Buried in the October 2 congressional testimony of David Kay were two bombshells: all the Iraq Survey Group evidence collected to date indicates that there were not any active programs to develop or produce chemical or nuclear weapons.

In the middle of a paragraph halfway through his testimony, Kay presents what should have been his lead finding: "Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced - if not entirely destroyed - during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections." Similarly, three paragraphs into Kay's description of Saddam's intention to develop nuclear weapons, he says: "to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material."

It is understandable that Mr. Kay did not wish to highlight these findings. They are not mentioned in his concluding points, nor in his opening summary. They directly refute the two main charges of administration officials before the war as well as the claim that UN inspections were not working. It now appears from everything we have been able to learn since the war that the combination of UN sanctions, inspections, and the military strikes of 1991 and 1998 effectively destroyed Iraq's chemical and nuclear weapons programs and prevented their reconstruction. The same appears to be true for the biological weapons program and the missile program, but there is still more to be learned about these efforts.

Kay is stuck in a fundamental contradiction: he is both salesman and fact-finder for the administration. No matter how high his personal integrity, this dual role fatally compromises his mission and credibility. As salesman, he is compelled to put the best possible spin on his investigation. Thus his report features bits and pieces of testimony from Iraqi scientists and officials that support the administration pre-war claims that there were active programs and large, ready-to-use stockpiles of weapons. Unfortunately, even these tidbits only support the Kay conclusion that Saddam had the intention of restoring these programs if he could, not that they actually existed pre-war. Kay does not present nor discuss the widely-reported fact that all of the Iraqi scientists and officials now in custody have said that there were no active programs. This does not mean that such statements are true, but they should at least have been mentioned and evaluated in his testimony.

Bring in the UN

It is time to reactivate UNMOVIC. The United Nations has 12 years of experience investigating Iraq's programs, huge database of material on the programs, and a pool of skilled inspectors, many of whom speak Arabic. This formidable resource should be put to use.

Best of all, UNMOVIC is free. It part of the benefits of being a UN member. The annual budget for UNMOVIC was $60 million, an order of magnitude less that the $600 million Kay is requesting for his continued search - a search he says may never end. Even this $60 million, however, is paid by the UN, not the US.

The American public and the world community need an independent, objective group that can once and for all answer all the questions still remaining about Iraq's past efforts. The Iraq Survey Group cannot do this. It should be drastically scaled back and focus on the urgent task of finding and securing any remaining nuclear materials or possible biological agents or chemical compounds. Only a truly independent agency, without a point to prove, can provide the answers that we need to be certain that the remains of the Iraq program are no longer a threat.

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