Skip to comments.Iraqi Scientist Not Working on Bombs
Posted on 11/08/2003 1:05:55 PM PST by TexKat
BAGHDAD, Iraq - An Iraqi scientist killed in the U.S. invasion and now linked by arms hunter David Kay to possible nuclear weapons research was working on an advanced gun, not atomic bombs, fellow physicists say.
They and eyewitnesses also say Khalid Ibrahim Sa'id was killed not when he tried to "run a roadblock," as asserted by Kay, but when a U.S. tank crew blasted his civilian car without warning on an open street.
These accounts of the physicist's research and death, provided by 10 Iraqis and supported on key points by U.N. arms inspectors, challenge a core element of Kay's testimony Oct. 2 to congressional committees in Washington.
The Associated Press asked Kay's Iraq Survey Group to better detail its allegations about the late scientist, but the ISG repeatedly declined. The U.S. weapons hunters also have not disclosed any basis for such allegations to U.N. inspectors, although they had been expected to do so under U.N. resolutions.
President Bush endorsed Kay's work again Oct. 28, telling reporters his chief weapons investigator "continues to ferret out the truth." But Sa'id's longtime colleagues and friends sharply disagree, calling what they read in Kay's report "lies."
"Sa'id is a good catch for David Kay because he is silent. He can't defend himself," said nuclear scientist Sabah Abdul Noor, a friend for 30 years.
Those challenging the American's allegations include physicists known not to have supported Saddam Hussein's ousted Baath Party regime or its work in the 1980s on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
Kay's mixed CIA-military Iraq Survey Group, staffed with weapons specialists, was deployed here to try to substantiate claims made by the Bush administration to justify the March invasion assertions that Baghdad still possessed prohibited chemical and biological arms and had resumed its nuclear weapons program.
In his Oct. 2 interim report, Kay acknowledged that his teams had found no such weapons or nuclear program.
Instead, he shifted the focus to Iraqi "aspirations," "intentions" and "capabilities." In his 700-word nuclear section, that focus fell largely on Khalid Sa'id.
Kay told congressmen that beginning around 2000, Sa'id "began several small and relatively unsophisticated research initiatives that could be applied to nuclear weapons development." His report did not describe that research, however, and said, "These initiatives did not in and of themselves constitute a resumption of the nuclear weapons program."
It then added that "regretfully" the scientist was killed on April 8, as U.S. troops entered Baghdad, "when the car he was riding in attempted to run a Coalition roadblock."
"To begin with, this is a lie," Noor said.
He and other scientist friends said they learned how Sa'id died from his family and others, an account corroborated by three eyewitnesses in AP interviews.
That morning, the friends recounted, the Nissan Patrol utility vehicle carrying Sa'id, his driver and another man turned onto the main avenue of south Baghdad's Khadra district, for the physicist to check on his empty, shuttered home. They apparently were unaware that advancing U.S. tanks had reached Khadra, and a tank stood at the far end of the avenue.
"Anything that moved, they would shoot," said Mohammed Hassan, 36, an avenue resident who said he saw Sa'id's vehicle approaching. "People were running madly here and there with their children. People on foot were shot here," another witness, Jamal Abbas, 40, told the AP as he stood on the Khadra curbside.
People tried to signal Sa'id's car and another one to stop, but it was too late, the witnesses said. From a few hundred yards away, they said, the tank crew fired its cannon at both vehicles.
At least one shell struck the Nissan and turned it into an inferno, killing the driver and third man, and fatally wounding Sa'id, they said. He died four hours later in a hospital, friends said. The driver's body was left burning in the melting vehicle.
The witnesses said there was no "Coalition roadblock" for the Nissan to run, as asserted by Kay. "There was no justification at all for this. There wasn't any resistance here in Khadra," Hassan said.
Asked specifically, ISG spokesman Kenneth Gerhart in Washington declined to identify the basis for the roadblock story.
As for Sa'id's recent research, physicists who observed it or worked with him said he had been trying, since 2000, to develop an electromagnetic or particle gun unrelated to nuclear weapons. Such an advanced gun would, for example, fire its load at incoming aircraft.
Noor, a materials specialist, said he sometimes visited the gun project and consulted with Sa'id.
Sa'id, in his early 60s, was educated in the United States and at Britain's University of Reading, where he obtained a Ph.D. in solid-state physics. He was described by friends as a man of great energy, obsessed with his work and "Baathist to the bone."
He did have a background in nuclear weapons research; like Noor and many other Iraqi physicists, he was involved in Iraq's effort in the 1980s to develop a bomb, a program that failed and was dismantled after the 1991 Gulf War by inspectors of the U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency.
Those U.N. inspectors kept watch on such scientists in the 1990s. Sa'id was not found to be working on prohibited projects during that period, a senior IAEA official told the AP from agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria. He asked that his name not be used because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issues.
In fact, in the lead-up to war earlier this year, the IAEA reported it never found evidence Iraq had resumed nuclear weapons work at all after early 1991.
Another longtime colleague, physicist Hamed M. al-Bahili, said he saw a film record of Sa'id's final project, showing model gun "engines" on stands in a small lab. Al-Bahili called it a failure. "They spent 2 1/2 years on it, so much money on it." Noor said the work "was in a primitive stage."
Molecular physicist Abdel Mehdi Talib, Baghdad University's dean of sciences, was a longtime friend of Sa'id's and next-door neighbor in Khadra, where many scientists live. He laughed as he read Kay's allegations, with its almost exclusive emphasis on Sa'id, saying his friend had fallen decades out of date on nuclear physics.
"What was Khalid, a one-man band? Playing the drums, the harmonica?" said Talib, recently elected dean by his colleagues in part because of his anti-Baathist background.
The university's physics department head, another longtime associate and anti-Baathist, also scoffed at Kay's contention.
"This paragraph is completely wrong," Baha Toama Chiad said.
Kay's ISG declined to explain why it chose to link this single scientist's recent work to possible nuclear weapons development.
Kay focused on Sa'id at another point in his congressional testimony as well, saying it was suspected the dead physicist had been "considering a restart of the centrifuge program" Iraq's failed 1980s project to produce enriched uranium as bomb material.
His colleagues were visibly startled as they read this allegation of Kay's because, they said, Sa'id had never worked on enrichment. "I know men who did work on centrifuges, and they never mentioned such a thing," Noor said.
In Vienna, the IAEA official agreed. He said Sa'id had not worked on the old centrifuge program, or any enrichment activities. His belated involvement in centrifuge development, without support of pre-1991 specialists, "would be very illogical, like reinventing the wheel," the official said.
The ISG's Gerhart declined to specify any basis for the purported centrifuge link. "The ISG is not commenting on its findings or operations to the media at this time," he said.
Another leading physicist, Nabil Fahwaz of Baghdad's University of Technology, said repeated, unsubstantiated U.S. allegations of a revived Iraqi nuclear weapons program have been "so very wrong. ... After 1990 there was no activity."
Firstly it is good that he is dead--no matter how it happened.
Secondly, any physicist knows that a particle beam weapon is useless in the atmosphere.
Thirdly, atomic bombs of a "primitive nature" do indeed rely on "gun-like" technology.
It is not beyond credibility that a rail gun could be employed to accelerate the two halves of a critical mass together.
We should bomb Iraq, no matter if we use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Then we should bomb Saudi Arabia, Syria, Libya, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, et al.
We are not fighting for 'human rights'. We are fighting for the survival of Western Civilization against ruthless barbarians. 9/11/2001 justified doing exactly this. However you seem to have forgotten that event. Of course, a Canuck would--since their oxen are not being gored--yet. Unfortunately we are fighting for Canada too.
Why don't you turn you sorry excuse for a country over to the Islamists; you can consult your French populace for pointers in unilateral surrender.
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