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Firas Al-Atraqchi: Who is Khidhir Hamza?

Who is Khidhir Hamza?


By Firas Al-Atraqchi

It's all about money and exposure.

This week Khidhir Hamza, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist who defected to the U.S. in 1994, testified before a U.S. Senate panel investigating Iraq's nuclear armaments. Hamza told U.S. Senators that Iraq was three years away from creating up to three atomic bombs. Containment would not work with Iraq, Hamza claims. He strongly suggested regime change.

Hamza was joined by famed Oscar-nominee (former UNSCOM weapons inspector) Richard Butler. Butler so vehemently implicated Iraq behind the anthrax spread last fall that CNN rewarded him with a permanent chair next to the 'sexy' Paula Zahn. Since then no evidence has emerged that implicates Iraq or any foreign country. In fact, recent news reports seem to indicate that the anthrax spores were home grown.

There are some facts to consider about Hamza: The first; that he has not been in Iraq since 1994. Eight years out of the country and the man thinks he is an expert. The UNSCOM team acknowledge that their absence from Iraq for four years has made them blind to Iraqi activities. So, then, where is Hamza getting his information? I, for one, would like to see it. Quoting 'other' intelligence sources is not enough.

Secondly, Hamza is one of hundreds of prominent Iraqi scientists and engineers. The man, by far, does not hold exclusive knowledge to Iraq's weapons programs.

Hamza is also a Shiite. Let's dispense with the pleasantries; most Shiites in Iraq would love to see Saddam go and outside Iraq make no secret their hatred for Sunnis. A popular catch phrase repeated by Iraqi Shiites is "We will murder all you Sunnis while you sleep".

Consider also, Hamza's flair for misinformation and contradiction. In January 1999, Hamza addressed the Seventh Carnegie International Non-Proliferation Conference (Carnegie Endowment For International Peace Non-Proliferation Project - January 11-12, 1999; Washington, D.C.):

"The plans were made and designed for an eventual production of 100 kilogram bomb -- six bombs. That would be a reasonable arsenal in something like five to 10 years. So in a decade or so, Iraq would become a real nuclear power like Israel."

Hamza spoke as a representative of the Institute for Science and International Security.

In 1999, Hamza spoke of six bombs in no more than 10 years. Yesterday, he told the U.S. Senate it was three bombs in no more than three years. Fine. Let's give the man the benefit of the doubt. It has been three years since his Carnegie speech. However, the misinformation continues.

Douglas Pasternak and Stacey Schultz of U.S. News interviewed Hamza in December 2001. The following is an excerpt from their subsequent article:

"Hamza and his colleagues had 31 kilograms of uranium from their Osiraq reactor that had been destroyed by Israeli bombers in 1981, from which they could distill 18 kilograms enriched enough to form the core. But they also knew that any such move would set off alarms at the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitored Iraq's use of uranium, and that Iraq would be stopped from developing any more enriched uranium. Thus, Iraq would be able to build only one oversize bomb. Informed of this, Hamza says, Saddam agreed to shift to concentrating on using chemical and biological weaponry to halt the allied forces of Desert Storm."

"Even worse, he says, he is certain that Saddam Hussein has been rebuilding Iraq's chemical and biological programs-a task far easier than reconstituting the nuclear program."

In the above article, Hamza indicates that Iraq is focusing on non-nuclear weaponry. At the Senate hearing, Hamza seems to have backtracked and said that Iraq is focusing on its nuclear program. And if Iraq was able to build only one bomb in 1990, before allied bombings and intensive UNSCOM inspections and monitoring, how could they possibly build three, let alone six bombs now?

Earlier in October 2001, Hamza participated in an online chat for CNN. Following are excerpts:

"CHAT PARTICIPANT: If America could just do one thing in Iraq, what would you like see happen?

HAMZA: I would like to see the Iraqi opposition better trained, some two or three thousand persons, trained and sent back into south Iraq, and supported by U.S. Air Force, no U.S. troops, just Air Force, doing what it is doing now, but a little more intensely. By watching Saddam's troop movement and making them stay in their box, is all that's required right now. Just send the Iraqi opposition trained militia, and support them there. That's the only thing we need now. That's the official position right now of the Iraqi opposition, they want to be supported this way, with some resources provided, say food and some equipment. Minimal cost opposition. Much less than is being done in Afghanistan right now, for instance. This way, the U.S. would eliminate the major terrorist government in the Middle East right now, probably the world."

The above statement from Hamza is ominously identical to positions expressed by former CIA Chief Woolsley, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz, and other hawks calling for Iraq's regime change.

The above also leaves open the question of Hamza's reliability. In claiming the official position of the Iraqi opposition, Hamza comes of sounding like their spokesperson. Consequently, all his opinions are skewed and biased. According to the CIA itself, the Iraqi opposition is known for manipulating, lying, distorting and fabricating defections and news coming out of Iraq to garner support for an attack on Iraq.

What also sticks out like a sore thumb is Hamza's own CV. Did he really head Iraq's nuclear weapons program? In 1999, David Albright and Kevin O'Neill published a report for the Institute for Science and International Security titled "Iraq's Efforts to Acquire Information about Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear-Related Technologies from the United States". In the report, Hamza is listed as "a senior Iraqi nuclear scientist who held several high-level positions in Iraq's pre-Gulf War nuclear weapons program". Question is why did the very institute where Hamza worked not list him as head or director of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program? Does this distinction not carry a weight of its own?

There have been widespread allegations that Hamza was little more than a mid-level physicist in Iraq. According to the Center for Non-proliferation Studies (CNS) and the CNS Monitoring Proliferation Threats Nuclear Abstract Database Hamza was definitely not the head of Iraq's Nuclear weapons program. From an article available on that database; "documents were faxed to the Times' offices from Greece by a person claiming to be acting on behalf of Dr. Khidhir Abdul Abas Hamza, a physicist known to have worked on electromagnetic enrichment of uranium (EMIS) for Iraq's nuclear weapons program, PC-3." (Nuclear Fuel, 4/24/95, p. 16, by Mark Hibbs).

The article goes on to state "the IAEA confirmed that Hamza worked in Iraq's nuclear program, and the Sunday Times located an article published in the 2/79 issue of Nuovo Cimento, a scientific journal, by "K A A Hamza of the Nuclear Research Centre, Tawattha [Tuwaitha], Baghdad".

However, according to Hamza's own CV (available at http://www.isis-online.org/publications/iraq/cvhamza.html) Hamza was not a part of the Nuclear Research Centre at Tuwaitha in 1979. Hamza was Head of the Fuel Division, Theoretical Section at the Iraqi Atomic Agency between 1975 and 1980. In the Publications section of the CV, no mention is made of the above article in Nuovo Cimento.

Isn't it peculiar that the IAEA, a much-lauded nuclear watchdog among other things, did not recognize that Hamza was head of Iraq's nuclear program but rather as someone who worked in the program? Would the IAEA never have met the men during its course of work in Iraq? That's a little hard to fathom.

The answer may lie in Hamza's own bungling. By his own admission in the September/October 1998 issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: "Over the years, I had many roles. I was chief of the fuel division in the 1970s, head of the theoretical division of the enrichment program in the 1980s, scientific adviser to the chairman of the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission (IAEC) in the mid-1980s, and--for a brief period in 1987--director of weaponization." ( http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/1998/so98/so98hamza.html)

"For a brief period". Touching words. A brief period in 1987 and yet the man is touted as the brilliant head of Iraq's nuclear program.

Of course it was a brief period because in 1988, Hamza took charge of Theory and Modeling of the Dense Plasma Focus (DPF) Project and Manager in charge of the Iraqi delegation to Poland.

Despite the discrepancy in his CV, the fact that the IAEA never recognized him as head of the nuclear program, and quite amazingly, his own admission that he was the head for a brief period ending in 1988, Hamza is brandished as Iraq's chief bomb-maker. In interviews on major news outlets, Hamza is referred to as Iraq's most senior nuclear scientist who miraculously is still alive today to tell the tale.

Mr. Hamza, just who in blue blazes are you really?

Greed and prejudice answer that question. Prejudice in that Hamza is a Shiite bent on seeing a Shiite government take power in Iraq. In his 1999 Carnegie Conference speech Hamza said: "For example, the Iranians present themselves as defenders of the Shi'is which is a majority of the Iraqi population, which is not the actual government. They are not representative of the actual government. Now, that is a threat to all other groups in Iraq."

Earlier, this article showed that Hamza strongly endorsed the Iraqi opposition. The most infamous Iraqi opposition group is the Iraqi National Congress (INC) who have been in bed with the CIA and Mossad for nearly a decade now. The INC head, Ahmad Chalabi, a notoriously corrupt fellow, is also Shiite.

Finally, we come to the most important factor: Money. Hamza wants to be shown the money. In every single segment, every single interview, every single talking head and sound bite, we hear of Hamza's book "Saddam's Bombmaker". Who would buy a book from a mid-level physicist, or a part-time head of a nuclear program? Nah, beef it up a little. Call yourself head of the nuclear program for the longest time, say 20 years. A nice even number. Then proclaim that you have all the secrets on all of Iraq's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Don't mention how you got all this information.

Start to raise your hands about Iraq invading Zimbabwe and sending fissile material to Uranus. That should scare a few people. Tell everyone Saddam is coming to get them. Get on every radio show and babble your way through the scripted lines you were given. Endorse every attempt to attack Iraq. Endorse your Shiite chums in the INC.

Sit back and watch sales of your book soar.

And the book is hilarious by any account. Hamza has claimed that the Iraqi nuclear weapons program drained him and drove all of Iraq's scientists and engineers feverishly under the threat of prison and execution. Yet despite all his workload, Hamza had time to describe sexual exploitation of women in the Iraqi leadership, germ paranoia, human guinea pigs and the incredible claim that Iraq stockpiled barrels of germs and bio-gunk in the path of allied troops.

Sounds like A Thousand and One Nights. But then again, Arabs are always counted on to embellish a few here and there.

So, who are you again Mr. Hamza?

According to Scott Ritter, UNSCOM's most aggressive former weapons inspector, who appeared on a July 31st edition of CNN's Crossfire, you are a liar.

ENDS

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