The Iraq Inspections Worked, Lies Have Consequences

 October 28, 2004

by Jonathan Granoff
Common Dreams

The inspection disarmament efforts through the UN system worked in Iraq. The invasion was not necessary. Billions of dollars have been squandered, thousands of lives and limbs lost, and the people of Iraq live in increasing poverty and insecurity. Did this happen because important facts were ignored?

With the release of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) report by Charles Duelfer on October 6, 2004, it is clear that the following statements by the Bush Administration have proven to be false:

“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” – Dick Cheney, speech to VFW National Convention, Aug. 26, 2002

“We know for a fact that there are weapons there.” – White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, press briefing, Jan. 9, 2003

“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” – George W. Bush, address to the U.S., March 17, 2003

“Well, there is no question that we have evidence and information that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, biological and chemical particularly…All this will be made clear in the course of the operation, for whatever duration it takes.” – White House spokesman Ari Fleisher, press briefing, March 21, 2003

“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat.” – Donald Rumsfeld, ABC interview, March 30, 2003

“You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons….They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong. We found them.” – George W. Bush, remarks to reporters, May 31, 2003

The reason these statements were not true was because the international legally mandated inspection and disarmament efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), backed by the UN system and U.S. commitments, worked effectively

From 1991 to 1998, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) substantially identified and dismantled Iraq weapons capacities. In conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it conducted hundreds of inspection missions at weapons sites and documentation centers, systematically uncovering and eliminating Iraq’s nuclear weapons program and most of its chemical, biological, and ballistic missile systems. Then, from November 2002 until March 2003, there were 237 missions to 148 sites in which the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) confirmed the depleted state of Iraq’s capabilities. As former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix wrote in his recent book, “the UN and the world had succeeded in disarming Iraq without knowing it.”

Let me be very clear: the Treaty of the UN Charter which defines how nations are to work together toward collective security worked. The inspection disarmament efforts in Iraq reinforced the nonproliferation and disarmament norms set forth in the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Without these standards, which degrade the value of weapons of mass destruction and in fact drive international efforts towards their universal elimination, the legal, moral and political basis for constraining and disarming Iraq would have been flawed. It was correct to disarm Iraq. It was incorrect to invade it.

The use of force where it was not required must be condemned. We simply must find our way back to honesty, equity and law. The unnecessary invasion of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces has reaped destruction on the fabric of Iraqi society, the trust of the U.S. citizenry and the international community in the integrity of the U.S. government, and, most serious of all, the stability of international security based on the guidepost of the rule of international law.

The NPT will be reviewed in May of 2005. Diminished confidence in US integrity has caused many countries to doubt the sincerity of commitments for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, a core bargain of the Treaty. Over 180 countries have refrained from developing these devices based on this pledge. The consequence of a corroded NPT is dozens of nuclear weapons states and a diminished collective security regime. We are in a race against time to get back on track. If we do not restore confidence in the rule of law and collective security, the cohesion of the Treaty will collapse and proliferation will be far more difficult to constrain.

In a world where terrorists seek the ultimate weapon and where they believe that law and secular morality hold no legitimacy to guide their actions, the prospect of the spread of nuclear weapons must wake us all up. We are not in a Cold War. We are in a cold sweat.

Jonathan Granoff, President of the Global Security Institute and CoChair of the American Bar Association Committee on Arms Control and National Security

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