Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Iraqi Scientists Detained Despite Lack of WMDs



The US has detained for far too long Iraqi scientists arrested last year in the belief that they would provide information about Saddam Hussein’s WMD, according to an Iraqi government source.

Even when US investigators concluded that no such weapons existed the scientists were not freed because the Americans feared their release would be seen as a tacit admission that Iraq had no WMD. This may explain why the US embassy in Iraq is determined to detain Dr Rihab Taha, who once worked on biological weapons, while the Iraqi justice ministry says it sees no good reason for her continued detention.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose Tawhid and Jihad group is threatening to behead the British contractor Kenneth Bigley, probably had no idea that his demand would focus attention on the detention of two female Iraqi scientists. It is more likely that Zarqawi was trying to make propaganda points since it is widely rumoured among Iraqis that the US and Britain hold many female Iraqi prisoners.

When Dr Taha, a microbiologist with a doctorate from the University of East Anglia, surrendered to US forces in Baghdad on 12 May last year, US officials hoped she would lead them to biological weapons.

In the approach to the war, one of the key demands of the US and Britain was that Saddam Hussein allowed free access to scientists whom the UN inspectors wanted to interview about WMD. After the war, American inspectors, first under David Kay and from January under Charles Duelfer, were able to order the detention of these scientists.

But the 1,500-page study by the US government’s Iraq Survey Group now concludes that Iraq had no large-scale programmes to build such weapons.

The Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology has unsuccessfully sought the freedom of some detained scientists on the grounds that their expertise is needed to rebuild Iraq’s scientific potential. Dr Taha headed a research team to develop biological weapons from 1985 to 1995 and it is possible that she and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, the biotech researcher nicknamed “Mrs Anthrax”, were able to provide information about WMD developed during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, but much of this would already have been known in the US and UK.



Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Qaddafi
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future
Pepe Escobar
The Aleppo / Mosul Riddle
David Rosen
The War on Drugs is a Racket
Sami Siegelbaum
Once More, the Value of the Humanities
Mark Hand
Of Pipelines and Protest Pens: When the Press Loses Its Shield
Michael Hudson
The Return of the Repressed Critique of Rentiers: Veblen in the 21st century Rentier Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Drumbeats of Anti-Russia Confrontation From Washington to London
Howard Lisnoff
Still Licking Our Wounds and Hoping for Change
Brian Gruber
Iraq: There Is No State
Peter Lee
Trump: We Wish the Problem Was Fascism
Steve Early
In Bay Area Refinery Town: Berniecrats & Clintonites Clash Over Rent Control
Peter Linebaugh
Ron Suny and the Marxist Commune: a Note
Andre Vltchek
Sudan, Africa and the Mosaic of Horrors
Keith Binkly
The Russians Have Been Hacking Us For Years, Why Is It a Crisis Now?
Jonathan Cook
Adam Curtis: Another Manager of Perceptions
Ted Dace
The Fall
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
Susana Hurlich
Hurricane Matthew: an Overview of the Damages in Cuba
Dave Lindorff
Screwing With and Screwing the Elderly and Disabled
Chandra Muzaffar
Cuba: Rejecting Sanctions, Sending a Message
Dennis Kucinich
War or Peace?
Kristine Mattis
All Solutions are Inadequate: Why It Doesn’t Matter If Politicians Mention Climate Change
Jack Rasmus
Behind The 3rd US Presidential Debate—What’s Coming in 2017
Ron Jacobs
A Theory of Despair?
Gilbert Mercier
Globalist Clinton: Clear and Present Danger to World Peace
James A Haught
Many Struggles Won Religious Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Dear Fellow Gen Xers: Let’s Step Aside for the Millennials
Winslow Myers
Christopher Brauchli
Wonder Woman at the UN
James McEnteer
Art of the Feel
Lee Ballinger
Tupac: Holler If You Hear Him
Charles R. Larson
Review: Sjón’s “Moonstone: the Boy Who Never Was”
October 20, 2016
Eric Draitser
Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence
Jeffrey St. Clair
Extreme Unction: Illusions of Democracy in Vegas
Binoy Kampmark
Digital Information Warfare: WikiLeaks, Assange and the US Presidential Elections
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Bogus History Lesson
Bruce Mastron
Killing the Messenger, Again
Anthony DiMaggio
Lesser Evil Voting and Prospects for a Progressive Third Party
Ramzy Baroud
The Many ‘Truths’ on Syria: How Our Rivalry Has Destroyed a Country
David Rosen
Was Bill Clinton the Most Sexist President?
Laura Carlsen
Plan Colombia, Permanent War and the No Vote
Aidan O'Brien
Mao: Monster or Model?