Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq

Western countries led the United States of America to have put a spotlight on Iraq with claims that the country possessed or intended to possess weapons of mass destruction. The case was attributable to Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi President since 1979 who the western countries viewed to be pursuing a covert plan to develop weapons of mass destruction. He was also accused of supporting the international terrorism and thus, he was to be contained. What followed then, was a deliberate attempt to contain Saddam Hussein’s presumed ambition and bring to a halt to his alleged plans of developing weapons of mass destruction. Inspections by the United Nations did not confirm the fears of presence of WMD that the US held. The US threatened with a military incursion and with an unanimous Security Council resolution, launched a military strike. In March 19, 2003, the combined forces of the US and Britain struck Iraq to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction. This write up explores issues surrounding the weapons of mass destruction saga in Iraq prior to March 2003 and concludes that Iraq did not have WMD as claimed by the US and Britain.

According to Bowman (2002), a weapon of mass destruction (WDM) is a term that originated with the Russian military to connote the ‘nuclear, chemical, and biological weapon’. Discussions that had eventuated over what exactly a weapon of mass destruction was, led some scholars and security organs to include the radiological weapons into the list.

For some, weapons of mass destruction are any method or means with a potent of inflicting massive casualties when employed. The latter thinking emerged following the passenger airplane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

However, the use of the term in relation to Iraq mainly focused on the nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The greatest fear concerning the WMD is that the weapons may fall into the hands of terror groups. However, Bowman (2002) observed that terrorists can be restrained from accessing and using the weapons, due to the fact that terror groups are more concerned with political gains from attacks. They also seek to obtain attention of huge audiences without destabilizing their base support. Bowman (2002) further postulated that terrorists were not likely to opt for the weapon of mass destruction because it is equally risky to them besides the great possibility of retaliation with equal measures. However, the analysis by Bowman does not seem to alleviate fears of the United States of America (US) and its allies that terrorists are able and will use the weapons of mass destruction.

This fear led to the military attacks in 2003 spearheaded by the US and Britain on the Iraqi administration under Saddam Hussein. The aftermath of the attack was immense loss of lives in Iraq and subsequent capture and hanging of Saddam Hussein. More shocking was the revelation that Iraq did not, after all possess WMD as was believed by the US and the British governments. As evidences continue to flow across the media, it has become clearer that WMD was a pretext that the Bush administration simply used against a regime that has been highly disregarded by George W. Bush in particular, and Bush family in general. This paper argues that Iraq did not possess WMD prior to the attack in 2003 and that the attackers used this assertion to settle historical political scores against the Iraqi administration.

First, the alleged access to WMD by terror groups poses the greatest security threat to the US which has for a long time been the target for terrorists due to its perceived hatred for certain religious fundamentals. It has thus treated any country that seems to be sympathetic to any terror group with a lot of suspicion. However, the terror was like the case of al Qaeda in Pakistan or imagined as it became evident later with Iraq. This is how Saddam Hussein administration came into the equation or at least that is what the US wanted people to believe. The Bush administration believed that Saddam Hussein was in possession of such weapons of mass destruction and that he was also blatantly supporting terror groups and would not have hesitated to supply such weapons to them.

According to Hay (2010), the USA was determined to undertake a preemptive attack on Iraq based on that thinking. However, it could only do so according to the legal procedures for invasion laid down by the United Nations . Hay postulates that for any invasion to have been legal, the US had to show that it was either acting in self-defense, responding to a humanitarian crisis or had obtained the United Nation’s Security Council resolution to undertake the invasion. Under the circumstances, the first two leeways failed since Iraq had not attacked first and the humanitarian issue has never been emphasized since the Gulf war. This left the USA with the option of seeking the Security Council resolution.

Hay (2010), observes that President George W. Bush sent his Secretary of State, Collin Powell, to the United Nation’s Security Council to present the case. The Council responded by sending a team of inspectors to Iraq to conduct searches on such weapons. Squassoni (2003), notes that on the 7th November 2002, the UN Security council gave Iraq the final opportunity to disarm. The inspectors under the banner of The U.N. Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) did not find clear evidence that Iraq did possess or had plans of possessing WMD.

Squassoni (2003) notes that the inspectors conducted more than 750 inspections at 550 sites using modern technologies, backed up by UN Security Council resolution. This was a threat of imminent military strike and synergy of the two inspection teams. The inspectors, led by the Chairman Han Blix and the Director General, ELBaradei, made their first report on the 19th December 2002 to the Security Council. In their report, they noted that there was great consensus that Iraq omitted most of the information and much of the outstanding issues from the 1998 inspection. However, in Blix’s words, “the issues do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remained in Iraq nor do they exclude that possibility”. They point to lack of evidence and inconsistencies which raises unanswered questions (Squassoni, 2003). This was the first indication that Iraq, indeed, did not have WMD.

In their January 2003 report, the true intention of the US was evident. The inspectors gave report on the Iraq’s area of co-operation and non co-operation but the media interpreted the report to mean that Iraq was not complying. On the other hand, the chairperson Blix noted that Iraq co-operated “rather well, but there were areas where cooperation on substance was lacking.”

Additionally, the Director General, El Baradei, noted that since November, there had not been discovered prohibited nuclear activities but called on nations to continue giving intelligence. An attempt by El Baradei to seek to allow the inspection to take its natural course to provide credible information was inhibited. A White House spokesperson said that the ‘report… clearly shows Iraq is not complying.” El Baradei also noted in his report that, there is no evidence that Iraq has renewed the development of its weapons of mass destruction since its halt in 1990 (Squassoni, 2003).This is a clear indication that the US was not interested in the outcome of the inspection. It showed that they had a clear-cut intention and were only looking for a slight justification to swing into action. The comment by the White House spokes person indicates that they desired to undertake invasion without even a positive confirmation of whether or not such weapons existed.

Additionally, Baker & Moore (2009) note that the Bush administration was active in manipulating it’s people with incorrect information that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attack, and was in possession of even more destructive weapons. This was designed to hide the true agenda of the invasion. However, the two scholars observe that  the Deputy Secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz, during an interview stated  that, “the truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason”.

Hay (2010), further notes that there was a meeting conducted on July 23, 2002 in Downing Street with the British government which indicated that Bush was bent to invade Iraq even before the 9/11 attacks. In fact, as Hay (2010) observes Bush was determined to remove Saddam Hussein from power and he made it the policy of his administration. It was not a question of whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not. Rumsfeld (2011) in his memoirs adds that Bush had a long interest in Iraq. He adds that after the 9/11 2001 attacks, focus was ideally supposed to be on the attackers but Bush was preoccupied on Iraq. At a meeting after the attacks at Camp David, Rumsfeld recalls Bush saying that while the focus was to be on Afghanistan, he would also deal with the case.

Furthermore, usually efficient US Intelligence Agencies, the CIA and the FBI have indicated that, Iraq did not possess WMD. Glaister (2006), in a newspaper article, observes that the Bush administration blatantly ignored the intelligence information supplied since it did not conform to what they intended. He reports that a senior intelligence official, Tyler Drumheller confirmed that the white house “ignored intelligence that showed that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the build up to war in Iraq” (Glaister, 2006). The official was quoted as saying, “the policy was set, the war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.” He also noted that, the White house group dealing with the war preparation said that they were not interested on the intelligence and declared that the war was about a ‘regime change.’ Similarly, the Central Intelligence Agency official concluded that the war would go down in history as a big failure of the policy and not that of the intelligence. (Glaister, 2006).

Baker & Moore (2009) also observed that when the Central Intelligence Agency director, George Tenet,  went to brief George Bush that  Iraq did not possess such weapons, Bush rubbished the reports and dismissed them as ‘worthless.’ Then the President of the United States rejected the information given by the Iraq Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri. This information turned to be true in every detail. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (Blumenthal, 2007). The prior attack intelligence was collaborated by the final CIA report in April 2005. The report indicated that the inspection had gone as far as it is ‘feasible’ and had found none of the weapons; the reason on which invasion was based.


In conclusion, it is thus evident that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.The term was used as a scapegoat to facilitate incursion in Iraq for reasons known to the Bush administration. Intelligence reports availed to the administration by the efficient Central Intelligence Agency pointed out that no such weapons existed. This could have informed the administration against invading Iraq. Additionally, the decision by the UN Security Council to conduct weapons inspections in Iraq also proved negative results. Moreover, by the time the US and Britain forces invaded Iraq, the inspection teams had requested additional time to conduct further searches. However, this did not stop the allied forces from striking. It was thus interpreted to mean that there were other motives for invading Iraq, other than the possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Additionally, the revelation by Paul Wolfwitz, the then US deputy secretary for defense, that weapons of mass destruction was just an insinuation to rally the American people and the rest of the world behind the incursion indicates that the attack was more of a policy issue of the Bush administration than a case of WMD possession. Therefore, it is evident that the invasion by the US was a deliberate effort to satisfy the Bush’s administration quest for power coming at a time of a midterm election or as a ploy to satisfy the quest for power for Bush and allies. 

Order now

Related essays