Magazine article The Spectator

Is That a Weapon of Mass Destruction or a Tin of Feta Cheese?

Magazine article The Spectator

Is That a Weapon of Mass Destruction or a Tin of Feta Cheese?

Article excerpt

I wonder which agency will be awarded the contract for planting various weapons of mass destruction in some cubby-hole on Iraqi soil, now that it is evident that the Iraqis themselves don't actually possess any.

Perhaps the whole thing has already been nicely sorted out. As I write, the US is testing a bunch of stuff in tins it says were found at an ammo dump. It'll take ages to find out if it's nerve gas or not. Why is that? It's all rather reminiscent of the 'evidence' they found of yellowcake uranium - a document which later turned out to be a probable forgery and which was soon quietly forgotten.

We can be in no doubt that sooner or later the cry of faux-surprise will go up: Gaw, look at this! Would you believe it. guv! Ten canisters of anthrax and a box of sarin! Bang to rights, matey.

We know that these things will be found because the government has told us so; it is in no doubt about the matter. In the House of Commons this week, the Honourable Member for Henley-upon-Thames asked a question (yes, really, he did - you can check Hansard, if you like) of Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary. What will happen if no weapons of mass destruction are found? Boris Johnson cunningly inquired. Mr Hoon replied with that quiet authority we have all come to respect: `They will be found.' Howja know that, Geoff?

For two weeks now the military has been telling us, as it traipses from town to town, that, oho, it's just discovered some dodgy-- looking canisters in a warehouse or in a cupboard under the stairs or at the back of the refrigerator. And then later it's been quietly admitted that the canisters were actually full of halva, or feta cheese, or figs.

Gas! Gas! Gas! the army cried on Day One, and dived for cover as some missiles exploded 500 yards away. But the missiles, it transpired, weren't full of poisonous gas. They weren't full of very much at all. They did no damage; nobody was hurt. They weren't even Scud missiles, which everybody assured us they were at first. They were very, very short-range missiles indeed. They were a wholly new development of modern warfare: Weapons of No Destruction Whatsoever.

And since then we've been able to see, on the television, the full extent of Saddam's fiendish, illegal, despicable arsenal. A couple of rocket-grenade launchers welded on to the side of a motorbike. Antiaircraft guns which wouldn't trouble an aged buzzard afflicted by motor neurone disease. Cardboard anti-tank guns made to look like the real thing with a lick of paint, the intention being to convince the coalition forces that the Iraqi army had more dangerous weapons than they thought it had. Not, you will note, the other way round. I don't suppose that it is a convincing moral reason not to go to war: the fact that the opposition has utterly useless weapons. But there is something desperate, something sickening and pathetic about Iraq's total inability to defend itself, except through combat at close quarters (at which they seem rather adept and, although we were assured otherwise, committed).

Downing Street told me this week that it was 'confident' that WMDs would be found. But the Prime Minister himself has begun side-stepping inquiries about WMDs, as if they were only really an afterthought, not that important in the long run, not the real point of the whole exercise. …

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