May 22, 2004 | The New York Post

Blix the Blind: Book Review of Hans Blix’s Disarming Iraq

Authored by Andrew Apostolou

Speaking to the U.N. Security Council on Jan. 27, 2003, Hans Blix, the U.N.'s chief arms inspector, criticized Saddam Hussein's regime for cooperating on the “process” of arms inspections, but not on the “substance.”

In a statement that would confirm the case for war against Iraq, Blix declared that: “Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance – not even today – of the disarmament, which was demanded of it.”

The same charges can now be leveled at Blix. Despite all the evidence, Blix is unable to accept, even today, that Iraq was consistently in gross violation of its U.N. obligations. Blix's memoir is largely process with very little substance. Iraq defied the United Nations for 12 years because it never intended to “unconditionally” give up its weapons of mass destruction and WMD programs.

Blix, who writes with the charm of an accountant and the sincerity of a lawyer, loves irrelevant detail. There are detailed accounts of the diplomatic to-and-fro. Blix remarks upon the size of offices. He is “horrified” by the small size of the arms inspectors' New York offices. Blix notices that the office of the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. is “much bigger than mine.” Along with a mild case of office envy, Blix is sensitive to the temperature in aircraft. He also remarks upon an interesting provision of the Antarctic Treaty of 1959.

What Blix cannot see, however, is what is right in front of him. It never occurs to him to wonder why the United Nations imposed such a stringent regime of sanctions, inspections and disarmament upon Iraq, given that other countries also possess prohibited weapons. The answer is obvious, that Iraq had repeatedly used chemical weapons for internal repression and external aggression, to horrendous effect.
Blix only mentions the victims of Saddam's WMD, the thousands of Iraqi Kurdish civilians and Iranian soldiers, at the end of his memoir in what seems to be an afterthought. Revealingly, he dedicates the book to his U.N. staff, international civil servants paid for by Iraqi oil money from the corrupt U.N. Oil-for-Food program, bureaucrats oppressed with small offices.

Similarly, Blix reveals that the Russian government demanded payment to provide a spy plane that would assist the inspectors, even though France and the United States deployed similar aircraft for free. Others might comment on the mercenary attitude of the Russian government, but not Blix.

Blix admits that, along with Egyptian, French and German intelligence, he believed Iraq did have banned weapons and prohibited programs: “gut feelings, which I kept to myself.” He concedes that Iraq would never have readmitted the U.N. inspectors had it not been for U.S. and U.K. military pressure. He recounts dogged Iraqi resistance to allowing inspectors to return when there was no military threat.

While the conclusion should be that Iraq most certainly had something to hide, Blix believes that Saddam was innocent. Blix argues that Iraq had unilaterally destroyed its WMD in 1991: “The U.N. had succeeded in disarming Iraq without knowing it.” The years of sanctions and conflict were, Blix argues, possibly due to U.S. pressure, perhaps Saddam's pride or his misguided desire to make his enemies think he still had WMD.

Gullible readers may agree that Saddam was telling the truth, but thanks to Bob Woodward's latest book, “Plan of Attack,” they cannot say the same about Hans Blix. According to Woodward: “The intelligence indicated that Blix was not reporting everything and not doing all the things he maintained he was doing. Some of the principals maintained that Blix was a liar.” The question now is: What did Hans Blix have to hide?

Andrew Apostolou is director of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.