Star Witness on Iraq Said Weapons Were Destroyed:
Bombshell revelation from a defector cited by
White House and press
YORK - February 27 - On February 24, Newsweek broke what may be
the biggest story of the Iraq crisis. In a revelation that "raises
questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass destruction]
stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist," the magazine's issue
dated March 3 reported that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected
from the regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had destroyed
its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned
missiles, as Iraq claims.
Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was killed shortly after returning to
Iraq in 1996, was best known for his role in exposing Iraq's deceptions
about how far its pre-Gulf War biological weapons programs had
advanced. But Newsweek's John Barry-- who has covered Iraqi weapons
inspections for more than a decade-- obtained the transcript of
Kamel's 1995 debriefing by officials from the International Atomic
Energy Agency (IAEA) and the U.N. inspections team known as UNSCOM.
were told "that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical
and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them,"
Barry wrote. All that remained were "hidden blueprints, computer
disks, microfiches" and production molds. The weapons were destroyed
secretly, in order to hide their existence from inspectors, in
the hopes of someday resuming production after inspections had
finished. The CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Barry reported,
and "a military aide who defected with Kamel... backed Kamel's
assertions about the destruction of WMD stocks."
But these statements
were "hushed up by the U.N. inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam
into disclosing still more."
Bill Harlow angrily denied the Newsweek report. "It is incorrect,
bogus, wrong, untrue," Harlow told Reuters the day the report
But on Wednesday
(2/26/03), a complete copy of the Kamel transcript-- an internal
UNSCOM/IAEA document stamped "sensitive"-- was obtained by Glen
Rangwala, the Cambridge University analyst who in early February
revealed that Tony Blair's "intelligence dossier" was plagiarized
from a student thesis. Rangwala has posted the Kamel transcript
on the Web: http://casi.org.uk/info/unscom950822.pdf.
In the transcript
(p. 13), Kamel says bluntly: "All weapons-- biological, chemical,
missile, nuclear, were destroyed."
Who is Hussein
Kamel is no
obscure defector. A son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, his departure
from Iraq carrying crates of secret documents on Iraq's past weapons
programs was a major turning point in the inspections saga. In
1999, in a letter to the U.N. Security Council (1/25/99), UNSCOM
reported that its entire eight years of disarmament work "must
be divided into two parts, separated by the events following the
departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. General Hussein Kamel."
has been cited repeatedly by George W. Bush and leading administration
officials as evidence that 1) Iraq has not disarmed; 2) inspections
cannot disarm it; and 3) defectors such as Kamel are the most
reliable source of information on Iraq's weapons.
* Bush declared
in an October 7, 2002 speech: "In 1995, after several years of
deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries
defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that
it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly
biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq
had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive
stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted
for, and capable of killing millions."
of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation to the U.N. Security
Council claimed: "It took years for Iraq to finally admit that
it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single
drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons. The admission
only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result
of the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."
* In a speech
last August (8/27/02), Vice President Dick Cheney said Kamel's
story "should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned
more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection
* Deputy National
Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recently wrote in the Chicago
Tribune (2/16/03) that "because of information provided by Iraqi
defector and former head of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
programs, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, the regime had to admit in detail
how it cheated on its nuclear non-proliferation commitments."
from Bush and Powell cited above refer to anthrax and VX produced
by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War. The administration has cited
various quantities of chemical and biological weapons on many
other occasions-- weapons that Iraq produced but which remain
unaccounted for. All of these claims refer to weapons produced
to Kamel's transcript, Iraq destroyed all of these weapons in
Newsweek, Kamel told the same story to CIA analysts in August
1995. If that is true, all of these U.S. officials have had access
to Kamel's statements that the weapons were destroyed. Their repeated
citations of his testimony-- without revealing that he also said
the weapons no longer exist-- suggests that the administration
might be withholding critical evidence. In particular, it casts
doubt on the credibility of Powell's February 5 presentation to
the U.N., which was widely hailed at the time for its persuasiveness.
To clear up the issue, journalists might ask that the CIA release
the transcripts of its own conversations with Kamel.
have also been crucial to the arguments made by hawkish commentators
on Iraq. The defector has been cited four times on the New York
Times op-ed page in the last four months in support of claims
about Iraq's weapons programs--never noting his assertions about
the elimination of these weapons. In a major Times op-ed calling
for war with Iraq (2/21/03), Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings
Institution wrote that Kamel and other defectors "reported that
outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear
program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed
than anyone had imagined it to be." The release of Kamel's transcript
makes this claim appear grossly at odds with the defector's actual
The Kamel story
is a bombshell that necessitates a thorough reevaluation of U.S.
media reporting on Iraq, much of which has taken for granted that
the nation retains supplies of prohibited weapons. (See FAIR Media
Advisory, "Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact," http://www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html
.) Kamel's testimony is not, of course, proof that Iraq does not
have hidden stocks of chemical or biological weapons, but it does
suggest a need for much more media skepticism about U.S. allegations
than has previously been shown.
Newsweek chose a curious way to handle its scoop: The magazine
placed the story in the miscellaneous "Periscope" section with
a generic headline, "The Defector's Secrets." Worse, Newsweek's
online version added a subhead that seemed almost designed to
undercut the importance of the story: "Before his death, a high-ranking
defector said Iraq had not abandoned its WMD ambitions." So far,
according to a February 27 search of the Nexis database, no major
U.S. newspapers or national television news shows have picked
up the Newsweek story. ***
Newsweek story: http://www.msnbc.com/news/876128.asp
Rangwala's analysis of the Kamel transcript: http://middleeastreference.org.uk/kamel.html
|Common Dreams NewsCenter is a non-profit news service
providing breaking news and views for the Progressive Community.
press release posted here has been provided to Common Dreams NewsWire by
one of the many progressive organizations who make up America's Progressive Community.
you wish to comment on this press release or would like more information,
please contact the organization directly.
*all times Eastern US (GMT-5:00)
Read our Guidelines
for Submitting News Releases
1997-2003 Common Dreams.