"This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and is capable of killing millions. " George W. Bush, 10/02
In this quote, Mr. Bush is referring to the stockpiles discussed in an interview of defector General Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq's weapons program, given by Rolf Ekeus of UNSCOM, Professor Maurizio Zifferero of IAEA, and Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat and weapons inspector. In fact, whenever an administration official referred to "unaccounted-for stockpiles ", they were referring to Kamel 's testimony.
If the name Hussein Kamel does not ring any clear bells, there is good reason. The full content of his interview was kept secret until February of 2003, despite the fact that a definitive UNSCOM report made the following claim: "the overall period of the Commission's disarmament work must be divided into two parts, separated by the events following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. General Hussein Kamal ".
On the other hand, the name might be somewhat familiar because it was used in vague references as a source by both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair throughout the run-up to war. In addition to the quote above, President Bush made the following claim:
"We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from firsthand testimony from defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law."
The son-in-law is Hussein Kamel, who has now been dead for seven years- hardly a credible source on whether Saddam Hussein had resumed his nuclear program. Kamel was killed when, after defecting to the United States and giving this interview, he was lured back into Iraq where he and his brother were promptly assassinated by Saddam Hussein. And indeed Kamel did explain in his interview how Iraq had manufactured stockpiles of VX and anthrax, as well as an attempt at a crash nuclear program in 1995. In Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair 's references, however, a subsequent statement is omitted:
"I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed"
Responding to questions about the Iraqi VX program, Kamel stated the following:
"We changed the factory into pesticide production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine [...] We gave instructions [sic] not to produce chemical weapons."
Clearly, this an "accounting for " of the infamous anthrax and VX stockpiles. If there is no documentation, this would be no surprise as Saddam Hussein would be unlikely to keep extensive records of the destruction of weapons he was not supposed to have. Of course, such a statement coming from a defector is suspicious, but Kamel 's assassination is not the only evidence that his testimony was credible, and not ordered by Saddam Hussein. The greater part of the interview, for example, is spent criticizing the regime for tactical and humanitarian failures. Furthermore, the Newsweek story that first disclosed the interview quoted inspectors as saying not that the source was illegitimate, but rather that the information had been withheld so as to "bluff " Saddam Hussein into possibly revealing more information. Finally, for what it is worth, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair both saw his testimony as not only fit to quote, but fit to quote as if it were a current revelation.
The two most menacing aspects of the push for war, namely the nuclear threat and the Al Qaeda connection in Iraq have already been almost completely discredited. A recent Washington Post story (8/10/03) detailed how every serious piece of evidence for the nuclear threat had been soundly undermined or refuted months before war began. Paul Wolfowitz recently admitted in a talk radio interview that there was no significant connection between Iraq and the attacks of September 11th, or with Al Qaeda in general. It appears, however, that perhaps even the less ominous elements of President Bush 's case hinged on a blatant distortion and misquoting of a testimony which, ironically, should have been the most potent argument against Bush 's claims. The threat of a serious congressional inquiry looms extremely large if this is so, particularly since intelligence reports have already been released stating that there was absolutely no conclusive evidence on any of Saddam Hussein 's weapons programs.