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Trust in Saddam: What Hans Blix Doesn't Tell Audiences Nowadays

11:01 PM, Oct 22, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Yesterday, in an address at Tufts University, former UN inspection chief Hans Blix harshly criticized the Bush administration over Iraq and then added something quite interesting and very much at the heart of the debate over the March 2003 decision to remove Saddam from power. According to the Boston Globe,

Blix said, 'We did not say there aren't any weapons of mass destruction, partly for being cautious.' But, he said, the inspectors had been to more than 700 sites in 500 places in Iraq, and 'we didn't find anything.'

The "anything" Blix is referring to includes the unaccounted for weapons of mass destruction -- the anthrax, VX, chemical & biological precursors, chemical rockets & shells, etc. -- that UN inspectors knew Saddam had produced but could not verify had been destroyed. The inspection regime agreed to by the Security Council was never about the number of inspections completed. It was about Saddam's regime actively engaging in disarmament and providing "verifiable evidence" to the Security Council that it had. The UN insistence on this "verifiable evidence" standard began in 1995 when Iraq was caught in a massive deception campaign to hide the scope of its weapons programs from the inspectors. From then on, the UN inspection team's conclusions on the state of Iraq's disarmament were to be solely based on "obtaining verifiable evidence including physical materials or documents; investigation of the successful concealment activities by Iraq; and, the thorough verification of the unilateral destruction events." In other words, Saddam had to prove he got rid of the stuff to ensure that he did not just stash it away somewhere beyond the eyes of the UN. Clinton Defense Secretary Cohen explained it this way in 1998:

[Inspectors] have to find documents, computer disks, production points, ammunition areas in an area that size [California]. 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?'"

Here's what Hans Blix said on the verification standard in late January 2003 -- though somehow I doubt he reminds today's audiences of what he said back then.

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.
As we know, the twin operation "declare and verify," which was prescribed in resolution 687 (1991), too often turned into a game of "hide and seek." Rather than just verifying declarations and supporting evidence, the two inspecting organizations found themselves engaged in efforts to map the weapons programmes and to search for evidence through inspections, interviews, seminars, inquiries with suppliers and intelligence organizations.

Blix also gave some concrete examples of the difficulty in verifying Iraq's disarmament without the active help of Saddam's regime. For instance,

January 27, 2003

The discovery of a number of 122 mm chemical rocket warheads in a bunker at a storage depot 170 km southwest of Baghdad was much publicized. This was a relatively new bunker and therefore the rockets must have been moved there in the past few years, at a time when Iraq should not have had such munitions…. They could also be the tip of a submerged iceberg. The discovery of a few rockets does not resolve but rather points to the issue of several thousands of chemical rockets that are unaccounted for.

March 6, 2003