Excerpts from Oil, Power, and Empire

Iraq: Defiance and Compliance

Background to the War Lies

by Larry Everest

Revolutionary Worker#1230, February 22, 2004, posted at rwor.org

The world now knows that in 2003 Iraq had no stockpiles of unconventional weapons, no missiles for delivering such weapons, and no way to threaten the U.S. And the U.S. government has lost its main public justification for its invasion of Iraq.

U.S. head weapons hunter Dr. David Kay testified last month that, after months of searching Iraq following the war, he had to admit that there are no unconventional stockpiles in Iraq, and there are unlikely to have been any for a long time.

The apologists of the U.S. aggression now claim this was all just "a failure of intelligence"--some supposedly honest "oops!" by CIA analysts--not big cold-blooded deliberate lies invented and then spouted by high-level imperialists to justify their conquest of a weak, strategic, oil-rich country. And, of course, these apologists still insist the conquest and occupation of Iraq are wonderful events-- even if they were launched based on a long list of false claims.

In the following excerpt fromOil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda , Larry Everest documents that the Iraqi government's destruction of their early and primitive stockpiles of unconventional weapons was known and documented long before the U.S. invasion. Last year anyone pointing to this evidence was publicly ridiculed and attacked by the war-makers, as the White House constructed a deceitful propaganda campaign to justify a war they had long wanted to launch.

Defiance and Compliance

Security Council Resolution 687 [adopted by the UN on April 3, 1991 after the first Gulf War-- RW ] demanded that Iraq provide the UN with a complete list of its banned weapons within 15 days and then disarm. Iraq did not immediately comply. In the months following the Gulf War, Iraq frustrated the efforts of weapons inspectors from the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to find, catalogue and destroy Iraq's ballistic missiles and chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the technological infrastructure that supported them.

The Ba'ath regime considered such weapons crucial to its survival and power. Chemical weapons had helped the regime suppress the Kurds and stalemate Iran in their 1980-1988 war. Unconventional weapons and missiles were seen as "force multipliers" and a deterrent against more powerful adversaries such as the U.S. and Israel, as well as regional rivals like Iran. Hussein may feel his chemical weapons deterred a U.S. march on Baghdad in 1991.1 They also increased Iraq's political weight in the Gulf and the Arab world.

Scott Ritter was a Marine intelligence officer during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, then a chief UN weapons inspector from 1991 until 1998, and finally a critic of U.S. Iraq policy following his 1998 resignation from UNSCOM. Ritter called Iraq's surface-to surface missiles "a strategic resource that represented not only a valuable military asset for Iraq, but also a tremendous source of national pride and prestige."2

UNSCOM would eventually reveal that before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq had been working on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons on a greater and more advanced scale than previously realized, and had produced VX nerve agent, biological weapons, and a domestic missile building program.3

Especially immediately after the Gulf War, the Ba'ath regime attempted to preserve these strategic assets through an elaborate and well-organized concealment system. Critical materials and documents were hidden or moved from place to place. Inspectors were denied access to key sites. Records turned over to UN inspectors were inaccurate or incomplete.

However, Iraq soon began caving in to the pressure of inspections, military assaults, and ongoing economic sanctions. By the summer of 1991, Iraq had admitted it had had a nuclear weapons program.4 Within six months of the end of the Gulf War, Iraqi weapons programs were being discovered and destroyed. In November 1993, Iraq formally accepted UN resolution 715, enacted by the Security Council two years earlier, which created a permanent arms monitoring system in Iraq.

Inspections plus some high-level defections led to new revelations concerning the scope of Iraq's military programs. The most significant was the August 1995 defection of General Hussein Kamel Majid, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law and head of Iraq's unconventional weapons programs for 10 years. Gen. Kamel's defection compelled Baghdad to disclose more and more about its efforts to develop unconventional weapons efforts in a futile effort to have sanctions lifted.

U.S. officials caricature Iraq's attitude toward UNSCOM as "cheat and retreat," and claim that inspections failed to disarm Iraq. In fact, Iraq complied with UN weapons inspectors far more than it defied them, and the inspections did succeed in largely disarming Iraq.

From 1991 to 1998, UNSCOM sent 500 teams to Iraq staffed by nearly 3,500 inspectors. These teams examined some 3,400 sites, including 900 formerly secret military installations, and destroyed billions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment.5 UNSCOM had regular access to Iraqi factories and laboratories, used video cameras to monitor Iraqi industrial and military sites 24 hours a day, placed chemical sampling devices around Iraqi labs, monitored the movement of Iraq's industrial equipment, pored over Iraqi documents, and questioned many Iraqi scientists and technicians.

In February 1998, former weapons inspector Raymond Zilinskas stated that "95 percent of [UNSCOM's] work proceeds unhindered."6 Writing in Foreign Affairs in 1999, University of Vermont Professor F. Gregory Gause III summed up UNSCOM's impact:

President Clinton has famously and correctly said that UNSCOM destroyed more Iraqi WMD resources than did the Gulf War air campaigns. Since 1991, UNSCOM has demolished 48 Scud missiles, 30 chemical and biological missile warheads, 60 missile launch pads, nearly 40,000 chemical bombs and shells in various stages of production, 690 tons of chemical weapons agent, 3 million tons of chemical weapons precursor materials, and the entire al-Hakum biological weapons production facility.7

Ritter argues that inspectors destroyed Iraq's biological arsenal:

Under the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programs were dismantled, destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production facility--al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's anthrax--was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and development of biological weapons... No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in the field.8

In October 1998 the International Atomic Energy Commission certified that Iraq had provided it with a "full, final, and complete" account of its nuclear weapons programs, and that the agency had found no evidence of any prohibited nuclear activities since October 1997.9 A year later the UN Security Council's disarmament panel concluded, "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."10 In 2001, President Clinton's Defense Secretary William Cohen told the incoming Bush administration that "Iraq no longer poses a military threat to its neighbors."11

In fact, Iraq may have destroyed all its unconventional weapons shortly after the 1991 Gulf War. After defecting in 1995, Gen. Kamel told his UN and CIA interrogators that "Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them" after the war in order to hide the programs from weapons inspectors. All that was left, he said, were the records of design and engineering details as well as procurement information so that Iraq could some day reconstitute its arsenal. After the 2003 war, other top Iraqi scientists and military personnel painted a similar picture--that Iraq had been hiding records and blueprints (by 1998 Iraq had fine tuned its concealment mechanism and was able to destroy evidence on only 15 minutes notice, and routinely moved sensitive materials and documents around every 30-90 days)--but not weapons.12

According to Newsweek, which broke the story in March 2003, these revelations were "hushed up by the U.N. inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam into disclosing still more" and because Iraq had "never shown the documentation to support Kamel's story."13 Perhaps, but other motives also suggest themselves. First, the U.S.-led inspections were designed to strip Iraq of the ability to reconstitute its unconventional weapons programs and thus become an impediment to U.S. dominance in the Gulf, not simply destroy whatever weapons it had at the time. And the UN inspectors may also have kept quiet in order to maintain the political rationalization for the strangulation of Iraq.

So by the end of the 1990s, perhaps even earlier, Iraq had probably been mostly, perhaps entirely, disarmed of its banned weapons. Ritter summed up,

While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament.... With the exception of mustard agent, all chemical agent produced by Iraq prior to 1990 would have degraded within five years (the jury is still out regarding Iraq's VX nerve agent program--while inspectors have accounted for the laboratories, production equipment and most of the agent produced from 1990-91, major discrepancies in the Iraqi accounting preclude any final disposition at this time.) The same holds true for biological agent, which would have been neutralized through natural processes within three years of manufacture.14

Ritter concluded: "If the Security Council were to reevaluate Iraq's disarmament obligations along qualitative lines not quantitative, it would be very easy to come up with a finding of compliance."15

This assessment has been borne out by the 2003 war and its aftermath: Iraq did not use unconventional weapons, none have been found in four plus months since, and all the Iraqi scientists interrogated by the U.S. have said that Iraq no longer had any.

After the war, one former Iraqi brigadier general told the Los Angeles Times that U.S. forces searching for weapons "will never find anything here. Only oil."16

1. William Shawcross, "Why Saddam will never disarm," The Observer (UK), February 23, 2003

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2. Ritter, Endgame , 42

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3. Cleveland, 473; Cockburn and Cockburn, 265

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4. Paul Lewis, "Iraq Now Admits a Secret Program to Enrich Uranium," New York Times, July 9, 1991, A1

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5. William Polk, "The Bush Doctrine and Its Implications for US Foreign Policy," Lecture at The Centre For Lebanese Studies, November 18, 2002; John Burns, "Iraq's Thwarted Ambitions Litter an Old Nuclear Plant," New York Times, December 27, 2002

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6. Jim Lehrer, interview with Raymond Zilinskas, PBS Newshour, February 16, 1998

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7. F. Gregory Gause III, "Getting It Backward on Iraq," Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999, 57 (Note; for consistency I changed Gause's spelling of "al-Hakam" to al-Hakum)

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8. Scott Ritter, "Don't blame Saddam for this one," Guardian (UK), October 19, 2001

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9. Barbara Crossette, "Clean Bill for Iraqis on A-Arms? Experts Upset," New York Times, April 19, 1998

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10. FAIR Media Advisory, "Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact," February 4, 2003 (www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html)

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11. Von Sponeck and Halliday, May 29, 2001

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12. John Barry, "The Defector's Secrets," Newsweek , March 3, 2003; David Kelly, "Regime's Priority Was Blueprints, Not Arsenal, Defector Told U.N.," Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2003; Bob Drogin, "Iraq Had Secret Labs, Officer Says," Los Angeles Times , June 8, 2003; Hiro, Iraq in the Eye of the Storm , 119. Kamel returned to Iraq in February 1996 and was assassinated shortly after a quick divorce from Hussein's daughter.

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13. Barry, Newsweek , March 3, 2003

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14. Scott Ritter, "Is Iraq a True Threat to the US?" Boston Globe , July 20, 2002

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15. Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), "Transcript of Scott Ritter's Testimony for the May 3, 2000 Congressional Briefing" (www.nonviolence.org/vitw/old_site/Ritter%20Test.html)

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16. Drogin, Los Angeles Times , June 8, 2003; John J. Lumpkin, "Top Iraqi prisoners all denying Saddam had weapons of mass destruction," San Francisco Chronicle , April 29, 2003.

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