Skip to comments.Wolfowitz Comments before Council on Foreign Relations
Posted on 01/23/2003 11:11:51 AM PST by Petronski
As Prepared For Delivery By Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz Council on Foreign Relations New York City Thursday, January 23, 2003
It is a pleasure to be back here in New York, where I was born. The last time I spoke here was a little more than a year ago. I was here to commission a ship named the USS Bulkeley, a ship named after a New Yorker, Admiral John Bulkeley, who left a big mark on the Navy during a career that spanned decades and included actions in combat in his PT boat in the Philippines during WWII that earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was enormously fitting to commission a great warship named for a man whose life symbolized the resilience and resolve that the world has come to associate with this great city since September 11, 2001--and how appropriate that the commissioning ceremony took place within walking distance of Ground Zero.
As terrible as the attacks of September 11th were, we now know that the terrorists are plotting still more and greater catastrophes. We know the terrorists are seeking more terrible weapons--chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. In the hands of terrorists, what we often call weapons of mass destruction would be more accurately described as weapons of mass terror.
The threat posed by the connection between terrorist networks and states that possess weapons of mass terror presents us with the danger of a catastrophe that could be orders of magnitude greater than September 11th. Iraq's weapons of mass terror and the terror networks to which the Iraqi regime are linked are not two separate threats; they are part of the same threat. Disarming Iraq and the War on Terror are not merely related. Disarming Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and dismantling its program to develop nuclear weapons is a crucial part of winning the War on Terror.
Iraq has had 12 years to disarm, as it agreed to do at the conclusion of the Gulf War. But, so far, they have treated disarmament like a game of hide and seek--or, as Secretary of State Powell has called it, "rope-a-dope in the desert."
But this is not a game. It is deadly serious. We are dealing with a threat to the security of our nation and the world. At the same time, President Bush understands fully the risks and dangers of war and the President wants to do everything humanly possible to eliminate this threat by peaceful means, if possible. That is why the President called for the U.N. Security Council to pass U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, giving Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations and, in so doing, to eliminate the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass terror falling into hands of terrorists.
In making that proposal, President Bush understood perfectly well that compliance with that resolution would require a massive change of attitude and actions on the part of the Iraqi regime. However, history proves that such a change is possible. Other nations have rid themselves of weapons of mass terror cooperatively in ways possible to verify.
What Disarmament Looks Like
There are several significant examples from the recent past--among them South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In South Africa, for example, President De Klerk decided in 1989 to end that country's nuclear weapons production and, in 1990, to dismantle all weapons. South Africa joined the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1991 and later that year accepted full scope safeguards of the U.N.'s atomic energy agency. South Africa allowed U.N. inspectors complete access to both operating and defunct facilities, provided thousands of current and historical documents, and allowed detailed, unfettered discussions with personnel involved in the South African program. By 1994, South Africa had provided verifiable evidence that its nuclear inventory was complete and its weapons program was dismantled.
President Kravchuk of Ukraine and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation and START Treaties, committing their countries to give up the nuclear weapons and strategic delivery systems they had inherited with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan and Ukraine both went even further in their disclosures and actions than required by those treaties. Ukraine requested and received US assistance to destroy its Backfire bombers and air-launched cruise missiles. Kazakhstan asked the United States to remove more than 500 kg of highly enriched uranium.
Given the full cooperation of both governments, implementation of the disarmament was smooth. All nuclear warheads were returned to Russia by 1996, and all missile silos and heavy bombers were destroyed before the December 2001 START deadline. The United States had full access, beyond Treaty requirements, to confirm silo and bomber destruction, which were done with U.S. assistance.
Each of these cases was different but the end result was the same: the countries disarmed while disclosing their programs fully and voluntarily. In each case, high-level political commitment to disarmament was accompanied by the active participation of national institutions to carry out the process. In each case, the countries created a transparent process in which decisions and actions could be verified and audited by the international community.
In Iraq's case, unfortunately, the situation is the opposite. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to choose a path of cooperative disarmament, one that he was obliged to take 12 years ago. We were under no illusions that the Baghdad regime has had the kind of fundamental change of heart that underpinned the successes I just mentioned. Nevertheless, there is still the hope - if Saddam is faced with a serious enough threat that he would otherwise be disarmed forcibly and removed from power - that he might decide to adopt a fundamentally different course. But time is running out. It was with that hope that the United States entered a process that would offer one last chance to eliminate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass terror, without having to resort to force.
And we've put more than just our hopes into this process. Last fall, the U.N. Security Council requested that all Member States "give full support" to U.N. inspectors in the discharge of their mandates, including "providing any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates, including on Iraqi attempts since 1998 to acquire prohibited items, and recommending sites to be inspected, persons to be interviewed, conditions of such interviews, and data to be collected."
The United States answered that call and President Bush directed departments and agencies to provide "material, operational, personnel, and intelligence support" for U.N. inspections under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Such assistance includes a comprehensive package of intelligence support--including names of individuals whom we believe it would be productive to interview and information about sites suspected to be associated with proscribed material or activities. We have provided our analysis of Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs, and we have suggested an inspection strategy and tactics. We have provided counterintelligence support to improve the inspectors' ability to counter Iraqi attempts to penetrate their organizations.
The United States also has made available a wide array of technology to support the inspectors' efforts, including aerial surveillance support in the form of U-2 and Predator aircraft. So far, Iraq is blocking U-2 flights requested by the UN, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which states that inspectors shall have free and unrestricted use of manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. In addition, we have supplied laboratory equipment and services, sampling equipment, secure communications equipment and ground-penetrating radar. Some of these technologies and techniques are the most advanced in the world.
What Inspectors Can Do and What They Can't
As in the case of South Africa and the others, inspection teams can do a great deal to verify the dismantling of a program when working with a cooperative government that wants to prove to the world it has disarmed. It is not the job of inspectors to disarm Iraq; it is Iraq's responsibility to disarm itself. What inspectors can do is confirm that a country has willingly disarmed and provided verifiable evidence that it has done so. If a government is unwilling to disarm itself, it would be unreasonable to expect inspectors to do it for them. They cannot be charged with a "search and destroy" mission to uncover so-called "smoking guns"--especially not if the host government is intent on hiding them and impeding the inspectors' every move. Inspectors cannot verify the destruction of weapons materials if there are no credible records of their disposition.
When an auditor discovers discrepancies in the books, it is not the auditor's obligation to prove where the embezzler has stashed his money. It is up to the person or institution being audited to explain the discrepancy. It is quite unreasonable to expect a few hundred inspectors to search every potential hiding place in a country the size of France, even if nothing were being moved. And, of course, there is every reason to believe that things are being moved constantly and hidden underground. The whole purpose of Iraq's constructing mobile units for producing biological weapons was presumably to be able to hide them. We know about this capability from defectors and other sources, but unless Iraq comes clean about what it has, we cannot expect the inspectors to find them.
Nor is it the inspectors' role to find Saddam's hidden weapons when he lies about them and conceals them. That would make them not inspectors, but detectives--charged with going through that vast country, climbing through tunnels and searching private homes, to catch things that someone doesn't want them to see. Sending a few hundred inspectors to find hidden weapons in an area the size of the state of California would be to send them on a fool's errand. Or to play a game. And let me repeat: this is not a game.
David Kay, a former chief UNSCOM inspector, has said that confirming voluntary disarmament is a job that shouldn't take months or years. With cooperation, it would be relatively simple and should be over relatively quickly because the real indicators of disarmament are readily apparent. They start with the willingness of the regime to be disarmed, the commitments communicated by its leaders, its disclosure of the full scope of its work on weapons of mass destruction, and verifiable records of dismantling and destruction.
Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, we have seen none of these indications of willing disarmament from Iraq.
What Disarmament Doesn't Look Like
Despite our skepticism about the intentions of the Baghdad regime, we entered the disarmament process in good faith. Iraq has done anything but.
Instead of a high-level commitment to disarmament, Iraq has a high-level commitment to concealing its weapons of mass terror. Instead of charging national institutions with the responsibility to dismantle programs, several Iraqi government institutions operate a concealment effort that targets inspectors and thwarts their efforts. Instead of the full cooperation and transparency that is evident in each disarmament success story, Iraq has started the process by openly defying the requirement of Resolution 1441 for a "currently accurate, full and complete" declaration of all of its programs.
With its December 7th declaration, Iraq resumed a familiar process of deception. Of this 12,200-page document, Secretary Powell has said, it "totally fails to meet the Resolution's requirements.... Most brazenly of all, the Iraqi declaration denies the existence of any prohibited weapons programs at all.... Iraq's response is a catalog of recycled information and flagrant omissions." Among those omissions are large quantities of anthrax, and other deadly biological agents and nuclear-related items that the U.N. Special Commission concluded Iraq had not verifiably accounted for.
There are also gaps in accounting for such deadly items as 1.5 tons of the nerve gas VX, 550 mustard filled artillery shells, and 400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs that the U.N. Special Commission concluded in 1999 Iraq had failed to account for. There is no mention of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad. Iraq's declaration fails to account for its manufacture of missile fuel for ballistic missiles Iraq claims it does not have. Nor is there information on 13 recent Iraqi missile tests cited by Dr. Blix that exceeded the 150-kilometer limit. Iraq has not verifiably accounted for, at a minimum, two tons of anthrax growth media. There is no explanation of the connection between Iraq's extensive unmanned aerial vehicle programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. There is no information about Iraq's mobile biological weapon production facilities.
When U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, it was concluded that: "The history of the Special Commission's work in Iraq has been plagued by coordinated efforts to thwart full discovery of Iraq's programs." What we know from the testimony of Iraqis with first-hand knowledge, from U.N. inspectors, and from other countries, about Iraq's current efforts to deceive inspectors, suggests that Iraq is fully engaged today in the same old practices of concealment and deception. Iraq seems to be employing virtually all of the old techniques used to frustrate U.N. inspections in the past.
Concealment and Removal: In the past, Iraq made determined efforts to hide its prohibited weapons and to move them if inspectors were about to find them. In 1991, in one of the first, and only, instances of finding prohibited equipment, inspectors came upon some massive calutrons used for enriching uranium at an Iraqi military base. Even at that early stage, Iraq had begun. to make provisions to move its illegal weapons and programs in case inspectors stumbled across them. As the inspectors appeared at the front gate, the Iraqis moved the calutrons out the back of the base on large tank transporters.
Today, those practices continue, except that over the last 12 years, Iraqi preparations for concealing their WMD programs from inspectors have become more extensive and sophisticated. Iraq's national policy is not to disarm but rather to conceal its weapons of mass terror. That effort is led by Saddam's son, Qusay, who uses the Special Security Organization under his control for that purpose. Other security organizations contribute to "anti-inspection" activities, including the National Monitoring Directorate--whose ostensible purpose is to facilitate inspections. Instead, however, it provides tip-offs to inspections sites and uses "minders" to intimidate witnesses. Iraqi security organizations and government agencies--including the Military Industrial Organization (OMI), the SSO, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), the Special Republican Guard, and the Director of General Security--provide thousands of personnel for hiding documents and materials from inspectors, to sanitize inspection sites and to monitor the inspectors' activities. The anti-inspectors vastly outnumber the couple of hundred U.N. personnel on the ground in Iraq.
We already have multiple reports and other evidence of intensified efforts to hide documents in places where they are unlikely to be found, such as private homes of low-level officials and universities. We have many reports and other evidence of WMD material being relocated to agricultural areas and private homes, hidden beneath mosques or hospitals. Furthermore, according to these reports, the material is moved constantly, making it difficult to trace or find without absolutely fresh intelligence. It is a shell game played on a grand scale with deadly serious weapons.
Surveillance and Penetration: In the past, Iraq systematically used its intelligence capabilities to support its efforts to conceal illegal activity. Former inspector David Kay has recalled that in 1991, the inspectors came across a document warning the chief security official of the facility about to be inspected that Kay would lead the U.N. team. That warning had been issued less than 48 hours after the U.N.'s decision had been made, at which time fewer than 10 people within the inspection organization were supposed to know about the operational plan.
In the 1990s, there were reports that Iraqi intelligence recruited U.N. inspectors as informants, and that Iraqi scientists were fearful about being interviewed. Recent reports that Iraq continues these kinds of efforts are a clear sign that it is not serious about disarmament.
Today, we also anticipate that Iraq is likely to target U.N. and IAEA computer systems through cyber intrusions to steal inspections, methods, criteria, and findings. We know that Iraq certainly has the capability to do so. According to Khidhir Hamza's book, Saddam's Bombmaker, Iraq's Babylon Software Company was developing cyber warfare capabilities on behalf of the Iraqi Intelligence Service as early as the 1990s. Some people assigned to Babylon were segregated into a "highly compartmented unit" and tasked with breaking into foreign computers in order to download sensitive data. Some of the programmers reported that they had accumulated sufficient expertise to break into moderately protected computer systems, such as those used by the inspectors.
Intimidation and Coercion: In the past, Iraq did not hesitate to use pressure tactics to obtain information about the inspectors. Often the pressure was quite crude. During the UNSCOM period, one inspector was reportedly filmed in a compromising situation and blackmailed.
Sometimes the pressure was subtler. Richard Spertzel, a former UNSCOM specialist in biological warfare, recalled the case of an Iraqi official coyly asking a new member of his team: "How far is it from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis?" Having moved from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis just days prior to her arrival in Iraq, she was unnerved by the comment, according to Spertzel.
More recently, Iraq has again begun referring to the inspectors as spies, clearly hoping to make them uncomfortable at best and afraid at worst and intimidate Iraqis from interacting with the inspectors.
For Iraqis, there is nothing subtle at all about the intimidation. When President Bush said, and as reports by Human Rights Watch and others have confirmed, "The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his own cabinet, within his own army, and even within his own family."
Today, we know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that any scientist who cooperates during interviews will be killed, as well as their families. Furthermore, we know that scientists are being tutored on what to say to the U.N. inspectors and that Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as scientists to be interviewed by the inspectors.
Obstruction and Lying: In the past, U.N. inspectors faced many instances of delay, with excuses ranging from not being able to find keys to not being able to admit inspectors because only women were present in the building. When all else fails, lying is a standard technique.
Richard Butler, the former head of the U.N. Special Commission, reported that "Iraqi leaders had no difficulty sitting across from me and spontaneously changing a reported fact or figure - for example, six previously reported warheads could suddenly become 15, or vice versa - with no explanation or apology about a previous lie." Butler reported that actions taken to obstruct inspectors were often explained away with excuses that were "the equivalent of 'the dog ate my homework.'" One actual example: "The wicked girlfriend of one of our workers tore up documents in anger." Another: "A wandering psychopath cut some wires to the chemical plant monitoring camera. It seems he hadn't received his medicine because of the U.N. sanctions."
During the UNSCOM period, Richard Spertzel on one occasion confronted Dr. Rihab Taha, still a principal figure in Iraq's biological weapons program: "Dr. Taha, you know that we know that you're lying, so why are you doing it?" Dr. Taha drew herself up and replied, "Dr. Spertzel, it is not a lie when you are ordered to lie." Lying was more than a technique; it was policy.
Today, Iraqi obstruction continues on large issues as well as small ones. Authorities that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 confers unconditionally on the inspectors are constantly subject to conditions by the Baghdad regime. For example, the Resolution requires that "UNMOVIC and the IAEA shall have the free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, including manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles." However, Iraq has objected to U-2 flights and threatens our Predators. Even more serious is the fact that Iraq has yet to make a single one of its scientists or technical experts available to be interviewed in confidential circumstances free of intimidation, as required by the U.N. Resolution.
Cheat and Retreat: In the past, the Iraqi reaction, when caught in one lie, was simply to replace it with a new one. This happened on issue after issue. For example, as Richard Butler reports, "Initially, Iraq had denied ever having manufactured, let alone deployed, VX. But this was not true...." Confronted with evidence of VX in soil samples, the Iraqis then admitted to having manufactured a quantity of no more than 200 liters. Subsequent probing showed they'd made far more. "So, Iraq's initial complete lie had been replaced by a false statement on quantity.... Iraq then reached for its third lie on VX: they'd never 'weaponized' the chemical." This, it turned out, was another lie.
The same pattern was repeated with Iraq's nuclear and biological weapons programs. Baghdad revised its nuclear declaration to the IAEA four times within 14 months of its initial submission in April 1991. During the UNSCOM period, Iraq formally submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which the U.N. inspectors rejected. Following Husayn Kamil's defection, Iraq dramatically disclosed more than half a million pages of WMD-related documents. Sparse relevant information was buried within a massive volume of extraneous data all of which was intended to create the appearance of candor and to overwhelm the U.N. inspectors' analytic resources.
A process that begins with a massive lie and proceeds with concealment, penetration, intimidation and obstruction, cannot be a process of cooperative disarmament. The purpose of Resolution 1441 was not to play a deadly game of "hide-and-seek" or "cheat and retreat" for another 12 years. The purpose was to achieve a clear resolution of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass terror.
If Iraq were to choose to comply with the requirement to dismantle its weapons of mass terror, we would know it. We would know it from their full and complete declaration of everything that we know that they have, as well as by revelations of programs that our intelligence has probably not yet discovered. (Recall, after the Gulf War, how stunned we were by the magnitude of Iraq's nuclear program, despite all of our intelligence efforts and those of our allies, and even though Iraq had been subject to IAEA inspections.) We would know it from an attitude of the government that encouraged people to cooperate with the inspectors, rather than intimidated them into silence and lies. We would know it when inspectors were able to go about their work without being spied on or penetrated. We would know it, most of all, when Iraqi scientists and others familiar with the program were clearly free to talk.
However, in the absence of full cooperation - particularly in the absence of full disclosure of what Iraq has actually done - it is unreasonable to expect that the U.N. inspectors have the capacity to disarm an uncooperative Iraq, even with the full support of American intelligence and the intelligence of other nations.
American intelligence capabilities are extraordinary, but they are far from the omniscient, all-seeing eye depicted in so many Hollywood movies. For a great body of what we need to know, we are very dependent on traditional methods of intelligence - that is to say, human beings who either deliberately or inadvertently are communicating to us.
It was only after Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Husayn Kamil, defected in 1995, that U.N. inspectors were led to a large cache of documents on a chicken farm with important revelations about Iraq's biological weapons program. In contemplating the magnitude of the task of finding such hidden sites, one may well ask, how many chicken farms are there in Iraq? How many structures are there in which important documents could be stored? How many garages in the country are big enough to hold the tractor-trailers that make up an Iraqi mobile biological weapons production unit?
Why we should be worried
Even when inspectors were in Iraq before, the Baghdad regime pursued weapons of mass terror. It would be folly to think those efforts stopped when the inspectors left.
Iraq has ballistic missiles that threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries, in which thousands of American service members are serving or civilians are working. We know that Iraq's fleet of UAVs continues to expand. We're concerned about this, of course, because they can be used to disperse the chemical and biological weapons Saddam has worked so hard to obtain and conceal.
Consider that, in 1997, U.N. inspectors found that Iraq had produced and weaponized at least 10 liters of ricin in concentrated form -- that quantity of ricin is enough to kill more than a million people. Baghdad declared to U.N. inspectors that it had over 19,000 liters of botulinum toxin, enough to kill tens of millions, and 8,500 liters of anthrax with the potential to kill hundreds of millions. U.N. inspectors also believed that much larger quantities of biological agents remained undeclared. Indeed U.N. inspectors think Iraq has manufactured two to four times the amount of biological agents it has admitted to--and has failed to explain the whereabouts of more than two metric tons of raw material for the growth of biological agents.
Despite eleven years of inspections and sanctions, containment and military response and Baghdad retains chemical and biological weapons and is producing more. And Saddam's nuclear scientists are still hard at work.
As the President put it: "The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take."
So, we come back to the imperative: Baghdad must disarm--peacefully, if at all possible, but by force, if necessary.
The decision on whether Iraq's weapons of mass terror will be dismantled voluntarily, or whether it will have to be done by force is not up to us or to the UN. The decision rests entirely with Saddam Hussein. So far, he has not made the fundamental decision to disarm and, unless he does, the threat posed by his weapons programs will remain with us and, indeed, will grow.
There are real dangers in confronting a tyrant who has and uses weapons of mass terror and has links to terrorists. But those dangers will only grow. They are far greater now than they would have been 5 or 10 years ago, and they will be much greater still 5 or 10 years from now. President Bush has brought the world to an extraordinary consensus and focus on this problem, and it is time to see it resolved, voluntarily or by force--but resolved one way or the other.
Once freed from Saddam's tyranny, it is reasonable to expect that Iraq's educated, industrious population of more than 20 million could build a modern society that would be a source of prosperity, not insecurity, for its neighbors.
Barham Salih, an Iraqi Kurdish leader, has spoken of the dream of the Iraqi people, "In my office in Suleymaniyah, I meet almost every day some traveler who has come from Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. Without exception they tell me of the continued suffering inflicted by the Iraqi regime, of the fearful hope secretly nurtured by so many enslaved Iraqis for a free life, for a country where they can think without fear and speak without retribution."
We may someday look back on this moment in history as the time when the West defined itself for the 21st Century--not in terms of geography or race or religion or culture or language, but in terms of values--the values of freedom and democracy.
For people who cherish freedom and seek peace, these are difficult times. But such times can deepen our understanding of the truth. And this truth we know: the single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism. So this truth we affirm: the future does not belong to tyrants and terrorists. The future belongs to those who seek the oldest and noblest dream of all, the dream of peace and freedom.
I wish they would repeat this a few thousand times for the benefit of the lefties.
. During the UNSCOM period, one inspector was reportedly filmed in a compromising situation and blackmailed.
The 180 performed by Mr. Ritter is starting to make sense.
WHY WE'RE DOING EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTS.
by Scott Ritter
Issue date 12.21.98
Sometime in the second week of December, inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) will once again assemble in Iraq to carry out surprise inspections of so-called "sensitive sites." These are locations that Iraq claims are related to its national security, dignity, and sovereignty, but that the inspectors believe house documents and other material related to Iraq's production of weapons of mass destruction. Unfettered access to such sites is critical not only for verifying Iraq's compliance with its Security Council-mandated disarmament obligations but also for the conduct of any meaningful long-term monitoring of Iraqi compliance once such disarmament has been achieved. As such, the coming inspections are not only a critical "test" of Iraqi compliance with its recent decision to resume cooperation with UNSCOM in the face of U.S. air strikes, but also a defining moment for the future of UNSCOM and all multilateral disarmament efforts.
Yet, in a real sense, this exercise is a sham that will almost certainly play right into Saddam Hussein's hands. Since Saddam has blocked the inspectors from conducting any meaningful information-gathering for the past four months, the targets of their "surprise" inspections will most likely be drawn from a list of suspicious sites dating to last summer. Today, surely, those facilities will be empty, their contents having been moved to secret locations elsewhere. In effect, Saddam will have managed to have his cake and eat it too. He will have prevented the inspectors from gathering any real evidence against him, while at the same time appearing to give them unfettered access to sensitive sites.
As a member of UNSCOM since 1991, and its chief inspector responsible for investigating Iraq's concealment mechanism from July 1995 until my resignation on August 26, 1998, I know that this is hardly the first time Saddam has pulled such tricks. In fact, they are at the heart of his strategy for preserving his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and, eventually, getting rid of U.N. economic sanctions (which he has largely succeeded in eluding anyway). Through skillful manipulation of the situation on the ground in Iraq, international public opinion, and rifts among the members of the Security Council, Saddam actually aims to cap his comeback by getting UNSCOM to issue a clean bill of health. It is an audacious plan, but it may succeed, thanks in no small part to the mistakes of U.S. policymakers themselves.
If it succeeds, the consequences could be dire. The Baghdad regime-- strengthened by having retained the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction and psychologically fortified by having outlasted the world's sole remaining superpower--will rapidly restore its internal and regional constituencies and reemerge as a force to be reckoned with. Since his defeat in the Gulf war, Saddam has built up eight years' worth of resentment and frustration that can only be released through renewed efforts at territorial expansion through armed aggression and blackmail, both economic and military.
Even today, Iraq is not nearly disarmed. UNSCOM lacks a full declaration from Iraq concerning its prohibited capabilities, making any absolute pronouncement about the extent of Iraq's retained proscribed arsenal inherently tentative. But, based on highly credible intelligence, UNSCOM suspects that Iraq still has biological agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, and clostridium perfringens in sufficient quantity to fill several dozen bombs and ballistic missile warheads, as well as the means to continue manufacturing these deadly agents. Iraq probably retains several tons of the highly toxic VX substance, as well as sarin nerve gas and mustard gas. This agent is stored in artillery shells, bombs, and ballistic missile warheads. And Iraq retains significant dual-use industrial infrastructure that can be used to rapidly reconstitute large-scale chemical weapons production.
Meanwhile, Iraq has kept its entire nuclear weapons infrastructure intact through dual-use companies that allow the nuclear-design teams to conduct vital research and practical work on related technologies and materials. Iraq still has components (high explosive lenses, initiators, and neutron generators) for up to four nuclear devices minus the fissile core (highly enriched uranium or plutonium), as well as the means to produce these. Iraq has retained an operational long-range ballistic missile force that includes approximately four mobile launchers and a dozen missiles. And, under the guise of a permitted short-range missile program, Iraq has developed the technology and production means necessary for the rapid reconstitution of long-range ballistic missile production.
Iraq supports its retained prohibited capabilities with an extensive covert procurement network operated by Iraqi intelligence. While images of starving Iraqi children are beamed around the world by American television, Iraqi front companies have spent millions of dollars on forbidden material related to all weapons categories--in direct violation of existing sanctions and often under the cover of the humanitarian "oil for food" program.
Finally, Iraqi security forces have kept critical documentation, including the vital "cookbooks" that contain the step-by-step process to make chemical agent, outline the procedures for producing weapons-grade biological agent, detail the final design of the Iraqi nuclear weapon, and provide the mechanical integration procedures for long-range ballistic missiles.
These capabilities may seem paltry compared with what Iraq had before the Gulf war. But they represent a vital "seed stock" that can and will be used by Saddam Hussein to reconstitute his former arsenal. His strategy for doing so has emerged over the past seven years of struggle with UNSCOM. That struggle began almost as soon as the commission was created to verify a declaration Iraq was supposed to provide to the Security Council 15 days after the end of the Gulf war. A Security Council resolution required Iraq to set forth the totality of its proscribed arsenal, as well as all its components and the means of producing it. But, instead of telling the truth, Iraq gave a radically misleading and incomplete account. UNSCOM's original mandate, a seemingly simple exercise in conventional arms control verification, evolved into an endless game of cat and mouse.
One by one, we managed to tear down Iraq's lies, the biggest of which was its March 1992 claim that it had destroyed all of its proscribed weapons and capabilities unilaterally, without international supervision. Iraq maintained it somehow undertook this considerable task without keeping any records to verify it. Iraq also expected us to accept this disarmament by declaration at face value. But, for more than six years, we refused to do so, reworking the available evidence until we had exposed the failed logic of that claim and almost every other one the Iraqis made.
Unfortunately, we received precious little support. Every six months, UNSCOM's executive chairman, first Rolf Ekeus and then Richard Butler, would report our findings to the Security Council. But, instead of reaching the obvious conclusion that Iraq was violating its obligations to the council, the council kept sending us back to obtain even more specific evidence. For instance, one of Iraq's false claims was that it had never had a biological weapons program. However, we were able to find shipping invoices showing that Iraq had received several dozen tons of growth material used for biological products that Iraq could not account for. It seemed pretty damning--but not damning enough for the Security Council, which encouraged us to find evidence of the biological weapons program itself. When, after considerable effort, we were able to do so, Iraq conceded that it had indeed once had such a program but claimed that the program was no longer active. Once again, rather than finding Iraq in noncompliance, the Security Council essentially directed us to disprove this latest lie.
Eventually we realized that this game could go on indefinitely. And so by 1995 we shifted the focus of our investigation to finding direct evidence not of Iraq's weapons programs themselves but of the fact that Iraq was deliberately concealing them from us. For this we needed documents: documents setting out the production records of the secret facilities and weapons dismantled by Iraq and hidden away, documents about the alleged unilateral destruction, documents setting forth the methods used by Iraq to conceal its weapons and capabilities from the inspection teams. And, if Iraq did not want to provide these documents willingly, then we would have to ferret them out.
Beginning in 1994, we sat for hours listening to high-level Iraqi defectors describe relevant Iraqi documents-who wrote them, who they were distributed to, how they were stored, how they were hidden. We confirmed much of this information through a carefully constructed international intelligence support network. But when we went into Iraq to find these documents we were stopped at gunpoint. We watched helplessly as Iraqi security forces shuttled records from one site to another, with sedans leaving known document-storage sites for sanctuary in so-called "presidential facilities." Over and over again our inspection teams were confronted with empty shelves and missing file folders. But we persisted. Finally, Iraq decided to take more drastic action.
In January of this year, we embarked on an effort to expose Iraq's use of biological and chemical agents on live human test subjects. (This effort had two goals: First, to find evidence of the program itself, and, second, to force Iraq to try to conceal this evidence--a campaign that we, in turn, would attempt to document.) We had received credible intelligence that 95 political prisoners had been transferred from the Abu Ghraib Prison to a site in western Iraq, where they had been subjected to lethal testing under the supervision of a special unit from the Military Industrial Commission, under Saddam's personal authority. But, just as we began moving in on facilities housing documents that would support our contention (for instance, transfer records of the prisoners), Iraq woke up to the danger and ceased all cooperation with us.
Iraq's official justification for doing so was that the United States and Britain were dominating the inspection process. Later Iraq added the complaint that we were seeking to inspect sites vital to its sovereignty and national security, including so-called "presidential sites." As it had during a previous episode of Iraqi intransigence several months earlier, the United States threatened military action. But at the last minute U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan averted war by brokering a compromise solution embodied in the Memorandum of Understanding of February 23.
This memorandum indeed forestalled the conflict, but it failed to resolve any of the underlying issues. Instead, it created a two-way trap. On the one hand, it boxed the Iraqis in, committing them to provide us with unfettered access to all sites. But it also backed the United States into an apparent guarantee of military action in the event that Iraq failed to comply. The only way forward was total Iraqi compliance.
Or so it seemed. By the time we returned to Iraq on March 5, Saddam had shuffled his documents and material into new hidden locations, challenging us to a fresh game of hide-and-seek. The secretary-general, the Security Council, and the United States all urged us to conduct a quick test of Iraq's compliance, so, later that month, we dispatched a team of inspectors to Iraq. And Iraq, in accordance with Kofi Annan's agreement, allowed us into facilities that had previously been off-limits. But, naturally, Iraq had carefully purged the sites of any incriminating evidence. And so we dutifully inspected these sanitized facilities, establishing the precedent of unfettered access but finding nothing related to weapons-making.
F ortunately, we also had a secret up our sleeves. For nearly a year, we had been developing information on the man in charge of Iraq's concealment effort: Saddam Hussein's presidential secretary, Abid Hamid Mahmoud, who is considered by many to be one of the most powerful men in Iraq, perhaps second only to Saddam himself. Senior defectors had long talked about the immense secrets kept under Mahmoud's personal protection. But his proximity to Saddam had kept us at bay. In March we finally achieved the breakthrough we had been looking for: evidence that Mahmoud had directed elements of Saddam's bodyguards, the Special Security Organization, to remove documents from facilities to be inspected. Now we finally had the information we needed to act.
We returned to New York in April and began planning surprise inspections of Mahmoud's document hiding sites. But our efforts were cut short by objections from a most unusual source: the United States. Without warning, the United States withheld intelligence support central to this line of investigation. What's more, it prevented more than half of the members of my team from rejoining me in New York (by reassigning U.S. officials on the team and putting pressure on the governments of other team members to prohibit them from coming to New York). The investigative capabilities that UNSCOM had so carefully constructed since 1996 were wiped out.
Why did the United States respond this way? It turns out the Clinton administration wanted UNSCOM to verify Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions--but only up to a point. The U.S.'s primary policy goal in the Persian Gulf had become the containment of Iraq through the maintenance of international sanctions-not necessarily the disarmament of Iraq. Thus, for all its ostensible support of UNSCOM, the administration was not willing to go to war in order to ensure UNSCOM the access it needed to fully disarm Iraq. And Clinton's national security team worried that there was no quicker way to provoke a new crisis that would undermine international support for sanctions than through an UNSCOM effort to inspect Mahmoud's inner sanctum. And so the inspection regime was reduced to merely carrying out the illusion of arms control.
But Saddam was not about to let himself be contained any more than he was going to allow Iraq to be inspected. Taking advantage of the reluctance to support intrusive surprise inspections (the United States had directly intervened to stop UNSCOM from carrying out such inspections on at least six occasions since November 1996, the most recent being in August 1998), Saddam marshaled his allies in the Security Council-- Russia, France, and China--and in the Office of the Secretary-General to change the subject from his refusal to come clean to whether the inspection process was fair. This further isolated those of us on the inspection team, creating an underlying sense at the United Nations that we were somehow to blame for the crises with Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraqi diplomats doggedly tried to split the requirements of verification from the technical practicalities of on-site inspection. In at least seven separate technical forums conducted by UNSCOM since January 1998, Iraq had failed to convince even its allies in Russia, France, and China that it had complied with its disarmament obligations. So Iraq sought to shift the compliance debate away from such matters into the political arena, where Iraq had more flexibility to maneuver given the admission by the secretary-general and the executive chairman of UNSCOM that 100 percent disarmament might never be accomplished. In effect, Iraq was seeking a political resolution to the issue of compliance, one that would undermine UNSCOM's role. The confused policies of the United States vis-à-vis UNSCOM inspections only made Iraq's efforts easier.
By August of this year, the United States was fully committed to a policy-- albeit unstated--of containing Iraq through economic sanctions and a large military presence in the Gulf, while avoiding expensive, debilitating confrontations between UNSCOM and Saddam. This entailed suppressing the efforts of our inspection team to root out all the facts. (It was for this reason that I resigned--reasoning that it was better to have no inspections process at all than a sham process conferring approval upon Iraq when it deserved anything but.)
It was at this point that Saddam pressed his advantage--and once again ceased cooperating with UNSCOM. Iraq's extreme actions were clearly unsupportable even to its allies, and the United States, while keeping its rhetoric to a minimum, took the opportunity to gain international backing for its policy of isolation and containment. The United States gamely allowed the Security Council to deliberate for more than a month before passing a resolution condemning Iraq's actions, then proclaimed victory, on the assumption that Iraq was now more isolated than ever.
In fact, the United States had played right into Saddam's hands. In a concession to France, Russia, and China, the United States didn't object to the invitation by the Security Council to the secretary-general to participate in its proceedings. And Kofi Annan proved to be no mute witness. He proposed a "comprehensive review" of Iraq's outstanding disarmament obligations, a process which shifted the burden of proof from Iraq--where it belonged--to UNSCOM, which would now be required to define Iraq's level of noncompliance and then back these assertions with facts, including the sources and methods used to establish those facts. Iraq's allies on the council concurred. The United States, eager to preserve the appearance of consensus, acquiesced.
The story behind the "comprehensive review" concept is an interesting one, too. Its origins lie in the aftermath of Annan's triumphal February Memorandum of Understanding. Seeking to consolidate his diplomatic victory, Annan appointed a special representative of the secretary-general to Iraq. The role of the special representative was ostensibly to monitor the situation in Baghdad and attempt to mediate any disputes between our inspection team and Iraq before they developed into full-fledged crises. In fact, he was to be Kofi Annan's man on the ground in Baghdad--to keep an eye on UNSCOM.
Annan chose his man carefully, pulling out of retirement Prakash Shah--an Indian diplomat who was appealing to the Iraqis both because he wasn't from an "Anglo-Saxon" country and because he evinced general sympathy for the plight of a Third World power standing up to the United States. Soon after the February agreement, we found ourselves at odds with the Iraqis over the removal from Iraq of ballistic missile warhead fragments that we wanted to have tested for the presence of chemical and/or biological agent. The Iraqis objected, claiming that the warheads only contained isopropyl alcohol and that we were looking for an excuse to lengthen the inspection process and keep sanctions on Iraq.
Iraq appealed to Prakash Shah, who immediately contacted UNSCOM's chairman, Richard Butler. It didn't matter to Prakash Shah that UNSCOM had every right under the relevant Security Council resolutions to remove these fragments and test them. It didn't matter that, given the Iraqi history of unilateral destruction, fabricated evidence, and withheld documentation, these warhead fragments offered the only means of verification available to UNSCOM. What did matter, according to Prakash Shah, was that the secretary-general's Memorandum of Understanding be protected in every way. As Butler relayed to me at the time, Prakash Shah had told him: "There must be peace at any cost." In the end, Shah and Annan pressured Butler to accept a compromise solution that placed a 30-day time limit on testing these materials, although UNSCOM experts contended that up to three months might be required.
When UNSCOM tested the fragments, we found irrefutable evidence that the warheads had been filled with both VX nerve agent and anthrax biological agent, directly contradicting earlier Iraqi claims. Still, Prakash Shah continued to maintain close contact with the Iraqi deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, and other senior Iraqi officials, not to push for their unconditional compliance with Security Council resolutions, but rather to lend a sympathetic ear to their complaints about the sins that we inspectors had supposedly committed and to converse about how the secretary-general and the Security Council could be mobilized to rein in UNSCOM and get the earliest possible relief of sanctions for Iraq.
As the summer of 1998 wore on and Iraq continued to fail every logical, technical, and scientific test of compliance, it became increasingly clear to Prakash Shah and Kofi Annan that the only possible solution to this problem was political. It was at this point that they hit upon the idea of the " comprehensive review," which would, of course, be a political process divorced from the messy facts and reality of UNSCOM's technical work. Iraq, naturally, was delighted--seeing the idea as a way of putting UNSCOM on trial and, as such, a potential shortcut toward the lifting of economic sanctions.
By the end of September, all that was required was a face-saving means of getting the weapons inspectors back into Iraq in order to set the process in motion. On October 31, in a dramatic move that caught even its supporters on the Security Council by surprise, Iraq terminated all relations with UNSCOM and its chief, Richard Butler. Saddam Hussein timed his move well. One day prior to Iraq's precipitous announcement, the Security Council had issued verbal assurances for active engagement toward the early lifting of sanctions once Iraq reversed its decision and allowed the inspectors back to work. Iraq pocketed this promise, and struck.
Shocked into silence, the world stood by mutely as the United States clumsily mobilized for war. No matter how undesirable, war appeared inevitable. And then, at the eleventh hour, Saddam played his hand. He backed down, as any rational leader faced with overwhelming force would do. Relieved, the diplomats of the world rushed in and declared an end to the crisis. Stunned, the United States had no choice but to stand down and declare itself the winner.
But the only winner was Saddam Hussein. In wrestling terms, Saddam had executed a flawless reverse. It was the United States that now found itself boxed in. It had no choice but to support the return of the UNSCOM inspectors and--since basic decorum will prevent the United States from conducting any military action against Iraq during the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan- -to urge the inspectors to conduct a quick "test" of Iraq's compliance. But once again the inspectors' information on target sites has become hopelessly outdated (Iraq having had four months to shuffle its materials to new hiding places). Thus the inspectors will be forced to declare whatever sites they inspect "clean." And, once Iraq has established a record of compliance with these now meaningless surprise inspections, the comprehensive review process can begin.
So what is the correct policy to pursue regarding Iraq? The Security Council and the United States have several options. The first, which is the favored option of Iraq and its supporters in France, Russia, China, and the Office of the Secretary-General, recognizes that Iraq cannot hope to have economic sanctions lifted without a certification from UNSCOM that it has complied with its disarmament obligations. This option therefore would restructure UNSCOM organizationally and operationally so that it would promptly give Iraq a clean bill of health despite Iraq's current dangerously incomplete level of disarmament. And then Iraq would be free to rearm even more rapidly, perhaps with the help of French, Russian, and Chinese companies.
A second option, similar to the de facto strategy pursued by the United States and the United Kingdom from April through October of this year, is to allow the continuation of a weakened UNSCOM, which, although unable to effectively carry out its disarmament mandate inside Iraq, would also not certify Iraq's disarmament. The hope would be for indefinite containment of Iraq. This option is fraught with problems--among them the lack of international support for keeping the ever-leakier sanctions in place indefinitely as well as Saddam's demonstrated unwillingness to allow UNSCOM to operate unless he knows that he is going to get a clean bill of health.
A third option, one that nearly came about during the most recent face-off this November, is to accept the demise of the UNSCOM inspection regime and seek to punish Iraq through massive air strikes while continuing to contain Iraq through sanctions. But punishing Iraq without supporting the continued work of UNSCOM would only further isolate the United States. (Another version of this option would be massive military intervention, including the employment of ground forces, for the purpose of overthrowing Saddam. But there currently appears to be little support, at home or abroad, for this kind of action.)
There is, however, a fourth option. Iraq's disarmament obligations are set forth in a Chapter VII Security Council resolution, which mandates Iraq's compliance and authorizes the use of military force to compel it. UNSCOM is the organization designated for overseeing Iraq's disarmament and verifying Iraq's long-term compliance. Thus, UNSCOM alone holds the key to unlocking the Iraqi disarmament issue. There is no endgame without UNSCOM.
Iraq knows this, which is the underlying reason for its continued policy of confrontation and concession. Since 1991, each face-off with Iraq has left UNSCOM weakened as its rights and capabilities are whittled away. Iraq is in the final phase of its plan to reconstitute UNSCOM to its liking. The United States and the Security Council should not allow this to happen. The world should demand a robust inspection regime and total Iraqi compliance. If Iraq refuses to allow this, or if it is unduly obstructive, then the United States and the Security Council should seek to compel Iraq, through military force if necessary. Military strikes carried out for the purpose of enabling a vigorous UNSCOM to carry out its mandate are wholly justifiable. And one thing is certain: Without an UNSCOM carrying out the full range of its disarmament and monitoring activities unfettered by Iraqi obstruction, the only winner to emerge from this situation will be Saddam Hussein.
SCOTT RITTER served with UNSCOM from 1991 until August 1998 and is the former chief of its Concealment Investigations Unit.
One of the C-SPANS is airing this at 8:00 PM EST tonight.
Sometimes the pressure was subtler. Richard Spertzel, a former UNSCOM specialist in biological warfare, recalled the case of an Iraqi official coyly asking a new member of his team: "How far is it from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis?" Having moved from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis just days prior to her arrival in Iraq, she was unnerved by the comment, according to Spertzel.