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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Powell's Main Strategy Was Evidence Overload

UNITED NATIONS -- To convince allied nations that Saddam Hussein is trying to deceive United Nations weapon inspectors, the Bush administration applied a tried-and-true strategy: it invoked the Powell doctrine.

When he was the United States' top military man, General Colin Powell was best known for his doctrine of using overwhelming force. As the United States top diplomat, U.S. Secretary of State Powell sought to overwhelm critics Wednesday with evidence, some new, some less so.

Without a smoking gun to show that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction, Powell's strategy was to make as comprehensive and detailed case as he could to demonstrate a pattern of Iraqi deceit.

He provided new details about Iraq's effort to develop mobile laboratories to make germ weapons. He asserted that Iraq has sought to hide missiles in its western desert. Significantly, he cited intelligence reports that Hussein has authorized his military to use poison gas if the United States invades.

The speech revealed an administration determined to use all means to make its case. But some portions of Powell's presentation appeared stronger than others.

The secretary offered much evidence that Iraq has weapons programs to hide, the primary justification for the administration's contention that military action will almost certainly be necessary to enforce the United Nations demands that Iraq disarm.

Trying to marshal the strongest evidence, Powell began by talking about biological arms, about which the United States has the most information.

Providing new details, Powell said Iraq had developed seven mobile laboratories to make germ weapons. Most are hidden inside trucks but a few are on rail cars. He showed a drawing of the interior of one of the labs, saying it was based on information from several Iraqi informants.

Significantly, he said, Iraq has developed a technique for making dry biological agents. Addressing delivery systems, Powell disclosed that Iraq has an unmanned drone that flew 800 kilometers in one test. He also said Iraq moved rocket launchers and missiles warheads with biological agents from the Baghdad area to western Iraq last fall to hide them.

On nuclear weapons, Powell noted that some skeptics have challenged the Bush administration's claims that Iraq is striving to develop nuclear weapons. But he said the United States intercepted aluminum tubes with a special coating that would make them useful for making centrifuges to enrich uranium.

Critics may challenge the strength of the administration's case and will no doubt argue to give inspectors more time. But it will difficult for the skeptics to argue that Washington's case against Iraq is based on groundless suspicions.