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