YESTERDAY, the Washington Post reported ("Search for Banned Arms In Iraq Ended Last Month") that the conclusions reached in Charles Duelfer's September 2004 report on Iraq's weapons programs will be the "final word" on the subject. The New York Times editorial board weighed in today. The Times notes that what the "Iraqi invasion has actually proved is that the weapons inspection worked, that international sanctions--deeply, deeply messy as they turned out to be--worked, and that in the case of Saddam Hussein, the United Nations worked."
One wonders if anyone at the Times bothered to read the hundreds of pages in the Duelfer report, let alone all the UNSCOM and UNOMIC reports to the U.N. Security Council going back over a decade. The job of the inspections regime was to verify, based on the active cooperation of Iraqi officials, that Iraq had destroyed its weapons and was actively complying with multiple U.N. disarmament resolutions. Saddam Hussein's regime did no such thing, as Hans Blix stated to the Security Council on January 27, 2003:
Resolution 687 (1991), like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to, required cooperation by Iraq but such was often withheld or given grudgingly. Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance--not even today--of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace.
President Clinton's Defense Secretary William Cohen made Blix's point five years earlier: "Hussein has said, 'we have no program now.' We're saying, 'prove it.' He says he has destroyed all his nerve agent. [W]e're asking 'where, when and how?'" Cohen added: "The onus for this is firmly on Saddam Hussein".
The uncontested fact is that there were unaccounted for weapons and bulk agent the day Operation Iraqi Freedom began on March 19, 2003. According to UNMOVIC's May 30, 2003 report, " . . . the long list of proscribed items unaccounted for and as such resulting in unresolved disarmament issues was not shortened either by the inspections or by Iraqi declarations and documentation."
Finally, on the question of sanctions, the September 2004 Duelfer report concluded that "as UN sanctions eroded there was a concomitant expansion of activities that could support full WMD reactivation." In addition, "the steps the Regime took to erode sanctions are obvious in the analysis of how revenues, particularly those derived from the Oil-for-Food program, were used. Over time, sanctions had steadily weakened to the point where Iraq, in 2000-2001, was confidently designing missiles around components that could only be obtained outside sanctions . . . . ISG's investigation also makes quite clear how Baghdad exploited the mechanism for executing the Oil-for-Food program to give individuals and countries an economic stake in ending sanctions." The New York Times may choose to believe "the United Nations worked." It didn't.
Daniel McKivergan is deputy director of the Project for the New American Century.