Memo To: Political Reporters From: Jude Wanniski Re: Refresh Your Memories on Iraq
In watching the Sunday talk shows today I was astonished at how everyone interviewers and guests seems to have forgotten that in the last month before President Bush pulled the trigger on Iraq it was clear we all should have known Saddam had NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. I’m posting below a memo I ran in this space 30 days before the war began entitled, “Finally, A Disarmed Iraq.” When everyone who supports the war continues to say that EVERYONE believed Saddam had WMD, including the French, the Germans, the Russians, etc. That is true only BEFORE the UN inspectors returned and spent months going over all the possibilities. A full month before the President decided that diplomacy had failed, Baghdad addressed the only issue still outstanding on the UNMOVIC and IAEA report cards: Proving the negative.
Strip away all gabble we hear today and you should remember the US position was that it was NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INSPECTORS to locate WMD, it was Iraq’s responsibility to ‘fess up and take the inspectors to the locations where they were hiding WMD!! To be quite correct, this was essentially the thrust of the 1991 UN resolution, which required Baghdad to own up to any unconventional weapons they had, show them to the inspectors, and have them destroyed. The record now indicates Iraq did EXACTLY that in 1991, but none of that mattered as the US did not want to lift the sanctions that were crippling the Iraqi economy. The neo-cons had their hidden agenda of occupying Iraq, which is where we are now.
Senator John Kerry should be making the most of this, but his “helpers” are not doing much to help him. On “Meet the Press,” Tim Russert asked former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chief of Staff John Podesta how Kerry could really complain about the war when he “voted for it.” Russert asked: What is the difference between Kerry and Bush? Both Albright and Podesta parroted the party line that Kerry would have allowed the UN inspectors “to finish their work,” but then slipped into the line that a President Kerry could then have assembled an international coalition to take out Saddam. Huh?
Their assumption is that if the inspectors finished their work, they would have found the WMD!! Why do they say this? Because if they do not, they will have to come to the conclusion that the United Nations would announce, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED,” and submit that the sanctions against Iraq should finally be lifted. It is now still politically incorrect to say the world would be better off if we had not gone to war and removed Saddam. We know the Bush team wanted war and their smartest players knew Iraq had been effectively disarmed. But why do you reporters to this day run film clips and cite quotes of Hillary Clinton and John Kerry from the Senate floor supporting the use of force against Iraq? Of course, at the time EVERYONE thought WMD would be found (except Scott Ritter, the UNSCOM inspector who ran around telling everyone he knew that this wasn’t the case.)
To repeat, political reporters (you too, Tim), should refresh your memories. Go back and watch the UNSC sessions and read the daily accounts of how diplomacy was working, except the major media at the time did not seem to notice.
Memo on the Margin Finally, A Disarmed Iraq
Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients, Feb. 17, 2003 From: Jude Wanniski Re: Closing the Last Gaps
If you watched the proceedings of the UN Security Council last Friday, you had to be paying special attention when UNMOVIC's Hans Blix mentioned in passing a list of 83 names he had gotten from Baghdad in the last few days. US Secretary of State Colin Powell clearly missed the point or was thinking about something else at that moment. So were the editorialists at The New York Times, which led me to write a letter to the Times explaining the importance of what Blix had mentioned. You may recall that in his remarks which followed, Powell again and again made the point that while it was clear Iraq had been cooperating on u201Cprocess,u201D it was still not cooperating on u201Csubstance.u201D He also hammered away on the point that UNSC Resolution #1441 was not about u201Cinspections,u201D but about u201Cdisarmament.u201D In its lead editorial Saturday, the Times made the same point, that Iraq was still doing nothing to deal with the u201Csubstanceu201D of the disarmament issue that has dragged on since the summer of 1991.
What was that list of 83 names and why is it so crucial? It is the only way Iraq has of proving the negative, an otherwise impossible demand by the hawks in the Bush administration. As Iraq's UN Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri put it in his remarks Friday, u201CYou cannot give with an empty hand,u201D an old Arab saying. What Blix finds promising on u201Csubstanceu201D in the list is that these are the men who actually carried out the destruction of materials that could be assembled into weapons of mass destruction if Iraqi scientists knew how to do so. When the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they had accounted for 95% of the chemical and biological programs, which led Scott Ritter to say Iraq had been u201Cqualitativelyu201D disarmed. What was left were these u201Cgapsu201D in the records, which UNSCOM's Richard Butler insisted was the responsibility of Iraq to prove did not exist. I don't know if he ever asked Baghdad for a list of names of the workers who destroyed the missing materials, but now Baghdad has supplied the list without being asked for it. If the interviews get started now, Blix will be able to report to the Security Council on March 14 that Iraq has been u201Cquantitativelyu201D disarmed, removing any reason for war.
Here is the letter to the Times, which the paper chose not to run:
Letter to the Editor:
Both the Times in its 2/15 editorial, “Disarming Iraq,” and Secretary of State Powell in his remarks to the UN the day before missed the most substantive offer made by Iraq last week, as recounted in the report of UNMOVIC’s Hans Blix. It has never been possible for Baghdad to prove with documentation that some of the missing chemical/biological materials were destroyed as claimed in the summer of 1991. Documents had been able to account for almost all the materials, but after inspections from 1991 to 1998 there remained these gaps. Mr. Blix told the UN that Iraq’s National Monitoring Directorate has presented a list of 83 names of participants in the destruction process. “The presentation of a list of persons who can be interviewed about the actions appears useful and pertains to cooperation on substance,” he said, adding the hope that a similar list be proffered for proscribed items in the biological field.
There has never been credible evidence that Iraq ever produced “weapons of mass destruction” in the chemical, biological or nuclear fields. The gasses the Iraqi army used in the Iran/Iraq war were deadly to those caught in the vicinity of an incoming shell, but were mainly used not to kill but to disorient the human-wave attacks employed by the Iranians.
Iraq clearly tried to “weaponize” anthrax, VX, and biological agents in the ’80s, but failed and abandoned the efforts. What remains missing are records of some the ingredients that would be needed for such weapons. The most encouraging part of the positive report by Mr. Blix is that a method is being worked out to close those gaps to the satisfaction of the inspection teams.
June 29, 2004