Scientist Who Destroyed Iraq’s Chemical Weapons the Last To Be Freed

In a little noticed piece (best as I can tell, only NYPost picked it up in the US), AFP reports that the last Iraqi WMD scientist still held in prison, Mahmud Faraj Bilal Al Samarrai, is set to be released.

“The judicial authorities have decided to free Mahmud Faraj Bilal al Samarrai,” he said.

That’s welcome news for Bilal al Samarrai, I’m sure. But here’s the detail that ought to interest American taxpayers even more:

In a letter to the CIA in 2006, made public by his lawyer, the former head of research and development at the military industries ministry recalled that he had given himself up to the CIA on March 2, 2003.


Samarrai said his immediate superior, General Faez Abdullah Shahin, was never jailed and Saddam scientific adviser General Hammudi al Saadi was freed in 2005, as was deputy premier and military industries minister Abdel Tawab Mullah Hawaish.

The AFP provides the evidence of the bombshell there, but doesn’t make it explicit. This guy “gave himself up” to the CIA on March 2, 2003, more that two weeks before the war started.

Which is all the more troubling paired with the Iraq Survey Group report, which makes clear Bilal al Samarrai (whom they refer to as Bilal) is the guy who destroyed undeclared chemical weapons in response to IAEA inspections in 1991.

Following a particularly invasive IAEA inspection in late-June 1991, Saddam ordered Dr. Mahmud Faraj Bilal, former deputy of the CW program, to destroy all hidden CW and BW materials, according to an interview with Bilal after OIF


A senior Iraqi scientist who directed the destruction of chemical and biological munitions contends that the decision to destroy the hidden materials was made at the end of June 1991. David Kay’s inspection and the ensuing controversy prompted Iraqi concerns about renewed war with the United States, according to Dr. Mahmud Firaj Bilal. Amir Rashid contacted Dr. Bilal and ordered that all hidden chemical and biological munitions be destroyed within 48 hours. When Bilal responded that this was impossible, Rashid directed that Bilal use the resources of the Iraqi Air Force and the surface-to-surface missile force to accomplish the task. Dr. Bilal gathered his colleagues from Al Muthanna State Establishment, went to the locations of the stored munitions, and began the destruction.


ISG interviewed Dr. Mahmud Firaj Bilal, the Iraqi scientist who supervised the destruction of Iraq’s undeclared chemical munitions, along with a number of Iraqi higher officials who were knowledgeable of the weapons destruction. Although other sources have corroborated parts of Dr. Bilal’s account, ISG’s understanding of Iraq’s chemical and biological warfare agent unilateral destruction is heavily dependent on Dr. Bilal’s information, which is a weakness in our analysis. Nevertheless, as with Iraq’s long range missiles, we obtained a reasonably coherent account of the disposition of the CW munitions, though we were not able physically to verify the story. The UN has, however, verified some of it.

  • Iraq likely destroyed all 20 concealed CW Al Husayn missile warheads in the summer of 1991, according to Dr. Bilal based on UN-sponsored excavations. All were “binary” GB/GF nerve agent warheads filled with a mixture of isopropanol and cyclohexanol and MPF.
  • Al Muthanna had dispersed approximately 1024 CW R-400 bombs along various Iraqi airbases. Iraq did not declare some of these to the UN and unilaterally destroyed them in situ. The UN holds these as accounted for, although they were unaware that a small percentage of them were used on the Shia in March 1991 according to multiple sources.
  • Iraq disposed of 1.5 tons of spoiled bulk VX nerve agent at the Al Muthanna State Establishment dumpsite.
  • Dr. Bilal also stated that Iraq destroyed the following chemical agent precursors:
    • 157 tons of the VX precursor phosphorus pentasulfide (P2S5) destroyed by mixing it with soil at Saqlawiyah, northwest of Fallujah. UNSCOM-sponsored excavations accounted for about this amount.
    • 55 tons of the VX precursor choline destroyed at Qasr al-‘ashiq near Samarra’.
    • 10 tons of the mustard precursor thiodiglycol destroyed by burning at Saqlawiyah. This precursor was never declared to the UN and had been stored in the city of Samarra’. When the rest of the unilateral destruction took place, no one remembered this stock until a month after the rest of the chemical destruction. This realization triggered its destruction.
    • Al Muthanna State Establishment gave cyclohexanol, isopropanol, and isopropylamine to various industries for use as solvents.
  • Iraq also destroyed a quantity of empty aerial bombs intended for CW use and empty 122-mm CW rockets.
  • Bilal insisted that Iraq’s CW “Full, Final, and Complete Declaration” is completely accurate regarding the unilateral destruction of CW munitions.

Meanwhile, at least one of Bilal al Samarrai’s colleagues who got set free years ago told the ISG a different story. Hawaish, for example, told the ISG that Saddam had retained his mustard gas.

In a 7 August 2003 debriefing, [Abd al-Tuwab] Huwaysh said that as of early 2003, all 550 mustard rounds were kept by the SRG at Suwayrah, probably the former location of the II RG Corps Headquarters, just north of the Shaykh-Mazar ammunition depot.

Hawaish got set free while the US still ran Iraq, Bilal al Samarri did not.

So more than 9 years after the fact, we learn that the Iraqi scientist who oversaw the destruction of Saddam’s CW stock in 1991 gave himself up to the CIA more than two weeks before the war began.

And they’ve been hiding that fact for all these years by keeping him holed up in prison long after his colleagues–who provided less troubling news to the Americans–got set free.

17 replies
  1. pdaly says:

    Hans Blix, Valerie Plame, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Scott Ritter.

    Lots of people who said the same as Bilal.

    It’s not like the Bush administration can honestly say they hadn’t heard a different viewpoint about starting the war in Iraq.

    Bilal provided “bad news” for the Bush vanity war. No causus belli if no WMD.
    Keeping him silenced by holing him up in prison was criminal.

  2. orionATL says:

    this report, together with the recent report about torture being used explicitly to elicit false confessions re al-q in iraq,

    simply provides specific evidence of what has been widely suspected,

    that the cheney-bush admin deliberately mislead the congress and the public into believing boogie-man stories about iraq and wmd’s in order to justify the invasion and occupation.

    which invasion was for the purpose of gaining control of iraqi oil (cheney) and kicking sadam’s butt (bush, jr.).

    we’ve paid a great price for electing these liar’s and fools.

    no one deserves more credit for placing this disasterous pair in power than that intellectually dishonest master supreme court sophist, antonin scalia.

  3. sd says:

    @orionATL: I place the blame on the key ‘swing vote’ on the Supreme Court – Sandra Day O’Connor. She alone put Bush in the White House.

  4. orionATL says:


    i wouldn’t seriously disagree, but i was nominating scalia on the basis of the fact that it was he who concocted the sophistical argument that placed the florida vote issue before the u.s. supreme court as bush v gore.

  5. What Constitution? says:

    I dunno, but I think maybe even Scalia might have found it disquieting to have learned that the Bush Administration clandestinely was imprisoning the very guy who had presided over the destruction of the very WMD that the Bush Administration was claiming Saddam still had. And even if Scalia had the information but chose to ignore it, if the rest of the US had known of this imprisonment, maybe — just maybe — the election wouldn’t have been close enough to end up in front of Scalia to control.

    It’s not about which Justice let him win, it’s about discovering yet more confirmation of blatant fraud used as an excuse for the crime of aggressive war — and putting Bush and Cheney in the dock somefuckingwhere.

  6. orionATL says:


    here is the final paragraph from justice john paul steven’s dissent in bush v gore.

    read this and then reflect on your own impression of a range of judicial decisions by federal judges from dec, 2000 to the present.

    from miss wiki:

    “… The dissenting opinions strongly criticized the five justice majority for involving the Court in state-level affairs. Justice Stevens’ dissent (joined by Justices Breyer and Ginsburg) concluded as follows:[37]

    What must underlie petitioners’ entire federal assault on the Florida election procedures is an unstated lack of confidence in the impartiality and capacity of the state judges who would make the critical decisions if the vote count were to proceed. Otherwise, their position is wholly without merit. The endorsement of that position by the majority of this Court can only lend credence to the most cynical appraisal of the work of judges throughout the land. It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law….”

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    By all means, let’s have the land of Lady Liberty imprison and keep silent those who still take at face value the slogan that the US is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @earlofhuntingdon: Let’s incent scientists from other countries to cooperate by–imprisoning them 7 years longer if they DON’T cooperate than if they do.

    Though I guess Bilal’s problem was all in how they defined “cooperation,” which apparently is not the same as “tell the inconvenient truth.”

  9. FrankProbst says:

    @What Constitution? You seem to have to impression that Scalia is an impartial jurist rather than a tired partisan hack. Do you have any evidence to support this?

  10. orionATL says:


    i thought about that issue also, given our record of betrayal and mistreatment,

    e.g., those many innocent of terrorism activity but imprisoned in guantanamoland forever in order to protect the revelation of the true intent of guantanamo – to use it as a propaganda prop to scare americans into supporting cheney-bush warring,

    but most specifically, of the iraqui air force general who surrendered himself in the early days of the war –

    only to ended up suffocated in a sleeping bag shortly after voluntarily entering american custody.

    american war employees and american war bureaucrats seem never to believe that non-americans could be watching them perform their killing and treachery,

    or would remember those things.

  11. alinaustex says:

    Bush, Cheney are both war criminals – the Iraq occupation was an illegal war of aggression.

  12. What Constitution says:

    @FrankProbst: By all means, let’s focus on what a putz Scalia is here, because that won’t by any means deflect attention from the confirmation here that Bush and his clowns actually knew that their contention that Saddam had hidden, and had not destroyed, his WMD was false and they imprisoned and silenced the guy who destroyed it so that he could not express any contrary view during the run-up to the invasion. That Scalia, what a putz, I hates him some big time, of course. Though I don’t think he’s tired — as political hacks go, he’s invigorated and thrilled to be where he is, friggin’ loves to go to work every day.

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