Monday, August 28, 2006

Armitage in '03: Find WMD 'we will'

The following excerpts come from a speech given on April 30, 2003 by former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who we're being told had no axe to grind against critics working to expose how the Bush Administration had been much-more-than-misleading about the threat of WMD in Iraq:

A little more than a month after military operations began, some of our warriors are already returning home to a hero's welcome, while some will stay in place for some time to continue clean-up activities. But without question, the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein is gone.


We will continue to hunt down the terrorists who have used Iraq as a safe-haven for far too many years and of course, we will continue to seek out Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.


I want to be clear here today that I am extraordinarily confident that Iraq had those capabilities. Rarely have the intelligence agencies of this country and our allies been so unified on any subject. Now, I know there are those, probably in this audience, that think because we have found little so far, that there's nothing to find. But I'd like to suggest to you a more frightening reality, and that is that it is far too easy to hide and to move these capabilities, and far too difficult to find them, especially in the face of a determined and practiced effort to conceal them. And the regime of Saddam Hussein was nothing if not practiced. They had years of close scrutiny in which to learn how to deceive inspectors. And then they had four unfettered years to do as they pleased.

What emerged was a well-developed and sophisticated strategy of dispersal. For example, Secretary Powell told the United Nations Security Council on February 5th, "We know that Iraq has embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry." And as for Iraq's biological weapons program, Secretary Powell pointed out that multiple sources have told us of mobile facilities built while UNSCOM inspectors were actually in Iraq and designed especially and only to avoid detection.

Now, whether it is the mobile labs or weapons disguised as industry, we are finding now that the capabilities were even more dispersed and disguised than we had thought. The evidence of Saddam Hussein's programs is likely to be spread across many hundreds and even possibly thousands of sites in Iraq. It is going to take us months to find this material, but find it we will.

Don't forget that it was information provided by defectors, including members of Saddam Hussein's immediate family and scientists from within the program, that was critical and at times, essential, to revealing what UN inspectors were able to figure out and find out in the past. That is one reason why an inspection regime based on anything other than genuine disarmament by the now-defunct regime was doomed to fail in Iraq.

Indeed, my optimism that we will find evidence of Iraq's weapons soon is largely a function of the cooperation that we are beginning to get from Iraqi scientists and former Iraqi officials. We're interviewing these people and continuing to seek others based on the intelligence we have about who was instrumental in each of these programs. And the people we have found are already leading us to other people, as well as to computer files and documents. And with these sources of information, we can say with a high degree of confidence that we will find Iraq's unconventional weapons.


Iraq is an object lesson in what can happen if we leave the problems of proliferation to a solution of the past. The use of military force to destroy a perverse political culture was a point of no return we don't want to keep coming back to. But if we are to avoid doing so, we must have effective and peaceful means of achieving and enforcing that change. And yet, while Iraq illustrates the gaps we have in our global architecture for dealing with weapons of mass destruction, it is not the template. This is not a one-size-fits-all policy. In fact, our President has stated that the threat we face from North Korea's nuclear problem is something that can be dealt with through patient, deliberate and multilateral diplomacy. And indeed, we're working now, well, with the governments of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea toward that end.

By the way, the title of that speech was Iraq and the Global Challenge of Proliferation, as if they were one and the same.


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