Memo To: Letters editor, The Forward
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Inspecting Iraq for WMD
You may have noticed that I have added a link to the Forward's website, as I have become a big fan of your weekly under the editorship of J.J. Goldberg. I especially appreciate the editorials, as they are the most reasoned and practical I've seen anywhere on the enormous problems facing the people of the Middle East in these dark days. I've known about the Forward since I was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn in the 1940s, but back then it was printed in Hebrew, which was all Greek to me. I've been reading it faithfully for several years, keeping track of its particular Jewish point of view, just as I read the Nation of Islam's Final Call for its particular Muslim view point. I've been trying as best I can to bring Forward-looking readers to Final Call readers for several years, and have been making some progress. Here is the latest example, in another paper, The Gleaner of Kingston, Jamaica. In the current Forward, I enjoyed the lead editorial, "And Now, Iraq," but found some errors that I sent you in the following letter, which I hope you will be able to publish:
I'm happy to see you at least hold out the possibility that Saddam Hussein can satisfy the demands of the UN for weapons inspections. Your editorial contains a great many errors of fact, though, which is probably the result of the passage of time, as it has been 11 years since the end of the Gulf War and the beginning of the inspections regime.
You say: "The old inspections regime, as flawed as it was, succeeded in uncovering and destroying considerable quantities of missiles, chemical weapons and biological warfare facilities. It was the inspections' success, in fact, that prompted Saddam's decision to boot out the inspectors as soon as he thought he could get away with it, in December 1998."
In fact, the old inspections regime did not uncover ANY weapons facilities. All the laboratories and warehouses that were destroyed in Iraq after the Gulf War were those created for Iraq's war against Iran. The Iraqi government was given six months to destroy the facilities if they wished the sanctions to be lifted. By November 1991, within the six months, the government destroyed the facilities and TOOK the inspectors there to see the work had been completed. No weapons or facilities were "uncovered" by the UN teams.
What you no doubt remember are the stories about Iraq refusing to cooperate with inspectors who were looking for hidden sites. By this time, several years after the Gulf War, Iraq had come to believe that the "inspectors" were American spies, looking not for chem/bio labs, which can be hidden in farmhouses or garages, but for munition depots, conventional weapons that could be blown up on the excuse they were "weapons of mass destruction." By 1998, Iraqis also came to believe the inspection teams were trying to figure out where Saddam Hussein might be located, that they might assassinate him.
I'm not saying this is true, but as an advisor to Jack Kemp at the time, I did my own due diligence and came to these conclusions. It was Kemp, the GOP vice-presidential candidate in 1996, who met with Iraqi officials in 1997 to confirm my findings, and who then met with UN General Secretary Kofi Annan to recommend a course of action that might bring resolution. The result was an agreement by Saddam Hussein to allow UNSCOM inspectors to go anywhere they wished, including the presidential palaces, on short notice, with the understanding that if nothing were found in this process, the sanctions that denied the government use of oil revenues, then and ever since, would be lifted.
When the UNSCOM teams in fact found nothing suspicious, they went to one of the munition dumps checked out in 1991 and allegedly found traces of VX nerve gas, which had not been listed on any manifest. The sample was sent to laboratories in the U.S., where traces of VX were said to have been found. Kofi Annan agreed to send the samples to laboratories in Switzerland and Paris, where the results were negative. The U.S. finding was front page news. The Swiss and French findings were buried in the back pages. The Wall Street Journal editorial page continues to condemn Iraq for trying to "weaponize" VX and hide it from inspectors.
Saddam did not "boot out" UNSCOM. When the inspectors could find nothing, Richard Butler, the Australian who led the team, insisted that it was up to Saddam to show them where he had hidden the facilities, which he of course could not do if they did not exist. It is not possible to prove a negative. With that, Butler took his team out of Iraq so the United States and British Air Force could begin bombing Iraq. At the time, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced that the question of inspections was moot because on no account would the sanctions be lifted unless Saddam Hussein was gone from the government.
Your editorial carefully avoids making the mistake of The Wall Street Journal when it comes to nuclear weapons. The United Nations inspectors did have to acknowledge that Iraq was free of nuclear weapons, as it is impossible to keep such facilities hidden in small areas. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to regularly inspect Iraq, and is permitted to go where it wishes, and it regularly gives the Iraqi government a clean bill of health, as it did again last month. These inspections are rarely reported in the popular press.
These are not opinions on my part, editors, but checkable facts. At the very least, you might contact Mr. Kemp at Empower America, and he will verify them. As a longtime solid friend of Israel, Mr. Kemp would not be casual in his trust or verifications of regimes that might be a genuine threat to Israel.