In the aftermath of the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington DC, people of goodwill on both sides of the Atlantic stood united against terrorists and their sponsors. In recent months our unity has been tested by the debate over the need for Iraqi disarmament. The war on terror and disarming Saddam Hussein are not merely related; disarming Iraq is a crucial part of winning the war on terror. The connection between terrorist networks and states that have weapons of mass terror brings the potential for a catastrophe much larger than 11 September.
We know that terrorists are plotting. There is abundant evidence that these same terrorists are seeking weapons of mass terror – including chemical, biological and, even, nuclear weapons. And there is incontrovertible evidence that the Iraqi regime still possesses such weapons. That is why it matters that Iraq has not disarmed, despite its agreement to do so 12 years ago.
As recently as 1997, Iraq declared that it had produced at least 10 litres of ricin, enough lethal doses to kill more than a million people. This is the same deadly material that was found recently in a London apartment. Also in 1997, Baghdad acknowledged that it had more than 19,000 litres of botulinum toxin, which is enough lethal doses to kill tens of millions, as well as 8,500 litres of anthrax, sufficient to kill hundreds of millions.
United Nations weapons inspectors also believe that Iraq has manufactured two to four times the amount of biological agents that it has admitted to – and has failed to explain the whereabouts of more than two tonnes of raw material for the growth of biological agents. A five-pound bag of anthrax spores could be enough to kill half the population of a major metropolitan area. In a country the size of France, finding such material is like looking for a needle in a haystack – unless the regime that possesses them co-operates actively and discloses their location.
It is possible for inspectors to confirm voluntary disarmament when governments co-operate, as South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan did in the 1990s. But a few dozen inspectors cannot be expected to conduct a search-and-destroy mission to uncover so-called "smoking guns" – especially if Iraqis are intent on hiding them. After all, the only purpose for building mobile production facilities for biological weapons is to be able to hide them.
South Africa, in contrast, decided in 1989 to end nuclear-weapons production and, in 1990, to dismantle all weapons. South Africa joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1991 and accepted the full-scope safeguards of the UN's Atomic Energy Agency. They allowed UN inspectors complete access to both operating and defunct facilities, provided thousands of current and historical documents and allowed detailed, unfettered discussions with personnel involved in the programme. By 1994, South Africa had provided verifiable evidence that its nuclear inventory was complete and its weapons programme was dismantled.
Similarly, the governments of Ukraine and Kazakhstan ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Start treaties, which committed their countries to giving up the nuclear weapons and strategic delivery systems that they inherited from the Soviet Union.
Those nations went even further in their disclosures and actions than the treaties required. Ukraine requested and received US assistance to destroy its Backfire bombers and air-launched cruise missiles. Kazakhstan asked the US to remove more than 500kg of highly enriched uranium. In each case, the countries created a transparent process in which decisions and actions could be verified and audited by the international community.
These examples offer a stark contrast with Iraq's behaviour. Unlike South Africa, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, it is the policy of the Baghdad regime not to give up its weapons of mass terror, but to conceal them. That high-level commitment to concealment is carried out by thousands of Iraqi government intelligence and security personnel, under the direction of Saddam's own son, Qusay.
Documents that are released are incomplete or fraught with misstatements and lies. Other documents have been concealed in places as unlikely as chicken farms. Inspection teams are intimidated and frustrated rather than helped. Iraqi scientists and their families are threatened with death if they co-operate with inspectors. Even the U-2 surveillance flights requested by the UN have been blocked – in direct violation of Security Resolution 1441.
The implications are clear. If Iraq were complying with the UN's requirement that it dismantle its weapons of mass terror, we would know it. We would know it from their complete declaration of everything we know they have, and perhaps by revelations of programmes that our intelligence may not yet have discovered.
The decision on whether Iraq's weapons of mass terror will be dismantled voluntarily, or whether it must be done by force, is not up to the US or to the UN. The decision rests entirely with Saddam Hussein. So far, he has not made the fundamental decision to disarm. In the meantime, the very real and serious threat will remain with us and will grow.
The writer is the US Deputy Secretary of Defense
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