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July 22, 2005

A Long Argument about WMDs and Iraq

Concerning my blog entry opposing the Iraq war, Peter F. in Seattle argues that I’m all wrong. He sent me a long post, and I have edited it down here, but I think I have the essence of it:

On Scott Ritter: When you quote Ritter as saying in 2001 “There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction of any meaningful significance.” Question: How on earth would Ritter know this? After the inspectors were removed prior to Clinton ordering air strikes in December 1998, inspectors were not allowed to return to Iraq. How can Ritter have any confidence that ALL that chemical-warfare, biological warfare and nuclear programs were destroyed when no one went back in to verify? Answer: Impossible.

Moreover, “Iraq has been disarmed,” Ritter said. Again. Oh really? How did he know? And what does “of any meaningful significance” mean? Sandy Berger went on CNN shortly before this with a small vial of sugar that was meant to represent how VX it would take to wipe out a fairly significant portion of a city’s population. Again, Ritter cannot be certain without verification of which he never conducted.

And “special factories” to create bacteriological weapons and chemical weapons? Huh? Have either you or Ritter read David Kay’s or Charles Duelfer’s post-war reports and findings? CW and BW programs were active and covert and spores were found in a number of what can best be described as safehouses.

On “Proving a negative:” This argument is just plain nonsense. Countries, including ours, are always asked to account for their WMD, chemical weapons and biological weapons; records of production and destruction are always kept. In short, many people are asked to prove what they don’t have; it’s easy: document it. The Iraqis are notorious for their records and bookkeeping skills. If indeed Iraq had destroyed it’s remaining CW, BW and nuclear, then where is the documentation for it? Answer: Well, old Saddam said he didn’t have it. But it is not reasonable or acceptable to trust the words of a murderous tyrant like Hussein.

Here’s what Iraq could not account for as of March 6, 2003: This is from the United Nations-issued report on Iraq's "Unresolved Disarmament Issues." It stated that the "long list" of "unaccounted for" WMD-related material catalogued in December of 1998—the month inspections ended in Iraq—and beyond were still "unaccounted for." The list included: up to 3.9 tons of VX nerve agent (though inspectors believed Iraq had enough VX precursors to produce 200 tons of the agent and suspected that VX had been "weaponized"); 6,526 aerial chemical bombs; 550 mustard gas shells; 2,062 tons of Mustard precursors; 15,000 chemical munitions; 8,445 liters of anthrax; growth media that could have produced "3,000 - 11,000 litres of botulinum toxin, 6,000 - 16,000 litres of anthrax, up to 5,600 litres of Clostridium perfringens, and a significant quantity of an unknown bacterial agent." (The preceeding was quoted from an article in the Weekly Standard by Daniel McKivergan on 07/01/2005)

Iraq didn’t document ALL or ANY of this? Come on, Mr. Ramsey, that’s not common sense. And to say that in “hindsight that was apparently true (that Iraq had no WMD)” is patently false. There’s no way we could have known about Iraq’s grand deception without taking over the country, even inspectors were duped! A fact only proven in the Kay and Duelfer (mostly Duelfer) reports. In short, Mr. Ramsey, “absense of evidence is not evidence of absense” when it comes to Iraq’s WMDs—and that should be of more importance to you than politicizing the issue.

I would strongly recommend you visit www.iraqwatch.org to access the reports I’ve mentioned. Moreover, you should also read UN Resolution 687 to which all 16 subsequent Resolutions are tied into.

On morality: 300,000–500,000 people in mass graves, Mr. Ramsey. An alleged 5,000 dead every month due to 12 years of sanctions. Genocide was reason enough for us to enter Somalia; it was enough in Iraq’s case long ago.

Dump the rhetoric and get some facts, Mr. Ramsey. There’s too many of us out here in the world who see right through you and your empty arguments.

I wrote this reply:

Ritter said he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction because there had been no capacity in late 1998 and it was too soon for it to be reconstituted given the financial and military constraints on Iraq.

You say David Kay found active programs, and spores in safehouses. But several articles on the web page to which you direct me, including this one and this one say there were apparently no chemical or biological weapons. We started a war on account of WMDs. WE invaded their country--an action that should have prompted them to use their WMDs if they had any. And, apparently, they didn't have any. Spores in safe houses are not weapons and do not constitute a reason to start a war.

As for the long list of stuff unaccounted for. So the paperwork is missing. Does that mean the weapons are there? The Bill Kristol crowd [Bill Kristol is editor of The Weekly Standard] seemed to think so at the time, and you seem to think so still. Well, where are they? We have occupied Iraq for more than two years. We found Saddam in his spider hole. WHERE ARE THE WEAPONS? I find it much easier to believe, as you say yourself, that Iraqis are "notorious for their records and documentation skills." I imagine the flunkies Saddam sent out to destroy his weapons did not film their work because they considered it shameful. Anyway, bad accounting is no reason to start a war.

As for morality: If tens of thousands of Iraqis died--hundreds of thousands if UNICEF is right--on account of sanctions--they were our sanctions, not Iraq's. Certainly the death from our sanctions is not a reason for US to start a war against THEM.

We STARTED A WAR. Didn't join one, like WWII, WWI, or the Gulf War. We got up an entirely new one, all our own, ginned up a reason for it that turned out to be false, and went storming in. It amazes me that anyone will still defend it.

My reader replies:

That's a very dubious statement by Ritter considering his own statements to Elizabeth Farnsworth in Aug. 31, 1998 interview on PBS' "Online Focus":

"ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Ritter, does Iraq still have prescribed weapons?

WILLIAM SCOTT RITTER, JR.: Iraq still has prescribed weapons capability… Part of their efforts to conceal their capabilities, I believe, have been to disassemble weapons into various components and to hide these components throughout Iraq.

Here's the link for the complete transcript. I'm hesitant to call anyone liar, but Ritter is definitely inconsistent in his statement then versus now.

Re: Kay's analysis that you provided: That is from Kay's first initial report in October 2003 here:

Clearly, Kay has painted a much different picture than what the articles from The Atlantic (which is rather selective in its presentation of the facts) and the Carnegie Endownment folks (whose anti-war bias is readily know and brings into their credibility in presenting the facts as they are) is not really getting it straight from the horses mouth, aka: Kay or Duelfer.

Kay paints a different picture in his second and final report before stepping down. Let's instead review his "We were all wrong" testimony from the Jan 24, 2004 Armed Services Committee haring.

"(Kay): We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid materia...A lot of that traces to the failure on April 9 to establish immediately physical security in Iraq – the unparalleled looting and destruction, a lot of which was directly intentional, designed by the security services to cover the tracks of the Iraq WMD program and their other programs as well..."

The details of which can be found in his report here.

"Bad accounting"? That's a pretty flip dismissal in accounting for a deadly arsenal of weaponry, Bruce. We're not talking about accounting for five cents here. These are weapons Iraq knew they had to account for when inspections resumed; they themselves provided the UN with the list. I think you also paint yourself into a corner when you say that flunkies went out and shamefully destroyed whatever WMD Iraq possessed is to imply that they you too believed Iraq possessed; even if you just "imagine" it. And you're right, "bad accounting" is a bad reason to start a war, but after 12 years and 17 UN Resolutions you still can't account for those weapons by historically aggressive and ruthless regime, it becomes a damn good reason to start a war.

And the argument that implies sanctions were solely on the shoulders of the U.S. is also false. They were UN-led sanctions that were, yes, enforced by mainly US and British forces, but also included the French, Russians and other governments from the Gulf War I coalition. Furthermore, funds under the Oil-For-Food program were meant to allow Saddam to provide food, medicine and aid to the Iraqi people. Clearly, Bruce, Saddam is solely responsible for the starvation of his people (a practice many dictators do to maintain control of their population), not sanctions. And as we all know, that money from the Oil For Food program diverted to his palaces, covert terrorist operations and God knows what else. As we now know, Saddam and Co. skimmed somewhere between $11–$21 billion, depending on which report you read. But the sanctions money did not go, Bruce, to whom it was intended: The people of Iraq. Saddam alone is responsible for the deaths during the sanctions not the U.S., not the U.N, not anyone, just Saddam.

And no, we didn't start this war—we just opened a new front in the War on Islamofascism. This war started in 1972 in Munich; we just woke up to on September 11. Well, some of us did. The rest are still living like it's Sept. 10 and believe one (Iraq) has nothing to do with the other (Islamofascism).

The tragic and ultimately costly mistake ant-war folks make is in believing this ends when bin Laden is caught/killed; but terrorism will not cease with his death. It's the ideology of fascist Islam (kill all "non-believers) we must fight to change in the theocracies, dictatorships and monarchies throughout the Middle East. And yes, in many cases, we will have to force feed some countries freedom and democracy (Iraq and Afghanistan); others (like Iran) we'll have to do more covertly, supporting freedom groups internally; subtley with others via economic and diplomatic pressure (Saudi Arabia); and hope others just crumble via internal and exterior pressure (Syria). Why? Free countries with free people do not attack other free people because they pose no threat to their freedom. A beacon of freedom has to be established in the Middle East; it must work in Iraq. Because if it works there, it'll pressure other countries (which it already has begun to do) throughout the region to introduce democratic reforms.

I'm a 9/11 Republican, Bruce. I don't buy into all the President's positions, but I sure as hell believe in this one because it not only directly affects our freedom as a nation, but of the freedom of the entire world. And freedom for all mankind is an imperialism I can live with. Can you?

No—and more later.

Respond to Bruce.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at July 22, 2005 11:32 AM



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