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April 16, 2004
Saddam Hussein & Charles Duelfer & Making Shit Up
UPDATE: This post has several errors. A fuller explanation is here.
What do Saddam Hussein and Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, have in common? Besides the fact that they both have excellent mustaches?
The answer is: both have their own special way of interpreting international law. Most people believe laws mean what the laws say they mean. Hussein and Duelfer feel this is unfair.
At the end of the Gulf War, the UN declared that Iraq was forbidden from having biological, chemical or nuclear weapons, or programs to develop the same. It's now clear they almost certainly did abide by the relevant UN resolutions in these areas. But -- Iraq was also forbidden from possessing missiles with a range greater than 150 km. And while they did not have such missiles, they did engage in low level research on developing missiles with a greater range. It's unclear whether this in itself was illegal under UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (the one passed in the fall of 2002). However, it's definitely the case that they were required by 1441 to disclose this research, which they did not.
That's a pretty thin, almost meaningless indictment. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post reported that experts believe even without ongoing U.N. inspections, Iraq would have needed six years just to get to the point of flight testing the missiles. With inspections, it would have taken "considerably more" time. And that's assuming the missile design would have worked at all, which it might not have.
But what's interesting about all this is Saddam Hussein's decision to attempt to obtain long-range missiles. According to several news reports, members of the Iraqi government were unhappy about it, and told Hussein that the missiles would violate international law. They'd say to him: Look at paragraph 8 of U.N. Security Council Resolution 687, where it demands we "accept the destruction [of] all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometres." That's pretty clear, isn't it?
Hussein would reply: No, no. That just means that we can't have long-range missiles with WMD. But missiles without WMD are a-okay!
Then the other people would say But... and then Saddam would look at them intently while stroking his moustache and then the discussion would end. [See here for a source on this]
Charles Duelfer deals with international law in the same creative way. For instance, in his March 30th testimony before Congress, Duelfer stated that "UAVs were flight tested [by Iraq] that easily exceeded the UN limit of 150 kilometers."
This would be a telling point, if the UN in fact had said that Iraq's UAVs were limited to a range of 150 km. Unfortunately, the UN never did -- the limit only applied to missiles. But Duelfer, like Hussein, didn't like what what the UN resolutions meant, so he decided they meant something else. [CORRECTION: Unmovic did say this re UAVs, although I believe the larger point stands. See here]
There IS one difference between Hussein and Duelfer, though -- Hussein didn't get away with it.
(Duelfer's deceptive statement has been pointed out by Glen Rangwala, an instructor at Oxford University. [CORRECTION: Rangwala is at Cambridge, not Oxford.] Rangwala repeatedly humiliated the Blair government by pointing out numerous glaring mistakes in its pre-war"dossiers" about Iraq. Rangwala became one of the world's foremost experts on Iraq's WMD by taking the drastic step of actually reading the UN's reports about them.)Posted at April 16, 2004 10:29 PM