of the Gulf War to disclose its weapons-of-mass-destruction arsenal within 15 days. To cite just a few of many examples: In 1995, just before the defection of the head of its weapons program, Iraq admitted -- under pressure from international weapons inspectors -- what it had vehemently denied for four years: that it had developed an offensive biological warfare capability. Iraq had produced at least 130,000 gallons of biological agents such as anthrax, botulinum toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. It also was forced to destroy a factory that supposedly made livestock feed -- but which Iraq was later forced to admit it had built for producing biological weapons. For nearly five years after the war, Iraq denied that it had produced VX nerve agent (the most advanced, deadly and long-lasting chemical weapon in the world) or placed it in weapons. Evidence to the contrary forced Iraq to reveal the existence of a VX program. This spring, a panel of international experts confirmed the findings of an American laboratory that VX was present on the remnants of Iraqi missile warheads. Just this summer, the weapons inspectors discovered an Iraqi Air Force document that shows that Iraq consumed far fewer chemical munitions in the Iran-Iraq war than it had disclosed to UNSCOM (the U.N. Special Commission). Those munitions remain unaccounted for. Without UNSCOM's unrelenting pressure and insistence on proof rather than posturing, Iraq would have continued to enlarge, rather than reduce, its deadly arsenal of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. People around the world can be thankful for our vigilance and the weapons inspectors' determination -- even if Mr. Novak is not. JAMES RUBIN Washington The writer is assistant secretary of state for public affairs and State Department spokesman.  The UNSCOM website is similarly vague. See http://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/achievement.htm  Former inspector Scott Ritter's book, "Endgame," provides several cases where components and production tools were uncovered by UNSCOM (in 1996, for example, at the farm in Auja). However, such material is probably best described as "seed stock" (rather than weaponry) as Ritter himself notes in the following conversation.  The following is an excerpt of a conversation with Scott Ritter (see http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss/1999/405.html): "There is no doubt that they're hiding stuff from the weapons inspectors. What they're hiding are drawings, blueprints, some components, some material. I call it seed stock. It's the stuff you could put on the back of the truck, move it out to the farm, and then at some point, you can plant it and use it as a base to reconstitute weapons. Even in ballistic missiles, you have components that can be used to build the missile at a later date, but by themselves they do not constitute an operational ballistic missile. By themselves, the biological capability and chemical capability are not chemical weapons or biological weapons programs. When you ask the question, "Does Iraq possess militarily viable biological or chemical weapons?" the answer is "NO!" It is a resounding "NO". Can Iraq produce today chemical weapons on a meaningful scale? No! Can Iraq produce biological weapons on a meaningful scale? No! Ballistic missiles? No! It is "no" across the board. So from a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses no meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability. The danger is in pursuing this quantitative disarmament effort. We are pushing Iraq towards having no alternative but the reconstitution of its weapons program. Why? One, Iraq is faced with the most powerful enemy in the world -- the United States. They'll never be able to match us conventionally. Never. The only way they'll be able to leverage whatever power they have, regionally, is through weapons of mass destruction. Two, while we're on our single minded pursuit of disarming Iraq, we're ignoring the fact that Iran, their neighbor, is in the process of building huge chemical and biological weapons capabilities, including long-range ballistic missile capabilities, and nuclear weapons capabilities. Everything that we are seeking to rid Iraq of, Iran has, Israel has. Iraq is surrounded by people who possess these weapons or are moving toward the possibility of possessing these weapons, and I believe that when you talk about disarming Iraq you have to bring the discussion into a regional context. But that regional context is missing from everything we're doing vis-à-vis Iraq."  "Proliferation: Threat and Response" -- ------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Please do not sent emails with attached files to the list *** Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html ***