Rumsfeld...Oh Well...Maybe They Be No
Weapons of Mass Destruction In Iraq After All
'We may not find Iraq weapons' BY ROBERT FOX and JAMES LANGTON,
29th May 2003
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said for the first time
today that there may not be any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
The admission comes amid mounting embarrassment at the failure
to produce evidence that Saddam Hussein had an active programme to create weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The fear that the Iraqi dictator was building an arsenal was
the main reason President Bush and Tony Blair gave for going to war.
Mr Rumsfeld, speaking at a foreign affairs think-tank in New
York, also tried to play down fears over law and order in Iraq by comparing looters in Baghdad to rioting English football
fans. "We all know what happens at a soccer game in England," he said.
Mr Rumsfeld said that it was possible Iraqi leaders had "decided
that they would destroy the WMD prior to a conflict". He said this could explain why allied troops had not faced chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons during the invasion of Iraq.
White House backing down
His remarks are being seen as another sign that the White House
is backing away from its earlier insistence that Saddam had been developing the weapons and was prepared to use them.
Seven weeks of intensive searching by a force of nearly 2,000
American special forces troops have failed to produce a "smoking gun".
A pair of converted Iraqi army lorries that may have been mobile
biological laboratories represent the sum total of US efforts to date.
There are reports that the hunt is being scaled back because
there are a dwindling number of areas to search in Iraq. But Mr Rumsfeld - one of the main architects of the war on Iraq -
insisted: "It's hard to find things in a country that's determined not to have you find them."
Crucial clues could still come from senior Iraqi officials who
have only recently surrendered, he said, adding: "I suspect we'll learn a lot more as we go along and keep interrogating people."
He also repeated that Iraq was "a country the size of California".
He said: "We haven't managed to look in every place. Why? Because we've only been there seven weeks."
Bad for morale
His admission that weapons of mass destruction might not exist
in Iraq echoes the views of senior British commanders and intelligence experts.
In London, a very senior Army officer said: "It's becoming highly
embarrassing and bad for morale of the troops. The emphasis is now clearly switching away from weapons to evidence about war
crimes, mass burials on a scale we never imagined, and links with terrorist organisations."
Many British and American forces in Iraq do not believe any evidence
of current biological, chemical and nuclear warfare will be found. One British soldier attached to an American Nuclear Biological
and Chemical warfare detection unit in Iraq said: "The Americans seemed brainwashed by the maps and photographs they had been
provided by their command.
"They kept saying they had been told where to look. But nothing
Doubts over active warfare programme
Experts attached to the previous UN weapons investigation team,
UNSCOM, believe that Saddam had destroyed all his active biological warfare stocks well before the war.
The tide of doubt about whether there was an active chemical
and biological warfare programme has provoked a call for a major investigation of the CIA's intelligence on Iraq and the political
use made of it by the Bush administration.
Similar questions about the political manipulation of Iraq intelligence
material by Downing Street are being voiced in the UK.
One senior Whitehall source said: "We have a situation in which
people believe, because they were led to believe, that there were cupboards full of biological and chemical agents just waiting
to be discovered - because that is what was suggested to them.
"The fact is Saddam had a lot of time to disperse his weapons
cache. What we are looking for is now very diffuse and divided into small quantities. Expectations were hyped up."
Chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix said: "I am obviously very
interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction and I am beginning to suspect there possibly
Despite these concerns, a Downing Street spokeswoman said today:
"We are confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found."