Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 2, Number 28 August 18 - 24, 2002 Quezon City, Philippines
If Anything, Does Iraq Have to Hide?
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), has announced that he plans to hold hearings on Iraq starting tomorrow.
Sen. Biden's open embrace of regime removal in Baghdad, there is a real risk
that any such hearings may devolve into a political cover for the passing of a
congressional resolution authorizing the Bush administration to wage war on
Iraq. Such hearings would represent a travesty for the American people.
Biden would do well to focus his attention on the case for war against Iraq.
Discussion should ensue on both Iraq's potential and, more importantly, known
weapons of mass destruction capability.
Sept. 3, 1998, I provided detailed testimony before a joint hearing of the
Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees concerning the
circumstances of my resignation as a chief inspector of the United Nations
Special Commission (UNSCOM). The testimony also dealt with Iraq's obligation to
be disarmed of its proscribed weapons of mass destruction capability in
accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions. In the nearly four years
that have passed, much has been made of this presentation, especially by those
who seek to use my words to reinforce the current case for war against Iraq.
testimony was an accurate, balanced assessment in full keeping with the facts
available. As of September, 1998, Iraq had not been fully disarmed. UNSCOM was
pursuing important investigatory leads concerning (among others) Iraq's VX
nerve-agent program, disposition of biological bombs and warheads, and ongoing
procurement activity in the field of ballistic missiles with potential
application for use in systems with a range greater than the permitted 150
obstruction prevented UNSCOM from fully discharging its mandated tasks. We could
account for 90 percent to 95 percent of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, versus the
100 percent required by the Security Council. Based upon an assessment of
intelligence information available to UNSCOM, once inspection activity had
ceased in Iraq, the government of Saddam Hussein could be in a position to
resume aspects of his mass weapons programs within a period of six months. While
most of this would be related to organizational realignment of dispersed
capability, some small-scale weapons production capacity could potentially be
potential for Iraq to restart its programs, however, did not, and does not
today, mean that such reconstitution would be inevitable. The danger in the
collapse of the weapons-inspection program lay in the elimination of a major
obstacle to any such decision being made by Baghdad, as well as the means to
detect any related actions. As such, I spent a great deal of my testimony
speaking of the need to maintain a robust regime of inspections that objectively
implemented the mandate of the Security Council.
much attention has been given lately to my discussion of the potential threat
posed by Iraq, little has been made of what I then considered to be the main
crux of the issue: the collapse of the UNSCOM inspection regime, and the
absolute need to get UN weapons inspectors back to work in Iraq. The current
war-like posturing of the United States towards Iraq, centered on
unsubstantiated speculation about the grave and imminent risk posed by Iraq's
current alleged weapons of mass destruction capabilities, makes the issue of
inspections as relevant today as they were in 1998.
1998, I told the Senate that UNSCOM had a job to do and we expected to be able
to carry it out in accordance within the framework of relevant Security Council
resolutions. I emphasized the danger of entering into inspection activity that
lacked any compelling arms control reason, noting that in doing so we would be
heading down a slippery slope of confrontation that was not backed by our
mandate. I pointed out the importance of the United States keeping commitments
made to the Security Council. This meant not only holding Iraq accountable for
its actions, but also preserving the integrity of the overall inspection
operation so that any potential issue of confrontation would be about Iraq's
non-compliance, versus issues not expressly covered by the mandate of the
Council. I reiterated again and again the harm done to the inspection process by
the continued interference by the United States.
my warnings were not heeded. In December, 1998, continued manipulation of the
UNSCOM inspection process by the United States led to a fabricated crisis that
had nothing to do with legitimate disarmament. This crisis led to the United
States ordering UNSCOM inspectors out of Iraq two days before the start of
Operation Desert Fox, a 72-hour bombing campaign executed by the United States
and Great Britain that lacked Security Council authority. Worse, the majority of
the targets bombed were derived from the unique access the UNSCOM inspectors had
enjoyed in Iraq, and had more to do with the security of Saddam Hussein than
weapons of mass destruction. Largely because of this, Iraq has to date refused
to allow inspectors back to work. The ensuing uncertainty has created an
atmosphere that teeters on the brink of war.
his propossed hearings, Sen. Biden has an historic opportunity to serve the
greater good of the United States. If a substantiated case can be made that Iraq
possesses actual weapons of mass destruction, then the debate is over - the
justification for war is clear. But, to date the Bush administration has been
unable - or unwilling - to back up its rhetoric concerning the Iraqi threat with
any substantive facts.
Sen. Biden's Iraq hearings to be anything more than a political sham used to
invoke a modern-day Gulf of Tonkin resolution-equivalent for Iraq, his committee
will need to ask hard questions - and demand hard facts - concerning the real
nature of the weapons threat posed by Iraq. Void of that, it is impossible to
speak of Iraq as a grave and imminent risk to American national security worthy
of war. Therefore, it is imperative that the Senate discuss means other than war
for dealing with this situation - including the need to resume UN-led weapons
inspections in Iraq.
Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector, is author of "Endgame: Solving the
Iraq Problem, Once and For All."