[Hussein Kamel's defection] added a definite sense of urgency.... Suddenly,
Hussein Kamel defects, and it's out there, laid before the world: Iraq is
cheating, Iraq is lying, Iraq has not complied, and not complied in a big way.
What are you going to do about it?
Now, all the breaks are off. Ekeus said, 'Go,' and we started running, and
almost immediately we ran into a brick wall called the United States
Government, because the U.S. Government went, You want to do what? When? How?
And what we were talking about was UNSCOM moving out of the realm of just being
an assessor of intelligence, to UNSCOM getting actively involved in the
collection of intelligence, and using techniques and methodologies that it
normally only associated with national governments, not with international
organizations, not with a bunch of guys with blue hats and funny sounding
Iraq had a big problem on its hands, because it needed a new explanation for
[Kamel's revelations]. And the explanation they hit upon was, "We are shocked,
shocked, to discover that under our very noses, Kamel all this time has been
hiding all kinds of weapons and documentation. We've discovered it on his
chicken farm, and here it is. You may have it all."
And they deliver to UNSCOM one million pages of newly-declared documents, which
show a lot of biological weapons programs, which show a lot more chemical
weapons programs, which show material shortfalls, which show missile stuff,
which show nuclear stuff. But -- and it took a long time to do this -- as
UNSCOM went through these million pages of documents, and hundreds of crates,
they found that there were interesting gaps.
For example, all the biological stuff was described as research. There was
nothing on weaponization, that is to say, nothing on taking what you know to be
a toxic bug -- anthrax say -- and putting it into a warhead that can be used as
a military weapon. That's a big part of the problem. ... So in each case,
Iraq kept back something important. Usually the most important thing.
Hussein Kamel's defection tells UNSCOM that not only have they been missing
something, but they've been missing a huge, huge amount of what they were
supposed to be finding. Way more than they had ever suspected. Their worst
nightmare scenario was eclipsed by the documents on this chicken farm, and it
meant the beginning of a major new phase of biological, missile, chemical, and
The dimensions of [the revelations].... That was surprising. Just like early
on after the Gulf War we were shocked at the dimensions of the nuclear program
-- we just had no idea of how many different avenues the Iraqis were pursuing
to enrich uranium and the like.
So when Hussein Kamel came out with his information, again, it was on a scale
that was, quite honestly, larger than people like me thought.
It gave UNSCOM a real lease on life. See, before this defection, there were
those who were saying, "There's no reason to do this. You're looking in dry
holes," and the rest. And when this came out, people who supported UNSCOM
could go, "Look, we told you. More than ever, we now need an intrusive
inspection regime. These guys will not fess up voluntarily." So it actually
became a very important legitimizing development for UNSCOM.
Before Hussein Kamel's defection, in August of 1995, you write that Saddam
was beating the West in some way, and UNSCOM. How?
In 1995, Saddam Hussein actually appeared to be winning in his strategy of
cheat and retreat. He had actually managed to hide so many of his weapons that
many of the U.N. weapons inspectors thought that he had turned over most of
them, and were prepared to make that kind of recommendation. And it was only
on the defection of his son-in-law and cousin [Kamel] that the international
community realized how much he really still had. The whole crisis actually
might have ended at that point, if it hadn't been for that very ... defection.
What was revealed in Kamel's defection?
Kamel's defection led to two important disclosures. One was the information he
provided Western intelligence agencies. But, secondly, Saddam Hussein knew
that he was about to be caught, and so he took weapons inspectors down to
Kamel's chicken farm, and said that they'd only just discovered these
containers full of documents about weapons of mass destruction. Of course,
feigned his own ignorance, and blamed it all on Kamel.
What changed for Saddam after that?
Well, it became apparent that he had hidden an extraordinary amount of
material, and from that point on UNSCOM was, again, a going concern.
The quantity was staggering. It took the U.N. weapons inspectors months and
months and months just to go through and translate every -- and create a
database for what was in those papers. It revealed that Saddam Hussein had
also hidden far more than anyone ever realized he had, to begin with. This
really was the critical turning point of the entire eight years in trying to
deal with Saddam Hussein. It put the U.N. weapons program back on track.
experts' analyses +
what it took +
join the discussion
readings & links +
tapes & transcripts
pbs online +
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation