The Blog

Clinton vs. Clinton, on Iraq

The former president spoke at the Labour party conference in Blackpool yesterday--and reversed field on Iraq.

9:50 AM, Oct 3, 2002 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Remember, as a condition of the cease-fire after the Gulf War, the United Nations demanded--not the United States--the United Nations demanded and Saddam Hussein agreed, to declare within 15 days--this is way back in 1991--within 15 days, his nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them--to make a total declaration. That's what he promised to do. The United Nations set up a special commission of highly trained international experts called UNSCOM to make sure that Iraq made good on that commitment.

We had every good reason to insist that Iraq disarm. Saddam had built up a terrible arsenal, and he had used it. Not once, but many times in a decade-long war with Iran, he used chemical weapons against combatants, against civilians, against a foreign adversary and even against his own people. And during the Gulf War, Saddam launched Scuds against Saudi Arabia, Israel and Bahrain.

Now, instead of playing by the very rules he agreed to at the end of the Gulf War, Saddam has spent the better part of the past decade trying to cheat on this solemn commitment.

Consider just some of the facts:

Iraq repeatedly made false declarations about the weapons that it had left in its possession after the Gulf War. When UNSCOM would then uncover evidence that gave lie to those declarations, Iraq would simply amend the reports. For example, Iraq revised its nuclear declarations four times within just 14 months, and it has submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which has been rejected by UNSCOM.

In 1995 Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law and the chief organizer of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, defected to Jordan. He revealed that Iraq was continuing to conceal weapons and missiles and the capacity to build many more. Then and only then did Iraq admit to developing numbers of weapons in significant quantities--and weapons stocks. Previously it had vehemently denied the very thing it just simply admitted once Saddam's son-in-law defected to Jordan and told the truth.

Now listen to this: What did it admit? It admitted, among other things, an offensive biological warfare capability, notably, 5,000 gallons of botulinum, which causes botulism; 2,000 gallons of anthrax; 25 biological-filled Scud warheads; and 157 aerial bombs. And I might say UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq has actually greatly understated its production.

As if we needed further confirmation, you all know what happened to his son-in-law when he made the untimely decision to go back to Iraq. Next, throughout this entire process, Iraqi agents have undermined and undercut UNSCOM. They've harassed the inspectors, lied to them, disabled monitoring cameras, literally spirited evidence out of the back doors of suspect facilities as inspectors walked through the front door, and our people were there observing it and had the pictures to prove it.

Despite Iraq's deceptions, UNSCOM has nevertheless done a remarkable job. Its inspectors, the eyes and ears of the civilized world, have uncovered and destroyed more weapons of mass destruction capacity than was destroyed during the Gulf War.

This includes nearly 40,000 chemical weapons, more than 100,000 gallons of chemical weapons agents, 48 operational missiles, 30 warheads specifically fitted for chemical and biological weapons, and a massive biological weapons facility at Al Hakim equipped to produce anthrax and other deadly agents. Over the past few months, as they have come closer and closer to rooting out Iraq's remaining nuclear capacity, Saddam has undertaken yet another gambit to thwart their ambition by imposing debilitating conditions on the inspectors and declaring key sites which have still not been inspected off limits, including, I might add, one palace in Baghdad more than 2,600 acres large. By comparison, when you hear all this business about "Presidential sites reflect our sovereignty; why do you want to come into a residence?" the White House complex is 18 acres, so you'll have some feel for this. One of these presidential sites is about the size of Washington, DC. That's about--how many acres did you tell me it was? Forty thousand acres. We're not talking about a few rooms here with delicate personal matters involved.

It is obvious that there is an attempt here, based on the whole history of this operation since 1991, to protect whatever remains of his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction, the missiles to deliver them, and the feed stocks necessary to produce them. The UNSCOM inspectors believe that Iraq still has stockpiles of chemical and biological munitions, a small force of Scud-type missiles, and the capacity to restart quickly its production program and build many, many, more weapons.