Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Bomb in my Garden

Recently, the online newsmagazine, Slate, wrote about a new book coming out, written by Saddam Hussein's former Chief Nuclear Physicist that dealt with this subject. This is a very interesting find.
It's a good coincidence that the Duelfer report appears in the same week as The Bomb In My Garden, a memoir by Saddam Hussein's chief nuclear physicist. Between them, or taken together, the two bodies of evidence enable two quite different yet quite compatible conclusions. The first is that the Saddam regime was more disarmed than perhaps even its leadership knew. The second is that it would have been very unwise to proceed on any assumption except that of its latent danger.
Few felt this need more strongly than Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, whose crucial evidence we would never have acquired without the invasion. His book is one of the three or four accounts that anyone remotely interested in the Iraq debate will simply have to read. Apart from its insight into the workings of the Saddam nuclear project, it provides a haunting account of the atmosphere of sheer evil that permeated every crevice of Iraqi life under the old regime. It is morally impossible to read it and not rejoice at that system's ignominious and long-overdue removal.
Having been forcibly recruited, with his family as hostage, into the Saddam nuclear program, Obeidi describes the hysterical pressure exerted by the crime family that ran Iraq. Almost weeping with fear, scientists were lashed into prostituting their skills in the rush for a usable nuke. In the meantime, their country's deepest veins were being drained to finance the enterprise. It's alarming to read how easy it was for Obeidi, backed by an open checkbook, to acquire blueprints and components on the open market: Saddam was in this business in much the same way as A.Q. Khan, the former sales director of Pakistan's nuclear bazaar. Only now can we know how close he came, and we came. Having starved and bled his people, Saddam sought to revive them by invading Kuwait: a mistake we must all be very glad he made. He might have got the nuclear capacity before he invaded, in which case we would be living in a rather different world. As it was, his insane bluff was called—and as the coalition struck back, Iraqi scientists were taken to offices run by illiterate brutes who screamed at them to produce just one "dirty" bomb on short notice. Providentially, this was not quite possible.

The subsequent arrival of the inspectors meant that Saddam, despite elaborate deceptions and dummyings (very well-described by Obeidi) was never able to get back up to speed again. His regime also began to suffer from interclan warfare with the defection of the Kamel brothers to Jordan and the further exposure of the Baathist arms racket. However, there was a secret that the Kamel brothers were not able to betray. Under the orders of Qusai Hussein, Dr. Obeidi had buried a huge barrel in his back garden. The barrel contained Iraq's crowning achievement in perverted physics: the components of an actual centrifuge for the enrichment of uranium. It also contained all the hard-won printed instructions and expertise on the subject. Dr. Obeidi was "interviewed" by many inspectors in the run-up to last year's war under the same conditions of open blackmail that Saddam had imposed on all his other scientists, and they got no nearer finding out the truth than one would have expected.

His conclusion is that, given an improvement in the economic and political climate, Saddam could and would have done one of two things: reconstitute the program or share it with others. Had it not been for 9/11, it is sobering to reflect, there would have been senior members of even this administration arguing that sanctions on Iraq should be eased. And, through the open scandal of the oil-for-food program, there were many states or clienteles within states who were happy to help Saddam enrich himself. Moreover, within the "box" that supposedly "contained" him were also living Kim Jong-il, A.Q. Khan, and Col. Qaddafi. We know from the Kay report that, as late as March of last year, Saddam's envoys were meeting North Korea's team in Damascus and trying to buy missiles off the shelf. It would never have stopped: this ceaseless ambition to acquire the means of genocide. If anything, we underestimated that aspect of it.

The supposed overestimate was, in reality, part of a wider underestimate. Libya and Iran turned out to be even more dangerous than we had thought, and the A.Q. Khan network of "Nukes 'R' Us" even more widespread. But now Iraq can be certified as disarmed, instead of wishfully assumed to be so, Libya's fissile materials are all under lock and key in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and the traces "walked back" from Qaddafi's capitulation helped expose A.Q. Khan. Of course, we could always have left Iraq alone, and brought nearer the day when the charming Qusai could have called for Dr. Obeidi and said: "That barrel of yours. It's time to dig it up."

This is a vital piece of the puzzle Sir Knightly, one of the most important ones if you ask me.

And, in the Washington Post back in July of 2004, they reported that
over the past 10 days two major official reports, by the Senate intelligence committee and a special British commission, have concluded that the claim in the "sixteen words" may, after all, have been justified. Britain's Butler report called it "well-founded"; the bipartisan Senate investigation said the conclusion was a reasonable one at least until October 2002 -- and that Mr. Wilson's report to the CIA had not changed its analysts' assessment.
For those of you who have forgotten what the "Sixteen Words" contained, they can be read in their entirety here:
"the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,"
We need to realize as well, that despite what Sir Knightly has said, the chemical weapons since discovered, or detonated by terrorists, are part of the weapons stockpile. While Bush may have been using hyperbole about the nuclear weapon, he was right in the warning about the dangers of Iraq with Nuclear weapons.

The 9/11 Commission Report themselves said that Saddam had provided funds and supplies to various Terrorist factions, including Al-Qaeda, for use against American Targets, and Saddam had a slush fund to pay off families of Terrorists.

Now, while it may not have been a very steady alliance, it could best be described as the one between the USSR and the Allies during WWII, in which they where more interested in wiping out a common enemy than worrying about each other.

In fact, there is evidence that Saddam had directly supported Islamic Jihad, these Intel Reports have yet to be refuted by any source that I have seen.

Personally, I doubt that Saddam had any direct involvement beyond possibly providing funds for the families of the terrorists who killed thousands that day, and I doubt that even happened.
However, the links between Saddam and Terrorism are very real, and once more, I turn to the 9/11 Commission Report for the evidence.
Bin Ladin was also willing to explore possibilities for cooperation with Iraq, even though Iraq’s dictator, Saddam Hussein, had never had an Islamist agenda—save for his opportunistic pose as a defender of the faithful against "Crusaders" during the Gulf War of 1991. Moreover, Bin Ladin had in fact been sponsoring anti-Saddam Islamists in Iraqi Kurdistan, and sought to attract them into his Islamic army. To protect his own ties with Iraq, Turabi reportedly brokered an agreement that Bin Ladin would stop supporting activities against Saddam. Bin Ladin apparently honored this pledge, at least for a time, although he continued to aid a group of Islamist extremists operating in part of Iraq (Kurdistan) outside of Baghdad’s control. In the late 1990s, these extremist groups suffered major defeats by Kurdish forces. In 2001, with Bin Ladin’s help they re-formed into an organization called Ansar al Islam. There are indications that by then the Iraqi regime tolerated and may even have helped Ansar al Islam against the common Kurdish enemy.

With the Sudanese regime acting as intermediary, Bin Ladin himself met with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer in Khartoum in late 1994 or early 1995. Bin Ladin is said to have asked for space to establish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but there is no evidence that Iraq responded to this request. As described below, the ensuing years saw additional efforts to establish connections. There is also evidence that around this time Bin Ladin sent out a number of feelers to the Iraqi regime, offering some cooperation. None are reported to have received a significant response. According to one report, Saddam Hussein’s efforts at this time to rebuild relations with the Saudis and other Middle Eastern regimes led him to stay clear of Bin Ladin. In mid-1998, the situation reversed; it was Iraq that reportedly took the initiative. In March 1998, after Bin Ladin’s public fatwa against the United States, two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin. Sources reported that one, or perhaps both, of these meetings was apparently arranged through Bin Ladin’s Egyptian deputy, Zawahiri, who had ties of his own to the Iraqis. In 1998, Iraq was under intensifying U.S. pressure, which culminated in a series of large air attacks in December. Similar meetings between Iraqi officials and Bin Ladin or his aides may have occurred in 1999 during a period of some reported strains with the Taliban. According to the reporting, Iraqi officials offered Bin Ladin a safe haven in Iraq. Bin Ladin declined, apparently judging that his circumstances in Afghanistan remained more favorable than the Iraqi alternative. The reports describe friendly contacts and indicate some common themes in both sides’ hatred of the United States. But to date we have seen no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.

Interesting what a little time spent digging will find you, isn't it?

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