Iraq War 2003: Background & Lessons

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December 3, 2002

Strenuous Attempts by Anti-War Camp in US Administration to Derail Iraqi Weapons Inspections

Analysis. By Gregory R. Copley, GIS Editor. Ongoing and strenuous attempts by elements within the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were believed responsible for a major smear campaign which was designed to remove one of the most significant capabilities from the United Nations program to find evidence of Iraqi involvement in weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. These elements, or individuals, leaked misleading information to The Washington Post newspaper, which printed a story on November 28, 2002, seriously damning UN weapons expert Harvey J. (“Jack”) McGeorge, 53, by making inaccurate and imbalanced remarks.

Mr McGeorge — believed to be one of the world’s pre-eminent munitions experts, especially in the area of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons — is the only member of the UN weapons inspection team with a background in munitions systems. The other members of the team, many of whom are already in Iraq, are eminently qualified in the sciences involved in chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, but not in the weaponization, or weapons productions aspects of the WMD search.

At least one journalistic ethics body is believed to be preparing to investigate The Washington Post’s page one article entitled Weapons Inspectors’ Experience Questioned; Va. Man Is Cited As Example; Hiring Process Criticized, by staff writer James V. Grimaldi. The article incorrectly implied that Mr McGeorge’s Public Safety Group had offered courses in chemical and biological weaponization to other than authorized government personnel.

The article immediately prompted Mr McGeorge to tender his resignation rather than have the story embarrass the UN or Dr Hans Blix, the executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). The UN, however, rejected Mr McGeorge’s resignation.

The Washington Post article completely disregarded the significant and highly-successful track record of Mr McGeorge, who has been the main pillar of the US national security community’s chemical and biological analytical support with his CABO Database (Chemical and Agents of Biological Origin: CABO). This unique product, built substantially around the strength of Mr McGeorge’s field experience, is quite apart from his track record in training large numbers of the US security establishment — including the law enforcement community — in matters relating to chemical and biological weapons. He is also well-known within the national security communities for his work on weaponization of CABO systems and on related delivery systems (tube-launched, air-delivered, ballistic missile and other).

Mr McGeorge has also served for two decades as the strategic weapons advisor to Defense & Foreign Affairs and the International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA). Given that he is the sole munitions expert on the UN team, his removal would have left a competent team of scientists approaching the exercise in Iraq as merely one of “science”, rather than as a “law enforcement” operation. Mr McGeorge also spent considerable time evaluating WMD activities in the field before and during the 1990-91 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent Gulf War. He was alone in correctly forecasting exactly the types of CABO weapons which the Iraqis had at the time, despite widespread incorrect estimates from the “scientific community”.

The Washington Post attempted to minimize Mr McGeorge’s massive body of field experience, which has included numerous extremely competent technical papers, recognized by advanced educational bodies, and focused on allegations of his private life. Significantly, Mr McGeorge — who has been known to this writer and this Service for more than two decades as an individual of rigorous integrity, loyalty and intelligence — has always advised his employers of his private activities so that there could never be any question of being blackmailed.

Nonetheless, the newspaper began its story with the following two paragraphs:

“The United Nations launched perhaps its most important weapons inspections ever yesterday with a team that includes a 53-year-old Virginia man with no specialized scientific degree and a leadership role in sadomasochistic sex clubs.”

“The United Nations acknowledged yesterday that it did not conduct a background check on Harvey John ‘Jack’ McGeorge of Woodbridge, who was in New York waiting to be sent to Iraq as a munitions analyst. McGeorge was picked for the diplomatically sensitive mission over some of the most experienced disarmament sleuths in the world. A UN spokesman said
McGeorge was part of a group recommended by the State Department, which in turn said it was merely forwarding names for consideration.”

The fact is that there is no “specialized scientific degree” for the kind of work for which Mr McGeorge has been trained over more than three decades, starting with his career in the US Marine Corps as an explosive ordnance expert, and his subsequent work with the US Army Special Forces, and later the US Secret Service (in which he served as a technical specialist, working on the assessment of nuclear weapons threats, in the course of which he studied a wide range of nuclear weapons systems). He was the US Secret Service delegate to the Nuclear Emergency Search Team (NEST).

As to his “leadership rôle in sadomasochistic sex clubs”, the newspaper did not disclose that Mr McGeorge had long been a lecturer — in his private capacity — for safe sex, helping to educate people to avoid sexually-transmitted diseases and other potential problems related to sexual activity. 

Ewen Buchanan, a spokesman for UNMOVIC, was quoted by The Washington Post as saying: “I believe that Mr McGeorge is technically very competent. He knows his subject, which is weapons. As a general principle, I think what people do in their private life, as long as it doesn’t interfere with [their] professional life — and I'm not aware that it has interfered — or doesn’t break any rules or laws, shouldn’t be a significant issue.”

The basic issue, however, was to derail the UN weapons inspection process, something which GIS sources report is of interest not only to the anti-war camps in the US State Dept. and CIA, but also to the “pro-strike” camp in the White House National Security Council (NSC). There is a strong belief in the “anti-war” camps that if the UN fails to find evidence of WMD development in Iraq, then there would be no casus belli for the US to launch strikes against the Government of Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein. Within the White House, there is the belief that the UN would not be able, in any event, to find substantive evidence of WMD activity in Iraq within an acceptable timeframe, and the understanding that Saddam Administration has in any event already moved the key elements of its WMD programs to Syria and Libya.

As a result, the White House now appeared anxious to have the whole matter of UN weapons inspections pushed aside as quickly as possible to allow the US-led Coalition to begin military operations against Saddam.

A key report on Iraqi “human rights violations” was released on December 2, 2002, by the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in order to give a different casus belli for a war against Saddam. That, however, is a double-edged sword for the Allies: many of the individuals who have defected to the Iraqi opposition are themselves wanted in Europe for alleged human rights violations from the time before their defections.

Indeed, with the movement into the Persian Gulf on December 3, 2002, of two US carrier battle groups, and the movement of Pres. Saddam and his two sons (and other major advisors) to secure command and control sites outside Baghdad, the question of the UN weapons inspectors may soon become moot. 

[See Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, December 2, 2002: Iraqi Leadership Moves Discreetly to Conflict Locations.]

But it is important that the US national security community, and the international strategic analysis communities, do not lose the services of one of the most significant strategic weapons analysts in the process. The UN at least stood by Mr McGeorge to ensure that he did not become a “casualty of war”.