8 October 2003

The Iraq Sanctions Worked - And other revelations from David Kay's report

'At least one senior Iraqi official believed that by 2000 Saddam had run out of patience with waiting for sanctions to end and wanted to restart the nuclear program,' the report notes.

However, the evidence that Saddam acted on this impatience is flimsy at best. 'Starting around 2000,' the report states, Dr. Khalid Ibrahim Sa'id, Saddam's senior atomic-energy official (who was killed during the fall of Baghdad when his driver tried to run a U.S. roadblock), 'began several small and relatively unsophisticated research initiatives that could be applied to nuclear weapons development.'

The report adds, 'These initiatives did not in and of themselves constitute a resumption of the nuclear weapons program, but could have been useful in developing a weapons-relevant science base for the long-term.' This sentence, which seems very carefully written, is so devoid of meaning that it could accurately be invoked to describe the purchase of a college-level textbook in nuclear physics.

I've now been through this report 3 times. Each time I read it the avalanche of qualifiers and hedging strikes me more and more. If the published report, or even the classified sections, contained serious evidence of weapons of mass destruction, I think we would have heard something more persuasive than attempts to conflate botulinum B with botulinum A or to describe a vial as equivalent to the famous 10000 tons plus of chemical weapons.

Kaplan also addresses the missile development program in fairly damning terms:

The evidence garnered on behalf of Saddam's ballistic-missile program is similarly weak. Beginning in 2000, Saddam "ordered the development of ballistic missiles with ranges of at least 400km and up to 1000km." However, according to "a cooperating senior detainee," the report goes on, "Saddam concluded that the proposals from � missile design centers would take too long." Saddam wanted the missile built within six months, but one of his design centers told him it would take "six years."

Kay's teams discovered that, in 2000, Saddam sought to buy Scud-type missiles from North Korea (a finding that, by the way, suggests Iraq couldn't build them itself). However, the report admits that, by the time the war started, "these discussions had not led to any missiles being transferred to Iraq."

At a news conference shortly after his testimony, Kay shed more light on this curious connection within the "axis of evil." Saddam paid North Korea $10 million for the missiles. However, the North Koreans decided delivering the missiles was too risky because they thought the rest of the world was watching Iraqi transactions too closely. (North Korea kept the $10 million, though. Some axis.)

The Kay report claimed a network of safe houses, a miissile program, and the vial of mass destruction. Kaplan's article destroys the missile program. The vial of mass destruction is an absurdity and its absurdity is proved by the efforts to misrepresent it.

I am still trying to chase down the network of safe houses. The more I examine this stuff, the more I am reminded by one of those alleged TV documentaries that strings together unrelated facts for half an hour and then suddenly asks: 'Could Martians have constructed the Sydney Harbour Bridge?' Kay's discourse and rhetoric is the same.

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