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[casi] Scott Ritter Aug 25, NYTimes



August 25, 2003
NY TIMES OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
A Weapons Cache We'll Never See
By SCOTT RITTER


ELMAR, N.Y.  Some 1,500 American investigators are scouring the Iraqi
countryside for evidence of weapons of mass destruction that has so far
eluded them. Known as the Iraq Survey Group and operating under the
supervision of a former United Nations weapons inspector, David Kay, they
are searching mostly for documents that will help them assemble a clear, if
somewhat circumstantial, case that Iraq had or intended to have programs to
produce prohibited weapons.

It is a daunting task. And according to many Iraqi scientists and officials
I have spoken to, it is not being done very well.

A logical starting place for such a mission is in the Jadariya district of
downtown Baghdad, adjacent to the campus of Baghdad University: the complex
that housed the Iraqi National Monitoring Directorate. The directorate was
the government agency responsible for coordinating all aspects of the United
Nations inspection teams' missions. It was also supposed to monitor Iraq's
industrial infrastructure and ensure compliance with the Security Council
resolutions regarding disarmament, verification and export-import controls.

As such, the directorate was the repository for every Iraqi government
record relating to its weapons programs, as well as to the activities at
dozens of industrial sites in Iraq that were "dual-use"  used to
manufacture permitted items but capable of being modified to manufacture
proscribed material.

For 12 years the Iraqis collected and collated this data. If we inspectors
had a question about a contract signed between country A and Iraqi factory
B, the directorate could produce it at short notice. The 12,500 page "full,
final and complete declaration" provided by Iraq to the United Nations in
the fall of 2002 was compiled using this archive. And the directorate's
holdings went well beyond paperwork: every interview conducted by the United
Nations inspectors with Iraqi scientists throughout the 1990's was
videotaped and available for review.

Of course, all this material was put together by officials and scientists
who were obedient, either out of loyalty or fear, to the former regime, and
it was done in a way intended to prove that Iraq was complying with the
United Nations resolutions (something that has not been proved false in the
five months since the American-led invasion). Still, even if one was to
discount the entire archive as simply a collection of Iraqi falsifications,
it would still be a sound foundation on which the Iraq Survey Group could
have started investigations. After all, some of my most fruitful efforts as
a United Nations inspector were initiated using false claims by the Iraqi
government as the starting point.

And it seems that after the coalition troops moved into Baghdad, the records
were all there for the taking. According to several senior directorate
officials I have spoken to since the war  one a brigadier general who had
been a high-ranking administrator at the complex  the entire archive had
been consolidated into metal containers before the war and stored at the
directorate's Jadariyah headquarters for protection.

Yet these eyewitnesses have provided me with a troubling tale. On April 8,
they say, the buildings were occupied by soldiers from the Army's Third
Infantry Division. For two weeks, the Iraqi scientists and administrators
showed up for work but, according to several I have spoken to, no one from
the coalition interviewed them or tried to take control of the archive.

Rather, these staff members have told me, after occupying the facility for
two weeks, the American soldiers simply withdrew. Soon after, looters
entered the facility and ransacked it. Overnight, every computer was stolen,
disks and video records were destroyed, and the carefully organized
documents were ripped from their binders and either burned or scattered
about. According to the former brigadier general, who went back to the
building after the mob had gone, some Iraqi scientists did their best to
recover and reconstitute what they could, but for the vast majority of the
archive the damage was irreversible.

Obviously, I am relying on the word of former directorate officials, but
these are people I knew well in my days as an inspector, and none would seem
to have anything to gain by lying today. In any case, the looting of the
building, if not the previous presence of American troops, has been well
documented by Western news reports.

Why was this allowed to happen? I am as puzzled as the Iraqis. Given the
high priority the Bush administration placed on discovering evidence of
weapons of mass destruction, it seems only logical that seizing the
directorate archive would have been a top priority for the coalition
forces  at least as important as the Iraqi Oil Ministry or the National
Museum. And it seems highly unlikely that coalition leaders didn't know what
the archive contained. I was one of many international inspectors who led
investigations of the facility  and the data we produced was used by the
American government as part of its case that Saddam Hussein was hiding
prohibited programs.

Today, with the tremendous controversy over the administration's pre-war
assertions, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the archive that
produced Iraq's 12,500 pages of claims  none of which have yet been shown
to be false  that comprise the most detailed record of Iraq's weapons
programs.

Next month the Iraq Survey Group will give a formal briefing to American and
British officials on the status of its investigations. President Bush has
already hinted that the group will make a case that it has found evidence of
prohibited weapons programs and of efforts to hide them from international
inspectors. Such a case may have merit, but without being able to compare
and contrast it to the Iraqi version of events, I'm not sure how convincing
it will be to the American public, or to the rest of the world.

http://tinyurl.com/l2yv   NYTimes

Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq and author
of "Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of
America."




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