22 April 2004
U.S. General Denies Charge Coalition Is Importing WMD into Iraq
Kimmitt calls on Iraqis to turn in illegal weapons
Washington -- U.S. Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt April 22
denied a report circulating on the Internet that the United States
is introducing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) into Iraq to aid
defense manufacturers who are financially supporting President
Bush's re-election effort.
"I can categorically deny that we are bringing any weapons
of mass destruction into Iraq either [to] facilitate the military
campaign or the election campaign," the general said.
Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for Combined Joint Task
Force-7, made the denial during a briefing in Baghdad in response
to a reporter's question. The Internet report, allegedly sourced
to an unidentified Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) official, suggested
that the weapons were being introduced and concealed in southern
Kimmitt went on to talk at length about ongoing efforts by the
coalition and Iraqi security forces to collect illegal, heavy weapons
in the Fallujah area as called for in the cease-fire agreement
reached April 19 (http://www.cpa-iraq.org/transcripts/20040420_communique.html).
The weapons that have been turned in so far demonstrate neither
serious intent to disarm nor a "serious demonstration that
they want peace," he said.
Much of what has been turned in has had little value, Kimmitt
said, because it is too old, has been buried in the ground too
long, or was intended only for training, rather than the kind of
equipment used in recent engagements with the coalition.
Coalition Provisional Authority ((CPA) spokesman Dan Senor, who
briefed with Kimmitt, said a peaceful resolution to the situation
in Fallujah is being sought, but that time is running out.
Kimmitt said U.S. forces maintain a cordon around Fallujah, where
there are reports of some 1,000 to 2,000 foreign fighters holed
up inside, and they are ready "to resume offensive operations" upon
Both men were questioned about the implementation of the de-Ba'athification
policy. "There is no room in the new Iraq for the Ba'athist
ideology and for the most senior members of the former regime that
had a direct hand in the -- some of the worst Ba'athist crimes
and brutality," Senor said. "[Policy] implementation,
however, should be reformed."
Senor said there have been complaints that the process "sometimes
excludes innocent, capable people who were Ba'athists in name only
from playing a role in reconstructing Iraq" and noted that
CPA and IGC officials were looking for ways to revise and expedite
As Iraq's armed forces are rebuilt from the ground up, Kimmitt
said, there will be a need for generals, colonels and senior officers
to command the various services. The skill levels required for
such tasks cannot be developed in a short period of time, he said,
but result from the decade-long training that former Iraqi Army
officers possess already. There are many former senior Iraqi officers,
he added, "who can meet all of the criteria that had been
established in the de-Ba'athification policy" and still have
a significant contribution to make to Iraq's defense infrastructure.
Reporters also wanted to know what would be done to compensate
for the withdrawal of Spanish, Honduran, Dominican troops that
have given notice of their intention to leave Iraq. Analysts are
looking at several options to prevent a security vacuum from occurring,
according to Kimmitt, including moving troops around within Iraq,
asking existing troops to cope with less backup, or asking a new
nation to come in and join the coalition.
There were also questions about issues such as freedom of assembly
and speech in the new Iraq. Senor said there is no attempt to silence
free speech or prevent freedom of assembly in places like Basra,
but he also said there is no room for illegal militias or the kind
of "mob violence that Muqtada al-Sadr has attempted to organize."
With respect to the decision to close down al-Sadr's newspaper,
al-Hawza, the CPA spokesman said freedom of expression in a democracy
must be carried out in a responsible manner "and there is
no tolerance in any democracy for using newspapers to incite violence."
The CPA has sought to ensure the right and freedom of some 200
newspapers to exist in the new Iraq "whether they be critical
or supportive of the things we do," he said. But a newspaper
that incites violence against the Iraqi people or the coalition
won't be tolerated, Senor said.