Most of the international and US public support for a "preemptive war" against Iraq has focused on the Bush regime's claims that Iraq continues to have, or to have the capacity to make, or, at least, to have the desire to obtain "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD). However, critics point to repeated statements by the White House indicating that the real goal is to effect "regime change" in Iraq, replacing Saddam Hussein with a more friendly-to-the-US leader.
After a lengthy period of resistance, the Bush regime agreed to put the Iraq WMD issue before the United Nations Security Council. Another protracted struggle between the US and permanent Security Council members France, China, and Russia, resulted in Resolution #1441 requiring Iraq to declare all WMD and development programs and materials. 1441 also establishes UNMOVIC, a new weapons inspection protocol with enhanced powers for UN inspectors to do highly invasive investigations throughout Iraq.
If President Bush gets his way, and the press (eg., Dan Schorr, ATC/NPR, 12/09/02 and Jim Hoagland, Washington Post commentator on Lehrer News Hour, 12/05/02) manages to convince the US public, the burden of proof will fall upon Iraq to disprove any and all US accusations of "material breaches" of Resolution 1441. This is not, according to the White House and the sycophantic mainstream press, a case of innocent until proven guilty.
But there are basic logical problems involved in requiring a concrete proof of the absence of something, in this case WMD. For example, records in possesssion of UNMOVIC (the new UN weapons inspection team) and the US show a large stockpile of chemical and biological agents were imported by Iraq in the late 1980s. Iraq has now admitted obtaining these materials with the intention of making weapons. However, according to Iraqi spokespeople, the weapons materials and all records were purposely destroyed to prevent their discovery.
The following is a passage from a September 19, 2002, interview in The Guardian with Scott Ritter, former head UN weapons inspector in Iraq during the 1990s:http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,794759,00.html
William Rivers Pitt: Does Iraq have weapons of mass destruction?
Ritter: It's not black-and-white, as some in the Bush administration make it appear. There's no doubt that Iraq hasn't fully complied with its disarmament obligations as set forth by the UN security council in its resolution. But on the other hand, since 1998 Iraq has been fundamentally disarmed: 90-95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability has been verifiably eliminated. This includes all of the factories used to produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and long-range ballistic missiles; the associated equipment of these factories; and the vast majority of the products coming out of these factories.
Ritter: Iraq was supposed to turn everything over to the UN, which would supervise its destruction and removal. Iraq instead chose to destroy - unilaterally, without UN supervision - a great deal of this equipment. We were later able to verify this. But the problem is that this destruction took place without documentation, which means the question of verification gets messy very quickly.
Pitt: Why did Iraq destroy the weapons instead of turning them over?
R: In many cases, the Iraqis were trying to conceal the weapons' existence. And the unilateral destruction could have been a ruse to maintain a cache of weapons of mass destruction by claiming they had been destroyed.
It is important to not give Iraq the benefit of the doubt. Iraq has lied to the international community. It has lied to inspectors. There are many people who believe Iraq still seeks to retain the capability to produce these weapons.
That said, we have no evidence that Iraq retains either the capability or material. In fact, a considerable amount of evidence suggests Iraq doesn't retain the necessary material.
President George W. Bush & Co. are howling for Iraq to prove they destroyed the materials & records. Proving the absence of the WMD is at least no easier than proving the existence of them, and is likely much harder. On the other hand, the Bush regime is saying UNMOVIC Inspector Hans Blix his team are looking for a "needle in a haystack," and since Iraq is a large country, it is next to impossible to find everything. If finding the WMD is next to impossible, the obverse, proving the WMD do not exist is even less possible. Logically, the "needle" can be found, whereas the absence of weapons cannot. An absolutely conclusive negative result from an inspection regime, no matter how thorough, was never a possibility. You can find a smoking gun, but guns that don't exist don't smoke and you cannot find them.
The only possible proofs of Iraqi compliance with UN Reso 1441 in the case of the destroyed materials must necessarily be circumstantial, people's testimony, etc. Such evidence would be clearly overcome by positive, affirmative, direct evidence, a "smoking gun" as it were, in the form of a discovery of actual WMD by UNMOVIC. In the absence of a descovery of weapons or production facilities and/or precursor materials, the contest is between the circumstantial evidence on opposing sides, with the decisive advantage in favor of the side WITHOUT the burden of proof.
The Bush regime's strategy for beefing up their case for launching a pre-emptive war against Iraq is to trot out a carefully selected group of Iraqi scientists and/or technocrats who claim to have information contradicting the Iraqi claims of no existing WMD or programs. If the US succeeds in attracting several defector-scientists who, for a price, are willing to swear that all sorts of weapons are here and there around Iraq, this could add up to hundreds or even thousands of specific accusations. In this case, the Bush regime would have us believe it makes sense to require Iraq to conclusively refute an unlimited number of these charges. War hangs in the balance! If Bush & Co. has its way, and the full burden of proof is placed on Iraq, get out your helmets, gas masks and cammo gear.
[ Richard Perle, Bush regime's foreign policy guru and director of the rightwing thinktank The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, the "Prince Of Darkness" from Iran Contra days - (his conviction for lying to Congress was overturned, but he spent a few years in the dark himself). Perle co-authored with Douglas Feith the background material on which the Bush regime's "preemptive war" doctrine is based. Perle, along with others, including Elliot Abrams, head of the regime's Middle East dept., are fanatical supporters of Israel, and for whom there cannot be too much security for the Jewish state. (Some emphasis below is Q-Q website editing.)]http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/allnews/page.cfm?objectid=12377231&method=full&siteid=50143
GEORGE Bush's top security adviser last night admitted the US would attack Iraq even if UN inspectors fail to find weapons. Dr Richard Perle stunned MPs by insisting a "clean bill of health" from UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix would not halt America's war machine.
Evidence from ONE witness on Saddam Hussein's weapons programme will be enough to trigger a fresh military onslaught, he told an all-party meeting on global security.
Former defence minister and Labour backbencher Peter Kilfoyle said: "America is duping the world into believing it supports these inspections. President Bush intends to go to war even if inspectors find nothing.
"This make a mockery of the whole process and exposes America's real determination to bomb Iraq."
Dr Perle told MPs: "I cannot see how Hans Blix can state more than he can know. All he can know is the results of his own investigations. And that does not prove Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction."
The chairman of America's defence policy board said: "Suppose we are able to find someone who has been involved in the development of weapons and he says there are stores of nerve agents. But you cannot find them because they are so well hidden.
"Do you actually have to take possession of the nerve agents to convince? We are not dealing with a situation where you can expect co-operation."
Mr Kilfoyle said MPs would be horrified at the admission. He added: "Because Saddam is so hated in Iraq, it would be easy to find someone to say they witnessed weapons building.
"Perle says the Americans would be satisfied with such claims even if no real evidence was produced.
"That's a terrifying prospect."