(Interview with Nick Childs, BBC Radio.)
Q: Well finding weapons of mass destruction was a top worry, so why haven’t any been discovered so far? I have with me Bryan Whitman who is the deputy spokesman for the Pentagon. Bryan are you concerned that there haven’t been weapons of mass destruction turned up yet?
Whitman: First of all it’s still a high priority. You have to remember that we’ve only been in the country for a little over a month now and for the vast majority of that time we were conducting combat operations. Saddam Hussein lived under inspection regime for 12 years. We know that the weapons of mass destruction programs and materials have been broadly dispersed and are kept known to only a few people and those people of course, many of them have tried to flee the country so I think that we need to be patient and give the process some time and in due time we will know the full extent of Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs.
Q: You don’t think that maybe the intelligence was wrong in the first place?
Whitman: I have seen the intelligence community very united on this prior to commencement of this hostility and I’m confident that if we give the process some time we will find those things that are such a threat to the world and need to be destroyed.
Q: You say it’s still a top priority. There is a suspicion there amongst some people I think that now that the war essentially over, essentially won that the United States the administration perhaps doesn’t think that it quite so important to go after weapons of mass destruction now?
Whitman: The war is far from being over. We still have had pockets of resistance out there and we are still engaging the enemy in many parts of the country and in small groups and individuals out there but there’s much work to be done, there’s much to be done in uncovering and discovering the extent of the WMD programs. There’s much work to do in terms of providing the safe and secure environment that will allow the Iraqi people to form an interim authority, which will eventually lead to a permanent government. A government by Iraqis for Iraqis that doesn’t threaten its neighbors that doesn’t possess weapons of mass destruction and that doesn’t harbor terrorist activities.
Q: Finally, in terms of the (Inaudible.) inspection process or the discovery process or whatever you like to call it. Aren’t you a little bit concerned about the various false alarms that we’ve had so far that that might somehow be undermining the credibility of the inspection teams?
Whitman: No, not at all. You have to remember that usually the initial findings are done by troops out in the field, tactical level ground units who have with them a certain level of sophistication in terms of testing equipment. We don’t expect the infantry soldier to travel with a mobile lab to test chemical, possible chemical materials but they do have test equipment that is designed to give a signal when there are elements or properties of chemicals that could be present and does it render some false positives? Of course it does but we would much rather it yield to false positive than a false negative and as you go up higher in the echelons in the chain of command, the equipment gets and more and more sophisticated so as we find something we have the capability to continue to test it with greater resolution with finer calibrated equipment and nobody should be concerned that from time to time we get false positives.
Q: Bryan, thank you very much. Clearly though this is something that is going to be increasingly a focus of attention as the (Inaudible.) go back.