Horizon

Season 35 Episode 2

Saddam's Secrets

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Aired Tuesday 9:00 PM Feb 19, 1998 on BBC Two
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Saddam's Secrets
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After the 1991 Gulf War, a United Nations Special Commission was set up to go into the war-torn Iraq, seek out Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and destroy or disable them.

This remarkable Horizon episode follows the tension of the inspectors' every move as they track down secret military bases, SCUD missile launchers, the infamous supergun barrels, decaying chemical weapons dumps, and the remains of the nuclear research establishment, cunningly hidden amongst debris and the innocent-looking rubble of post-war reconstruction. At each stage in the cat-and-mouse game with the Iraqi security forces, the UN team had to draw on cunning and courage to force their way into secret locations.

Day by day, they recorded their progress on video, and charted the tensions of diplomatic stand-offs as the world was twice drawn close to another violent confrontation in the Gulf region. The courage of the UN team, drawn from scientists from all over the world, is graphically revealed as they attempt to gauge the lethal nature of rusting canisters of poison gas at Saddam's decaying chemical weapons store.

After the immediate rush of successes, the inspectors' work became a steady process of attrition - grinding on against the stonewalling of their hosts. The weapons program is like the layers of an onion. Every now and then, Saddam would allow us to peel one back, but there is always more underneath. But even after five years, the inspectors had still not tracked down proof of the darkest of Saddam's secrets: his biological weapons program. However, painstaking detective work revealed that huge quantities of the media needed for growing biological organisms had been imported, and Iraq finally admitted to having substantial biological weapons, which are cheaper and more simple to produce than nuclear and chemical weapons, yet have the same destructive power.

Gradually, the inspectors got close to the labs and animal testing stations where the lethal toxins had been produced. In addition to the most common biological warfare organisms, anthrax and botulinum, Iraq developed and tested strains of viruses never before adopted for weapons purposes. This was part of an ongoing international biological arms race to design novel weapons using gene-splicing or filoviruses such as Ebola, Hanta fever, and others.moreless
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