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IRAQ: What Does Disarmament Look Like?
As Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Council on Foreign Relations, New York City, NY, Thursday, January 23, 2003

It is a pleasure to be back here in New York, where I was born. The last time I spoke here was a little more than a year ago. I was here to commission a ship named the USS Bulkeley, a ship named after a New Yorker, Admiral John Bulkeley, who left a big mark on the Navy during a career that spanned decades and included actions in combat in his PT boat in the Philippines during WWII that earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was enormously fitting to commission a great warship named for a man whose life symbolized the resilience and resolve that the world has come to associate with this great city since September 11, 2001—and how appropriate that the commissioning ceremony took place within walking distance of Ground Zero.

As terrible as the attacks of September 11th were, we now know that the terrorists are plotting still more and greater catastrophes. We know the terrorists are seeking more terrible weapons—chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. In the hands of terrorists, what we often call weapons of mass destruction would be more accurately described as weapons of mass terror.

The threat posed by the connection between terrorist networks and states that possess weapons of mass terror presents us with the danger of a catastrophe that could be orders of magnitude greater than September 11th. Iraq’s weapons of mass terror and the terror networks to which the Iraqi regime are linked are not two separate threats; they are part of the same threat. Disarming Iraq and the War on Terror are not merely related. Disarming Iraq of its chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and dismantling its program to develop nuclear weapons is a crucial part of winning the War on Terror.

Iraq has had 12 years to disarm, as it agreed to do at the conclusion of the Gulf War. But, so far, they have treated disarmament like a game of hide and seek—or, as Secretary of State Powell has called it, “rope-a-dope in the desert.”

But this is not a game. It is deadly serious. We are dealing with a threat to the security of our nation and the world. At the same time, President Bush understands fully the risks and dangers of war and the President wants to do everything humanly possible to eliminate this threat by peaceful means, if possible. That is why the President called for the U.N. Security Council to pass U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, giving Iraq a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations and, in so doing, to eliminate the threat of Iraq’s weapons of mass terror falling into hands of terrorists.

In making that proposal, President Bush understood perfectly well that compliance with that resolution would require a massive change of attitude and actions on the part of the Iraqi regime. However, history proves that such a change is possible. Other nations have rid themselves of weapons of mass terror cooperatively in ways possible to verify.

What Disarmament Looks Like

There are several significant examples from the recent past—among them South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. In South Africa, for example, President De Klerk decided in 1989 to end that country’s nuclear weapons production and, in 1990, to dismantle all weapons. South Africa joined the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1991 and later that year accepted full scope safeguards of the U.N.’s atomic energy agency. South Africa allowed U.N. inspectors complete access to both operating and defunct facilities, provided thousands of current and historical documents, and allowed detailed, unfettered discussions with personnel involved in the South African program. By 1994, South Africa had provided verifiable evidence that its nuclear inventory was complete and its weapons program was dismantled.

President Kravchuk of Ukraine and President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan ratified the Nuclear Nonproliferation and START Treaties, committing their countries to give up the nuclear weapons and strategic delivery systems they had inherited with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Kazakhstan and Ukraine both went even further in their disclosures and actions than required by those treaties. Ukraine requested and received US assistance to destroy its Backfire bombers and air-launched cruise missiles. Kazakhstan asked the United States to remove more than 500 kg of highly enriched uranium.

Given the full cooperation of both governments, implementation of the disarmament was smooth. All nuclear warheads were returned to Russia by 1996, and all missile silos and heavy bombers were destroyed before the December 2001 START deadline. The United States had full access, beyond Treaty requirements, to confirm silo and bomber destruction, which were done with U.S. assistance.

Each of these cases was different but the end result was the same: the countries disarmed while disclosing their programs fully and voluntarily. In each case, high-level political commitment to disarmament was accompanied by the active participation of national institutions to carry out the process. In each case, the countries created a transparent process in which decisions and actions could be verified and audited by the international community.

In Iraq’s case, unfortunately, the situation is the opposite. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 gave Saddam Hussein one last chance to choose a path of cooperative disarmament, one that he was obliged to take 12 years ago. We were under no illusions that the Baghdad regime has had the kind of fundamental change of heart that underpinned the successes I just mentioned. Nevertheless, there is still the hope – if Saddam is faced with a serious enough threat that he would otherwise be disarmed forcibly and removed from power – that he might decide to adopt a fundamentally different course. But time is running out. It was with that hope that the United States entered a process that would offer one last chance to eliminate the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass terror, without having to resort to force.

And we’ve put more than just our hopes into this process. Last fall, the U.N. Security Council requested that all Member States “give full support” to U.N. inspectors in the discharge of their mandates, including “providing any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates, including on Iraqi attempts since 1998 to acquire prohibited items, and recommending sites to be inspected, persons to be interviewed, conditions of such interviews, and data to be collected.”

The United States answered that call and President Bush directed departments and agencies to provide “material, operational, personnel, and intelligence support” for U.N. inspections under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. Such assistance includes a comprehensive package of intelligence support—including names of individuals whom we believe it would be productive to interview and information about sites suspected to be associated with proscribed material or activities. We have provided our analysis of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs, and we have suggested an inspection strategy and tactics. We have provided counterintelligence support to improve the inspectors’ ability to counter Iraqi attempts to penetrate their organizations.

The United States also has made available a wide array of technology to support the inspectors’ efforts, including aerial surveillance support in the form of U-2 and Predator aircraft. So far, Iraq is blocking U-2 flights requested by the UN, in direct violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which states that inspectors shall have free and unrestricted use of manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. In addition, we have supplied laboratory equipment and services, sampling equipment, secure communications equipment and ground-penetrating radar. Some of these technologies and techniques are the most advanced in the world.

What Inspectors Can Do and What They Can’t

As in the case of South Africa and the others, inspection teams can do a great deal to verify the dismantling of a program when working with a cooperative government that wants to prove to the world it has disarmed. It is not the job of inspectors to disarm Iraq; it is Iraq’s responsibility to disarm itself. What inspectors can do is confirm that a country has willingly disarmed and provided verifiable evidence that it has done so. If a government is unwilling to disarm itself, it would be unreasonable to expect inspectors to do it for them. They cannot be charged with a “search and destroy” mission to uncover so-called “smoking guns”—especially not if the host government is intent on hiding them and impeding the inspectors’ every move. Inspectors cannot verify the destruction of weapons materials if there are no credible records of their disposition.

When an auditor discovers discrepancies in the books, it is not the auditor’s obligation to prove where the embezzler has stashed his money. It is up to the person or institution being audited to explain the discrepancy. It is quite unreasonable to expect a few hundred inspectors to search every potential hiding place in a country the size of France, even if nothing were being moved. And, of course, there is every reason to believe that things are being moved constantly and hidden underground. The whole purpose of Iraq’s constructing mobile units for producing biological weapons was presumably to be able to hide them. We know about this capability from defectors and other sources, but unless Iraq comes clean about what it has, we cannot expect the inspectors to find them.

Nor is it the inspectors’ role to find Saddam’s hidden weapons when he lies about them and conceals them. That would make them not inspectors, but detectives—charged with going through that vast country, climbing through tunnels and searching private homes, to catch things that someone doesn’t want them to see. Sending a few hundred inspectors to find hidden weapons in an area the size of the state of California would be to send them on a fool’s errand. Or to play a game. And let me repeat: this is not a game.

David Kay, a former chief UNSCOM inspector, has said that confirming voluntary disarmament is a job that shouldn’t take months or years. With cooperation, it would be relatively simple and should be over relatively quickly because the real indicators of disarmament are readily apparent. They start with the willingness of the regime to be disarmed, the commitments communicated by its leaders, its disclosure of the full scope of its work on weapons of mass destruction, and verifiable records of dismantling and destruction.

Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, we have seen none of these indications of willing disarmament from Iraq.

What Disarmament Doesn’t Look Like

Despite our skepticism about the intentions of the Baghdad regime, we entered the disarmament process in good faith. Iraq has done anything but.

Instead of a high-level commitment to disarmament, Iraq has a high-level commitment to concealing its weapons of mass terror. Instead of charging national institutions with the responsibility to dismantle programs, several Iraqi government institutions operate a concealment effort that targets inspectors and thwarts their efforts. Instead of the full cooperation and transparency that is evident in each disarmament success story, Iraq has started the process by openly defying the requirement of Resolution 1441 for a “currently accurate, full and complete” declaration of all of its programs.

With its December 7th declaration, Iraq resumed a familiar process of deception. Of this 12,200-page document, Secretary Powell has said, it “totally fails to meet the Resolution’s requirements.… Most brazenly of all, the Iraqi declaration denies the existence of any prohibited weapons programs at all…. Iraq’s response is a catalog of recycled information and flagrant omissions.” Among those omissions are large quantities of anthrax, and other deadly biological agents and nuclear-related items that the U.N. Special Commission concluded Iraq had not verifiably accounted for.

There are also gaps in accounting for such deadly items as 1.5 tons of the nerve gas VX, 550 mustard filled artillery shells, and 400 biological weapons-capable aerial bombs that the U.N. Special Commission concluded in 1999 Iraq had failed to account for. There is no mention of Iraqi efforts to procure uranium from abroad. Iraq’s declaration fails to account for its manufacture of missile fuel for ballistic missiles Iraq claims it does not have. Nor is there information on 13 recent Iraqi missile tests cited by Dr. Blix that exceeded the 150-kilometer limit. Iraq has not verifiably accounted for, at a minimum, two tons of anthrax growth media. There is no explanation of the connection between Iraq’s extensive unmanned aerial vehicle programs and chemical or biological agent dispersal. There is no information about Iraq’s mobile biological weapon production facilities.

When U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998, it was concluded that: “The history of the Special Commission’s work in Iraq has been plagued by coordinated efforts to thwart full discovery of Iraq’s programs.” What we know from the testimony of Iraqis with first-hand knowledge, from U.N. inspectors, and from other countries, about Iraq’s current efforts to deceive inspectors, suggests that Iraq is fully engaged today in the same old practices of concealment and deception. Iraq seems to be employing virtually all of the old techniques used to frustrate U.N. inspections in the past.

Concealment and Removal: In the past, Iraq made determined efforts to hide its prohibited weapons and to move them if inspectors were about to find them. In 1991, in one of the first, and only, instances of finding prohibited equipment, inspectors came upon some massive calutrons used for enriching uranium at an Iraqi military base. Even at that early stage, Iraq had begun. to make provisions to move its illegal weapons and programs in case inspectors stumbled across them. As the inspectors appeared at the front gate, the Iraqis moved the calutrons out the back of the base on large tank transporters.

Today, those practices continue, except that over the last 12 years, Iraqi preparations for concealing their WMD programs from inspectors have become more extensive and sophisticated. Iraq’s national policy is not to disarm but rather to conceal its weapons of mass terror. That effort is led by Saddam’s son, Qusay, who uses the Special Security Organization under his control for that purpose. Other security organizations contribute to “anti-inspection” activities, including the National Monitoring Directorate—whose ostensible purpose is to facilitate inspections. Instead, however, it provides tip-offs to inspections sites and uses “minders” to intimidate witnesses. Iraqi security organizations and government agencies—including the Military Industrial Organization (OMI), the SSO, the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS), the Special Republican Guard, and the Director of General Security—provide thousands of personnel for hiding documents and materials from inspectors, to sanitize inspection sites and to monitor the inspectors’ activities. The anti-inspectors vastly outnumber the couple of hundred U.N. personnel on the ground in Iraq.

We already have multiple reports and other evidence of intensified efforts to hide documents in places where they are unlikely to be found, such as private homes of low-level officials and universities. We have many reports and other evidence of WMD material being relocated to agricultural areas and private homes, hidden beneath mosques or hospitals. Furthermore, according to these reports, the material is moved constantly, making it difficult to trace or find without absolutely fresh intelligence. It is a shell game played on a grand scale with deadly serious weapons.

Surveillance and Penetration: In the past, Iraq systematically used its intelligence capabilities to support its efforts to conceal illegal activity. Former inspector David Kay has recalled that in 1991, the inspectors came across a document warning the chief security official of the facility about to be inspected that Kay would lead the U.N. team. That warning had been issued less than 48 hours after the U.N.’s decision had been made, at which time fewer than 10 people within the inspection organization were supposed to know about the operational plan.

In the 1990s, there were reports that Iraqi intelligence recruited U.N. inspectors as informants, and that Iraqi scientists were fearful about being interviewed. Recent reports that Iraq continues these kinds of efforts are a clear sign that it is not serious about disarmament.

Today, we also anticipate that Iraq is likely to target U.N. and IAEA computer systems through cyber intrusions to steal inspections, methods, criteria, and findings. We know that Iraq certainly has the capability to do so. According to Khidhir Hamza’s book, Saddam’s Bombmaker, Iraq’s Babylon Software Company was developing cyber warfare capabilities on behalf of the Iraqi Intelligence Service as early as the 1990s. Some people assigned to Babylon were segregated into a “highly compartmented unit” and tasked with breaking into foreign computers in order to download sensitive data. Some of the programmers reported that they had accumulated sufficient expertise to break into moderately protected computer systems, such as those used by the inspectors.

Intimidation and Coercion: In the past, Iraq did not hesitate to use pressure tactics to obtain information about the inspectors. Often the pressure was quite crude. During the UNSCOM period, one inspector was reportedly filmed in a compromising situation and blackmailed.

Sometimes the pressure was subtler. Richard Spertzel, a former UNSCOM specialist in biological warfare, recalled the case of an Iraqi official coyly asking a new member of his team: “How far is it from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis?” Having moved from Salt Lake City to Minneapolis just days prior to her arrival in Iraq, she was unnerved by the comment, according to Spertzel.

More recently, Iraq has again begun referring to the inspectors as spies, clearly hoping to make them uncomfortable at best and afraid at worst and intimidate Iraqis from interacting with the inspectors.

For Iraqis, there is nothing subtle at all about the intimidation. When President Bush said, and as reports by Human Rights Watch and others have confirmed, “The dictator of Iraq is a student of Stalin, using murder as a tool of terror and control, within his own cabinet, within his own army, and even within his own family.”

Today, we know from multiple sources that Saddam has ordered that any scientist who cooperates during interviews will be killed, as well as their families. Furthermore, we know that scientists are being tutored on what to say to the U.N. inspectors and that Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as scientists to be interviewed by the inspectors.

Obstruction and Lying: In the past, U.N. inspectors faced many instances of delay, with excuses ranging from not being able to find keys to not being able to admit inspectors because only women were present in the building. When all else fails, lying is a standard technique.

Richard Butler, the former head of the U.N. Special Commission, reported that “Iraqi leaders had no difficulty sitting across from me and spontaneously changing a reported fact or figure – for example, six previously reported warheads could suddenly become 15, or vice versa – with no explanation or apology about a previous lie.” Butler reported that actions taken to obstruct inspectors were often explained away with excuses that were “the equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework.’” One actual example: “The wicked girlfriend of one of our workers tore up documents in anger.” Another: “A wandering psychopath cut some wires to the chemical plant monitoring camera. It seems he hadn’t received his medicine because of the U.N. sanctions.”

During the UNSCOM period, Richard Spertzel on one occasion confronted Dr. Rihab Taha, still a principal figure in Iraq’s biological weapons program: “Dr. Taha, you know that we know that you’re lying, so why are you doing it?” Dr. Taha drew herself up and replied, “Dr. Spertzel, it is not a lie when you are ordered to lie.” Lying was more than a technique; it was policy.

Today, Iraqi obstruction continues on large issues as well as small ones. Authorities that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 confers unconditionally on the inspectors are constantly subject to conditions by the Baghdad regime. For example, the Resolution requires that “UNMOVIC and the IAEA shall have the free and unrestricted use and landing of fixed- and rotary-winged aircraft, including manned and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles.” However, Iraq has objected to U-2 flights and threatens our Predators. Even more serious is the fact that Iraq has yet to make a single one of its scientists or technical experts available to be interviewed in confidential circumstances free of intimidation, as required by the U.N. Resolution.

Cheat and Retreat: In the past, the Iraqi reaction, when caught in one lie, was simply to replace it with a new one. This happened on issue after issue. For example, as Richard Butler reports, “Initially, Iraq had denied ever having manufactured, let alone deployed, VX. But this was not true….” Confronted with evidence of VX in soil samples, the Iraqis then admitted to having manufactured a quantity of no more than 200 liters. Subsequent probing showed they’d made far more. “So, Iraq’s initial complete lie had been replaced by a false statement on quantity…. Iraq then reached for its third lie on VX: they’d never ‘weaponized’ the chemical.” This, it turned out, was another lie.

The same pattern was repeated with Iraq’s nuclear and biological weapons programs. Baghdad revised its nuclear declaration to the IAEA four times within 14 months of its initial submission in April 1991. During the UNSCOM period, Iraq formally submitted six different biological warfare declarations, each of which the U.N. inspectors rejected. Following Husayn Kamil’s defection, Iraq dramatically disclosed more than half a million pages of WMD-related documents. Sparse relevant information was buried within a massive volume of extraneous data all of which was intended to create the appearance of candor and to overwhelm the U.N. inspectors’ analytic resources.

A process that begins with a massive lie and proceeds with concealment, penetration, intimidation and obstruction, cannot be a process of cooperative disarmament. The purpose of Resolution 1441 was not to play a deadly game of “hide-and-seek” or “cheat and retreat” for another 12 years. The purpose was to achieve a clear resolution of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass terror.

If Iraq were to choose to comply with the requirement to dismantle its weapons of mass terror, we would know it. We would know it from their full and complete declaration of everything that we know that they have, as well as by revelations of programs that our intelligence has probably not yet discovered. (Recall, after the Gulf War, how stunned we were by the magnitude of Iraq’s nuclear program, despite all of our intelligence efforts and those of our allies, and even though Iraq had been subject to IAEA inspections.) We would know it from an attitude of the government that encouraged people to cooperate with the inspectors, rather than intimidated them into silence and lies. We would know it when inspectors were able to go about their work without being spied on or penetrated. We would know it, most of all, when Iraqi scientists and others familiar with the program were clearly free to talk.

However, in the absence of full cooperation – particularly in the absence of full disclosure of what Iraq has actually done – it is unreasonable to expect that the U.N. inspectors have the capacity to disarm an uncooperative Iraq, even with the full support of American intelligence and the intelligence of other nations.

American intelligence capabilities are extraordinary, but they are far from the omniscient, all-seeing eye depicted in so many Hollywood movies. For a great body of what we need to know, we are very dependent on traditional methods of intelligence – that is to say, human beings who either deliberately or inadvertently are communicating to us.

It was only after Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law, Husayn Kamil, defected in 1995, that U.N. inspectors were led to a large cache of documents on a chicken farm with important revelations about Iraq’s biological weapons program. In contemplating the magnitude of the task of finding such hidden sites, one may well ask, how many chicken farms are there in Iraq? How many structures are there in which important documents could be stored? How many garages in the country are big enough to hold the tractor-trailers that make up an Iraqi mobile biological weapons production unit?

Why we should be worried

Even when inspectors were in Iraq before, the Baghdad regime pursued weapons of mass terror. It would be folly to think those efforts stopped when the inspectors left.

Iraq has ballistic missiles that threaten Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries, in which thousands of American service members are serving or civilians are working. We know that Iraq’s fleet of UAVs continues to expand. We’re concerned about this, of course, because they can be used to disperse the chemical and biological weapons Saddam has worked so hard to obtain and conceal.

Consider that, in 1997, U.N. inspectors found that Iraq had produced and weaponized at least 10 liters of ricin in concentrated form -- that quantity of ricin is enough to kill more than a million people. Baghdad declared to U.N. inspectors that it had over 19,000 liters of botulinum toxin, enough to kill tens of millions, and 8,500 liters of anthrax with the potential to kill hundreds of millions. U.N. inspectors also believed that much larger quantities of biological agents remained undeclared. Indeed U.N. inspectors think Iraq has manufactured two to four times the amount of biological agents it has admitted to—and has failed to explain the whereabouts of more than two metric tons of raw material for the growth of biological agents.

Despite eleven years of inspections and sanctions, containment and military response and Baghdad retains chemical and biological weapons and is producing more. And Saddam’s nuclear scientists are still hard at work.

As the President put it: “The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime’s good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.”

So, we come back to the imperative: Baghdad must disarm—peacefully, if at all possible, but by force, if necessary.

The decision on whether Iraq’s weapons of mass terror will be dismantled voluntarily, or whether it will have to be done by force is not up to us or to the UN. The decision rests entirely with Saddam Hussein. So far, he has not made the fundamental decision to disarm and, unless he does, the threat posed by his weapons programs will remain with us and, indeed, will grow.

There are real dangers in confronting a tyrant who has and uses weapons of mass terror and has links to terrorists. But those dangers will only grow. They are far greater now than they would have been 5 or 10 years ago, and they will be much greater still 5 or 10 years from now. President Bush has brought the world to an extraordinary consensus and focus on this problem, and it is time to see it resolved, voluntarily or by force—but resolved one way or the other.
Once freed from Saddam’s tyranny, it is reasonable to expect that Iraq’s educated, industrious population of more than 20 million could build a modern society that would be a source of prosperity, not insecurity, for its neighbors.

Barham Salih, an Iraqi Kurdish leader, has spoken of the dream of the Iraqi people, “In my office in Suleymaniyah, I meet almost every day some traveler who has come from Baghdad and other parts of Iraq. Without exception they tell me of the continued suffering inflicted by the Iraqi regime, of the fearful hope secretly nurtured by so many enslaved Iraqis for a free life, for a country where they can think without fear and speak without retribution.”

We may someday look back on this moment in history as the time when the West defined itself for the 21st Century—not in terms of geography or race or religion or culture or language, but in terms of values—the values of freedom and democracy.

For people who cherish freedom and seek peace, these are difficult times. But such times can deepen our understanding of the truth. And this truth we know: the single greatest threat to peace and freedom in our time is terrorism. So this truth we affirm: the future does not belong to tyrants and terrorists. The future belongs to those who seek the oldest and noblest dream of all, the dream of peace and freedom.