The United States and Britain
are launching separate, independent inquiries into their pre-war intelligence
assessments that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. London and Washington
used the weapons argument as the main reason for going to war, but to date no
such weapons have been found, and the former lead U.S. weapons inspector says
he doesn't believe they exist. VOA's Sonja Pace looked at the issue from Baghdad.
For many Iraqis, the lack of evidence of the existence of weapons of mass
destruction only adds to the already widespread suspicion of why the United
States invaded Iraq. Turki al-Jaburi is a Baghdad mwerchant.
"I would like to meet President Bush and tell him 'you claimed that Iraq
has weapons of mass destruction, and this is the evidence you occupied this
country for this reason. So, what's your evidence now? Did you find the weapons
of mass destruction?' No, it's occupation, colonialism," he said.
Iraqi scientist Khaled Francis, who worked for several years developing chemical
weapons for Saddam Hussein, takes a more dispassionate view, but his conclusions
are the same.
"You know, all these matters have been exaggerated," he said. He indicated
the U.S. and Britain wanted a reason and they found one.
The United States and Britain said Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal posed
an imminent threat to world security. U.N. weapons inspectors went back into
Iraq in 2002, but could not find them. Neither have U.S. teams, which have
been searching since shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.
Last month, the chief American inspector, David Kay, resigned from his position,
and testified before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that pre-war intelligence
had simply been wrong about the weapons threat.
"It turns out we were all wrong, probably, in my judgment. And, that is most
disturbing," Mr. Kay said.
Mr. Kay was asked, by Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat from the state of Michigan,
about existing stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Levin: In your opinion, Iraq did not have large stockpiles of chemical
and biological weapons in 2002, is that correct?
Kay: That's correct Senator.
Levin: Do you have any evidence that they had any stockpiles, large
or small in 2002?
Kay: Simply have no evidence.
David Kay's conclusions sent shockwaves through the political and intelligence
communities in both Washington and London.
But, in Baghdad, researcher Khaled Francis says he is not surprised at David
Kay's assessment. He says the reason the inspectors found no weapons is because
they do not exist. He maintains they were destroyed over a decade ago - at
least, he says, the chemical weapons stockpile, which is what he would know
"After the Gulf War, they disconnected the whole program," he said. "They
changed the program to pesticides and herbicides and other products. As I know,
they destroyed all the weapons they had."
But, how does he know that they really destroyed everything?
"Because most of the people working on the destruction of these weapons are
my friends, my colleagues and we discuss about it," he said. "I was working
in the research center. This is the most important center in the whole office,
and we know what's going on outside."
Khaled Francis worked in the chemical research lab from 1987 to 1997. For
several years, until the early 1990s, he says, he was in charge of quality
control for such lethal substances as mustard gas, sarin gas and the VX nerve
Mr. Francis told VOA he knows of no attempt by the Iraqi government to restart
its chemical weapons program, although he says it could easily have done so
within a matter of several months, if it had wanted to.
When asked if he thought there was ever another attempt by the government
to start the weapons program up again, Mr. Francis replied "If they wanted
to do it, they could, because the most important [element] is the people who
are working in this field, and it needs very simple tools. No need for complicated
instruments or anything. But, as I know, there was not any idea to re-start
the program again."
Mr. Francis said that, after the chemical weapons stockpiles were destroyed
in the early 1990s, he was sent to a factory to produce chlorine for use in
detergents and other industrial applications. He left the lab in 1997, and
now does odd jobs. Khaled Francis says he has no plans to work in the chemical