By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Vice President Cheney in a recent speech said, "Saddam devised an elaborate program to conceal his programs to develop chemical and biological weapons." And he said, "The inspectors missed a great deal" and that "The inspectors were actually on the verge of declaring that Saddam's programs . . . had been fully accounted for, a shutdown, but then Saddam's son-in-law suddenly defected and began sharing information. Within days, inspectors were led to an Iraqi chicken farm. Hidden there were boxes of documents and lots of evidence regarding Iraq's most secret weapons program." What's your comment on that?
A harsh comment. Either the vice president has been misinformed or lied to by his own intelligence services, the CIA and others, or he himself is lying. Let's set the record straight: In the spring of 1995, the executive director of UNSCOM (United Nations Special Commission), my boss, was prepared to make a finding that Iraq had been fundamentally disarmed. We weren't going to give them a clean bill of health. But we wanted to progress the issue of disarmament to the point where we could talk about lifting economic sanctions. They were crippling Iraq, causing hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to lose their lives. We had fundamentally disarmed Iraq: That meant 90 to 95 percent of Iraq's weapons capability had been accounted for.
Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected in August 1995. We achieved our final breakthrough prior to his defection. I have the transcripts of the debriefs of the son-in-law, Hussein Kamal. Listen to what he said: "I ordered in 1993 that all remaining weapons be destroyed. Today in Iraq there are no weapons. We destroyed them all." How does Dick Cheney turn that statement into one saying Saddam Hussein's son-in-law spilled the beans about Iraq's weapons program? All he did was confirm our conclusion that in fact these weapons had been destroyed.
So Dick Cheney is misleading the American public.
What were the circumstances that led the U.N. weapons inspectors to leave Iraq in December 1998? The Bush administration and the media often repeat that Saddam "kicked out" the weapons inspectors, and that's why we face the necessity of war today.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Iraqis did not kick the inspectors out in December 1998. The Americans ordered the inspectors out, and then bombed Iraq using intelligence information gathered by the inspectors to target Saddam Hussein and his security apparatus.
It's impossible to talk about the return of unfettered access until there's some guarantee that the U.S. won't again use the weapons inspectors as a vehicle for spying on Saddam, and targeting Saddam. As long as the Americans continue to say that regime removal is their number-one policy priority regarding Iraq, even ahead of disarmament, we have no chance of getting weapons inspectors back in.
What if we are shown evidence that Iraq now possesses weapons of mass destruction?
I believe that not only would the Security Council approve military action against Iraq under those circumstances, but we would have a large and viable coalition supporting us. But if Iraq has these weapons, the Bush administration needs to back up its rhetoric with evidence to support it. The fact that they haven't suggests they don't have the evidence, and that this is strictly about domestic American politics.
You spoke to the Iraqi parliament, urging them to re-admit U.N. weapons inspectors. What kind of response did you receive from them?
First let me explain why I spoke there. It was not in order to address Iraqi democracy. There is no democracy in Iraq. Their parliament is a Baath Party organization. I picked the parliament to use it as a platform to address the Iraqi government and also, frankly, to reach an American domestic audience. Decisions in Iraq are made not by the parliament but by the government -- and they were listening closely. Not only at the parliament but in my meeting with [Foreign Minister] Tariq Aziz and other ministers who advise the president. I told them all the same thing: If they didn't let inspectors in, and give them unfettered access, there would be war, and it would destroy their country. That message was received openly and understood clearly.
How do you interpret Bush's speech to the U.N. on 9/12?
If I believed the Bush administration was committed to disarming Iraq, that their final objective was eliminating weapons of mass destruction, I would be supportive of that speech. But it was a hypocritical speech -- because the final objective of the Bush administration is regime removal, pure and simple. Bush was saying the U.N. has to agree to remove Saddam's regime. But that runs counter to the U.N. Charter. The U.N. has never authorized regime removal in Iraq. That is purely a unilateral U.S. policy. It's been promoted since 1991 by James Baker under George Herbert Walker Bush. Baker made it clear at that time that even if Iraq complied with U.N. resolutions, sanctions would continue until Saddam was removed from power. This statement undermined the ability of the inspectors to work in Iraq. What motives do the Iraqis have to cooperate when the U.S. says their cooperation is irrelevant? Clinton and Madeleine Albright said the same thing. But no U.N. Security Council resolution talks about removing Saddam Hussein from power.