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Hans Blix: On Iraq and WMD

Did UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix do a good job in his search for WMD in Iraq?

June 30, 2003

Did UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix do a good job in his search for WMD in Iraq?

Just prior to his June 2003 departure, UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix went from villain to near saint in no time. Ridiculed by the Bush Administration for not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, his team's record now looks quite good — given that the United States, with all its might and resources, has come up virtually empty-handed thus far. Our Read My Lips feature examines his views on his past work.

Did you think your job was difficult?

“It occupies you entirely. There’s been an advantage to having an old gentleman, like me, with no family around to do it.”

(Hans Blix, former chief UN weapons inspector, June 2003)

What kept you going despite Iraq's refusal to cooperate?

“When did we begin to take no for an answer in diplomacy?”

(October 2002)

Why was evidence-gathering so tricky?

“If they didn’t have any anthrax, it’s difficult to prove that there is none.”

(April 2003)

How did the allies work with the evidence you and others were able to provide?

“Intelligence material was treated in a light-hearted way by the United States and Britain.”

(June 2003)

Are the United States and Great Britain now paying the price for their negligence?

“Only later came the various doubts from both the U.S. experts and from the British experts. I would have thought that, after the shakiness of some of the evidence, one would be very prudent.”

(June 2003)

How do other critics look at continued U.S.-British efforts to locate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

“The coalition is now taking for itself much more than the little extra time Hans Blix asked for.”

(Andrew Wilkie, former officer at Australia’s Office of National Assessments, June 2003)

Yet, what criticism does Hans Blix face?

“Hans Blix, the bureaucrat weapons inspector whose most salient characteristic is politeness, was director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which before the Persian Gulf War gave Hussein the nuclear ‘Good Housekeeping seal’.”

(Charles Krauthammer, November 2002)

Do you personally believe that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction?

“We know for sure that they did exist — and we cannot exclude they may find something. In a court things should be beyond reasonable doubt.”

(June 2003)

Yet, how did you judge Iraq's final weapons declaration?

“12,200-page lie.”

(January 2003)

Mr. Blix, what was your relationship with U.S. officials like?

“Bastards who planted nasty things in the media.”

(June 2003)

How did they attack you?

“They would say I was too compliant with the Iraqis when in reality they meant I was not compliant enough with what the United States wanted.”

(June 2003)

Does Mr. Blix cope well with these attacks?

“He’s a Swedish disarmament lawyer. He’s used to a lot of abuse.”

(Richard Perle, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security policy, April 2003)

Is there an underlying bad feeling between the United Nations and the U.S. government?

“Some within the U.S. Administration would not care if it sinks into the East River.”

(June 2003)

Did Iraq underestimate the U.S. resolve?

“Iraqis misbehaved and had no credibility — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they were in the wrong. It could have been bad brinkmanship. Saddam could have misjudged and read about the demonstrations in London, Paris, here and thought they won’t dare to go after me.”

(June 2003)

And finally, do you have any lingering doubts about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction?

“Why did they conduct themselves as they did throughout the 1990s? Why deny access if you are not hiding something? What I am groping at now is whether pride was the root of it.”

(June 2003)