Transcript of Powell's U.N. presentation
Part 2: Hiding prohibited equipment
Let me begin by playing a tape for you. What you're about to hear is a conversation that my government monitored. It takes place on November 26 of last year, on the day before United Nations teams resumed inspections in Iraq.
The conversation involves two senior officers, a colonel and a brigadier general, from Iraq's elite military unit, the Republican Guard.
[Following is a U.S. translation of that taped conversation.]
COL: About this committee that is coming...
GEN: Yeah, yeah.
COL: ...with Mohamed ElBaradei [Director, International Atomic Energy Agency]
GEN: Yeah, yeah.
COL: We have this modified vehicle.
COL: What do we say if one of them sees it?
GEN: You didn't get a modified... You don't have a modified...
COL: By God, I have one.
GEN: Which? From the workshop...?
COL: From the al-Kindi Company
COL: From al-Kindi.
GEN: Yeah, yeah. I'll come to you in the morning. I have some comments. I'm worried you all have something left.
COL: We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left.
GEN: I will come to you tomorrow.
GEN: I have a conference at Headquarters, before I attend the conference I will come to you.
Let me pause and review some of the key elements of this conversation that you just heard between these two officers.
First, they acknowledge that our colleague, Mohamed ElBaradei, is coming, and they know what he's coming for, and they know he's coming the next day. He's coming to look for things that are prohibited. He is expecting these gentlemen to cooperate with him and not hide things.
But they're worried. "We have this modified vehicle. What do we say if one of them sees it?"
What is their concern? Their concern is that it's something they should not have, something that should not be seen.
The general is incredulous: "You didn't get a modified. You don't have one of those, do you?"
"I have one."
"Which, from where?"
"From the workshop, from the al-Kindi Company?"
"I'll come to see you in the morning. I'm worried. You all have something left."
"We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left."
Note what he says: "We evacuated everything."
We didn't destroy it. We didn't line it up for inspection. We didn't turn it into the inspectors. We evacuated it to make sure it was not around when the inspectors showed up.
"I will come to you tomorrow."
The al-Kindi Company: This is a company that is well known to have been involved in prohibited weapons systems activity.
Let me play another tape for you. As you will recall, the inspectors found 12 empty chemical warheads on January 16. On January 20, four days later, Iraq promised the inspectors it would search for more. You will now hear an officer from Republican Guard headquarters issuing an instruction to an officer in the field. Their conversation took place just last week on January 30.
Let me pause again and review the elements of this message.
"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes."
"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo."
"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?"
"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."
Remember the first message, evacuated.
This is all part of a system of hiding things and moving things out of the way and making sure they have left nothing behind.
If you go a little further into this message, and you see the specific instructions from headquarters: "After you have carried out what is contained in this message, destroy the message because I don't want anyone to see this message."
This message would have verified to the inspectors that they have been trying to turn over things. They were looking for things. But they don't want that message seen, because they were trying to clean up the area to leave no evidence behind of the presence of weapons of mass destruction. And they can claim that nothing was there. And the inspectors can look all they want, and they will find nothing.
This effort to hide things from the inspectors is not one or two isolated events, quite the contrary. This is part and parcel of a policy of evasion and deception that goes back 12 years, a policy set at the highest levels of the Iraqi regime.