Jewish World Review Oct. 10, 2003/ 14 Tishrei 5764

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WMD In a Haystack

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Rolf Ekeus, living proof that not all Swedish arms inspectors are fools, may have been right.

Ekeus headed the U.N. inspection team that from 1991 to 1997 uncovered not just tons of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq but a massive secret nuclear weapons program as well. This after the other Swede, Hans Blix, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had given Saddam Hussein a perfectly clean bill of health on being non-nuclear. Indeed, Iraq had a seat on the IAEA board of governors.

Ekeus theorizes that Hussein decided years ago that it was unwise to store mustard gas and other unstable and corrosive poisons in barrels, and also difficult to conceal them. Therefore, rather than store large stocks of weapons of mass destruction, he would adapt the program to retain an infrastructure (laboratories, equipment, trained scientists, detailed plans) that could "break out" and ramp up production when needed. The model is Japanese "just in time" manufacturing, where you save on inventory by making and delivering stuff in immediate response to orders. Except that Hussein's business was toxins, not Toyotas.

The interim report of chief U.S. weapons inspector David Kay seems to support the Ekeus hypothesis. He found infrastructure, but as yet no finished product.

As yet, mind you. "We are not yet at the point where we can say definitively either that such weapons stocks do not exist or that they existed before the war and our only task is to find where they have gone," Kay testified last week.

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This is fact, not fudging. How do we know? Because Hussein's practice was to store his chemical weapons unmarked amid his conventional munitions, and we have just begun to understand the staggering scale of Hussein's stocks of conventional munitions. Hussein left behind 130 known ammunition caches, many of which are more than twice the size of Manhattan. Imagine looking through "600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordnance" -- rows and rows stretched over an area the size of even one Manhattan -- looking for barrels of unmarked chemical weapons.

And there are 130 of these depots. Kay's team has so far inspected only 10. The question of whether Hussein actually retained finished product is still open.

But the question of whether he was still in the WMD business is no longer open. "We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities," Kay testified, "and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002" -- concealed, that is, from the hapless Hans Blix.

Kay's list is chilling. It includes a secret network of labs and safe houses within the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi foreign intelligence service; bioorganisms kept in scientists' homes, including a vial of live botulinum toxin; and my favorite, "new research on BW [biological weapons]-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin" -- all "not declared to the U.N."

I have been to medical school, and I have never heard of Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever. I don't know one doctor in 100 who has. It is a rare disease, and you can be sure that Hussein was not seeking a cure.

He was not after the Nobel in physiology (Yasser Arafat having already won the peace prize). He was looking for a way to turn these agents into killers. The fact that he was not stockpiling is relevant only to the question of why some prewar intelligence was wrong about Iraq's WMD program. But it is not relevant to the question of whether a war to preempt his development of WMD was justified.

The fact that Hussein may have decided to go from building up stocks to maintaining clandestine production facilities (may have: remember, Kay still has 120 depots to go through) does not mean that he got out of the WMD business. Otherwise, by that logic, one would have to say that until the very moment at which the plutonium from its 8,000 processed fuel rods is wedded to waiting nuclear devices, North Korea does not have a nuclear program.

Hussein was simply making his WMD program more efficient and concealable. His intent and capacity were unchanged.

Moreover, for those who care about the United Nations (I do not, but many administration critics have a weakness for legal niceties), Resolution 1441, unanimously passed by the Security Council, ordered Hussein to make a full accounting of his WMD program and to cooperate with inspectors, and warned that there would be no more tolerance for concealment or obstruction. Kay's finding of "dozens of WMD-related program activities" concealed from U.N. inspectors constitutes an irrefutable material breach of 1441 -- and an open-and-shut justification for the U.S. decision to disarm Saddam Hussein by force.

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