On February 5, 2003, Colin Powell laid out the administration’s case against Iraq on WMD charges in a UN speech: “My second purpose today is to provide you with additional information, to share with you what the United States knows about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iraq’s involvement in terrorism, which is also the subject of Resolution 1441 and other earlier resolutions.” The speech was taken as convincing evidence by many people.
One attempt to analyze it was published in an Al Jazeera article. Unfortunately, the article only talks about the speech in light of what we knew before the war, and what I’m wondering about is whether things we’ve found since the war started would tend to confirm or refute the allegations that Powell made in his speech, so I soldier on.
Back on April 26, Walter Pincus wrote in the Washington Post that none of Powell’s claims had been substantiated. I haven’t seen any other articles on the topic. The latest news is that a stolen truck that may be a mobile weapons lab was turned over to US forces.
I still await the long article that will go over each of Powell’s claims and discuss them in depth. Was the al-Kindi company building mobile weapons labs? Where are the Iraqi officials and soldiers whose voices were featured in the recordings that Powell used in his speech? We have in custody at least one member of the “Higher Committee for Monitoring the Inspection Teams,” what do they have to say? Where are the secret files and prohibited items that were supposedly being hidden in private homes and concealed by being driven around the country? Where are the warheads armed with biological weapons that were dispersed to western Iraq? Why weren’t they used when we invaded?
In his speech, Powell showed satellite photos of a weapons complex called Taji, including two bunkers he claimed were “active chemical munitions bunkers.” I’ve found stories reporting on looting of weapons from the Taji military base, and about troops that are currently encamped there, but nothing about those bunkers. Obviously if Iraq wanted to hide its chemical weapons, it would have completely scoured that base between Feb 5 and the end of the war, but I find it annoying that nobody has followed up.
I found no mentions on Google News of the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, mentioned by name on one of Powell’s slides, nor the al-Musayyib Rocket Test Facility, nor Ibn al Haytham. It seems to me that part of the work of journalists should be to run down these claims. Also discussed by name in the speech is the Tareq State Establishment, allegedly a dual use front that claimed to be a legitimate enterprise but was in fact a chemical weapons producer. No mention of it in the news, unfortunately.
The speech also mentions specific weapons programs, including a program to turn a fuel tank on a Mirage F-1 jet into a chemical or biological weapons sprayer and a program to turn Mig-21 aircraft into UAVs. Any evidence on that yet? What about the 1000 tons of chemical weapons that were supposedly in 6500 missing bombs from the Iran-Iraq war? Toward the end of his speech, Powell starts throwing around the numbers that are meant to really impress:
Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly five times the size of Manhattan. Let me remind you that — of the 122 mm chemical warheads that the UN inspectors found recently. This discovery could very well be, as has been noted, the tip of a submerged iceberg. The question before us all, my friends, is when will we see the rest of the submerged iceberg?
That is the question, isn’t it? Needless to say, despite the evidence cited by Powell regarding Iraq’s nuclear program, we haven’t found much there, either.
The other question that must also be asked is why I care in the first place. We went to war with Iraq, we won the war, and there’s little doubt that Iraqis are better off without Saddam than they were with him. The reason I’m still keeping track of this stuff is that I firmly believe we were led to war under false pretenses. I said it before the war, I said it during the war, and I’ve said it since. Next year we’re going to have a Presidential election in which the incumbent is a man who played upon the rightful fears of Americans to gain their assent to a war fought for reasons that he and his advisors would rather not openly acknowledge. I think we deserve better treatment from our leaders than that.