In a letter in today's Western Mail newspaper - " Commons support for war was ill-gotten " - correspondent David Hullah asserted:
"An extensive search by a team of United Nations experts failed to find any evidence that these weapons [of mass destruction] ever existed and came to the conclusion that Saddam Hussein had not, in fact, possessed this capability."
This is inaccurate. There are extraordinary documented facts, the timeline of which is essential to grasp.
Gen. Hussein Kamal, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation, in charge of Iraq's weapons programme, defected to Jordan on the night of 7 August 1995, together with his brother Col. Saddam Kamal.
Both were sons in law of the then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Hussein Kamal took crates of documents revealing past weapons programmes, and provided these to UNSCOM, the United Nations’ inspection team looking for WMDs in Iraq.
Iraq responded by revealing a major store of documents that showed that Iraq had begun an unsuccessful crash programme to develop a nuclear bomb (on 20 August 1995). Hussein and Saddam Kamal surprisingly agreed to return to Iraq, where they were assassinated by the thug and Saddam henchman known as ‘Chemical Ali’ on 23 February 1996).
Before their fateful return to Iraq, they were interviewed in Amman on 22 August 1995, 15 days after Kamel left Iraq. His interviewers were: Rolf Ekeus, the former executive chairman of Unscom (from 1991 to 1997); Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; plus Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile team and former Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM.
During the interview, Major Izz al-Din al-Majid (transliterated as Major Ezzeddin) joined the discussion. Izz al-Din was Saddam Hussein's cousin, and defected together with the Kamel brothers. The full transcript of the interview may be read at: http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf.
The key output was the documented revelation that : "all weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
Tony Blair in a misleading statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003 said: "It was only four years later after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered." (www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page3088.asp)
Llew Smith, the anti-war former Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent , for whom I then worked, asked the Prime Minister about the information provided by Hussein Kamal on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and if Mr Blair if he would place in the House of Commons Library the text of the Kamal interview.
Mr Blair answered “Following his defection, Hussein Kamal was interviewed by UNSCOM and by a number of other agencies. Details concerning the interviews were made available to us on a confidential basis. The UK was not provided with transcripts of the interviews.” (Hansard, 26 March 2003: Column 235W)
But it was known to Blair and his security advisors that eight years earlier Saddam’s son-in-law Hussain Kamal had fessed-up in an interview with the UN’s international weapons inspectors and intelligence agents to the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological WMDs, and the nascent nuclear weapons programme too.
The question apologists for Tony Blair’s need to ask is: why did Mr Blair so blatantly disregarded this information when pressing for war, except for the obvious reason it undermined his stated reason to support an invasion?