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Anti-war Crowd Demands Proof of WMDs

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  • ummyakoub
    Anti-war Crowd Demands Proof of WMDs Political Notebook By Jamie Dettmer in London Despite the insistence of the Pentagon that a menacing arsenal of weapons of
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2003
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      Anti-war Crowd Demands Proof of WMDs

      Political Notebook By Jamie Dettmer
      in London

      Despite the insistence of the Pentagon that a menacing arsenal of
      weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) eventually will be found in Iraq,
      the failure after more than a month of war and occupation to unearth
      even a single illegal warhead or a drum of prohibited chemicals is
      causing alarm in political circles here. Already British Prime
      Minister Tony Blair is coming under mounting pressure in the House of
      Commons to agree to setting up a formal British parliamentary inquiry
      into Saddam Hussein's WMD programs and the claims made about them
      before the war by the intelligence services.

      Prior to the war both U.S. and British intelligence were behind a
      series of claims involving, as it emerged, some faked documents. The
      British insisted that Iraq, for example, had obtained "significant
      quantities of uranium from Africa" and identified the source as
      Niger. George W. Bush highlighted the allegation in a speech, but
      the International Atomic Energy Agency later determined the documents
      on which the claim was based had been forged - a conclusion that left
      Downing Street red-faced and on the defensive in the House of Commons.

      Some British government members remain uneasy; so too do Conservative
      leaders who were supportive of the prime minister in the run-up to
      the war and during the fighting. They have warned Downing Street
      that there could be major political consequences if nothing large is
      found and that Blair then will be faced with claims that he - and the
      Bush administration - exaggerated the danger and set out to deceive
      the world.

      A hue-and-cry about the absence so far of WMDs already is under way
      in the press here with The Independent on Sunday, among other
      influential publications, demanding, "So where are they, Mr. Blair?"

      Such blunt questioning hasn't surfaced yet in the United States. The
      U.S. media, which many Europeans think hasn't been skeptical enough
      throughout the crisis, has concentrated more on stories about the
      rebuilding of Iraq and the growing anti-Americanism being exhibited
      by Iraqi Shiites. American media appear more ready on the whole to
      trust Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assurances that a massive
      WMD program will be uncovered in time. Most seemed unfazed by
      Rumsfeld's comment that it may take up to a year to find the warheads
      and the tons of chemical and biological toxins he insists Saddam had

      That remark earned scorn in the United Kingdom, with some politicians
      and journalists questioning the argument that Saddam's regime could
      have been that cunning in concealing the weapons. They maintain the
      shambolic nature of the regime, as revealed by the manner and speed
      of its collapse, suggests that Baghdad wasn't capable of hiding WMD

      Furthermore, there are few here who believe the claims being made by
      some in the Bush administration that Saddam was able to ship the
      weapons to Syria. Independent military experts say it is highly
      unlikely that Saddam would have decided to disarm himself at a time
      when the regime's survival was on the line.

      There even are a few in the Bush administration losing confidence in
      their prewar belief that U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon
      had a strong line on the whereabouts of WMDs. Not that they are
      saying Saddam wasn't attempting to develop such programs. Their
      point - and they include senior officials at the State Department -
      is that the U.N. weapons-inspection regime and economic sanctions on
      Iraq made it far more difficult for Saddam to fulfill his ambitions.

      No doubt the effort to discover what Saddam was up to has been made
      harder by regime loyalists stealing and burning files, electronic
      data and equipment from the nonconventional arms programs, all under
      the cover of the recent widespread looting. Belatedly, U.S. Central
      Command has begun to expand security around a wider range of
      facilities in a bid to secure evidence that Pentagon officials
      maintain is melting away.

      Douglas Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, claimed
      recently that some of the "looting is actually strategic," especially
      when it comes to government ministries. Feith insists that evidence
      will emerge eventually and that critics should be patient. "There's
      a common assumption that if you know they have chemical or biological
      weapons, then your intelligence should be good enough to know where
      they are," he remarked recently.

      Pentagon officials say the 50 WMD-related facilities now being
      protected by U.S. forces represent just a tiny fraction of the many
      thousands of government and Ba'ath Party offices, state enterprises,
      prisons, barracks and private homes where Saddam may have hidden
      evidence of nonconventional arms.

      That may be so, but the absence of evidence so far contrasts jarringly
      with the certainty being expressed before the war by the Bush and
      Blair teams about their knowledge of Saddam's WMD programs. In the
      weeks to come pressure likely will grow on the White House and
      Downing Street to make good on all of that prewar certainty. If they
      can't, either because what Saddam had was exaggerated by Washington
      and London or because of a brilliant concealment effort by Baghdad,
      critics of the war will at last have some hefty ammunition to fire.

      Jamie Dettmer is a senior editor for Insight.




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