Friday, April 27, 2007

I'll let others speak on this one. First, from a Melanie Phillips article in The Spectator (hat tip to Arma Virumque):

It’s a fair bet that you have never heard of a guy called Dave Gaubatz. It’s also a fair bet that you think the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has found absolutely nothing, nada, zilch; and that therefore there never were any WMD programmes in Saddam’s Iraq to justify the war ostensibly waged to protect the world from Saddam’s use of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Dave Gaubatz, however, says that you could not be more wrong. Saddam’s WMD did exist. He should know, because he found the sites where he is certain they were stored. And the reason you don’t know about this is that the American administration failed to act on his information, ‘lost’ his classified reports and is now doing everything it can to prevent disclosure of the terrible fact that, through its own incompetence, it allowed Saddam’s WMD to end up in the hands of the very terrorist states against whom it is so controversially at war.

You may be tempted to dismiss this as yet another dodgy claim from a warmongering lackey of the world Zionist neocon conspiracy giving credence to yet another crank pushing US propaganda. If so, perhaps you might pause before throwing this article at the cat. Mr Gaubatz is not some marginal figure. He’s pretty well as near to the horse’s mouth as you can get.

Having served for 12 years as an agent in the US Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, Mr Gaubatz, a trained Arabic speaker, was hand-picked for postings in 2003, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Nasariyah in Iraq. His mission was to locate suspect WMD sites, discover threats against US forces in the area and find Saddam loyalists, and then send such intelligence to the Iraq Survey Group and other agencies.

Between March and July 2003, he says, he was taken to four sites in southern Iraq — two within Nasariyah, one 20 miles south and one near Basra — which, he was told by numerous Iraqi sources, contained biological and chemical weapons, material for a nuclear programme and UN-proscribed missiles. He was, he says, in no doubt whatever that this was true.

This was, in the first place, because of the massive size of these sites and the extreme lengths to which the Iraqis had gone to conceal them. Three of them were bunkers buried 20 to 30 feet beneath the Euphrates. They had been constructed through building dams which were removed after the huge subterranean vaults had been excavated so that these were concealed beneath the river bed. The bunker walls were made of reinforced concrete five feet thick.

‘There was no doubt, with so much effort having gone into hiding these constructions, that something very important was buried there’, says Mr Gaubatz. By speaking to a wide range of Iraqis, some of whom risked their lives by talking to him and whose accounts were provided in ignorance of each other, he built up a picture of the nuclear, chemical and biological materials they said were buried underground.

‘They explained in detail why WMDs were in these areas and asked the US to remove them,’ says Mr Gaubatz. ‘Much of this material had been buried in the concrete bunkers and in the sewage pipe system. There were also missile imprints in the area and signs of chemical activity — gas masks, decontamination kits, atropine needles. The Iraqis and my team had no doubt at all that WMDs were hidden there.’

There was yet another significant piece of circumstantial corroboration. The medical records of Mr Gaubatz and his team showed that at these sites they had been exposed to high levels of radiation.

Mr Gaubatz verbally told the Iraq Study Group (ISG) of his findings, and asked them to come with heavy equipment to breach the concrete of the bunkers and uncover their sealed contents. But to his consternation, the ISG told him they didn’t have the manpower or equipment to do it and that it would be ‘unsafe’ to try.

‘The problem was that the ISG were concentrating their efforts in looking for WMD in northern Iraq and this was in the south,’ says Mr Gaubatz. ‘They were just swept up by reports of WMD in so many different locations. But we told them that if they didn’t excavate these sites, others would.’

That, he says, is precisely what happened. He subsequently learnt from Iraqi, CIA and British intelligence that the WMD buried in the four sites were excavated by Iraqis and Syrians, with help from the Russians, and moved to Syria. The location in Syria of this material, he says, is also known to these intelligence agencies. The worst-case scenario has now come about. Saddam’s nuclear, biological and chemical material is in the hands of a rogue terrorist state — and one with close links to Iran.

When Mr Gaubatz returned to the US, he tried to bring all this to light. Two congressmen, Peter Hoekstra, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Curt Weldon, were keen to follow up his account. To his horror, however, when they tried to access his classified intelligence reports, they were told that all 60 of them — which, in the routine way, he had sent in 2003 to the computer clearing-house at a US airbase in Saudi Arabia — had mysteriously gone missing. These written reports had never even been seen by the ISG.
From an interview conducted by our friend Ren with Major Jason Kerr:

LL: Can you talk about some of the sensitive site surveys you took part in?

JK: Sure. Once we got to Baghdad, we received the mission to examine three sites. I was instructed to recon the sites and report. A sensitive site exploitation (SSE) team would be tasked to recon these sites and report back to higher headquarters without including the Marines in this process. Well, my commander did not find this a sensible approach to operations. If there was something in our AO, we wanted to be the first to know, so I was tasked to conduct the initial sensitive site exploitation of three possible sites within our AO. On the map here, along this intersection, there were these large mounds of dirt, and on top of them were artillery pieces. In this artillery firing position, we located several bunkers that
went underground. I believe that this site was considered a possible site for the storing and shooting of chemical munitions. However, there were no signs of chemical activity at this site. The second site was here behind a grain yard. There were these three strange stone structures that looked like big brick ovens in the middle of what appeared to be a junk yard. Again, there were no signs of chemical activity at this site. The third site, which proved to be the most interesting one, was right here south of Baghdad. This was the nuclear power facility. Using our radiac meter, we cautiously approached the plant and the radiac meter spiked dramatically. We
went to another building around the corner that the locals had asked us to secure because their kids were playing around it. Upon further examination, there were 55-gallon barrels in this warehouse and all this yellowcake sitting on the ground outside. I asked my first sergeant, “Is that what I think it is?” The first sergeant replied, “Sir, that’s exactly what you think it is. Let’s see how close we can get to it.” So we continued with the radiac meter and quickly spiked above five micrograys. Realizing that we had a hot site here, we backed off.

At another site in the CSSG AO, my 4/101 CM platoon leader utilized his Chemical Agent Detector Paper (M8) on some old rusted rounds. He put the paper in and saw that it matched up with G nerve. As a matter of fact, he got a great picture of it. We reported our information because we had chemical munitions here. Granted, I don’t believe anyone could fire these munitions because they were rusted over and leaking. There were probably only 10 or 12 of them in a little pile, but they were dangerous because they were just sitting there leaking into the ground.

LL: How close did you get to the yellowcake?

JK: It was actually shielded. From here to that wall – about 10 feet – it was inside this building and the door had been opened. You could look in there and see tons of this material. It looked like someone had been trying to take it out and had knocked some of it over. The little splotches on the ground you could get close to because they weren’t giving off a large reading, although you still didn’t want to touch it. We could get within about 10 feet of the opening of the warehouse and verified that high readings were emanating from that room. So we knew this was right up our alley and knew immediately that we must secure this site. Thus, we began by blocking off access to the area and tried to keep the kids from running in there.

There’s a local town beside this site to the southeast. All the nuclear scientists who worked at the nuclear facility lived there. We drove up and started talking to them. They were the ones who had initially brought this area to our attention. They knew there were leaks and were concerned because many of their children were playing around the hazardous area. So we asked them to help keep the kids away so we could take care of the problem. I asked them what they did and they said they were the engineers and scientists who worked at the plant. They all spoke English very well and said they were all educated in America. So this entire village was comprised of nothing but people who worked in the nuclear facility.

Inside the power plant complex, I was able to enter the library. I took digital pictures and video and took it all back to higher. But what ended up happening was that once higher heard about the yellowcake being there, they pulled us out and sent in an engineer company from the Marines. I didn’t know why they wanted to do that. We had the equipment, the people and the expertise to take care of this. We could start exploiting the site right away and doing everything we needed to do now that we had the site secured. Division Headquarters had a different plan. We were ordered to continue stability operations in our area.


LL: Did you ever hear any more about that site survey you did when you found all the yellowcake?

JK: No. The engineers took it over from us. I knew they were not equipped to do it and that they didn’t have the expertise or the experience to do it. It was one of the things I lobbied my battalion commander about. I knew I was the guy to deal with this. I had noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who had experience in dealing with that kind of stuff and I knew we could do it. We knew enough that we could get it started and whoever would take it over from us would be set up for success. He said, “I understand that, but get over the anger. You have another job to do.” That was the end of the conversation. The engineers took it over and I have no idea what happened after that.

LL: You hear in the news some self-proclaimed experts saying that our pre-war intelligence was wrong and that Iraq hadn’t been trying to get a hold of yellowcake and that type of thing. When you hear that kind of thing in the media, what’s your reaction?

JK: My reaction is that they’re wrong. I saw chemical munitions. I saw nuclear production facilities. How many more steps do you have to go through before you weaponize it? Just the fact alone that Saddam fired SCUDs into Kuwait and utilized chemical weapons in the past proves he intended to weaponize chemicals or nuclear munitions. Surely I believe he would have done it. Our intelligence was a bit mistaken in that we thought he was more advanced than he actually was in it and it looked like a lot of the UN sanctions were working, but a lot of them were not working.
And don't forget about this guy.

Pass the word.

Have a nice weekend.

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