Asia Times - News and analysis from Korea; North and South

Why, Yes, You Do Need To Explain This:

The Spanish government is demanding that the Bush administration please explain why a shipment of SCUDs and dangerous chemicals was allowed to proceed to Libya:

The episode began on December 5, 2002, when US intelligence services informed Madrid about the route of a freighter named So San, which they suspected of trafficking weapons and which was, at the time, crossing a zone under Spain's authority in the Indian Ocean. Four days later, a Spanish frigate and warship intercepted the So San after ordering the captain to halt and firing warning shots. The vessel was found to be sailing under the Cambodian flag.

The weapons and chemicals came from North Korea and did not appear on the ship's manifest, which showed only that the merchant vessel was carrying bags of cement. After intercepting the freighter, Spain then handed the ship over to the US Navy. Immediate official explanations out of Washington and Madrid said the missiles might have been headed for the al-Qaeda network, which the US government holds responsible for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. However, just hours later, the US administration took Spain by surprise by turning the So San over to Yemen, explaining that the cargo was actually a legal shipment of weapons purchased from North Korea by the Yemini government.

The handover was preceded by a telephone conversation between US Vice President Dick Cheney and Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. When that conversation was made public, the White House justified the move by calling Yemen a friendly nation. So what initially came off as a brilliant Spanish military operation to prevent illegal trade in weapons of mass destruction was reduced to a suspected manipulation directed from Washington, with Madrid in the role of receiving and carrying out orders that were not very clear in their purpose.

The NATO sources cited in El Mundo said that at the time the shipment was intercepted, the United States was secretly negotiating the possibility that Libya would accept Saddam Hussein, then still president of Iraq, in exile. And Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who played the role of go-between during the Gulf War in 1991 by assisting in Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, had hopes of gaining access to the weapons.

"Gaddafi wanted the missiles and Yemen acted as intermediary. In the context of gestures with Libya, it was decided to look the other way, given that there was no international regulation that impeded it," said the newspaper, citing sources from the Pentagon.
Ah, yes, "gestures." I always like to reward gestures from former terrorists by letting them have medium-range missiles and chemical weapons material. Especially when the North Koreans can profit too!

Someday we're going to wonder why we didn't take this war a lot more seriously. I'm wondering already.

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