by Austin Bay
April 30, 2003
Accounting for Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons
programs is absolutely essential if America intends to achieve victory in
the War on Terror.
Commentators who think otherwise miss the crucial strategic
challenge. The formula for Hell in the 21st century, the wicked linkage of
terrorists, rogue states and weapons of mass destruction, remains the
fundamental issue vexing those on this planet who work for stability,
prosperity and genuine peace.
Several pundits now write that the evident evils of Saddam's
regime, revealed in piles of stacked skulls, provide sufficient reason for
"waging the war."
As someone who has for two decades publicly deplored Saddam's
relentless butchery, I agree that liberating the Iraqi people is a virtue
and a blessed success.
However, we are engaged in a much larger and longer war, with
Iraq being one phase. The object lesson U.S. and British military forces
dealt Saddam's regime puts other dictators (a score of petty Saddams) on
notice. Their states, the gutters where terrorists connect with money and
weapons, are no longer Free Parking, a playpen for vile shenanigans safe
behind the false sovereignty imposed by tyrannical oppression. America can
crack rogues and crack them quickly.
But breaking the Hell formula and achieving victory in the long
war means we must be able to accurately locate and then eliminate the
dictators' chemical, biological and nuclear arms caches. This challenge
includes destroying the ways and means of acquiring and manufacturing such
Finding chem, bio and nuclear weapons evidence in Iraq is
literally a test of our intelligence. Intelligence information gathering and
assessment are the first line of defense and offense in the War on Terror.
In February, Tony Blair said every nation with an intelligence service knows
Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. Is this a massive intelligence
failure? I doubt it -- but if there is, it must be addressed quickly and
Saddam has had chemical weapons and he's used them. Ask
victimized Kurds and Iranians. Given U.S. pressure and the build-up of U.S.
forces on his borders, it's conceivable that in late 2002 Saddam concluded
he would destroy his weapons but retain "seed crystals" for recreating
weapons programs as soon as U.N. sanctions ended. "Dual-use" technologies
would be part of this program (for example, chemical precursors that could
be used for both insecticide or nerve gas). If this is the case, documenting
Iraqi gimmicks will improve counter-proliferation intelligence collection
"He shipped the gas to Syria" is another alternative. Saddam
reportedly bought British left-wing "peace" MP George Galloway's support --
renting nerve agent storage sites in Syria is simply business as usual among
tyrants. If that's the case, Syria must suffer stiff consequences for that
If no weapons or traces of weapons are found, the Bush
Administration will legitimately face charges of lying or exaggerating. The
credibility of the U.S. president and secretary of state are on the line,
and their credibility is extremely important in continuing to effectively
wage the War on Terror.
So how long could it take to shakedown Iraq for Saddam's weapons
of mass destruction?
One former military planner provided this best guess on April
15: a full-scale inspection effort would take 90 to 120 days. The estimate
posited a focused effort of 200 mobile teams and "quick response" laboratory
support for quality testing and evaluation. This field effort would be
backed by a dedicated intelligence-gathering and analysis group. One of the
intelligence group's primary concerns would be the rapid and thorough
debrief of captured regime officials and key subordinates active in weapons
of mass destruction research, development and deployment. This estimate used
1,000 potential weapon sites as a baseline.
Operations of this size aren't wired in an afternoon; the number
of field teams currently deployed hasn't been publicized. In late April,
Gen. Tommy Franks said that several thousand sites would be surveyed. Syria
remains a question mark. However, four months still strikes me as a
reasonable time frame.
That means early September is a fair date for drawing
conclusions about Saddam's weapons. That should be adequate time to find and
document the telltale toxic spill, the concealed bacterial culture, the
buried lab or -- heaven forbid -- the hidden bomb.