Search For Iraq's WMDs Goes On
U.N. Team Still Looking for Iraq's Arsenal
Though Work Is Seen as Irrelevant, Security Council Can't Agree to End It
By Colum Lynch
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 2, 2007; A01
UNITED NATIONS -- More than four years after the fall of Baghdad, the United Nations is spending millions of dollars in Iraqi oil money to continue the hunt for Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
Every weekday, at a secure commercial office building on Manhattan's East Side, a team of 20 U.N. experts on chemical and biological weapons pores over satellite images of former Iraqi weapons sites… And they maintain a cadre of about 300 weapons experts from 50 countries and prepare them for inspections in Iraq -- inspections they will almost certainly never conduct, in search of weapons that few believe exist.
…But, they say, their masters at the U.N. Security Council have been unable to agree to either shut down their effort or revise their mandate to make their work more relevant. Russia insists that Iraq's disarmament must be formally confirmed by the inspectors, while the United States vehemently opposes a U.N. role in Iraq, saying coalition inspectors have already done the job.
To get the story behind the story, I went to Naafi Achwad, current head of the U.N. inspection team. I found Mr. Achwad behind his desk at his office in Manhattan’s pricey East Side. When I came in he was sailing a paper airplane he’d made out of the latest satellite photos of east Jordan; the Nigerian member of the inspection team was trying to shoot Mr. Achwad’s paper airplane out of the air with a paperclip launched from a rubber band.
It happened to be payday, an office messenger delivered paychecks to members of the twenty-man inspection team, who responded with appropriate whistles and shouts of “We eats chicken-necks TO-NIGHT!” I introduced myself to Mr. Achwad and fired my first question:
Me: Mr. Achwad, how can your department justify taking millions for Iraqi weapons inspection when you’re not even allowed in Iraq?
Achwad: What are you, some kind of left-wing douchebag or something? Is that our fault, that we’re not allowed in Iraq anymore? That’s Bush and Cheney, the U.S. government. They don’t want the file closed on the weapons of mass destruction, they don’t want a U.N. report that says “No WMDs in Iraq.” So they pay us to keep the joint open. You think I’m gonna argue with them? If they’re throwin’ the dough, I’m catchin’. You think we oughtta be closed up? Try telling that to THIS. (He held up his paycheck.)
Me: But day after day you fail to turn up any evidence of a viable WMD program—
Achwad: --and day after day, you can *kiss my ass,* and the ass of every member of this WMD inspection team—black, brown, yellow, white, you can kiss all our asses, asses of every different creed and color, spanning the globe, if you want us to go home. If they’re payin’, we’re stayin’. And dat’s da name of dat tune. Next question.
Me: In the more than four years that this incarnation of the WMD inspection team has been active, have you discovered anything at all of value?
Achwad: Yes. This: (here he held up his paycheck, and flexed it in front of me.) Wanna see it again? (he flexed the paycheck again) This, and a multi-million dollar yearly budget. You think that grows on trees? Here—(he reached into his desk and pulled out a photo) Take that for your article.
Me: (studying photo) What is this?
Achwad: That’s a satellite image, taken from space, magnified 60,000 times, of me, walking out of a Mercedes-Benz dealership with the keys to a new S600 in my hand. Isn’t that amazing? You can even see my thumb pressing the little button that goes “woop-woop” and makes the doors open. And my father was a goddam goat farmer! God bless the Bush administration for keeping this place open, and you can quote me, bimbo.
Labels: Iraq WMDs