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[casi] Of Talmuds and Tuwaitha



So they could'nt save the Museums, or the National Library, can't find
WMD's, can't stop lootings of nuclear sites (can't speak arabic) but they
send a crack team to a bombed, flooded building to search for an ancient
copy of the Talmud. A Crusade? A modern day fall of Babylon by the Christian
Zionist messianic fundamentalists? Suely not.

Oh and talking of WMD's - why did they bomb the Ministry of Defence? Surely
that's where you'd expect to find all the vital files on their development.
No chance it could be to cover up the fact that there weren't any? Perish
the thought. Sometimes I really don't know what happens to my head.

Oh and the new Revolutionary Command Council is disappearing people, just
like the old one - and censoring television or using it as propoganda, just
like the old one. No change there then - except in oil ownership. best, f.

Published on Friday, May 9, 2003 by The Nation (taken from
www.commondreams.org with thanks.)

Bush's WMD Search: No Full Speed Ahead
by David Corn

Why has it taken so long for the Pentagon and the Bush administration to
seriously search for weapons of mass destruction?
At a Pentagon press conference yesterday, Stephen Cambone, under secretary
of defense for intelligence, noted that prior to the war the Pentagon had
compiled a list of about 600 suspected WMD sites. "As it stands now, we have
been to about 70 sites that we were looking to cover," he said, adding that
US military teams had also visited another 40 that were not on the original
list.
This hardly seems like an anti-WMD blitzkrieg. It's been nearly a month
since Baghdad fell, and most potential WMD sites have not been visited.
Moreover, Cambone reported that the Pentagon was still at work assembling
what it is calling the Iraq Survey Group, which will be sent to Iraq to
search for individuals, records and materials related to WMD. This unit will
be composed of 1300 experts and 800 support staff. But the hunt for WMD will
only be one of its tasks. Its mission will also include uncovering
information related to Saddam Hussein's regime, his intelligence services,
terrorist outfits that might have had a presence in Iraq, any connections
between the regime and terrorist organizations, war crimes and POWs. Cambone
emphasized that the Iraq Survey Group's WMD responsibilities will be "only a
part" of this "very large undertaking." And this unit will not begin to
arrive in Iraq until the end of May.
Before the war, President Bush and his lieutenants repeatedly said that the
United States had absolutely no choice but to move quickly against Iraq to
prevent Saddam Hussein from passing WMD to anti-American terrorist groups
like al Qaeda. But the Pentagon has not been acting as if it took the threat
of WMD transfers seriously. If there were WMD present in Iraq and there were
terrorists in Iraq shopping for WMD and Saddam Hussein was an al Qaeda
"ally" (as Bush said during his speech on the USS Lincoln), then it would
seem that the White House and the Pentagon should have been damn scared
that, as a result of the war, these terrorists would have the chance to grab
WMD-related material and skedaddle. Certainly, it would have been reasonable
to assume that if Saddam Hussein believed his final hour was approaching he
would be more likely to greenlight a hand-off of WMD to al Qaeda. Yet the
Bush White House and the Pentagon seem not to have planned for such
contingencies. They have been geared more toward finding evidence of WMD
(which would help Bush justify the war) rather than thwarting the threat
supposedly posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Why was the Iraq Survey Team not assembled by the start of the war and ready
to rush in as soon as possible in an attempt to locate and secure these
items that menaced the United States? The war, after all, came as no
surprise. And the news from Iraq has not been encouraging. Looters cleaned
out Iraq's nuclear facilities long before US investigators reached them.
Were they only scavengers who unknowingly grabbed radioactive material
posing health and environmental dangers? Or were some terrorists looking for
dirty-bomb material? In either event a fair question, for Bush, Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other administration and Pentagon officials is,
why didn't you try to secure these sites immediately? On May 4, Barton
Gellman in The Washington Post reported that a specially-trained Defense
Department team was not dispatched to the Baghdad Nuclear Research facility
until May 3, after a month of "official indecision." The unit found the
site--which was the home to the remains of the nuclear reactor bombed by
Israel in 1981 and which stored radioactive waste that would be quite
attractive to a dirty-bombmaker--ransacked. The survey conducted by the
team, Gellman reported, "appeared to offer fresh evidence that the war has
dispersed the country's most dangerous technologies beyond anyone's
knowledge or control." Sometime in mid-April, US Central Command had sent a
detachment to guard the gate to the facility. But for two weeks--until the
special team arrived--this security detail allowed Iraqis who claimed to be
employees of the research center to come and go. The detachment had no
Arabic speaker and could not question those entering and leaving. Nor was it
able to handle the looters, who some days numbered in the hundreds. A mile
away, the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, where UN inspectors in years
past had found partially-enriched uranium, was also looted.
There have been other signs that the Pentagon's anti-WMD effort has been
less than intense. In April, two of the four mobile exploitation teams
(known as METs), equipped and trained to assess suspected WMD sites, were
reassigned to investigate war crimes. And on May 6, one of the METs that had
been searching for WMD spent the day in the bombed-out and flooded secret
police headquarters in Baghdad looking for one of the oldest copies of the
Talmud in existence. Finding and preserving antiquities is all well and
good, but what about those chemical and biological weapons that Bush claimed
could be turned over to terrorists at any given moment? Should any of the
METs have been diverted from that mission, while at least 500 of the
suspected sites were still unexamined?
As this MET searched for the seventh-century Jewish text (which it never
found), it was also looking for records related to weapons of mass
destruction. And it did, according to The New York Times, uncover one such
document: a 2001 memo from an Iraqi intelligence officer reporting an offer
to sell Iraq uranium and other nuclear material. But the memo said the bid
was declined because of the "sanctions situation." Was this evidence that
Iraq actually had been to some extent minding the UN sanctions? Who knows
for sure?
The discovery of what the Pentagon says might be a bioweapons lab has drawn
far more attention. The administration, after weeks, may have finally found
one piece of evidence that backs up the UN presentation made by Secretary of
State Colin Powell, in which he declared that Iraq--no doubt--had WMD. But
even if more vestiges of WMD are unearthed, that will not excuse or justify
the irresponsible delays in the WMD search-and-secure operations.
Bush has not been forced to explain the slow pace of the WMD search or the
lack of prewar planning on this crucial front. Fortunately for him, the
Democrats have spent more time howling about his tailhook-enabled photo-op
speech on an aircraft carrier (which has caused the news channels to show
the Top Gun-ish footage over and over). But at the May 7 White House
briefing, press secretary Ari Fleischer was pressed on whether the United
States failed to act to prevent weapons of mass destruction (if they
existed) from being dispersed. The exchange was illuminating.
Question: Ari, everybody's getting into this trap a little bit about whether
WMD will be found, which may not be the issue, because, A, you may not find
them, they may have been destroyed, whereas the president said they may have
been dispersed, which raises the question that they could have somehow been
spirited out of the country by terrorist groups and the like. What
information do you have about that eventuality happening? I mean, isn't it
presumptuous to presume that the American people are safer when you can't
account for whether weapons have been taken out of the country or weapons
materials have been taken out of the country?
Fleischer: Well, I think the real threat here came from a nation-state
headed by Saddam Hussein and his henchmen who showed they were willing to
use weapons of mass destruction before....That's the basis for saying that
people are safer. If you're asking the question, on what basis does the
president conclude people are safer, that's the answer.
Question: I thought the concern was [weapons of mass destruction would] fall
into the hands of Al Qaeda. Wasn't that the rationale?
Fleischer: Well, I'm continuing. The president said that the removal of the
regime has diminished the threat and increased our security, and I think
that's unquestionable. It was, after all, the regime that used weapons of
mass destruction in attacks previously. Of course we always have concerns
about any place that has weapons of mass destruction passing them along. But
given the routing of the Iraqi regime, it certainly makes that much harder
to do....
Question: I know that, but you're making these pronouncements without
answering the direct question, which is, what does this administration know
about not only what has been found -- you're still checking -- but what
weapons materials or actual weapons may have been taken out of the country?
Fleischer: Well, we don't have anything concrete to report on that.
Precisely. And the White House has not had much to report on its efforts to
prevent WMD-related material from being given to or snatched by terrorists.
The risk identified by the White House before the war was not, as Fleischer
suggested, that Saddam Hussein would use WMD against the United States, but
that he would slip them to terrorists who would do so. Now Fleischer is
saying the danger to the United States is less because the fellows who would
arrange a WMD hand-off are out of commission. But can he claim that such
transfers have not occurred during or after the war? He definitely could not
honestly state that the US military has acted assiduously to prevent this
sort of nightmare scenario. In fact, the destruction of the
command-and-control structure for whatever WMD material might have been in
Iraq only increased the likelihood that this dangerous stuff could end up in
the mitts of evildoers.
On April 10, Fleischer remarked, "As I said earlier, we have high confidence
that they have weapons of mass destruction. This is what this war was about
and is about." Yet the Bush administration woefully under-planned. If only
the White House had paid as much attention to the WMD search as it does to
photo-ops. Then perhaps the American people would actually have reason to
feel safer.
Copyright  2003 The Nation
###


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