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Sign the Pledge of Resistance against an attack on Iraq
 
 

21 January 2003

EMPTY WARHEADS, EMPTY LIES
US Scaremongers, and Undermines Inspectors
WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 7a


WARHEAD JUBILATION IN THE WHITE HOUSE

"In the White House there was a sense of near-jubilation as aides realised immediately that the empty warheads, plus another one that the inspectors said required further evaluation, represented the political equivalent of manna from heaven... it suddenly seemed that the crucial evidence might have arrived at the perfect moment." (Telegraph, 17 Jan., p. 8)


NO JUSTIFICATION FOR WAR


Even if a very large number of loaded chemical warheads had been found (rather than a very small number of empty warheads), this would not justify military action. British Vice- Admiral Sir James Jungius KBE observed in a letter to The Times before the warheads were discovered (1 Jan., p. 25): "Even if the weapons do exist, where is the evidence of intent to use them? War is too important and unpleasant a business to be undertaken on the basis of a hunch, however good that hunch may be."

As former Tory Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg explained to BBC Radio (again, before the warheads were discovered), "The real question is not whether he's got weapons of mass destruction, but rather whether - if he has got those weapons - he is a grave and imminent threat to the rest of us. There are lots of other countries in the world that do have weapons of mass destruction, or are likely to acquire them, but we don't necessarily conclude that they are a grave and imminent threat sufficient to justify war."

"So even if he had these things, unless he's a grave and imminent threat there isn't a moral basis for war, because the doctrine of self-defence isn't properly invoked." (The World This Weekend, 12 Jan.)


WARHEADS DISCOVERED

On 16 Jan. 2003, UN weapons inspectors made their first discovery of materials or equipment connected with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programmes. Inspectors from UNMOVIC (the UN Monitoring and Verification Commission) found what the UN described as 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads and one warhead that requires further evaluation at the previously-inspected Ukhaider ammunition dump, 75 miles south of Baghdad. "They were in excellent condition and were similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980s", said a UN spokesperson. (Telegraph, 17 Jan., pp. 8, 1)


NEW OR OLD WARHEADS?

The 122mm warheads seem to have been for the Egyptian Saqr-30 multi-barrelled rocket launcher (based on a Warsaw Pact system known as the Katyusha) which has range of up to 20 miles. (Telegraph, 17 Jan., p. 8) "Weapons experts said the fact that the warheads [likely to have been imported in the late 1980s] were in excellent condition in bunkers built in the late 1990s meant they were likely to have been handled recently." (Financial Times, 17 Jan., p. 1)

It is not clear, however, whether the warheads themselves were handled, or whether it was simply that the boxes which contained them were moved from one location to the other without being opened and inspected.


THE US VERSION CONTESTED BY THE EXPERTS

White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer said, "That Iraq is in possession of undeclared chemical warheads, which the United Nations says are in excellent condition, is troubling and serious. Under the UN resolution, Saddam has an obligation to disarm. It has become clear that he is not doing so." (Financial Times, 18 Jan., p. 1) This verdict contrasted strongly with the opinion of disarmament experts and the UN weapons inspectors themselves.

"Charles Heyman, the editor of Janes World Armies [a highly-respected mainstream military publication] said that given the state of the Iraqi armed forces, the official response from Baghad that the missile warheads had been forgotten was entirely credible." (Telegraph, 17 Jan., p. 8) Mr Heyman added, "It would make no sense to hide them [in an ammunition dump] where the inspectors are sure to look. For once the Iraqis are probably telling the truth." (Mirror, 18 Jan., p. 2)


WERE THE WARHEADS IN THE DECLARATION?

While White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer claimed, "The chemical warheads found by the inspectors were not on the declared list Iraq provided to the world indicating what weapons it said it possessed", Dr Blix, chief UN weapons inspector, said only "he was not sure if the items had been included in Iraq's 12,000-page weapons declaration last month." (Telegraph, 18 Jan., p. 1)


DOES IT MATTER?

How significant would such an omission be? "Matthew Meelson, a weapons expert at Harvard's International Security Programme, said that the US had in the past lost track of chemical and biological weapons from abandoned programmes and that warheads had turned up from time to time. 'If these canisters are new and show signs of recent machine-shop work, then that is one thing, but if not, its less than trivial, he said. It would be unfortunate if they go to war over bad book-keeping.'" (Guardian, 17 Jan., p. 5)


THE UN INSPECTORS' VIEW

One of Mr Blix's predecessors as chief UN weapons inspector, Rolf Ekeus, told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme that the discovery of the warheads was "militarily insignificant". (Telegraph, 18 Jan., p. 2) Dr Blix himself was equally dismissive, describing the warheads discovery as "no big deal": "This discovery is interesting and obviously the warheads have to be destroyed. But its not something thats so important because we're talking about empty warheads." (Telegraph, 18 Jan., p. 1)

Dr Blix's summary: "Some 12 empty shells have been forgotten and that, evidently, is not very good. But it is not a very big quantity. Its not a smoking gun." (Independent, 18 Jan., p.1) None of the 12 warheads had produced "any evidence" of containing traces of lethal chemicals. (Observer, 19 Jan., p. 4)

Then the Iraqis declared that they had discovered four more warheads. Blix commented: "They said it was an oversight and that they are looking for more, and have found four more, and might find more in the future. They said they were surprised themselves." (Independent, 20 Jan. p. 2) But, "Shells are not weapons of mass destruction." (Mirror, 20 Jan., p. 2)


BUSH FEARS THE ANTI-WAR MOVEMENT


Note that the US did not declare the warhead find a "material breach" of UN resolutions: "The muted response highlighted its decision to present the find as a building block in the case against Saddam Hussein, not a breakthrough. With opinion polls showing most Americans are uneasy about war, and on the eve of what is anticipated as the biggest peace march in Washington since Vietnam, President Bush is being cautious about not using the 11 warheads to overplay his hand." (Times, 18 Jan., p. 17)


THE SEIZED URANIUM ENRICHMENT DOCUMENTS


On 18 Jan., UN weapons inspectors went to the house of an Iraqi scientist, Faleh Hassan Hamza, and found a 3,000-page document describing techniques for enriching uranium with laser technology in order to produce material for nuclear weapons. While a Western 'official' said the documents were new "and relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons," (Sunday Telegraph, 19 Jan., p. 1) the head of UNMOVIC disagreed.

Dr Blix said the documents "should have been declared" (Telegraph, 20 Jan., p. 12) but stressed that "documents are not weapons of mass destruction", (Times, 20 Jan., p. 1) not even "evidence of a weapon of mass destruction" and are "all pre-1990", he said. (Guardian, 20 Jan., p. 1)


THE US TRIES TO BREAK UP UN RESOLUTION 1284

Ari Fleischer, President Bushs spokesperson, reacted to the warhead discovery by stressing that, "Under the UN resolution, Saddam has an obligation to disarm. It has become clear that he is not doing so." (Financial Times, 18 Jan., p. 1) But it is the US which is doing most to undermine UN Resolutions related to the inspection process.

According to paragraph 7 of Resolution 1284, "not later than 60 days after they have both started work in Iraq", UN weapons inspectors are supposed to draw up, for approval by the Council, "a work programme" including "the key remaining disarmament tasks to be completed by Iraq". The Resolution says, "what is required of Iraq for the implementation of each task shall be clearly defined and precise." (UNMOVIC)

Inspections re-started in Iraq on 27 Nov. 2002. The "key disarmament tasks" should be spelled out on 27 Jan. 2003.

Dr Blix reminded reporters of Resolution 1284 on 9 Jan., saying that it "foresees that we will define in due course which are the key remaining disarmament tasks and the Security Council will approve them. And then it will be for Iraq to try to satisfy those tasks. So February is not the end of time." The next quarterly report by the inspectors should be on 1 Mar. 2003. (UN, see Recent Items.)

"Bush administration officials had been arguing forcefully that a suggestion by Mr Blix that he should provide another report on March 27 was unacceptable. To the dismay of the White House, the former Swedish foreign minister described the Jan 27 report as a mere routine 'update'." (Telegraph, 17 Jan., p. 8) The US is trying to rip up an inspection timetable enshrined in a UN Resolution only three years old. We must resist this interference with the inspection process.


BOOK


War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldnt Launch Another War Against Iraq
by Milan Rai

'An excellent weapon for all those opposed to Bush's war
'. Tariq Ali
'Excellent'. Alice Mahon MP
'Required reading for anyone concerned about the risk of war'. Professor Paul Rogers, Bradford School of Peace Studies
'Timely and important'. Hilary Wainwright

£10 plus £1.80 p&p.
Please make cheques to ARROW Publications, and send with your address to 29 Gensing Rd, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex TN38 0HE.

For more analysis on the UK Government's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, view the Counter-Dossier on the Labour Against the War website.


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