Politics & Policy

The Detailed Threat

U.S. takes a chance.

The long-awaited United Nations Security Council speech was delivered today by General Colin Powell. He spelled out in considerable detail a compelling case about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction programs, their delivery systems, and the links between Saddam’s regime and terrorism, particularly al Qaeda. He provided extensive evidence on how Saddam has been deceiving the U.N.’s inspectors and the world community. The use of communications intercepts, photo intelligence, and human sources provided compelling proof to the world community. Most dramatically, Powell was able to illustrate that the U.N. inspectors themselves had been penetrated by Iraqi intelligence agents and that Iraqi scientists and their families had been systematically threatened and forced to sign their own death warrants (“agreeing” that if they talk, they die).

Some dramatic new details about Iraq’s mobile germ-warfare laboratories were provided to the world, both revealing how they are internally configured (based on defector reports) and how they can produce biological agents in “dusty” form. A “dusty” agent (Powell referred to the agents as in a “dry” form) is much more dangerous than a liquid agent, as we discovered here in the U.S. with the anthrax attacks. The technology for decontaminating dusty agents is still quite primitive. Gas masks and protective coverings do not work very well against dusty agents because the finely milled toxic materials can penetrate fabrics and get past seals. General Powell correctly talked about the extreme difficulty tracking a dozen or so mobile labs down, since some of them are on truck beds and others on rail cars.

General Powell challenged the U.N. Security Council, pointing out that if the Council did not act it was in “danger or irrelevance.” There is no doubt the U.S. took a considerable risk in revealing much sensitive intelligence, and making it easier for Saddam to better hide his communications and the “profiles” of his WMD weapons sites in the future. For this reason alone it is urgent to make sure that he is not given any time to do so. The time to act and smash Saddam is now.

— Stephen Bryen served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration and as a staff director of Near East Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is currently a managing director at Aurora Defense.

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