Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Iraq and WMDs: the truth still matters a decade on

The Truth still matters

Tony Blair is at it again!

He’s been roughing up the embers of the Iraq fires, on the tenth anniversary of the invasion. In his recent  Newsnight interview, he proclaimed he has long since given up trying to persuade people it was the right decision. His current position seesm to be regime change in Iraq, the removal Saddam, was essential for the peace.But that was not his argument at the time: then, it was all about alleged Iraqi WMDs, and alleged Iraqi non-compliance with UN resolutions.

Jack Straw, Blair's Foreign Secretary at the time of the invasion, recalling the build up to the invasion of Iraq, wrote (at page 22) of his memorandum to the Chilcot Inquiry in to the Iraq debacle:

."..the Iraqi régime had for four years following the Gulf War, and not withstanding the best efforts of UNSCOM Inspectors and intelligence agencies, been successful in wholly concealing an extensive biological weapons programme (including anthrax bacillus, smallpox virus, VX nerve agent). All that Iraq had admitted was “small scale, defensive” research. It was not until the lucky break of the defection of Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law (Lieutenant-General Hussein Kamel) that even the fact of this programme was revealed."

He cites Hussein Kamel in support of what he claims was a well-founded belief - shared by all but the then Russian intelligence services - that Iraq possessed WMDs in 2002/03.
But Mr Straw and his then boss, Tony Blair, knew Saddam had no WMD at least six years before he colluded with George Bush to illegally invade Iraq. This was because what was reported originally in US magazine Newsweek in its first issue of March 2003 edition.

But it then oddly, but conveniently for warmongers, disappeared from the pre-invasion public debate.

Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialisation Corporation - which was in charge of Iraq's weapons programmes - defected to Jordan in 1995 together with his brother Colonel Saddam Kamel. They took with them crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations WMD inspection team.
Hussein and Saddam Kamel ill-advisedly agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated on February 23 1996 by agents of their father -in-law, led by 'Chemical Ali', himself later executed.

Fifteen days after Hussein Kamel left Iraq he was interviewed by UNSCOM director, Rolf Ekeus, International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director and head of the inspections team in Iraq Professor Maurizio Zifferero and Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile team.
In the transcript of the interview, Kamel states categorically: "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear - were destroyed." Kamel specifically discusses the significance of anthrax, which he portrays as the "main focus" of the biological programme.
Smidovich asks Kamel: "Were weapons and agents destroyed?" Kamel replies: "Nothing remained." He also describes the elimination of prohibited missiles. "Not a single missile left, but they had blueprints and molds for production. All missiles were destroyed." On VX nerve gas, he claims: "They put it in bombs during last days of the Iran-Iraq war. They were not used and the programme was terminated."
Ekeus asks Kamel: "Did you restart VX production after the Iran-Iraq war?" Kamel replies: "We changed the factory into pesticide production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine ... We gave instructions not to produce chemical weapons."
According to Ekeus "Kamel was a consummate liar." Maybe so, but on this crucial matter it turns out his facts were more truthful and accurate than Tony Blair's.
Former Labour MP Llew Smith, who strongly opposed the invasion - for whom I worked at the time - also raised these matters in an unreported parliamentary debate on Iraq held in June 2003, barely a month after Bush proclaimed "mission accomplished" in Iraq.
Smith pointed out that "we continue to be told that war with Iraq was necessary because Iraq had those weapons of mass destruction which were a threat to the world and because it was willing to use them and could deliver them within 45 minutes, yet we have still not found those weapons."
In fact Smith was the first MP to raise doubts over the now infamous 45-minute claim.
As long ago as October 2002 - just a month after the government's "distorted dossier" on Iraq's fantasy WMD was published - Smith challenged Blair on the basis of the dossier's assertion that Saddam was determined to retain the weapons of mass destruction that the dossier discusses.
And Smith asked him if he would "set out the technical basis for the assertion ... that chemical or biological weapons could be deployed within 45 minutes of an order to do so." Blair disingenuously and shamefacedly lied: "These points reflect specific intelligence information."
I sent Sir John Chilcot the full text of the Kamel interview. (The transcript is available at

http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf).Has he read and understood it?

Dr David Lowry is an independent research consultant and a former researcher for Llew Smith MP

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