Iraq: 'A Fox Left To Mind Chickens'

Publisher Name: 
The Times (London)

There is one man perhaps even more eager than President Bush to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: David Kay, the former Iraqi nuclear inspector told by the Administration to uncover them.

Mr Kay, who gave Congress yesterday an upbeat interim assessment of his six month hunt despite finding no illegal weapons, was a pro-war hawk who provided the Bush Administration with intellectual support for the invasion. Mr Kay, a Texan, was the chief UN nuclear weapons inspector in Iraq in 1991, in the months after the first Gulf War. He enjoyed a brief spell of fame when Saddam Hussein's soldiers detained him and 43 colleagues in a Baghdad car park for four days. They were in a stand-off with Iraqi officials who refused to let them remove sensitive files from Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission. After providing a gripping running commentary to CNN via a satellite telephone, he ultimately prevailed, walking away with 25,000 pages of documents detailing Iraq's nuclear programme.

Mr Kay, 63, joined the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1983, and was in charge of monitoring more than 800 nuclear projects in 70 countries. Articulate and unflappable, he was a natural choice for the first President Bush to head the nuclear side of the UN's inspection team after the first Gulf War.

He led many inspections in Iraq after the end of the 1991 war, identifying the scope of Saddam's uranium enrichment activities and locating the principal Iraqi centre for assembling nuclear weapons.

He left Unscom, the first UN weapons inspection team, in 1992, and entered the private sector. Mr Kay became a senior executive at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a company with close ties to the Pentagon and the present Administration. He left SAIC in 2002, to become a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Research, often dispensing advice on Iraq and its weapons.

Before this year's war, Mr Kay was in the vanguard of weapons experts who argued that continued UN inspections would not work. He wrote in The Washington Post in January that "looking for a smoking gun is a fool's mission", because of Saddam's games of "cheat and retreat".

David Albright, a UN weapons inspector in Iraq in 1996, recently said that appointing Mr Kay to hunt for weapons, in light of his support for the war, was "a little bit of the fox guarding the chicken coop."

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