Whopper of the Week: Naji Sabri.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Jan. 17 2003 2:33 PM

Whopper of the Week: Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri

Oh, those chemical warheads …

"The US and Britain have no evidence of Iraq's possessing to [sic] any banned activities. The inceptors [sic] have found nothing and if they stay and check any corner in Iraq, they will find nothing because there is nothing to find."

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—Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri, in a Jan. 15 press release from the Iraqi News Agency

"U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq discovered 11 empty chemical warheads at an arms depot south of Baghdad on Thursday, their most significant find in nearly two months of searching for a forbidden arsenal. … The 11 rocket warheads, plus another with modifications that required further evaluation, were the same type that topped thousands of 122-millimeter rockets that U.N. inspectors had found in 1991 filled with deadly sarin and cyclosarin nerve agents. Those rockets were destroyed. The discovery at the Ukhaider weapons depot 75 miles south of Baghdad appears to put Iraq in technical violation of the U.N. resolution requiring it to eliminate all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and delivery systems."

—Maggie Farley, "U.N. Inspectors Find Warheads, Seek Answers," in the Jan. 17 Los Angeles Times

Discussion. Because they're empty, the chemical warheads probably won't become the U.S. casus belli. But they do contradict Sabri's flat assertion that "there is nothing to find." The rockets should have been melted down but weren't. The Iraqis claim the warheads, which apparently were imported in 1986, weren't destroyed because they'd been forgotten. But that's hard to square with the fact that the bunkers the missiles were found in weren't built until the late 1990s, by which time the U.N. disarmament effort was well underway.

Got a whopper? Send it to chatterbox@slate.com. To be considered, an entry must be an unambiguously false statement paired with an unambiguous refutation, and both must be derived from some appropriately reliable public source. Preference will be given to newspapers and other documents that Chatterbox can link to online.

Whopper Archive:
Jan. 10, 2003: Rod Paige

(Click here to access the Whopper Archive for 2002 and here to access the Whopper Archive for 2001.)

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.

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