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Weapons of mass corruption

Staff Reports

In this article I look at three dangerous misconceptions. 1. Iraq never had any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). 2. A more patient, diplomatic approach to our traditional allies, such as France, would have enabled a larger coalition of countries to resolve the threat to world peace from Iraq without a war. 3. Sanctions had worked and thus Saddam could have been effectively “contained” without resort to force.After the First Gulf War in 1991, Iraq agreed to disclose its stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and to eliminate these under UN supervision. But, as President Clinton explained, “Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession . When UN inspectors would uncover evidence that gave the lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months, and it submitted six different biological warfare declarations.”As the Baghdad government was frustrating UN inspection attempts to monitor Iraqi compliance, UN sanctions were kept in place. After much prodding, Iraq admitted to having produced: 8,500 liters of anthrax; 107,500 casings for chemical weapons; 157 bombs filled with germ agents; and 25 missile warheads containing germ agents (anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum). Illegal chemical and biological weapons were used against Iran and against Iraq’s Kurds.Under UN supervision, thousands of chemical weapons were found and destroyed, including over 38,000 chemical munitions, but there has never been a full and credible accounting of all production, use and destruction. At first Iraq successfully hid its biological weapons program and it took the inspectors until 1996 to find and destroy the main biological weapons complex at Al Hakam. Iraq has still failed to account adequately for stocks of anthrax, aflatoxin and nerve gases that it admitted producing. Saddam claimed that these stocks were destroyed back in 1991, but as late as 2003 UN Inspector Hans Blix stated that he could not rule out that these stocks had been hidden. In 2003, UN inspectors found and destroyed longer range missiles that were produced in breach of UN Security Council resolutions.2) Should we have given diplomacy more of a chance?John Kerry has said: “The greatest position of strength is by exercising the best judgment in the pursuit of diplomacy, not in some trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribedbut in a genuine coalition.”The only problem is that France, the ally in the best position to help militarily, would never have changed its opposition to any use of force. The real “coalition of the bribed” is the countries and individuals that conspired with Saddam to evade UN-imposed sanctions and that benefited from the corruption of the UN’s Oil for Food Program. It is estimated that Saddam was able to earn some $11 billion dollars from illegal oil exports and kickbacks under the Oil for Food Program. Some of this money was spent on biological weapons laboratories, on keeping WMD experts on the payroll, and on prohibited long range missile development. To enhance his technical knowledge base, Saddam contacted WMD scientists in Russia, Belarus, Bulgaria and elsewhere. He increased the funds for his nuclear scientists; and his military-industrial-complex’s budget grew 40-fold between 1996 and 2002. He increased the number of technical research projects from 40 to 3,200.French, Russian and Chinese businesses made billions of dollars trading with Iraq, including sales of prohibited items; and there are credible allegations that leading French and Russian politicians were bribed with vouchers to buy oil below market price.Saddam’s epic bribery scheme was aimed primarily at three of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to get them to lift the sanctions. And the Iraq Survey Group report by Charles Duelfer states that a French politician gave written assurance to Saddam that France would use its Security Council veto against any US proposal to attack. As Duelfer testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee, “It’s pretty clear that the Iraqi strategy and tactics of dividing the Security Council were having a fair amount of successIraq was within striking distance of a de facto end to the sanctions regime.”The Duelfer report also concluded that Saddam had maintained much of his capacity to develop chemical and biological weapons in “dual-use facilities” (plants capable of producing weapons, but at present making pharmaceuticals or chemicals). These could be quickly converted to producing WMD.If the UN inspectors had remained in Iraq throughout 2003 and found no further hidden WMD, it is highly probable that the US and UK would by now have been forced to agree to lifting the sanctions. This would have left a triumphant, megalomaniac and sadistic dictator free to resume his production of WMD, his overt support of terrorists, the suppression of Iraq’s minorities, and to continue to pose a real threat to world peace.Peter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears bi-weekly in the Vail Trail. VTPeter Leslie is a former CFO of the United Nations Development Program, now living in Vail. His comments on UN issues are on the web site of the Foreign Policy Association and his column appears regularly in the Vail Trail.


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