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Interview with David Kay, former U.N. Weapons Inspector - 2003-04-29


VOA's David Borgida interviews David Kay, former U.N. weapons inspector. Mr Kay talks about the latest developments in Iraq with the search for weapons of mass destruction and Sadaam Hussein.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining us, former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay, now with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Mr. Kay has been with us a few times I believe. Thanks so much for joining us again.

Let's talk for a moment quickly as we get into the issue of the search for weapons first, though, about the firefight that we just saw, in which I believe at least 13 Iraqis were killed. This sort of thing may or may not, in your view, having some familiarity with this sort of thing, occur repeatedly, sporadically, irregularly? Are we going to see these kinds of firefights on occasion?

MR. KAY
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we will. It's part of what is going with having a large amount of force in a country where there are always some people who would rather you not be there and are happy to cause incidents. Plus the usual friction that occurs when you simply have a lot of people together, you will have continuing incidents; hopefully not as tragic as this one.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Kay, there were some reports -- a number of reports I believe -- there was one at one point about mobile vans were discovered below ground, and some others that, at least initially, indicated there might be some fresh opportunities to search for weapons of mass destruction, or at least find them. So far, no real major finds. Outline for us the challenge -- you've been there -- on this one.

MR. KAY
Well, the challenge is, first of all, the size of the country, which is very large, about the size of the U.S. State of California or a European country roughly the size of France. So, there are a lot of places to hide and [you had] a government that for over 12 years had hidden its weapons of mass destruction program from on-site U.N. inspectors, so they were not laying out there to easily be found or bumped into.

Plus, this is what a lot of people forget -- the military force that is there to protect and help the inspectors has had a number of other challenges. First of all, restoring civil law and civil order. The looting, I think, and the extent of the looting, came as a surprise to everyone.

MR. BORGIDA
But aren't there specialized military groups that are actually looking full-time for these sorts of things?

MR. KAY
There are.

MR. BORGIDA
Would they be less bothered by stability issues?

MR. KAY
Not really, for two reasons. These forces, all of them in fact, include civilians like myself, are designed for a permissive environment. The environment in Iraq has not been permissive. The danger of partisan action, irregular action, has been there. So, you've had to peel off military forces to accompany them. You've also had to use the very same helicopters for mobility that the military wanted to use. So, it has really been resource-constrained.

This was part of a tradeoff. The military strategy to win in Iraq was a light force that went in with speed and precision. The result, unfortunately, is you didn't have the resources to deal with widespread looting, for example, or inspections, as it turns out.

MR. BORGIDA
I think we talked about this once before when you were here -- are you at this point, at the end of April, satisfied with the level of attention this issue is getting? Because, after all, to many I would think, the disclosure and the finding of weapons of mass destruction would be very big news and, in some ways, define the success of this military campaign in Iraq -- for some.

MR. KAY
I think there are two sides to that. My own personal feeling is I'm not satisfied; I would like to have this as a major priority. And not only because that is the reason -- or one of the major reasons -- we went to war, but because I am really worried; the worst outcome for me would be for us to discover them but not be able to verify that we have discovered them all. Because some, in the meantime, may have walked across the border, into the arms of someone who was willing to sell them.

On the other hand, I also recognize the extent of the challenge and this desire for instant gratification. If you will remember, the first weekend of the war, we had any number of military experts on television networks in the U.S. declaring the war plan was a disaster, we were going to suffer 3,000 casualties because of the way it was planned. A week later we were in downtown Baghdad and the Iraqi army had disappeared.

I think we have to recognize that some things take longer than we would like. But, I must say, my bottom line is this -- I think it deserves a higher priority.

MR. BORGIDA
I couldn't help but take note of the comment you made there in passing that some of the weapons may have walked across the border. Is that a suggestion that perhaps they are, as some administration officials have claimed, hiding in Syria somewhere?

MR. KAY
I think there are two possibilities. The Iraqis before the war may well have decided to move some outside the country. But what really worries me is a different situation. That is, the Iraqi regime understood individually that it was going to history. You saw the way it dissolved. Now, you ask, if you had access to a chemical or biological weapon or the technology and you were worried about your future and you knew you didn't have a future in a free Iraq, would you pick up some of that, take it and try to sell it?

I'm afraid that the informal transfer may be more serious than any active, concerted action by the Saddam regime to move stuff early to Syria or some place else.

MR. BORGIDA
A disturbing prospect clearly. Let's move, though, to Saddam Hussein himself and the search for him. How would you describe that challenge? In the same terms as the search for the bio and chemical weapons? Equally difficult?

MR. KAY
I think it's equally important and probably, if anything, more difficult. The chemical weapons have a large footprint. There are many of them in the production process. That's why I am confident that we actually will find it eventually. Looking for a single individual or one or two individuals is always a difficult task. Look at Osama bin Laden, who we are still looking for.

I do not believe the administration can call the operation a success -- and in fact I don't believe we can achieve stability in Iraq -- as long as there is question about, where is Saddam Hussein and his family? Is he alive? A “where in the world is Elvis” sort of search would lead to political instability in Iraq over the long term.

MR. BORGIDA
Interestingly, I guess what you're saying is that the long shadow of the brutality and the terror has so many living in fear that unless they see tangible evidence in the way of either DNA or something else, of his death or at least an arrest, there will be that instability that you're suggesting?

MR. KAY
I think that's right. Sixty percent of Iraqis have never lived under another regime. Their whole life was defined by Saddam, his rule of terror and his rule fundamentally. The belief that he may still be there and might return is one that is strong. And in fact the Baathist Party has an interest in perpetuating that, even if it's operating clandestinely. I think you need a definitive conclusion on Saddam's whereabouts.

MR. BORGIDA
Would you think, finally, that some of these little firefights and skirmishes that we've just seen and perhaps will see again are the last vestiges of those around the country who still are hoping that Saddam will resurface?

MR. KAY
I'm a pessimist. I think they're vestiges. I'm not sure they are the last vestiges. That's why I think it's important to find him, so we can in fact terminate that phase. Without Saddam, you won't terminate that phase.

MR. BORGIDA
Interesting comments. The views of former U.N. weapons inspector David Kay, now with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and one of my personal favorite guests. Thanks so much for joining us.

MR. KAY
Thank you.

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