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[casi] Where are the WMD?

Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? Andrew Gumbel, The Independent

After three weeks of war, after the capture of Baghdad and the collapse of the Iraqi government, 
Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — those weapons that President Bush, on the eve of 
hostilities, said were a direct threat to the people of the United States — have still to be 

Many influential people have begun to wonder aloud if the weapons exist at all.

The public surrender of a senior Iraqi scientist could yet backfire against the US and Britain. Lt. 
Gen. Amer Hammoudi Al-Saadi, who handed himself over to US forces on Saturday, continued to 
proclaim that Iraq no longer holds any chemical or biological weapons. He should know: The 
British-educated chemical expert headed the Iraqi delegation at weapons talks with the United 

The few “discoveries” trumpeted in the media — the odd barrel here, a few dozen shells there — have 
not been on a scale that could reasonably justify the unprovoked military invasion of a sovereign 
country, and in most cases have been proven to been no more than rumor, or propaganda, or a mixture 
of the two.

If the casus belli pleaded by George Bush and Tony Blair turns out to be entirely hollow — and it 
should be stressed that we can’t yet know that — what does it say about their motivations for going 
to war in the first place? How much deception was involved in talking up the Iraqi threat, and how 
much self-deception?

As Susan Wright, a disarmament expert at the University of Michigan, said last week: “This could be 
the first war in history that was justified largely by an illusion.” Even The Wall Street Journal, 
one of the administration’s biggest cheerleaders, has warned of the “widespread skepticism” the 
White House can expect if it does not make significant, and undisputed, discoveries of forbidden 

Before the war, American intelligence officials said that they had a list of 14,000 sites where, 
they suspected, chemical or biological agents had been harbored, as well as the delivery systems to 
deploy them. A substantial number of those sites have been inspected by the invading troops. 
Evidence to date of a “grave and gathering” threat: Precisely zero.

Much of what has been unearthed points to something we knew about all along.

In his State of the Union address in early February, President Bush was quite specific about the 
materials he believed Saddam was hiding: 25,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin 
and 500 tons of sarin, mustard and nerve gas. These days, he does not mention weapons of mass 
destruction at all, focusing instead on the liberation of the Iraqi people — as if liberation, not 
disarmament, had been the project all along.

The administration has shown its embarrassment in other ways. On day two of the war, Donald 
Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, said finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction was the 
invading force’s No. 2 priority after toppling Saddam Hussein — itself a reversal of the argument 
presented at the UN Security Council.

A week later, Victoria Clarke, the Pentagon spokeswoman, pushed the issue further down the list, 
behind capturing and evicting “terrorists sheltered in Iraq” and collecting intelligence on 
“terrorist networks”.

Now we are told that hunting for weapons is something we can expect once the fighting is over, and 
that it might go on for months before yielding significant results. “It’s hard work,” a plaintive 
Ms. Clarke said last week.

Nonsense, say the disarmament experts. “It’s clear there wasn’t much,” said Professor Wright, 
“otherwise they would have run into something by now. After all, they’ve taken Baghdad.”

Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector who spent four months badgering the United States and 
Britain in vain for reliable intelligence information about the whereabouts of lethal weapons, now 
says he believes the war was planned on entirely different criteria, well before his inspection 
teams went back into Iraq in December.

The latest theory being touted in Washington by the usual unnamed government sources is that the 
Iraqis have moved their weapons out of the country, very possibly into Syria.

This claim appears to have originated with Israeli intelligence. But the notion does provide the 
hawks in Washington with a compelling plot device not unlike the McGuffin factor in Alfred 
Hitchcock’s films — a catalyst that may or may not have significance in itself but that gets the 
suspense going and keeps the story rolling.

If the Bush administration should ever seek to turn its military wrath on Damascus, the weapons of 
mass destruction it is failing to find in Iraq might just provide the excuse once again.

Arab News Features 14 April 2003

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