Before the dust of battle settled in Baghdad ; while lovable Baghdad Bob was still telling rapt BBC reporters Saddam was in control of the situation,a chant began to rise-here and abroad.
Where are the Weapons of Mass Destruction ? Show us the WMDs !
For all their self-proclaimed intelligence, they were asking the wrong question: the right one being “Where are the rest of Saddam Hussein’s weapons ?”
(One likely answer – “ in Syria” – did not satisfy them,even though the National Imagery and Mapping Agency described extraordinary road traffic from Iraq to Syria just before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, and even though one of those elusive goodies-in the form of VX gas had been intercepted as Syrian-based militants tried to use it in Jordan.)
The weapons – theater-launched ballistic missiles – loaded with biowarfare agents – had already been fired – at Coalition troops ; and they had left “bullet holes” as far away as India,and New Zealand.
The warheads of these missiles had been loaded with botulinum – laced with a mycotoxin called tricothecene ; with anthrax; with ricin;and with aflatoxin. ( There was some thought one might have carried weaponized Marburg ,but apart from a mysterious outbreak of that deadly disease in Angola,which occurred much,much later,there is little to sustain such a hypothesis.)
There were 20 Scud missiles fired by the Iraqis during Operation Iraqi Freedom . The first launches were fairly accurate,and were aimed at US troops still massed in Kuwait. Three of these were knocked out by Patriot missile batteries. A fourth fell short,exploding in the desert.
The remaining missiles seemed to have been launched almost at random.They flew out over the desert and exploded – usually in mid-air-as they were designed to do. (Bio or chemical warheads are proximity fused to explode above massed troops – like Fourth of July fireworks – and to rain their deadly contents down.)
There were no Coalition troops in the areas these missiles exploded – but they were expected to be there.
In late 2002, an American officer, serving in the Pentagon, was approached by an Iraqi agent,who was willing to pay big money for a look at the US operation plans. The officer reported the contact immediately,and was instructed to “play along” . (The agent,and his courier-a “peace activist” from California-were scooped up by the FBI not long after Iraqi Freedom began.)
Counter-Intelligence agents supplied the officer with copies of OPLAN-1003: the original 1998 plan for Gulf War II . This plan had undergone at least 10 major revisions since then,and, apart from its title,bore little resemblance to the original.
(It interesting to note –from captured Iraqi Intelligence Service documents, certain Russian military personnel may have supplied pre-invasion dispositions of Coalition forces to Iraq as well –apparently using the same disinformation documents.)
It was a successful ruse: one that led Saddam to position his tanks around Baghdad – where they were virtually annihilated by air strikes,and to fire his limited supply of theater missiles into areas long since bypassed or vacated by Coalition troops.
There was another factor: bad weather.
On March 25,2003-right after the Iraqi missile launches,one of the worst sandstorms in recent memory swept through the country: slowing the Coalition advance to a crawl,and spawning dolorous New York Times headlines about a “quagmire”.
The storms also had the effect of sweeping the desert clean; of gathering huge clouds of fine dust – and biotoxins – and carrying them aloft.
There is nothing new or unique about this phenomonon. Every year, the East coast of the United States plays unwitting host to dust from Africa’s Sahara Desert: dust that includes spores,pollen, animal dander, tiny insects,and enough viral and bacterial matter to make epidemiologists thankful for the presence of ozone and solar radiation.
Until very recently, it was believed ozone and solar radiation would kill off such airborne pathogens, but new research suggests otherwise.
In the May 26,2006 “Guardian” ,scientists recounted evidence the very clouds and dust that carry pathogens also act to shield them.
“Giant clouds of dust whipped up by desert storms in Africa can carry infectious organisms to other continents, scientists claim today.
Despite being blown more than three miles high and exposed to radiation from the sun, strains of bacteria and fungi survived and were able to grow when they returned to Earth, researchers found.”
“Among 40 tests of air samples taken in the mid-Atlantic, 24 revealed living microbes, including 26 colonies of bacteria and 83 fungi. They included strains capable of causing disease in humans, animals and plants. A typical gram of Sahara soil contains up to 1bn bacteria, and estimates suggest 2bn tonnes of soil particles are blown around the planet each year. “
"Even if the UV kills 90% of the microbes, dust higher up in the cloud will shade those lower down, so you still get a phenomenal number surviving," said lead scientist Dale Griffin of the US Geological Survey. His research will be presented at the American Society for Microbiology meeting in Orlando today.
Dr Griffin's team used genetic tests to prove that the micro-organisms collected in the Atlantic were from specific regions in Africa. The microbes included Gordonia terra, which can cause skin disease in humans, Massaria rosatii which infects sycamore trees, and Alternaria dauci, a cause of carrot blight.
This dust storm” fallout” doesn’t fly like an arrow. It wanders: borne north by this trade wind; south by that trade wind. It may visit one island and skip another. It may take several months before it reaches land -or it may not reach land at all. This is the nature of wind-borne debris.
During the Cold War-when nuclear testing was commonplace-it was not unusual to discover Strontium-90 from a nuclear explosion in Ulan Bator in the milk of Minnesota dairy cows,several months later. (Our fallout often landed on our allies-much to everyone’s embarrassment.)
The Biotoxins from Iraq were part of a “new breed” of bio-weapon :one that had been engineered to resist the effects of sunshine and oxygen –via a novel, silicon-based coating, applied during the spray drying process. Instead of dissipating within hours or days , they had a shelf life that could me measured in months – or,in the case of anthrax – years !
I began to see their effects – the fingerprints of Saddam Hussein – in “odd corners” of the world.
By way of quick explanation, shortly after the Anthrax attacks of 2001, I became a regular contributor to the now-dormant BioHazard News- an online journal that “kept an eye on” clusters of diseases,incidents suggestive of biowarfare,and incidents arising from the War on Terror.
One of the websites I found myself visiting on a daily basis was ProMed: “the global electronic reporting system for outbreak of emerging contagious diseases and toxins”. ProMed is sponsored by The International Society for Infectious Diseases,and was, at that time, affiliated with the Federation of American Scientists .
Here is the ProMed link:
Incidents and Clusters Suggestive of Biotoxin Poisoning : Please note I have included ProMed Archive identification numbers for those of you who might wish to make an independent search.
Please keep in mind the “incident dates” are the dates a report was forwarded to ProMed , and sometimes include outbreaks that began weeks before the report date.
Incident No. 1 (Status – doubtful) :Reports filed 09 May 03 : Index number: 20030509.1153, and 10 May 03 : Index number 20030510.1164
Undiagnosed disease,ebola-like symptoms, southern Sudan. Marburg comes to mind ; however,this viral disease has a very short “shelf life”: 4-6 days outside a host/nutrition source and it seems unlikely it could survive the trip. Note: Ricin could survive,and could produce similar symptoms.
Incident No. 2 ( Status – Insufficient data ): Report filed 28 May 03: Index number 20030528.1309.
Unexplained deaths on Ukerewe Island, Tanzania. 582 people infected;55 “youths” dead. The Tanzanians appear to have explored and eliminated a number of possibilities: tainted fish,polluted well water,presence of an unknown toxin. Unfortunately,their report lacks description of symptoms,manner of death,and other clarifying details. There does not seem to have been any follow-up reporting. Note: Very tentatively,Botulinum comes to mind.
Incident No. 3 (Status-Possible,with reservations) Report was not filed until 30 June 03 –(Outbreak began in April) . Index number 20030630.1614
There were 83 cases of human Anthrax , resulting in 7 deaths,in India’s Koraput District. As noted, the outbreak began in April. Anthrax, in its spore form (the form used in bioweapons) is an exceptionally hardy bacteria,and could easily survive a journey from Iraq. Note: Anthrax is endemic in parts of India . Health officials there – who are usually Hindus and deplore consumption of beef – invariably blame the outbreaks on the victims. “They ate bad meat”, etc.
Incident No. 4 ( Status- High probability) Report was not filed until 28 August 03 (Outbreak began in May). Index number 20030828.2175
Karnataka region of India. There were 12 reported cases of human Anthrax,and12 cattle had died of the disease. Several pigs-normally thought to be immune to the disease-had also died…plus a large number of vultures-universally believed immune to the disease. It appeared the grass on which livestock grazed was heavily infested with the bacteria.
The death of pigs and vultures is strongly suggestive of the presence of “enhanced anthrax” : one of the nightmarish projects Ken Alibek was involved in when he was director of the Soviet’s Biopreparat program.When the Soviet Union imploded,many of the Biopreparat scientists found work in other countries-notably Syria and Iraq.
Note: Anthrax is endemic to the region , and the usual excuses about “spoiled meat” were given.
Incident No. 5 (Status-Probable : Mycotoxin) I have found 5 reports,made on varying dates-all of which appear to refer to the same outbreak. The Index numbers are : 20030606.1399 ,20030607.1410 , 2003608.1416 , 20030612.1449 , and 20030716.1753
This outbreak began in West Bengal, India,sometime during the month of May,2003, and ravaged 5 small villages.By the time it ended,approximately 132 children had died, and at least 300 were gravely ill.
Indian health authorities offered a wide range of “official diagnoses”, ranging from pneumonia to Japanese encephalitis ; however, none of these stood up to the rigors of lab testing, and the cause remained unknown.
Because of the victims’ ages, it was speculated something might have tainted the powdered milk supply,and there were near-riots between villagers and authorities.
The symptoms: high fever,breathlessness,convulsions,increased salivation, and stiffening of the jaws were consistent with mycotoxin. Note: No official finding has ever been agreed upon.
Incident No. 6 ( Possible Ricin involvement) Reported 28 August 03.Index number 20030828.2165
This is one of the more intriguing clusters, because it took place in faraway Dunedin, New Zealand ! Three previously healthy,active adults-no known relationship to one another-no known environmental exposures- were stricken,one after another,with a pneumonia – like ailment,for which no viral or bacterial cause was ever discovered,but which killed each of them in a matter of a day.Note: Symptoms consistent with Ricin inhalation.
Let me stress one point: The incidents reported to ProMed – startling as they might be – are not necessarily the only related events. They are reports filed by a relatively small group of conscientious physicians and health workers , and could well be just the tip of a very large iceberg.
Life , in many parts of the world ,is short. Medical care ranges from “iffy” to non-existent, and death by disease or mishap is unremarkable.
The villagers may know that So-and-So’s baby died on the same night that the reigning matriarch of the village passed away – but, apart from noticing the coincidence,have nothing to connect it to the Aflatoxin that dusted parts of their village – or the roaring battles of great armies in faraway places.
Iraqi Survey Group Findings
The findings of the Iraq Survey Group, which conducted searches of likely locations after the fall of Baghdad, have been widely trumpeted as
“negative” ; and the public has been given to understand “no weapons programs were found” ; but this is hardly the truth.
The truth is , enormous amounts of “trace evidence” were found – PLUS evidence of a massive “cleanup” : burned documents, hacked up computer hard drives , and-above all, evidence of hasty removal of materials and people . The ISG could not produce evidence of WMDs
as a result, and was roughly in the position of a wife who returns home to discover her bed has been slept in, there are strange hairs on the pillows , a glass with lipstick traces in the dishwasher,and her husband
is unable to look her in the eye. It’s not PROOF of adultery, but what else can it be ?
Here’s a link to the ISG interim report:
Missing / Dead Scientists
This is another topic that never quite captured Media attention HERE, but was remarked upon extensively abroad. Quite simply,Iraqi scientists who would have been in a position to know about, and/or to have participated in Iraq’s WMD programs were threatened, killed , kidnapped, or are “unaccounted for”.
(Source is the Brussels Tribunal - a Left wing group supportive of Saddam's regime.You will find references to "American death squads", etc.,which may be taken with a few tons of salt : Coalition forces were quite anxious to lay hands on and question any Iraqi scientists, and would have gladly rewarded anyone who could fill in the informational gaps !)
193 were killed,49 are "missing-unaccounted for" and 76 are listed as "threatened,arrested by coaltion forces,or fled the country."
There was extensive pre-war intelligence –including a defector from the Iraqi “Special Weapons Program” ,and reports from the UN inspectors,and reports from our own CIA that Iraq had a “robust” bio-weapons program.
There were warnings – immediately before Operation Iraqi Freedom- of Saddam’s Bioweapons programs : from King Abdullah II of Jordan, and from Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak – both of whom had intelligence and diplomatic assets in Iraq.
It is now fashionable to sneer when MOPP suits are mentioned – as if they were mere window dressing. (Try telling that to the troops – and to the embedded reporters- who cursed the hot,restrictive protective garments every moment of the day – while worrying what would happen if the suit developed a tear, or the gas mask did not achieve a proper seal,or they were wounded while in a “hot” environment !)
That fact Saddam’s troops had similar suits in their barracks, and nerve gas antidote syringes close at hand suggests nothing else but the presence of poison gas , and a readiness to employ it. Captured post-war documents indicate the Iraqi military took considerable pains to insure the suits would protect against bio-warfare threats as well.
Does anyone recall the unwillingness of Iraqi troops to engage in combat during Gulf War I ? Has anyone contrasted that with the utter ferocity they displayed during Iraqi Freedom ? Has anyone wondered at the difference?
I believe a large part of the difference was the leaflets we dropped on Iraqi troops by the hundred thousands in the opening days of the conflict. The leaflets warned the Iraqis they would be held strictly accountable for any use of WMDs.
I further suspect a few Iraqi troops knew WMDs had been used , and that they expected to be shot out of hand if captured by Coalition forces.
It would not surprise me to learn these troops immediately “joined the resistance”.
Our troops –and their Iraqi opponents – “lucked out” when good counter-intelligence tactics, a lightning-fast advance,and a brutal sandstorm combined to remove the danger of Iraqi bioweapons from the battlefield .
(There are still isolated reports of odd illnesses popping up in people who serve or have served in Iraq. In one case, a few months ago, an East coast police officer died at home of “natural causes” that were never made public. Something about the appearance of his corpse caused first responders to go back and get “moon suits” out of their rigs before moving his body.)
The record- incomplete and inconclusive as it may seem- suggests to me that the people at the end of the bioweapons chain were not as fortunate ; and, that in some cases, their deaths bear the unmistakable fingerprints of Saddam Hussein’s Bio-weapons program.
Suggested Additional Reading: (hardcover) “Biohazard” by Ken Alibek. Dr. Alibek (Kanatjan Alibekov) was the former director of the Soviet Union’s Biopreparat program : one of the most ambitious-and frightening- biowarfare projects of all time.
“American Soldier” by Retired General Tommy Franks