Play President, Real Threats

So you're sitting in the Oval Office, presidential as can be, and up pops this little flash - and it ain't from the CIA.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Iraq has a much stronger BW [biological weapons] program today than it had in 1990."
The former chief biological weapons inspector for the UN tells that to the House Armed Services Committee - after 9/11 - and you dismiss him?

Then what do you do with the UN itself?

"the Commission has no confidence that all bulk agents have been destroyed; that no BW munitions or weapons remain in Iraq; and that a BW capability does not exist in Iraq".
What about the Nuclear Threat Institute, headed by former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn?

"Thirteen German companies are suspected of having assisted Iraq in building nuclear facilities and developing its Scud missile program. Illegal exports from Germany to Iraq include missile parts, aluminum pipes for producing gas ultracentrifuges, and design plans for nuclear technology."
What about Senator Nunn himself on terrorists and nuclear weapons?

"If they get the materials, they can make a bomb. If they get a bomb, they're going to use it."
Then there's the BBC's report on Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, the BND.

"BND says it has evidence to suggest the following: Iraq has resumed its nuclear programme and may be capable of producing an atomic bomb in three years"
Do you shrug at former Iraq nuclear inspector David Albright and Khidhir Hamza, "Saddam's Bombmaker"?
"Our conclusion is that Iraq could make a nuclear device within two to 12 months after deciding to do so, assuming it acquired sufficient fissile material. We also believe that the more probable time is closer to two months if HEU[Highly Enriched Uranium] is obtained"
No wonder President Clinton said to the American public on December 16, 1998:
"The hard fact is that so long as Saddam remains in power, he threatens the well-being of his people, the peace of his region, the security of the world.

"The best way to end that threat once and for all is with a new Iraqi government - a government ready to live in peace with its neighbors, a government that respects the rights of its people.

"If Saddam defies the world and we fail to respond, we will face a far greater threat in the future. Saddam will strike again at his neighbors. He will make war on his own people.

"And mark my words, he will develop weapons of mass destruction. He will deploy them, and he will use them. "
Whether Saddam actually had WMD was irrelevant: he "will develop" them, "will deploy " them, "will use" them.

Four years later, Colin Powell was just as stark:

"We can have debates about the size and nature of the Iraqi stockpile of WMD and of mid- and long-range missiles. But no one can doubt the record of Iraqi violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, one after another, and for 12 long years.

"And no one can doubt that the Iraqi dictator's intentions have not changed. He wants weapons of mass destruction as clearly as he wants to remain in power."
Anthony Cordesman was equally adamant:

"The issue is not whether Iraq has yet achieved nuclear weapons or extremely lethal biological weapons. It is that this regime will eventually acquire nuclear weapons and biological weapons with equal or greater lethality if it is given the time and opportunity to do so. It will not change character or somehow enter the mythical ‘family of nations.'"
More inspections, President Clinton warned, were pointless:

"the inspectors are saying that even if they could stay in Iraq, their work would be a sham.

"Saddam's deception has defeated their effectiveness. Instead of the inspectors disarming Saddam, Saddam has disarmed the inspectors.

"This situation presents a clear and present danger to the stability of the Persian Gulf and the safety of people everywhere. The international community gave Saddam one last chance to resume cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Saddam has failed to seize the chance."
Nothing had changed by 2002, not according to Anthony Cordesman:

"Even if a new, more aggressive U.N. inspection regime is eventually allowed back inside Iraq, inspectors ‘cannot hope to detect a covert biological program with nuclear lethalities, and they cannot hope to prevent Iraq from assembling a nuclear device if it can obtain fissile or ‘dirty' fissile material from outside Iraq,' Cordesman said. ‘In fact, efforts directed at large, observable Iraqi CBRN [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear] and missile activities may simply push Iraq into concentrating on biological weapons and asymmetrical means of delivery.'"
Even with troops massing at Iraq's borders in 2003, chief UN inspector Hans Blix concluded:

"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."
With no "genuine acceptance - not even today" - Ambassador Blix warned Iraq:

"Inspection is not a game of ‘catch as catch can.'"
Iraq's Full, Final, and Complete Disclosure submitted just the month before was further proof of the "game.".

"Regrettably, the 12,000 page declaration, most of which is a reprint of earlier documents, does not seem to contain any new evidence that would eliminate the questions or reduce their number."
Weapons inspector David Kay said of that document:

"Iraq mocked the United Nations with its declaration. It rejected what the Security Council, in Resolution 1441, insisted it must do - that is, answer all outstanding questions about the program. And it had the gall to contend that it hasn't had a prohibited weapons program since the end of the Gulf War."
Six weeks later -- twelve days before combat began -- Hans Blix said Iraq still had resolved nothing:

"Even a week ago, when the current quarterly report was finalized, there was still relatively little tangible progress to note."
Two months after Saddam fell, Ambassador Blix reported:

"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."
That  "long list " from the UN - not the CIA - included VX and these concerns from Ambassador Blix:

  • "The nerve agent VX is one of the most toxic ever developed"
  • "Iraq has declared that it only produced VX on a pilot scale, just a few tonnes and that the quality was poor and the product unstable"
  • "UNMOVIC, however, has information that conflicts with this account."
  • "there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tonnes. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for"
  • "I might further mention that inspectors have found at another site a laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor."
Chemical weapons were not all the UN - not the CIA - cited; there were also biological ones, including anthrax.

  • "Iraq has declared that it produced about 8,500 litres of this biological warfare agent, which it states it unilaterally destroyed in the summer of 1991.Iraq has provided little evidence for this production and no convincing evidence for its destruction."
  • "There are strong indications that Iraq produced more anthrax than it declared, and that at least some of this was retained after the declared destruction date."
  • "Iraq did not declare a significant quantity, some 650 kg, of bacterial growth media"
  • "I note that the quantity of media involved would suffice to produce, for example, about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax."
The UN - not the CIA - reported that Iraq further refused to account for outlawed missiles.

  • "There remain significant questions as to whether Iraq retained SCUD-type missiles after the Gulf War."
  • "Iraq also declared the recent import of chemicals used in propellants, test instrumentation and, guidance and control systems..... What is clear is that they were illegally brought into Iraq, that is, Iraq or some company in Iraq, circumvented the restrictions imposed by various resolutions."
  • "Iraq has refurbished its missile production infrastructure. In particular, Iraq reconstituted a number of casting chambers.... Whatever missile system these chambers are intended for, they could produce motors for missiles capable of ranges significantly greater than 150 km."
  • "associated with these missiles and related developments is the import, which has been taking place during the last few years, of a number of items despite the sanctions, including as late as December 2002."
The UN - not the CIA - proved Saddam had had WMD.

The UN - not the CIA - proved he refused to account for WMD.

The UN - not the CIA - proved he imported prohibited materials.

The UN - not the CIA - proved he teamed with foreign scientists despite UN sanctions.

The UN - not the CIA - proved he lied in every official UN report.

Not even war opponents -- including Barack Obama -- denied Iraq had WMD. And neither Bill Clinton nor Anthony Cordesman nor David Kay believed inspections would prove anything.

Nor should they. The burden was not on the UN or the US: it was on Saddam.  

Colin Powell:

"The resolution does not call for them to go snooping all over Iraq to see what they can find; the resolution puts the burden not on the inspectors but on Saddam Hussein to come forward, complete declaration, full cooperation, and telling us everything that has been going on in Baghdad and throughout Iraq, lo these many years, with respect to weapons of mass destruction. If he were to do that, if he had done it over the years, but especially in the weeks since [UN Resolution] 1441, here's what we used to do, we're not doing it now, you can audit it, here's what we have left, and we haven't told you about it before, we're telling you now, here is the difference between what you think we have and what we actually have, and here is how we account for those differences - if that had been his attitude, we'd be in a different situation; that has not been his attitude. He still thinks that he can string out this process and escape the judgment of the international community. And the international community cannot allow that to happen."
Have would-be presidents read the 9/11 Commission on terrorist threats?

"Once the danger has fully materialized, evident to all, mobilizing action is easier-but it then may be too late."
Candidates today play president but not as much as they play with facts. And history. And lives. And, if many of them had their way, they'd be still playing with Saddam. Armed. No sanctions. No No-Fly Zones. Uday, Qusay ready to carry on. Osama accepting Saddam's safe haven offer.

So you're sitting in the Oval Office, presidential as can be. What do you do?

Thanking God for George W. might be a good start.
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