IF THEY FIND WEAPONS
OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Milan Rai, January 2003
IN IRAQ - A 'LESS THAN TRIVIAL' FIND?
The chemical warheads found in Baghdad may be breaches of Iraq's
disarmament duties, but they may be 'less than trivial', according
to one US weapons expert.
"Whether they are of recent origin or not, we do not believe
they justify war. The Government has not presented any evidence
that Iraq intends to use whatever weapons it does possess, and
the success of the inspectors in finding the warheads merely reinforces
the case for allowing the inspectors to continue their work in
UNMOVIC inspectors have found eleven empty 122mm chemical warheads
and 'one warhead that requires further evaluation' at the Ukhaider
ammunition dump 75 miles south of Baghdad.' (Telegraph,
17 January 2003, p. 8) 'They were in excellent condition and were
similar to ones imported by Iraq during the late 1980s,' said
a UN spokesperson. (Telegraph, 17 January 2003, p. 1) Hiro
Ueki, the UN spokesperson, said, 'It is probably not a smoking
gun.' (Financial Times, 17 January 2003, p. 1)
'US sources said the information that led to the find had not
come from intelligence provided by the CIA'. (Telegraph, 17
January 2003, p. 8)
On the other hand, 'Weapons experts said the fact that the warheads
were in excellent condition in bunkers built in the late 1990s
meant they were likely to have been handled recently.' (Financial
Times, 17 January 2003, p. 1) ' "They were in very good condition,
so they were not just lying around said Terence Taylor, a former
UN weapons inspector now with the International Institute for
Strategic Studies. (Financial Times, 17 January 2003, p.
Warheads 'likely to be for the 122mm Saqr-30 multi-barrelled rocket
launcher', Egyptian- built system with range of up to 20miles,
designed with French assistance and based on Warsaw Pact BM-21
multi-barrelled rocket launcher known as the Katyusha. (Telegraph,
17 January 2003, p. 8)
'Scott Ritter, an opponent of military action, said the key question
was whether Iraq had attempted to conceal the warheads of whether
it had simply overlooked them.' (Guardian, 17 January 2003,
IRAQI POSITION ON WARHEADS 'ENTIRELY CREDIBLE'
'Charles Heyman, the editor of Jane's World Armies, said that
given the state of the Iraqi armed forces, the official response
from Baghad that the missile warheads had been forgotten was entirely
credible. In the reports on stocks of chemical weapons that it
was forced to compile at the end of the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq reported
that it had 2,500 122mm Saqr-30 warheads filled with sarin which
were buried under the rubble of a building destroyed by the allies'
bombing raids. (Telegraph, 17 January 2003, p. 8)
'Matthew Meelson, a weapons expert at Harvard's International
Security Programme, said that the US had in the past lost track
of chemical and biological weapons from abandoned programmes and
that warheads had turned up from time to time. "If these canisters
are new and show signs of recent machine-shop work, then that
is one thing, but if not, it's less than trivial," he said. "It
would be unfortunate if they go to war over bad book-keeping".'
(Guardian, 17 January 2003, p. 5)
Two factual questions remain:
1) Were the warheads declared in the December declaration?
2) Was that one warhead being investigated ever filled with chemical
1) There are conflicting reports. They probably were not declared.
It is not yet clear whether this was omission or deception. Either
way, it would constitute a violation of Resolution 1441 - but
this is not by itself grounds for a finding of 'material breach'
by the Security Council. (Please see ARROW
Anti-War Briefing 25: Material Breach: The Mysterious Phrase
That Could Trigger War for more details.)
2) Loren Thompson, a Pentagon consultant at the Lexington Institute
in Arlington, Virginia, said that if no traces of chemical weapons
are found by UN tests and no chemical agents are found nearby,
there would be no conclusive evidence of an active chemical weapons
programme.' "This is not the proverbial smoking gun. A real smoking
gun would be an armed weapon," Mr Thompson said. On the other
hand, the good condition they are in "doesn't draw one to think
they are old weapons that were simply overlooked." (Guardian,
17 January 2003, p. 5)
Either way, the inspectors must be allowed to work in peace. There
is no evidence that Iraq poses a serious and imminent threat to
its neighbours or to the West.
'In the White House there was a sense of near-jubilation as aides
realised immediately that the empty warheads, plus another one
that the inspectors said required "further evaluation", represented
the political equivalent of manna from heaven... it suddenly seemed
that the crucial evidence might have arrived at the perfect moment.'
(Telegraph, 17 January 2003, p. 8)
This 'crucial' evidence may be a 'less than trivial' bookkeeping
error of the kind that the US itself has made many times. It is
not a justification for war.
IF THEY FIND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Some opponents to war on Iraq say that if weapons of mass destruction
are found, they will change their minds. We disagree. We oppose
war even if weapons of mass destruction are found in Iraq.
the right approach
British Vice-Admiral Sir James Jungius KBE observed recently in
a letter to The Times (1 Jan. 2003, p. 25) that 'Tony Blair
had failed to produce evidence of the existence of weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq: This inevitably leads to the suspicion
that no such evidence exists.'
'Even if the weapons do exist, where is the evidence of intent
to use them? War is too important and unpleasant a business to
be undertaken on the basis of a hunch, however good that hunch
Former Tory Cabinet Minister Douglas Hogg recently (12 Jan.) revealed
on BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend that a majority
of Conservative MPs have very serious reservations about a war
He added, 'The real question is not whether hes got weapons of
mass destruction, but rather whether - if he has got those weapons
- he is a grave and imminent threat to the rest of us.'
'There are lots of other countries in the world that do have weapons
of mass destruction, or are likely to acquire them, but we don't
necessarily conclude that they are a grave and imminent threat
sufficient to justify war.'
'So even if he had these things, unless he's a grave and imminent
threat there isn't a moral basis for war, because the doctrine
of self-defence isn't properly invoked.'
FT journalist James Blitz asks, 'if UN inspectors do find evidence
of weapons of mass destruction, should that trigger war? Or will
it be the first sign that the UN is actually getting somewhere
in its bid to close down Iraqs weapons arsenaland should therefore
continue its work?' (FT, 9 Jan. 2003, p. 5) We say yes.
'Worried Whitehall officials ask: even if evidence is found, and
Saddam Hussein is discovered to have lied, is it not better to
keep the UN inspectors - the best deterrence against the use or
development of such weapons - on the ground?' (Guardian,
6 Jan. 2003, p. 14) We say yes. More on Material
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