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Monday, March 14, 2005

Where did all the weapons go?


Where did all the weapons go? That is the question. Opponents of the Iraq war, opponents of the United States, and the haters of George Bush cling to the notion that Iraq did not have WMD, and that the U.S. and Britain were mistaken in attacking Saddam. Some even suggest that Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair both knew that there were no WMD in Iraq, but lied to the world so as to justify the war. Objective people recognize that that opinion has no basis in fact. But I won't go into that here.

A couple of weeks ago, radio host Charles R. Smith filed a column titled, Russia Moved Iraqi WMD on the NewsMax Web site, claiming that
Moscow moved the weapons to Syria and Lebanon, and that the CIA satellites and NSA listening posts failed to detect it.

Is this column authoritative? Is it correct? I confess that I don't know. But I think it's worth your reading and forming your own opinion. Here are a couple of excerpts:

"I am absolutely sure that Russian Spetsnatz units moved WMD out of Iraq before the war," stated John Shaw, the former deputy undersecretary for international technology security.

According to Shaw, Russian units hid Saddam's arsenal inside Syria and in Lebanon's Bekka valley.

"While in Iraq I uncovered detailed information that Spetsnatz units shredded records and moved all WMD and specified advanced munitions out of Iraq to Syria and Lebanon," stated Shaw during an exclusive interview.


Shaw's information also backs allegations by a wide variety of sources of Russia's direct involvement in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. One U.N. bioterrorism expert announced that Russia has been Iraq's "main supplier of the materials and know-how to weaponize anthrax, botulism and smallpox."

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Robert Goldberg cited former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Spertzel, who stated that Moscow supplied Baghdad with fermentation equipment to produce biotoxins.

According to Spertzel, the Russians on the U.N. inspection team in Iraq were "paranoid" about his efforts to uncover smallpox production.

There is one apparent discrepancy that concerns me. Or, perhaps, I just missed something. But in one place he says "Shaw's assertions match the information provided by U.S. military forces that satellite surveillance showed extensive large-vehicle traffic crossing the Syrian border prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom." But later he said "[t]he Russians were able to move hundreds of tons of chemical, biological and nuclear materials without being discovered by CIA satellites or NSA radio listening posts."

Hopefully, many of my visitors will read this column, and a delightful discussion will ensue.



8 comments:

JL Pagano said...

Let me see if I have this right. The USA & friends claimed they had the best of intelligence which confirmed that there was WMD in Iraq. This justified them going in. The international community did not agree. They went in anyway. There was no WMD.

NOW there are reports that they WERE there but the Russians smuggled them out? Oh - and here's a twist, they moved them into Syrian hands, who just so happen to be the next centre of attention for the west?

I actually wondered to myself when the US first went in if I would actually believe them if they did claim to find something in there. I decided I would.

THIS development beggars belief.

Vitriola said...

I guess we'll be saying until we're blue in the face. There were no WMD at all. Iraq had been exposed to sanctions and sustained bombing of its supposed military installations for a period of ten years. There weren't any. I knew there weren't any. So did a lot of my friends. It's why we took to the streets and marched. When Mr. Blair says he believed in the 45 minutes, I truly believe he's lying. Sorry.

I'm not nasty minded, willing to believe the worst of everybody. I'm a very objective person and I think I weigh things up pretty well and without too much bias. I think I was right then , and I think I'm right now... the idea of Russia moving them to Syria?

Well, it's just very convenient, is it not? As Mr Pagano points out, it just so happens that Syria is next on the agenda.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that many people believe that the ONLY weapons of mass destruction are nuclear-based. We have found at least 20 deliverable biotoxin weapons in Iraq. The mass destruction in human lives of such weapons could easily outnumber those of a single atomic bomb blast such as either of the two in Japan in WWII. I fail to under-stand why the fact was downplayed or totally ignored by the media.I can understand CNN's and the NY Times' omissions, given their political bent toward the far left, but I do not understand the omission by others unless it is the mindset that all WMDs must come with a big boom rather than with an eerie silence.

Windjammer said...

I interpreted the statements differently. I heard that our intelligence did detect the rather extensive and suspicious movement of the traffic. What we did not detect was the contents of the vehicles. Of course, considering the frailties associated with my age, I might have missed something. It is interesting to note that the writer says UN, not US.

JL Pagano said...

I have a question for Mr Anonymous : exactly how many people does a weapon have to kill before it can be considered one of "mass destruction"??? Whatever number you come up with, is one that kills that minus one considered ok?

And the writer's first quote in the piece was from a "former deputy undersecretary for international technology security", which seems to be from the US, not the UN, even if it does sound like someone well down the food chain at the White House!!!

James Howard Shott said...

JL, Vitriola and Anonymous, a joint response, if you don't mind.

First, JL: “Let me see if I have this right. The USA & friends claimed they had the best of intelligence which confirmed that there was WMD in Iraq. This justified them going in. The international community did not agree. They went in anyway. There was no WMD.”

Not quite. Nearly every government in Europe, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards, Ted Kennedy, Hillary Clinton, nearly every member of the U.S. Congress, and the United Nations believed there were WMD in Iraq. Despite this widely held belief, some nations – including those on the take from Saddam – opposed the war. Some WMD have been found, but not the quantity expected.

“ … they moved them into Syrian hands, who just so happen to be the next centre of attention for the west?”

Again, not quite. Syria has only recently attracted intense attention. Previously, the next two centers of attention for the U.S. were North Korea and Iran, although Syria’s complicity in terrorism is no secret.

So, JL, you are still willing to believe there were WMD in Iraq prior to the war starting if they are found to have been moved to Syria and Lebanon?

And Vitriola, you said, “There were no WMD at all. … There weren't any. I knew there weren't any.” How can you be so certain? Don’t you remember the hassles given the weapons inspectors at most every site they wanted to inspect? Do you think Saddam was just being a horse’s ass in delaying the inspectors entry, sometimes for extended periods of time? Could it be that this was a stall while something was moved out of the sites?

And why would this former administration official lie about what he knew then and has learned since?

You and JL seem to value the work of the U.N. and look to it for leadership. How, then, do you evaluate the statement of the former U.N. weapons inspector who stated that Moscow supplied Baghdad with fermentation equipment to produce biotoxins, and also said the Russians on the U.N. inspection team in Iraq were "paranoid" about his efforts to uncover smallpox production? Doesn’t that give you just a little doubt?

And as Anonymous said, not all WMD are nuclear weapons, therefore not all are difficult to move from one place to another. I have always believed that much of the WMD could have been moved without attracting too much attention.

Vitriola and JL are predisposed to believe there were no WMD in Iraq, and so they are not open to suggestions that there may have been WMD there. I am predisposed to believe there were WMD in Iraq, and so am at least open to consider suggestions that they were there as possible.

JL Pagano said...

I'm just leaving my desk, so can't fully respond for now, but I will point out re: my supposed "predisposition" that my original comment contained the following passage :

"I actually wondered to myself when the US first went in if I would actually believe them if they did claim to find something in there. I decided I would."

I stand by this assertion.

More to come!!!

mark said...

"I can understand CNN's and the NY Times' omissions, given their political bent toward the far left"

CNN and the NY Times aren't far-left. By British standards I wouldn't even consider them particularly left-wing. There's an interesting article on media bias here. The study found that Fox News was the most one-sided. From a study of over 2000 stories on the war in Iraq, 25% were found to be negative and 20% positive ("the majority of stories were just news"). Fox News was twice as likely to be positive than negative, whereas CNN and MSNBC were fairly evenhanded.

Another story here from the Washington Post. During coverage of the Iraq war last year, 73% of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them. The figure on MSNBC was 29% and on CNN 2%.

The sector of the media that Bushites claim is rotten with liberal bias isn't biased at all. The only bias comes from the right.

With regards to WMD in Iraq....
My firm belief is that there weren't WMD in Iraq. One of the strongest reasons why is the evidence given to us in the run-up to the war. For example, the 45-minute claim. If that had been correct, surely we should've known where the WMD were in order to know that they could be launched in 45 minutes? This, as we have seen, turned out to be a load of rubbish. That's one of the ways that people like Vitriola and myself, along with the other 1-2 million people who marched against the war in London on 15th Feb 2003 knew that there were no WMD in Iraq. And that was the largest demonstration in British history (which goes back a fair way).

One more reason is the difference in the way that the US has dealt with Iraq and North Korea. NK is a far worse regime, which has repeatedly stated that it now has a nuclear deterrent. It's also a much greater threat to the US, being able to hit the west coast. Iraq couldn't do that. It didn't even have nukes (although Bush brought this up it was subsequently (and also previously) discounted).

I'm actually quite perplexed as to why anybody would think Russia would give all these WMD to Syria. What benefit would Russia get out of this? It's well-documented that the US, Russia, UK, France, Germany, etc... sold / gave arms to Iraq. It's not mystery. Why would they try to cover this fact up, then? Syria is currently a fairly unstable place. It has been for a while. So why would Russia give the WMD to Syria in the hope that they'd be paid some day? It just doesn't make sense.

Of course if WMD are found in Syria (and Lebanon - though this sounds even more remote to me), and they can be linked to Iraq then I will believe there were WMD in Iraq. I think most people here would (though I wouldn't like to presume other peoples' views). But I think most people here also believe that's about as realistic as the next Pope being a Buddhist.

Finally, the most important argument of all: why did Saddam not fire any WMD? This is the fundamental question for me. Surely if the country and his life were under threat, he would use all means to defend himself? Surely he'd refuse to send the arms to Syria? But he didn't. Why?