October 2, 2003 | National Review Online
Fool Me Twice
By Andrew Apostolou
On the face of it, Friday morning’s crop of headlines looks pretty good for Saddam Hussein. If he could read them from his current residence, likely to be a sewer in Tikrit, he might think that he has again conned much of the American media with the same ease that he mislead Hans Blix. He would be thrilled to read that many have decided that the U.S. arms investigator, David Kay, who heads up the Iraq Survey Group, has drawn a blank in his search for Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD):
New York Times: “No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq, U.S. Inspector Tells Congress”
Washington Post: “Search in Iraq Finds No Banned Weapons”
Los Angeles Times: “Inspectors Find Aims, Not Arms”
Boston Globe: “US report finds no illicit arms”
- BBC: “US team finds no Iraq WMD”
Of course, Saddam knows better than the media — as does David Kay. Far from being a failure, Kay's interim report is an important breakthrough. Kay has validated the reason for going to war: Saddam's regime was not in compliance with its U.N. obligations.
Kay has actually done more than simply justify the war to oust Saddam by demonstrating a past history of Iraqi violations. Kay has shown that Iraq never had any intention of complying with the demands of the U.N. inspectors.
Instead of seeking to verifiably disarm, Saddam was trying to find a system to beat the system, a technique that would have allowed him to develop WMDs and deceive the world at the same time. As Kay has pointed out, Saddam operated by having “deception and denial built into each program.” Sooner or later, Saddam was going to rebuild his WMD capacity, but in a way that would be concealed and covert — allowing for sanctions to be lifted and for his regime to survive.
What the U.N. had demanded of Saddam, a man who had a record of casually using WMDs for external aggression and internal repression, was blessedly simple. He was asked in U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 in 1991 to “unconditionally accept the destruction, removal, or rendering harmless, under international supervision” of his WMD stocks and programs. That is precisely what Saddam did not do until 1998, when he obliged the U.N. inspectors to leave. His regime presented false declaration after false declaration, with each “final” Iraqi statement being even less plausible than the last. Inspectors were routinely harassed, with evidence snatched from their hands or driven out of the back of a facility while inspectors arrived at the front gate.
During the next four years, from 1998 to 2002, Saddam was able to devote his scientists' time to research rather than thwarting the inspectors. While his friends in France and Russia worked consistently to undermine the U.N. sanctions, Saddam was trying to get his hands on ballistic-missile technology from North Korea. The U.N. had imposed a 150km range on Saddam's missiles as of 1991. The Iraqi dictator, however, wanted the kit for 1,300km-range ballistic missiles and for 300km-range anti-shipping cruise missiles. According to David Kay, Iraq also had “plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km.” What if Saddam has gotten his hands on Kim Jong-Il's technology and these missiles had been built? The answer is that Saddam would have been in a position to send his thanks with express delivery to those in Ankara and Cairo who spent their time lecturing Iraqi democrats not to seek American support while putting their own hands into the American taxpayers' pocket.
While bin Laden and his friends were decrying the effect of U.N. sanctions on the Iraqi people, the Iraqi regime was putting its money into research on agents that could be used for biological warfare. Iraqis were supposedly dropping like flies — thanks, we were told, to starvation and the long-term effects of the U.S. use of depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War. Saddam, however, was more interested in Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF). His scientists also looked into ricin, a poison for which there is no known cure, and aflatoxin, which gives it victims liver cancer.
Cleverer still was the way in which Saddam sought to change his WMD-manufacturing capacity. During the 1980s, Iraq's WMD infrastructure had been vast, which in the 1990s made it hard work to conceal. Saddam wanted to move towards a system that would have allowed him to maintain the façade of obeying the U.N., and so have the sanctions lifted, while in reality being able to rapidly produce biological weapons, almost overnight.
Oddly, Saddam forgot to tell Hans Blix about all these prohibited research activities when the Mr. Magoo of U.N. inspections arrived in late 2002. Equipment and documents that should have been declared to the U.N. inspectors were concealed. What is more, showing yet again his alleged profound respect for Islam, Saddam hid some laboratory machinery in a mosque.
Saddam had clearly outsmarted Blix. But he did not fool the late Dr. David Kelly, the distinguished British arms inspector who committed suicide in July. Writing on the eve of the war, as the U.N. inspectors were about to depart, Kelly argued that: “The long-term threat, however, remains Iraq's development to military maturity of weapons of mass destruction — something that only regime change will avert.” As Kay has now demonstrated, Kelly was right. Fortunately, George Bush and Tony Blair acted before it was too late.
Andrew Apostolou is Director of Research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute created after 9/11 and focusing on terrorism.