<< The Secretary made extensive reference to defector testimony. But I find
it odd and disappointing that he did not mention widely reported defector
reporting that terrorists got hijacking training in the celebrated 707 at
Salman Pak. Perhaps recounting of this history would have been too awkward
for the man sitting directly behind him, or perhaps Powell himself has not
found the strength of this evidence sufficiently compelling to match its
explosive implication, i.e., that Iraq did have a hand in 9/11. I believe
it did and that, sooner or later, we shall find that smoking gun. >>
In The National Interest
February 5, 2003
Colin Powell's Briefing to the Security Council: Brief Comments from an
Fritz W. Ermarth
ITNI: How do you react to Secretary Powell's presentation?
Ermarth: It was very compelling in its content and very compellingly
delivered. I've read Powell quoted a few days ago saying that the speech
would contain no smoking guns. But the whole presentation is a smoking gun
because it presents such a powerful case that Iraq is in deliberate material
breach of its obligation and has continued ties to international terrorism.
To me, this means that Saddam Hussein is done for unless he executes
immediately and massively a complete change of course, which seems highly
improbable. The question remains whether, in the face of this case, the UN
Security Council and our key allies rise to the occasion or not. There is a
substantial element in the international community, especially in Europe,
whose top priority is to contain, not Saddam Hussein, but the United States.
They wish the Bush Administration to fail. They do not care about the
evidence or the threat from Iraq. The question is whether they can be
outvoted. If not, they will be ignored.
ITNI: Were there any surprises for you?
Ermarth: Many of the details were, of course, new-for example, the content
of the intercepts, the photographs, many of the allusions to defector
reports, the graphics on the biological warfare (BW) vans. These
revelations are evidence beyond reasonable doubt.
But the bottom lines were by now pretty familiar by virtue of administration
arguments and news that has come out in the past. Some of my associates
express surprise that Iraq's BW production capability placed on mobile
platforms is actually and currently producing lethal agents. But I had
assumed that, if Saddam went to the trouble of putting hideable capability
on mobile trucks, it could be used for production in that mode.
Powell's detailing of the aluminum tube debate and the fact that Iraq has
been acquiring tubing-machined and finished to specifications needed for
centrifuges and not rocketry-is a major new contribution to that public
ITNI: Were there any disappointments?
Ermarth: I am slightly surprised and somewhat disappointed that Powell did
not make more of the spotty but credible evidence of Iraqi involvement in
terrorist attacks in and on the United States going back to the early 1990s.
This includes the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and other attempted
attacks in New York. There is some evidence that it includes the Oklahoma
City bombing in 1995. The Secretary made extensive reference to defector
testimony. But I find it odd and disappointing that he did not mention
widely reported defector reporting that terrorists got hijacking training in
the celebrated 707 at Salman Pak. Perhaps recounting of this history would
have been too awkward for the man sitting directly behind him, or perhaps
Powell himself has not found the strength of this evidence sufficiently
compelling to match its explosive implication, i.e., that Iraq did have a
hand in 9/11. I believe it did and that, sooner or later, we shall find
that smoking gun.
A second omission was his failure to mention that state support to
international terrorism is not a new phenomenon. During the 1970s and
1980s, we strongly suspected (and, after the end of the Cold War, we got
positive proof) that the USSR and its allies supported terrorists in Western
Europe and in Turkey. And Saddam himself is, after all, very much a product
of Soviet support in that period. This might have been embarrassing to the
Secretary's Russian colleague.
Finally, I think Powell could have said that we, especially in the United
States, in Europe, and anywhere at a distance from Iraq have the most to
fear, not from missiles or unmanned airplanes, but from the combination of
bio-weapons, which we know Iraq has, with covert human-agent delivery
techniques which are easy and which we know Iraq has and can reach around
the globe. This does not have to involve an accomplice like Al-Qaeda. In
fact, this is probably more easily and reliably done by Saddam's own trusted
agents, whose families are under arrest just to make sure they obey.
Whatever its current condition or capabilities, the mere existence of
Al-Qaeda in virtual or mythic form provides a false-flag cover if Saddam
needs one. He has had ten years and plenty of incentive to develop and
deploy such capabilities. Perhaps the Secretary didn't go into this because
the prospect is uncertain but extremely frightening. If Saddam has already
developed and deployed such covert attack capabilities, we are likely to see
them used. If he has not, he could easily and quickly deploy them in the
future. This is, to my mind, one of the very most important reasons for
getting rid of him and his toxic arsenals.
Fritz W. Ermarth is Director of National Security Programs at the Nixon
Center. He is also a senior analyst at Science Applications International
Corporation. He retired from CIA in 1998 after 25 years of service.