The major U.S. report on Saddam Hussein’s pre-war weapons capacity has concluded Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction at the time of the U.S. invasion, contradicting the Bush administration’s main argument for war. We speak with former Iraqi nuclear scientist, Imad Khadduri. [includes rush transcript]
The chief U.S. weapons inspector reported Wednesday that Iraq had no nuclear, chemical or biological weapons now or before the invasion. The findings, which were delivered yesterday to two congressional committees, contradict nearly every assertion made by top Bush administration officials about Iraq in the run-up to the war.
The extensive 1,000-page report was conducted by the Iraq Survey Group and led by Charles Duelfer, whom the Bush administration chose to complete the U.S. investigation of Iraq"s weapons programs. Duelfer said that since the 1991 Gulf War, United Nations sanctions and inspections had destroyed Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability and that there was no evidence of efforts to restart the program.
The report was based on nine months work in Iraq, including extensive interviews with Saddam Hussein and his key lieutenants. It represents the government’s most complete account of Iraq’s weapons programs and goes beyond previous assessments in "depth, detail and level of certainty."
Although no written plans were found, Duelfer concluded from interviews that Saddam Hussein hoped to restart some of his nuclear, biological and chemical programs if UN sanctions were lifted.
The report come less than four weeks before an election in which Bush"s handling of Iraq has become the central issue. In the lead up to the invasion, top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and cast Saddam Hussein as an immediate threat.
British and Australian Prime Ministers Tony Blair and John Howard have come under fire following the report’s release. President Bush is continuing to defend his decision to invade Iraq.
- Imad Khadduri, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission from 1968-1998. He is author of the book Iraq’s Nuclear Mirage.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Imad Khadduri. He’s a former Iraqi nuclear scientist with the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission from 1968 to 1998. He’s author of the book, Iraq’s Nuclear Mirage. Welcome to Democracy Now!
IMAD KHADDURI: Thank you. Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s very good to have you back on Democracy Now! We interviewed you quite a while ago when you said this very thing. But can you talk about your reaction to the top U.S. weapons inspector’s report?
IMAD KHADDURI: The reaction I had was: What good would it do now? A lot of blood has been shed in Iraq; thousands — tens of thousands of people have died. And I am also appalled by the reaction. Still forty to fifty percent of the American people, who are going to vote in about four weeks, still believe that there was some untrue connections between that awful regime of Saddam and Al Qaeda. The whole thing is so distressing that these facts — They should be in a war crime tribunal with Cheney in front and Bush and Rumsfeld behind him. But they’re doing nothing. I mean, they are just now debating points and they are just raising the level of rhetoric. But the crime has been done. The occupation has been awful. And this is what distresses me more — most about this report. It’s just too late. And it shows me the sham of what is to be called democracy. I mean in [inaudible] yesterday there were [inaudible] news that were so blatantly obvious to anybody who was watching the news. Israel comes out and says that the Gaza plan is intended to indefinitely delay the establishment of a Palestinian state, for example. And then the Israeli government says: "Well, that — that U.N. ambulance didn’t have a s.a.m. rocket. In fact, we were mistaken. Sorry about that; but we’ve killed fifty people in Gaza, nonetheless." Then Dick Cheney’s TV interview was just so full of lies, and the main media is isn’t carrying it — all that in one day. To me, the whole truth about Iraq is so horrible that it would even sink Kerry instantaneously. Because he is a 'me-too' candidate. The best hope for the rest of the world, apparently, I have come to believe, is that Bush should win and sink the whole empire into complete isolation and hopefully into its perdition. Now, you see, the problem is not that the problems or the causes are not known. We know them better every day. The problem is that those causing the world’s miseries are powerfully and deeply entrenched in their positions of power, and that it would take massive, sustained violence, unfortunately, to dislodge them.
AMY GOODMAN: I just want to ask you to reiterate this point that you made, to see if I understand you correctly. You’re saying that you think Bush should win to isolate the United States further?
IMAD KHADDURI: Well, I — yes. That’s what I’m saying. Now, I didn’t come with that of my own. Six months ago, when there was the Spain Madrid train bombing and ten days later the Al Qaeda issued a statement on that, that was six months ago. They said, we will ask all operations to be halted in Spain, giving the Spanish people the chance to vote and perhaps withdraw, and they did. Now, the second part of that statement, declaration, was not published, was not widespread in the west. I did translate it and send it to the Toronto Star. It wasn’t published there. What did it say? In it Osama Bin Laden was hoping, was saying to Bush: "I really wish that you would win next November election, because you are the only one who can convince the Muslims of the — of the — with your — with your intransigence and violent approach, it will convince the Muslims that American military postures and foreign policy is against their interests. Therefore I have asked all operations to be suspended from the United States until the election. And after that, every event will have its own discourse." Now, he said — this is Osama Bin Laden saying — that if Kerry comes into — into power, he will again ameliorate the whole situation. He will sugar-coat it to the Muslims, thinking that he’s giving them democracy, or whatever. So that’s why he was wishing — Osama was wishing Bush, that he should be winning; and that’s why he asked all of his operations to stop in the United States until the November elections. Now, when two months ago there was this big fiasco about the financial district among the attack by terrorists, and the red or orange alert came, again I sent it to the Toronto Star, a day earlier on Sunday. And I told Bill Schiller, he’s the political editor of the Star, I said, "Look this is a hoax. Bin Laden doesn’t intend to strike because he said so a few months ago. He has a policy on this." What I’m saying now is apparently — apparently, with all these lies coming to bear, coming to light, and what is being done about them, really? Is the American public still — who is really in a very litmus test of its own democracy. American democracy is really at risk these days. And still, American public still think, and the — and this misconception that they have been — they have been painted over with the mass media, they still believe in these lies. What hope is there but for this to continue and — until it’s — until its termination? That Bush should stay, him and Cheney — He owns the world. We simply live in it, but he owns it, he and Bush, apparently. That’s the only way for it, I believe, to shorten the occupation of Iraq is for their policy to simply flop. But if Cheney comes and — I mean if — if Kerry comes and starts spending more time and trying to build coalitions, in the meantime much more Iraqi blood will be shed in that course. Therefore, I say, as I said again, and I am reiterating, that the best hope for the rest of the world is that Bush does win and sinks this whole empire in its own folly.
AMY GOODMAN:I don’t know if you watched the vice presidential debate between John Kerry and Dick Cheney —- or between John Edwards and Dick Cheney -—
IMAD KHADDURI: Yes, I did.
AMY GOODMAN: But when John Edwards talked about the lack of a coalition and that ninety percent of the casualties were U.S. forces, Cheney corrected him and said, "You’re belittling the other members of the coalition, and particularly the Iraqi casualties." What is your response to that?
IMAD KHADDURI:Thomas Friedman, when he went into Basra the first week of the occupation, he wrote in The New York Times, that the poverty is just fascinating. It’s just so inducive for the Americans to prove the democracy and to — and to, in a sense, transform Iraq, because of the poverty that he saw. Now this is reflecting the neo-conservative thinking that these societies are so downtrodden, they’re so poor that the American McDonald’s and American Wal-marts will simply win them over immediately. This has bearing on what’s happening today. There’s been so much unemployment in the past year-and-a-half in Iraq. And things are very desperate as far as living conditions are concerned. Many of the young people are very much attracted by money, by the salaries offered to be in the army and the police. And that’s why they’re going there by the hundreds. Now, the resistance is trying to — either to tell these people that what you’re doing actually is for a handful of money. You are turning your weapons against your own people, as happened in Najaf, in Samarra, in Fallujah and Ramadi and many cities in the north, and the south and the middle, central. So, it is true. Cheney is true saying that the Iraqis have — about 900 have been killed, which is the same as the American number, practically. It’s about 1,060 now. But these people, they are just — as we say, they are the fodder for the grinding stone. They’re not fully trained. They’re not well trained. They’re there for the couple of dollars that they’re getting a month to feed their families. Now, if Cheney thinks that is belief in American democracy, he is again lying. He is again far away from the truth. They are not the coalition. They are trying to live, these people. So, he — Cheney should not mix his facts. The people like the Australians and the British aren’t there for — just for the money. They’re there because they are for the United States, or other reasons of their own. But the people — the Iraqi people who are dying now. They’re not for Cheney. They’re not dying for Cheney. They’re dying for their own families.
AMY GOODMAN: Two quick questions. One is about a nuclear scientist who are in jail in Iraq right now. I was quite surprised to see the chief U.S. weapons inspector, Duelfer, being questioned at the senate armed forces committee saying, actually, he’d be interested to see them read this report, and actually to see some of them released right now, saying, "They didn’t grow up wanting to make anthrax."
IMAD KHADDURI: They didn’t —- Sorry, they didn’t -—
AMY GOODMAN: They didn’t grow up wanting to make anthrax, talking about, saying they grew up under a regime.
IMAD KHADDURI:They didn’t grow up —- you mean, they didn’t work or they didn’t -—
AMY GOODMAN: They didn’t grow up as children, you know, dreaming to make anthrax. And he actually was talking about how he felt some of them should be released.
IMAD KHADDURI: Well, I believe maybe he was mentioning this lady who was called Dr. Anthrax. She is a scientist, actually, and she was — she specialized in biology in the United States and England, and when she worked in the eighties, at the initial programs of the biological weapons; but then after the war — I mean, this is no denial. She worked as part of an employee — government employee, she had a government scholarship as most of us did when we went back and worked for all the scientific fields in Iraq. But then in the 1990, she concentrated on the depleted uranium issue [inaudible] biologically. And she has many papers published in the scientific literature. So, what you are saying, they didn’t grow up to do anthrax, you know, people in Hitler’s Germany didn’t grow up to make the V-rockets. There were — they were put there by the force of circumstances, and that should not — that should not be confused between work that is to be done as a government official or as a scientist, and evil intentions.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question —
IMAD KHADDURI: I think it’s very similar to what Kerry said — there’s a difference between the military and the — and the soldiers. The military concept and the soldiers, you see. The soldiers in the case of these weapons of mass destruction, they are foot soldiers, they are foot scientists; but the intention of these things is different.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question, and that is the whole corruption scandal that is being reported on. Looking at the oil for food program, top American arms inspector, Duelfer, describing in the report released how Saddam Hussein created a web of front companies and used shadowy deals with foreign governments, corporations, and officials to amass $11 billion in illicit revenue in the decade before the U.S.-led invasion, implicating a number of people, government leaders, heads of the U.N. oil for food program. Your response?
IMAD KHADDURI: It is true. It’s quite true. I was there, and I saw some of it in my own eyes. And I only will top my hat to [inaudible] when they left. And I — If you ask them I will tell — probably, most probably they will tell you this is one of the reasons they left also. They could also see it. There’s no denial this is true. Saddam was clutching to his throne, to his power, to his corrupt ways; and these people simply were parasites. All the way from the people in the U.N. and in the United States government and many other governments. This is greed par excellence right there. At the expense of the Iraqi people. And I remind you, this thing about the Duelfer report that came yesterday, it cost American people more than a billion dollars, a billion-and-a-quarter dollars. We could have told them there was no weapons of mass destruction if they’d just asked us. Nobody yet from the United States government asked me about my opinion. I was talking to them before the occupation by six months. [inaudible] All this greed, all this misinformation that’s being said, is just — is just appalling.
AMY GOODMAN: Imad Khadduri, I want to thank you for being with us. A former Iraqi nuclear scientist with the Iraqi atomic energy commission for three decades, 1968 to 1998, author of the book Iraq’s Nuclear Mirage, speaking to us from Canada. This is Democracy Now!