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May 19, 2007

Tenet, Nukes, and Stinking Smut

by Gordon Prather

George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence responsible for providing to Congress – at their request – a National Intelligence Estimate that was used as the basis for the Joint Congressional Resolution Authorizing the Use of US Armed Forces Against Iraq, wants desperately for you to believe, now, that he really believed then, that our invasion force would actually find "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.

The Congressional Resolution was based upon a draft resolution submitted by the Bush-Cheney White House [!] and its preamble included these "findings"

"Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in `material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President `to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations';

"Whereas Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations."

Now, Tenet was DCI when Congress passed Public Law 105-235. And we now know what Tenet knew then.

To recapitulate, Gen. Hussein Kamel – Saddam's son-in-law – had defected to Jordan in 1995, carrying with him thousands of documents on Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction" program, of which he was in charge.

Kamel was extensively interrogated by the CIA, MI6, Rolf Ekeus of the U.N. Special Commission on Iraq and Maurizio Zifferero of the IAEA Action Team.

Basically, Kamel claimed all Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" and the makings thereof had been destroyed, either during the Gulf War or under his orders in the years immediately thereafter.

"Nothing remained," Kamel said.

After several years of intensive investigations on the ground in Iraq, as best the UN inspectors could determine, Kamel had told the truth in every detail.

Furthermore, as a result of Kamel's defection, Iraq voluntarily released additional information regarding those programs of which "nothing remained."

In particular, Iraq admitted that the actual mission of the Al Atheer facility – of which nothing remained – had been the development of nuclear weapons, and confirmed that the Rashdiya site of the Engineering Design Center – of which nothing remained – had been the headquarters of the gas centrifuge enrichment program.

Furthermore, until Kamel's defection, Iraq had not even acknowledged ever having a bio-warfare program. After his defection, Saddam ordered all documentation of the bio-warfare program – of which nothing, indeed, appeared to remain – turned over to UN inspectors.

However, there did remain a documentation problem, especially for biological warfare agent production and destruction.

For example, since the Iraqis weren't sure, themselves, how much bio-warfare agent they had produced, and how much they weaponized, and how much they had destroyed, how could the UN Inspectors certify to the Security Council that "nothing remained."

Nevertheless, in 1996, the sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1991, primarily because of the discovery by UN inspectors of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, were partially lifted and the so-called Oil for Food program instituted.

And in 1997 the IAEA was able to report that

  • There were no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq's explanation of its progress towards the finalisation of a workable design for its nuclear weapons was considered to be consistent with the resources and time scale indicated by the available programme documentation.
  • Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU through the EMIS process, the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder sub-critical gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon
  • There were no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more than a few grams of weapons-grade nuclear material through its indigenous processes.
  • There were no indications that Iraq otherwise clandestinely acquired weapons-usable material
  • All the safeguarded research reactor fuel was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed from Iraq.
  • There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.

So, it is possible that Tenet didn't formally object to the enactment in 1998 of Public Law 105-235 – in which Congress concluded that "Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security" – because he believed the Iraqis were not just incredibly sloppy bookkeepers.

For example, Tenet may really have believed in 1998 that the Iraqis hadn't destroyed all the bio-warfare Agent D they had produced.

And, it is possible that Tenet didn't formally object in 2002 to the Resolution – wherein President Bush was authorized to do whatever he determined was "necessary and appropriate" to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" – because he believed that the Iraqis still hadn't destroyed all the bio-warfare Agent D they had produced, or had perhaps somehow managed to produce more.

By the way, what is bio-warfare Agent D? Well, it's a fungus, sometimes known as ‘stinking smut'.

Stinking smut attacks wheat plants, imparting to them a foul, fishy odor. Instead of producing pollen, wheat plants infected by bio-warfare Agent D produce a black spore, which is carried by the wind to nearby uninfected wheat plants, thereby infecting them, too.

During the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam had produced tons of bio-warfare agents and had loaded three or four different agents into bombs, artillery projectiles and missile warheads.

As of Tenet's preparation of the 2002 NIE for Congress, the UN inspectors still weren't sure whether Saddam had actually destroyed all the stinking smut he had produced or not.

So you can see why Tenet might not have objected to the Congressional finding that "Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests."

Can't you?

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Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

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