Sunday, July 01, 2007

Weapons inspectors? What weapons inspectors? -full text

Weapons inspectors? What weapons inspectors?
Shameless to the last over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, London and Washington send Unmovic down the memory hole.

Ian Williams

Guardian - comment is free
June 29, 2007 9:30 PM
It is fitting that the very week that Tony Blair sets out snark-hunting in the Middle East - riding on the quadriplegic Quartet in search of Middle East peace - the UN security council finally wound up the equally nugatory quest for the weapons of mass destruction that were the excuse for Tony and W's big adventure in Iraq.

The resolutions that Tony claimed the allies were implementing against Saddam Hussein all maintained that sanctions should remain in force until the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission or Unmovic and the IAEA made a final certification that Iraq had disarmed.

However, after the inspectors' failure to find any weapons when Saddam finally allowed them in, the Americans (and British, by implication) told them to get out so the professionals from the CIA and the Republican youth corps could get in there and find the hidden weapons.

It is now history that they could not find any, thereby retrospectively stripping themselves of any legal or political cover for their invasion.

In a fit of bloody-minded embarrassment, Washington has consistently refused to allow the UN inspectors in to complete their task, in defiance of the UN resolutions that London and Washington had drafted and moved, and the Russians, keen to remind the world of this anomaly, have been insisting that the inspectors had to put in their final report before clearing the slate of the relevant resolutions. In the end, Moscow went along grudgingly with the Anglo-American plot, and merely abstained on the resolution winding up the inspectors' role.

In their letter requesting the resolution, the Americans and British declared: "All appropriate steps have been taken to secure, remove, disable ... eliminate or destroy all of Iraq's known weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers," rather skipping the point that this work had been done before the invasion, which was therefore a rather inappropriate step.

The Iraqis will now self-certify in the next year and everyone will believe them - or not depending on whether one or other bunch of Shias, Sunnis or Baathists then controls Baghdad. The Iraqis will get the last tranche of $60m from the Oil For Food funds that had been set aside to pay for Unmovic and the IAEA inspectors. And at least they can misspend it themselves instead of it being handed over to the Americans like the previous $10bn Oil for Food Surplus that went missing in the general direction of the likes of Halliburton.

And everyone was too polite to remember that the struggling Iraqis are still supposed to be paying reparations from oil sales to the Gulf states for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.

It has been a comic opera story. The Americans and British baulked at sharing the Unmovic documents with the full council, since the reports were in many respects a comprehensive "How To Make WMDs" guide. The Syrians, when they were on the security council, were understandably miffed to be told that the relevant sections would be edited out for non-permanent members. Unmovic's archives include a Scud missile engine and guidance systems for ICBMs, not to mention sundry other items of military mayhem that will continue to tax the ingenuity of UN filing systems clerks.

But since no one ever found Kurt Waldheim's war record files in the UN archives, the lethal bits are probably safely lost for ever.

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