Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Closing the Last Gaps
If you watched the proceedings of the U.N. Security Council last Friday, you had to be paying special attention when UNMOVIC’s Hans Blix mentioned in passing a list of 83 names he had gotten from Baghdad in the last few days. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell clearly missed the point or was thinking about something else at that moment. So were the editorialists at The New York Times, which led me to write a letter to the Times explaining the importance of what Blix had mentioned. You may recall that in his remarks which followed, Powell again and again made the point that while it was clear Iraq had been cooperating on “process,” it was still not cooperating on “substance.” He also hammered away on the point that UNSC Resolution #1441 was not about “inspections,” but about “disarmament.” In its lead editorial Saturday, the Times made the same point, that Iraq was still doing nothing to deal with the “substance” of the disarmament issue that has dragged on since the summer of 1991.
What was that list of 83 names and why is it so crucial? It is the only way Iraq has of proving the negative, an otherwise impossible demand by the hawks in the Bush administration. As Iraq’s UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri put it in his remarks Friday, “You cannot give with an empty hand,” an old Arab saying. What Blix finds promising on “substance” in the list is that these are the men who actually carried out the destruction of materials that could be assembled into weapons of mass destruction if Iraqi scientists knew how to do so. When the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they had accounted for 95% of the chemical and biological programs, which led Scott Ritter to say Iraq had been “qualitatively”disarmed. What was left were these “gaps” in the records, which UNSCOM’s Richard Butler insisted was the responsibility of Iraq to prove did not exist. I don’t know if he ever asked Baghdad for a list of names of the workers who destroyed the missing materials, but now Baghdad has supplied the list without being asked for it. If the interviews get started now, Blix will be able to report to the Security Council on March 14 that Iraq has been “quantitatively” disarmed, removing any reason for war.
Here is the letter to the Times.
Letter to the Editor:
Both the Times in its 2/15 editorial, "Disarming Iraq," and Secretary of State Powell in his remarks to the UN the day before missed the most substantive offer made by Iraq last week, as recounted in the report of UNMOVIC's Hans Blix. It has never been possible for Baghdad to prove with documentation that some of the missing chemical/biological materials were destroyed as claimed in the summer of 1991. Documents had been able to account for almost all the materials, but after inspections from 1991 to 1998 there remained these gaps. Mr. Blix told the UN that Iraq's National Monitoring Directorate has presented a list of 83 names of participants in the destruction process. "The presentation of a list of persons who can be interviewed about the actions appears useful and pertains to cooperation on substance," he said, adding the hope that a similar list be proffered for proscribed items in the biological field.
There has never been credible evidence that Iraq ever produced "weapons of mass destruction" in the chemical, biological or nuclear fields. The gasses the Iraqi army used in the Iran/Iraq war were deadly to those caught in the vicinity of an incoming shell, but were mainly used not to kill but to disorient the human-wave attacks employed by the Iranians.
Iraq clearly tried to "weaponize" anthrax, VX, and biological agents in the '80s, but failed and abandoned the efforts. What remains missing are records of some the ingredients that would be needed for such weapons. The most encouraging part of the positive report by Mr. Blix is that a method is being worked out to close those gaps to the satisfaction of the inspection teams.