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Weapons of Mass Destruction

I am not an expert on Weapons of Mass Destruction, but, over the years I have witnessed events that have given me an idea of what is possible in the detection of the building of such weapons.

Much of this information I have shared with millions of others, some have been particular to my work in making documentary films.

Aerial photography is as old as aviation itself.  During the Second World War, Spitfire and Mosquito Bombers, unarmed, flew over Germany and other parts of Europe photographing various sites.   They flew at low, medium and high altitudes, at high speed, on a daily basis.  Their photographs were analysed and, even in the 1940s, the analysts were able to interpret the pictures in such a way that they were able to build accurate scale models of the buildings that had been photographed.

The interpreters provided with photographs of the same site over weeks and months were able to determine what was taking place on those sites.

It was these photographs that revealed the construction of the V1 and V2 rockets.

Operation Crowflight opening title

Operation Crowflight opening title

The first item that I witnessed was when I made a film called “Operation Crowflight” which was all about the U2 aircraft flying over Australia. This I made in December 1960. I saw what they could be used for by way of spying.   I saw the pictures they took from 70,000 feet.

We all knew about the Gary Powers incident in May of 1960.

What was not known at the time was the following:

Gary Powers’ account of the flight tells us that one of the last targets he had overflown was the Chelyabinsk-65 plutonium production facility.  From photographs of the facility, the heat rejection capacity of the reactors’ cooling systems could have been estimated, thus allowing a calculation of the power output of the reactors. This then would have allowed the amount of plutonium being produced to be determined, thus allowing analysts to determine how many nuclear weapons the USSR was producing.

Is it not amazing what can be determined from a photograph ?

Fifty years ago, in October, 1963 we had the Cuban Missile crisis.  The Soviet Union had sent medium and long-range missiles to Cubs to be aimed at the United States.

Aerial photograph of an SA-2 site in Cuba. Tak...

Aerial photograph of an SA-2 site in Cuba. Taken by RF-101 Voodoo during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pictures of the missiles with their accompanying equipment were taken from a U2 aircraft and shown to the world.  There was no mistaking what was being shown.

In 1965, or thereabouts, I worked on a film about the Loch Ness Monster with a gentleman named Timothy Dinsdale.  Dinsdale was a dedicated Nessie watcher and had gone up to the Loch to film, he hoped, Nessie.

He filmed what he thought was Nessie with a Bolex camera.  His film was sent off to an organisation known as JARIC, Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Centre.  Based at R.A.F. Brampton near Huntingdon, in the United Kingdom, this unit specialises in the analysis of aerial photographs.

The picture that Dinsdale shot showed an object moving across the Loch away from the camera.  On the far side of the Loch, a road ran downhill at the edge of the Loch.  A car was going down the hill.  A gull glided through the shot.  They asked Dinsdale for his Bolex camera.  Checking on the speed of the camera, they were to verify the speed of the water-borne object.  This was calculated by comparison with the speed of the car and the gull.  Their final announcement was that “It is an animate object”, (it was moving faster than any vessel on the loch was capable of).  It is amazing what can be done with such little pictorial information.

Thirty years later JARIC was still in operation and looking forward to enhance its analytical technology with the phasing out of photographs and their replacement with digital images, as follows:

Phase 1 of the program to enhance JARIC’s ability to exploit digital imagery was implemented in late 1998. This gave JARIC an improved ability to respond to customers’ requirements. The final Phase 2 of the program is being managed by the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA), which, subject to scrutiny, will be taken forward as part of a joint submission with the Military Survey’s MDS project (Mil Svy Digital Geographic Information and Production Management System), and is planned to be implemented in 2001. It will replace all JARIC’s legacy systems with state-of-the-art technology. To enable JARIC to respond to these new demands, there is a continuing need for connection to modern defence communications systems.

One can only imagine what the analysts are capable of now.

In 1978, I made a film about Bahrain.  One of the interesting points to be made was the planned construction of a causeway between the north-west of the island and the mainland in Saudi Arabia.

To illustrate this, I needed an aerial photograph showing the two territories involved which would allow us to superimpose an artists impression of the route to be taken by the causeway.  I got in touch with NASA who kindly lent me a photograph, which measured some five feet by four, which shown the Island of Bahrain and the coastal hinterland of Saudi Arabia around Dahran.  The picture was taken by satellite at some 168 miles above the earth’s surface.

One could see individual buildings, cars parked outside and the burn-off flames from the oil wells.  The detail was amazing.

A few years later, I was confronted by a Saudi military commander who thought that my film crew, working for the Saudi military, might be spies.  When I asked him who he thought we might be working for he said “The Israelis” I replied “The Israelis already know when you go home to lunch”.  He said “How ?”  I replied by pointing skywards and said “Satellites”.  I may have been exaggerating, but then, maybe not.

Today, we can see detailed aerial shots of most parts of the world via Google Earth and the like.  I am sure that this would include most of Iraq.  Can you imagine what JARIC would do with those ?

A moment’s digression.

In the forties and fifties, there was a gentleman by the name of Britten, “Tibby” Britten.  He was a Regimental Sergeant Major serving with Her Majesty’s Coldstream Regiment of Footguards.

When facing a line of several hundred guardsmen paraded in a line in front of him, he would scream “Stand still that man”, this from a distance of fifty yards.

The guardsmen, all with the same uniform, all with the same rifle were standing at ease.  If one of those men moved his finger on his rifle stock, it would be noticed.  Whether Tibby actually saw someone move we do not know, but it is a fact that the slightest movement would be detected in a phalanx where nothing else was moving.

Back to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction.

After the first invasion of Iraq by the Allies in 1992, Iraq was divided from north to south into two areas of “no-fly zone” which prevented Iraq from flying in either of these areas to the north and to the south, leaving them a strip in the middle in which to do what they wanted.  The zones to the north and south were patrolled by United States and British aircraft.

Surely these aircraft would have performed regular aerial photographic surveys.

Prior to the second invasion of Iraq in 2003, satellites were capable of providing photographs of the whole of Iraq.  In an area of two miles square of desert, if someone deposited a wheelbarrow, it would be found on the photograph.

Let us consider what other means could have been used to determine whether Saddam Hussein was building such weapons, bearing in mind that the the size of an industrial plant for the purpose would have been considerable..

Surely, the country would have had an organisation of dissidents, that is dissident to Saddam Hussein, who would have been more than willing, if there were beans to spill, to spill the beans to the Allies.

Secondly, there would have been spies.  Surely, the United States, Britain, Russia, France and Israel would have all been represented.   Some of them would have pooled information with some others.

Finally, there were the United nations observers, who, it seems were given a free hand to travel around Iraq looking for places where these weapons might be constructed.  In 2002 Iraq gave permission for United Nations observers to search “without conditions”. They found nothing.

In view of what I have written, how is it possible that the leaders of the Allied forces did not know that there were no weapons of mass destruction.  I believe that they knew perfectly well that there were no weapons of mass destruction.

They went to war anyway.

© Terence Gallacher and, 2013.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Well written, food for thought!

    March 14, 2015

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