Question of the Day Dogs Administration Officials
Where Are Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction?
By Mike Allen and Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, March 23, 2003; Page A27
administration officials were peppered yesterday with questions about
why allied forces in Iraq have not found any of the chemical or
biological weapons that were President Bush's central justification for
forcibly disarming Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's government.
said they are certain such weapons of mass destruction will be located.
But the officials warned that the weapons may have been dispersed in
small batches and could be hard to find.
government has not used gas or germs to try to repel invading forces,
or loaded such weapons of mass destruction onto missiles that have been
fired into Kuwait, raising questions about the size and functionality
of Hussein's arsenal.
Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's
commander, opened his news conference in Qatar yesterday by saying that
the location and destruction of weapons of mass destruction, and the
collection of information about them were among the administration's
eight objectives in Iraq. But during questioning, Franks acknowledged
that finding them "is work that lies in front of us rather than work we
have already accomplished."
"There is no doubt that the
regime of Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction," Franks
said. "As this operation continues, those weapons will be identified,
found, along with the people who have produced them and who guard
them." He added that the amount of time that will take "remains to be
seen, very candidly."
White House press secretary Ari
Fleischer said Friday there is "no question" that weapons of mass
destruction will be found, and said documenting the discoveries "is one
of the reasons that there are so many reporters present with the
A scarcity of chemical, biological and nuclear
weapons in Iraq would have the potential to create both relief and
concern for the administration. Though it is unmitigated good news that
such weapons have not been used against U.S. troops, the absence of
such weapons would raise questions about the rationale for war.
in his weekly radio address yesterday, again mentioned Iraq's weapons
of mass destruction as justification for war and listed their removal
as the primary mission. "Our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of
weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein's support for
terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people," he said.
senior U.S. defense official said it is vital to Bush's political
objectives to find and make a credible display of evidence of forbidden
weapons programs "very, very fast." At the same time, career
disarmament specialists and outside experts said it is far too soon to
expect results from such a hunt when the assault to take control of the
country has just begun.
Some specialists, particularly in
Europe, argue that Iraq has little remaining capability to use such
weapons. The weapons also might be disassembled, in hiding from U.N.
inspectors. Or Hussein's Republican Guard or other elite forces ringing
Baghdad might be waiting to use weapons that other parts of the
military were afraid or unable to use.
Kenneth Adelman, a
former Reagan arms control official who is close to top Bush military
officials and serves on a Pentagon advisory panel, said these weapons
are likeliest to be found near Tikrit and Baghdad, "because they're the
most protected places with the best troops."
"I have no
doubt we're going to find big stores of weapons of mass destruction,"
Adelman said, though he acknowledged some surprise that they have not
been used yet. "One thing we may find is Saddam Hussein ordered them to
be used and soldiers didn't follow the orders. The threat of use goes
down every day because adherence to orders goes down."
and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have tried to dissuade Iraqi
troops from following orders to fire such weapons by threatening
perpetrators with prosecution for war crimes. The administration warned
in a "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction" released
in December that it would "respond with overwhelming force," including
"all options," to the use of biological, chemical, radiological or
nuclear weapons on the nation, its troops or its allies.
Clarke, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said during
a televised briefing at the Pentagon yesterday that the administration
knows about "a number of sites" where Iraq has weapons of mass
destruction. Clarke refused to provide any estimate of how many sites
the United States knows of, even when she was asked, "More than 10?
Less than a hundred?"
Staff writer Barton Gellman contributed to this report.
2003 The Washington Post Company
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