Background Report: The Case Against Iraq
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GWEN IFILL: Sec. of State Colin Powell, flanked conspicuously by U.S. intelligence chief George Tenet and U.N. Amb. John Negroponte, laid out what he said was new evidence that Iraq is breaking international law. Presenting satellite pictures, intercepted communications, and what he described as eyewitness evidence, Powell said Iraq is guilty of concealing banned chemical and biological weapons and missiles and of secretly resuming a nuclear program.
COLIN POWELL: I cannot tell you everything that we know, but what I can share with you, when combined with what all of us have learned over the years, is deeply troubling. What you will see is an accumulation of facts and disturbing patterns of behavior. The facts on Iraqis’ behavior: Iraq’s behavior demonstrate that Saddam Hussein and his regime have made no effort– no effort– to disarm, as required by the international community. Indeed, the facts and Iraq’s behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction. Let me begin by playing a tape for you.
GWEN IFILL: The audio tape, recorded by U.S. Intelligence, was one of three Powell introduced as evidence of Iraq’s efforts to conceal its ability to produce weapons of mass destruction. Powell said it was a conversation between two Iraqi military officers last November, the day before U.N. weapons inspectors returned to Iraq.
TAPE: COL: Peace. We have just a small question. GEN. Yeah. COL. About this committee that is coming… COL: …with Mohamed ElBaradei [Director, International Atomic Energy Agency]
COLIN POWELL: First, they acknowledge that our colleague Mohamed ElBaradei is coming, and they know what he’s coming for and they know he’s coming the next day. He’s coming to look for things that are prohibited. He is expecting these gentlemen to cooperate with him and not hide things, but they’re worried. We have this modified vehicle. “What do we say if one of them sees it?” What is their concern? Their concern is that it’s something they should not have, something that should not be seen. The general is incredulous. “You didn’t get a modified. You don’t have one of those, do you? I have one. Which? From where? From the workshop, from the al- Kindi company. What? From al-Kindi. I’ll come to see you in the morning. I’m worried you all have something left. We evacuated everything. We don’t have anything left. Note what he says: We didn’t destroy it. We didn’t line it up for inspection. We evacuated everything. We didn’t destroy it. We didn’t line it up for inspection. We didn’t turn it in to the inspectors. We evacuated it to make sure it was not around when the inspectors showed up.
GWEN IFILL: Powell described a series of extensive, coordinated, and intentional attempts to deceive.
COLIN POWELL: We noted Saddam’s son, Qusay, ordered the removal of all prohibited weapons from Saddam’s numerous palace complexes. We know that Iraqi government officials, members of the ruling Ba’ath Party, and scientists have hidden prohibited items in their homes. Other key files from military and scientific establishments have been placed in cars that are being driven around the countryside by Iraqi intelligence agents to avoid detection. Thanks to intelligence they were provided the inspectors recently found dramatic confirmation of these reports. When they searched the home of an Iraqi nuclear scientist, they uncovered roughly 2,000 pages of documents. You see them here being brought out of the home and placed in U.N. hands. Some of the material is classified and related to Iraq’s nuclear program. Tell me, answer me. Are the inspectors to search the house of every government official, every Ba’ath Party member, and every scientist in the country to find the truth, to get the information they need to satisfy the demands of our council?
GWEN IFILL: Powell also displayed several satellite photos of facilities which he claimed were being used to house chemical weapons.
COLIN POWELL: Now look at the picture on the right. You are now looking at two of those sanitized bunkers. The signature vehicles are gone. The tents are gone. It’s been cleaned up. And it was done on the 22nd of December, as the U.N. inspection team is arriving. At this ballistic missile site, on Nov. 10, we saw a cargo truck preparing to move ballistic missile components. At this biological weapons- related facility, on Nov. 25, just two days before inspections resumed, this truck caravan appeared, something we almost never see at this facility, and we monitor it carefully and regularly. At this ballistic missile facility, again, two days before inspections began, five large cargo trucks appeared along with a truck-mounted crane to move missiles. We saw this kind of housecleaning at close to 30 sites. Days after this activity, the vehicles and the equipment that I have just highlighted disappear, and the site returns to patterns of normalcy.
GWEN IFILL: Powell delivered example after example of this type of evidence; evidence, he said, that proves Iraq will never cooperate with U.N. inspectors, no matter how long inspections continue.
COLIN POWELL: The issue before us is not how much time we are willing to give the inspectors to be frustrated by Iraqi obstruction, but how much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq’s noncompliance before we as a council, we as the United Nations, say, “enough, enough.”
GWEN IFILL: Iraq, Powell said, has never proved that it destroyed the vast quantities of dangerous biological weapons it possessed.
COLIN POWELL: First, you will recall that it took UNSCOM four long and frustrating years to pry… to pry an admission out of Iraq that it had biological weapons. Second, when Iraq finally admitted having these weapons in 1995, the quantities were vast. Less than a teaspoon of dry anthrax, a little bit– about this amount, this is just about the amount of a teaspoon– less than a teaspoonful of dry anthrax in an envelope shut down the United States Senate in the fall of 2001. This forced several hundred people to undergo emergency medical treatment and killed two postal workers, just from an amount just about this quantity, that was inside of an envelope. Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoonful of this deadly material.
GWEN IFILL: Powell said Saddam Hussein had built mobile production facilities to evade the weapons inspectors.
COLIN POWELL: We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails. The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. We know from Iraq’s past admissions that it has successfully weaponized not only anthrax, but also other biological agents, including botulinum toxin, aflatoxin, and ricin. But Iraq’s research efforts did not stop there. Saddam Hussein has investigated dozens of biological agents, causing diseases such as gas gangrene, plague, typhus, tetanus, cholera, camel pox, and hemorrhagic fever. And he also has the wherewithal to develop smallpox.
GWEN IFILL: And Powell described the techniques Iraq has developed to deliver these weapons.
COLIN POWELL: This video of an Iraqi test flight, obtained by UNSCOM some years ago, shows an Iraqi F-1 Mirage jet aircraft. Note the spray coming from beneath the Mirage. That is 2,000 liters of simulated anthrax that a jet is spraying.
GWEN IFILL: As for chemical weapons, Powell charged Iraq has never come clean as to what it did with all the mustard gas it had leftover from the Iran-Iraq war.
COLIN POWELL: These quantities of chemical weapons are now unaccounted for. Dr. Blix has quipped that, “mustard gas is not marmalade. You are supposed to know what you did with it.” We believe Saddam Hussein knows what he did with it and he has not come clean with the international community. We have evidence these weapons existed. What we don’t have is evidence from Iraq that they have been destroyed or where they are. That is what we are still waiting for.
GWEN IFILL: Echoing Pres. Bush’s claims in last week’s state of the union speech, Powell said Iraq has been importing banned material to build nuclear weapons.
COLIN POWELL: Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer show that Iraq front companies sought to buy machines that can be used to balance gas centrifuge rotors. One of these companies also had been involved in a failed effort in 2001 to smuggle aluminum tubes into Iraq. People will continue to debate this issue, but there is no doubt in my mind these illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program, the ability to produce fissile material.
GWEN IFILL: Powell said Iraq is also developing long-range missiles in violation of U.N. Rules. He used satellite photos to show Iraq has been testing these missiles.
COLIN POWELL: Iraq has built an engine test stand that is larger than anything it has ever had. Notice the dramatic difference in size between the test stand on the left, the old one, and the new one on the right. Note the large exhaust vent. This is where the flame from the engine comes out. The exhaust vent on the right test stand is five times longer than the one on the left. The one on the left was used for short-range missiles. The one on the right is clearly intended for long-range missiles that can fly 1,200 kilometers.
GWEN IFILL: And for the first time, Powell detailed U.S. claims of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida. Iraq, Powell said, is harboring Osama bin Laden associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
COLIN POWELL: Iraqi officials deny accusations of ties with al-Qaida. These denials are simply not credible. We asked a friendly security service to approach Baghdad about extraditing Zarqawi and providing information about him and his close associates. This service contacted Iraqi officials twice, and we passed details that should have made it easy to find Zarqawi. The network remains in Baghdad. Zarqawi still remains at large to come and go.
GWEN IFILL: After 75 minutes, Powell concluded with a plea to the Security Council.
COLIN POWELL: By its failure to seize on its one last opportunity to come clean and disarm, Iraq has put itself in deeper material breach and closer to the day when it will face serious consequences for its continued defiance of this council. We must not shrink from whatever is ahead of us. We must not fail in our duty and our responsibility for the citizens of the countries that are represented by this body. Thank you, Mr. President.