More Concerns About Weapons, Expertise Available
to Iraqi Insurgents
evidence of a major failure by the Bush administration to adequately
prepare for the possibility of insurgency in post-war Iraq has surfaced
amid claims by some rebels that they have acquired chemical weapons
and are preparing to use them against U.S. forces in the besieged
Sunni stronghold of Falluja.
claims, which come on the heels of the worst one-day losses for
U.S. soldiers in more than six months, suggested that chemical-weapons
specialists are lending their expertise to the guerrillas, a development
that is causing growing anxiety in Washington.
a possibility was noted in the Central Intelligence Agencys
(CIA) Duelfer Report last month which detailed in an annex that
a group of insurgents, called the Al-Abud Network, had
worked with a civilian Iraqi chemist to build chemical weapons for
use against Coalition forces.
report, which was noted by Michael Roston at Columbia University
in a paper published by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) last week
said U.S.-led troops had nipped the plot in the bud but that al-Abud
was not the only group planning or attempting to produce CBW
(chemical or biological weapons) agents
of chemicals and materials dispersed throughout the country, and
intellectual capital from the former WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
programs increases (sic) the future threat to Coalition forces,
according to the Annex.
possibility looms large as U.S. Marines prepare a major assault
on Falluja where up to 3,000 insurgents are believed to be holed
up. It was just outside the city that nine Marines were reportedly
killed Saturday when a suicide bomber drove his truck into their
last weeks revelation that some 380 tons of high explosives
just a few pounds of which can blow up an airplane that
had been sealed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
at the former nuclear site of Al Qaqaa south of Baghdad, concern
has grown over the likelihood that that stockpile was only a small
fraction of as much as 250,000 tons of munitions that remain unaccounted
al Qaqaa discovery has fuelled charges by the presidential campaign
of Sen. John Kerry that the Pentagon had made a major strategic
error in not sending into Iraq nearly enough troops to secure Iraqs
well-stocked arsenal, some of which is now almost certainly be used
to kill U.S. and coalition forces.
Rights Watch (HRW) reported Friday that it had repeatedly given
U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq detailed information about enormous
stockpiles of unsecured explosives and munitions located throughout
the country but that coalition forces had taken little or no action
at all to secure them.
after the fall of Baghdad, our researchers were finding massive
stockpiles of weapons and explosives throughout Iraq, said
Kenneth Roth, HRWs director. But when we informed coalition
forces, they us they just didnt have enough troops to secure
May, 2003, for example, a HRW researcher found a huge stockpile
of warheads, anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines, and other weaponry
that were being looted at the Second military College located on
the main road between Baghdad and Baquba. Included in the weaponry
were hundreds of high-explosive surface-to-surface warheads.
immediately provided the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in
Baghdad the precise GPS coordinates of the sites, as well as photographs
of the looting and followed up with several trips there over the
following days. But U.S. and coalition forces never secured the
site, and the road has since become one of the main locations for
suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) against
passing military convoys.
the same month, when clashes had already broken out between U.S.
forces and Falluja residents, HRW reported that weapons markets
in the city were operating openly with buyers testing all manner
of assault weapons and machine guns by firing them in the air. When
the researchers asked U.S. intelligence officers about the markets,
they were unaware of their existence.
the U.S.-led coalition deployed more than 1,000 people to search
for WMD, they werent organized to neutralize the threat of
conventional weapons right under their noses, Roth said. Now,
Iraqi civilians are paying a deadly price for the failure to secure
the vast weapons stocks in Iraq during and after the invasion.
the International Herald Tribune reported last week that
a French journalist who visited the Al Qaqaa site more than six
months after the fall of President Saddam Hussein had seen vast
supplies of explosives being looted from bunkers.
was utterly stupefied to see that a place like that was pretty much
unguarded and that insurgents could help themselves for months on
end, Sarah Daniel was quoted as telling the Tribune. She added
that the looters who were loading truckloads of material from what
had been the biggest explosives factory in the Middle East admitted
that they, too were surprised, that no effort had been made by the
coalition forces to close it off.
situation regarding Iraqi unconventional weapons scientists is even
more puzzling, according to Columbias Roston, if only because
the administration itself appeared to be aware of the threat posed
by their expertise being shared with insurgents or terrorist groups.
early June 2003, for example, Undersecretary of state for Arms Control
and International Security, John Bolton, warned in Congressional
testimony that The biggest threat that we now face from Iraqs
defunct WMD program is
that other rogue states or terrorist
organizations will hire and offer refuge to these WMD experts.
according to Roston, writing last week for Foreign Policy in Focus
(FPIF), it was Boltons fellow-hawks in the Pentagon that ignored
pre-war State Department recommendations to quickly hire Iraqs
WMD specialists to ensure that they did not go elsewhere for work.
his article, Roston cited the CIAs former chief weapons-hunter,
David Kay, as blaming the governments failure to launch such
a program on some of the worst (and) most pointless inter-agency
wrangling Ive ever seen.
then, the State Department, which has tried to wrest control over
the US$18 billion in reconstruction money that Congress approved
for the Pentagon one year ago, has found only $2 million from an
unrelated non-proliferation budget in funding to put Iraqi weapons
scientists to work.
shortsightedness of this policy, according to Roston, is
only making it more likely that the worst of Americas fears
about WMD in Iraq will finally come true.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 One World