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[casi] "I know where the weapons are, Mr. Blix"


Memo to: Mr. Hans Blix
         UNMOVIC Inspection Team, Iraq

I know where the weapons are, Mr. Blix, and I know who's protecting them.

Point your convoy of white Nissan four-wheelers due north, toward Eastern Europe
and the old Soviet empire.  Here, the threat is more immediate and consequential
than anything known of Iraq.

Looking for chemical weapons, Mr. Blix?  Visit Shchuch'ye, a Russian stockpile
of 2-million munitions filled with nerve gases like sarin and VX.  Each munition
can kill more than 80,000 people, and is easily transported.  The stockpile
sits, as USA Today notes, in an impoverished region near the Kazakhstan border
and Asian havens for Al Qaida.

Russia is eager to destroy these weapons, and actually wants our help.  (You’ll
find this a pleasant change, Mr. Blix.)

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) has made deactivation of Shchuch'ye his top
priority.  However, behind closed committee doors, Congressional conservatives
have repeatedly hindered U.S. funding.  As the Los Angeles Times reported on
Monday, a frustrated Lugar finally broke protocol and named names: Rep. Duncan
Hunter (R-CA) and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA).  (To the Times, Weldon denied
blocking the proposal; Hunter didn't return phone calls.)

The defense industry, which doesn't benefit from threat reduction, was the
primary contributor to Hunter's campaign ($191,473 in 2000, according to the
Center for Responsive Politics).  This isn't the first time an official favored
contributors over common citizens, but rarely has national security been treated
so cavalierly.

Looking for nuclear weapons, Mr. Blix?  You can cross Yugoslavia’s Vinca
research reactor off your list.

On Aug. 22, a multinational team removed 106-pounds of bomb-grade uranium from
Vinca (enough for two nuclear weapons). Wary of hijackers, decoy trucks moved in
a convoy while 1,200 police and rooftop snipers guarded the removal route.

Once again, Congress can't take credit.  Instead, CNN-founder Ted Turner's
$5-million made the raid possible, part of a larger $250-million donation Turner
made when threat-reduction funding languished.  Turner's involvement was
necessary because Congressional conservatives restricted spending of such funds
outside Russia.

The State Department's website thanks Ted Turner for his "essential" role, as
should we all.   The raffish billionaire has done more to improve national
security than all the hawks in Washington.

But let’s not be overly optimistic.  Russia's tactical weapons remain
vulnerable, its scientists remain impoverished, and it has 50 tons of excess
plutonium.  The risks are enormous, as Al-Qaida, Chechen rebels, even Japan's
Aum Shinrikyo cult have sought Soviet nuclear material.

Happy hunting, Mr. Blix.

On the bio-weapons front, Russia still refuses to grant access to four closed
military institutes.   Further, its impoverished military biologists remain at
risk of employment by parties antagonistic to the U.S.

There's something so repugnant about bio-weapons research that most governments
fear its revelation.  Bio-research remains the central mystery of Iraq's weapons
program and, to a lesser degree, our own. Mr. Blix, you may recall that the
"person of interest" in our own anthrax investigation was a U.S. bio-weapons
scientist slotted for a role in UNMOVIC.  Iraqis will surely relish the irony.

On a more personal note, Mr. Blix, I may fly south over the holidays.  Frankly,
the recent shoulder-launched missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet has me
spooked.  I understand there are thousands of these surface-to-air missiles
around the world, many of Russian manufacture.

While in Russia, if you stumble across one of these devices, please take it off
the market on my behalf.

I've enclosed $20 toward your efforts, Mr. Blix.  I sincerely wish it were more,
but the projected costs of the Iraq war and the wobbly economy have left my
finances a bit tight.  Meanwhile, appeals to Washington (and to common sense)
have gone unanswered.

((From the Minneapolis StarTribune, 12/14/2002; circulation ~400,000,
readership, >1,000,000))

Fellow Listers,

As a cause for war, "Saddam's WMD" undoubtedly tests well in U.S. focus groups.
However, I've always thought this argument was vulnerable because of the many
bone-chilling cases where the U.S. ignores far worse threats.  In fact, U.S.
threat reduction efforts have been hindered by the very same conservatives eager
to undertake the moral and strategic risks of war with Iraq.

Perhaps that's why Richard Perle recently mused to Glen Rangwala (11/13) that
the hawk's focus on Iraq's WMD was a 'mistake' ...

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA


[Shchuch'ye site, weapons lethality] -
USA Today, Page A1, 10/01/2002
"Plan to destroy Russian weapons nears collapse"
By Peter Eisler

[LA Times report naming Rep. Hunter]
Trove of Russian Arms at Risk
Stockpiles of outdated nuclear and chemical weapons may be within reach of
terrorists. The U.S. effort to help destroy them is bogged down in Congress.
By Sonni Efron
December 2 2002

... Follow-up editorial:

[Senator Lugar's top priorities, list of closed Russian bio facilities]

[Hunter campaign contributions]

[Vinca reactor raid, 106 pounds of highly enriched uranium]
- See the State Department statement and accompanying fact sheet, "Project
Vinca: Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Belgrade Reactor in a Multinational
Public - Private Project", released August 23, 2002
See also

[Shoulder-launched missile risk]
Frankly, I questioned's judgement in publishing their recent warning
(which preceded the Kenya attack).  Post-Kenya, the story has been given 1A
coverage in the flyer's bible, USA Today, and treatment here seems innocuous by

["person of interest", UNMOVIC] See ... The relevant
paragraph: "For example, Steven Hatfill, the former government scientist under
scrutiny in the anthrax-by-mail murder investigation, is a certified and trained
U.N. weapons inspector. Hatfill, a virologist and medical doctor, successfully
completed several U.N. weapons-inspection courses, the most recent last

See also this earlier CASI post,

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