Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector, reported to the U.N. Security Council that UNMOVIC had found “no smoking gun.” It seems that the expectation for a smoking gun would be a biological or chemical weapon. Did anyone truly believe that the inspectors would find such a “smoking gun,” given the nature of the inspections and Iraq’s recalcitrance to provide a complete and accurate declaration of its weapons-of-mass-destruction programs? Did the news media? Did the diplomats? Did the inspectors? What person with any reasoning abilities would really expect to find a smoking gun at sites that Iraq has every reason to believe will be inspected. Iraq would not be brazen enough to have activities ongoing at such sites.
Most of the site inspections over the last several weeks have been to sites that were under monitoring by UNSCOM until December 1998. One needs to understand what monitoring was designed to accomplish. Monitoring of sites with dual-use technologies only serve to hinder the ability of Iraq to exploit technologies, supplies, and equipment for prohibited purposes; not to find prohibited weapons, i.e., a “smoking gun.” Besides, in 1990 when Iraq was not hampered by inspectors, it did not have agent-filled weapons at the research-and-development sites. If one considers Iraq’s biological-weapons program leading up to the Gulf War (according to Iraq’s account), except for a few brief days, no munitions or weapons were present at any of the biological sites. Weapons’ filling with biological agents was accomplished only at the Muthanna State Establishment where CW weapons were also filled. The biological-filled munitions were stored inside abandoned railroad tunnels, buried in the sand at Airfield 37 and Al Azzizziyia Airbase, and buried in the sand along the Tigris Canal. The probability of finding similar hidden storage sites — and hence a “smoking gun” as inspections are currently being conducted is somewhere between nil and none. Such a smoking gun should not be expected.
Counting on UNMOVIC or any other inspection regime to find a smoking gun is ridiculously unrealistic. Such folly can only bring cheer to Iraq, its friends on the Security Council, and everyone else that should, by now, recognize that Iraq has no intention of giving up its weapons of mass destruction, but also does not want to force Iraq to comply.
As for Iraqi cooperation as determined by allowing unfettered access, Iraq never denied UNSCOM access to monitored sites. Thus such “unfettered access” for the current inspectors does not reveal any indication of Iraq’s willingness to cooperate. The December 7, 2002 declaration by Iraq on its WMD programs, however, is very revealing. Iraq’s failure to respond to any of the remaining issues identified by UNSCOM in the 1998 “Technical Evaluation Meetings” with Iraq shouts volumes about Iraq’s willingness and intent to cooperate. What do the U.N. Security Council and the governments of Europe need to accept that Iraq is not going to give up its WMD willingly?
Many are arguing that we must “give the inspectors time to do their job.” Time to do what? Monitor known dual-use technology sites? Monitoring is only a hindrance to a country determined to have WMD programs, not a deterrent. It certainly is not aimed at finding concealed weapons. Eventually everyone would grow tired of the arrangement and Iraq will have succeeded in retaining its WMD programs.
The last several weeks have been a circus. Newspapers, radio, television networks, diplomats, politicians, etc., are all creating a hoopla over the resumption of inspections, Iraqi cooperation, no smoking gun, ad nauseam. Yet nothing has changed from the UNSCOM days. Iraq still shows no signs of giving up its weapons of mass destruction and the WMD programs, or of properly accounting for its assertions that it has no such weapons or programs. If Iraq’s position is the truth, then why the reluctance to respond credibly to unresolved issues? Why the blatant attempts to assure that its scientists are not interviewed in private or abroad? Instead, Iraq has invited the media to accompany inspections and to visit the same sites, “assuring the world” that Iraq has no such WMD programs — thereby adding to the circus atmosphere.
It should be recalled that in early 1995 Iraq was denying that it ever had a BW program, in spite of the accumulating evidence by UNSCOM to the contrary. Iraq then also made a great display for the news media to assure the world that its Al Hakam complex was only for animal-feed production when in reality that was only a cover story for its largest BW-agent production facility. Does the world forget so easily? Or is it only that the world body does not care what Iraq possesses?
Perhaps the United Nations is already the irrelevant organization that President Bush expressed concern last September it might become. If what has already transpired is insufficient to convince the U.N. Security Council that Iraq has no intention of cooperating, then it is time that the rhetoric cease and it is acknowledged that no one cares enough to act.
A suggestion to the U.N. Security Council: If you don’t mean it, don’t say it; if you mean it, then take the necessary action to back up what you say. Otherwise stop the farce.
— Richard Spertzel was head of the biology section of UNSCOM (1994-1998) and is available through www.benadorassociates.com.