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Where are the WMD??


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Al Qaeda's Poison Gas

The foiled attack in Jordan might have killed thousands.


Thursday, April 29, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT


Jordanian authorities say that the death toll from a bomb and poison-gas attack they foiled this month could have reached 80,000. We guess the fact that most major media are barely covering this story means WMD isn't news anymore until there's a body count.


Abu Musab al-Zarqawi--the man cited by the Bush Administration as its strongest evidence of prewar links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the current ringleader of anti-coalition terrorism in Iraq--may be behind the plot, which would be al Qaeda's first ever attempt to use chemical weapons. The targets included the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Yet as of yesterday, most news organizations hadn't probed the story, if at all, beyond the initial wire-service copy.


Perhaps the problem here is that covering this story might mean acknowledging that Tony Blair and George W. Bush have been exactly right to warn of the confluence of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Jordan's King Abdullah called it a "major, major operation" that would have "decapitated" his government. "Anyone who doubts the terrorists' desire to obtain and use these weapons only needs to look at this example," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.


More details of the plot emerged Monday night with the dramatic broadcast on Jordanian television of confessions from the terror cell's leader and associates. The idea apparently was to crash trucks--fitted with special battering rams and filled with some 20 tons of explosives--through the gates of targets that included the U.S. Embassy, the Jordanian Prime Minister's office and the national intelligence headquarters. The explosions notwithstanding, the real damage was reportedly to come from dispersing a toxic cloud of chemicals, which included nerve and blister agents.


Anonymous U.S. officials have been quoted playing down the WMD wrinkle, suggesting the chemicals may have been meant to merely amplify a conventional explosion. But then much of our "intelligence" bureaucracy is still wedded to the discredited notion that secular tyrants and fundamentalist terrorists don't cooperate (see Hezbollah). They may also be defensive about their earlier, dismissive assessments of Zarqawi's significance.


Plotter Hussein Sharif Hussein was shown on Jordanian television saying the aim was "carrying out the first suicide attack to be launched by al Qaeda using chemicals." A Jordanian scientist described a toxic cloud that could have spread for a mile or more. So was it really a foiled WMD attack? Here's hoping someone is trying to get to the bottom of this.






The provenance of the operation is also of note. The bomb trucks and funds are said to have entered Jordan via Syria. Last fall General James R. Clapper Jr., director of satellite intelligence for the Pentagon, said there had been an unusual amount of traffic--including possibly WMDs--between Iraq and Syria in the lead-up to war.

The terror cell's ringleader, Jordanian Azmi Jayyousi, said he was acting on the orders of Zarqawi, whom he first met at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan: "I took courses, poisons high level, then I pledged allegiance to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Mr. Jayyousi said this attack had been plotted from Zarqawi's new base of operations in Iraq. A Jordanian court sentenced Zarqawi to death this month for plotting the 2002 murder of U.S diplomat Laurence Foley in Amman.


Prime Minister Blair has said it's simply "a matter of time unless we act and take a stand before terrorism and weapons of mass destruction come together." According to Jordanian authorities, that sometime was intended to be last week. That strikes us as news.

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Apr 22nd 2004

From The Economist Global Agenda


A scandal surrounding the UN’s former oil-for-food programme in Iraq has begun to heat up, just as the Bush administration is approaching the UN to take a greater role in the country


IT COULDN’T be a worse time for a scandal. George Bush’s administration recently praised a proposal for greater involvement by the United Nations in Iraq’s political future. The plan, drafted by the UN’s special envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, would let the UN choose, in consultation with America, ministers to run Iraq after the June 30th handover of sovereignty. Yet just as the Bush administration and the UN are starting to cosy up to each other, allegations of massive fraud in the UN’s former oil-for-food programme for Iraq have heated up. On Wednesday April 21st, the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution requiring all UN members to co-operate with an official probe into the affair, led by Paul Volcker, a former head of America’s Federal Reserve. American conservatives who dislike the world body can hardly contain their glee.


The oil-for-food programme was established in 1996 to allow Iraq, devastated by years of sanctions, to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian supplies, principally food and medicine. The programme was run out of the UN secretariat, and supervised by members of the Security Council. It is often described as the biggest humanitarian programme in history, delivering over $30 billion-worth of goods to Iraq. The programme ended in 2003, after the war that toppled Saddam’s regime.


The United Nations announces its measures for an independent inquiry into the oil-for-food programme. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee posts transcripts of its review of the programme and Dick Lugar's opening statement. The GAO publishes its latest report, which was presented at the hearing. See also a US Embassy report from May 2003. The French Embassy to the US issues a response to the allegations.


Allegations of wrongdoing in the programme are nothing new; Britain and America complained of this before the war. But the breadth and depth of the alleged fraud now go far beyond what was thought at the time. In January, an independent Iraqi newspaper, al-Mada, published a list of 270 names (of individuals, companies and institutions) it claimed to have found in Iraqi oil ministry documents. Those named were said to have received oil contracts under the programme, either as thanks for political support for Saddam’s regime, for turning a blind eye to corruption or in payment for illegal imports. Those who were handed these contracts could then sell them on to legitimate oil traders. The scheme appeared to allow its beneficiaries to say they had never taken money from the Iraqi government. The list of alleged beneficiaries includes a senior UN official and top French, Indonesian and Russian politicians. The documents behind the list have yet to be authenticated, however.


In addition to allegedly buying political support through the oil contracts, Saddam’s regime itself looks to have profited enormously from the scheme. The General Accounting Office (GAO), an arm of the American Congress, reported last month that prices for humanitarian imports were inflated by some 10%. This allowed the regime to sell 10% more oil to pay for the imports and to cream the extra money off for itself. In addition, the GAO said that the regime managed to sell over $5 billion-worth of oil illegally outside the programme. In all, Saddam’s government may have netted almost $10 billion from its chicanery.


The accusations have triggered a round of finger-pointing. Richard Lugar, the head of a Senate panel conducting one of three congressional probes into the scandal, said on April 7th that, to pull off the scam, Saddam would have needed members of the Security Council to be “complicit in his activities”. The French ambassador to America, Jean-David Levitte, noted in response that America sat on the sanctions committee that approved all contracts. John Negroponte, America’s ambassador to the UN, admitted that while sitting on that committee, America had been more worried about keeping military goods out of Iraq than about corruption. The Iraqi Governing Council, for its part, is conducting its own investigation through KPMG, a consultancy.


This all comes at a delicate time, when America is hoping that a new UN resolution on Iraq will convince more countries to offer troops or financial support. A reconciliation between the United States and the UN has been slow in coming after the Bush administration’s decision to go to war without the backing of the body, and given its continued wariness towards multilateralism. Congressional conservatives and right-wing journalists have long warned against giving the UN a major role in Iraq. According to these critics, the organisation is at best inefficient and at worst corrupt; and the Security Council is an unrepresentative relic of the 1940s, where France and Russia wield vetoes despite their fall from global pre-eminence, while big players like Japan, Germany, India and Brazil clamour in vain for the same privilege.


Moreover, opponents pin a number of abject humanitarian failures, from Rwanda to Bosnia, on the UN. Just this week, a report on a “reign of terror” by the Sudanese government in the western region of Darfur was kept out of a meeting of the Commission on Human Rights. This was because the UN has only just been given permission to visit Darfur. Human-rights groups accuse Sudan of manipulating the world body to play for time.


Of those named in the oil-for-food inquiry, few, if any, are expected to come out unscathed. Mr Volcker hopes to give an update in three months. He has said that if there is any substance to the accusations, best to “get it out in a hurry and cauterise the wound”. Given the depth of divisions at the “United” Nations, this looks optimistic.











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Hmmm....Saddam's WMD Have Been Found


But some leads questionable...

U.S. Force at Iraq Blast Site Said to Be WMD Experts


Other circumstantial evidence points to weak case in lead up to war...

Journalists charged for publishing secret Iraq WMD reports

Swiss tests show no nerve gas on Iraqi missile fragments, sources say


So might evidence of WMDs be planted to bolster the case for war...?

Bush Stashes WMD in Iraq


And will we have to go after Syria and Iran, too? And perhaps put a muzzle on Pakistan?


What about Israel's WMD? Is the imbalance in power provoking their enemies to develop WMDs?

Israel Said Still Making Nuclear Weapons

Israel reported to be a formidable nuclear power

Israel deploys nuclear arms in submarines


Is the war in Iraq more for Israel's benefit?


By David Morgan


WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - A nuclear-armed Iran would pose an intolerable threat to peace in the Middle East and a mortal danger to Israel, President George W. Bush said on Wednesday, adding that any such threat would be "dealt with" by the United States and its allies.


In strongly worded remarks before an audience of newspaper editors and publishers, the Republican president pressed the secretive leadership of the Islamic republic to heed U.S. and European demands not to pursue a nuclear weapons program.


"It would be intolerable to peace and stability in the Middle East if they get a nuclear weapon, particularly since their stated objective is the destruction of Israel," Bush said in answer to a question about international cooperation against militant attacks.


"The development of a nuclear weapon in Iran is intolerable. And a program is intolerable. Otherwise they will be dealt with, starting through the United Nations."


The United States accuses Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but Tehran says its nuclear ambitions are confined to generating electricity. Washington hard-liners have been pressing for U.N. sanctions against the Islamic state.


The president's remarks come at a time of turmoil for U.S. policy in the Middle East, including Iran's neighbor Iraq, which the United States invaded last year after a stormy U.N. Security Council debate over whether the Arab nation possessed weapons of mass destruction.


No such weapons have been found and deteriorating conditions marked by a heightened insurgency have been followed by troop withdrawal announcements from Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic.


Poland, a key U.S. ally in Iraq, has also placed its position under review, while Thailand has said it will withdraw medical and engineering troops if they are attacked. But the White House points to continued support from nations like Britain, Japan, Italy and Portugal as evidence the coalition remains strong.


Meanwhile, Washington is facing a backlash from the Arab world over Bush's decision to endorse Israeli plans to retain Jewish settlements on West Bank land captured during the 1967 Middle East war.


On Wednesday, Bush rejected international criticism and said world leaders should be grateful for what he described as the "chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state."


I also find it ironic that we are eliciting the support of former Baathist Party members to act as officials in the new Iraqi governing structure. Saddam could rule Iraq with an iron hand. Is that what's required of us to do?

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