From Washington to London and beyond, critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom loudly demand to see Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass murder. Did anthrax, nerve gas, and perhaps even plutonium imminently threaten Western security, or did President Bush and England’s Tony Blair fabricate such things to fuel their rout of the Baathist regime?
If Bush and Blair actually were clever enough to concoct sufficient risks to justify hostilities, they surely would be crafty enough to “discover” enough botulinum somewhere to vindicate Gulf War II. Not yet having found these weapons, however, these two either have half a brain each or honestly still seek the munitions that Hussein hid in Iraq or elsewhere, or possibly destroyed to avoid embarrassment.
As this search continues, those craving Bush’s and Blair’s scalps should recall what Coalition forces have discovered in Iraq:
More than 80 mass graves have emerged in recent weeks, the Washington Post’s Sharon Waxman reports. They have contained prisoners, military deserters, dissident Shiites and, often, children. At Salman Pak, one grave with 115 bodies in it appears to have been filled in early April, just before Baghdad was freed. So far, the remains of some 3,100 victims have been identified, the Defense Department estimates. This figure could climb far higher.
“More than 250,000 people were detained or murdered by the government of Saddam Hussein,” declares a Human Rights Watch statement, “and almost all of them have relatives who now want justice, or physical remains, or at the very least information about what happened to their loved ones.”
These Iraqis were given the death penalty, most likely with neither appeals nor legal counsel. Any of them gladly would have traded places with convicted cop killer and celebrated American death row denizen, Mumia Abu-Jamal. Listen: Has the Left ever been this atypically quiet?
Torture, mutilation, and widespread confinement were standard under Hussein. As Newsweek’s April 28 analysis of Iraqi Intelligence Service documents revealed, the Baathists arrested 70 to 80 suspected Army deserters in Basra in May 1994. Local doctors were ordered to slice off these men’s ears. An M.D. who refused to was shot. One victim paid a $10,000 bribe to have only half his ear removed. Even better, it was severed with painkillers. “It is hard to measure the depth of Saddam’s wickedness or the devastation he wreaked,” Newsweek’s Melinda Liu, Rod Norland, and Evan Thomas observed.
“We’ve found plenty of torture chambers,” Bernard Kerik said in the June 1 New York Post. The former NYPD chief is in Baghdad attempting to restore order. “I can’t fathom why every government building here has a jail in the basement.”
Juad Amir Sayed finally emerged from his own cell. Sought by authorities for loyalty to a Shiite mullah, he deserted the Army at age 24 and hid in a three-by-five foot tunnel beneath his mother’s house. She fed him through a hole in her floor. He read the Koran, listened to the BBC’s Arabic service, and, one by one, stored his teeth in a matchbox as they fell out. He surfaced this spring after 21 years underground, looking 60-plus rather than in his mid-forties. He praised his new-found liberty to London’s Daily Telegraph: “I believe that Allah worked through Mr. Bush to make this happen.”
A terrorist camp at Salman Pak housed a passenger jet fuselage that defectors insist was used to train Islamic extremists to hijack airliners. Some 120 suspected, al Qaeda-associated, Ansar al-Islam terrorists were killed at a base in Khurmal, where traces of toxic ricin were discovered.
In an article in the June 30 National Review, Mansoor Ijaz, a terrorism expert and chairman of New York-based Crescent Investment Management, chillingly connects the dots between Iraq and international terrorism. He recalls that Abu Abbas, architect of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking recently was found living in Iraq, as was Khala Khadr al-Salahat, the alleged designer of the radio-bomb that demolished Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, killing all 259 on board and 11 on the ground.
Ijaz cites an Iraqi intelligence document in which the secret Mukhabarat invited a senior al Qaeda operative to Baghdad from the Sudan. The correspondence said: “We may find in this envoy a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden.” The al Qaeda representative indeed visited Baghdad in March 1998, five months before the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania exploded, killing 224 people, 12 of them American, and wounding some 5,000 others, many of them Africans and Muslims.
Manhattan federal judge Harold Baer, meanwhile, ordered Hussein and Iraq’s former government to pay $104 million in damages to the families of two men murdered in the September 11 World Trade Center attacks. “I conclude that plaintiffs have shown, albeit barely…that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda,” Baer ruled May 7. He found that expert testimony by former CIA chief James Woolsey and remarks by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations constituted “sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to draw inferences” of Iraqi guilt.
Attorney James Beasley Jr., who represents the bereaved families of Timothy Soulas and George Smith, told the New York Daily News: “This is the first finding, a judicial finding, that says Iraq was involved in 9/11.”
On June 4, U.S. soldiers seized a truck near Kirkuk carrying 1,183 gold ingots. On May 23 and 25, they caught similar gold-laden trucks on highways heading out of Iraq. In all, they have captured roughly 4,100 gold bars worth $700 million to $1 billion. Add to that the $950 million in cash found hidden in and around various Baathist residences, and it becomes clear how the Oil for Food program left average Iraqis hungry.
“This place is disgusting,” one U.S. Marine told Newsweek about an Hussein palace equipped with gold-handled toilet plungers. “All the people we saw in the south were starving.”
Thanks to America’s supposedly boorish GIs, some 170,000 artifacts were reported stolen from Baghdad’s National Museum. “In fact,” a Pentagon spokesman notes, “while many pieces numbering in the hundreds, not thousands, were taken, all but 33 have been recovered.” The Treasure of Nimrud, a 3,000-year-old set of Assyrian jewels feared lost, actually was in a Central Bank vault. It goes on display July 3.
“We were here to protect people and property,” one soldier said of his April mission. “But in the early days, we had to choose, and we chose people.”
Deep down, those who scream for Iraq’s weapons of mass death right now! probably hope they remain concealed. If they never materialize, these people will focus on the absence of equipment rather than the presence of evil, now vanquished, and thus dismiss Iraq’s liberation as a worthless escapade. But if the mustard gas canisters do appear, these detractors will claim they were planted. Bush and Blair toppled Saddam Hussein, but opposite these naysayers, they never can win.
— Mr. Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service.