The vials contained the chemical phosgene, which according to the Center for Disease Control causes blurred vision, a burning sensation in the eyes and throat, difficulty breathing, coughing, nausea, vomiting, heart failure, fluid in the lungs, and death. It is a clear liquid, and when stored at room temperature, it converts to a poisoness gas. It was used as a choking agent in World War I and was responsible for multitudes of fatalities. In 1987 it was used by Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.
The FBI and NYC Police were called in to remove the vials, during which time UNMOVIC staff and other tenants on the same floor were asked to temporarily evacuate. Additionally, the UN building was sectioned off from the public and photographers. But not to worry. Jerry Haver, NYC’s former Emergency Services Directory explained, “[I]f it is properly sealed, it should not pose much of a threat unless it is dropped.” How comforting.
The vials were originally obtained by UNMOVIC in 1996, but apparently sat in the office unnoticed for the past decade. Normally, such vials should have been sent directly to the lab for testing and not to the UNMOVIC headquarters, but I suppose anyone could make such a mistake. Or….at least we know the UN can.
The UN is steeped in scandal, corruption, immorality, incompetence, and unaccountability. This is demonstrated by the Oil for Food scandal, the farce of the UN Human Rights Commission, the UN’s refusal to acknowledge the genocide in Darfur, the failures of its peacekeeping missions around the globe, including those in Rwanda and in Lebanon (1975). Historical as well current events are replete with numerous other examples as well. The UN often fails to promote peace as it is mandated to, and indeed, often hinders the peace process. Yet, the UN enjoys the benefits of international legitimacy, diplomatic immunity, and a twenty billion dollar per year budget (approximately 25% of which is funded by the US, making our nation the UN’s single largest contributor). But, I digress.
So, who is UNMOVIC? It is the agency which was created to replace the United Nations Special Commission Inspectors (UNSCOM). UNSCOM, established by Security Council Resolution 687 in 1991, was the original group sent to inspect Iraq for WMD. However, in 1998 the UNSCOM inspections collapsed when Iraq blocked the inspectors’ access. Subsequently, in 1999 the UN Security Council adopted Security Council Resolution 1284 which created UNMOVIC to continue with the mandate of disarming Iraq of its WMDs, and to monitor and verify Iraq’s compliance. In reality, UNMOVIC did not enter Iraq until 2002 after the passage of UN Resolution 1441, which threatened “serious consequences” if Iraq failed to comply with it obligations. And, unlike UNSCOM, UNMOVIC’s commission was made up at least partially of UN employees.
The vials found at UNMOVIC headquarters came from Al Muthanna, Iraq’s prime facility for chemical weapons research, production and storage. In 1984, with the intent to develop greater self reliance in the production of chemical munitions, Iraq began to create facilities that would be dual use, i.e. they would be used for a legitimate programs as well as WMD programs. Iraq’s state construction company, Al Fao General Establishment, was involved in the construction of all Iraq’s sites and facilities involving chemical weapons, biological weapons, and other WMDs. This included Al Muthanna. Not surprisingly, Iraq insinuated that Al Muthanna was designed merely for research on pesticides, and originally named the facility the “State Establishment for Pesticide Production.” However, according to UNMOVIC’s documents, this facility was authorized to produce casings for radiological bombs. It also worked closely with Iraq’s nuclear program and obtained its information from the same technical research center as the Al Hakam biological weapons facility.
Also according to its own documents, UNMOVIC found, identified and commenced the destruction of approximately 50 litres of mustard, as well as other chemicals. But, presumably that didn’t count as WMD because it was nothing new from UNSCOM’s findings and the destruction of these chemicals was merely a continuation of the pre-existing process. However, UNMOVIC admitted that it was “not possible” to verify the destruction of all WMD’s or Iraq’s declarations regarding the quantities of biological weapons and chemical weapons, because Iraq did not retain complete production, storage and deployment records. Iraq claimed that these records were unilaterally destroyed.
Most important, UNMOVIC’s compendium summary entitled, “observations and lessons learned” prefaces its conclusions by stating that the life of the UNMOVIC inspections (November 2002 through March 2003), a mere five months, was much shorter than anticipated. It explains that had UNMOVIC been provided with the time necessary, it might have been able to set forth a more detailed and thorough report and pursue questions raised to conclusion. It explicitly warns that the strict time constraints under which it was operating, “limit the confidence in the inspection results obtained.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, in one of his speeches arguing in favor of invading Iraq, he explained the dilemma something to this effect:
Let’s say one day you go to a man’s home and enter his bedroom. In the top drawer of his night table you find a gun, which he admits he owns. Now let’s say a month later you go to that same man’s house and go to his bedroom. You look in the dresser drawer and the gun isn’t there. You ask him “where’s the gun?” If he says, “what gun? I don’t know anything about a gun,” you can’t just say “Ok” and take his word for it. He had the gun before, so one of two things happened. Either he still has the gun and hid it somewhere, or he disposed of the gun, in which case he should be able to explain how he disposed of it. But in no case, can you conclude that the gun never existed in the first place.
Yet, that is exactly what Saddam Hussein did, and somehow the left still found him credible. Bush must be the one who lied!
This is the question: since at some point Saddam Hussein admitted that he had stockpiles of WMD, how could he have subsequently made them vanish into thin air without a trace, without documentation, without evidence of destruction, without residual contamination, and without witnesses?
We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that some of the chemical agents landed in UNMOVIC’s office. It strains credulity to think that eight vials encompassed the entire sum of Saddam’s chemical stockpile. However, it does not at all strain credulity to realize that the mainstream press is hardly mentioning this discovery, despite the fact that it has been known for a week. Does this new-found evidence lend credence to the Administration’s decision to invade Iraq? Is it possible that President Bush told the truth about Iraq’s WMD’s? Shhh….it’s a secret.