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Iraq War 2003: Background, Lessons and Follow-On

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March 11, 2004

Iraq, WMD and the Politics of Prejudice

Hans Blix and the Politics of Smug Myopia 

Analysis and Opinion. By Gregory R. Copley, Editor, GIS.1 The BBC, on February 8, 2004, noted: “Hans Blix, a mild-mannered, veteran diplomat has made a career out of keeping his cool. This was probably one of the reasons why UN Secretary General Kofi Annan plucked the Swede out of retirement in 2000 to offer him the difficult job of head of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) [in Iraq].” 

Blix may have made a career out of keeping his cool, and had inspired some around him as a decent man. But he proved incompetent at his task in Iraq, and was adamant because of his own personal bias that no findings should be made or disclosed by UNMOVIC which could provoke the UN or the US to military enforcement of UN resolutions against Iraq. Blix proved not to be an honest, dedicated international civil servant, but rather a man driven by prejudices and incompetence. 

And he has proven subsequently not to have been “mild-mannered”, nor impartial, nor professional, but, rather, arrogant, insulting and untruthful. 

Blix, a former director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), like his successor, Mohammed El-Baradei, demonstrated in Iraq that he did not understand weapons, nor the weaponization of chemical, biological or nuclear agents. He amassed a mighty team of “scientists” and “experts” to go into the field in Iraq to discover the extent to which Iraq had violated UN sanctions. 

Instead, what really occurred was the fact that most of the scientists had no comprehension of weapons, nor their precursors (industrially or in engineering terms), and UNMOVIC was reliant on as few as three true weapons experts — with knowledge of chemical and biological weapons — whose opinions were never allowed to distort Blix’s predetermined view that no evidence must be found which could allow military action against Iraq. 

Moreover, it was clear from the beginning that Blix either deliberately or through culpable incompetence allowed then-Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein’s intelligence officials to know in advance all the important moves of UNMOVIC teams.  

As well, at no time did Blix ever allow the discussion to address the real issue: did Iraq possess programs, capability or intent to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in violation of United Nations’ and Gulf War I-related resolutions or accords. 

Rather, Blix took his mandate as an exercise to prove that there were no such major violations in Iraq. He deliberately skewed the debate to focus on the territory within Iraq’s borders, rather than on whether the Iraqi Government possessed or controlled such programs. As indeed they did. 

Defense & Foreign Affairs has consistently noted since the end of Gulf War I in 1991 that Pres. Saddam had moved his major WMD and strategic missile development programs outside Iraqi borders. Indeed, he had maintained some of these programs in Sudan before 1991; subsequently he moved them mostly to Libya.2 

For Blix and Saddam, the 2000 UN approach was one of dialectical and perceptional legerdemain: a verbal and imagery “sleight of hand”. The UN, supported by a number of governments eager to maintain their trade dealings with Saddam’s Iraq, issued UNMOVIC with a “search warrant” to “find a gun in Saddam’s kitchen”. Saddam, as a result, made sure that the “gun” was moved to the living room. 

Blix and Saddam knew that through such a process all that would be found within Iraq’s borders would be small infractions of the UN strictures. But, equally, it was a leap of faith to believe that Iraq had abandoned billions of dollars and many years of investment in its WMD and missile programs. 

Indeed, it would also have been a grotesque arrogance to believe that Saddam had not learned the lessons of the 1990-91 Gulf War. He had: he moved his WMD and missile programs to a safe place, Libya. 

Those actual weapons left inside Iraq were moved during the latter part of 2002 into Syria. Defense & Foreign Affairs reported extensively on this at the time, citing eye-witness reports. Special Forces troops — Australian in particular — operating in the Western Iraqi desert during the March 2003 fighting saw the Iraqi mobile ballistic missiles move back across the border from Syria into Iraq to set up firing positions against Israel.3

The actions of those Special Forces troops ensured that the weapons were never fired; they were driven back across the Syrian border, where they remain, along with other sensitive Iraqi matériel which was smuggled into the Syrian town of Kamishli (al-Qamishli) in August 2002. 

The thousands of Iraqi scientists, engineers and workers who were sent to Libya following the 1991 war labored there on WMD and missile programs. They are now unemployed as the joint Libya-Iraqi-Egyptian programs are disbanded, all now being referred to as Libyan WMD programs. But the Iraqi workers are starting to show themselves in Beirut and other areas. 

These weapons in Syria and programs in Libya are what the UN and Blix did not wish to discuss. Rather, they preserved the lie that there was no Iraqi crime; no mounting Iraqi threat. Now, Blix — his reputation justly questioned — resorts to obfuscating and attacking those leaders who saw the threat, and who also moved to stop it while removing from power the man who killed so many hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, and those of other countries.  

As this is a signed opinion editorial, I will be blunt: Blix is a liar through distortion, omission and misrepresentation. He has shown his political colors, and they are anti-US, against the US Bush Administration, and against the British and Australian Prime Ministers who acted to contain Saddam. He might call himself a pacifist; in reality, his actions were designed to allow Saddam’s support for terrorism and repression of his own and other peoples — including the Palestinians — to continue. 

On March 10, 2004, Blix told The Sydney Morning Herald that Australia’s Government had bowed to the US in supporting the war on Saddam. That is patently untrue. The Government of Prime Minister John Howard made the decision for Australia’s strategic interests, and Australia has much at stake in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea regions, both in terms of trade and strategic communications. 

Blix deserves no more attention.


1. Gregory Copley's comments appear in the Defense & Foreign Affairs' editorial page, Early Warning. They reflect his own opinions, and not necessarily those of the GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs team as a whole.

2. See, among other reports, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, October 1, 2002: Weapons Grade Uranium Moving in Middle East; Iraqi WMD and Delivery Development Being Undertaken in Libya.

3. See, among other reports, Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, October 28, 2002: Iraq Moves WMD Matériel to Syrian Safe-Havens.