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Iraq: Fit for Discussion

April 26, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 17

April 5, page 15: Roger M. Perlmutter is executive vice president for research and development at Amgen. Kevin Sharer is chief executive officer.

Iraq: Fit for discussion?

The Government & Policy Insights by Lois Ember titled "Intelligence Failure or Political Malfeasance?" is entirely inappropriate for the newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society (C&EN, March 15, page 34). To be sure, there is the fine print that says, "Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS," but that surely cannot justify using C&EN for violently partisan political propaganda.

Ember's screed reiterates the old propaganda that "no weapons of mass destruction" were found in Iraq and that therefore Republicans are guilty of misleading the American people.

This thesis requires a little quick-and-dirty jiggling of the definition of "weapons of mass destruction." It is well known and documented that Iraqi forces made extensive use of poison gas (certainly mustard gas, and most likely organophosphate nerve gas) in Saddam Hussein's war against Iran. The total number of casualties from mustard gas, which was used extensively in the first World War and several times later, is well in excess of the casualty total from nuclear weapons, and any definition of "weapons of mass destruction" that omits those toxic gases is tendentious, to say the least.

In addition, even the most violently biased newspapers have had to admit to the finding of extensive mass graves of Hussein's victims in Iraq. It is hard to see how those can be ignored just because the murderers did their work using old-fashioned weapons. After all, Adolf Hitler managed to create the Holocaust without recourse to nuclear weapons, yet I haven't heard anybody criticizing Franklin D. Roosevelt because Hitler didn't use nukes!

But my main point is simply that C&EN is no place for Democrat or Republican partisanship, and Ember should have had the decency to respect that. Let's have no more of it.

James B. Patrick
Staunton, Va.


The Insights by ember about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq is strong one-sided political opinion. Ember is entitled to her opinion, but what in the world is it doing in C&EN?

Unbiased readers all know that Iraq had WMDs. United Nations inspectors destroyed some and documented much more before they were kicked out. Numerous UN resolutions demanded their destruction. Two prior U.S. Administrations and countless individuals agreed. Even France and Germany agreed. The question is: What happened to them? And to suggest that George W. Bush falsified their existence is incredibly stupid.

There is certainly a place in this world for partisan criticism, but a professional publication representing ACS is definitely not the right place. C&EN editors need to reexamine their priorities--seriously!

Walter S. Creasy
Bridgewater, N.J.


Y our article on national security ("Iraqi Threat Called Distortion," Jan. 19, page 14) was bad enough, but Ember's pathetic, full-page Insights is absolutely unacceptable. Before I destroy her rantings, let me say that these kinds of slanted, fact-evading pieces have absolutely no place in this quality magazine.

As for Ember's terrible diatribe on the relation between the reality of Iraqi WMDs and the world's perception of their existence--well, where to begin? For starters, Ember's reliance on discredited international agencies is incredibly foolish and naive. In 2002, she would have believed the International Atomic Energy Agency and its claims about no nuclear programs in Iraq. The same IAEA that can't keep track of nuclear developments in any closed, authoritarian country (see North Korea, Iran, etcetera)?

Even worse, she would have placed total faith in the claims of UN weapons inspectors, the ones zooming around Baghdad at high speed in silly cat-and-mouse games with the Iraqis. These UN inspectors are the group that couldn't even stumble over a huge, sophisticated Iraqi biological weapons program after years of looking in the 1990s, until at last a defector clued them in on its very existence. This is the same UN that is desperately covering its tracks so that the staggering magnitude of the UN's gaffe in the Iraqi oil-for-food program won't come fully into the light.

And since when did the UN step into the breach to guard and protect the innocent without the U.S. or Great Britain leading the way? Do we need to remind Ember of the "safe zone" of Srebenica? President Bush is supposed to trust the security of the U.S. to the UN? The security of my children? Under no circumstances.

As for the intelligence failures by the U.S. and the rest of the world (yes, Ms. Ember, even the French publicly talked about Iraq's programs for WMDs), that is definitely a problem. But for Ember to slam the Bush Administration for picking and choosing intelligence is, first, incorrect, and second, irresponsible. Though the U.S. wants to have the best intelligence about possible threats, there have been staggering lapses in the recent past. The Central Intelligence Agency was caught completely flat-footed when Pakistan and India exploded nuclear weapons in the 1990s. The entire litany of terrorist attacks during the Clinton years were all unforeseen.

The recent precedents in U.S. intelligence are that threats are underemphasized and slowly recognized. So with Hussein giving no account of his original stocks of chemical weapons, suspicious activities taking place all throughout the Middle East between repressive governments and terrorist groups, and U.S. intelligence all too often behind the curve, Ember thinks President Bush was reckless or heedless to enforce the UN's umpteen resolutions against Iraq? Instead, it is her own tunnel vision and myopia that is appalling. Bush took the actions needed to knock back on their heels those who call themselves our enemies, before they aimed for another target with a bigger weapon.

Again, I am truly sorry you printed such irresponsible junk in C&EN.

Christopher C. Cook
Durham, N.C.


You have been featuring left-wing opinions under the guise of reporting on chemical weapons inspections in Iraq. I strongly object. I get all this information in a less biased form on the national news. I pay my ACS dues and I expect you to stay out of politics.

Ember's full-page Insights is another prime example of your unrelenting campaign against the Bush Administration. I will not let you get away with it. Examples of your inflammatory rhetoric are "arm-chair warrior," "blue smoke and mirrors," and "behavior broaches active deception."

These cutting and unfair remarks have no place in a professional technical society magazine. You are denigrating the integrity of our President, who I believe made the right decision in our fight against terrorism.

We did find 3,000 chemical weapons suits in southern Iraq. We did find unmanned air vehicles and rockets fitted with empty chemical weapons rounds. We knew Hussein had chemical weapons stocks that were unaccounted for in UN inspections. These could be easily hidden in little spider holes in the ground. All he had to do to prevent war was to allow inspectors access to certain sites and to requested documents to verify that he destroyed all of the chemical weapons (the "unaccounted-for stuff"). The longer we showed weakness to this mass murderer, the more it emboldened him.

We found more than $750 million that Hussein had hidden in Iraq. That would have paid for a lot of terrorist activities and a lot of anthrax. He was paying Palestinian families $25,000 if their child committed a suicide bombing in Israel. If that is not state-sponsored terrorism, what is? Now please: No more politics in C&EN.

Geoffrey Lindsay
Ridgecrest, Calif.


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