Examination of Witness (Questions 240-259)|
18 JUNE 2003
Q240 Mr Olner: Who do you think would
know how safety conscious the Iraqis were? I believe that they
would take enormous risks, because life is so cheap, to move those
things about which we would not even contemplate.
Dr Inch: The UNSCOM inspectors
must have a very good idea from what they saw previously as to
what kind of safety precautions were taken. The safety status
within the Iraqi production plants and laboratories and so on,
must be very well documented.
Q241 Chairman: Our next witness is
a former UNSCOM inspector.
Dr Inch: It must be very well
Q242 Mr Maples: We and the public
have been surprised that we have not found any of this stuff in
Iraq. The numbers sound very big. I am just looking at the report
again. It mentions 8,500 litres of anthrax, for instance. I have
been doing the arithmetic in my head and that is not a very large
volume of anthrax, only about 300 cubic feet or so. Are we talking
about huge quantities of the stuff?
Dr Inch: No.
Q243 Mr Maples: If you split that
8,500 litres of anthrax into about half a dozen places, it would
be very difficult to find.
Dr Inch: If my memory serves me
correctly, in China there are something like 3 million chemical
rounds left over from wars in days gone by that they are still
trying to clear up. There are some big stocks around. So in those
terms it is pretty small numbers.
Q244 Mr Maples: So they would be
difficult to find?
Dr Inch: Yes. There are not big
stocks. The point has been made around this room that with all
the human intelligence now available, someone ought to be pointing
the finger in the right direction.
Q245 Mr Maples: Without someone pointing
their finger in the right direction it would be quite tricky?
Dr Inch: It would be quite tricky.
Q246 Mr Maples: On biological as
opposed to chemical weapons, to maintain the production facility
and a sample of the toxin that you want to grow or to culture,
do you need to store it in large quantities? Or are manufacturing
times quite short once you have decided to go ahead, and therefore
all you really need to do is to maintain a production facility
and a sample of whatever it is you want to grow.
Dr Inch: Apart from anthrax, most
of the other biological agents they talk about are actually chemicals;
they are toxins produced by biological species. Ricin is from
the castor oil bean; the aflatoxins are fungal productsbotulinum
toxins and so onand have to be treated like a chemical;
they do not cause a disease but they kill you like a poison; they
create a fever or something. They are really just chemicals by
any other name.
Q247 Mr Maples: It is a manufacturing
Dr Inch: It is a manufacturing
Q248 Mr Maples: Whereas with anthrax
you actually grow the culture?
Dr Inch: That is right and produce
spores which is much more lethal. The ricin is a particularly
interesting one as we have had a case in this country. It is isolated
from the castor oil bean. The normal method of isolation, because
of heat treatment, destroys the toxin during the process, so you
have to adopt a slightly different extraction process to get the
ricin out. The problem with ricin at the end of the day is that
it is a powder which is not easy to disseminate. Western countries
that evaluated ricin during or at the end of the Second World
War lost interest in it because of the difficulty of spreading
it about. Those are some of the problems; why bother when you
have mustard gas and nerve agents?
Q249 Mr Maples: The only one of Iraq's
weapons that is discussed in this paper which is genuinely a biological
weapon in the sense of creating a disease which is spread is anthrax?
Dr Inch: Anthrax.
Q250 Mr Hamilton: Dr Inch, earlier
you said that you were surprised that there were no accidents
in Iraq or no reports of any accidents when chemicals were being
moved around. Is it such a surprise in a dictatorship where there
is no free press that no reports were made public? It could be
that there were accidents and that people were killed. Would you
necessarily have known about it in a country like Iraq?
Dr Inch: No. That may be some
of the information that is in the raw intelligence data which
would be good supportive material.
Q251 Mr Hamilton: The intelligence
services would know only if someone had told them. Presumably
if someone was so disgusted by the death and destruction caused
by the accident they may tell one of the western intelligence
agencies. If that did not happen, how would we know? We would
have had no surveillance.
Dr Inch: That is quite right,
but as I read the dossier, there is information in there that
tells us what Saddam was thinking and what he planned to do. That
could have come only from intelligence sources, somebody telling
the intelligence agencies that that was what was happening. If
one were receiving that kind of information from within Iraq,
one would expect to see within the documentation other similar
information about some of the more practical details.
Q252 Mr Hamilton: Do you draw the
conclusion from the fact that there were no intelligence reports,
as far as you knowI accept that you were not party to those
but none have come through to us of any accidents being concealed
or otherwisethat the chemicals were not there in the first
Dr Inch: No, I am not drawing
any conclusions. I am just saying that one would have expected
to see something.
Q253 Mr Hamilton: Some of my colleagues
have explored arguments about concealment, quantities and toxicity.
I want to be clear in my own mind about the kind of quantities
of chemical agents that are necessary. Obviously, it will vary
depending on the agent itself, compared with the quantity necessary
versus the toxicity. It is quite important. As my colleague John
Maples was saying, if you can conceal a small amount of chemical
agent in a very small place, but it has huge toxicity and can
kill a lot of people, could that go some way towards explaining
why we cannot find these agents.
Dr Inch: For battlefield use,
for loading up into the missile systems you really need many tonnes
of any particular chemical agent, irrespective of how toxic it
is. You really have a major problem of dissemination and in the
modern battlefield you have to get quantities down quite quickly
against a protected force if you are to cause great damage. It
is a different matter if you are attacking the civil population
that is not protected, in which case a smaller amount would have
an enormous effect. If the planning is for military use then large
amounts of material are required. Of course, when he was poisoning
his own people, much smaller amounts of material could be used
and used effectively.
Q254 Mr Chidgey: You say many tonnes,
but can you give us a figure? Is it thousands of tonnes?
Dr Inch: I think it is many hundreds
of tonnes, if you are going to wage warfare against a military
group with chemicals. If you are attacking a civil population,
a few tonnes can do an awful lot of damage.
Q255 Mr Hamilton: Would you be prepared
to make any guess as to why SaddamI appreciate you do not
know his mind but he may have been prepareddid not use
chemical or biological agents in the invasion in March and April?
Dr Inch: I do not know what his
tactics were. I have no idea. He did not use them in the Gulf
Q256 Mr Hamilton: Could it have something
to do with the difficulty of deployment, as you have just described?
Dr Inch: I do not know. At the
time of the Gulf War, quite clearly he had quite large amounts
of material. He did not deploy it then.
Q257 Mr Illsley: You were talking
about chemical weapons when you said he never deployed them in
the Gulf War?
Dr Inch: Yes.
Q258 Mr Illsley: The reason I ask
that is that yesterday we heard evidence that tended to suggest
that chemical weapons were deployed, but never used.
Dr Inch: That is what I meant.
I am sorry if I said deployed. He did not use them in the Gulf
war. They were available for use; and we know he had them for
use because we destroyed a lot of them afterwards.
Q259 Mr Pope: Dr Inch, the most likely
chemical weapons that Iraq had were presumably like mustard gas,
phosgene and nerve agents. How quickly can they be deployed? What
is the time frame from making a decision to use them to firing?
The reason I ask is that the dossier refers to 45 minutes several
times. That seems to me to be a really short time frame to deploy
what must be a fairly complicated weapon. I do not know what the
procedures are. How quickly can it be done?
Dr Inch: I do not know what the
military procedures are. If you have your shells, bombs or missiles
filled with chemical and they are ready for release, it does not
seem to me to make any difference whether it is a chemical weapon
or conventional artillery. It is ready to be fired.