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Action Alert 

The Bioterror Road Doesn't Lead to Iraq

12 October 2001

The threat of a biological attack against the United States has become a major theme in the aftermath of Sept. 11. The investigation of an outbreak of anthrax infection in Florida fuels this concern.

While Operation Enduring Freedom targets Afghanistan as the home of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, the complexity and sophistication of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon strongly suggest a state sponsor. Now reports out of the Czech Republic indicate that one of the terrorists met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague earlier this year.

It has become all too convenient to automatically link Iraq with biological weapons. While there is a legitimate concern about the status of the United Nations' efforts to account for all of Iraq's weapons programs, this concern must be tempered by the reality that most of Iraq's biological agents, along with its production facilities, have been destroyed.

In any event, Iraq isn't the most logical choice for sponsoring terror activities undertaken by fundamentalist Islamic groups. Iraq is a secular dictatorship that has for 30 years undertaken its own brutal internal oppression of Islamic fundamentalists. On the other hand, Iraq does possess the wherewithal and motivation to plan, organize and assist in such a terror operation.

For more than a decade, Iraq has chafed at the U.S.-led economic sanctions and enforcement of "no-fly" zones in northern and southern Iraq designed to contain the regime of Saddam Hussein--who was reported to be chortling over the killing of thousands of innocent Americans.

The stalemate that currently exists concerning Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs further exacerbates its anti-American demeanor.

Iraq maintains that its weapons programs have been eliminated and that U.N. weapons inspectors had become pawns of U.S. intelligence.

The United States, in turn, says that Iraq lied to the weapons inspectors and continues to maintain stockpiles of prohibited materials.

It is said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. But Iraq has sought to embrace the Western model of economics and society, however misguided the Iraqi interpretation of these may be.

Hussein and Bin Laden are complete opposites in terms of ideology and motivation, making them natural enemies as opposed to secret allies.

The Bush administration has shown little inclination to pursue the issue of returning U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, instead using the absence of inspections to hype the threat of a rearmed Iraq. The alleged meeting in Prague creates the additional specter of Iraq as a state sponsor of terror and makes talk of a renewed bombing campaign against Iraq suddenly appear to be more imminent than conceptual. With its military poorly trained and equipped, its economy in tatters and once-vaunted weapons of mass destruction largely dismantled by U.N. weapons inspectors, Iraq today represents a threat to no one.

Investigations into the anthrax cases in Florida point more toward sources other than Iraq.

Throwing Iraq into the mix of targets associated with the terror attacks against the United States--absent any verifiable linkage--should be avoided at all costs.

Scott Ritter, (was a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq).
Published in the Los Angeles Times.
(c) 2001 Los Angeles Times.

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