Thursday, November 21, 2002
By Imad Khadduri
YellowTimes.org Guest Columnist (
(YellowTimes.org) - The war storm swirled by the American and British governments against Iraq, particularly the issue of Iraq's nuclear capability, raises serious doubts about the credibility of their intelligence sources as well as their non-scientific and threadbare interpretation of that information. It is often stated that lack of inside information on this matter is scarce. Perhaps it is not too late to rectify this misinformation campaign.
I worked with the Iraqi nuclear program
from 1968 till my departure from
It would be interesting to start my
discourse at 1991. A week before the cessation of a two month saturation
bombings on the target-rich
At the end of 1991, and after that infamous U.N. inspector David Kay got hold of many of the nuclear weapon program's reports, whose documentation and hiding I was in charge of until the start of the war, the Americans realized that their saturated bombing had also missed a most important complex of buildings, at Al-Atheer, that was the center for the design and assembly of the nuclear bomb. A mere one bomb, thermally guided, had hit the electric substation outside the perimeter of the complex, causing little damage.
The telling revelation about these two events is the dearth of any information, until 1991, in the coffers of the heavily subsidized American and British intelligence about these building complexes. More importantly, they had no idea of the programs that they harbored, which were on full steam for the previous ten years.
What really happened to
Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, the entire organization that was responsible for the nuclear weapon project was directed to the reconstruction of the heavily damaged oil refineries, electric power stations and telephone exchange buildings. The developed expertise of the several thousand scientific, engineering and technical cadres manifested itself in the impressive restoration of the oil, electric and communication infrastructure in a matter of months.
Then, the U.N. inspectors were ushered
in. The senior scientists and engineers among the nuclear cadre were instructed
many times on how to cooperate with the inspectors. We were also asked to hand
in to our own officials any reports or incriminating evidence, with heavy
penalties up to death for failing to do so. In the first few months, the clean
sheets were hung up for all to see. When the scientific questioning mounted,
our scientist requested to refer to the scientific and technical reports
amassed during the ten years of activity. A fatal error was committed and the
order was issued to return the project's documents which have been traveling up and down
In the following few years, the nuclear weapon project organization was slowly disbanded; by 1994, its various departments were either elevated to independent civilian industrial enterprises or absorbed within the Military Industrial Authority under Hussain Kamil, who later escaped to Jordan in 1996 and then returned to Baghdad where he was murdered.
Meanwhile, the brinkmanship with the U.N. inspectors continued. At one heated encounter, an American inspector remarked that the nuclear scientists and engineers are still around, accusingly hinting that they may be readily used for a rejuvenated nuclear program. The retort was, "What do you want us to do to satisfy you? Ask them to commit suicide?"
In 1994, a report surfaced claiming that
During these years, the specter of a crushing economic inflation was forming. It would spell the dead end for most of the Iraqi nuclear scientists and engineers in the following years.
In 1996, Hussain
Kamil, who was in charge of the spectrum of chemical,
biological and nuclear programs, announced from his self imposed exile in Amman
that there were hidden scientific caches in his farm in Iraq. Apparently, he
had his security entourage stealthily salvage what they thought were the most
important pieces of information and documentation in these programs. The U.N.
inspectors pounced in, and a renewed strenuous batch of confrontations unfolded
until they were asked to leave
In the final years of the nineties, we
struggled hard to produce a satisfying report, to the best of our knowledge
(and sometimes memory), to the IAEA inspectors on the whole gamut of
In the meantime, and this is the gist of
my discourse, the economic standing of the Iraqi nuclear scientists and
engineers (along with the rest of the civil servants and the professional
middle class) has pathetically crumpled to poverty levels. Even with occasional
salary inducements and some flimsy benefits, many of those highly educated
elite have been forced to sell their possessions just to keep their families
alive. Needless to say, their spirits are very low and their cynicism is high.
A relatively few have managed to leave
Until my departure from Iraq in late 1998, and having often visited most of the newly created industrial enterprises commandeered by the previous nuclear scientists and engineers, as well as the barely functioning Nuclear Research Institute at Tuwaitha, one can not but notice the pathetic mere shadow of their former selves. Their dreaded fear is that of retirement, with the equivalence of $2 per month pension.
Yet, the American and British
intelligence, more likely tainted by war hungry political considerations, seems
to blow a balloon full of holes. A consignment of aluminum
pipes may, perhaps, could and might possibly end in kilometers
long (according to Western scientists) highly technical centrifugal spinners.
One would hope not to put it beyond
It is true that the Iraqi nuclear scientists and engineers did not commit suicide. But the difference, by now, is academic.
Bush and Blair are pulling their public by the nose, covering their hollow patriotic egging on with once again shoddy intelligence. But the two parading emperors have no clothes.
Khadduri has a MSc in Physics from the
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