War on Iraq: Banned Weapons: The US Targeted 14,000 Sites. So Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? ; IoS Investigation
Gumbel, Andrew, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
They were the reason the United States and Britain were in such a hurry to go to war, the threat the rank-and-file troops feared most.
And yet, after three weeks of war, after the capture of Baghdad and the collapse of the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - those weapons that President Bush, on the eve of hostilities, said were a direct threat to the people of the United States - have still to be identified.
Many influential people - disarmament experts, present and former United Nations arms inspectors, our own Robin Cook - have begun to wonder aloud if the weapons exist at all.
The public surrender of a senior Iraqi scientist could yet backfire against the US and Britain. Lieutenant-General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, who handed himself over to US forces yesterday, continued to proclaim that Iraq no longer holds any chemical or biological weapons. He should know: the British- educated chemical expert headed the Iraqi delegation at weapons talks with the United Nations.
The few "discoveries" trumpeted in the media - the odd barrel here, a few dozen shells there - have not been on a scale that could reasonably justify the unprovoked military invasion of a sovereign country, and in most cases have been proven to been no more than rumour, or propaganda, or a mixture of the two.
It could still be that, as American forces advance on Tikrit, Saddam's home town, chemical or biological weapons may be discovered, or even deployed by diehard Iraqi troops. But if the casus belli pleaded by George Bush and Tony Blair turns out to be entirely hollow - and it should be stressed that we can't yet know that - what does it say about their motivations for going to war in the first place? How much deception was involved in talking up the Iraqi threat, and how much self-deception?
As Susan Wright, a disarmament expert at the University of Michigan, said last week: "This could be the first war in history that was justified largely by an illusion." Even The Wall Street Journal, one of the administration's biggest cheerleaders, has warned of the "widespread scepticism" the White House can expect if it does not make significant, and undisputed, discoveries of forbidden weapons.
Before the war, American intelligence officials said that they had a list of 14,000 sites where, they suspected, chemical or biological agents had been harboured, as well as the delivery systems to deploy them. A substantial number of those sites have been inspected by the invading troops. Evidence to date of a "grave and gathering" threat: precisely zero.
Much of what has been unearthed points to something we knew about all along: the weapons programmes that Iraq ran before the 1991 Gulf War, before sanctions, before regular US and British bombing raids in the no- fly zones and before the UN weapons inspection regime that ran from 1991 to 1998.
US troops have discovered a few suspect barrels here, a sample bottle of nerve agent there, stacks of chemical suits and some drugs typically used to counteract the effects of a chemical attack, such as atropine and 2-pam chloride. According to many military experts, these finds suggest the vestiges of a weapons programme that has been dismantled, not one that is up and running. The US government argues that the weapons have been deliberately dispersed and hidden - a claim that would have more merit if there were any evidence of where the materials might have gone.
In his State of the Union address in early February, President Bush was quite specific about the materials he believed Saddam was hiding: 25,000 litres of anthrax, 38,000 …
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Publication information: Article title: War on Iraq: Banned Weapons: The US Targeted 14,000 Sites. So Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction? ; IoS Investigation. Contributors: Gumbel, Andrew - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent on Sunday (London, England). Publication date: April 13, 2003. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent on Sunday. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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