October 7, 2004 | Broadcast

The Flipside

Andrew, welcome to THE FLIPSIDE. Great to have you today.


HAYS: as I look at the position that the foundation has presented, it seems to me that you say, fine. The nuclear capability was gone, maybe the weapons, the biological weapons shut down. But your focus is to say that you are focused on his intent. You are saying that Saddam had the money, and the means, and the desire to restart his program as soon as possible, is that correct?

APOSTOLOU: Well, that’s absolutely right. Saddam Hussein had a very sophisticated understanding of weapons of mass destruction. Better I’m sorry to say, than most politicians in both Britain and the U.S. He understood what matters is having the know-how, the capability in terms of infrastructure, and the technology. Stocks can be recreated anytime you need them. It’s having the brains, ultimately. Particularly on the nuclear side that counts.

Charlie’s Duelfer’s report is very interesting on that. And we’ve heard also from Maqti (ph) Ubaydi (ph), the chief Iraqi nuclear weapons scientist. Saddam could have restarted his nuclear program at the snap of his fingers, according to Ubaydi. Duelfer’s very interesting on the fact that the biological weapons program could have restarted within a matter of months. They could have been producing chemical weapons, such as mustard gas within a matter of months.

They could have beam producing nerve agents in a couple of years. Now that’s not new information. We’ve known that for about a year. So what matter is, having the ability to do it. Not having the stocks doesn’t really matter. I think if you look at what happened with biological weapons, where Saddam destroyed stocks the from ’91 to ’92, but kept the program going covertly until ’95 when it was discovered. That really is a clue as to what was going on here.

MORRIS: Andrew, help me out with this, because as we look at this report, and you have a very different opinion than Mr. Duelfer. But the average person is sitting at home saying, OK Andrew, would you tell me now, what am I supposed to think about this? What’s to be the next thing? We hear one says it’s this way, another says it’s that way. Could you help us get some consensus of now what our reaction should be?

APOSTOLOU: Look. I quite understand this can seem very confusing. It does seem confusing to me very often, because it’s a huge report. It’s 1,200 pages long. What I would say is this. We know now that the sanctions weren’t working. Saddam had corrupted the sanctions. He’d subverted the oil for food program. He turned it into a form of finance, and a form of lobbying. We also know the head of the Oil-For-Food Program, Benon Sevan, was on the take.

So everything we try to do to peacefully address this problem. We tried to avoid using force for 12 years. Everything we tried to do failed, because Saddam was clever, and he undermined it. And I think that’s the central message of Charles Duelfer’s report. He had undermined all of the mechanisms that we have put in place to keep him contained.

MORRIS: But Andrew, respectfully I say, but — and maybe your therefore is where we are getting to — I’m just trying to figure out there is so much history that we’ve been talking about or hearing about.

APOSTOLOU: Absolutely.

MORRIS: Presidential debates, or whatever. I just would like you to be able to help us better understand going forward, what’s this mean to us? What are we supposed to do now?

APOSTOLOU: What this means is this. That we will never really know the extent of the threat from a shadowy dictatorship like Iraq, or indeed North Korea, or indeed Iran, unless we’re actually in there. So we’d better find some better intelligence and better mechanisms so that we can understand. We couldn’t have known any of this without invading Iraq. That’s the tragedy. None of this could have happened without invading Iraq.

It’s rather like September 11th. You couldn’t have known the extent of the jihad threat to this country without that happening. Our intelligence will never be perfect. But threat was there. If you look at what the House of Representatives and the Senate voted in 2002, and what the British Parliament voted in 2003, they said it’s about noncompliance. Comply with the resolutions is critical. Saddam had every chance to tell us the truth. He chose not to.

And the reason why he chose not to is why Charlie Duelfer has told us yesterday. He was lying because he was going to rearm, given the first opportunity. We were facing a threat.

RAMBERG: You know, Andrew, I think a lot of people at home are probably looking at this report and saying, we went to war. We were told there were weapons of mass destruction there right now. That’s what we’re scared of. That’s why we will support the president, our government in going to war right now.

And even when Senator McCain was just questioning in the piece we just saw of Mr. Duelfer, he said is there any doubt that if Saddam Hussein was in power, and there were no restrictions, or sanctions placed on him, that he would be attempting to build weapons of mass destruction? But you were saying, even with restrictions, and even with sanctions, he still would be attempting to build them in.

APOSTOLOU: Yes. What’s interesting in the report is the way in which Charles Duelfer details Iraqi subversion of the U.N. sanctions and inspections. What I find fascinating is the fact that in 2000, and 2001, the Iraqis were so confident; they were openly boasting that they had defeated sanctions. Indeed in August of 2001, just weeks before September 11th, Magi (ph) Sabri (ph), the foreign minister was boasting on al Jazeera that they had defeated the sanctions.

I think also very interesting, is if you compare what we know about their intentions on the nuclear program, the fact that they kept all of the scientists in Iraq, wouldn’t let them change jobs, kept the intellectual capital needed to make a bomb and to have a nuclear program, and compare that with what Mohammed ElBaradei, chief U.N. nuclear inspector said to the security council on January 27, 2003.

When he said, it will just be a couple of months before I can have Iraq free of nuclear programs. You realize, the U.N. was very, very madly wrong. Very off target.

HAYS: Andrew Apostolou, I’m afraid we have to leave it there. I think it still leaves open the question of course of the timing, the rush to war. The question we raised at top of the show, if it had to be done then. But I think we are going to have to leave that question for another day. We thank you for joining us today.

APOSTOLOU: Pleasure to be back, thank you.

HAYS: Andrew Apostolou, from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.