Skip to comments.Experts Warn of Iraq's Improved Weapons
Posted on 12/27/2002 6:59:08 PM PST by Ranger
WASHINGTON (AP) -
Biological weapons are among the few capabilities Iraq has improved since being defeated by a U.S.-led coalition in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, government officials say.
Working under the noses of U.N. inspectors from 1991 to 1998, President Saddam Hussein's government probably developed mobile germ warfare labs and processes to create dried bacteria for deadlier and longer-lasting weapons, U.S. officials and former weapons inspectors say.
Pentagon officials say Iraq's biological arsenal could do the most damage, physical and psychological, if it were used to retaliate immediately against a U.S. invasion rather than in later stages of battle.
Although U.S. troops are being vaccinated against anthrax and smallpox and have protective gear, a biological attack cannot be detected until after exposure. Even if a biological attack did not kill U.S. troops, it could kill many civilians and create a logistical mess that would slow an American advance and strain the military's medical capabilities.
"The most frightening thing is Iraq's biological program," said David Kay, a former chief weapons inspector for the United Nations. "Even in my inspection days, it was the program we knew the least about."
What inspectors eventually learned was disturbing. After the 1995 defection of Saddam's son-in-law, who ran the germ weapons program, Iraq acknowledged brewing thousands of gallons of deadly germs and toxins and loading some of them in bombs, missile warheads and rockets.
The weapons included anthrax, the germ that killed seven people in last year's U.S. mail attacks; botulinum toxin, nature's most deadly poison; Clostridium perfringens, a flesh-eating bacterium that causes gas gangrene; and aflatoxin, a fungal poison that causes liver cancer.
In late 1998, frustrated by Iraq's refusal to cooperate, the inspectors withdrew shortly before the United States and Britain began "Operation Desert Fox," a bombing campaign to compel compliance by Iraq. Saddam refused to let the inspectors return.
Iraq claimed it destroyed all its biological weapons. U.N. inspectors concluded in 1999 that probably was a lie, because Saddam's scientists could have made thousands of gallons of biological weapons without declaring them. U.S. officials say Iraq's latest weapons declaration does not clear up discrepancies.
"Before the inspectors were forced to leave Iraq, they concluded that Iraq could have produced 26,000 liters of anthrax. That is three times the amount Iraq had declared," Secretary of State Colin Powell said recently. "Yet the Iraqi declaration is silent on this stockpile, which alone would be enough to kill several million people."
The omissions, U.S. officials and former inspectors say, are strong evidence that Iraq has retained at least some of its biological arsenal.
Iraq's development of anthrax-drying technology makes that arsenal even more dangerous than it was during the Gulf War. Its earlier biological weapons efforts relied on a liquid slurry of anthrax, which let the spores clump together and made it difficult to get the fine aerosol needed to get the germs into people's lungs.
U.N. inspectors in the late 1990s found Iraq had drying machines that could be used to make a powdered form of anthrax.
The Iraqis claimed they were making a biological pesticide from a worm-killing bacteria known as BT, said former inspector Jonathan Tucker. But they were making particles so small they would float through the air, not settle onto crops like a biopesticide should, Tucker said. Inspectors believed Iraq was using BT, a relative of the anthrax germ, as a testing stand-in for anthrax, Tucker said.
Evidence also suggested that Iraq was experimenting with drying anthrax in combination with bentonite, a compound that would help the anthrax particles stay aloft. Iraq also has imported hundreds of tons of fumed silicon dioxide, another substance that would give anthrax an aerosol quality.
Dried anthrax is easier to disperse as a weapon, easier to get into a target's lungs and lasts longer in storage, Tucker and another former U.N. inspector, Richard Spertzel, said. Particles small enough could penetrate even the U.S. military's protective gear.
"Quite clearly, Iraq knew exactly what needed to be done," Spertzel said. "Their contract with the spray dryer company showed they knew what to go for and how to do it."
Although U.S. troops are inoculated against anthrax, a high enough concentration of anthrax spores still could make them sick, Tucker said.
"If you're exposed to a massive dose, it could overwhelm a vaccination," said Tucker, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace.
Iraq has missiles that could carry biological weapons to Israel, Kuwait or U.S. troop concentrations within Iraq, Pentagon officials say.
Iraq also has experimented with turning small jet airplanes into remote-controlled drones. U.S. officials fear those drones could be fitted with spray tanks to deliver biological weapons.
"Iraq developed these drones because I think they realized their air force wouldn't be flying long if there was a war," Tucker said.
On the Net: CIA's Iraq page: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/iz.html
We now know that the anthrax spores in the Leahy and Daschle letters had been treated with "fumed silicon dioxide" -- which effectively de-ionized them and caused them to become easily airborne. And, thus, especially dangerous.
Whoever has the anthrax list, it's time to activate it. From their inclusion of this line...
...it suggests that AP is on the verge of completing the 2+ 2 equation.
Need I say it again? I will. CROPDUSTERS.
Makes ya wonder where ol' Mohammed Atta got that crazy idea, don't it?
I would hope that, on the day we attack Iraq, all cropdusting operations are grounded.
There is little reason for them to be flying in January, at any rate.
His state run programs for weapon development and apparent willingness to selectively share these resources, coupled with his hatred of Israel is going a long way toward keeping the Middle East in turmoil.
This situation would be so much more manageable without iraq's support of the Islamist machine of destruction.
This is worth the risk to us and makes it a top priority.
Saddam and the U.N. have both been calling his bluff.
This movement of troops is as much directed at the U.N. as it is Saddam.
That comment the other day by the chief U.N. Inspector about the lack of intelligence sharing by the U.S. did not set very well with the administration. Blix does not appear to be using the tools that we gave him. In addition, the Iraq declaration was bogus and Saddam is waiving his sword constantly.
If a internal coup is possible, it will not happen until we are on the brink. Looks like we are moving the game pieces to show that a attack is imminent in order to provoke a reaction. If the reaction does not come, we will unload a pile of intel on the public and go in simultaneously.
Many months ago, I picked the date as January 18th. It is a full moon.
This is the wildcard. If he uses bioweapons on Israel, Iraq is toast.
Whatever Saddam can do to us, I'd rather face it now, when we have a chance to mop up and recover, than later when it will be more than we can possibly handle.
An awful lot of our "use or lose 'em" stuff is moving to the Gulf now. Full court press is on for the Iraqi military to bag Saddam and drag him out of the country in exchange for immunity and no war. Worth a try, as that would lessen the threat of the WMD's being used against us.
Have you voted in the Iraq Attack pool time? Or do you just "like to watch?" :-)