Media Matters

Another Ignored Discovery

The press turns a blind-eye to a new UN report confirming the existence of Saddam's WMDs.

By 6.16.04

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With the media's focus on chronicling every attack on coalition forces or terrorist attack against Iraqi civilians in Iraq, they might be forgiven for missing other stories occasionally. Reporting democracy at the local level or the opening of a new school isn't sexy work for the most part. It's the equivalent of traveling halfway across the world to cover stories that local beat reporters write every day in your local paper. That focus on Iraqi insurgents, however, seems to have blinded almost everyone to a major story that surfaced last week since it was largely ignored by the media with the exception of the World Tribune and some smaller newspapers.

On June 9, Demetrius Perricos announced that before, during and after the war in Iraq, Saddam Hussein shipped weapons of mass destruction and medium-range ballistic missiles to countries in Europe and the Middle East. Entire factories were dismantled and shipped as scrap metal to Jordan, the Netherlands and Turkey, among others, at the rate of about 1,000 tons of metal a month. As an example of speed by which these facilities were dismantled, Perricos displayed two photographs of a ballistic missile site near Baghdad, one taken in May 2003 with an active facility, the other in February 2004 that showed it had simply disappeared.

What passed for scrap metal and has since been discovered as otherwise is amazing. Inspectors have found Iraqi SA-2 surface-to-air missiles in Rotterdam -- complete with U.N. inspection tags -- and 20 SA-2 engines in Jordan, along with components for solid-fuel for missiles. Short-range Al Samoud surface-to-surface missiles were shipped abroad by agents of the regime. That missing ballistic missile site contained missile components, a reactor vessel and fermenters -- the latter used for the production of chemical and biological warheads.

"The problem for us is that we don't know what may have passed through these yards and other yards elsewhere," Ewen Buchanan, Perricos's spokesman, said. "We can't really assess the significance and don't know the full extent of activity that could be going on there or with others of Iraq's neighbors."

Perricos isn't an American shill defending the Bush administration, but rather the acting executive chairman of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and his report was made to the Security Council. Yet his report didn't seem to be of much interest to a media which has used the lack of significant discoveries to question the rationale for the war. After over a year of searching, experts have managed to find little in the way of the biological and chemical weapons that every major intelligence service -- including those of Germany and France -- maintained existed. We still haven't, but Perricos' report brings us one step closer.

The report neatly disarms arguments that Hussein's WMD programs were non-existent after the first Gulf War. While it's true that these finds are not the chemical and biological weapons we know existed after that war, they illustrate the tremendous difficulty in locating something in a semi-hostile nation larger than the state of California. They also prove that Hussein made ongoing efforts to hide illegal weapons programs from the world. Ironically, he and his agents used the world in which to hide them.

The implications of the United Nations' discovery of how Hussein's regime got rid of many of its banned weapons programs is staggering, especially considering that it happened partly under the watch of U.N. weapons inspectors. And yet many in the media are either unwilling or unable to break out of their cycle of waiting to report the next terrorist attack. The truth about the justification for the war and Saddam Hussein's Iraq is gradually being revealed to the world, but it seems our journalists don't want to tell the story.

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About the Author

Steven Martinovich is a freelance writer in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada and editor of the webzine Enter Stage Right.