The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security

Article excerpt

THE GREATEST THREAT: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security, Richard Butler, PublicAffairs, New York, 2000, 262 pages, $26.00. Richard Butler led the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), formed in the mid-- 1990s, whose mission was to oversee the inspection program designed to ensure the disarmament or destruction of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Butler's book is a lesson in the delicate art of negotiating with members of Iraq President Saddam Hussein's inner circle to effect an agreement about disarmament between Iraq and Western powers.

Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz occupies center stage. Butler describes Aziz's endless monologues, irrational temper, and outright deception in his accountability to the United Nations. When Butler became the leader of the commission, the outgoing UNSCOM leader, Rolf Ekeus, remarked that he had found "Iraqi leaders to be a gang of despicable liars and cheats." Butler echoes Ekeus's words when he describes physical threats from a regime that operates with no rule of law.

The many attempts at Iraqi deceit forced UNSCOM to act as detectives; witnesses described Iraqis running out of buildings carrying armloads of incriminating documents as UNSCOM inspectors approached. In another instance, Butler's team discovered Agent VX, a deadly toxin, in fragments of destroyed missiles. After first denying its manufacture, the Iraqis eventually admitted to having made 200 liters of the deadly substance. Further probing by UNSCOM showed that the Iraqis had actually manufactured 3.9 metric tons of the agent.

Butler does not have kind words to say about the U. …

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