WHERE ARE THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION?
Without weapons of mass destruction to present to the world, the
US and UK are missing their central justification for the loss
of life and destruction caused by the war. Reasons are being developed
to explain the absence of the weapons.
US Gen. Tommy R. Franks, commander of US/UK forces in Iraq, says
the search for the suspected weapons is "probably going to
carry us through several thousand sites" - which could take
months. "The administration is tripling the number of scientists
and engineers assigned to the operation, to about 1,500."
(New York Times, 28 April 2003)
President Bush says, "Its going to take time to find them.
But we know he had them. And whether he destroyed them, moved
them or hid them, were going to find out the truth". "It
was the first hint by Bush that US troops and others hunting for
weapons might fail to find chemical and biological arms".
(Washington Post, 25 Apr., p. A10)
The Foreign Editor of The Times remarked that "The
most ambitious [accounts] so far were put forward yesterday by
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, in a fabulously implausible
narrative which contradicted earlier statements by his
Prime Minister, his colleagues and himself." (25 Apr., p.
The central question was why weapons of mass destruction had not
been found in Iraq. This is an edited version of the interview,
taken from the Times.
Geoff Hoon: I don't think that's particularly surprising because
we've known that Saddam Hussein was making determined efforts
to hide those weapons, to scatter them around thousands of sites
which exist across a huge country in Iraq, and it will take some
time to uncover them.
John Humphrys: Here we are, a mad dictator, his regime under the
most pressing threat, he has these WMD, apparently, and yet, at
the moment of the maximum peril... he didn't prepare them for
GH: I believe the reason for that is because military action followed
fairly quickly on the end of the weapons inspections programmes,
and having hidden away those weapons, having dismantled missiles,
having scattered them to the far corners of Iraq... it then was
extremely difficult for him in time to be able to reassemble them,
not least because he was well aware that we were watching very
carefully... and that would obviously have indicated the fact
that he had such weapons and was able to use them.
JH: So in other words it proves how effective that this containment
policy had been, and suggests there was no need to go to war at
GH: It does not, because the scattering of the weapons only occurred
at a point at which the UN weapons inspections began. Up until
then the containment policy had failed to prevent Saddam Hussein's
regime from developing WMD.
Foreign Editor Bronwen Maddox was scathing: "On Hoon's account,
the regime was organised and skilful enough to dismantle, transport
and hide all these weapons beyond the detective skills of US forces,
and yet so disorganised that it could not retrieve and deploy
even one weapon against the invaders.
The weapons, if they exist, are unlikely to have been smuggled
to Syria because it would be suicide for Damascus to be caught
with them. Terrorists are unlikely to have bought the weapons,
if they exist, because the kind of chemical or biological weapons
Iraq is accused of making require complex, expensive and conspicuous
delivery systems, such as aircraft equipped with sprays or missiles.
Terrorists targeting subway trains or water supplies can make
do with something far simpler, such as ricin." (Times,
25 Feb., p. 17) The weapons should be in Iraq.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE INSPECTORS
The obvious point, not made on Radio 4's Today programme, was
made by Robin Cook. The former Foreign Secretary said Mr Hoon's
argument that Saddam had not used the weapons even in the face
of the defeat because they had been dismantled to avoid detection
by the UN was proof of the inspectors effectiveness: "Surely,
for me, that would be an excuse for maintaining the UN inspectors
as a way of keeping Saddam in his cage without the necessity for
war and the thousands of casualties that followed." (Guardian,
"The inspectors cannot in these circumstances disarm a resistant
Iraq", said Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN.
(Telegraph, 28 Feb., p. 14) US Secretary of State Colin
Powell said, "The question isn't how much longer do you need
for inspections to work. Inspections will not work." (Independent,
23 Jan., p. 1) Now the UK says inspectors did effectively
disarm Iraq. Inspections did work.
The real question before the war was not "how long will you
persist with inspections", but "how long is it before
Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are an imminent threat".
Do we have time to go down the inspections route? Dr Hans Blix,
head of the UN weapons inspectorate UNMOVIC, said that with "a
proactive Iraqi attitude", it would take only months to verify
sites and items, analyse documents, and interview relevant persons:
"It would not take years, nor weeks, but months." (Guardian,
8 Mar., p. 4) Inspections had not run out of steam.
The real question was: will Iraq be an imminent threat before
the disarmament process can be completed? No evidence was produced
in public that Iraq would develop either the capability or the
intention to use its weapons aggressively within months or even
within a year. Let us stress again that for there to be a 'threat'
there had to be both a weapons 'capability' and aggressive 'intent'.
British Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius KBE observed in a letter
to The Times (11 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."
Former Tory Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg: "The real question
is not whether hes 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, BBC Radio 4, 12 Jan.)
THE SEMI-IRRELEVANT WEAPONS
The fact is that the anti-war argument stands up even if weapons
of mass destruction are discovered in Iraq. The strength of the
anti-war case was that there was a legal and peaceful way of detecting
and disarming Iraqs suspected weapons of mass destruction - a
peaceful route which had not been exhausted. As Mr Hoon now acknowledges,
the mere presence of the inspectors in Iraq was a powerful constraint
on Iraqi behaviour and capabilities.
On the other hand, the pro-war argument does fall apart if it
can now be shown that the confident statements by Tony Blair,
Geoff Hoon, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell were
all lies and deception. We were told categorically by our leaders
that "Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological
weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his
ballistic missile programme. His military planning allows for
some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use
them." This was established beyond doubt, according to the
Prime Minister. (Tony Blair, foreward to Iraq's Weapons of
Mass Destruction dossier, 24 Sept., quoted in Times,
25 Apr., p. 17) If these claims turn out to be untrue, then the
Prime Minister either lied or he allowed himself to be deceived
with evidence that he knew could not stand up to scrutiny.
Colin Powell told the UN Security Council, among other things,
that Iraq possessed between 100 and 500 tonnes of chemical weapons
agent. "Every statement I make today is backed up by sources,
solid sources. These are not assertions. What were giving you
are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence", said
the Secretary of State. (Times, 25 Apr., p. 17) We shall
Secret US/UK intelligence about Iraq's weapons could not be revealed,
it was said, because of the risk to the lives of US/UK informants
in Iraq. Why, then, was this 'evidence' not revealed once the
regime had fallen? Because it is perilously weak.
A 'high-level UK source' says that intelligence agencies on both
sides of the Atlantic were furious that briefings they gave political
leaders were distorted in the rush to war with Iraq. A British
intelligence source said, "What we have is a few strands
of highly circumstantial evidence, and to justify an attack on
Iraq it is being presented as a cast-iron case." (Independent
on Sunday, 27 Apr., p. 1)
The dossier on Iraqs 'concealment mechanisms' was exposed by Glen
Rangwala as inept plagiarism. <http:// middleeastreference.org.uk/>
The one claim that could be checked from the first weapons dossier
fell apart: "American officials have revealed how the 'secret
documents' on Saddam Hussein's attempted purchase of uranium were
passed to the United States by MI6 and then submitted to the UN
even though they contained 'laughable and childlike errors'. The
documents, which were endorsed by Blair, the White House and Colin
Powell, the US secretary of state, bore the wrong names of ministers,
were stamped with incorrect dates and even carried the imprint
of a junta deposed a decade earlier. 'These are not the kind of
forgeries that you would expect to fool a professional intelligence
agency', said one US official." (Sunday Times, 16
Mar., p. 2) This is the solid evidence that was established beyond
THE UNNECESSARY WAR
Tony Blair told us, "our choice is clear: back down and leave
Saddam hugely strengthened; or proceed to disarm him by force."
(speech, 20 Mar.) As France pointed out at the time, and as Hoon
now begins to admit, allowing the inspectors to do their work
in peace did not 'strengthen Saddam', they contained; and they
would have disarmed, any weapons of mass destruction Iraq possessed.
The was was unnecessary, unjustified, illegal, counter-productive
and deeply immoral.
War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Why We Shouldn't Launch Another War
by Milan Rai
Published by Verson, 2002
'An excellent weapon for all those opposed to Bush's war'. Tariq
'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
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