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Have any weapons of mass destruction been discovered in Iraq since the Gulf War?



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[1] 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[3], 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.[4]) 

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[7] -- "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

---
[1] See the earlier CASI posting from Glen Rangwala at
http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss/1998/334.html

[2] 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).

[3] 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.

[4] The UNSCOM website is similarly vague.  See
http://www.un.org/Depts/unscom/achievement.htm

[5] 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.

[6] 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--vis Iraq."

[7] "Proliferation: Threat and Response"
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