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Panorama
On the trail of Saddam

For over a decade now, I've been reporting for Panorama on how Saddam Hussein built up his weapons of mass destruction.

He has scoured first Europe and more recently countries in the former Soviet Union for technology for his weapons of mass destruction programme.

There is no smoking gun in the dossier being presented to the British cabinet on Monday and to other MPs on Tuesday morning, but its likely to include the information that Saddam Hussein is continuing to build up his chemical, biological and nuclear capabilities.


Why give Saddam the additional time that's involved in demonstrating that the inspectors will fail?

Richard Perle

For some in the US administration, like Richard Perle, adviser to the US Defence Department, this means that in a post-11 September world that pre-emptive action and "regime change" in Iraq are needed.

He told Panorama there was no point relying on United Nations weapons inspectors.

"Well I can only give you a personal view, which is: If you know that the mission is going to fail, why bother?" he told us.

"Why give Saddam the additional time that's involved in demonstrating that the inspectors will fail, and how do you know what you're accomplishing with inspections?"

Unilateral action

But Sir Michael Quinlan, adviser to the Ministry of Defence during the Gulf War, says that containment of Iraq worked before and will work again, and he thinks unilateral action is only likely to precipitate desperate action by Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein
Iraq under Saddam Hussein has no real political opposition
"At the moment, what he has to lose is his survival in power, which is I think what he prizes above everything else, and it would be strange to say the least if we now rush to take the one step that might provoke him into using these weapons," he told us.

After the Gulf War, Unscom, the UN team assigned to root out and destroy Iraq's WMD capabilities, blew up factories and poured chemicals into ditches.

But in the four years since the UN inspectors were forced to leave Iraq, Saddam Hussein has been using illegally sold oil and dummy companies to get around sanctions and to secretly purchase the parts needed to construct nuclear weapons.

He also retains some materials necessary to make biological weapons like anthrax and to conduct germ warfare.

In hiding

We also heard from the defector providing the most recent, credible testimony to the US Government.

Adnan Saeed al Haideri left his successful construction company and fled Saddam Hussein's regime late last year, and is now in hiding.

In his only television interview, he told how he adapted buildings across Iraq to make them resistant to chemicals and biological organisms.

He did this in many ways, such as by covering the walls in epoxy and special linings to make them resistant to acid.

He also made them static proof, in order to be safe for storing explosives.

Mr Haideri worked on many different types of buildings, including hospitals and civilian factories, as well as several of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

He told us how many of these places were duplicated, with the production of chemicals or secret munitions switched from one laboratory or factory to another if there was any danger of the site being discovered or bombed.

Money was no object when it came to putting up these buildings or taking them down, says Mr Haideri.

"If this place was bombed, there is another place. He can do anything that he wants. And the idea of economics, the cost, is not important," he told us.

'Race against time'

For Richard Perle, all of this adds up to a case against Saddam Hussein and another reason why pre-emptive action needs to be taken.

He told Panorama something should be done about Iraq before it was too late.

"It's a race against time," he said. "It's a race against his crossing that threshold before you have restrained him.

"I don't know what sort of evidence people do want - a mushroom cloud would be a powerful statement, but do you want to wait for that?"


I understand well that the appalling thing that was done to America on 9/11 has changed psychology.

Sir Richard Quinlan
That sort of talk worries Sir Richard Quinlan, who says that although the events of 11 September last year may have changed the way the American Government thinks, it hasn't changed the situation regarding Iraq.

"I understand well that the appalling thing that was done to America on 9/11 has changed psychology," he said.

"I don't myself believe though that it directly affects the Saddam situation. Saddam was not behind it.

"We still have to assess the Iraq problem in terms which are directly relevant to Iraq. It doesn't create some special new legitimacy that didn't exist before."

On Tuesday, the British Government will be discussing the case against Iraq, but as far as Mr Perle is concerned, what they decide may make little difference to what George W Bush chooses to do.

"No president, no country can allow its security to be dependent on the views of others," he said.

"I don't see how the president can do anything other than the best job he can arrange of protecting the American people. He is convinced that if Saddam is left in place he will ultimately do terrible damage to the US."



Background

Politics and diplomacy


IN PICTURES

IN DEPTH
Links to more Panorama stories are at the foot of the page.


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