The Bizarre History of WMDs: Part 2

June 9th, 2006 - by admin

Harper’s Magazine – 2006-06-09 23:40:11

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Instances of Weapons of Mass Destruction

Events Related To Weapons of Mass Destruction 2000

Week of Jul 2 — The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that 22,000 devices worldwide are vulnerable to terrorist exploitation in the manufacture of a “dirty bomb”; the agency said that every country has the materials for such a bomb and that more than 100 countries had not taken adequate steps to protect radioactive materials.

Week of Apr 2 — Officials continued to play down the possibility that any significant weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq; one senior White House source speculated that what might turn up were some “precursors,” and said that Saddam Hussein “couldn’t put them together as long as the inspections were going on.” [New York Times]

May 22 — Some Afghan civilians were found to have “astonishing” levels of uranium in their urine. [BBC]

May 28 — Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in response to complaints that weapons of mass destruction still have not been found in Iraq, speculated that Iraq might have destroyed its illegal weapons before the war began. [New York Times]

The Pentagon discovered 200 vials of anthrax[Weapons of Mass Destruction] and other bacteria among 2,000 tons of hazardous waste on an Army base about 50 miles from Washington, D.C. [Times of London]

May 29 — A senior British official claimed that his government had “transformed” an intelligence report on Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction to make it “sexier.” “The classic example,” he said, “was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use within 45 minutes.” [BBC]

Prime Minister Tony Blair denied fabricating the report but Labour MPs were threatening to report him to the Speaker of the Commons for misleading parliament. “No weapons means no threat,” said one MP. “Without WMD, the case for war falls apart.” “I believe the prime minister lied to us and lied to us and lied to us,” said another. “The whole war was built upon falsehood and I think the long-term damage will be to democracy in Britain.” []

May 30 — Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, admitted that the administration’s focus on Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction was simply politically convenient. “For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction,” he said, “because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.” Wolfowitz pointed with pride to the “huge prize” that resulted from the invasion, an alternative to Saudi Arabia as a base for American forces. []

Lt. Gen. James Conway, the top U.S. Marine in Iraq, said that American forces have looked very hard for weapons of mass destruction but that “they’re simply not there.” [UPI]

Jun 2 — President Bush told Polish journalists that “we found the weapons of mass destruction.” [Charleston Post and Courier]

June 5 — Douglas Feith, an undersecretary at the Pentagon, denied what he called the “urban legends” that the Pentagon lied about Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction or that intelligence analysts were pressured to come up with slanted reports. “I can’t rule out what other people may have perceived,” he said. “Who knows what people perceive? I know of nobody who pressured anybody.” [Minneapolis Star Tribune] [Toronto Star]

Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, said he expected the weapons to turn up eventually and pointed out that it took the FBI five years to catch Eric Rudolph. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed it all on Bill Clinton. [Minneapolis Star Tribune]

June 6 — President Bush flew over Iraq shortly after he told U.S. troops in Qatar that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction would eventually be found. “We’re on the look,” he said. “We’ll reveal the truth.” [International Herald Tribune]

Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, said that the quality of American intelligence on Iraq was very poor and suggested that the American and British governments had “jumped to conclusions” about weapons of mass destruction. [Guardian]

June 8 — A growing number of weapons experts, engineers, chemists, and other scientists said that the “germ trailers” trumpeted by the Americans are not at all what one would expect from a mobile weapons lab and that the units appear to be designed to produce hydrogen to fill artillery balloons, which is what Iraqi scientists have claimed. It was reported that the British sold such a system to Iraq in 1987. [Observer]

International weapons inspectors were wondering why American troops failed to stop Iraqi villagers who live near Tuwaitha nuclear complex from dumping uranium yellowcake and nuclear sludge on the ground and using the empty radioactive barrels to haul drinking and bathing water; one woman from a nearby village called Al Mansiya (“The Forgotten”) wondered why so many journalists were coming to visit.

“We are like a string of beads that has been cut, and all the beads are on the floor,” she told a reporter. “We love the Americans, but we loved Saddam because he was our father. He was the tent over us — he was the string in our beads.” [New York Times]

June 10 — President Bush was still “absolutely convinced” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. [New York Times]

June 11 — The American soldiers looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were running out of places to look. “It doesn’t appear there are any more targets at this time,” said Lt. Col. Keith Harrington. “We’re hanging around with no missions in the foreseeable future.” [Washington Post]

Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, said that it doesn’t matter whether WMD are found, “because the rationale for the war changed. Americans like a good picture. And one photograph of an Iraqi child kissing a US soldier is more powerful than two months of debate on the floor of Congress.” [Washington Post]

June 17 — mainstream commentators were also beginning to use the word “impeachment” in connection with the weapons of mass destruction scandal. [Los Angeles Times]

One hundred seventy pounds of cesium 137 and strontium 90 were found in a taxi in Tbilisi, Georgia, [New York Times]

June 18 — North Korea announced its intention to accelerate its program to build a nuclear deterrent and said that a US naval blockade or embargo could lead to “all-out war”; a state-run newspaper said that “the Iraqi war proved that disarmament leads to war. Therefore it is quite clear that the DPRK can never accept the US demand that it scrap its nuclear weapons program first.” [Associated Press]

June 19 — President Bush declared that the world will not tolerate nuclear weapons in Iran. “Iran would be dangerous,” he said, “if they have a nuclear weapon.” [New York Times]

June 22 — 30 kilograms of cesium 137 were recovered from an unemployed schoolteacher in Bangkok who was trying to sell the material to terrorists. “Cesium 137 is serious stuff, highly radioactive,” said one expert. “You put it alongside four kilograms or more of dynamite and you’ve got a really dangerous terror weapon.” [Sydney Morning Herald]

June 25 — A State Department intelligence analyst told a congressional hearing that he had felt pressure to make his reports conform to the administration’s position on Iraq. [New York Times]

Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, made the surprising claim that “before the war, there was no debate about whether Iraq had unconventional weapons.” [New York Times]

June 27 — He also said that he doesn’t “know anybody in any government or any intelligence agency who suggested that the Iraqis had nuclear weapons”; it was immediately pointed out that Vice President Dick Cheney made precisely that claim in March. [New York Times]

July 1 — Hans Blix retired, [Associated Press]

July 3 — President George W. Bush dismissed growing complaints that he exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq in the buildup to the invasion and invited Iraqis who remain loyal to Saddam Hussein to attack American troops: “There are some who feel like that if they attack us, that we may decide to leave prematurely,” he said. “My answer is: bring them on. We’ve got the force necessary to deal with the security situation.” [Orlando Sentinel]

July 9 — The White House admitted that President Bush’s claim in his last State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger was based on “unsubstantiated” intelligence; [CNN]

July 13 — President Bush, asked whether he regretted his false claim about the uranium, responded by saying there was “no doubt” in his mind that he was right to conquer Iraq. “And there’s no doubt in my mind, when it’s all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth.” [New York Times]

July 15 — North Korea announced that it has made enough plutonium to construct several nuclear bombs. [New York Times]

July 16 — Newly declassified documents revealed that during the Cold War British scientists planned to bury ten nuclear land mines in Germany. The plan, code-named Blue Peacock, was abandoned in 1958, after it was judged to be “politically flawed.” [New Scientist]

July 17 — CIA director George Tenet testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee and again took responsibility for President Bush’s false claim that Iraq tried to buy uranium from Niger, but he admitted that he didn’t know the claim, which he successfully removed from at least one of the president’s previous speeches, would be included in the State of the Union address. Tenet said that his staff should have told him about it. [Washington Post]

July 18 — President Bush told a group of surprised reporters that Saddam Hussein had refused to permit weapons inspectors to return to Iraq: “And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.” [Washington Post]

British prime minister Tony Blair addressed the United States Congress and predicted that history will “forgive” him even if weapons of mass destruction are never found in Iraq. He received 19 standing ovations; after the first one he responded: “This is more than I deserve and more than I’m used to, frankly.” [Guardian]

July 19 — United Nations weapons inspectors said they had found traces of enriched uranium in samples taken in Iran. [Washington Post]

Federal authorities said that 1,100 pounds of ammonium nitrate, the explosive chemical used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building, were stolen from quarries in Colorado and California. [Associated Press]

July 22 — The former head of the U.S. army’s Depleted Uranium Project announced that the damage from munitions used in both Gulf Wars will eclipse the Agent Orange fallout of the Vietnam War. [Buffalo News]

July 25 — French police evacuated an airport in Toulouse and blew up a bag of puff pastry. [Ananova]

July 26 — The Army denied that depleted uranium was causing the mysterious outbreak of pneumonia among American soldiers in Iraq. [Springfield News Leader]

July 31 — It was reported that the Pentagon has awarded a $500,000 grant to researchers[Science] to develop genetically engineered trees that will change color in the event of a biological- or chemical-weapons attack. [Associated Press]

Aug 8 — Two workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory were accidentally exposed to plutonium. [Newsday]

Aug 9 — Engineers from the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded that the mobile laboratories found in Iraq were probably used to make hydrogen for weather balloons, just as Iraqi scientists have claimed. [New York Times]

Aug 10 — L. Paul Bremer, the American overseer of Iraq, said he thought the bombing was carried out by “outside” forces because he wasn’t sure the “ex-regime people” who have been shooting U.S. soldiers had the know-how to make a car bomb. [New York Times]

The United States Army began incinerating millions of pounds of chemical weapons in a small town in Alabama; nearby residents, who have been assured that the process is completely safe, were issued protective hoods. [New York Times]

Aug 15 — The United States Army delayed the destruction of more than 1,200 tons of VX, a deadly nerve agent, at the Newport Chemical Depot, 30 miles north of Terre Haute, Indiana, because the plant has failed to meet environmental standards. [Associated Press]

Aug 29 — Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain testified before the Hutton inquiry and denied the BBC’s claim that his aides had “sexed up” his dossier on Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction; Blair said he would have resigned if the story had been true. [Guardian, BBC, New York Times]

North Korea announced plans to test a nuclear device. [New York Times]

Aug 31 — A decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine sank in the Barents Sea. [New York Times]

Sep 10 — Leni Riefenstahl died, as did Edward Teller. [New York Times]

Sep 11 — A British parliamentary report concluded that the Blair government did not intentionally lie in its controversial dossier on Iraq’s military threat; the report did criticize the government, however, and said that its false claim that Iraq was capable of launching weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes was “unhelpful,” and that the dossier should have made clear that Iraq was not, in the opinion of the intelligence services, an imminent threat to Great Britain. [BBC]

Sep 24 — A 16-year-old boy in Spokane, Washington, was wounded by police officers after he barricaded himself in a classroom with a pistol; [New York Times]

Sep 25 — Administration officials tried to play down a disappointing progress report by the American team searching Iraq for signs of weapons of mass destruction. [New York Times]

Sep 28 — At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department began investigating charges that the White House leaked the name of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press in retaliation for remarks by her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, challenging President Bush’s claim that Iraq tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Africa. An unnamed administration official told the Washington Post that two White House officials had revealed the agent’s identity to at least six journalists.

“Clearly,” the official said, “it was meant purely and simply for revenge.” The White House denied that Karl Rove was responsible for the leak, which was a violation of the Intelligence Protection Act and carries penalties of up to 10 years in prison and $50,000 in fines. [Washington Post]

Oct 6 — David Kay, the head of the CIA team searching for traces of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, issued his status report; Kay admitted that no unconventional weapons had been found but did point to a single vial of botulinum toxin, which an Iraqi scientist had stored in his refrigerator since 1993, as evidence of evil intent.

President Bush cited the vial and said that the report justified the invasion. [Washington Post, International Herald Tribune] and Robin Cook, the former foreign minister and leader of the Commons, who resigned to protest Britain’s participation in the conquest of Iraq, claimed that Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted privately to him two weeks before the invasion that Saddam Hussein had no weapons that posed a “real and present danger.” [BBC]

Oct 10 — Pat Robertson said that the State Department should be blown up with a nuclear bomb. [Reuters]

Oct 21 — The United States was granted broad exemptions for the use of methyl bromide, a pesticide that damages the ozone layer; the chemical was supposed to be banned under the Montreal Protocol, which the US signed. Strawberry and tomato farmers, as well as the owners of golf courses, will benefit. [New York Times]

The US Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board concluded that the government’s plan to bury nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, near Las Vegas, is dangerously flawed; the design, the board said, would lead to the corrosion and perforation of the containers, and thus to leaks. [New York Times]

Oct 25 — Much of Zimbabwe’s wildlife is being wiped out by poachers, naturalists said, and Human Rights Watch accused Zimbabwe of using famine as a weapon against political dissidents. [New York Times]

Oct 29 — American scientists deliberately engineered a new extra-deadly form of mousepox; much the same thing has been done with cowpox and rabbitpox. [New Scientist]

Nov 1 — Shoko Asahara, the guru of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, claimed that he had lost control of his followers shortly before they released nerve gas in the Tokyo subway eight years ago. [Associated Press]

Nov 2 — Historians were upset that the Smithsonian Institution’s new exhibit of the Enola Gay bomber fails to mention that the B-29 dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. [New York Times]

Nov 7 — Giant pouched rats were being used to sniff out land mines in Mozambique. [Guardian]

Nov 15 — Newly declassified files from MI5, the British intelligence agency, revealed that in 1940 German saboteurs had planned to attack Buckingham Palace with exploding cans of French peas. [New York Times]

Nov 21 — Senate Democrats and moderate Republicans used a fillibuster to block a $30 billion energy bill that would have given immunity from lawsuits to petrochemical companies that have polluted water supplies with MTBE, a carcinogenic fuel additive. [Forbes]

General Tommy Franks told a cigar magazine that the United States could become a military dictatorship if terrorists ever use weapons of mass destruction. [Newsmax]

Nov 30 — The Bush Administration approved a research project to develop low-yield bunker-busting nuclear weapons, or “mini-nukes.” [The Observer]

Dec 9 — Scientists were studying the bombardier beetle, which can fire liquid at its enemies from its rear end at up to 300 squirts per second, in the hope of building a better airplane engine. [New Scientist]

Dec 10 — Canada’s Air Transport Security Authority banned fruitcakes in carry-on luggage. [CBC]

Dec 16 — Senator Bill Nelson of Florida revealed that the Bush Administration told senators last year that Saddam Hussein definitely possessed biological and chemical weapons and that his unmanned drones could reach cities on the East Coast. [Florida Today]

An American gun manufacturer was promoting a new pistol that can shoot around corners. [New Scientist]

Dec 17 — In that interview, the president said that he saw no difference between his earlier claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and the more recent emphasis on weapons programs. “So what’s the difference? If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger,” Bush said. [Guardian]

Dec 19 — There were reports that David Kay, the head of the American team looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is planning to resign. [New Scientist]

Dec 20 — Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya announced that he has given up trying to acquire unconventional weapons and that he’ll be good from now on. [Associated Press]

Dec 28 — Prime Minister Tony Blair claimed in a Christmas message to the British military that the Iraq Survey Group had found “massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories”; L. Paul Bremer, the American proconsul, dismissed Blair’s claim as a “red herring.” [Guardian]