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MARGARET WARNER: How much time do the inspectors need? How much time should they get? To debate that, we turn to, David Kay, chief inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Iraq in 1991 and 1992, focusing on Iraq’s nuclear weapons development program. And George Lopez, director of policy studies at Notre Dame University’s Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He’s also chairman of the board of the bulletin of atomic scientists. He is compiling a database that tracks the progress of U.N. inspectors in Iraq. Welcome to you both. David Kay, are Blix and Baradei right when they say they need several months before they can ascertain whether or not Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction?
DAVID KAY: Well, I think it’s really what they view their task as. If they view their task as disarming Iraq, finding the smoking gun and going after that program, I don’t think a few months will even be enough. The evidence from the first round of U. N. inspections is in seven years we didn’t succeed in doing that. Whether they need additional time to determine whether Iraq is voluntarily disarming, I doubt that. We’ve had an Iraqi declaration that’s filled with false evidence, it’s incomplete, it’s clear Saddam Hussein has not changed his policy from 1998 when the inspectors left.
MARGARET WARNER: So you’re saying the search for the smoking gun is the wrong test?
DAVID KAY: I think that’s a fool’s errand. Iraq is a country the size of California — 100 inspectors or even 300 inspectors with eight helicopters — you would have to be not brilliant but incredibly lucky to stumble across a weapon. Let me tell you where they hid their biological weapons, and we didn’t find them. They hid them in rail tunnels, they buried them by two runways in air bases and they hid them in the banks of the tigress river of now how are inspectors without defectors, would you pristine intelligence going to find that?
MARGARET WARNER: So George Lopez, would extra time do any good or would that be a fool’s errant as David Kay just said?
GEORGE LOPEZ: Well, if the fool’s errant is about the business of finding every aspect of biological and chemical development, you may are under some pressure in three or six months to find everything. But we are dealing with the largest and most empowered inspections regime in the history of disarmament. And we’re dealing with a group of professionals who are resourced beyond any prior group, including the group of twelve years ago. So the prospects for getting most of the chemical agents, getting most of the biological precursors and continuing to monitor and install monitoring equipment is probably increasingly good, the longer they’re there.
MARGARET WARNER: So you think the extra time that Blix and Baradei want will be productive?
GEORGE LOPEZ: I think it can’t help but be productive. We’re dealing with a technological capabilities and political goals. For those within the beltway or elsewhere that believe Saddam’s time ran out long ago and disarmament via military force is the only answer, six months or six years isn’t going to produce the answers they’d like. But for others in the international community who believe that we have the most intrusive regime one can have, this is a group that’s about to do some historical uncovering and I think they might be given their day to do that.
MARGARET WARNER: What about that argument, David Kay, that just having all these inspectors there, having this intrusive regime, that essentially boxes Saddam Hussein in ray anyway?
DAVID KAY: Let’s take that argument: Whether it’s the most empowered inspection regime. Right now there are a little fewer than 100 inspectors in the country, they have eight helicopters, they have not used any u2 overhead flights yet, despite the fact we found that to be the most valuable tool. And they have not conducted any private inspections, they have, they may have rights, but we haven’t seen them exercise those rights.
MARGARET WARNER: By private inspection what is do you mean?
DAVID KAY: Private interviews with Iraqi scientists. So right now, I don’t see that they’re actually carrying out anything as effective as the previous regime. But let’s take the argument, what if you kept inspectors running around the country constantly harassing the Iraqis over a long term. Could they at least contain them? It’s an interesting argument if you think you can do that. But go back to the history where we tried this once before. Militarization, demilitarization of the Rhine Land, inspectors, in fact far more inspector that we’ll ever have in Iraq, and in fact the Germans rebuilt their military right under the nose of the inspectors. Why? Because the member states, France and Britain at that time, got tired of supporting the inspectors, didn’t want to find the evidence. I think over time inspections decayed in terms of capability, they don’t increase in capability.
MARGARET WARNER: You mean they decay because the threat behind it dissipates?
DAVID KAY: Political will. The threat disappears or other threats emerge, and the political will to maintain it. You’ve got competing interests. Economic interests in the case of the Russians and the French, political interests in the case of the Arabs vis-à-vis Iran, for example, and wanting to use Iraq.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, what about that point?
GEORGE LOPEZ: Well, there’s no question that a great deal of political interest surround the inspections. But let’s separate the politics from the technology and the ability of the regime to do its work. We’re dealing here with a group of folks who have access not to U2′s at the moment but to unmanned drones, to ground penetrating radar, and particularly in the chemical and biological area with very sensitive equipment by detects not only whether or not things have been there but whether or not agents and precursors have been there in the last three or six months, whether or not they’ve been used.
I think much of the issue here is the difference between complete certainty, which would occur only with full-scale invasion in a war, versus those who believe that this inspection regime, as authorized by the council ought to be permitted to do its work. Is U.S. security, is global security compromised by Mr. Blix’ analysis that he needs six or eight or nine months? Those who have been running out of patience as they say and are tired of the recalcitrant regime, they have a right to be impatient with Saddam, but we’re dealing with very serious security issues and we’re dealing with a very empowered regime which is only going to get more sophisticated in its ability to talk to scientists and engineers and do surprise visits. Why U.S. or global security would be compromised by that is curious to me.
DAVID KAY: Just on the point of technology, those people who think the inspectors have this amazing technology, I wish they would come to Washington. They might help the FBI and the postal service identify anthrax. Those of us in Washington today have watched the news stories as the postal service tries to determine, do they have another anthrax case or not. The latest news I heard before we went on is it might take three or four days before they can confirm that. And we still haven’t found the anthrax perpetrator.
MARGARET WARNER: So what’s your answer to Mr. Lopez’ question, do you think that U.S. security is compromised by giving inspectors more time?
DAVID KAY: It depends on what you mean by more time. Is two weeks, three weeks, does it compromise U.S. Security, no. If you go six to eight months, if you think the outcome would be convince or convict Saddam of having weapons of mass destruction, and then eliminate him or eliminate the weapons, perhaps not. I think the more likely outcome of eight months a year, I’ve even heard one of the chief inspectors in private refer to two years as being necessary, as in fact Saddam gets off the hook yet again.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Lopez, Secretary Rumsfeld reiterated today the U.S. position today that the test shouldn’t be on the U.S. or the inspectors to find this evidence but rather the burden was on Iraq to prove definitively that it had destroyed everything that inspectors thought they knew was there before. What about that argument?
GEORGE LOPEZ: I think that’s absolutely right. We’re dealing here with a regime which has a long history of being obstreperous. But one of the things or monitoring project has shown over the last couple weeks is that the first weeks of inspections in ’91 differ greatly from the first six weeks now. It’s true you’re not getting full scale Iraqi cooperation, but you’re also not getting refused entry into facilities. Let’s monitor that more of the time and see what the prospects are. I continue to expect this regime to not provide full compliance in a cooperative way. But I have a great deal of confidence in the technological ability and the savvy of the inspectors to give us an analysis six or nine months from now that will tell us something.
In addition, let’s not forget that each and every step of the way where there’s a compromised facility that did produce in ’91, they’re leaving or reinstalling the cameras and inspection equipment that was taken out after their departure. No other country in the world will have this came of intrusive regime in place and I think that may be one way of guaranteeing continued deterrence, maybe not compliance but continued deterrence over time.
MARGARET WARNER: As a practical and political matter, David Kay, is it pretty clear that Jan. 27 now is not going to be a trigger date for war?
DAVID KAY: I think Jan. 27 is an important date, but not a trigger date for war. I think it probably is the beginning of the final process in drawing a line under the inspection regime and Iraq’s activity to it. And the crucial question is, has Iraq made a strategic decision to disarm itself voluntarily, or will the international community at some point have to exercise military force in order to disarm it. I think Jan. 27 will give you some pretty good data on that. The Iraqi declaration, and we’ve already seen both Blix and ElBaradei referring to that, the Iraqi declaration is an amazing mocking document of the U.S. system, they don’t even admit things reported in the press, they don’t even admit things they had revealed to UNSCOM prior to 1998.
MARGARET WARNER: But, briefly, Mr. Lopez, do you think that kind of word will have to come from Blix and/or Baradei before the international community is ready to endorse military force.
GEORGE LOPEZ: I think that will be part of the equation but not the only part. I believe that Mr. Blix’ work awe not to be politicized. We ought to continue to empower that regime to be as intrusive and as successful as it might be.
MARGARET WARNER: George Lopez, Dave Kay, thank you both.