NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL AND CHEMICAL WEAPONS
July 17, 2014: Wikileaks documents continue to surface. Some of the latest ones cover the Iraqi chemical weapons program after 1991. In particular these documents deal with the evidence of chemical weapons U.S. troops found in Iraq after 2003. This is all part of an ongoing, largely ideological, media battle over exactly what happened to Iraqi chemical weapons after 1991. Up until early 2003, the conventional wisdom was that Saddam had chemical weapons, and just would not give them up. Some thought Saddam’s strategy was dumb. All he had to do was let the UN inspectors do their job and get Iraqi out from under the embargo. All Saddam had to do was destroy all his chemical weapons and proved to the UN. He could easily reconstitute his chemical weapons later.
What no one brought up was what Saddam was actually doing. He was pretending to have chemical weapons in order to keep the Iranians at bay. Horrendous casualties from Iraqi chemical weapons had forced the Iranians to end the 1980s war in an ignominious (for the Iranians) draw. In 2003 the Iranians still wanted Saddam's head on a pike, and Saddam saw his imaginary chemical weapons as a primary defense against Iranian attack.
This deception was not revealed until after Saddam was out of power and some of his key aides could talk. Saddam kept the real situation (no real chemical weapons programs) secret even from most of his closest aides and military commanders. Saddam trusted very few people. His deception worked, but got him killed anyway because the scheme backfired. Because the rest of the world (especially the United States) believed Saddam still had chemical weapons program and some of those weapons were liable to be given to al Qaeda (which Saddam was in contact with). After September 11, 2001 Saddam seemed like the only leader in the region crazy enough to continue supporting al Qaeda. Officially al Qaeda wanted Saddam gone but in reality Saddam had something of an understanding with al Qaeda (as did many Moslem government.) Saddam would let al Qaeda men quietly travel through Iraq and use Iraq as a hideout as long as there were no active operations against Saddam. Iraq had arrangements like this with many terror groups even though both sides knew that eventually these ceasefires would have to be broken. The U.S. also knew that Saddam was publicly calling for terror attacks on the United States and hailing the 911 attacks as a great victory for Moslems.
Between the time of his capture (December 2003) and execution three years later Saddam was interrogated extensively about the 39 years he ruled Iraq and especially about his WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) programs. He freely admitted his chemical weapons deception but by then many in the West were obsessed with the idea that the United States had invented the myth of an Iraqi chemical weapons program to justify the invasion of Iraq. Actually, Saddam invented that myth and most intel analysts, journalists and just about everyone else believed it until 2003. This is a matter of public record. When the post 2003 search for the chemical weapons program came up empty many pundits and journalists seized on the idea that there was a secret conspiracy involved and that the CIA and other intelligence agencies must have known about the Saddam scam. There has never been any proof of this conspiracy, but it has attracted many believers.
Meanwhile the Wikileaks documents clearly show there were still a lot of chemical weapons in Iraq in 2003 and Saddam’s plan to rebuild his chemical weapons capabilities as soon as the UN embargo was gone were clear and easy for Iraq to accomplish. What is lost in all this conspiracy talk was that Iraq still has the capability to rebuild its chemical weapons arsenal and manufacturing capability. While most of the key technical people were Sunni Arabs (and thus unlikely to work for the current Shia government), that expertise can be hired, as can the specialists needed to run the chemical plants that are quite legal until they are tweaked to produce deadly chemical weapons instead of useful and quite beneficial chemicals. For some reason that never became a headline grabbing story.