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Inspector testifies that degraded pre-'91 chemical munitions found in Iraq constitute WMD but killed no one

RAW STORY
Published: Friday June 30, 2006

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(Note: A note explains at the bottom why five paragraphs were later added, and a clause to the first)

The former top US weapons inspector testified at a House hearing on Thursday that close to 500 degraded chemical munitions found in Iraq, and revealed last week, constitute weapons of mass destruction, although they haven't "killed a single American or Iraqi," and that his report didn't note them because his team wasn't concentrating on pre-1991 weapons, RAW STORY has found.

Dr. David Kay, formerly First Director of the CIA Iraq Survey Group from 2003 to 2004, was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee which is investigating the results of the search for Iraq's WMD. But Kay also acknowledged that many alleged WMD in Iraq had not been found, when grilled by a Democratic Congressman at the hearing.

"It really should not be a surprise to anyone that chemical munitions produced in Iraq between 1980 and roughly 1991 have been found there during the course of Iraq -- Operation Iraqi Freedom," said Kay. "Such rounds continue to be found throughout the period that the UN was in Iraq from 1991 until it was kicked out in 1998; they were even found during Dr. Blix's brief period of return prior to the onslaught of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

"Iraq has a great deal of weapons scattered throughout it," Kay said.

But Kay dismissed the 500 degraded chemical munitions that have recently been reported about in comparison to what's killing Americans every day.

"What are the risks from these old chemical weapons?," said Kay. "We tragically know that Americans and Iraqis continue to be killed every day by RPGs, mines, 155-millimeter artillery shells, mortar rounds, HMX, RDX and other military-grade explosives, and on and on, that were not brought under control when the Saddam regime collapsed."

"These are the real and very capable killers," Kay added. "In the sum of things, 1980-era chemical munitions have not killed a single American or Iraqi."

Kay added that while everyone wanted "every chemical canister and munition to be found and safely disposed," but without "a clear plan" to achieve such a thing, "lives will be needlessly lost and you will end up no closer to the goal that we all share of returning Iraq to an Iraqi government capable of governing in the interests of a nation as a whole and bringing American troops to the honor they have earned in blood."

Kay said that he hadn't focused on pre-1991 chemical weapons when he started his assignment.

"When I took over the Iraq Survey Group in 2003 my attention was not focused on pre-1991 chemical weapons that Iraq had, although I testified repeatedly, including the first testimony I gave after taking the job, that I fully expected that we would find chemical rounds from the 1980s in Iraq," Kay added. "I knew that they were continuing to be found right up to the time of the war, and there was no reason to doubt there."

But Kay demurred from saying that there were still WMD in Iraq in response to a question by Rep. Curt Weldon (Rep-PA).

"So is it safe to say, based on your assessment of chemical weapon munitions, that the fact that we have found them and that the generals are telling us they expect to find more -- in classified session they're going to tell us approximately how many they expect to find -- that we still have, under that definition, WMD in Iraq today?" asked Weldon.

"You certainly still have chemical munitions," Kay responded.

Rep. Ike Skelton (Dem-MO) grilled Kay about the weapons unfound alluded to in the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. Kay admitted that "evidence of stockpiles of at least 100 metric tons or as much as 500 metric tons of chemical agent" "evidence of possessions of bulk chemical weapons -- fills for short-range ballistic missile warheads," and "evidence of renewed production of mustard, sarin, cyclosarin and VX gas," had not been found.

(Correction: When first published, this article should have contained more testimony from Kay below to explain more about the degraded weapons and to highlight his points that the found weapons never killed anyone, so five paragraphs were later added, and a clause to the first. Unfortunately, because of the holiday weekend we were late to respond to emails and commenters who noted the enourmous omissions.)

Excerpts from Kay testimony:

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REP. WELDON: I thank the gentleman for his appearance and his statement and his work.

Dr. Kay, you are recognized. It's a pleasure to have you back before this panel.

MR. KAY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm always happy to be here. In the interests of time I will let my statement for the record stand, and I'll just address a few points so that we can get directly to your questions.

It really should not be a surprise to anyone that chemical munitions produced in Iraq between 1980 and roughly 1991 have been found there during the course of Iraq -- Operation Iraqi Freedom. Such rounds continue to be found throughout the period that the UN was in Iraq from 1991 until it was kicked out in 1998; they were even found during Dr. Blix's brief period of return prior to the onslaught of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the early days of the inspections these were found in the face of defiance by the Iraqis; deception and denial techniques, which certainly Terry here directly suffered from and can speak to, in which they were trying to conceal their program, particularly the advanced agent work that they were doing.

By the end -- mid-1990s, however, it really represented something else, and that was the chaos that was Iraq and the decay of the military industrial structure.

I say that because in Iraq, unlike any other country that I'm familiar with that has chemical weapons, in general chemical rounds were unmarked. They were in Saddam's regime -- and I think Frank's done a good job of describing the horror of that regime -- chemical weapons were thought to be as much a threat to the regime as they were to anyone else. So they were controlled by the Special Republican Guard, not dispersed to the general military.

And therefore, you didn't have to mark them, the theory was, because they were in the hands of the most trusted of the trusted. Well, unfortunately, they became scattered throughout that vast armory that was Iraq. And so in the late 1990s, and in the period after 2003, in general they have been found as onesies and twosies, and small numbers, scattered among conventional weapons.

This sometimes led to great tragedy. And I'll take you back to what I'm sure what I know members of this committee are familiar with but most Americans have forgotten. In late 1991 a group of U.S. military decided they'd come across a store of what they thought were high explosive Iraqi rounds in one of the many bunkers scattered throughout Iraq. They decided to render them harmless by exploding them. This was at a place called Kamisiyah. It turned out, and no one really knows how many, but there were a small number of sarin rounds in them. This is very personal to me, because it was my aircraft, and I was on board, that brought the first sample of sarin back to the United States, returned it from Iraq. I had the Marine officer who collected it and had been there doing it.

Only partly it's the very nature of battlefields -- and here again there is probably no better committee because you've been there personally to understand them -- battlefields are inherently chaotic affairs. It's particularly true when your army is losing, being routed and retreated. Saddam's armies lost three disastrous wars -- the Iran-Iraq war, the expulsion of it from Kuwait after its invasion, and this latest Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Iraq has a great deal of weapons scattered throughout it. In fact -- and I remember directly testifying to this for the first time I think it was the Senate Intelligence Committee -- in the 1980s we now know Iraq acquired conventional weapons equal to two-thirds of the total conventional armory of the United States. In other words, a much smaller country, a much smaller military, and two-thirds of conventional weapons that we, a much larger army with global responsibilities -- and not just army; it was army, navy and air force -- total conventional rounds. These were scattered in large ammunition storage points through the United States -- throughout Iraq, excuse me.

When I took over the Iraq Survey Group in 2003 my attention was not focused on pre-1991 chemical weapons that Iraq had, although I testified repeatedly, including the first testimony I gave after taking the job, that I fully expected that we would find chemical rounds from the 1980s in Iraq. I knew that they were continuing to be found right up to the time of the war, and there was no reason to doubt there.

Now, I was concerned with these weapons in one particular aspect: I was concerned that our troops would be exposed to them as they tried to bring under control and render harmless a large conventional armory.

We took great efforts to try to explain to U.S. military personnel and contractor personnel how the U.N. had learned to identify chemical weapons in the absence of classic identification techniques used by the Iraqis.

Why this lack of concern on my part for what I freely acknowledge at the time was a high probability that small amounts of pre-1991 chemical munitions would continue to be found? There were two reasons.

First, the general technical assessments that I was provided was that Iraq sarin that was produced -- and this was the bulk of Iraq sarin -- was produced between 1984 and 1988, a huge amount of which had been collected by the U.N., had been analyzed not only here but in other places around the world -- that that sarin was of such poor quality, it lacked any stabilization agent, and quite frankly, if I can respond to an earlier question you had, Congressman Weldon, it does not in any way look like Russian sarin.

The Russians, as a matter of fact, as you know, the Russians produced most of their sarin with a stolen German process and then quickly moved on to more advanced nerve agents, some of which are truly frightening and very stable. While it's not something I would like to rub up next to, it was not going to be a major concern.

The nerve agent, advanced sarin, the small amounts of VX that had been produced after 1988 and prior to 1991, the production data looked like, in fact, the U.N. had done a pretty good job of bringing most of that under control. Some of that would be hazardous.

The mustard: mustard agent is -- and the Iraqi mustard was actually pretty good; the UN assessed it at 95 percent purity -- is a very, very stable agent. However, mustard has one characteristic that makes it very undesirable as a terrorist weapon or as a military weapon: mustard is heavier than air. It was used in World War I to effect because allied troops were fighting at below ground level. It was trench warfare.

In fact, the first two times the Iraqis used mustard on the Iranians, it was a classic infantryman's dilemma: the Iraqi soldiers were asked to seize ground that the Iranians held that was higher. They fired mustard at the Iranians, and what happened? It rolled back on Iraqi positions.

They did this twice, and then they stopped using it for a year as they discovered how to deploy it. So it was something that -- it was a threat. Most of it had been destroyed by the U.N. And it just did not seem to rise to that level that was as great a threat.

I must also say -- and some questions were raised about how easy it would to be extracted. I'm one person in the room that has actually ordered people to extract chemical agent in Iraq from Iraqi weapons. Let me tell you, the people who deserve our undying gratitude are the American men and women who are now asked to do it.

It is an extraordinarily -- even using the advanced technology we have to draw off those chemical agents from Iraqi weapons. These weapons are badly corroded. They were never produced in a quality that would be acceptable in our military. And while it is possible to draw it off, you are more likely to result in the death of the people likely to draw it off.

There was a second reason I didn't give this: I had a higher priority task, very limited resources to achieve it, and I was operating in a deteriorating security environment. That task was to determine what had happened and what was the truth about Iraq's chemical weapons that we thought they had produced after the U.N. left in 1998.

If you will go back to the National Intelligence Estimate that was provided to the U.S. Congress prior to the vote to enter into war, you will discover that the NIE speaks not about chemical weapons produced in the 1980s, it speaks of a frightening ongoing chemical weapon using agent -- producing agents far more frightening than anything Iraq had produced in the 1980s.

That is why, with the limited resources and the deteriorating security effort, we focused our activities on trying to find the source and the truth about the chemical agents we had thought Iraq produced after the U.N. withdrew.

I'm not sure -- and I don't in retrospect, because of the committee's invitation to speak here; I've reviewed this in my mind -- that I could have made any other decision on those priorities, given the threat I thought we faced, the resources I had, and the environment I had to operate in. And it was essentially the same choice that my predecessor -- my successor followed.

Let me conclude by saying, I don't think any of us should be surprised that we are still finding chemical munitions produced before 1991 in Iraq. I must say the only surprise in the last two weeks about this controversy is why this report is classified. I can think of no reason that this report should remain unclassified (sic) and unavailable. And I commend the chairman and others' efforts to make that unclassified.

All of the world's battlefields continue to yield old weapons, many decades after the conflict. I'm absolutely convinced that Iraq is no exception to this. We will be finding conventional armaments and, unfortunately, chemical munitions.

What are the risks from these old chemical weapons? And this is really the question.

We tragically know that Americans and Iraqis are being killed everyday by RPGs, 155 mm artillery rounds daisy-chained together, mortar rounds, HMX, RMX, and many other ways to make IEDs. These are the real and very capable weapons that challenge us today in Iraq.

And while I think every effort ought to be made to collect all the chemical weapons that Iraq produced prior to 1991 and that are littered throughout the country, I must say, in the total sum of things, what really worries me is what are really killing Americans every day.

And I think back, tragically, to having to sit in Baghdad in 2003 and watch Predator video as terrorists in pickup trucks, insurgents in pickup trucks, pulled up ammunition storage points and hauled out high explosive ammunition, and we had no boots on the ground to stop them, and no assets in the air to stop them. That's what really worries me and upsets me to a great deal.

Now, it's -- there's no disagreement on my part that, as in so much of Iraq, we are learning that not everything we might want to be done can be done with the resources we have available. In fact, I think as this committee and other Americans reflect on the Iraqi experience, we are going to understand that you can't do everything you might want to do and accomplish, and you certainly can't do it without a plan that fits resources to those objectives.

My hope is that in fact we will one day soon be able to see Iraq stand on its own feet with a government that for the first time in Iraq modern history governs in the sense of a nation for all the people of that nation, and that the American troops who have so richly earned in their own blood are able to return home. I'm not sure that the argument about whether there are chemical weapons still left in Iraq is very relevant to that at this stage.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

.....

REP. WELDON: Do you agree that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to our going in? And do you agree that the chemical munition weapons that we found are weapons of mass destruction today?

Dr. Kay, I'll go to you first.

MR. KAY: Well, let me -- I have some of Dr. Taylor's difficulty with dealing that term, partly even more so because I remember the origin. The term weapons of mass destruction was a piece of Soviet propaganda introduced in the early 1950s to keep us from deploying nuclear weapons to Europe. In fact, as late as the early '60s, when I entered government service, there was still a prohibition on American diplomats using the term WMD, because it was thought you aided a Soviet propaganda campaign.

So I guess, like most technical or semi-technical people, I've always referred to them as chemical, biological or nuclear weapons and discussed them as that. I mean, were there chemical weapons in Iraq? Yes. They had been produced between 1980 -- actually, 1984 -- and 1991. Is it commonly -- or are they commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction? I think by most people they are referred to them as weapons of mass destruction. Did everyone know at the time Iraqi Operation Freedom began that there were likely to still be some chemical weapons from the 1980s in Iraq? I think so, because Dr. Blix had found them as well. And we -- everyone who was asked said it's almost 100 percent certain that either because of active Iraqi deception and denial or more likely Iraqi inefficiency, decay and the chaos of battlefront that some of these will turn up over the years in Iraq.

REP. WELDON: So is it safe to say, based on your assessment of chemical weapon munitions, that the fact that we have found them and that the generals are telling us they expect to find more -- in classified session they're going to tell us approximately how many they expect to find -- that we still have, under that definition, WMD in Iraq today?

MR. KAY: You certainly still have chemical munitions. I guess there is just one thing I would add, Mr. Chairman -- and here again, this is something you probably are going to have to get in in classified session. I do not think it is technically correct to say that most of the chemical weapons we are dealing with under the very good CTR program -- and let me applaud you for your continuing support. At times, I know it's been a very difficult road, too.

The Russian chemical agents differ in some very important and substantial ways than anything Iraq developed. In fact, one of the greatest fears we had in 2003 that there might have been sharing of technology and the Iraqis might indeed have discovered how to make their VX stable. Might have discovered new combinant weapons that the Russians have and have deployed. And that their sarin was in fact likely to be stable at room temperature, which the Iraqi sarin was not.

So in classified testimony, I think you really do need to probe that more. And I probably have said more than I should have on that issue.

REP. WELDON: But would you agree with Dr. Taylor's assessment that perhaps upwards of 100,000 people were killed by that less-than- effective Iraqi agent compared to the Russian agent?

MR. KAY: This was very mass deployment on a war front.

REP. WELDON: But it killed hundreds of thousands. Do you agree with that?

MR. KAY: I don't know what the figure is. I would be quite surprised if the Iranian deaths from chemical weapons were hundreds of thousands.

REP. WELDON: How many would you say it was?

MR. KAY: I have no idea. I know that the Iranian claim is -- you know, you find casualties and most of these casualties -- first of all, you have to know mustard is generally not lethal on a battlefield at above and most favorable circumstances about 25 percent. Mustard is a horrible, disfiguring, disabling agent. It unfortunately -- and I think anyone who's been hit by it, you wish it were lethal -- is not lethal. I would imagine that the Iranian casualties were in the upwards of 50(,000) to 60(,000), 70,000. It was a huge number. There's no doubt about it.

REP. WELDON: So even though it might have been equal to the quality of the Russians, it was still bad stuff.

MR. KAY: It's bad stuff, but not bad in the sense of persistence. The Iraqi stuff went bad very quickly. The Russian stuff -- if I were "scourging" or advising the terrorist on where to "scourger" -- that's why I believe so strongly in the CTR program - I would be scouring Russia and the former Soviet Union to buy chemical weapons.

REP. WELDON: I agree with you.

MR. KAY: That's where the good stuff is.

REP. WELDON: So this Iraqi sarin -- would you pick up the bag and hold it if there was a liter of it?

MR. KAY: Sir, I have carried it on my person in a closed aircraft with 25 of my closest friends until they discovered I was carrying it.

REP. WELDON: Well, we're going to compare that to what we're told in the -- because we didn't get that same impression from the military. But perhaps you have a different type of approach to chemical agents than they do.

.....

REP. IKE SKELTON (D-MO): We went to war on March the 18th, 2003. Is that not right, Dr. Kay?

MR. KAY: That's correct.

REP. SKELTON: And the basis of that war was a document known as allegations in the National Intelligence Estimate dated October 2002. Is that right, Dr. Kay?

MR. KAY: That's widely the basis that it was discussed.

REP. SKELTON: Now, my friend, Mr. Gaffney, uses the phrase the whole point is -- well, the whole point is the intelligence estimate of October 2002. That's why we went to war. Now, let's look at that document, which we haven't done yet today.

Was there evidence found by the Iraqi Survey Group from this -- the standard set forth in the National Intelligence Estimate? Was there evidence of stockpiles of at least 100 metric tons or as much as 500 metric tons of chemical agent, Dr. Kay?

MR. KAY: No, there was no evidence found of that.

REP. SKELTON: Was there evidence of possessions of bulk chemical weapons -- fills for short-range ballistic missile warheads?

MR. KAY: No, sir, there was not.

REP. SKELTON: Was there evidence of renewed production of mustard, sarin, cyclosarin and VX gas?

MR. KAY: There were no large-scale production facilities.

REP. SKELTON: So, by those standards, we went to war anyway. Am I correct?

MR. KAY: We certainly went to war. What I don't know, and it's for people like you to determine, those of you who voted for the resolution on what basis you went to war.

I've said, when I testified, I came to the conclusion that there were no weapons of mass destruction as described in the NIE in Iraq. I thought Iraq was actually a more dangerous place than we assumed in the NIE. Iraq was a vortex of corruption filled with people who were capable to make WMD, who knew all the secrets, who were in that vortex of corruption willing to sell their skills to the highest bidder. And given the degraded state of American intelligence, quite frankly, if a willing buyer had come with a willing seller, I don't think we would have known.

So I don't -- you know, I find myself in great sympathy with the chairman, because I in fact think the threat in Iraq was terrorism. It was not state possession of large weapons of mass destruction as described in the NIE.

REP. SKELTON: Thank you very much, Doctor.

REP. WELDON: The gentleman from California, the distinguished chairman, is recognized.

REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentlemen, thanks for being with us. I think this has been a very instructive discussion.

Dr. Kay, in light of your last statement when the gentleman from Missouri was asking you about the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the expectancy versus what we found when we got there, and your answer that you still found Iraq to be a very dangerous place -- dangerous to American security. Having gone and done the survey, how would you have voted? Do you think it was worthwhile?

MR. KAY: I've said, sir, that I think the decision to go to war against Iraq was the decision I would have taken. I would have hoped, I would have planned better for victory.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. But you do agree with the idea of moving into that country and taking actions?

MR. KAY: I did at the time.

REP. HUNTER: You mentioned that you expected to find or to see showing up at some point these chemical weapons, did you not?

MR. KAY: Yes, sir.

REP. HUNTER: So now that we've found 500 or so of those, do you think it's useful for the American public to know that we found them?

MR. KAY: I think it's useful. I think if the administration thought by keeping this document classified they were going to make it less relevant, they don't understand that the -- I once had a Russian who worked for me when I had an international job. If I wanted Moscow to read it, I stamped it secret -- U.N. secret -- because I knew he would come in on the weekend and Xerox it.

Look, there is -- you do yourself no service by trying to hide information.

REP. HUNTER: So it's good to get this out before the public, is it not?

MR. KAY: Absolutely, it is.

REP. HUNTER: And if we find another 500 or 1,000 of these weapons, it would be good to disclose that to the public also, will it not?

MR. KAY: It certainly is.

REP. HUNTER: The Kurds who were killed -- some 5,000 or so Kurds killed in Iraq by Saddam Hussein -- what type of systems killed them?

MR. KAY: There is still a divergence among experts as regard to whether it involved a combination of mustard, nerve and some people argue even biological weapons. The evidence is it certainly it had mustard. And I think the preponderance of evidence is that there was some VX mixed in with it.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. I guess my point is -- and I think I've got one picture here.

MR. KAY: I know the picture well, sir.

REP. HUNTER: One of the pictures. Incidentally, this is a picture that I look at when I have listened to the debates on the floor about whether or not we should go into Iraq. And I'll go back to my office, I look at that picture and I come to the conclusion that this was a very justified mission.

Those pictures -- and I've seen others -- with the Kurdish mothers literally strewn across the hillside holding their babies killed in mid-stride. Now, it doesn't appear that they've gotten to a safe house or they're in a place where they think they're sheltered and they lay down and just don't wake up. But it looked like they were killed very quickly. And the babies look like they were killed very quickly, because the mothers are still holding them. And it looks almost as if they were still in mid-stride fleeing the villages that Saddam Hussein dropped this weapon of mass destruction on, this chemical, and killed them almost instantly.

Does that -- looking at those pictures of the bodies, doesn't it look like they were killed rather quickly?

MR. KAY: Yes, it does.

REP. HUNTER: Well, in that case, what I did have a problem with was your distinction between what you consider to be very effective chemical weapons that the Russians have and what you've at least implied are ineffective chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein used. It looks to me like these were extremely effective.

MR. KAY: The Iraqi chemical weapons were very effective if it was fresh agent. And that's why they devised this system of rapid fill, because they had to produce it and had to use it relatively quickly or it became bad. The Russians have chemical agents that are stable over generations.

REP. HUNTER: Well, now, let me ask you about the binary rounds. The binary rounds -- because I remember it was about two years ago when we found, I think, the first round here. And they were discovered when the GIs who were carrying these rounds, which they thought were conventional, started to get sick. And they were taken to the dispensary, and we kind of put two and two together. And we went back and looked at the rounds, and it turned out that they had chemical in them.

Binary rounds, as I understand, includes two packages. And you have a mixer -- kind of like a little washing machine or cement mixer that as the round travels through the air -- you fire the artillery shell; as it travels through the air, the mixer starts to turn. It mixes the two binary agents, and that forms the effective killer. Do those have the same degree of degradation over age or aging as the unitary rounds, which are not mixed?

MR. KAY: No, they age slower. I must say the first binary rounds were actually found -- to give Terry and his colleagues due credit -- they were found by the U.N. They had been produced post 1998, as I recall. They were an experimental production.

Your description of the mixer is a Russian technique. The Iraqis generally used another technique, which I'd just as soon not go into. But it had, in terms of stability, as long as you keep the two -- I mean, it's not true that the two chemicals are harmless. But as long as you keep them separate, they generally do not degrade at the same rate -- yes.

And that's why -- one of the reasons you want binary rounds.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. But my understanding is is some of the rounds -- and I think that initial round that we found -- was described as a binary round.

MR. KAY: It was. Actually, there are two types of binary rounds. The Iraqis, themselves, misuse the term. They actually, believe it not, mixed mustard and VX and sarin together and described it as binary, which caused great confusion as you were trying to dismantle those. They also had what you described, which is a classic use of the term binary that I would use.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. Well, and that struck me --

MR. KAY: And that was what that round was.

REP. HUNTER: That struck me because I think it's important -- I think it's a great hearing because I think we've had great questions on all sides, and we've shown, you know, facts are just stubborn things. We've got them out, we've trotted them out. These aren't brand new rounds. On the other hand, they are chemical weapons.

And chemical weapons, Dr. Kay, we've described in every single statement about weapons of mass destruction leading up to this conflict. And every U.N. resolution has included chemical weapons. And the idea that we're now kind of moving to move chemical weapons off the description list and somehow they aren't chemical weapons -- I think that doesn't do the argument -- this honest, open debate -- justice. We've called those chemical weapons. We've listed them. Hans Blix listed those in the inventories and said here's what Saddam Hussein had. Here's what we expect to find.

Now we've found some, and somehow that's now a political or an old Russian definition. I hope we don't come up with an old Russian definition for nuclear weapons at a later point. But you would agree that every discussion that we had and every description of our search for weapons of mass destruction included chemical weapons, did it not?

MR. KAY: Oh absolutely.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. And these are chemical weapons, are they not?

MR. KAY: These are chemical weapons produced prior to 1991, which were well known.

REP. HUNTER: I understand. And so, when we have people who -- when we have descriptions on the House floor -- and I want to quote a couple to you, because you're a fair gentleman. "There were no," and I'm quoting, "there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." That's not accurate, is it?

MR. KAY: It's not accurate by my personal knowledge.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. "We are spending billions of dollars to occupy a country that did not have weapons of mass destruction." That's not accurate, is it?

MR. KAY: That's certainly not how I would phrase it, let me say that.

REP. HUNTER: "There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but there are WMDs in D.C. Lies are weapons of mass destruction." That's not accurate, is it?

MR. KAY: D.C.'s a dangerous place, but not in that sense.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. "We know that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. We know that to be the case." That's not accurate, is it?

MR. KAY: I think -- look, I don't want to get into criticizing your colleagues. We all knew that in Iraq we were going to find chemical weapons produced prior to 1991.

REP. HUNTER: But Dr. Kay, you say we all knew. I don't agree with that. I think that most American people -- that's one reason we're having the hearing -- you say I kind of expected to find these. I think after the massive number of volume of statements to the effect of what I just read to you that have been going on in town hall meetings, coming out of the radio, the television, the newspaper -- if you ask the average American today if any weapons of mass destruction, even today before this hearing is aired, if there are any weapons of mass destruction, any chemical weapons found in Iraq, I think 99.9 percent of them are going to tell you no. I've been listening to television and radio. They're going to say no, there aren't. That's been asserted.

I've seen -- this has been the order of the day. The statements that I just quoted to you aren't radical statements that were made by a few people. Those are statements that have been made thousands and thousands of times in thousands of forums. And that's why I think it's good, now that we've found 500 of them -- albeit they're not brand new rounds, they're not full-up -- they probably aren't the end of our discovery. It's important for people to know that, is it not? Facts are good to get out.

MR. KAY: Facts are always good to get out.

....

REP. HUNTER: Now here's my question for you. You've made the -- you've talked about digging up a few systems in onesies and twosies -- finding a few things in old fields. You don't know that that's how these weapons were obtained, do you? I ask Dr. Taylor.

MR. TAYLOR: I haven't had access to the report, so I don't know where they've been found.

REP. HUNTER: So, Dr. Kay?

MR. KAY: No, I don't think I ever said that, because when I've testified, I've said I expected and I was afraid that they were going to be found mixed in with conventional armaments in bunkers as well as onesies and twosies on battlefield.

As I understood General Maples' comments, they were both. They were found -- some were dug up from buried positions and others were found in other ways.

REP. HUNTER: Others were found in other ways.

....

REP. HUNTER: Well, let me go, Dr. Kay, to a statement that -- one of the intercepts that we made that Colin Powell referred to when he went before the U.N. He cited a conversation and he quoted it to the word. It was an Iraqi officer talking to two of his subordinate officers at a location. And he said I'm coming -- and I'm paraphrasing slightly because I don't have the precise words, but this is pretty close to it -- I'm coming to see you in the morning; I'm worried that we have something left. And the answer back was there is nothing left; it's all been moved.

Do you remember that statement?

MR. KAY: I remember it well.

REP. HUNTER: That is -- the fact that you have -- that coupled with the fact you've had 15 -- I believe Saddam Hussein had 15,000 generals, probably all of whom have private weapons caches. That is a -- that now, together with the fact that we are finding these weapons of mass destruction, appears to have been an accurate intercept -- does it not? -- and to in fact describe the concealment that was taking place at the time by members of the Iraqi military.

MR. KAY: Mr. Chairman, there's a limit to what I can go to in public session. I spent a great deal of time and resources on doing that as I did with all the statements in Secretary Powell's -- let me say, it does -- the conclusion, both I reached and my successor and the teams reached, is it does not describe what it was interpreted as describing.

REP. HUNTER: So you don't agree that it was moving systems?

MR. KAY: It was not moving weapons of mass destruction was the conclusion we came to.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. Do you think that in fact movement or deception with some of these rounds took place? Do you think that these Iraqi generals have, in some cases -- some of Saddam Hussein's generals, the 15,000 or so -- have their own caches?

MR. KAY: I would not be surprised if people associated with Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program end up with having a small cache of weapons or weapons material. We already know, as you know -- in fact, we spent about $2 million to evacuate the individual -- an Iraqi who was involved in their centrifuge program, who had buried in his backyard, at the direct request of one of Saddam's sons, centrifuge parts as well as plans. And they laid buried for over 10 years there. And it was sort of his personal get-out-of-Iraq-free card.

So sure, it was a horribly corrupt country in which you tried to guarantee the success and survival of yourself and your family by hiding stuff that might prove valuable at some time.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. And you think that the fact that they were -- they still had the personal or the personnel piece of this weapons component -- that is, a team of people that had some capability, had some expertise and could start a weapons program -- that that was a -- that constituted a dangerous element in Iraq?

MR. KAY: Yes, sir, I do.

REP. HUNTER: You remember when Tommy Franks was driving north -- and he testified -- in fact, before this committee, and I think before the Senate also -- as he was driving towards Baghdad, he related that he would intercept Iraqi communications from Iraqi operational combat officers saying, to the effect, prepare to use the special weapons. And he would tell his people to suit up or get ready to put their chemical weapons gear on. Remember that?

MR. KAY: I remember it, Mr. Chairman. I also -- here again, it's something we spent a great deal of time of because General Abizaid also testified to much the same.

REP. HUNTER: Yeah.

MR. KAY: As it --

REP. HUNTER: What do you think on that?

MR. KAY: As it turned out --

REP. SKELTON: Let him answer the question.

MR. KAY: As it turned out --

REP. HUNTER: Well, just --

REP. SKELTON: Let him answer the question. You asked him a question.

REP. HUNTER: Excuse me a second, Mr. Skelton. We're going to let him answer the question. We're inviting him to tell us about that.

MR. KAY: As it turned out, when we devoted the resources to go back through all the communication tapes and everything, it was in both cases they had been told by an aide we can find no record. And this is true of the same discussion of the famous red line, which was apparently was described at the time as a communication intercept, that when the American forces cross the red line we'll use this special weapon. There is absolutely no independent evidence of that. And in every case, it's someone told me that.

REP. HUNTER: Okay. So you talked to General Franks' staff and your conclusion is that --

MR. KAY: That was the conclusion of the ISG at the time, yes, sir.

REP. HUNTER: That those things didn't happen. What do you think -- do you believe that they had any -- that Saddam Hussein's forces had any interest at any time in the war in making us think that they had capabilities that they didn't have? What's your personal thought on that?

MR. KAY: My personal thought is that Saddam's forces were subject to the same deception and rule of Saddam as the rest of the world was. That is, he tried to convince his troops that he had these capabilities, until the point where it came to use them. That is, when we interviewed -- and we interviewed all the general officers, commanding units in the circle around Baghdad -- they all said I don't have it, but the unit on my right or left has it. And we talked to them and they said well, we don't have it, but we understand the right or left. And as you probably know, because it's now come out in the open, Saddam had a general council of his generals as they were preparing for the defense of Baghdad, and they asked him where are the weapons of mass destruction? Can we use them? And he said I got rid of them all. I don't have them.

REP. HUNTER: Now, remember the 8,500 liters of anthrax that Hans Blix said were essentially in the Iraqi inventory.

MR. KAY: Yes, sir.

REP. HUNTER: And they didn't produce proof of destruction?

MR. KAY: Yes.

REP. HUNTER: What do you think about that? What are your own thoughts on that?

MR. KAY: Well, I think the ISG came to, what I'm convinced, is the final, definitive conclusion of it, because we developed from independent sources and then confronted them. During the course of inspections in 1993, I believe it was, as Terry and his gallant band of inspectors were chasing the Iraqis around, there were four Iraqis put in charge of the liquid anthrax. They were told under no circumstance, because we denied we have this, let this fall into the hands of the U.N. inspectors. They thought at one point that the inspectors were very, very close to them and were going to seize it.

REP. HUNTER: And this is liquid stuff.

MR. KAY: This was liquid anthrax. It was not dried anthrax.

They dumped the liquid. They then came back and reported to Dr. Rihab Taha -- "Dr. Anthrax" in popular, you know -- what they've done. And they told her where they dumped it. She said if you ever breathe a word of this, we will all be dead.

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(Correction: When first published, this article should have contained more testimony from Kay below to explain more about the degraded weapons and to highlight his points that the found weapons never killed anyone, so five paragraphs were later added, and a clause to the first. Unfortunately, because of the holiday weekend we were late to respond to emails and commenters who noted the enormous omissions.)


 

 
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