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[COMMENT: I believe that there such weapons, not because
I can point to any evidence, but that it seems hardly likely to me that Hussein
would not have had them.
Issue Date: www.insightmag.com
- June 4-11, 2007, Posted On: 6/4/2007
There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when Americans invaded in 2003.
This claim comes from Dave Gaubatz, who served for 12 years as an agent in the U.S. Air Forceβs Office of Special Investigations. He says he was "hand-picked" to locate weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Between March and July 2003, he identified several of Saddam Husseinβs WMD sites in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq invasion.
Where were they? Huge caches were located within the city limits of the southern Iraqi city of Nasariyah, and were also discovered in another location 15 to 20 miles south of Nasariyah between two canals and near Um Qasr in the Basra region 284 miles south of Baghdad.
Some of this information has been published by The Spectator (London), The New York Sun, and other U.S. newspapers and Internet news sites. But the mainstream media have chosen not to inform readers and viewers of the credible reports of WMDs discovered in Iraq.
According to these
reports, Saddamβs WMDs were apparently smuggled to Syria, Iran and
other destinations under the nose of American forces. The political
fallout that would occur from investigation and affirmation of this
extremely serious American operational failure with its profound
military and geo-strategic implications has apparently helped to
keep a lid on this informationβ"until now.
Gaubatz appealed to Congress to investigate his claims. But neither political party wishes to touch the issue for different reasons. The Democrats do not want the public to know that President Bushβs stated reason for invading Iraq might be justified. The Republicans do not want Americans to know that the administration's military command failed to stop what may have been the biggest WMD transfer of all time.
The issue is, as The Spectator put it, βan axis of embarrassment.β
At the start of the 2003 invasion, Gaubatz was sent to Nasariyah to locate possible WMD sites and ascertain threats to U.S. interests in the area. Fluent in Arabic, Gaubatz was able to meet numerous locals who told him he had struck gold: the WMDs were actually close by in farms and marshes. Some were buried in concrete bunkers 20-30 feet beneath the Euphrates River. These were vaults with 5-foot-thick concrete walls beneath the river bed.
These were under 25 feet of water, Gaubatz said in an interview with Insight.Saddam didnt care about poisoning the water of southern Iraq."
They took us to the sites, we took photos and grid coordinates, he said. The missile imprints were still in the sand. Based on the detail they provided and what was confirmed by others, I felt 100 percent confident WMDs were at the locations identified. The Iraqis told us we must either excavate the sites and remove the WMDs or our enemies would.
Along with Gaubatz, a group of U.S. Office of Special Investigations (OSI) agents visited the sites and got what his doctor later told him was radiation sickness from all the contaminants in the air and the water.
The U.S., however, did not investigate these locations. Other nations did.
The failure to find significant stockpiles of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons has proved a massive public relations problem for the Americans and the British, whose intelligence indicating that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did possess WMD stockpiles was one of their primary justifications for the invasion of Iraq.
How credible is the source?
Mr. Gaubatz is not some marginal figure, said Melanie Phillips, a columnist for Londons Daily Mail newspaper, in a recent piece on Saddams secret WMD bunkers for The Spectator, a weekly British conservative magazine. Hes pretty well as near to the horses mouth as you can get.
Gaubatz is a sandy-haired man whos been stationed as a federal agent at nuclear sites stateside and then as a U.S. Air Force special agent overseas. He is widely regarded as one of Americas most capable and experienced intelligence officials. According to Phillips, Gaubatz was decorated in 2001 for being the lead agent in a classified investigation, arguably the most sensitive counter-intelligence investigation currently in the entire Department of Defense. Because his reports were such high quality, many were published in the Air Forces daily threat product for senior USAF leaders or re-transmitted at the national level to all security agencies in the U.S. government.
After 20 years on active duty service in counterintelligence work (12 of them as an OSI agent), he retired, and then obtained a position as a civilian Federal Agent with the Air Force (OSI). He was specifically chosen to go to Nasariyah in Iraq to locate Saddam s WMD sites and discover threats to U.S. forces in the area. He saw mass Shiite graves of women holding their babies in their arms. He met Muslims who told him they were being recruited for terrorist cells. Every time he stumbled on a factoid, he sent a memo to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), a group of more than 1,000 Americans, Brits and Australians whose job it was back in 2003 to locate the WMDs.
Between March and July 2003, Gaubatz says he was taken by local Iraqis to four suspected WMD sites, two within Nasariyah, one just south of the city, and another one near Basra. He says Iraqi sources told him the sites contained biological and chemical weapons, missiles and material for a nuclear program. Gaubatz said he was sure he found the WMD sites because the Iraqi government had obviously gone to considerable lengths to conceal the bunkers. Three of the bunkers were buried 20 to 30 feet under the Euphrates River.
Gaubatz was told by American environmental engineers that the parts of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers near the sites showed abnormally high radiation levels. Gaubatz and his team had also been exposed to radioactive substances and he still suffers unexplained headaches and nausea.
Gaubatz asked his superiors for heavy equipment to be brought in from Kuwait so the bunkers could be excavated. The response was that there werent enough soldiers available to secure them.
People were putting their lives on the line showing us those sites, he said, adding that some of his informants have since been kidnapped, tortured, and then killed. But they [the superiors] told me they didnt have the manpower or equipment to do so, plus it wasnt safe. Well, war is never safe.
Moreover, the conventional understanding was that the WMDs were further to the north. Gaubatz had already sent some 60 classified intelligence reports to Prince Sultan Air Base, an American base in Saudi Arabia. When he returned to the United States, he contacted two Republican congressmen: Reps. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan and Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania. Interested, they tried to follow up on his information by accessing the 60 intelligence reports. But not only had all the reports Gaubatz had sent to Saudi Arabia mysteriously disappeared, their intended audience, the ISG, never saw them. The congressmen tried extracting information from the Defense Department and the CIA as to how this was allowed to happen, but were stonewalled.
Gaubatz has since learned the sites have been looted and an unknown amount of the weapons carried off. Now, he says, the U.S. has an even more difficult task: Figuring out exactly where the WMDs are and proving they were transported there from Iraq. He says the WMDs were there for the finding not so long ago, but the U.S military totally underestimated what it would take to locate them.
There werent enough soldiers to secure the borders, much less exploit the sites, he said.
The Americans were not prepared. They were overwhelmed. It was a Katrina of war, Gaubatz said, referring to the massive August 2005 hurricane that wiped out much of New Orleans.
"We witnessed thousands of Iranians pouring into southern Iraq," he said. "We were told by Iraqis the Iranians' intent was to initiate a civil war."
Gaubatz says his team "immediately" reported this important intelligence to the Pentagon and the CIA, but "it was never followed up on."
"The Iranians were taking over Shi'ite-dominated southern Iraq," he said.
Internet news sites cited reports in 2003 that U.S. intelligence believed Saddams WMDs were moved west to Lebanons heavily fortified Bekaa Valley , a beehive of Hezbollah forces, Iranians and Syrians. Also, prominent Washington journalist Bill Gertz has reported on the stream of tractor-trailer trucks the CIA spotted moving from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria in early 2003. Russian military advisors and special forces helped move the poison gas components, missile parts, nuclear-related equipment, tank and aircraft parts. Some of the WMDs could have also been trucked eastward into Iran. Why were the Russians so anxious to get the incriminating materials out before the Americans arrived? Perhaps because much of it was manufactured by them or Eastern European nations such as Ukraine, Bulgaria and Belarus.
Oddly, the United States has not publicized this huge arms transfer. Gertz reported that John Shaw, a deputy undersecretary of state who in October 2004 leaked information to the media of Russias involvement in the truck convoys, was forced to resign on Dec. 10 of that year. The reason: exceeding his authority in releasing the information, according to the Pentagon.
Gaubatz says that, while in Iraq, he was continuously mistaken by locals for being a Russian. This was because prior to the U.S. invasion, the locals said they saw numerous Russians coming in and out of the area.
The likelihood that WMDs were successfully spirited out of Iraq was also addressed in a 2006 book, Saddams Secrets, by former Iraqi fighter pilot and Gen. Georges Sada. He says not only were many of the WMDs driven out in large 18-wheeler trucks to Syria, but some WMDs were also flown out.
I know the names of some of those who were involved in smuggling WMDs out of Iraq in 2002 and 2003, Sada wrote. I know the names of officers from the front company, SES, who received the weapons from Saddam. I know how and when they were transported and shipped out of Iraq. And I know how many aircraft were actually used and what types of planes they were.
Gaubatz has learned through his Iraqi sources that some time after his 2003 visit, someone brought in heavy equipment and got the weapons out of the Euphrates bunkers and other nearby sites. With notebooks showing the site coordinates in hand, he meticulously makes his case.
Take me back to those sites and lets see whats there now, he says. It wont be a popular thing to say the enemy has taken these WMDs. Youd at least find the footprints: labs and storage.
"I have been informed by Israeli intelligence and learned through British intelligence that the intelligence on WMDs our team provided in 2003 was accurate," he said.
Gaubatz almost got a chance to go back a year ago when then-Congressman Curt Weldon expressed interest in visiting the sites. About nine Iraqis who had helped Gaubatz locate the sites had been given asylum in the U.S. after word leaked out that they were helping the Americans. According to e-mails showing correspondence between him and Weldons chief of staff, Russ Caso, Weldon met with some of these Iraqis. His office then thought up a plan: Weldon and Hoekstra, who was then the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, would travel to Iraq on a junket, but detour to a WMD site. If they could get the military to produce some heavy equipment and security, Weldon would be present during the excavations. If nothing was found, the trip would remain secret. If WMDs were found, the congressmen would alert the media that they had happened upon the strategic sites.
Then Gaubatz got word that Weldon did not want to alert rival Democrats, the Pentagon or even intelligence officials about the trip. He backed out.
It was going to be this big private trip, Gaubatz said, but they were offering no protection for the Iraqi witnesses.
Weldon, who lost his election race in 2006, now heads up a company called Defense Solutions. He did not respond to e-mails and phone calls from Insight. Neither did former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who had previously spoken out about the presence of WMDs in Iraq. A spokesman for Hoekstra referred all calls to the House Intelligence Committee, whose spokesman, Jamal Ware, also declined to respond to questions.
Gaubatz is disturbed by what he sees as a government effort to bury the story. He reports being interviewed in March by talk show host Glenn Beck for a one-hour segment to appear on CNN's Headline News. Gaubatz was with an Iraqi contact for the show. The Iraqi, who was part of the federal witness protection program, got calls from the FBI telling him they should stop the interview from being broadcast. The interview was not shown. Gaubatz says the FBI used security concerns as a justification for leaning on Beck's people, but the Iraqi had spoken out on these issues before and there had been no problems.
The real problem was, Gaubatz says, that "with me and the Iraqi source going public about this, it would open a can of worms on the WMD issue. Weldon and Russ Caso [Weldon's chief of staff] keep on telling me not to anger the wrong people."
Gaubatz rues the fact that many people in Iraq Americans and Iraqis alike" have risked their lives to reveal priceless intelligence information to U.S. policymakers. But in the sieve that is Americas intelligence apparatus, the most important information gets filtered out so that the president and members of Congress have critical gaps in understanding events on the ground. Weldon and Hoekstra, Gaubatz said, had no idea that WMDs were sitting in Iraq waiting to be found until he took the initiative to approach them.
I was hand-picked to go to Iraq and locate WMD sites, Gaubatz says. The sites at a minimum should have been searched when I and my team identified them. I put my life on the line everyday to go out into Iraq. Many troops did lose their lives. If one of the primary reasons we went to war was because of Saddam having WMDs, we should have done our jobs and excavated the sites before our enemy did.
One congressman who supports Gaubatz on the record is Rep. Virgil Goode, a Republican whose U.S. House seat represents a district in southern Virginia where Gaubatz grew up. In an interview, Goode says he remembered mentioning WMDs to the House Intelligence Committee, but his inquiries "like so many" went nowhere.
I believe he saw something, Goode said of Gaubatz. I think a whole lot of members of Congress have bought the national news media line that there were no WMDs there.
Four years into the war, Gaubatz says, The Republicans want to forget this. They dont want to know if there were WMDs because if there were, they blew it and the WMDs are not accounted for.
And the Democrats have Bush in a hot box. Why would they want to change that?
Katharine Harris contributed to this report.
-- "I found Saddams WMD bunkers," The Spectator, April 20, 2007
-- "I found Saddam's WMD bunkers," full article, MelaniePhillips.com
-- "Ex-Officer Spurned on WMD Claim," New York Sun, Feb. 8, 2006
-- United Nations Security Council Report, May 28, 2004
-- "UN inspectors: Saddam shipped out WMD before war and after," WorldTribune.com, June 11, 2004
-- "Report: U.S suspects Iraqi WMD in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley," WorldTribune.com, Aug. 26, 2003
-- "2 Russian generals given awards in Iraq on war eve," The Washington Times, Oct. 30, 2004
-- "Pentagon ousts official who tied Russia, Iraq arms," The Washington Times, Dec. 30, 2004
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