Iraq's chemical and biological weapons capability and its nuclear weapons programme were roundly destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War.
But western and Israeli intelligence communities are not prepared to accept that Iraq had actually taken such a step.
The Americans have been scouring Iraq for WMDs for months to little avail.
Barton Gellman reported in the Washington Post on 13 June 2003 that “A covert Army Special Forces unit, operating in Iraq even before the war began in March, has played a dominant but ultimately unsuccessful role in the Bush administration's stymied hunt for weapons of mass destruction, according to military and intelligence sources in Baghdad and Washington.
The unit was called Task Force 20, and was drawn from elite Army units known popularly as Delta Force.
The Americans have been scouring Iraq for WMDs for months to little avail.
Its principle aim was to "seize, destroy, render safe, capture, or recover weapons of mass destruction”.
Reports indicate that Delta Force troops arrived in Iraq in early February.
Despite their impressive support facilities and detection capabilities, including roving biological and chemical laboratories, they have failed to uncover any evidence of Iraqi WMDs.
Task Force 20 was followed in April 2003 by more than 900 specialists of the 75th Exploitation Task Force.
It has also “found no working non-conventional munitions, long-range missiles or missile parts, bulk stores of chemical or biological warfare agents or enrichment technology for the core of a nuclear weapon” which were specifically cited by the Americans as part of Iraq's concealed WMDs arsenal.
The task force left Iraq in early June empty-handed and thoroughly dismayed.
The neo-conservatives have responded to their failure by passing the buck.
After 11 September 2001, the Deputy Secretary of Defence Paul Wolfowitz established a small super-intelligence group, who self-mockingly called themselves "the cabal."
They were based in the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.
The director of the Special Plans operation was Abram Shulsky, a scholarly expert on the works of the political philosopher Leo Strauss, a neo-conservative ideologue.
He served in the Pentagon under Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle during the Reagan Administration, after which he joined the Rand Corporation.
Paul Wolfowitz was a key
figure in "the cabal"
By last fall the weight of the Office of Special Plans had rivalled both the CIA and the Pentagon's own Defence Intelligence Agency as President Bush's main source of intelligence.
This office cherry-picked and funnelled information regarding Iraq's possible possession of weapons of mass destruction and its alleged connection with al-Qaida.
A great deal of the bad information produced by Shulsky's office, which found its way into speeches by Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and President George Bush, came from Chalabi's INC.
The INC itself was sustained by its neo-conservative allies in Washington, including the shadow "Central Command" at the American Enterprise Institute.
Recanting too late
In mid-June 2003 the White House changed tack and put the CIA head George Tenet in charge of the search for WMDs, shifting the responsibility away from the Pentagon.
By this time the CIA had already downgraded its two own specialised teams on Iraq, the Iraq Task Force, a special unit set up to provide 24-hour support to military commanders during the war, and the Iraq Issue Group which is responsible for the core analysis of all the intelligence the United States collects on Iraq.
A senior official of the former was recently reassigned to the CIA's personnel department and the head of the latter was despatched on an extended mission to Iraq.
On 14 June 2003 Greg Miller of the LA Times quoted an anonymous agency official as saying that "two of the key players on this problem have essentially been sent into deep exile."
The official added that the changes seemed designed to show the administration that "we're being responsive to charges that we did not perform well."
In taking over the search from the Pentagon, CIA Director George Tenet had direct responsibility over a newly created Iraq Survey Group, which is now in the country, to "significantly expand" the hunt for chemical and biological weapons.
Five thousand children are dying every month ... I don't want to administer a programme that results in figures like these."
-Denis Halliday, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator
Tenet adroitly passed the baton to David Kay, a former UNSCOM inspector in 1991, to serve as a "special advisor" to the newly formed 1400 strong team, and to be in charge of “refining” the overall approach for the search for Iraq’s weapons.
Kay’s aim is summed up in the following statement he made:
“For me, the real change occurred in '94. By 1994 I was no longer an inspector, but I was testifying and writing on Iraq that 'There is no ultimate success that involves UNSCOM. It's got to be a change of regime. It's got to be a change of Saddam'."
By that time, all that was left of Iraq’s WMD programmes were reports, memories and ruined establishments.
Hussain Kamil, who headed all Iraqi WMD programmes, had attested to that in his testimony to Hans Blix, who was in charge of UNSCOM in 1995.
Kamil died in 1996 but his testimony was suppressed for another seven years.
Kay, who is now in Baghdad, may soon be jarringly awakened to the reality of his sustained misinformation on Iraqi WMDs with the capture of Abid al-Hamid Mahmood Himood, Saddam’s most trusted secretary.
Himood was in total charge of preventing the UN inspection teams from encroaching upon Saddam’s palaces and private spaces.
He was privy to relevant communications with Iraqi officials during their encounters with UN inspection teams searching Iraq before 1998 and the rejuvenated inspections teams in the autumn of 2002.
Thousands of Iraqis suffered
under crippling sanctions
Himood will only be collaborating the claims of Amer al-Saadi, the chief scientific consultant to the Iraqi government who surrendered to the occupation forces in April 2003.
Al-Saadi maintains that Iraq has had no WMDs for the past 10 years. Himood will confirm that this was in fact true.
Kay has probably interrogated Himood by now. Kay cannot any longer claim to be stymied by the tricks and subterfuges of an intact Iraqi regime so expect him to produce ever more imaginative explanations for the mystery of the elusive Iraqi WMDs.
Devastating economic sanctions
When Denis Halliday, the courtly Irishman who spent 34 years with the UN, resigned in 1998 as the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq in protest at the effects of the embargo on the civilian population, he gave the following explanation:
"...the policy of economic sanctions is totally bankrupt. We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple as that ... Five thousand children are dying every month ... I don't want to administer a programme that results in figures like these."
"We have heard that half a million children have died [because of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And - you know, is the price worth it?"
The US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, was asked this on 11 May 1996 in a “60 Minutes” programme in the US. She answered: "It is a very hard choice, but I think, we think, the price is worth it."
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