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The Connection between the Spring 1995 Saddam Tape and the March 2003 Invasion

7:53 PM, Feb 16, 2006 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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Not that facts matter anyone more in the Iraq debate, but Nightline's report last night on Saddam's tape-recorded meetings, specifically the April/May 1995 one, is key to understanding the 2003 decision to invade. On the tape, Saddam's son-in-law, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamal, briefs Saddam on his efforts to hide weapons information from UN inspectors. A short time later, in August, Kamal would defect to Jordan. His defection would fully expose the massive concealment campaign the Iraqi government had conducted of its weapons programs. UNSCOM chief Richard Butler told to the Security Council "that a program of concealment, run at a very senior level in Iraq, must have operated successfully for over four years without detection by the Commission." He added that with the defection,

[i]mmediately, the entire basis upon which the Commission was conducting its assessments and analysis was undermined. It became clear that Iraq's declaration of March 1992 was itself a fraud; everything had NOT been declared to the Commission; everything had not been destroyed.

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 UNMOVIC head Hans Blix said on the verification standard in late January 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.

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