Monday, October 13, 2003

Just in time manufacturing

Charles Krauthammer has written an excellent article that should spark some thought, especially amongst the "one vial of botulinum bacteria is no big deal" crowd.

Rolf Ekeus, living proof that not all Swedish arms inspectors are fools, may have been right.

Ekeus headed the U.N. inspection team that from 1991 to 1997 uncovered not just tons of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, but a massive secret nuclear weapons program as well. This, after the other Swede, Hans Blix, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had given Saddam a perfectly clean bill of health on being non-nuclear. Indeed, Iraq was sitting on the IAEA Board of Governors.

Ekeus theorizes that Saddam decided years ago that keeping mustard gas and other poisons in barrels was unstable and corrosive, and also hard to conceal. Therefore, rather than store large stocks of weapons of mass destruction, he would adapt the program to retain an infrastructure (laboratories, equipment, trained scientists, detailed plans) that could ``break out'' and ramp up production when needed. The model is Japanese ``just in time'' manufacturing, where you save on inventory by making and delivering stuff in immediate response to orders.

Krauthammer also comments on David Kay's report that Saddam was experimenting with Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever:

Kay's list is chilling. It includes a secret network of labs and safe houses within the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service; bioorganisms kept in scientists' homes, including a vial of live botulinum; and my favorite, ``new research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin'' -- all ``not declared to the U.N.''

I have been to medical school, and I have never heard of Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever. I don't know one doctor in 100 who has. It is an extremely rare disease, and you can be sure that Saddam was not seeking a cure.

He was not after the Nobel in physiology (Yasser Arafat having already won the peace prize). He was looking for a way to turn these agents into killers. The fact that he was not stockpiling is relevant only to the question of why some prewar intelligence was wrong about Iraq's WMD program. But it is not relevant to the question of whether a war to pre-empt his development of WMDs was justified.

In short, it was Saddam's plan to keep a small biological warfare program that could be revived at a moments notice. The program had to be small enough to fool the UN weapons inspectors but also had to have the essentials, such as samples of botulinum bacteria and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, so that it could restart after the inspectors left.

And he would have gotten away with it too...


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