Chief UN Weapons Inspector Calls Iraq War Illegal

by Christopher Bollyn 


March 10, 2004

The war against Iraq is illegal, said Hans Blix, the Swedish diplomat who supervised United Nations inspectors that, prior to the war, scoured the country in a search for weapons of mass destruction.

High-ranking U.S. and British officials made repeated allegations that Iraq possessed banned weapons of mass destruction. However, extensive searches by UN weapons inspectors prior to the war and by U.S. inspection teams, after the war, failed to find a single banned weapon in Iraq.  "They believed the intelligence rather than the inspectors and unfortunately the inspectors were right,' Blix said. "There was not sufficient critical thinking. I even go so far as to say it was like a witch-hunt."

The intelligence that was used by the U.S. and British governments to justify the war against Iraq turned out to be wrong, Blix said.  "They were so convinced that there were witches in Iraq that every black cat became proof of it," he said. "The tendency was to view any evidence in a more serious light than was the reality.

"There should have been a bit more patience," Blix said. "If the inspections had gone on for a couple more months, then I think Blair and others would have realized that many pieces of intelligence which they relied upon were not valid."

Britain's former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of "gross misuse" of the intelligence services in order to wage war against Iraq. "It is now clear that he took Britain into war on a false prospectus, and the Iraq war will, rightly, haunt Blair for the rest of his premiership," Rifkind wrote in the Independent (U.K.).

Under the Independent's March 5 headline "Iraq war was illegal," Blix said, "I don't buy the argument the war was legalized by the Iraqi violation of earlier resolutions." According to Blix, an international lawyer and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the "ownership" of the UN resolutions pertaining to Iraq rested with the entire 15-member Security Council, and not with individual states.  "The Security Council could have authorized it, but I do not think it was right for individual members to do so," said Blix.

Security Council Resolution 1441, passed in November 2002, required the regime of Saddam Hussein to comply with UN weapons inspectors but made clear that no further action could be taken without the approval of the UN. Iraq had complied with UN weapons inspectors prior to being invaded by U.S. and British forces.  Before the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq last March, Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, head of the IAEA, said that in four months of searching, they had found no evidence of any weapons of mass destruction or programs to build them. Blix and El Baradei told the Security Council that more time was needed to make a definitive conclusion.

The British government knew that a second resolution was necessary to justify the planned invasion. A memo from Britain's Foreign Office to the Foreign affairs Select Committee on March 17, 2003, "made clear that there was no Ďautomaticity' in Resolution 1441 to justify war."

In Blix's recently published book, Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, Blix describes how on March 6, 2003, the day before his final report to the Security Council, U.S. Assistant secretary of State John Wolf "tossed photographs of a drone and a cluster bomb on my table" and "in a rather discourteous tone" asked why Blix did not conclude that the photographs were evidence that Iraq was in violation of Security Council resolutions.

Blix told the press that he suspected that his UN office and home in New York had been bugged. The photographs that Wolf had were obtained through an intelligence agency, he said.  "He should not have had them," Blix said. "I asked him how he got them, and he would not tell me, and I said I resented that.

"It could have been some staff belonging to us that handed them to the Americans. I don't think it is very likely, but it could have happened," Blix said. "It could also be that they managed to break into the secure fax and got it that way."  Both the drone and the cluster bomb had been examined by UN inspectors and determined to be inconclusive or "scrap from the past," Blix wrote.

Jafar Dhia Jafar, the "father of Iraq's nuclear program," spoke publicly for the first time about Iraqi weapons programs on March 8 in Beirut. Jafar said UN inspectors had "reached total conviction" that Iraq was free of nuclear weapons. Pressure from the U.S. government, however, prevented Blix from being more forthright with the Security Council, Jafar said.

"Reports of the United Nations inspectors to the Security Council should have been clear and courageous," the Iraqi scientist said.  Jafar presented a paper co-written with Noman Saad Eddin al-Noami, the former director-general of Iraq's nuclear program, at a three-day conference on the repercussions of the invasion of Iraq organized by the Beirut-based Center for Arab Unity Studies.

"Saddam Hussein issued orders in July 1991 for the destruction of all banned weapons, in addition to the systems to produce them. It was carried out by the Special Republican Guard forces." the Iraqi scientists wrote.  "We can confirm with absolute certainty that Iraq no longer possessed any weapons of mass destruction after its unilateral destruction of all its components in the summer of 1991, and did not resume any such activity because it no longer had the foundations to resume such activity," they wrote.