Special Guest Article
Hussein's Weapons of Mild Destruction
So, while civilians and soldiers continue to die in Iraq, the same people (Bush, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, to name a few) who told us that "weapons of mass destruction" were of terrific importance are now claiming that they never really believed it themselves? Is that supposed to make us feel better?
Meanwhile, no one is talking about the weapons that really do exist, the so-called "small arms." The Progress Report is pleased to present another original article by author Loretta Napoleoni, who sheds light on this huge and overlooked topic.
Napoleoni is the author of the new book Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks.
by Loretta NapoleoniSeveral months after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the frantic search for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction goes on. Many are the hypotheses that the Bush administration has put forward to justify the failure to locate them; they range from Hussein's bluffing techniques (to let the world believe that he had WMD while in fact he did not), to the existence of secret and still-undiscovered hideouts in a country where 90% of the territory is rocky desert as flat as a pancake. On October 25th, on the Today Show, James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, went even so far as to deny that the US's pre-emptive strike against Iraq had anything to do with Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. On the contrary, he claimed that the decision to include them among the justifications for going to war was dictated exclusively by the need to win over British support. According to Woolsey, it was upon Tony Blair's insistence that the US administration went back to the Security Council seeking a mandate using the argument of Hussein's WMD.
What ever the real causes, it is apparent that coalition forces not only have gone to war for the wrong reasons but they have ended up fighting an unexpected new enemy. Since the victory over Hussein's army, American solders have been engulfed in a vicious guerrilla war, waged by a variety of forces, whose lifeline is the former dictator's massive arsenal of conventional weapons and small arms. What is killing hundreds of American GIs and thousands of Iraqis civilians are explosives, guns, Kalashnikovs, Soviet-made AK-47s, shoulder missiles similar to US Stingers -- these are commonly known as small arms, terrorist groups' favourite weapons. Ironically, unable to achieve WMD, Saddam Hussein stockpiled 'weapons of mild destruction'.
A few figures may give us an idea of the size of the armaments available inside Iraq. The US military command estimates that the supply of conventional weapons at the disposal of the Iraqi army was equivalent to one third of the US military's supply. 'There are enough guns in Iraq,' admitted a US military expert, 'to arm each of the 25 million inhabitants.' According to coalition forces, Hussein had also accumulated 600,000 tons of munitions, again equivalent to about one third of the present US stockpile. To date, as little as 70,000 tons have been seized; the rest has flooded the Middle Eastern arms black market. There is so much ammunition available that black marketers do not bother charging for it when selling small arms.
In the aftermath of the war, Hussein's vast armaments were looted, a scenario predicted by US military experts. The US administration ignored warnings that, to avoid wide spread looting after a victory, a force of 200,000 would be needed to keep control of the country. This was a terrible mistake as today the arms and ammunitions which are killing coalition forces and civilian Iraqis come from Saddam Hussein's giant conventional and small arms arsenal.
The sudden surge in supply released onto the Iraqi market has caused prices to crash, making small arms available to anybody. Man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), such as the Soviet SA-7 or the US Stinger, can be bought for as little as $5,000; a year ago, prices ranged from $150,000-$200,000. The main reason why the airport of Baghdad has not been reopened for commercial flights is that there are simply too many MANPADS in Iraq to guarantee the security of flights. The crash in prices has also turned the US buy-back programme into a subsidy for terrorists. A soviet made AK-47 can be sold to the Americans for $300, money often used to repurchase on the black market 20 to 30 identical items sold for as little as $10 to $15 each, including all the ammunition that one can carry.
Coalition forces are also not equipped to deal with the sheer volume of Hussein's arsenal. A report produced at the beginning of October by the Iraq survey group headed by David Kay states that 'there are approximately 130 known Iraqi armaments storage points, many of which exceed 50 square miles and hold an estimated 600,000 tons in ordnance…of these approximately 120 still remain unexamined.' In just 4 months, coalition forces have uncovered 102 large caches of small arms (each requiring at least 10 tractor-trailer loads to remove) and several hundred small caches. The cost of securing and destroying these weapons is prohibitive. Four contractors have together received $287 million to gather, sort and destroy confiscated arms at 6 undisclosed locations. Because of shortage of personnel, at night there is no security. A further $12.6 million have been allocated by the State Department to deal with mines and unexploded devices, a budget which is expected to rise to $60 million next year.
Hussein's legacy may rest on the massive arsenal of small arms he accumulated. Given the porous borders of Iraq, weapons will slip through, flooding the Middle Eastern market and arming Islamist insurgency across the Muslim world. In the mean time, coalition forces are still looking for his weapons of mass destruction.
Loretta Napoleoni is an economist who has worked for banks and international organizations in Europe and the US. She has written novels and guide books in Italian and translated and edited books on terrorism. She is among the few people who interviewed the Red Brigades in the early 1990s. She developed the idea to research and write a book on the economics of terrorism while interviewing the leaders of the Red Brigades.
Napoleoni's new book, published September 2003, is Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks
Also see Napoleoni's earlier article
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