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Iraq’s Missing Weapons and the Real Business of the War

The apparent lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq presents a credibility problem for the coalition that provided falsified evidence to support their claim that Iraqi weapons posed a serious threat.

The fact that the Iraqi regime did not use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to prevent the complete conquest of their nation by foreign armies supports the assertion by those who said that Iraq did not have the banned weapons. The lack of any evidence of such banned weapons in the country is now causing “a certain unease” in Washington and London, who said war was necessary because of the “imminent and grave threat” Iraqi weapons supposedly posed to world security.

While the U.S. and Britain claimed, before the war, that they had solid evidence of Iraqi WMD and that UN Security Council resolutions provided legal cover for their armed invasion of Iraq, the lack of any evidence of WMD in Iraq is raising serious questions about the real motives for the aggression. There is growing concern that international law and the credibility of the United States and Britain will only be restored if banned WMD are found in Iraq.

The Bush administration had said that Iraq possessed chemical and biological agents and munitions capable of delivering them. The material was supposed to be enough to produce large amounts of anthrax and botulinum toxin. Iraq allegedly had underground or mobile laboratories to make germ weapons. To date nothing of the sort has been found in Iraq.

The stated position of the U.S. administration, which calls for lifting UN sanctions on Iraq while preventing UN weapons inspectors from returning to the country, is being challenged by the other members of the Security Council.

Lifting the sanctions would allow Iraqi oil to be sold on the world market and provide billions of dollars to pay for the reconstruction programs being contracted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

USAID recently announced it had awarded an initial $34.6 million contract to Bechtel Group Inc., a privately owned San Francisco company, to reconstruct Iraq’s power generation, water and sewage systems. Bechtel’s contract could be worth more than $680 million if it is extended to repair hospitals, schools and other government buildings.

A retired lieutenant general named John M. Pickler who works for Bechtel is serving as the top aide to Jay Garner, another retired general who left his retirement in Florida to direct the U.S.-led “reconstruction” of Iraq.

U.S. firms are receiving contracts that could be worth as much as $100 billion. In order to fund these projects it is necessary to lift the sanctions and have access to Iraq’s oil revenues.

This is why the U.S. administration wants the UN sanctions imposed in 1990 to be lifted. This is the real reason for the war, critics of the U.S.-led military occupation and reconstruction of Iraq say. The U.S. wants to install a subservient government in Baghdad in order to control Iraq’s immense oil wealth.

UN or US Inspectors

The major independent British newspapers (i.e. those not owned by the pro-war media king Rupert Murdoch) have all called for UN weapons inspectors (UNMOVIC) headed by Hans Blix to be sent back to Iraq to verify any finds of weapons made by coalition forces.

Blix addressed the UN Security Council on April 22 and said that only UN inspectors would be able to provide an objective assessment of any weapons or materials found in Iraq. Blix is scheduled to retire in June.

UN inspectors would save U.S. forces, which are already stretched thin, the effort and expense of searching for Iraqi WMD and would provide the required credibility that any materials found have not been planted by the allies to justify the war.

Financial Times said: “A certain unease is developing in US and UK government circles about their failure, so far, to uncover the WMD they so insistently charged the Saddam Hussein regime with possessing before the war. It is ironic that the US should be asking for more time to find Iraq’s sinister arsenals, when it was earlier so impatient about the efforts of Hans Blix and his UN inspectors to do the same.

“War, of course, changes some facts on the ground,” FT wrote, “But this does not mean history can be rewritten.”

“The thought is forming in some people’s minds – including those who supported the war – that these weapons may not exist at all,” Stephen Glover wrote in the Daily Mail. “Behind this idea is a still darker thought – that the weapons of mass destruction were invented by the allies to justify an attack on a sovereign state.

“If there is no evidence, the war was illegal and immoral, and the destruction of Iraq was built on a lie,” Glover wrote.

Blix said London and Washington had built their case for invading Iraq on “very, very shaky” evidence. “I think it has been one of the disturbing elements that so much of the intelligence on which the capitals built their case seems to have been shaky,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

During the closed-door debate, Blix said that UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be the final voice to certify Iraq free of banned weapons, according to briefing notes.

WMD Might “Have to be Planted”

The U.S. government should be “embarrassed” over the apparent failure to uncover WMD in Iraq, according to retired intelligence officials.

“It’s going to be very embarrassing when it turns out they have nothing to declare,” former defense intelligence analyst Eugene Betit told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Another, former CIA station chief Ray Close, said: “I’m hoping they will be embarrassed into acknowledging a role for some independent body. And who could it be but the UN?”

Retired CIA intelligence analyst Ray McGovern told AFP: “Some of my colleagues are virtually certain that there will be some weapons of mass destruction found, even though they might have to be planted.

“I’m just as sure that some few will be found, but not in an amount that by any stretch would justify the charge of a threat against the U.S. or anyone else.”

McGovern added: “Even if the planting was discovered by and by, they’ll say, ‘ok, the weapons were planted – fine.’”

McGovern said he was alluding to a remark by Secretary of State Colin Powell after it emerged that a letter purporting to show that Iraq had sought to procure uranium from Niger was a forgery.

About using forged evidence to gain support for the war against Iraq, Powell told NBC: “It was the information that we had. We provided it. If that information is inaccurate, fine.”

Blix addressed the use of the forged evidence, a fake contract between Iraq and Niger, which alleged that Iraq imported some 500 tons of uranium from Niger, when he spoke to the Security Council on April 22.

“We have heard about the alleged contract between Iraq and Niger about the import of some 500 tons of uranium. When the IAEA got the contract they had no great difficulty in finding out that this was a fake, falsified simply,” Blix said.

“I think that is very, very disturbing. Who falsifies this? And is it not disturbing that the intelligence agencies [CIA, MI6, etc.] that should have all the technical means at their disposal did not discover that this was falsified?”

About the success of the UN inspections in Iraq, Blix said: “We had made rapid start. We did not have any obstacles from the Iraqi side in going anywhere. They gave us prompt access and we were in a great many places all over Iraq.

“I somewhat doubt that when [the Security Council] got the resolution last November they really intended to give under three-and-a-half months for inspections,” Blix said.

The United States, however, says it will not allow UN weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, saying the U.S. military has taken over the role of searching for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction.

Both the White House and the U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Negroponte said they saw no role in postwar Iraq for the UN weapons inspection teams.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “Make no mistake about it. The United States and the coalition have taken on the responsibility for dismantling Iraq’s WMD.”

“The coalition has assumed responsibility for the disarming of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction,” Negroponte said. The U.S. military would “interview scientists, examine documents, go to the different suspected sites, and so forth,” he said. “For the time being, and for the foreseeable future, we visualize that as being a coalition activity.”

Robin Cook, who resigned as Britain’s Leader of the Commons over the war with Iraq, said: “America is not going to convince the rest of the world it has uncovered a chemical or biological threat in Iraq if it persists in refusing to submit any find to independent outside assessment.”

The Russian and German governments have stated that, in accordance with the Security Council resolutions, the lifting of sanctions can only occur after U.N. weapons inspectors certify Iraq is free of WMD. The French government called for a suspension of the sanctions, not lifting, and said UN inspectors should return to Iraq.

Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with veto power, said it would not support the lifting of UN sanctions against Iraq unless UN inspectors confirmed the absence of weapons of mass destruction.

“We are not at all opposing the lifting of sanctions,” said Russian Ambassador Sergei Lavrov. “What we are insisting on is that Security Council resolution must be implemented. We all want to know that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the only way to verify it is to have inspectors see for themselves and to report back to the Security Council. As soon as they deliver the report, the sanctions could be lifted, I’m sure”.