19 Apr 2007

Those Missing WMDs Again

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Melanie Phillips has released on her blog a piece which will be appearing in the Spectator tomorrow.

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Dave Gaubatz, however, says you could not be more wrong. Saddam’s WMD did exist. He should know because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don’t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, ‘lost’ his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam’s WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war. …

Having served for 12 years as an agent in the US Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations Mr Gaubatz, a trained Arabic-speaker, was hand-picked for postings in 2003, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Nasariyah in Iraq. His mission was to locate suspect WMD sites, discover threats against US forces in the area and find Saddam loyalists, and then send such intelligence to the Iraq Survey Group and other agencies.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq— two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was in the first place because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20-30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

‘There was no doubt, with so much effort having gone into hiding these constructions, that something very important was buried there’, says Mr Gaubatz. By speaking to a wide range of Iraqis, some of whom risked their lives by talking to him and whose accounts were provided in ignorance of each other, he built up a picture of the nuclear, chemical and biological materials they said were buried underground.

‘They explained in detail why WMDs were in these areas and asked the US to remove them’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘Much of this material had been buried in the concrete bunkers and in the sewage pipe system. There were also missile imprints in the area and signs of chemical activity —gas masks, decontamination kits, atropine needles. The Iraqis and my team had no doubt at all that WMDs were hidden there.’ …

Mr Gaubatz verbally told the ISG of his findings, and asked them to come with heavy equipment to breach the concrete of the bunkers and uncover their sealed contents. But to his consternation, the ISG told him they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to do it and that it would be ‘unsafe’ to try.

‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south’, says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would’.

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learned from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.

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