In his address yesterday to the U.N. Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell remorselessly documented Iraq’s links with al Qaeda terrorism and systematic efforts to deceive U.N. weapons inspectors about its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Mr. Powell eliminated any reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein’s regime remains in material breach of Security Council Resolution 1441, passed on Nov. 8 to force Iraq to come clean about its WMD arsenal, an obligation Baghdad has ignored despite 16 previous resolutions dating back 12 years.
Mr. Powell led off his presentation by submitting into evidence electronically intercepted conversations in which Iraqi officials discussed their express intent to deceive the U.N. inspectors regarding outlawed nerve gas.
In the wake of Mr. Powell’s presentation, no reasonable person can doubt that Saddam is continuing his longstanding efforts to deceive the international community about his weapons programs in violation of Resolution 1441, which stipulates that false statements and omissions in Iraq’s weapons declaration and the failure to fully cooperate with weapons inspectors at any time would constitute a material breach.
Mr. Powell played an audiotape of a conversation intercepted by U.S. intelligence on Nov. 26 (just one day before U.N. inspections resumed in Iraq) involving senior Iraqi military officials, including a colonel and a brigadier general from Saddam’s elite military unit, the Revolutionary Guards. The group was discussing whether it had successfully hidden nuclear-weapons components from an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection team that would arrive the following day. We would suppose that Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief nuclear weapons inspector, will want to correct his submission to the Security Council from Jan. 27, when he reported that the Iraqis were cooperating.
Mr. Powell also played a tape-recorded conversation from last Thursday, in which a Revolutionary Guard officer instructs a subordinate on the need to ensure that “forbidden ammo,” in this case chemical munitions sought by U.N. inspectors, has been removed from one site before the inspectors arrived.
Using satellite photographs and audiotapes, Mr. Powell carefully documented many other examples of how Iraq has actually stepped up its efforts to deceive weapons inspectors since the passage of Resolution 1441. At one ballistic missile site, for example, a cargo truck was seen preparing to move missile components. At a biological weapons-related facility, a truck caravan mysteriously appeared to move things right before inspections resumed.
Mr. Powell also showed how Saddam Hussein has systematically violated 1441 by failing to provide a comprehensive list of scientists associated with its WMD programs, and by actively working to discourage them from cooperating with inspectors. Saddam had scientists warned that they and their families would face serious consequences if they divulged any sensitive information, and required them to undergo counterintelligence training so they could do a better job of deceiving interviewers.
Mr. Powell made clear that, left intact, Iraq’s ongoing concealment of its WMD programs constitutes a lethal threat to the international community including the United States. One of the most troubling threats is posed by the problem of locating Saddam’s network of mobile biological weapons factories located on trucks and train cars: the U.S. knows of at least 18 truck-mounted facilities in Iraq today. “Just imagine,” Mr. Powell told the Security Council, “trying to find 18 trucks among the thousands and thousands of trucks that travel the roads of Iraq every day.”
For more than a decade, Iraq has been working on a variety of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which can travel for hundreds of miles and are well-suited for delivering chemical and biological weapons. “The linkages over the past 10 years between Iraq’s UAV program and biological and chemical warfare agents are of deep concern to us,” Mr. Powell stated. “Iraq could use these small UAVs, which have a wingspan of only a few meters, to deliver biological agents to its neighbors, or, if transported, to other countries, including the United States.” This latter point persuaded California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat who has expressed skepticism about military action against Iraq, to yesterday express her support for the Bush administration’s policy.
Perhaps the most chilling revelation of all came from a senior al Qaeda operative now in U.S. custody, who says that Iraq has offered chemical or biological training to al Qaeda associates. Mr. Powell outlined how Saddam and Osama bin Laden forged links going back to the mid-1990s, and said that today, Iraq harbors an al Qaeda network headed by a bin Laden colleague, Abu Musab a-Zarqawi. Until yesterday’s presentation, skeptics, including most of the major American media, have scoffed at the suggestion that Saddam’s Iraq has actually been working with and giving support to al Qaeda. After Mr. Powell’s detailed, factual description including names, dates and locations of that relationship honest skeptics must either concede this historically significant fact, or be prepared to call Mr. Powell a liar. Thus, Mr. Powell made a persuasive case that the joint congressional resolution of Sept. 13, 2001, authorizing the use of “all necessary and appropriate force” against any nation that has harbored “organizations or persons” involved in the September 11 attacks shall apply not only to the Taliban’s Afghanistan, but to Saddam’s Iraq as well.
In the wake of the extraordinarily powerful case made against Iraq yesterday by Mr. Powell, there can be no reasonable doubt that Saddam Hussein is a menace who must be disarmed by force, if necessary. Those who remain opposed to the use of force, such as the French and German governments and Sen. Edward Kennedy, simply have chosen to ignore the evidence.