Voice from the Commonwealth Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts
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More reporters getting 'tours' of suspected sites in Iraq. Thankfully the writer admits he's in no position to even know what he is looking at. He did make a couple of observations though.
Reporters were taken first to a cavernous building identified with a yellow arrow on the satellite surveillance photos.
It is, as it was before, a metal-working shop. The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) believed Baghdad used the computer-assisted lathes to fashion centrifuges that would help them isolate enough fissile material to make a bomb. Iraq denied those charges then, and denies them now.
What was striking about the facility was how empty it was. There were three lathes, each about the size of a small truck, in a hanger big enough to house a jumbo jet.
There appeared to be no production line, no piles of material waiting to be worked on or just completed. In all this space, there were just a handful of workers working on a few rounded bits of metal.
Here and there on the floor, however, there were pools of oil. Recently, it seemed, some items — either equipment or supplies — had been moved.
This is hardly the first time that Iraq has led journalists through facilities that the U.S. has identified as potential targets. During the Gulf War, officials here famously took reporters to what the U.S. claimed was a chemical weapons lab and the Iraqis claimed was a baby food factory.
We were no better positioned than those reporters to say whether the equipment here was being used for perfectly acceptable purposes or to develop dangerous weapons.
Interestingly enough, along the road back to Baghdad, there was long train parked at a railway siding. The train was loaded down with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other military hardware.
We couldn't help but notice how tracks would have passed right by the facility we had just left behind. But the train was not on the tour.
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