Scott Ritter, Former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998:
Six Points for Peace
On America, Iraq, the United Nations, Weapons Inspections, and the Future of World Peace
Six Points for Peace
The Canadian Government is bravely and correctly using its influence as a member in good standing of the United Nations to try and strike a compromise in the Security Council that offers a realistic opportunity to peacefully disarm Iraq, maintains the real threat of severe consequences should Iraq fail to comply, and preserves the integrity and viability of that body. The only problem with the Canadian initiative is that it fails to take into account the unspoken truth — that the American grudge with Iraq has nothing to do with disarmament, but rather a laser-like focus on regime removal, something that is not endorsed by any Security Council resolution, or indeed the United Nations Charter.
If Canada would like to see a positive outcome in regards to its initiative for peace, it would do well to remember that the decision for war with Iraq will be made in Washington DC, not New York. As such, expanding its compromise initiative in a manner that offers President Bush a face saving means of extricating him and his administration from the political quagmire they have created might be the only way to avert war.
But there is a foundation of hope upon which to build this dream and turn it into reality, if only someone, or some nation, has the courage to see it through. This foundation rests on six points for peace, which in fact reflect six issues of concern for Iraq, the United States, and the international community — disarmament, human rights, democracy, diplomacy, economy, and peace. The main thrust behind these six issues would be to put in place actions that could be viewed as representing a fundamental change in the nature of the Iraqi Government, and as such constitute a form of regime change that could be acceptable to the White House, thereby opening a politically face saving way for war to be averted. These initiatives build upon White House comments made last year that if Iraq cooperated with inspectors and disarmed, this would in effect represent regime change, and thus meet the administration’s goals of achieving regime change in Iraq. Each of the six points is expanded on as follows:
The Iraqis have significantly improved their cooperation with the UN in accordance with Security Council resolutions, including unrestricted access to all sites and individuals requested by the inspectors. The inspectors have not found any substantive evidence of Iraq possessing proscribed weapons. While there are gaps in verification concerning certain critical elements of the Iraq declaration, this does not constitute a breach of Iraq’s obligations. If an acceptable benchmark regarding compliance can be defined, Iraq will continue to work with the UN inspectors with the goal of reaching a satisfactory conclusion to their work. It is important not simply to place a deadline, but to define the disarmament tasks that need to be accomplished. Furthermore, it is imperative that these tasks allow for the incorporation of qualitative judgments, to avoid the pitfall of trying to prove the negative in the absence of absolute proof. Finally, a finding of compliance must pave the way for the lifting of economic sanctions and the return to normalcy regarding Iraq&Mac226;s position vis-à-vis the international community.
Iraq will agree to implement domestic policies that are consistent with its obligations as a United Nations member, and in keeping with universally acceptable standards of human rights. For this purpose, Iraq will open, under the auspices of the Office of the Presidency, a special human rights office, and will invite the Secretary General to dispatch to Iraq the UN representative for human rights to begin discussions on joint work concerning monitoring and reporting on human rights issues inside Iraq. Baghdad will also agree to work with international organizations such as Amnesty International in regards to the monitoring of human rights in Iraq.
Iraq will commit to the principles of democracy and reconciliation, and will agree to begin working with outside agencies, including the United Nations, to create the conditions for a free and open election for the Iraqi Parliament in three years time. This would include authorizing the establishment of opposition political parties, including those affiliated with expatriate opposition groups. Iraq would agree to work closely with outside agencies (i.e., the United Nations, the Governments of Canada and South Africa, Nobel Prize winners, etc.) to develop programs of reconciliation so that the process of democratization is open to all Iraqis without fear or prejudice.
Iraq would commit to continue to cooperate fully with the United Nations. Iraq would also seek every means to reach out and engage the United States diplomatically so that the concerns of both parties can be resolved bilaterally. Iraq would request the re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with the United States, recognizing that this represents the best means of interacting between the two interested parties.
Iraq would commit to its responsibilities to the world in regards to providing secure supplies of oil at reasonable market prices. Iraq would work within acceptable frameworks to ensure that this occurs. The best way to achieve this would be to return control over Iraq’s oil resources to the Government of Iraq, thus freeing it to better exploit Iraq&Mac226;s indigenous resources. Iraq would work with the United Nations and leading oil exploration and extraction companies, including those from the United States and Great Britain, to achieve this. Iraq would be prepared to guarantee the strategic energy requirements of Europe and the United States once economic sanctions are lifted and the current crisis resolved.
Iraq would commit to a regional peace process that seeks not only to resolve the current crisis between Iraq and the United States, but also establish a framework of stability for relations between Iraq and all of its neighbors. Iraq would recognize the nation of Kuwait and its borders, and renounce war with Iran. Iraq would seek to direct its efforts towards regional economic and political stability, and renounce massive military expenditures that exceed legitimate requirements for self defense. Iraq would work to resolve the Palestinian conflict, and would accept any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis that is acceptable for the people of Palestine. Iraq would reject violence as a means of resolving disputes, reject terror and terrorism, and would work with the international community to bring an end to acts of international terror.
Pie in the sky thinking? Perhaps, but the best part about these six points for peace is that the Iraqi Government, in conversations with senior officials of the South African Government, has agreed to implement them if there is some assurance that the United States would actively pursue a peaceful resolution to the current crisis along these lines. I can&Mac226;t think of a better mission statement for Canadian diplomacy than that. Six points for peace trumps 3,000 impact points for American bombs any day of the year.
Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector,
and author of Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 1999).
This essay is taken from the presentation by Mr. Ritter to Calgary University on March 14, 2003.
On America, Iraq, the United Nations, Weapons Inspections, and the Future of World Peace
Former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998
As the first months of resumed weapons inspections in Iraq comes to a close, the only thing that has become clear is that when it comes to Iraq and its past programs of mass destruction, nothing is clear. Are there weapons still remaining in Iraq? While it is too early along in the process of inspections for any preliminary judgment to be had, it does seem that Iraq is doing more than it ever has in the past to be as cooperative with the new UN inspectors. And yet, the Iraqi declaration concerning its past proscribed weaponry seems to have fallen short of the kind of conclusive confession that many in the United Nations, and especially Washington, DC, were expecting and demanding. The failure, or inability, of Iraq to provide iron-clad documentation concerning the final disposition of unaccounted for weapons and associated material once again brings the world to the brink of armed conflict.
Can inspections work? Can the UN weapons sleuths provide the world with enough confidence that the threat posed to international peace and security by Iraq’s chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles has been dismantled? Or are the weapons inspections themselves merely a smokescreen behind which Iraq, enabled after seven years experience of mastering the cat-and-mouse game of hide and seek, bides its time while luring the world into a false sense of complacency, only to emerge emboldened by its defiance and strengthened with the ultimate tool of political and diplomatic blackmail — weapons of mass destruction?
Perhaps there is a different game at play here, a classic bait and switch being perpetrated by neo-conservative hawks in Washington, DC, one that parleys the conceptual threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction into an extension of the ongoing (and still un-won) war on terror, which is in turn used to justify implementation of a new doctrine of unilateralism which seeks to achieve American hegemony over the world under the guise of national security?
These are difficult questions and issues which require a solid foundation in fact and ideology to answer — fact because facts do matter, and ideology because when speaking of war and peace, life and death, it is essential that such matters be framed within the concept of an over-reaching system of values that defines life’s worth, and as such the circumstances under which one can consider the sacrifice of life. From my perspective as a former officer of Marines who participated in a War with Iraq (Operation Desert Storm, in 1991), and a former UN weapons inspector who took part in over 50 missions inside Iraq from 1991 until 1998, the current situation regarding Iraq is best evaluated within a framework which brings into play issues of War, the Rule of Law, and American Democracy.
On War. This discussion should start off by acknowledging that war is about death and devastation, killing or being killed. It is about the taking of human life, and the destruction of the human condition. War advances nothing; it only destroys. War represents the absolute failure of mankind, and as such should represent the last option considered when discussing the resolution of disputes between nations. I come to this discussion from the perspective of a warrior, someone who has trained in the art of war, and practiced it. I did so out of a sense of service to country, a desire to defend what I love and cherish. When joining the Marines, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I swore to defend the system of values and ideals set forth in that document, something I was then, and am now, prepared to give my life for. When speaking of war and reasons for war, as an American I must first ask what it is I and others would be fighting for. Is this a war about the security of the United States? Has the target of our aggression attacked us in any way? Is our very existence threatened? Or is this a war about political ideology and ambition? The former I am willing to sacrifice for, the latter never. As Americans we should seek clarification from our elected officials as to why we are pursuing war before we head down that awful path.
On the Rule of Law. The Constitution defines the United States as a nation of law. Law governs how we Americans interact as a people, and how we interact with the rest of the world. Law establishes the rules and regulations of this interaction, and sets forth the penalties for failure to comply. Law without effective enforcement is meaningless. Iraq has been required by international law to disarm. The penalty for failing to comply is severe — war. But the rule of law is a two-way street. It doesn’t only apply to those being held accountable, but also to those prosecuting. It is imperative that when speaking of holding Iraq accountable to the rule of law, we ensure that the rule of law is maintained. As such, when speaking of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, we should not deviate from the legal precept of “innocent until proven guilty”; especially when the consequences are sever as war. It is one thing to suspect Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction; it is another to demonstrate it. As long as Iraq is fulfilling its obligation to fully cooperate with UN weapons inspectors, and these inspections uncover no evidence of wrong-doing on the part of Iraq, talk of war is irresponsible and morally wrong. A guilty conviction can be made only upon irrefutable evidence of wrong-doing. The onus is upon the international community to provide proof of such wrongdoing, not on Iraq to provide proof of innocence. There are those who say the onus is on Iraq to prove to the international community that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction. This may well have been true in April 1991, when the Security Council passed the original disarmament resolution, 687. But that resolution recognized the precept that Iraq must fully cooperate with the United Nations inspectors, and if Baghdad failed to do this, then the Security Council, because it had made resolution 687 one passed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, would enforce its law through the use of military force. However, when in July 1991 the Security Council failed to act in enforcement of its resolution in the face of Iraqi lies and obstruction, and instead sent weapons inspectors back to Iraq to hunt for undeclared weapons, the Council, through the precedent of its actions, shifted the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors. While this might have been wrong, it is in fact what happened, and from 1991 until 1998 the inspectors were forced to carry out an elaborate game of hide and seek. Having made these rules, it is imperative that the international community accept the results, which is that Iraq cannot at this late stage in the game be compelled to prove a negative.
On American Democracy It is increasingly difficult for me as an American to square the issues of war and the rule of law with the actions of the Government of the United States and, as an extension, the people it represents, when discussing Iraq. It is one thing to set out ideals and values in a Constitution. It is another to put them into action. More and more, I see the United States heading down the path of expediency when dealing with war and the rule of law. Such expediency is reprehensible to me as an American, as it represents a deviation from the foundation of beliefs that define me as an American. For me, the Constitution is an absolute; we are not Americans without it. To undertake courses of action at home or abroad which fail to adhere to the principles and letter of the Constitution means that we are turning away from that which defines us as a nation, that which I and others who wear, or wore, the uniform of the Armed Forces were — and are — prepared to defend with out lives. I not only revile those who would lead us down such a path, but wonder about those who allow themselves to be so led.
Democracy is not a passive endeavor. It requires an investment of sweat equity by those who seek to prosper within the framework of liberty and freedom democracy brings. I fear that many in America have come to expect the benefits of being an American without making the investment of citizenship. We are a nation that has stopped voting. We are a people so accustomed to wrapping ourselves in a cocoon of comfort that we fear anything that rocks the boat of prosperity, even if the ship is sailing towards the abyss. We have ceased being a nation of citizens, and instead become a collective of coddled consumers.
For America to survive, its citizens must rediscover who we are as a people. We must reacquaint ourselves with the Constitution of the United States, the rule of law, and what it means to be an American. We must re-embrace the concepts of citizenship, and the will to do so actively. The urgency of the moment is real, especially in this time of war and fear of war. Now is the time to ask questions, to demand answers, to hold those whom we elect to represent us in higher office accountable for what they do in our name. Such engagement is not only good citizenship; it is the most patriotic thing an American can do in defense of the ideals and values of American democracy.
As we consider war with Iraq, therefore, let us pause to ask some questions of those who are leading the charge towards war. Is Iraq a threat worthy of war? Can Iraq be demonstrated to possess weapons of mass destruction? And, regardless, is the situation regarding Iraq about the national security of the United States, or about the pursuit of political ambition and ideology? The answers to these questions, and how we respond, will go far in defining who we are as a nation, and how we are perceived around the world, for decades to come. We owe it to ourselves, to the world, and especially to those who wear the uniform of the Armed Forces of the United States, to not only ask these and other questions, but to demand factually-based answers from those in higher office. And if adequate answers are not forthcoming, then we owe it to the concept of American Democracy to ensure those who fail to respond to the will of the people never again represent the will of the people.
Despite President Bush’s repeated rhetoric concerning a “coalition of the willing”, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the looming war with Iraq is very much an American war, and decisions pertaining to this conflict are the sole purview of Washington, DC. The United Nations may fret and debate over issues of war and peace, and there still yet may be a role for the Security Council in providing a veil of legitimacy for any attack on Iraq through the passage of an authorizing resolution, but the trigger will be pulled by the White House. As such, the succession of high profile presentations recently made by UN inspectors and US Government officials in the form of, respectively, the weapons inspection status report to the Security Council (January 27), the President’s State of the Union Address (January 28), Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the Security Council (February 5) and the most recent status report by the UN inspectors (February 14) are best evaluated in terms of its impact on American audiences, both domestic and political. Hans Blix’s report on January 27 was tailor made for those in the Bush administration who had been denigrating the effectiveness of the UN-led inspection regime in Iraq. As made clear in his State of the Union Address, President Bush and his advisors have defined the inspection process as a simple matter, one where Iraq must turn over its stockpiles of proscribed material for verification and elimination by the weapons inspectors. While this may in fact represent the initial inspection scenario as it existed in 1991, to continue with this formulation today demonstrates a woeful unfamiliarity with the history of the inspection process.
Let there be no doubt that Iraq is responsible for the position it finds itself in today. Iraq’s record of obstruction, lies, deception and deceit on the matter of its obligation to disarm is clear. However, one cannot ignore the reality of the disarmament that was accomplished by the United Nations weapons inspectors, despite Iraq’s unfortunate behavior. From 1991 to 1997, weapons inspections were able to achieve a 90-95% level of verified disarmament concerning Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs, according to Rolf EkJus, the former Executive Chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, or UNSCOM, the predecessor to Hans Blix’s United Nations Monitoring and Verification Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC. This level included all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction production facilities, and the associated manufacturing equipment.
In addition, from 1994 to 1998, UNSCOM had implemented the most strenuous on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control. During the period of monitoring inspections, UNSCOM never found evidence of retained proscribed material of any meaningful level, or efforts by Iraq to reconstitute proscribed activity. Contrary to what President Bush alluded to in his State of the Union Address, there is not a single UN document since 1995 that states that Iraq possesses prohibited weapons. All UN reports note that while the inspection process achieved impressive results in the field of disarmament and monitoring, there were still critical aspects of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs for which the final disposition could not be verified.
Despite President Bush’s claim that Iraq has never accounted for its weapons of mass destruction, the fact of the matter is that Iraq has submitted a comprehensive declaration which fully accounts for every aspect of its past proscribed programs. The problem is verification. While many of Iraq’s declarations have been confirmed by inspectors as being accurate, there are some — including those involved with critical chemical and biological weapons — that remain unverified. The major obstacle towards acceptance of Iraq’s declaration is that much of it is based upon acts of unilateral destruction, where Iraq disposed of its weapons — illegally so — void of the presence of UN weapons inspectors and without sufficient documentation. Given Iraq’s past record of distorting the truth, one would be foolish to give Baghdad any benefit of the doubt when it comes to its disarmament obligation. But one should distinguish between the concept of verification, which is the process that is ongoing in Iraq today, and proving the negative, which is what President Bush is demanding of Iraq.
The United States, together with Great Britain, contends that Iraq continues to possess massive stockpiles of proscribed material related to chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile weapons programs. And yet no substantive evidence has been offered by any party to back up these allegations. Indeed, when pressed for some form of evidence to back up his assertions regarding Iraq, the American Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, noted with a straight face, “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” More recently, Mr. Rumsfeld noted that the fact that weapons inspectors have not found any weapons in Iraq is probably the best proof that such weapons exist.
In the face of such logic, one has to wonder what was going through the mind of Hans Blix when he prepared his report to the Security Council. Clearly he had to be cognizant of the political and ideological environment that existed in Washington DC, where the proponents of military action against Iraq would be hanging on his every word. While factually correct, Mr. Blix’s report was decidedly imbalanced and deliberately misleading. While accurately noting that the Iraqi declaration regarding the final disposition of growth media used in the manufacture of anthrax, Mr. Blix failed to balance his concerns by noting that the main production facility used for anthrax manufacture had been destroyed by UNSCOM in 1996, and that liquid bulk anthrax germinates after three years, making it mathematically impossible for Iraq to have any anthrax void of a new means of manufacture — something no UN inspector has been able to ascertain despite thousands of on-site inspections since 1996. Furthermore, the growth media — acquired by Iraq in the late 1980’s — itself has a shelf life of some five years, making this a moot point all around.
With great fanfare, Mr. Blix discussed the so-called “Air Force” document, which accounts for chemical munitions expended by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War between 1983 and 1988. Mr. Blix noted that this document did not coincide with earlier Iraqi accounting, and that there was a shortfall of some 6,000 munitions, the contents of which must still be considered to be in existence. But in saying this, Mr. Blix failed to inform the Council that his own chemical experts have stated, in internal reports, the “…taking into consideration the conditions and quality of the CW agents and munitions produced by Iraq at that time, there is no possibility of weapons remaining from the mid 1980’s….this is not the case for the accounting of CW activities carried out by Iraq at the final stage of the implementation of its chemical program, from 1988 to 1991.” In short, the UN still has unresolved issues about VX nerve agent, but the unaccounted munitions and their fill from before 1988 — primarily sarin and tabun nerve agent, and mustard gas — are not of major concern.
On the issue of VX nerve agent, Mr. Blix was similarly incomplete in his presentation. Again, there is no debating the fact that Iraq has been woefully inadequate in terms of its accounting for its VX nerve agent program. This lack of accountability is exacerbated by Iraq’s refusal to admit having a VX nerve agent until 1995, and the less than forthcoming manner in which details concerning that program were exposed. Regardless of these circumstances, however, the inspectors are in possession of documents concerning Iraq’s VX program, obtained by UNSCOM inspectors from buildings destroyed during Desert Storm, which detail the extent of Iraq’s efforts in that area. To date, the inspectors have refused to share the contents of these documents with the Iraqis, holding Iraq accountable instead for differing accounts provided to the inspectors based upon flawed recollections. While this technique might reinforce the perception of Iraqi non-cooperation, it does not further the cause of disarmament. There is nothing in the VX documents that constitutes a ‘smoking gun’ in terms of continued Iraqi possession of VX. Likewise, Mr. Blix refers to evidence that Iraq had weaponized VX, without stating that the tests used to determine this finding did not meet international standards in terms of quality control, and that the testing methodology itself, according to Harvard University Professor Dr. Matthew Mendelson, has a very high rate of false readings.
In conclusion, the Blix report of January 27 was slanted, incomplete and misleading. While taking note of the level of Iraqi cooperation in regards to access, Mr. Blix failed to note that the so-called “high priority” sites provided to the inspectors by US intelligence, and which had been singled out by senior Bush administration officials in the fall of 2002 as evidence of Iraq’s ongoing work on weapons of mass destruction, had been inspected and no evidence to support such activity, past or present, discovered. Mr. Blix could have reported that, in fact, no intelligence leads provided by either the United States or Great Britain had been found to be credible.
Dr. Al-Baradai, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had the courage to note that the much publicized US intelligence concerning aluminum pipes had nothing to do with Uranium enrichment, but rather conventional artillery rockets, and that British intelligence reports concerning ongoing Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium stocks abroad had proven to be baseless. This, of course, did not stop President Bush from continuing the myth of Iraqi nuclear capability by repeating these false assertions in his State of the Union address.
Finally, Mr. Blix demonstrated a remarkable insensitivity to the reality of the situation regarding inspections and Iraqi cooperation, highlighted by his comments concerning Iraq’s balking at the resumption of overflights by US-controlled U-2 spy planes. There was a disruptive presence in the Security Council during Mr. Blix’s presentation, and yet no one wanted to acknowledge its presence. This, of course, was the American policy objective of regime removal. This policy is unilateral in nature, has no basis in international law, and has taken precedent over disarmament in the mind-set of Bush administration policy formulators. This policy of regime removal dates back to 1991, and has resulted in the United States using the unique access afforded to the inspectors inside Iraq for purposes other than that mandated by the Security Council, namely intelligence gathering related to the security of Saddam Hussein. The inspection process has been irretrievably tainted by this American policy, and the U-2 spy plane plays a special role in this pollution.
But nobody made any reference at all to the American policy of regime removal, and the corrupting influence this plays on the issue of Iraqi disarmament when Colin Powell spoke before the Security Council on February 5. According to Secretary Powell, the Bush administration places the burden of proof squarely on Iraq when it comes to proving that it has no prohibited weapons. But how do you prove a negative? Iraq has declared that it no longer possesses weapons of mass destruction, and that everything has been destroyed. Much of this destruction has been confirmed by past weapons inspections, so much so that the United Nations can verify the final disposition of over 90% of Iraq’s proscribed weaponry and related material. But what of that which is unaccounted for? Iraq claims that this material, too, has been destroyed, and yet can provide no verifiable means of enabling weapons inspectors to confirm this.
Given Iraq’s uneven record of veracity regarding its past weapons declarations to the United Nations, one would be loath to accept at face value the current claims that all has been destroyed. Iraq claims to have produced 8,500 liters of liquid bulk anthrax, and yet there is enough unaccounted for growth media, food for bacteria used to mass produce biological agents, to have manufactured 25,000 liters of anthrax. There is no evidence that Iraq did in fact produce this amount; the number is simply an extrapolation, one that Iraq is held accountable to. But this figure fails to take into account the following: Iraq procured the growth media in question in the late 1980’s, and it has a shelf life of 5-7 years. The last known batch of anthrax manufactured by Iraq was in 1991, and the factory used by Iraq to produce anthrax was destroyed, together with its associated production equipment, under UN supervision in 1996. Iraq only produced liquid bulk anthrax, which under ideal storage conditions has a shelf life of three years before it germinates and becomes useless.
Intensive monitoring inspections of Iraq’s biological research and manufacturing base carried out from 1995 until the end of 1998 failed to detect any evidence of a retained biological warfare capability. For Iraq to have a viable anthrax stockpile today, it would have needed to develop a new manufacturing base since 1999. And while the new UNMOVIC inspection regime is still only a few months old, to date no evidence of such a capability has been detected. Further more, Iraq has never been shown to have perfected the technique needed to produce the dry powder form of anthrax so graphically presented by Colin Powell when he held up his vial of simulated white powder. Only the United States has, which of course was the source of the anthrax used in the October 2001 letter attacks mentioned by the Secretary of State.
During his presentation to the Security Council, the Secretary of State made reference to so-called mobile production facilities for biological agents, citing various defector reports as the source of this information. But the real basis for these road and rail-mobile biological facilities are sheer conjecture and fantasy, a hypothesis posed jointly by Dick Spertzel, the former head of the UNSCOM biological weapons inspection team, who postulated the existence of such vehicles from his own imagination, and a CIA analyst frequently assigned to the UN who had a theory on the possible use by Iraq of rail cars to conceal activity from the inspectors. Theory and hypothesis, not hard fact that pre-dates any of the cited defector reports. There simply is no hard evidence that such vehicles exist. Defector reports related to this issue come from questionable sources that cannot be verified. Many of these defectors are affiliated with Achmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, an organization notorious for making available so-called “defectors” who have been pre-briefed with publicly available information. Colin Powell also failed to inform the Security Council that had anyone tried to build the mobile biological weapons laboratories displayed in the US drawings that they would never work. The diagrams, like the intelligence they were based on, represented pure fantasy.
Similar problems exist in the case regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons program. With great fanfare, Mr. Powell repeated Hans Blix’s concerns over an accounting shortfall that emerged when inspectors discovered the so-called “Air Force” document, which accounts for chemical munitions expended by Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War between 1983 and 1988. But Secretary Powell failed to note the contents of the UN chemical experts&Mac226; analysis of the viability of these weapons, written by one of the most respected chemical experts in the employ of the United Nations.
And in regards to defectors, everyone seems to be loath to discuss the words of the ultimate defector, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamal, who repeatedly told his questioners after his August 1995 defection, UN and US alike, that in regards to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, “nothing remains…I ordered everything destroyed.”.
END PART ONE
Biological weapons? “Nothing remains…all has been destroyed.”
Chemical weapons? Ballistic missiles? Nuclear? “All has been destroyed.”
That is one defector report that wasn’t part of Secretary Powell’s report to the Security Council.
The Iraqi threat painted by Colin Powell is not real, but a Phantom Menace, something conjured up with smoke and mirrors disguised as “irrefutable fact”. How else does one explain the existence of a 1,200 kilometer missile that has never been designed, built, or tested? This part of the presentation was clearly geared towards fear-mongering, an effort to pressure Russia and others ostensibly in the range arc of the Iraqi phantom missiles into supporting a military strike against Iraq.
The entire Powell presentation was a farce, filled with satellite pictures that show nothing, but claim to show everything. During my time as a weapons inspector, the United States repeatedly provided so-called “evidence” of this nature, displaying photograph after photograph ostensibly showing Iraqi evacuation operations in response to UN inspection activity. On two occasions, one in Baghdad and the other in Tikrit, inspectors were able to show that the vehicular activity in question actually related to the gathering and distribution of food supplies. On all other occasions the imagery in question was so vague as to make any definitive judgment impossible. The point to make is that in every case, Hans Blix and his inspectors can travel to these sites and conduct a forensic investigation to determine what, if anything, actually took place. Of course, Colin Powell failed to mention that the UN inspectors had done exactly that at the nearly one dozen “high priority” sites designated by the CIA, and which turned up nothing.
And then there were those intercepted conversations. I ran the United Nations communication intercept program against Iraq from 1996 to 1998, and experienced several intercepts of this nature. Who are the individuals in question? Do we have names? What are their affiliations? What call signs did they use? Was this an encrypted conversation, or conducted in the open? Were they operating on military frequencies? Frequencies assigned to security units? Frequencies assigned to personnel responsible for inspection-related activities? How do we know this conversation relates to inspection activity? These are questions that I and my team of communication intercept specialists dealt with all the time, and as a result we were able to sort through conversations that were relevant and those that were not.
Without additional input from the United States, it is impossible to assert that these intercepts mean anything at all, although Colin Powell asserts they in fact mean everything. If so, then the United States should provide Hans Blix with the relevant data, allowing the UN inspectors to reconstruct the events in question, interrogate the individuals involved, and through forensic investigation determine the relevance of the conversation.
This, of course, is the last thing the United States wants. Left unmentioned throughout this whole charade is the fact that the policy of the United States in regards to Iraq is regime removal, not disarmament. Disarmament is only useful to the Bush administration in so far as it facilitates the containment, destabilization and eventual demise of Saddam Hussein. That is why President Bush keeps repeating his mantra, “Either Saddam Hussein disarms himself, or I will lead a coalition of the willing to disarm him.” There is no mention of the inspectors, or the process of inspection mandated by Security Council resolution.
As the time table for military action draws near, the last thing the hawks in Washington, DC need is a favorable report from the UN regarding Iraq’s cooperation with the inspection process. It appears that Iraq is doing everything possible to achieve that outcome, turning over new documents, permitting unmonitored interviews of scientists, and acceding to U-2 aerial overflight, in addition to maintaining its provision of immediate, unrestricted access to sites designated for inspection. A favorable report by the UN regarding Iraqi cooperation would prove to be the death knell for any Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. The only hope the United States has, therefore, is to discredit the inspection process itself.
Colin Powell’s presentation lacked substantive data of any note, and the circumstantial nature of most of the reporting could readily be refuted through proper investigation by UN weapons inspectors. Of course, this is the last thing the United States wants. Given their ability to uncover the truth about Iraq’s proscribed weapons programs, the inspectors are now the enemy. The purpose of Secretary Powell’s briefing was less about demonstrating actual Iraqi proscribed programs than it was about denigrating the efficacy of the weapons inspection process. Given the Bush administrations commitment to removing the regime of Saddam Hussein, the United States simply cannot allow a viable inspection regime to go forward, because a disarmed Iraq is one that will be welcomed back into the family of nations, even with Saddam Hussein at the helm.
Which is why the report to the Security Council of Hans Blix and Mohammed Al-Baradai on February 14 was so critical. This report noted the improvement in the level of cooperation from Baghdad regarding Iraq’s disarmament, while noting that there were still many outstanding issues, old and new alike. Blix reiterated his concerns on biological and chemical weapons, but this time hedged his statements by noting that while he had no proof that Iraq in fact possessed these weapons, he could not discount this possibility based upon the evidence at hand. Most
importantly, however, Hans Blix directly contradicted many of the assertions that Colin Powell had made in his February 5 Security Council briefing, especially those that spoke of Iraqi concealment. The presentations by Hans Blix and Dr. Al-Baradai both breathed new life into the inspection process, demonstrating that inspectors on the ground in Iraq were a very viable option to war. Many members of the Security Council picked up on this, and in dramatic fashion rejected the American and British efforts to push for a resolution authorizing military force against Iraq.
This does not mean that the crisis is over. Far from it. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has noted that the United Nations may soon have to make a grim choice in regards to Iraq. This choice is whether or not the United Nations will retain any semblance of relevancy in the future. However, relevancy does not come by caving in to the demands of an arrogant Superpower, but rather from adhering to the spirit and letter of international law as set forth in the United Nations Charter. For the United Nations to have any meaning at all, it must
stand up and defend what it aspires to stand for, and not simply become the pliant tool of American unilateralism. The United Nations must make sure that it adheres to the principles set forth in the UN Charter, especially those governing international peace and security. There may very well be an “Abyssinia Moment” for the UN in the near future, where the international body will be forced to stand up against the brutal tyranny and aggression of a rogue nation. But in the case of Iraq, the threat to international peace and security emanates not from Baghdad, but from Washington, DC. For the rule of law to have any relevance, it must be uniformly applied to all,
tyrannical dictators and rogue Presidents alike.
The United States itself faces a critical test. Many Americans feel that the events of September 11, 2001 have “changed everything”, and that the insecurity felt by the United States in the face of terrorism justifies the harsh actions undertaken by the Bush administration, both at home and abroad. America’s War on Terror has hit a dangerous impasse. The rapid military campaign in Afghanistan which saw the demise of the Taliban and the scattering of Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda has stalled. American troops, together with the forces of their allies, have become mired in a counterinsurgency campaign which finds them confronting the forces of tribalism more often than the forces of terror. Concerns over the difficult situation inside Afghanistan have prevented the United States from supporting an expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), guaranteeing that the stability promised to the people of Afghanistan following the American-led intervention will be limited to the capital city of Kabul and its immediate environs. As a result, the unrest in Afghanistan is actually creating a situation in the countryside that is conducive for return of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
As Afghanistan sinks deeper and deeper into chaos and anarchy, the resultant instability has undermined the situation in neighboring Pakistan, America’s ostensible ally in the War on Terror. Pushed by the United States to cooperate in crushing fundamentalist Islamic forces in Afghanistan (forces which had been fostered by Pakistan over the past two decades), Pakistan’s President Musharraf has been compelled to make domestic compromises concerning fundamentalist Islamic movements in Kashmir which are also sponsored by Pakistan. Musharraf had urged a quick resolution to the situation in Afghanistan for good reason: the longer Pakistan was involved in something as inherently unpopular in the domestic politic of Pakistan as the suppression of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan, the more difficult it would be for Musharraf to contain Islamic fundamentalists in his own government, especially those involved in the highly-charged situation between India and Pakistan regarding Kashmir. The Kashmir situation has devolved to the point that today Pakistan and India, both nuclear powers, stand on the brink of an all-out military struggle which could rapidly escalate into a full nuclear exchange. Nuclear conflict between Pakistan and India would kill tens of millions immediately, and the death toll could rise to hundreds of millions in the weeks and months afterwards from the combined effects of radiation, disease, and hunger. Nuclear fallout from such an attack would pollute much of the world, including North America and Europe, creating a short-term health emergency and devastating long-term impact on the quality of life for hundreds of millions of people.
America’s focus of attention on the military aspects of the War on Terror in Afghanistan have prevented full diplomatic engagement in the India-Pakistan situation. What engagement that has been forthcoming seems more focused on finding ways to keep Pakistani forces deployed on the border with Afghanistan than de-escalating the tensions between Pakistan and India. Likewise, the stalled military campaign in Afghanistan has resulted in increased political vulnerability on the domestic front in Washington DC, prompting the Bush administration to seek a second front in the War on Terror as means of deflecting criticism. This second front is Iraq. Building upon decades-long demonizing of Iraq’s President, Saddam Hussein, and capitalizing on the post-9/11
fears of many Americans concerning weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the United States in an effort to gain domestic support for a war with Iraq, even if this means the United States must go it alone. War against Iraq for the purpose of deposing Saddam Hussein has been defined by the Bush administration as the essential criteria for ultimate victory in the War on Terror, above and beyond even the capture or elimination of Osama Bin Laden.
Strong-handed diplomatic pressure by the United States in the past weeks appear to have expanded support for a war against Iraq in Saudi Arabia, which will provide ports and other logistical support, and Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which will provide bases from which American troops will operate. However, none of this diplomatic arm-twisting has changed the reality on the Arab street that a war between the United States and Iraq would be immensely unpopular. Many Arab governments, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, have warned the United States that a war with Iraq could undermine their ability to maintain power, and would strengthen the position of militant anti-American Islamic fundamentalist forces. They have cautioned against an American war with Iraq, but emphasized that if America was to strike, the situation should be resolved quickly and that there should be a viable plan for a post-Saddam government in Iraq.
War with Iraq brings with it real dangers. Ideally, a US-led military campaign would trigger anti-Saddam forces inside Iraq that would enable a rapid defeat of the Iraqi government and stabilization of the internal situation inside Iraq. If this is achieved, the United States would theoretically be able to neutralize any backlash that might erupt in the region and around the world resulting from an invasion of Iraq. A new, pro-American government in Iraq, put in place through strong unilateral action by the United States, would reflect not only the seriousness of the Bush administration in dealing with those who promote anti-American terror, but also the futility of confronting the United States. Unfortunately the reality of the situation inside Iraq does not appear to match the conditions needed to achieve such a result. Many anti-Saddam opposition forces, including Kurds in the north of Iraq and Shi’a operating in the south of Iraq from bases inside Iran, have warned that the population of Iraq might very well actively resist any American invasion, not so much out of loyalty to Saddam but rather sincere Iraqi patriotism. Recent agreements between the United States and Turkey regarding the stationing of considerable numbers of Turkish troops in northern Iraq, as well as the apparent abandonment of the Shi’a dominated Iraqi National Congress by the Bush administration when formulating options for a post-Saddam Iraq, have eroded potential support even further.
While such resistance would not serve to defeat an American invasion, it would definitely delay an American victory and result in enormous casualties amongst the Iraqi population. Both such results would severely complicate the situation in Iraq and the entire Middle East for the United States. Any hint of quagmire or massive loss of civilian lives would serve to ignite a wave of anti-American sentiment already looming under the surface of almost every Arab and Muslim country, and bring with it the real possibility of pro-American governments in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere falling to Islamic fundamentalist movements. Complicating all of this is the current
tendency of the Bush administration to engage in military operations inside Iraq with a relatively small force of some 250,000 troops. Even if victory can be had with a slimmed-down invasion force, the margin for error will be very small. Any deviation from the plan would result in costly delays, increasing the likelihood of severe complications both from a military and political standpoint.
Furthermore, the Bush administration has yet to define a definitive plan for a post-Saddam Iraq. Void of such, it is unlikely that any post-Saddam government would have any viability, and could not survive without massive American military backing. The occupation of Iraq could prove to be an immense, costly and contentious undertaking. It is unlikely that Iraq could be securely occupied with anything less than 100,000 troops. The ISAF in Afghanistan is comprised of 25,000 troops simply for the area in and around Kabul. Iraq would require the occupation of no less than five major cities (Baghdad, Basra, Tikrit, Mosul and Kirkuk), as well as three separate oil producing regions (Kirkuk, Basra and Baiji). Active patrolling in tribal areas would be required to keep unrest down. Defeating Saddam is not the major obstacle in securing Iraq; stabilizing Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam’s downfall, and replacing Saddam with a viable government, is. Right now the Bush administration is focused on regime removal, with little in the way of responsible planning taking place concerning a post-Saddam Iraq.
In short, the War on Terror is not proceeding well. Stalemate in Afghanistan, a deteriorating situation inside Pakistan, potential for catastrophic nuclear warfare between Pakistan and India, chaos and brinkmanship with a nuclear-armed North Korea, and a situation vis-à-vis Iraq that could further worsen an already tenuous situation for America in the Middle East is not conducive to achieving victory. The Bush administrations prosecution of the War on Terror is off-target in regards to addressing any center of gravity in regards to the enemy&Mac226;s position, and off-balance in terms of achieving any constructive gains against the forces of terror. In fact, an argument can be made than, as a result of the current stalemate, the forces of terror are actually growing stronger. The political fall-out from the lack of progress in the War on Terror is prompting the Bush administration to seek expansion of the war for short-term domestic political gain (i.e. Iraq) with little or no consideration of the detrimental long-term impact such a conflict might have on the region and overall United States security. An overall reassessment of the War on Terror needs to be had, including a re-prioritization of national security threats which put the War on Terror in a more balanced perspective.
Iraq would need to be dealt with through the Security Council of the United Nations. The United States would need to support viable weapons inspections in Iraq to address concerns about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and then respect the will of the Council in allowing economic sanctions to be lifted once Iraq has been certified as being disarmed. The United States should seek to facilitate the economic reconstitution of Iraq, which represents the best means of creating true political reform inside Iraq. Such reconstitution can be had by returning full control of the Iraqi economy to the Government of Iraq, even if this means accepting the continued rule of Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, a de-emphasis on military action with Iraq would enable the United States to reconsider its military posture in Saudi Arabia, opening the possibility for a reduction in American military presence in that nation which would enable the Saudi government to more forcefully deal with the forces of extreme Islamic fundamentalism.
There is no justification for war with Iraq based upon any notion of a real and imminent threat to international peace and security posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. The best counter to any Iraqi threat in this regards has been, is now, and will continue to be the presence of UN weapons inspectors on the ground. The fact that the Bush administration continues to push for war regardless only exposes the reality that this war is not about implementing international law in regards to Iraq’s disarmament obligation, but rather to implement a unilateral American policy of regime removal which is itself part of a larger strategy of unilateral global domination. The international community has pressed for more time so that the inspectors can complete their task, and it appears that an extended reporting date of 14 March will be scheduled. However, while the world hopes for peace, the United States moves inexorably towards war through the continued deployment of military force into the region.
Sadly, the die seems to have been cast, and war with Iraq appears all but inevitable. The key question now is what form of coalition will be assembled to confront Saddam Hussein. For this, the debate in the halls of the Security Council is all important. The results of this debate will not only determine the nature of the looming conflict, but in fact represents the last hope of the international community to stop a war. For all of his rhetoric, President Bush has as of yet failed to present a compelling case for war with Iraq, both in international circles as well as at home among the domestic American audience. The recent actions by the Governments of France,
Germany and Belgium at the United Nations and in NATO serve as a pointed reminder of this failure. Void of Security Council backing, and the resultant international coalition that would be formed, the vast majority of Americans oppose war with Iraq. Because this conflict is more about political concerns than actual national security, the role of American public opinion cannot be understated. War with Iraq will occur so long as President Bush believes that he gains more by going to war than he does by pulling back.
The Bush administration will be using every trick in its bag of diplomatic tricks to try and sway the Security Council into supporting a new resolution authorizing military force against Iraq. However, lacking any substantive facts that sustain the US allegations regarding Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the international community must stand firm if it is to retain any relevancy at all. The Bush administration will pressure those who oppose war with Iraq by noting that such nations will be left behind once the war begins. But all nations must recognize that unless the line is drawn now, and the US war with Iraq opposed vigorously, all nations become irrelevant in the face of a new age of American imperial domination. The voice and power of American democracy is awakening as more and more of America&Mac226;s citizens realize the dangerous direction President Bush is leading them, as so graphically demonstrated by the massive anti-war demonstrations of 15-16 February.
If the Security Council, acting on behalf of the international community, falters now, at the moment of truth, and provides the Bush administration with a smokescreen of legitimacy by authorizing military force against Iraq, the forces of ignorance and fear which have paralyzed the United States since September 11, 2001, will prevail. If this occurs, there is a real risk that the Bush administration will continue to exploit the tragedy of 9/11, doing to American democracy what Adolf Hitler’s exploitation of the burning of the Reichstag did to German democracy in the 1930’s. If, however, the international community stands firm and supports the continued work of the inspectors in Iraq, without artificially imposed time lines, then President Bush would be running the risk of committing political suicide by going to war with Iraq unilaterally. In the game of high stakes poker that is American politics, this is a risk both he and his advisors may not be willing to take, seeing as the true objective of any politician is reelection, and George W. Bush does not want to go down in history as a one term President. As such, it is the duty and responsibility of all freedom loving people, around the world and in the United States, to stand up for the rule of law, insist on the continued work of UN weapons inspectors, and continue to oppose a needless war with Iraq.
Scott Ritter – former United Nations Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq, 1991-1998