LA Times: Syria Undermined Iraq Sanctions, Armed Saddam

The Los Angeles Times translated reams of documents seized after the fall of Saddam Hussein and reports that Syria ran extensive smuggling operations on behalf of the Iraqi dictator’s regime, designed to undermine UN sanctions:

A Syrian trading company with close ties to the ruling regime smuggled weapons and military hardware to Saddam Hussein between 2000 and 2003, helping Syria become the main channel for illicit arms transfers to Iraq despite a stringent U.N. embargo, documents recovered in Iraq show.
The private company, called SES International Corp., is headed by a cousin of Syria’s autocratic leader, Bashar Assad, and is controlled by other members of Assad’s Baath Party and Alawite clan. Syria’s government assisted SES in importing at least one shipment destined for Iraq’s military, the Iraqi documents indicate, and Western intelligence reports allege that senior Syrian officials were involved in other illicit transfers.
Iraqi records show that SES signed more than 50 contracts to supply tens of millions of dollars’ worth of arms and equipment to Iraq’s military shortly before the U.S.-led invasion in March. They reveal Iraq’s increasingly desperate search in at least a dozen countries for ballistic missiles, antiaircraft missiles, artillery, spare parts for MIG fighter jets and battle tanks, gunpowder, radar systems, nerve agent antidotes [emphasis mine] and more.

Nerve agent antidotes would have been very expensive, and would not have been bought unless Iraq was sure that they were needed on the battlefield. Why would they have thought that? Surely they know that the US could not possibly have used nerve agents in battle without our coalition abandoning us — and rightly so. The purchase makes sense only if the Iraqis planned on using nerve agents against US troops. After all, the money spent on antidotes could have gone for more of the materiel they bought, which included:
* 380 SAM engines from Poland
* 20 T-72 tank barrels, and contracted for 175 of them
* 1,000 Russian heavy machine guns
* 20 million rounds of ammunition
* Tank engines
* Missile fuel pumps
In short, the UN arms embargo on Iraq was a miserable failure, helped in no small part by Syria, a member of the UN Security Council and the Middle East representative on the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee. Syria, as the article makes clear, accomplished the rearming of Iraq through extensive machinations at the highest levels of its government and profited handsomely from its actions. It evaded detection by a massively ineffective UN inspection process, if not completely incompetent. As a prime example, read the following narrative on the documents on which the Times based this article:

When they returned to Iraq in late November 2002 after four years’ absence, U.N. weapons inspectors thus focused on smuggling in their search for evidence of proscribed missiles and chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. “We went one by one to every single [military] company we knew of in Iraq,” said a senior U.N. inspector, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Al Bashair was target No. 1 on that list.”
On March 2, 30 inspectors from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency arrived without notice to check reports that Al Bashair had put public tenders out on the Internet to buy high-strength aluminum tubes. The CIA had insisted the tubes could be used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.
IAEA experts, customs experts, computer specialists and others locked the doors, unplugged phones and grilled Munir, the company’s director, in his office. Before leaving, they copied 4,000 documents and downloaded data from office computers. They found no signs of nuclear-related procurement. Five days later, a team from the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, the chief U.N. weapons hunting group, launched another surprise raid to check intelligence that Al Bashair had helped Hussein acquire mobile biological laboratories to churn out germ weapons. Again, they found no evidence.
The war began less than two weeks later. Days after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in April, Christoph Reuter, an investigative reporter for the German newsmagazine Stern, removed selected files from the abandoned Al Bashair office. He later provided the records and cooperated with The Times, which had the documents translated from Arabic and verified their contents with interviews in more than a dozen countries.

Note that the Times is careful to inject the issues of nuclear and biological weapon searches, in order to protect the UN inspection process, but the inspectors were supposed to be looking for all violations of UN resolutions. Iraq was not supposed to be purchasing any of these items, and Syria was not supposed to be shipping them across the border. Why didn’t the inspectors find these documents? Because the inspections process was useless, and this episode proves it. Plus, these were the records that Al Bashair left behind; who knows what they destroyed or carted off as Baghdad fell? I would guess that the officials, using what little time they thought they had, would take care to make sure that records of the most egregious violations never fell into Coalition hands, as they would be useful evidence for later war-crimes trials.
As more captured Iraqi files are translated, we will find more evidence that the UN inspection process was a complete failure in terms of enforcing UN resolutions and ensuring global security. Even those who are supposed to be acting on behalf of global security, the UNSC, aided and abetted Saddam’s scams for rearmament. Working through international bodies is a necessary step in protecting our national interests, but this article ought to remove any illusions that organizations that put dictatorships in positions of power will protect the interests of Western democracies. Bush was correct to proceed after the UN refused to enforce its own resolutions to build a coalition of Western powers to remove Saddam and put an end to a twelve-year chapter of impotence. (via a tip from Instapundit)
UPDATE: Power Line notices the reference to nerve agent antidotes, too.
UPDATE 2: The Times has published the second part of this article, and I’ve blogged it here.

Society of the Master of the Horse

It took some time, some detective work, and a lot of patience, but I have defied the predictions of the gang over at Fraters Libertas and fulfilled Hugh Hewitt‘s final task for my entry into the Society of the Master of the Horse. As you may recall, I had to pass three arduous tasks:
1. Write a post that denounced the guys at Fraters Libertas in a particularly shameful way.
2. Create an epic poem that mentioned at least ten blogs … and also denounced Fraters Libertas and James Lileks.
3. Lastly, get a picture of me giving James Lileks a Hummel.
The third task has taken me almost four weeks to strategize. After all, James Lileks is a world-renowned figure, a man who would not be surprised easily, especially after being tipped off to my plans. However, I finally managed to catch up with James at an event I knew he couldn’t miss, a moment he would never pass up … the Annual Twin Cities PETA Barbecue and Chili Cookoff:

Please note that James and I demonstrate, in this photo, that Minnesotans are actually among the best-dressed urbanites in the nation, and that plaid is only de rigeur with Cheeseheads. He looks a bit surprised in this photo, but that’s because I told him that Joaquin Phoenix had stolen the short ribs off of his plate while we were posing for the photo.

Brainstorming is Back!

Just got a ping from DC over at Brainstorming, which means she is back on line and blogging away. In fact, she tells us that she misses us, which means she didn’t improve her taste any on her sabbatical. Anyway, check out the new layout at Brainstorming (of which I am a tad bit jealous!) and her new tag line from Einstein. Mostly, read through her posts; DC always is a great read.
And for the record, we missed you too. Welcome back!

It’s Hard to be Humble

Howard Dean warns that he discovered “legions” of new voters who will not vote at all if he isn’t the Democratic nominee for President in 2004:

Howard Dean said Sunday that the hundreds of thousands of people drawn to politics by his campaign may stay home if he doesn’t win the Democratic presidential nomination, dooming the Democratic Party in the fall campaign against President Bush.
“If I don’t win the nomination, where do you think those million and a half people, half a million on the Internet, where do you think they’re going to go?” he said during a meeting with reporters. “I don’t know where they’re going to go. They’re certainly not going to vote for a conventional Washington politician.”

Words fail me at this pronouncement. While every campaign finds a handful of voters who have never voted before or who have never crossed party lines before, Dean claims that he has the unswerving loyalty of enough people to beat George Bush, and that these people are so loyal that they’ll just stay home on Election Day if Dean isn’t on the ballot. So they must be terribly involved voters if they don’t care about any other issues on the ballot and don’t bother to learn about any other candidate. Sounds exactly like the kind of people that I would imagine voting for Howard Dean.
To note this, here’s my suggestion for a new Howard Dean campaign anthem:
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble
when you’re perfect in every way,
I can’t wait to look in a mirror
I get better lookin’ each day.
To know me is to love me,
I must be a hell of a man —
Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble,
But I’m doing the best that I can.

Speaking of the Vikings …

… will likely get you assaulted today in Minnesota, after watching the ‘Queens blow a 6-0 record into a 9-7 finish, complete with four losses to teams that wound up with 4-12 records, including the Cardinals yesterday. Water cooler talk mostly centers on coach Mike Tice’s future with the Vikings (consensus: not coming back) and the stadium initiative, which seems a lot more remote than it did on Saturday.
I was prepared to discuss how frustrating this season was, and how bitterly disappointing it was yesterday to watch the Vikings fail to cover the end zone properly on the last play when that was the only part of the field in question — next time, get behind the receivers! — but then I found out that the guys at Fraters Libertas have it covered here. And here. And here, and here, and here and here.
We take our football seriously up here in Minnesota, even if our team doesn’t. I can’t wait to hear what Hugh Hewitt will be saying on tonight’s show … or maybe I can.

Minneapolis: The Naked City

Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night shall keep a naked Minnesota burglar from making his rounds …

A naked man got stuck in the chimney of a bookstore early Christmas morning. Don’t worry, it wasn’t Santa Claus.
The 34-year-old man was treated Thursday for bruises and abrasions at Hennepin County Medical Center after being found naked and lodged in the furnace flue at Uncle Hugo’s Bookstore. He was expected to be charged with attempted burglary on Friday.

His excuse? He left his keys in the store and just wanted to go back and get them, even though the store had been closed on Christmas Day. The police said he was probably drunk. Gee — ya think?

Saddam Talking?

A report from two Arab newspapers states that Saddam Hussein has acknowledged siphoning billions of dollars to a network of personal bank accounts and is telling American interrogators the names of his collaborators:

Saddam Hussein has acknowledged depositing billions of dollars abroad before his ouster and has given interrogators the names of people who know where the money is, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council said in remarks published Monday. The U.S.-appointed council estimates that the Iraqi dictator seized $40 billion while in power and is now searching for that amount deposited in Switzerland, Japan, Germany and other countries, Iyad Allawi told the London-based Arab newspapers Al-Hayat and Asharq al-Awsat.

Other members of the IGC dispute the report:

In Baghdad, Ahmed al-Bayak, anouther member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said he was informed by council members that Saddam had started to talk about names of people inside Iraq who were carrying out attacks against U.S. forces. “But nothing about funds,” said al-Bayak.

While we hope that Saddam coughs up as much information as possible, if he hasn’t given any names yet on his financial collaborators, they’ve probably already covered their tracks as much as possible over the past two weeks since Saddam’s capture. However, it’s not easy to conceal the movement of billions of dollars, especially if people know to look for it, which means that the funds will be hard to convert into fuel for terrorists, at least for a while. It certainly seems that Saddam was much more connected to terrorists than previously thought, and the oil-for-food program needs a thorough investigation to see who else funnelled money out of it and where it is now.
UPDATE: Power Line has picked up this story and accents the focus on Saddam’s possible connections with terrorist groups, both pre-war and later.

Another Moment of Hypocrisy from Dean

Howard Dean has excoriated the Bush administration, and specifically Dick Cheney, for keeping secret its deliberations while developing its energy policy. This meme has been beaten to death over the past couple of years. Ultimately, what’s important is the policy itself, and that’s not secret at all. However, the advice given to the executive is just that — advice — and there is no need to disclose the internal debate that helped develop the policy. In fact, that is the essence of executive privelege, the entire reason for its existence.
How nice, then, to discover that Howard Dean agrees — at least when he’s the executive:

Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean, who has criticized the Bush administration for refusing to release the deliberations of its energy policy task force, as governor of Vermont convened a similar panel that met in secret and angered state lawmakers. … In 1999, he offered the same argument the administration uses today for keeping deliberations of a policy task force secret.
“The governor needs to receive advice from time to time in closed session. As every person in government knows, sometimes you get more open discussion when it’s not public,” Dean was quoted as saying.

Yes, Governor, and the same thing is true for Presidents as well. Unless there is evidence of wrongdoing — and that is not the same as not liking the policy — then policy deliberations do not need to be disclosed. Since Howard Dean has been one of the most secretive Vermont governors in recent history, sealing his records for much longer than any of his predecessors, Dean makes an unlikely scold on the issue of openness. However, Dean manages to surpass his hypocrisy with his gall on a regular basis.

Your Lips Say No …

Senator John Edwards of South Carolina insists that he is not interested in the lower half of the Democratic ticket in 2004:

Asked if he would agree to run in the second slot with one of eight candidates to be the Democrats’ presidential nominee, Edwards said: “I’m absolutely not interested in being vice president. No, the answer to that question is no.”

Uh-huh. Let me explain two things to you that make this statement an absolute farce:
1. John Edwards won’t be in elective office after 2004, only having served one term in the Senate.
2. John Edwards is from the South.
It’s hardly a secret that Democrats are stumbling badly in the South as the electorate there seems to have finally recognized that the socialist, isolationist leftists have grabbed control of the party. A Northerner will take the top spot, and it’s likely to be Howard Dean or possibly John Kerry, a Northeasterner, culturally opposite of the South anyway. In order for the Democrats to have a prayer of capturing an Electoral College win south of the Mason-Dixon line next year, there has to be a credible Southerner on the ticket, and so far Edwards is the one who most fits the bill.
John Edwards wants to remain a player in the party, and since he’s not running for electoral office this year, he’ll be sitting out politics for the next two years if he loses the nomination. Any other Southerner would have to risk their office in order to run on the bottom half of a doomed ticket, and the Democrats can’t afford to drop further back in either the House or the Senate (with one possible exception: Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who has a new Democratic governor to name her replacement, but who also barely won her last election). If he wants chits from the party that he can call in later, he’ll need to suck it up and pay some dues in 2004. Expect the ticket to read “Dean-Edwards” in 2004.