Friday, February 28, 2003

Did Iraq disarm after the Gulf War? The media-watch organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting is focusing attention on a report in the current Newsweek suggesting that Iraq had destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction as of 1995. The article, which has gotten little notice, "may be the biggest story of the Iraq crisis," according to FAIR.

Newsweek's John Barry reports that Saddam Hussein's son-in-law General Hussein Kamel, who defected to the West in 1996 and whose interviews with US intelligence officials are often cited as evidence of Saddam's weapons programs, had actually told his interrogators that Iraq had destroyed all of its chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles forbidden under the terms of the Gulf War surrender.

Was Kamel merely doing his father-in-law's bidding? Not likely. Kamel eventually decided to return to Iraq -- and Saddam had him executed.

Where does this information fit into the current debate over war and disarmament? It's hard to say. Even if Kamel's testimony is completely true, Saddam has had since 1998 -- when UN weapons inspectors were kicked out of the country -- to rebuild his stockpile.

Still, the possibility that Iraq was weapons-free as recently as eight years ago is significant information, and it should have received more attention than it has.

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