The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

U.N. inspector speaks out

Dec 9, 2002

The Bush administration claims it has to go to war against Iraq because Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Bush has never offered proof. He tells us only that he has secret information.

But there is public information, muffled, because it contradicts Bush at every point. Scott Ritter was the chief U.S. inspector in the U.N. weapons inspection team in Iraq from 1991 to 1998. He was an intelligence officer in the Gulf during the Gulf War. Ritter is waging a campaign to get out his own testimony and information. Shut out of the mass media, he has published his own book to say what he knows. Following are excerpts from that book, as partly reprinted in The Nation.

"In 1998, when the U.N. inspection program ended, the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There's no debate about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor – both from vehicles and from the air – the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything. We can say unequivocally that the industrial infrastructure needed by Iraq to produce nuclear weapons had been eliminated.

"...For Iraq to reacquire nuclear weapons capability, they'd have to basically build, from the ground up, enrichment and weaponization capabilities that would cost tens of billions of dollars. Nuclear weapons cannot be crated in a basement or cave. They require modern industrial infrastructures that in turn require massive amounts of electricity and highly controlled technologies not readily available on the open market.

"...Iraq manufactured three kinds of nerve agents: sarin, tabun and VX. . . . Sarin and tabun have a shelf life of five years. Even if Iraq had somehow managed to hide this vast number of weapons from inspectors, what they're now storing is nothing more than useless, harmless goo. Chemical weapons were produced in the Muthanna State establishment: a massive chemical weapons factory. It was bombed during the Gulf War, and then weapons inspectors came and completed the task of eliminating the facility. That means Iraq lost its sarin and tabun manufacturing base.

"...Iraq was technically capable of restarting its weapons manufacturing capabilities within six months of our departure. . . . The important phrase here, however, is "technically capable." If no one were watching, Iraq could do this. But just as with the nuclear weapons program, they'd have to start from scratch, having been deprived of all equipment, facilities and research. They'd have to procure the complicated tools and technology required through front companies. This would be detected. The manufacture of chemical weapons emits vented gases that would have been detected by now if they existed. We've been watching, via satellite and other means, and have seen none of this.

"...They didn't just try [to make biological weapons]. They actually made it, primarily anthrax in liquid bulk agent form. They also produced a significant quantity of liquid botulinum toxin. [Note: they made bulk stores of these weapons by starting from the batches sent to Iraq by the U.S. during Iraq's war on Iran. – Ed.] They lied about this capability for some time. When they finally admitted in l995 we got to work on destroying the factories and equipment that produced it . . . Iraq was able to produce liquid bulk anthrax. That is without dispute. But liquid bulk anthrax, even under ideal storage conditions, germinates in three years, becoming useless . . . For Iraq to have biological weapons today, they'd have to reconstitute a biological manufacturing base.

"...The bottom line is that Iraq doesn't have the capability to do long-range ballistic missiles. They don't even have the capability to do short-range ballistic missiles. They're trying, but not succeeding . . . . Of course now the inspectors have left Iraq, we don't know what happens inside factories. But that doesn't really matter, since they can't conduct tests indoors. You have to bring rockets out, fire them on test stands. This is detectable. No one has detected any evidence of Iraq doing this."