Washington — In this space on March 18, I mentioned ever so lightly that one of the reasons that the French and the Germans were so opposed to America sending a military force into Iraq was that they feared we would discover the corpus delicti. That is to say, our military would discover arms and other equipment that the French and Germans had supplied to the Iraqi Hitler in contravention of the United Nations’ arms embargo of 1990. Now I can report that American soldiers are finding the corpus delicti in abundance.
Thus far there is no outcry against the French and the Germans for their arms trafficking with Iraq because the State Department is pressuring the Pentagon to direct reporters to other matters. What is more, most of the embedded reporters do not seem to be interested in the foreign arms that they are practically tripping over. Admittedly, some reporters are covering the story. Most spectacularly Newsweek has reported the American Third Infantry Division’s discovery of 51 Roland-2 missiles at military installations near Baghdad International Airport. The missiles are manufactured by a consortium of French and German arms producers. Lest the French and Germans claim the weapons are old, pre-embargo missiles, Newsweek helpfully supplies a photograph of one Roland-2 bearing the label 05-11 KND 2002. Lt. Greg Holmes, an intelligence officer with the Third Division, explained to Newsweek that the label meant the missile was manufactured in 2002.
Incidentally it was a Roland that the Pentagon claims destroyed an Air Force A-10 last week. Germany’s Der Stern has reported that Rolands have been found by American and Kurdish forces in the terrorist camp in northern Iraq, Ansar Al-Islam. Did the terrorists obtain these weapons from Saddam or from Europe?
Other discoveries made by the Third Division have included a successor to the Roland-2, the more advanced Roland-3. Iraqi military trucks were found with radios marked MADE IN FRANCE. The radios appeared to be new, as did RPG night sights whose French labels were stamped 2002. Finally Newsweek reports that Iraqi officers surrendered Nissan pickup trucks made in France.
Nor are the French and the Germans the only opponents of American entry into Iraq to be caught flagrante delicto. Advanced Russian equipment has also been found. William Triplett II reports in the Washington Times that Russia’s “Kornet” anti-tank missile has been discovered in Iraqi hands as well as Russian GPS jamming equipment and sea mines and night-vision goggles. Triplett also reports that the German firm of Drager sold Iraq gas masks and there is evidence that China sold Iraq fiber optics for its command and control systems.
Obviously with all these embargoed arms turning up it is just a matter of time before other journalists begin to report this story. Yet there may be an interesting twist that lends urgency to it. Triplett raises the prospect that Saddam’s hidden chemical and biological weapons may pose a serious threat to the Iraqi environment with long-term consequences. In the last days of the regime weapons of mass destruction might have been dumped in rivers, and almost certainly were buried in places where their poisons might destroy agriculture and contaminate water tables for years to come.
If the State Department can not be persuaded to report the discovery of European arms trafficking, perhaps it can be persuaded to report this growing environmental menace. Already cyanide is turning up in the Tigris. By covering for the French, the Germans, and the Russians, our State Department may be contributing to a major environmental disaster.