Jewish World Review Aug. 25, 2003 / 27 Menachem-Av, 5763
In Iraq, Merchandising Mass Destruction
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | The privatization of the Iraqi economy has begun in characteristically macabre fashion. Under Saddam Hussein, rape, extortion and murder were largely state-run monopolies. Today those activities fall in the private sector.
"Before liberation, a substantial part of the crime in this country was conducted by designated offices in the Interior Ministry," Bernard Kerik, former New York City police commissioner and now the man in charge of building a new police force for Iraq, told me in Baghdad last month.
"We found records and personnel of the seven units of the Baathist secret police that were centers of organized corruption and crime," Kerik said. He suggested that many of the law-and-order problems that Iraq faces today stem from remnants of these and other special police or military units that once had free rein to terrorize the populace. They can't seem to break the habit.
An Iraqi friend provided an even more graphic account of Baghdad's informal privatization at work the day after I talked to Kerik. A former army officer offered to dig up a Soviet-made T-72 tank that had been buried in the desert for safekeeping. He priced it at $10,000. Mr. X could also supply a trained driver and gunner as well, but they would cost extra.
I shook my head in disbelief -- until a few days later, when U.S. troops dug up an entire squadron of MIG fighter-bombers that had been buried in the sand in exactly the fashion described by Mr. X.
In Iraq today, you can buy an automatic rifle for $100 or contract for the killing of an American soldier for $500. But as horrible as this situation is, it is dwarfed by the deadly business practices of a small but growing band of nations and individuals who have taken the merchandising of mass death and destruction for profit to new levels.
As readers of The Washington Post learned last week, North Korean ships that covertly transport assembly lines for missiles have been discovered marketing their wares for cold cash. Pyongyang's Stalinists today spread weapons of mass destruction not to ideological soul mates or to military allies, but to those who can pay cash on delivery.
International controls on the proliferation of nuclear weapons technology, missiles, chemical arms and biological warfare instruments are being flouted by a new category of mercenary rogue states -- the determined proliferators. North Korea and Pakistan head this infamous list, with Libya, Iran and others vying for positions on it.
Fortunately, investigative journalists are beginning to describe in detail the seamy world of international corruption, failing governments and boundless greed that fuels a deadly new form of the arms trade, which flourishes alongside and increasingly mixes with drug trafficking. May this ink-stained tribe multiply, and stir outrage internationally.
Joby Warrick's two-part series on North Korea's criminal export-import business in The Post on Aug. 14 and 15 exemplified serious investigative work that alerts citizens and politicians alike to the growing dangers of WMD and advanced technology trade. So did Douglas Frantz's detailed disclosures in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 4 about Iran's burgeoning clandestine drive for nuclear weapons.
"Technology and scientists from Russia, China, North Korea and Pakistan have propelled Iran's nuclear program," Frantz wrote before presenting persuasive evidence. It may not astonish you to learn that I was particularly interested in the new information he gathered about Pakistan's long-standing nuclear weapons help to Iran, initially disclosed in this column on May 17, 1995, and immediately denied by Islamabad, which also denies Frantz's report.
Eight years have passed since I quoted from a U.S. intelligence report that flatly stated: "We know that Iran has an organized structure whose purpose is the production of nuclear material for nuclear weapons." That structure, the report continued, was modeled after Pakistan's successful campaign over the previous eight years to buy technology and hardware piece by piece from Western and Asian companies. Pakistan exploded a nuclear device in 1998.
Iran is diligently following Pakistan's path. Only a concerted international effort can impede Tehran's ayatollahs, who are intent on breaking out of the pledges they had to make under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to get Russian civilian nuclear help. Iran's breakout, on the heels of North Korea's trashing of the treaty, will fatally undermine that document and the international control system it outlines.
Russia and China give some signs of being sobered by the awareness that they have helped create nuclear Frankenstein's monsters in North Korea, Pakistan and soon in Iran. Awareness is not enough. They must now become part of the solution rather than of a globe-endangering problem.
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08/18/03: Doing democracy right
08/18/03: Doing democracy right