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Jewish World Review
Feb. 21, 2006
/ 23 Shevat, 5766
The real scandal about the WMDs
It was hardly the "smoking cannon" its promoters promised, but it is a good deal more than the
cap pistol it's being treated as.
I went to Washington Saturday for the "unveiling" of 12 hours of recently discovered tapes of
Saddam Hussein and his senior aides discussing Saddam's WMD programs.
I have "unveiling" in quotes because the translator of the tapes, Bill Tierney, gave an advance
copy to ABC, which broadcast a report on them Feb. 15th, thus stepping on his own story.
Turnout among journalists for the formal unveiling was low, partly because ABC had already
broken the story, partly because many journalists have little interest in information that
contradicts the assumption Saddam had no WMD.
Mr. Tierney, who served with both UN weapons inspectors in Iraq and at U.S. Central Command,
gave a slide show on what he said were the highlights on the tapes, which were made in Saddam's
office between 1992 and 2002. The highlights were:
- On a 1992 tape, Saddam made it clear he still considered himself at war with the United
States. "The Mother of All Battles is continuing," he said.
- Saddam's WMD programs were revived soon after the first Gulf War, and lots of resources were
devoted to them. A 1992 tape discusses the diversion of electric power from a massive plant in
Basra for a process for enriching uranium like that the U.S. used to create the first atomic
bomb. In a later tape, a scientist explains to Saddam how uranium is being enriched through
the process of plasma separation.
- Saddam and his aides were not merely confident they could hide their WMD programs from UN
inspectors, they were scornful of UNSCOM. "All they will confirm is our cover story," Saddam
said on one of the tapes.
- On one of the later tapes, foreign minister Tariq Aziz seems to indicate Iraq would soon
acquire nuclear weapons. The topic is a proxy terror attack on the United States. Aziz argued
biological weapons would be best, because they would be the hardest to link to Iraq. If there
were "destruction," he said, it would be harder for Iraq to plausibly deny involvement.
- One of Saddam's aides hints at what happened to the WMD. "Where was the nuclear material
transported to?" he asks rhetorically. Then, answering his own question, he says: "A number of
them were transported out of Iraq."
- On another tape, there is what Mr. Tierney said is a discussion of using proxies to attack
the U.S. Here the goof in providing ABC with an advance copy of the tapes is most damaging.
The translator ABC hired translated the relevant passages as Saddam telling his aides he warned
the U.S. groups like al Qaida were planning to attack us.
It is reasonable to assert Saddam had nothing to do with al Qaida (though evidence to the
contrary is mounting). But it is preposterous to assume someone who considers himself at war
with the United States would warn us of a forthcoming attack.
But because the ABC version was out first, and because it supports what most in the media would
like to believe, it will be the dominant interpretation.
Mr. Tierney's quirks make it easier for those who wish to do so to dismiss his translation. He
is a born again Christian who told National Review's Byron York that G-d had directed him to
join the Army. Mr. Tierney resigned from the Army after he was charged with improper behavior
because he prayed with an Iraqi Christian defector prior to interrogating him.
But it is what is on the tapes, and not Mr. Tierney's religious beliefs, on which we should
focus. They call into question the tentative conclusion of Iraq Survey Group chief Charles
Duelfer that Iraq had ended its nuclear program by 1995.
The tapes support the account of Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, who'd been in charge of the centrifuge
program, that parts and blueprints were hidden from UNSCOM but not destroyed.
Air Force investigator David Gaubatz said he found four sealed bunkers in southern Iraq where
he was told WMD was stored. He reported this to Mr. Duelfer's group, but they didn't check it
Doubtless there are more clues about Saddam's WMD on the more than two million documents and
tapes captured after all the fall of Baghdad. It is scandalous that fewer than four percent of
them have been translated.
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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a
deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan
administration. Comment by clicking here.
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