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Interview With Dr. David Kay - 2002-10-10


David Kay is the former Chief United Nations Nuclear Weapons Inspector in Iraq. He spoke with VOA's David Borgida.

DR. KAY
I've always thought the term "presidential palaces" actually didn't describe very well what they are. These are sites, some are 25 kilometers on a side, with hundreds of buildings on each site, not just a palace-like structure, although several of them do have palace-like structures. There are reports from Iraqi defectors of building of underground sites within the site, under the floor of an existing building. And that is why inspection is so difficult and time consuming. It is not something you can do a quick walk-around and know what you have seen.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about that. How long would it take, in your view as a former inspector, to do a very comprehensive inspection of these sites and more?

DR. KAY
We have been helped in part by better technology than we had in 1991 -- for example, looking at underground facilities. I would think it would take a good set of inspectors -- and that is 25 to maybe 100 inspectors -- probably a week at least to do a comprehensive survey and inspection.

MR. BORGIDA
How important is this notion that some of the experts in Iraq need to be interviewed outside of Iraq?

DR. KAY
The key to any weapons program is actually not buildings or documents. It's scientific personnel. They know the secrets. They know how the program has gone. They know how many weapons they have produced.

In Iraq in previous inspections, we had the most difficult of all situations. I would sit across the table from an Iraqi scientist, like you, but on each shoulder he would have a security agent and behind him a security agent. If I was able to whittle out of him some information, he suffered. And in one case the Iraqis told me they killed a guy afterwards, a scientist. So, of course, they don't talk very much, although they perspire quite frequently under that sort of interrogation. But if you want to get to the heart of that program, you need to be able to talk freely to them.

Now, some of them you can probably do that in Iraq, although with the terror apparatus of Saddam Hussein, I think most of them would feel a lot more secure talking freely outside of Iraq, and even with being able to take their families.

MR. BORGIDA
And that is why that is obviously so important. There have been some reports, Dr. Kay, that Saddam, if he felt pushed up against the wall militarily, might then unleash his chemical, biological, perhaps any nuclear, capacity that he has in some last-ditch effort to get back at the West. What is your sense of that happening? You've watched him carefully for over a decade.

DR. KAY
My sense is that Saddam, above all else, wants to stay alive and stay in power. If he becomes convinced that those two things are not going to happen, he is going to be removed from power -- and I think he has little doubt, if he is removed from power, he is not going to be alive very long -- I think there is a real prospect that he will attempt to order the use of those weapons.

Now, we don't know, and it is a great unknown, how effective an order from Baghdad to people who are in the field to use chemical or biological weapons, or radiation devices, would be followed through. My own suspicion is a lot of them at that point would realize Saddam is history and they have a new life, and they would not want to be charged with war crimes against humanity and wouldn't execute those orders.

MR. BORGIDA
Now, I have heard this from the Bush administration as well, Dr. Kay. It sounds like there is some sort of signal to the generals and the military staff in Iraq that you can act on your own here if the coalition forces are coming. Is that what you think is happening? Is this an important message to those people, that you can act independently if you want?

DR. KAY
I think some people are sending the message, but let me tell you, from talking to Iraqis, I don't think you have to send them a message on this. And we saw in the Gulf War, you had a large number of Iraqi troops surrendering to an Italian photographer. I think the Iraqis understand that if Saddam is gone, they have to make their own way in life, and that using chemical or biological weapons is not going to help them.

I think what we do is we have to portray that there are serious consequences of those uses and that they do have alternatives. It is not unlike what happened at the end of the Second World War. One of the great fears then was that the Nazi forces would retreat to the Bavarian Alps and make a final stand. In fact, what they did is there was a headlong rush to the British and French zone to stay out of the Soviet zone. I think that is almost independent of psychological warfare or information campaigns. People act to protect themselves and their families when society is crashing around them.

MR. BORGIDA
Dr. Kay, thanks so much.

DR. KAY
Thank you.

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