Newsweek: What weapons of mass destruction??

2003-03-12

Richard Moore

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Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 15:34:44 -0500
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From: Randy Schutt <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Star Witness on Iraq Said Weapons Were Destroyed

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from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) 
http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.html


Star Witness on Iraq Said Weapons Were Destroyed

Bombshell revelation from a defector cited by White
House and press


February 27, 2003

On February 24, Newsweek broke what may be the biggest
story of the Iraq crisis. In a revelation that "raises
questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass
destruction] stockpiles attributed to Iraq still
exist," the magazine's issue dated March 3 reported
that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the
regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had
destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and
biological weapons and banned missiles, as Iraq claims.

Until now, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was killed shortly
after returning to Iraq in 1996, was best known for his
role in exposing Iraq's deceptions about how far its
pre-Gulf War biological weapons programs had advanced.
But Newsweek's John Barry -- who has covered Iraqi
weapons inspections for more than a decade -- obtained
the transcript of Kamel's 1995 debriefing by officials
from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and
the U.N. inspections team known as UNSCOM.

Inspectors were told "that after the Gulf War, Iraq
destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons
stocks and the missiles to deliver them," Barry wrote.
All that remained ere "hidden blueprints, computer
disks, microfiches" and production molds. The weapons
were destroyed secretly, in order to hide their
existence from inspectors, in the hopes of someday
resuming production after inspections had finished. The
CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Barry reported,
and "a military aide who defected with Kamel... backed
Kamel's assertions about the destruction of WMD
stocks."

But these statements were "hushed up by the U.N.
inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam into disclosing
still more."

CIA spokesperson Bill Harlow angrily denied the
Newsweek report. "It is incorrect, bogus, wrong,
untrue," Harlow told Reuters (2/24/03) the day the
report appeared.

But on Wednesday (2/26/03), a complete copy of the
Kamel transcript -- an internal UNSCOM/IAEA document
stamped "sensitive" -- was obtained by Glen Rangwala,
the Cambridge University analyst who in early February
revealed that Tony Blair's "intelligence dossier" was
plagiarized from a student thesis. This transcript can
be seen at
http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.pdf.

In the transcript (p. 13), Kamel says bluntly: "All
weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were
destroyed."


Who is Hussein Kamel?

Kamel is no obscure defector. A son-in-law of Saddam
Hussein, his departure from Iraq carrying crates of
secret documents on Iraq's past weapons programs was a
major turning point in the inspections saga. In 1999,
in a letter to the U.N. Security Council (1/25/99),
UNSCOM reported that its entire eight years of
disarmament work "must be divided into two parts,
separated by the events following the departure from
Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel."

Kamel's defection has been cited repeatedly by George
W. Bush and leading administration officials as
evidence that 1) Iraq has not disarmed; 2) inspections
cannot disarm it; and 3) defectors such as Kamel are
the most reliable source of information on Iraq's
weapons.

* Bush declared in an October 7, 2002 speech: "In 1995,
after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the
head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was
then that the regime was forced to admit that it had
produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other
deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however,
concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four
times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of
biological weapons that has never been accounted for,
and capable of killing millions."

* Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5
presentation to the U.N. Security Council claimed: "It
took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had
produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A
single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes.
Four tons. The admission only came out after inspectors
collected documentation as a result of the defection of
Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."

* In a speech last August (8/27/02), Vice President
Dick Cheney said Kamel's story "should serve as a
reminder to all that we often learned more as the
result of defections than we learned from the
inspection regime itself."

* Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley
recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune (2/16/03) that
"because of information provided by Iraqi defector and
former head of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
programs, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, the regime had to
admit in detail how it cheated on its nuclear
non-proliferation commitments."

The quotes from Bush and Powell cited above refer to
anthrax and VX produced by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf
War. The administration has cited various quantities of
chemical and biological weapons on many other occasions
-- weapons that Iraq produced but which remain
unaccounted for. All of these claims refer to weapons
produced before 1991.

But according to Kamel's transcript, Iraq destroyed all
of these weapons in 1991.

According to Newsweek, Kamel told the same story to CIA
analysts in August 1995. If that is true, all of these
U.S. officials have had access to Kamel's statements
that the weapons were destroyed. Their repeated
citations of his testimony -- without revealing that he
also said the weapons no longer exist -- suggests that
the administration might be withholding critical
evidence. In particular, it casts doubt on the
credibility of Powell's February 5 presentation to the
U.N., which was widely hailed at the time for its
persuasiveness. To clear up the issue, journalists
might ask the CIA to release the transcripts of its own
conversations with Kamel.

Kamel's disclosures have also been crucial to the
arguments made by hawkish commentators on Iraq. The
defector has been cited four times on the New York
Times op-ed page in the last four months in support of
claims about Iraq's weapons programs -- never noting
his assertions about the elimination of these weapons.
In a major Times op-ed calling for war against Iraq
(2/21/03), Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution
wrote that Kamel and other defectors "reported that
outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the
nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread
out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be."
The release of Kamel's transcript makes this claim
appear grossly at odds with the defector's actual
testimony.

The Kamel story is a bombshell that necessitates a
thorough reevaluation of U.S. media reporting on Iraq,
much of which has taken for granted that the nation
retains supplies of prohibited weapons. (See FAIR Media
Advisory, "Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to
Fact," 2/4/03
http://www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html.)
Kamel's testimony is not, of course, proof that Iraq
does not have hidden stocks of chemical or biological
weapons, but it does suggest a need for much more media
skepticism about U.S. allegations than has previously
been shown.

Unfortunately, Newsweek chose a curious way to handle
its scoop: The magazine placed the story in the
miscellaneous "Periscope" section with a generic
headline, "The Defector's Secrets." Worse, Newsweek's
online version added a subhead that seemed almost
designed to undercut the importance of the story:
"Before his death, a high-ranking defector said Iraq
had not abandoned its WMD ambitions." So far, according
to a February 27 search of the Nexis database, no major
U.S. newspapers or national television news shows have
picked up the Newsweek story.

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Read the Newsweek story:
http://www.msnbc.com/news/876128.asp

Read Glen Rangwala's analysis of the Kamel transcript:
http://middleeastreference.org.uk/kamel.html

If you'd like to encourage media outlets to investigate this story, contact 
information is available on FAIR's website:
http://www.fair.org/media-contact-list.html

-- 
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Randy Schutt Author of Inciting Democracy: A Practical
Proposal for Creating a Good Society

The Vernal Education Project: Working to increase the
skills and support of progressive activists 
http://www.vernalproject.org
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