PrintPrint CiteCite
Style: MLAAPAChicago Close


A Conversation with Richard Butler

Moderator: Charlie Rose, executive producer and host, Charlie Rose
Speaker: Richard Butler, Executive Chairman, U.N. Special Commission
March 3, 1999
Council on Foreign Relations


CHARLIE ROSE (Executive Producer and Host, “Charlie Rose”): Ah, let’s see what else. They...

Ambassador RICHARD BUTLER (Executive Chairman, U.N. Special Commission): See, the other show’s not on till 9:00 PM.

Mr. ROSE: Nine o’clock, so you have two hours, you see. But we do thank you, Les, and thank you, HBO, for enabling this to happen.

Let me begin, please, to say because of reporting by The Washington Post, please tell me what you knew about what sources have told The Washington Post about using UNSCOM, both equipment for spying on Iraq.

Amb. BUTLER: Simple answer, Charlie: nothing. Can’t be simpler. I know what I approved of. I know the proposals that were put to me of which I disapproved, and I’m not implying proposals put to me by the United States; by my own staff, sometimes involving the possibility of use of technologies provided by other member states. I always approved of things which I thought would serve our disarmament purposes. When I thought they would not, I disapproved of them. I think I can speak for my predecessor in this job, Rolf Ekeus, who did the same. Can I know what I didn’t know? No. The direct answer to your question, “Did someone piggyback on the back of us for their purposes,” I don’t know.

Mr. ROSE: You don’t know.

Amb. BUTLER: I don’t know.

Mr. ROSE: Should you have known?

Amb. BUTLER: If there had been a decision to do that, and I refer you to statements by the United States government on that matter, yes, I should have known.

Mr. ROSE: And how do you feel about it, if, in fact, what has been reported was happening?

Amb. BUTLER: Well...

Mr. ROSE: Are you embarrassed? Are you outraged? How do you feel?

Amb. BUTLER: Look, cool it with the outraged stuff.

Mr. ROSE: No, no, come on. Come on.

Amb. BUTLER: Let’s get something straight.

Mr. ROSE: Yeah. Or are you complimentary?

Amb. BUTLER: We faced a wall of deceit from Iraq. Iraq was obliged under the laws passed by the Security Council, which under Article 25 of the charter are international law, to tell us the truth about its weapons of mass destruction. It never did. Instead, it obstructed and concealed and put up a barrier against our legitimate attempts to find those weapons and, may I say, straight away when we had done that to help the normal Iraqi people to have a decent life again. And they sought to prevent that. So yes, we employed technologies to crack that wall of deceit. OK? Now that’s the perspective in which this has to be seen. If other people piggybacked on the back of us when they helped us with some of those technologies, go ask them about it. But I didn’t approve of that, nor did my predecessor. I don’t know anything about that.

Mr. ROSE: It never was brought to your attention. No one ever suggested it. No one said, “What do you think of this idea?” There was none of that?

Amb. BUTLER: No. And the problem this raises, if—if, capital I—if it occurred, is one of the deepest problems that I certainly hope we talk about here tonight...

Mr. ROSE: That’s where I want to go next.

Amb. BUTLER: ...which is how we have confident verification of arms control treaties. That is one of the biggest tasks, one of the toughest things to achieve. If people think that by entering in good faith into means of verification of arms control treaties, then there’s going to be this back-door stuff going beyond their arms control obligations and spying on them, then we’ve got a serious problem. And I don’t have any particular concerns about what was published in The Washington Post yesterday. I know what I did. I know what Rolf Ekeus did. I know what we disapproved of. If there was some other stuff, go ask those people about it. But what I am concerned about is the implications, the possible implications, of any such activity for our ability to keep safe the nonproliferation regimes.

Mr. ROSE: I want to come to that, but what damage do you think it has done to the future of UNSCOM getting back in, in some capacity, for monitoring or to do the kind of work it was doing before?

Amb. BUTLER: Yeah. I can’t assess that yet. It depends a little bit on the propaganda level that Iraq might enter into, and I’ll be very plain about that. Iraq has been saying for a long time, “You guys are a bunch of spies.” Right? That was never true. Never. Now this kind of allegation—and that’s all it is—in The Washington Post, of course, facilitates their propaganda to that effect, might make it seem more real, in some people’s minds; might help them get themselves off the hook, and they are on a hook. It’s their hook. They’ve put themselves on the hook of non-compliance with international law. Now they may take comfort from these allegations in a way that would be unfortunate, but you watch. I predict to you now, we’ll get pressed out of Baghdad in the next couple of days saying, “See? See? We told you so. They always were spies.” They will connect these allegations to their previous propaganda and say, “You see, we were always right.” They weren’t right. We never were.

Now if this other stuff proves to be true, and you can only ask the United States government about that, then we’ve got a bit of a problem, but, you know, by retroactive reasoning, to say, “That means that all the stuff we did over the years was nothing but spying,” that is junk. It’s not true. We did a lot of serious disarmament over the years.

Mr. ROSE: And I don’t think anyone questioned that. I mean, I’m not sure that the Iraqis are even questioning that, whatever they may say to take advantage of this from a propaganda standpoint. But do you believe that, having seen what seems to be a change in United States—what sources are saying—in the beginning there was a sense that, you know, UNSCOM knew about it. That was the first report we heard from sources reporting in The New York Times.

Amb. BUTLER: Mm. Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROSE: Then that story changed to say, “UNSCOM did not know about it but, in fact, it took place.”

Amb. BUTLER: Mm.

Mr. ROSE: And I’m just trying to understand whether you believe the stories or not that, in fact, in some way, UNSCOM was used either through equipment that was put on to take advantage of some kind of-use of lifting communication between Iraq and military units...

Amb. BUTLER: I’ll go to the answer straight up, Charlie. You say, “What do I know about it?” I said, “Nothing.” OK? You’re taking me to the edges of my knowledge now...

Mr. ROSE: Right.

Amb. BUTLER: ...and I think we probably should leave it there. Go ask the people who know the answer. I don’t know the answer to that. I know what we did, what we achieved and what I disapproved of, because I thought it might be misinterpreted. And I did disapprove of some proposals and I won’t go further than that. Now we’re at the edge of...

Mr. ROSE: Several of the proposals were brought to you and you disapproved?

Amb. BUTLER: No, no, no. I said I received innumerable proposals from my own staff about how we might crack that Iraqi wall of deceit, how we might find the extant weapons that we’d need to identify and how some technologies might help us. I rejected some proposals because I thought they would be the subject of potential misinterpretation. I wanted to keep us clean and I’m satisfied with that record.

Now another answer to your question is that this story will stay alive as long as people like you keep talking about it. Why don’t we move on and talk about something else?

Mr. ROSE: Well, that’s a convenient way to try and shut me up, and I understand. And you and I have done this a long time before, a number of times, and had serious conversations.

Amb. BUTLER: Yeah. Right.

Mr. ROSE: But I do want to, at least, understand the perspective of the ambassador, because UNSCOM is not there now and some say that the Iraqis are building up, in every way, the kinds of things that you were trying to monitor and prevent. And so the question is important as to whether this has done serious damage to the effort to get UNSCOM back in there, and has it created a different mind-set in the Security Council, which you reported to—not the secretary-general, but to the Security Council?

Amb. BUTLER: Those who are hostile to UNSCOM’s purposes, hostile to the implementation of international law in this case on the disarmament of Iraq, will clearly take comfort from this, but they will be comforting themselves with something that is distant from the core issue.

The core issue is the weapons of mass destruction that Iraq obtained and created, and the capacity for which they continue to hold, which are illegal. The Security Council has said to them, “Those things are illegal. You must, with UNSCOM,” and I quote, “destroy, remove or render them harmless.” Now Iraq is in defiance of the Council today, saying it doesn’t want to do that anymore. That is an Everest-sized issue. That is a real issue. Now if people...

Mr. ROSE: And this issue compared to that, if that’s an Everest-size issue, what is this issue of conversation about whether UNSCOM has been misused?

Amb. BUTLER: A foothill. A foothill. A foothill in comparison with Everest. A foothill, but people will use it if their inner purpose is to defeat this disarmament activity. Of course they will. In that sense, that’s harmed us. And you know very well, Charlie, we’ve got a very difficult situation on our hands now in the Security Council, because it’s the one thing it shouldn’t be: It’s divided. The only beneficiary of a divided Security Council is a recalcitrant state like Iraq.

Now before the journalists go ape and say, “He called it a recalcitrant state,” let me remind you, that’s what the secretary-general of the United Nations has called it, Kofi Annan: a recalcitrant state. A state that is saying, “We will not obey the law.” Now it is benefiting from division in the Council to the extent that this foothill of a problem increases that division, or maintains that division, then it’s a problem. But it’s not the central issue.

Mr. ROSE: But wasn’t it, then, stupid to do it if it, in fact, happened, if it is having that impact in the Council? I mean, when you—it’s obvious...

Amb. BUTLER: I guess that’s fair reasoning, but I wish we could move on. Mr. ROSE: All right, I hear you, but let me just go one more question. I mean, there is clearly some sense that someone had made a calculated risk that this was worth trying and that the downside, and the likelihood of being caught, was worth taking the risk. Correct?

Amb. BUTLER: Sounds like fair reasoning.

Mr. ROSE: OK. All right. Moving on.

Amb. BUTLER: God be praised.

Mr. ROSE: Maybe coming back. And I want to give this audience an opportunity to talk to you.

Where does the effort in the Security Council—whatever committee is doing whatever work—and with the known split with Russia and France and China, and Britain and the United States, where does it stand in terms of UNSCOM and Iraq today?

Amb. BUTLER: The one thing the Council has agreed upon is that the issue of getting Iraq back into compliance with the law, which translates specifically into getting arms control inspections back into Iraq, whether they’re disarmament or merely monitoring inspections, is that this is desirable, this is something they’re agreed about, and I welcome that.

Now the methodology that is being agreed upon to try to get this done has been to create three panels of inquiry: one into disarmament, one into humanitarian affairs, one into human rights issues. They’re panels appointed by the Security Council. They’re meeting now; they’ll report to the Council on the 15th of April. And I think the idea is that the Council will then be able to come to a new set of decisions, maybe new resolutions, I’m not sure; and I’m not sure what the relationship of new resolutions would be to the old ones that are on the books that are binding international law. But anyway, the idea is the Council will then come to a new set of decisions in the middle of April, which, I guess it’s fair to say, would constitute either a new set of demands upon, or offer to, Iraq, which, if it accepted, would mean that we’d get back doing our arms control work and, presumably, Iraq—I’ve got to be careful here. The Council hates us to second-guess what they’re going to decide, but, you know, it’s out there. You will have heard it, Charlie. It’s out there in the corridors that there may be some easing of the oil embargo or some, you know...

Mr. ROSE: Yeah. Yeah.

Amb. BUTLER: Was it Roosevelt who taught—Or was it Wilson?--carrots and sticks, you know—I mean, some mixture of...

Mr. ROSE: I don’t know. And President Chirac has just been in town.

Amb. BUTLER: Right. And, you know, that something like that will emerge in April, OK? I don’t know what that package will be. I don’t know how viable or real it would be, in terms of us getting our arms control work done. And the $64,000 question is that one doesn’t really know whether Iraq will accept any of it or not. At the moment, it looks fairly dug in. I mean, I don’t know. I don’t hear noises from Baghdad that suggest that it will accept any of this, but, again, who knows? You know, hope springs eternal. You never know.

Mr. ROSE: Do you think, with due respect, that you should continue as head of UNSCOM and that that is in the best interest of getting UNSCOM back?

Amb. BUTLER: People normally put that question to me the other way around: you know, wouldn’t it be best if I left?

Mr. ROSE: Well, I’m just giving you an opportunity to—I’m a generous soul by nature.

Amb. BUTLER: Yes, I’ve admired you for that for a long time.

I’ve said that, you know, my appointment was for two years and that ends on the 30th of June this year. It was always theoretically possible that it could be extended, but I’ve already said that I don’t think I’ll be asking for an extension, and I’ve said that publicly and I’ve told Kofi Annan about that.

Mr. ROSE: That you want to leave.

Amb. BUTLER: That I will not be asking for an extension.

Mr. ROSE: And that you don’t want to and you think it’s in the best interest that you step down and not be reappointed.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, I wouldn’t elevate my personal decision to the level of a sort of global political interest and...

Mr. ROSE: Yeah. Well, but it is a lightning rod for the Iraqis, as you know.

Amb. BUTLER: Oh, really?

Mr. ROSE: Oh, yeah.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, I’m not alone in that. They did hideous things to Rolf Ekeus, things that I actually shouldn’t repeat, especially as we’re on camera, but it seems to me—you know, I’ve learned many things in dealing with the Iraqis and it seems to me that one of the prime things I’ve learned is that they personalize everything. They were given some assistance, recently, in personalizing things about me following the U.S.-U.K. military action in December, for which some people seem to suggest I had a responsibility, which is—I don’t know whether I should be flattered or disgusted, but it’s an amazing exaggeration of my authority around this place.

But my decision not to seek an extension is intended to be constructive. I think that when the Council gets to its decisions in April, it’s likely to be rather different from the UNSCOM of which I took up leadership two years ago, and I suspect it’s one that I would prefer not to lead and one that might benefit from having some new blood.

Mr. ROSE: And do you think this will be good news for the Iraqis?

Amb. BUTLER: Oh, yeah, but then they swallow their own propaganda, you see, and I wonder how long it will take for the new guy to be also deemed as suffering from canine distemper or, you know, some other-I mean, you know.

Mr. ROSE: Since December and since UNSCOM had to leave, because of the air attacks, do you believe that the Iraqis have made significant progress in creating, or finding the capability to create, weapons of mass destruction, whether we’re talking about nuclear or chemical?

Amb. BUTLER: Yeah, I know the question and it’s—I welcome it. It’s very, very serious. It’s a source of deep distress to me and my colleagues in UNSCOM that this is possible precisely because we’re not there. I want to modify one word in your question. You said do I believe. We can’t deal in beliefs. We have to deal much more in real things.

Mr. ROSE: Do you have facts, then?

Amb. BUTLER: And this is the point I want to make. We don’t know, and that’s the tragedy. We’re not there, we can’t see and we don’t know. But I’ll tell you this, Charlie: Everything in their track record suggests that the answer to your question is, “Yes,” and that really concerns me.

Mr. ROSE: And do you believe that...

Amb. BUTLER: You know, it’s been five months now. It’s been five months since we’ve been there looking at their biological laboratories, their chemical plants, places where you’ve got dual-use equipment, where equipment can be making aspirin on the assembly line before lunch, rinse it out over lunch and they can be making mustard or VX or something after lunch. Dual-use equipment. That was the whole point of our being there to see that these things, this equipment and the materials involved, were not being used for a malign as against a benign purpose. And we’re not there watching that and everything we know about their track record suggests that they’re making hay while the sun is shining.

Mr. ROSE: You have said to me before on my broadcast that you believed you were close to finding something at the time that they developed in that government an increased recalcitrance to your, meaning UNSCOM’s, presence.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, UNSCOM’s record, over the years, has been great. Rolf Ekeus and his staff have to be thanked for that and I’m deeply grateful to the women and men who are there today, especially under the rough circumstances we’ve been through in the last year. We’ve accounted for a very substantial portion of Iraq’s missile and chemical force. We’ve been able to identify that their biological force, or capability, has been thoroughly misrepresented to us and the world community for eight years. It’s what we call the black hole. But we’ve been able to identify the nature of that.

Now we got thrown out five months ago. We don’t know exactly why, but if you followed the principle that you listen less to what people say and look more at what they do as the evidence that is real, I think you have to come to the conclusion that because we gave Iraq a final list of weapons of mass destruction, of which we needed an account, either to see that they’d been destroyed or, if we found them, that we would destroy them—a short list, but a real list in the missile, chemical, and biological field. And they then threw us out. The logic of that behavior suggests to me that we were right. We were right and we were getting very close to precisely the things that they retained, and that they had concealed and they didn’t want to give up. And that was our crime. We were right, we were close and they threw us out.

Mr. ROSE: I want to turn to this audience, but one, Scott Ritter, has written a book, which...

Amb. BUTLER: Have you read it?

Mr. ROSE: No, I have not.

Amb. BUTLER: But he’s favored many people with galley proofs of it.

Mr. ROSE: Well, I’m not one of them.

Amb. BUTLER: I compliment you.

Mr. ROSE: Well. What do you think is going on with his accusations? And where do you think those that are pointed at you and UNSCOM...

Amb. BUTLER: Mm. It’s very difficult to know exactly, and I want to be a bit careful, because Scott’s become a bit of a loose cannon, uncontrollable in some ways, and he’s done us serious harm. And the last thing I want to do is make some gratuitous remarks that would throw more petrol on the fire and do us more harm in this crucial period of trying to get back into Iraq. And as he left our organization, you know, following the great French philosopher, I said, “Scott, I may never agree with what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it.” And I tried to play it that way for a while.

Now Scott has abused that trust. He’s betrayed the people in our organization by making claims that are false, by revealing some things that he should not have revealed, and I deplore it. I deplore it, because it’s wrong.

Mr. ROSE: Has it...

Amb. BUTLER: It’s effectually wrong and it’s harmful. Beyond that, as I said, maybe I’ve thrown a dab of petrol on the fire by even making these remarks, but he’s a bit out of control and I don’t want to stir that up further.

Mr. ROSE: But just tell me, what damage has it done? Is it simply propaganda damage, do you think, or other deeper damage?

Amb. BUTLER: He’s done the prime damage that can be done, which is telling people things that are not true.

Mr. ROSE: Like?

Amb. BUTLER: About aspects of what he calls the intelligence operations, exaggerated and untrue; of joining one and one together and getting three. He put to me some inspection proposals that were cockamamy. I knocked them down, but he happened to learn that, you know, two days earlier or whatever, I spoke with Mrs. Albright. He put one and one together, got three and said I knocked down that inspection proposal exquisitely designed by him because I’d talked with Mrs. Albright. He wasn’t in the room. He didn’t hear the telephone conversation. He doesn’t know that my good friend Madeleine and I sometimes disagree. You know, he just put things together for public purposes that were wrong. And this is—you know, the greatest error is to tell people things that are wrong, and he’s done a lot of that.

Mr. ROSE: All right. Let me turn to this audience and have people please stand up and then recognized.

Yes, sir, here.

Remember that we have a lot of people and I ask you to be brief.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador, your predecessor ran UNSCOM for several years.

Amb. BUTLER: Six. Six.

QUESTIONER: You have run it for two years. Could you reflect on the differences in management, in manner and in style between the two of you?

Amb. BUTLER: Oh, I don’t think the management has changed much. What were the other ones? Manner and style.

Mr. ROSE: Style.

Amb. BUTLER: Right. Well, when Rolf, having done an absolutely stunning job in getting UNSCOM up and running and toiling in that very hot vineyard for six years—when he left, the day he left the job, the spokesman of the U.N. said farewell to him in a press conference and introduced me. And I was asked exactly that question, which had to do with, “This man is such a soft-spoken Swedish diplomat and you’re rather blunter. How will that play?” And in this suggestion that I was rather blunter, I said, “Well, people change,” which kind of got a bit of a laugh, and I’m sorry it didn’t here tonight. But anyway, I think, probably, that promise of a new degree of softness and sweetness is one of the first things of which Iraq dissuaded me. But interestingly, in that same press conference, after I’d been introduced, Rolf Ekeus then made a farewell statement and he called the Iraqis liars and cheats and so on, and all of this out loud and on the record. And I’ll share with you, the spokesman of the United Nations turned to me on the podium and whispered to me and said, “This is the soft guy?”

I would just want to say that I have undying admiration for the way Rolf did his job. I’ve done mine, in slightly different circumstances, to the best of my ability. The record is what counts and that has to be the record of bringing Iraq to book with regard to its weapons of mass destruction. And let’s see what that record shows in the end.

Mr. ROSE: As I look for it—yes, you.

QUESTIONER: Do you think the current United States policy, both toward Saddam Hussein and over the no-fly zone, will give Iraq any incentive to comply with disarmament demands of the Council?

Mr. ROSE: Could all you hear that?

Audience: (In unison) No.

Mr. ROSE: All right.

QUESTIONER: Can I repeat it?

Mr. ROSE: Well, if I may paraphrase it—go ahead, repeat it again.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, she asked me to comment on United States policy, no-fly zones, etc., and whether it would encourage Saddam Hussein to come back in compliance with the resolutions of the Council, correct?

QUESTIONER: Well, disarmament and...

Amb. BUTLER: Disarmament. Yeah, there’s a simple answer to that, which is that I will not comment in this forum on United States policy.

Mr. ROSE: Yes, over here.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Ambassador, a United States spokesperson responding to the reports of intelligence piggybacking, and trying to downplay them, suggested that UNSCOM was no precedent and had no precedence as an arms control exercise. I’m wondering if you, as an arms control professional yourself, share that assessment? And I’d also be curious to know your view of, as an arms control professional, whether the kind of comprehensive sanctions regime that are part of the context for this operation are the most appropriate, or whether there’s some more targeted kind of sanctions approach that you think might be more effective.

Amb. BUTLER: Right. Your question has got two parts and I welcome it, because it actually—each of those parts touch on the two things that I think are of deepest importance here, which Charlie and I were starting to get to, but we had a lot of fun with some other things and we didn’t quite get to.

One: The business of spying, piggybacking, and so on, as I’ve said earlier, is not so much intrinsically important, but more deeply important in what it does to the faith of states in the objectivity of the means of verification of arms control treaties. That is absolutely crucial. We have a tapestry of treaties today that are designed to see that weapons of mass destruction do not proliferate. That’s the nuclear, chemical and biological treaties. They all rest on a moral commitment, a political decision to negotiate the treaty and to sign it, and finally on verification.

The biggest nightmare of any treaty partner is that someone will cheat from within. Not the extrasystemic countries, the ones that stay outside the treaties. They’re a problem, of course, and Iraq is the paradigm case of a state that cheated from within. Iraq was in the Nonproliferation Treaty and was still trying to make a nuclear weapon, OK?

Now one of the key ways in which states are given assurance against cheating from within, that their neighbor is doing the right thing, is through objective means of verification. They’re never 100 percent, but if they’re good and if they’re scientifically objective, they will create the remaining percentage required, which is political confidence that your neighbor is doing the right thing. Jeopardize that confidence in means of verification and you’ve got a serious problem. The idea of piggybacking on such means might be such jeopardy, and that causes me and others who think deeply about these things a very serious problem.

The second part of your question is the other big subject we have on our hands, which is the authority of the Security Council. The Iraq case is also a paradigm case of a recalcitrant state, a state saying, “We simply will not obey the law.” Now the Council has an authority and responsibility, agreed at San Francisco, to be exercised collectively in, quote: “the maintenance of international peace and security,” unquote. And the question of whether or not it will exercise this in the face of Saddam Hussein’s challenge, I think, is a question of enormous significance going far beyond the particular issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. ROSE: Right here.

Amb. BUTLER: And I don’t know yet whether they’re going to allow him to face them down. I earnestly hope, for the sake of the 21st century, that they don’t.

Mr. ROSE: While he’s giving the microphone over there, is there, in your judgement, a time frame in which UNSCOM has to get back in there with a kind of intrusive monitoring, or it’s too late in effect? It’s...

Amb. BUTLER: No, it’s not too late, but every day that goes by is serious.

Mr. ROSE: Well, what time is too late, then? I mean, how long is the window that he needs if, in fact, it is a policy to develop weapons of mass destruction, if that is possible?

Amb. BUTLER: Charlie, if—and, please, this is not, you know, escaping reality. I don’t know what the reality is. I have to say this in all fairness. If Iraq decided, the day after we were thrown out on the 31st of October last year, to go into one of those crash programs—and they have—you know, I talked track record, right? They have had crash programs in the past. That’s identified and true, and they admit it. If they decided to go into a crash program to make biological warfare agents, in the five months that have elapsed, they could’ve made a lot of that stuff. Well, that’s one answer to your question.

Mr. ROSE: Yes, here and then here and then (pointing to audience)...

QUESTIONER: I think my question’s sort of a follow-up to Mr. Rose’s. I like your image of your problem being a Mt. Everest. Would you accept my image that you were a very good pilot of an airplane that couldn’t quite get up that high? And can you speculate on what would be the design of the airplane that you would like to have your people who follow you be able to do the job, which clearly you didn’t have the tools to do?

Amb. BUTLER: The simple core answer to your question is that that airplane of the future should have inscribed on its fuselage the name, “Unity of the Security Council.” That’s the fundamental requirement.

Mr. ROSE: And how likely is it to have that?

Amb. BUTLER: That’s a question that’s very difficult for me to answer, Charlie, and they’d slaughter me if I did, so let me go to the edge, as I normally do, and say I simply extol the irreducible virtue and necessity of there being unity in the Security Council, but in this case, unity around something real, not an illusory agreement on Iraq, but something that will get the job done in the face of a state that has created an awesome quantity and quality of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. ROSE: But that begs this question: If, in fact, what UNSCOM becomes is something like what the IAEA did, is that enough?

Amb. BUTLER: You’re being a bit unkind to the IAEA. People should recognize that a key difference between the task they had to perform and ours, even though Iraq was perpetrating the nightmare scenario of cheating from within a treaty, the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, they got there at a time when Iraq had not fabricated a nuclear explosive device. Now they didn’t have to deal with an extant weapons system. Their job, in that sense, was easier than ours. We were dealing with massive quantities, say, of chemical weapons, extant weapons systems. So their inspection methodology, which rests on the notion of detection of diversion to ensure that peaceful nuclear facilities are not diverted to any military purpose, was adequate.

Detection of diversion, in our case, would’ve been hopelessly inadequate. We had to go and get hands-on, real weapons systems and get rid of them. The good-guy, bad-guy scenario that is being talked about now—the IAEA are the nice, cozy inspectors and we’re the rough, brutal ones—ignores all those realities. When we get back, we’ll have to do a serious job. And serious monitoring will involve no-notice, intrusive inspections. It’s the only way to do the job.

Mr. ROSE: All right, over here.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador Butler, I know you’ve talked about allegations made in The Washington Post. CNN’s reported that U.S. military intelligence operatives infiltrated UNSCOM in 1995 and 1996 under the cover of UNSCOM papers. Considering that report, and considering the...

Amb. BUTLER: But if it’s true.

QUESTIONER: This is what we’ve reported.

Amb. BUTLER: Yeah, but is it sufficient to say that CNN has reported it?


Amb. BUTLER: Does that make it true?

QUESTIONER: According to me.


QUESTIONER: In light of that, and in light of the government’s refusal to deny these allegations yesterday and today, can’t you agree that the credibility of your own organization is compromised and can you foresee it going back?

Amb. BUTLER: No, absolute nonsense. Sorry, no, no. No, no. I mean, you said CNN’s reported it; I said what I had to say about that. You then said that the United States authorities haven’t denied it. That’s more important, that they haven’t denied it. But this is a baby-and-bathwater problem. What are you going to do? Throw out all of what we stood for and all of what we achieved because these people may have done something which some, or many, would consider improper and which would raise very serious concerns for me about misuse of, you know, piggybacking on our systems? You’re going to want to throw out all of our systems, then? I mean, surely, the solution to the problem is to try to ensure that if that happened, it doesn’t happen again. You don’t throw out the whole inspection disarmament regime that we have uniquely developed.

Going back to the earlier question, the International Atomic Energy Agency has never had to develop as extensive an inspection regime as we have done, nor has the Chemical Weapons Convention, yet. We have led the world in inspection techniques, ways of getting this practical hands-on job done, and it’s had brilliant results. We just haven’t been able to finish the job. Now the fact that this stuff may have happened, of which, you know, many people, including me in the way that I defined it, you know, would disapprove, shouldn’t lead to us throwing away all of the other stuff that we’ve done and still need to do.

QUESTIONER: I’m sorry, I had a follow-up to that. Can you categorically deny that your deputy, Charles Duelfer, knew about this spying?

Amb. BUTLER: I didn’t hear that question.

QUESTIONER: Can you categorically deny that your deputy, Charles Duelfer, knew about this spying by the U.S. under the cover of UNSCOM?

Amb. BUTLER: Why on earth are you asking me such an extravagant question? ’Cause CNN reported that, too, right?

QUESTIONER: ’Cause my party’s looking for an answer, I guess.

Amb. BUTLER: My deputy, Charles Duelfer, has done an absolutely outstanding job for Rolf Ekeus and for me. He and I have complete confidence in each other and, yes, I deny that. I’ve never had any relevant discussion with him that would suggest that, nor he with, and, you know I’m really sorry that you asked what seems to me to be a rather wild question.

Mr. ROSE: I must tell you that The Washington Post reported that there had been conversations between the CIA and your deputy.

Amb. BUTLER: Oh, I’ve had conversations with the CIA.


Amb. BUTLER: Come on. I mean, listen. No...

Mr. ROSE: But, you know, I must remind you that she’s not coming out of left field, that the report has been there and she simply was asking, you know...

Amb. BUTLER: I see. I understand. But let’s be fair about this. We have received assistance from 40 member states and permanent members of our staff in headquarters New York are sent to us by sending governments who give us those staffs, and some of them, I think, come from their defense intelligence organizations.


Amb. BUTLER: Because that’s where the expertise lies. If you want arms control expertise, you don’t get a clerk from the Ministry of Public Health.

Mr. ROSE: OK, but, I mean...

Amb. BUTLER: You know what I mean? So, you know, and there are 40 nationalities. This hate that’s on the U.S. and so on at the moment is driven, in part, by the sort of focus that Iraq has put on these two states, the U.S. and U.K., and it’s disproportionate.

Mr. ROSE: Well, but I mean, before we leave this in one more second, really, it is fair to say that if, in fact, the CIA, in the matter of using UNSCOM to spy on Iraqi military plans and communications, reported that to your deputy, that’s an important fact that, I think, should be answered.

Amb. BUTLER: I answered it. I have complete confidence in my deputy and his loyalty to the organization. I hope he does in me.

Mr. ROSE: OK, but that’s not really the question here.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador Butler, I suppose the reason why we are rather surprised at your reaction is because you as a disarmament man have made yourself very clear in expressing outrage at Iraqi deceit, and rightly so. Why aren’t you expressing outrageous reaction to these stories that implicate the future of disarmament altogether? You say to Charlie, “Go ask them.” You say to CNN, “Well, why do you ask me these questions?” Did you ask Charles Duelfer if, in fact, he had done so directly? Did you go to the U.S. government and they told you that there was no piggybacking? And why aren’t you outraged by the cheat from within, also, at least, at the reports? Why don’t you express that?

Amb. BUTLER: That’s a fair question, but it’s asked prematurely. It’s not over yet. I think I’ve been very plain about what I think would be the harmful effects of piggybacking, had it taken place. The difference between the Iraqi wall of deceit and what you call this improper behavior is that I know about the former. I have the former fully documented. I don’t know exactly; I mean, I said, “Please allow me this to be fair.” At the beginning, my answer to Charlie’s first question, “What do you know about this,” I said, “Nothing.” I don’t yet know the facts. I have used carefully the word “allegations.” I’m going to try and find out what the facts are, but I have already gone to the point of saying if these are the facts, that’d be very damaging.

QUESTIONER: But this is not the first time. There have been such allegations before and the sources are not Iraqi newspapers. These are serious, respectable, American media sources and this was not the first time.

Amb. BUTLER: Yeah. Yeah.

QUESTIONER: What have you got for answers? Why...

Amb. BUTLER: I haven’t yet got—I haven’t yet got sufficient answers. And you would, I think, concede that, I think as Charlie referred to it earlier, U.S. sources on this matter have shifted their position a couple of times. So what’s the real position? But, I’m going to find out.

Mr. ROSE: OK.yeah.

Amb. BUTLER: Can I drink some more water?

Mr. ROSE: Right over here. Yes, of course, you can.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador Butler, I wonder if you might comment on the nature of the mix of political and military responses to situations where you attempted entry into a site that was a legitimate subject of inquiry were denied access. Was there, at any point, a response that you deemed sufficient? Would it have been possible to have bombed that particular site to have given the individuals there notification that this was unacceptable practice? Was there an alternative to the kind of buildup we had seen and with one massive strike? I wonder if you might comment on that.

Amb. BUTLER: Now I can’t, particularly, because a decision to use military action and the targets involved were something with which I had nothing to do. I have no authority over that, and in a sense, I thank God that that’s the case. I’m the disarmament person, not the let’s-go-bomb-them person, all right? And targeting, all those sorts of decisions, were not anything that involved me or my organization.

Mr. ROSE: Even though UNSCOM was out before the bombing, do you have any sense of what you believe to be the damage that bombing did to the effort to have weapons of mass destruction?

Amb. BUTLER: Some, but not an adequate sense. We will only know that in detail when we can get back on the ground and do some inspecting.

Mr. ROSE: This lady here, first—’cause I missed her earlier—at the back.

QUESTIONER: Can you say something about your interaction with the Russians on the Security Council and whether that gives you hope for the ability to have Security Council unity in the future?

Amb. BUTLER: I’ve tried to maintain a professional and polite demeanor toward the ambassador of Russia. He’s been very critical of me and UNSCOM, I assume on instructions from Moscow, and he is a consummate professional and, therefore, has been fulfilling his instructions, sometimes vigorously. Now as you would be aware, there’s lots of speculation about what drives Russia’s position from these major international issues. I don’t know precisely what the answer to those questions is. I listen to what they say they’re about publicly and that makes a certain kind of sense, but beyond that, it would be wrong for me to speculate about where Russian policy is going to go, but it would be right for me to say that their contribution to unity of the Council is essential. And I hear them saying that they believe Iraq should be brought back into obeying the law. And I hope their contribution is in that direction.

Mr. ROSE: At the back of the room. Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: I just want, first, to say that I think we’ve all been very fortunate to have you in charge of this operation. It’s been very successful and I cannot imagine any other individual who could have done better than you have in the face of these extraordinary challenges.

Second, when I noted in the press that you had intelligence specialists from 16 nations seconded to you, it never crossed my mind that they would not also serve their home agencies, and it never crossed my mind that you would be informed or that you would be pleased when you learned about it. So I find a lot of this questioning rather strange.

Third is the question to you: Do you suggest the conclusion that, despite the problems of working with the members of the Security Council, it’s much better to satisfy only them than to have an organization like yours report to the secretary-general, who would have to satisfy 185 members, so that UNSCOM II in another country is much better off working directly for the Council? Question.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, I’m very grateful to you for your generous remarks addressed to UNSCOM and to me. UNSCOM is an organ of the Security Council, not the General Assembly, and therefore not, strictly speaking, under the direction of the secretary-general, which I see in his press conference yesterday, when he was asked about some doings in UNSCOM, he rather speedily said, “Well, of course, they’re not under my control.” Now I think the answer to your question is that it would be best for UNSCOM, or UNSCOM number two, and therefore a new dispensation in relations with Iraq, remain under the Council in the way that it has been in the past.

Mr. ROSE: Yes, sir.

QUESTIONER: One of the big questions that’s always being asked in the Security Council is the question of light at the end of the tunnel. And, to the best of our knowledge, the U.S. has never unequivocally and unqualifiedly said that they would agree to the lifting of sanctions if Iraq complied on the disarmament conditions. Now do you think that this is important and would’ve been a useful tool, the first question.

And then second, on a more personal level, a lot of people are sympathetic to the Iraqi civilians, because they seem to be caught between two unscrupulous regimes in Baghdad and Washington; two deceitful and unscrupulous regimes, it seems. And do you identify yourself in any way with them at the moment? Because it seems that you are being equally deceived by both sides and, if I were you, I’d be fairly indignant about it.

Amb. BUTLER: I’m so stunned by your second question, but, you know, you get A for effort. I mean, I congratulate you. But I’ve forgotten your first one. Just quickly—and what was this...

QUESTIONER: The light at the end of the tunnel, if this is important.

Amb. BUTLER: Well, one light at the end of the tunnel that I’ve shown them is the light at the end of the Richard Butler tunnel.

Mr. ROSE: Yes, sir. Right here.

QUESTIONER: I’d like to put aside the recent actions of the United States and pursue two of the prior questions about the lessons for future disarmament operations. All you said, really, is that what’s required is unity in the Security Council, which is clearly important. You said you’re not a bombing person, but what do you do, as a disarmament operations person, when you’re faced with a wall of deceit and you’re simply denied access to what you’re entitled to?

Amb. BUTLER: Mm. Yeah. Let me use the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as an example of a main contention I’ve tried to make here tonight. And I’ll remind you, I’ve made two main contentions here tonight. One is that if we lose the Iraq case, we will jeopardize the beliefs that people have in the verifiability of the main arms control treaties.

I’ve also said, secondly, crucial to the enforcement of those treaties is the role of the Council and its unity, and you’ve just raised that question. Now I’ll exemplify by referring to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. When there are infractions of that treaty, because of the special role under it given to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the board of governors of the agency consider such an infraction, as it did in the case of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, of North Korea. It then reports that infraction, if it can’t be resolved at that level. In other words, at the level of the technical agency, it reports that infraction to the Security Council, which is what happened with North Korea and its clandestine nuclear weapons activities.

And so those chickens come home to roost to the Council. The Council did act adequately there and it led, by a slightly circuitous route, to the creation of a solution through the Korean Energy Development Organization. OK? Now my point is this: The arms control treaties require to be properly verified. It’s why we mustn’t lose the Iraq case. The Security Council must be prepared to stand by those arms control treaties and, in the face of a serious violation, as a whole, go to that state and say, “We’re on your case. We won’t stand for it and you’ve got to stop this bad behavior.”

Your question is did I do that through sanctions or military action? Well, a combination of those things, maybe, or the political weight and persuasion of all of them, especially the five standing together. My point is that, when they will not stand together, then they deeply jeopardize the ability of this world to enforce those treaties, and I think that’s truly serious.

Mr. ROSE: And do I follow that any reduction in sanctions allowing the sale of oil, you think, without some effort, some conditions, exercised by Iraq, would not be wise?

Amb. BUTLER: Well, there are two things at issue, Charlie. There’s the oil embargo and there’s the sanctions.

Mr. ROSE: Right.

Amb. BUTLER: And the oil embargo is the one that is directly tied to progress in disarmament. If in April we get a solution which Iraq accepts and we’re back at work in Iraq, I think it’s fair to assume that all or part of the oil embargo will be lifted.

Mr. ROSE: And some deal like that would be...

Amb. BUTLER: Well, you know, again, I’ve got to tread carefully here. That’s a political decision by the Council, but, you know, it’s intelligent to think that that’s how it would kind of be played.


Amb. BUTLER: But the sanctions, the overall sanctions, would require, I think, progress also in the humanitarian and human rights reviews. And that was your question, Ian, right?

QUESTIONER: Yeah. Well, yeah.

Mr. ROSE: OK. I promised we’d get out of here at 7 and we don’t have much time, but I want to recognize everybody that’s asked to speak. Pete. Here and then here, yes.

QUESTIONER: Mr. Ambassador, I’d like to ask you a question related to the last several. Some people believe that the package of sticks and carrots is quite explicit on the sticks side; namely, “There’s going to be military action if you don’t cooperate and, incidentally, we’re going to try to drive you out of office,” and not terribly clear on what the carrots are; namely, that we’ll lift the embargo or the sanctions. Now you’ve had a lot of experience in this area. Do you believe that Saddam Hussein’s primary objective is so primary about developing these weapons of mass destruction that there aren’t any carrots of sufficient magnitude to lead him to give up that objective, or do you believe that if the carrots were much clearer it would really lead him to cooperate with regard to the development of weapons of mass destruction?

Amb. BUTLER: I don’t know the answer to that question, but I’ll say this: I agree with your premise that an utterly primary concern of Saddam Hussein has been to retain his weapons of mass destruction capability. Why else would he have traded off eight years of sanctions upon the ordinary Iraqi people in preference to his wish to conceal and hold that WMD capability? That’s his primary concern. What that suggests to me, as a first principle, is that the international community will be making a dreadfully serious mistake, unless it keeps that issue in the forefront and gets UNSCOM back to do its job with respect to the weapons.

Now how to get there, what combination of incentives, disincentives, threats and so on will get there, is something that is really hard to design, but the principle, or goal, of the activity, in my view, should be directed at the weapons and a presence to ensure that they’re not reconstituted in the future.

Mr. ROSE: Yes, here. We’ve got two over here and then we’ve got...

QUESTIONER: We know that the disarmament panel has met, will meet again and submit its recommendations to the Security Council in April, but given your intimate knowledge of the U.N. disarmament and monitoring program, can you just share with us any sense of, or indication of, how UNSCOM might be reconfigured and still be a self-respecting agency?

Amb. BUTLER: Not really. That’s something that’s still under discussion. The crucial issue, as far as I’m concerned, is that there be a skilled presence in Iraq to identify and verify its relevant weapons-related activities.

And in that context, I’ll just make one other comment. People very often draw a distinction between the rough work of disarmament taking away the weapons of the past and the kind of easier and nicer work of monitoring in the future. There is no such distinction. There is no such distinction. Serious monitoring in the future will involve no-notice inspections at a time and choosing by the inspection authority—UNSCOM, UNSCOM number two, whatever it’s called. And that is something that Iraq has to accept, if we’re to do the job seriously, and that’s the question on which the jury is still out. I mean, no matter how we design the shape and dress of the place, provided it is real and does that kind of job, we will still require Iraq to accept and cooperate with that and not do all this phony stuff of saying, “We lost the keys to the door and you can’t inspect this establishment because, you know, it’s all too hard.”

Mr. ROSE: Three more. Here, and here and here. Come on.

QUESTIONER : What I wanted to ask you was a technical question. Spying is a bad word.

Amb. BUTLER: Mm.

QUESTIONER: It’s an emotional word and it’s greatly romanticized in the entertainment business. What is it that happened to make what the CIA did, spying, in distinction to legitimate gathering of information, and do we know what they actually did?

Amb. BUTLER: I think that’s a splendid question, but my answer can be very brief. I don’t know what that distinction is. Let me tell you that the resolutions of the Council, which are international law, call upon all states to give us all possible assistance and to render to us all of the information at their disposal. So I’m not absolutely sure why some of the intelligence-gathering activities are given this emotive term. And just to complete the picture, where’s The Washington Post or other newspapers’ article on Iraqi intelligence activities? I mean, give me a break. The biggest industry in Iraq, second to the oil industry, is the anti-UNSCOM industry. It’s massive.

Mr. ROSE: Right here.

QUESTIONER: Ambassador Butler, it strikes me that you have been on both sides of a rather contradictory American attitude toward international law. On the one hand, UNSCOM is an expression of international law, a multilateral expression of the unilateral American foreign policy goal of containing Iraq. On the other hand, if The Washington Post reports are true, America has transgressed international law and the sanctity of that structure.

Charles Krauthammer is arguing in this week’s New Republic that international law is no more than Lilliputian threads that are trying fecklessly and annoyingly to tie down the great Gulliver of the United States. As someone who cares about not only UNSCOM as an international legal regime but, I think, about international law generally, would you care to assess U.S. trends in the observance of international law? I’m trying to ask that mean question in a more palatable way.

Amb. BUTLER: Mm. No, I won’t say a word about the last part of your question. As I said, it’s not my role to comment on U.S. policy. I mean, this is almost kind of a good closing remark for me. We live in the era of the Charter of the United Nations. It’s 53 years now and it’s almost—you know, I ask you to try to imagine the world without the United Nations. No one can even remember it. This much faltered and pilloried organization—and, indeed, it has grave faults—but no one can even remember that period anymore. There was a period in the first half of this century where that fabric of law that is the Charter of the United Nations didn’t exist, in terms of fundamental rights of the sovereign, independent, self-determined, inviolable nation-states, but their obligations to conduct their relations peacefully, to settle disputes peacefully, etc., etc.--I could recite the charter to you.

That’s a fabric of international law done brilliantly at San Francisco, implemented often with flaws and failures and so on, partly because it is a system of sovereign independent states, which has transformed international relations. Now the corpus of law that’s been built on the basis of that, whether it’s the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Convention on Genocide, resolutions—I’m looking at this person here because she has an interest in these things—resolutions on the rights of the Palestinian people.

Now this corpus of law that has been built is something that human history has never seen in any prior period. And I think it’s fair to say the United States has been in integral part in the development of that law. It’s having a few problems at the moment, like the statute on the International Criminal Court and so on. But, you know, as I said, I won’t comment on those things.

Mr. ROSE: Thank you very...

Amb. BUTLER: That—sorry. That corpus of law and that charter is at issue in the Iraq case. And it’s why we must win it.

Mr. ROSE: Our thanks to Ambassador Butler. Thank you very much for joining us. Thanks.

More on This Topic