April 21, 2003


With the war all but over, and the Iraqi regime's "minders" no longer looking over the shoulders of Baghdad-based journalists, we are starting to get some excellent reporting on the last days of Saddam and the boys. One journalist who refused to be intimidated all along, and who has produced some riveting commentary on the war, is the NYT's John Burns. In his latest article (link requires registration) he recounts how he was personally targeted and "shaken down" because of critical articles he had produced before the war began, and discloses the blatant solicitation by regime officials of bribes from journalists. Just hours before the Marines arrived in Baghdad, one Information Ministry official apparently needed some "traveling money":

Mr. Ta'ee, in the hours before midnight, toured the rooftop positions of Western television networks, demanding immediate cash payment, in dollars, of the exorbitant fees imposed by the ministry on all Western journalists. Offering no receipts, he gathered a hefty sum — estimated by some of the networks to be in excess of $200,000 — then disappeared.

Andrew Sullivan is lobbying today for a Pulitzer for Burns. Okay by me.

The Times Online has a detailed report on Uday's diaries that reveal what a sick puppy this guy is (was?).

Newsweek's piece, The Saddam Files, describes how the dictator utilized the medical training of his country's surgeons:

Anwar Abdul Razak, remembers when a surgeon kissed him on each cheek, said he was sorry and cut his ears off. Razak, then 21 years old, had been swept up during one of Saddam Hussein’s periodic crackdowns on deserters from the Army. Razak says he was innocently on leave at the time, but no matter; he had been seized by some Baath Party members who earned bounties for catching Army deserters. At Basra Hospital, Razak’s ears were sliced off without painkillers. He said he was thrown into jail with 750 men, all with bloody stumps where their ears had been.

One Iraqi scientist associated with Saddam's WMD programs, has told the U.S. military that the regime destroyed many such weapons just days before the war began, according to this report in the NYT. (again, link requires registration) An excerpt:

They said the scientist led Americans to a supply of material that proved to be the building blocks of illegal weapons, which he claimed to have buried as evidence of Iraq's illicit weapons programs.

The scientist also told American weapons experts that Iraq had secretly sent unconventional weapons and technology to Syria, starting in the mid-1990's, and that more recently Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, the military officials said.

The Americans said the scientist told them that President Saddam Hussein's government had destroyed some stockpiles of deadly agents as early as the mid-1990's, transferred others to Syria, and had recently focused its efforts instead on research and development projects that are virtually impervious to detection by international inspectors, and even American forces on the ground combing through Iraq's giant weapons plants.

I'm surprised that this report isn't getting more attention than it is, given the vacuum of evidence of WMD so far. My sense is that the U.S. military is playing its cards very close to the vest as regards WMD evidence in the last couple of weeks, after having had some embarrassing episodes early in the war in which we didn't have what we thought we had.

Posted by dan at April 21, 2003 11:30 AM
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