What exactly was moved out of Iraq? Two weeks before the war started, Hans Blix presented a report called, Unresolved Disarmament Issues. For those who don’t trust or believe the Bush Administration’s claims about WMD, this report is a much better description of the alleged threat that Saddam’s Regime posed. After the war, the Iraq Survey Group scoured the country looking to answer the Unresolved Disarmament Issues and to assess the threat of WMD posed by Saddam’s regime. Combined, the before and after reports are a little under 1200 pages. The difference between the two-that is to say the Remaining Unresolved Disarmament Issues listed in the Duelfer Report-seems the most likely description of what was removed from Saddam’s Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion. This list can be found in Volume III of the Duelfer Report starting on page 56.
Before examining this likely list of removed items, it’s helpful to understand and discuss the benefits of the three different modes of transport used to remove “special weapons” and “sensitive materials” from Saddam’s Regime. The summer 2002 airlift was unique in that it provided a very good cover story (humanitarian aid for the dam break in Syria). This uniquely strong cover story would have been most beneficial in moving the most secret items-those most sensitive to UN inspection, but the weight and size restrictions of cargo that could be placed on planes is also a restriction. The early 2003 truckloads were more vulnerable to American intelligence (as is clearly shown by the across-the-board detection of their movement by multiple sources-even the Iraq Survey Group and UNMOVIC), and so the most important and sensitive items would have been moved by a different method given the opportunity. However, movement by truck also allowed for rapid loading, unloading, and movement of items larger than those that would typically be moved by modified commercial aircraft. There are three unique benefits to the movement-by-ship method: first and foremost, large, heavy, and voluminous items could be moved, and secondly they were moved under the absolute guarantee of secrecy because no one was going to stop Russian ships with Russian warships in shooting range. The post-invasion airlift from Saddam International was done on military transports (not civilian aircraft), and while they lacked a benign cover story, they did provide the opportunity to move items that would otherwise have to be moved by truck or ship due to size (though not weight) restrictions. The post-invasion truckloads and convoys of early April were even easier to detect and more likely to be intercepted (as was apparently attempted on at least one occasion), and so it would have been preferred to move cargo that was the least “smoking gun” in nature.
As was mentioned earlier, the Department of Defense reportedly has several documents detailing the contents of at least some of the shipments.
General Sada and others have described the contents of the summer 2002 airlift to have been drums-some yellow-with labels on them suggesting that they were filled with chemical weapon pre-cursors, and this is consistent with the binary nerve agents that Saddam had developed where two chemicals would be combined to make a WMD just prior to its use (sometimes even combined in the warhead immediately prior to employment). These drums were supposedly loaded into ambulances and driven north to be stored in the basement of a hospital in Beruit.
One of the few things that UNMOVIC did find before the invasion was that Iraq had modified some missiles to be wider so as to fit SCUD missile warheads (something that had been explicitly forbidden but carried out anyway sometime between 2000 and 2002). Iraq had also been caught by the UN illegally making castings that would make rocket engines for illegal missiles. Iraq was also caught making parts for SCUD missiles, and fuel that could only be used for SCUD missiles. While no SCUD missiles were found, it seems very likely that these large weapons might have actually been made and either moved by ship or military transport. At the very least, over 20 SCUD missiles were never accounted for between Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. The Duelfer Report goes to great lengths to describe the equipment for biological WMD, and has incredible pictures showing illegal equipment that had been hidden by Saddam rather than turned over in cooperation to the UN. Some of this equipment was capable of turning liquid anthrax growth media into weaponized anthrax in days or even hours. Estimates vary, but on average it seems that Saddam never accounted for roughly 15,000 liters of this deadly liquid.
This would be incredibly easy to destroy without a trace if dumped over side of a Russian ship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and if there was weaponized anthrax, it would have been small enough to fit in a few suitcases and flown out on a normal civilian airliner identical to those used in the summer 2002 airlift. The same is true for the 3,000 – 11,000 litres of botulinum toxin that was never accounted for to the UN, or the 5,600 litres of Clostridium perfringens that Dr Blix could not verify as having been destroyed.
The Duelfer Report’s biological Unresolved Disarmament Issues focus on seed stocks rather than thousands of liters of liquid growth media. Seed stocks are test-tubes filled with biological agents that are preserved usually by freezing. Some were recovered by the ISG, but many more remain lost. That something as small as a fistful of pencils in a large can of ice cream could have been moved out during the 15-month “rush-to-war” seems very plausible, and most plausible in the summer 2002 airlift because of the size and importance of their nature. These seed stocks, if still viable, could be used to make massive-almost unlimited amounts of biological weapons if the proper equipment was available, and the Duelfer Report lists dozens of reactors and similar equipment as still missing. Now, as the seed stocks are small, light, and incredibly easy to move secretly, the equipment needed to weaponize them is not. It’s large, bulky, and heavy; the kind of thing that trucks would be perfect for moving-especially since (if intercepted) they’re of little value.
“…much of the same equipment used in making weapons of mass destruction is potentially dual-use; the same fermentor used to make anthrax could be rinse out to make beer, and the same equipment used to make the nerve agents sarin and tabun could be used to make aspirin tablets.”
More sensitive to being captured, but still heavy and bulky, Dr Blix’ pre-war report listed,
“…up to 450 mustard filled aerial bombs unaccounted for since 1998 (The mustard filled shells account for a couple of tonnes of agent while the aerial bombs account for approximately 70 tonnes)”
These could have been moved in aircraft during the summer 2002 airlift or the postinvasion 2003 airlift, or by ship, but not likely by truck given their value as “smoking gun evidence” and the vulnerability of trucks to capture.
Recently, some of the 35,000 boxes of captured documents taken from Saddam’s Intelligence Service HQ have started to be released. Next month, the Sen. Select Committee on Intelligence is supposed to release its Phase II investigation into pre-war intelligence on Iraq. More and more information is making its way from the shadows to the public eye, and a pattern is emerging. When released, new open source intelligence seems to support the reports that WMD was removed from Iraq in the “rush-to-war” months, and this open source intelligence is confirming and strengthening the reports of Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda. Combined, the case for war in Iraq is getting stronger, not weaker.
Given this pattern, it’s no wonder that the Democratic Party’s due date for draft 2008 part platforms was missed last November (remember when the party split 5 ways on Iraq and even Rep Pelosi had to publicly acknowledge the disarray?). That due date was pushed to January, then March, now April. How can the party leaders appease the base’s unified position that the war was a Bush Lie about WMD, and troops should cut and run, while at the same time, the pattern of open source intelligence is showing that the WMD and Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda claims were true?
The gap between the Democratic Party’s leadership and its base widens with every piece of released intel that is consistent with the pattern that affirms the Bush Administration’s policy and engagement of the Iraq War.
Part one here
Part two here
Part three here
Part four here