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Former U.N. Weapons Inspector Hans Blix

In his new book, Disarming Iraq, Blix writes about what happened in the months leading up to the war in Iraq last year. Blix, formerly the head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, has been named chairman of the newly formed International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction, which began its work in January 2004.


Other segments from the episode on March 17, 2004

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 17, 2004: Interview with Hans Blix; Commentary on use of profanity over broadcast television and radio; Commentary on Dimension Records.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Hans Blix discusses his new book "Disarming Iraq" and
the war in Iraq

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Hans Blix, was the head of the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq,
which was officially called the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection
Commission, or UNMOVIC. It was established by a Security Council resolution
in December 1999 to investigate whether there were still weapons of mass
destruction in Iraq. In November 2002, a new round of inspections was
initiated. Three and a half months later, Blix and his team were called back
by the UN as the US gave up on the inspection process and prepared to invade

In his new memoir "Disarming Iraq," Blix describes what happened behind the
scenes during his search for weapons of mass destruction. He spent 18 years
as the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, and 20
years as a member of Sweden's delegation to the UN. Blix is now the head of
the new International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction.

What was your alternate scenario in Iraq? If weapons inspections had been
given more of a chance, what do you think the outcome might have been?

Mr. HANS BLIX (International Commission on Weapons of Mass Destruction):
Well, there are two things that we would have wanted to do. The first would
have been to carry on with inspections of sites and notably those sites that
had been given to us by intelligence as promising. And I think that if we had
been to all these, and, of course, they would have shown that there were no
weapons of mass destruction, then the intelligence which had given us the
sites might have begun to doubt themselves that there was anything.

The second avenue was on interviews. We had some difficulty in getting the
right format for the interviews and not having any mind or official person
present, because that would intimidate the witnesses or to have any tape
recorder. But gradually the Iraqis gave way on that. And towards the end, we
were given long lists of people whom they said had participated in the
destruction of biological and chemical weapons in 1991 when they said it had
all been destroyed. And they had not had any inspectors present during the
destruction, and that's why we doubted at UNSCOM, my predecessors also doubted
that they had destroyed it all and that they perhaps had squirreled away
something. Now we wanted documentation about this destruction, and they said
they had none; they had been destroyed. But we said to them, `Couldn't you
have witnesses?' And that was why they gave us this long list of witnesses.
And we would have gone ahead and interviewed them.

GROSS: If you find weapons of mass destruction, you have definitive evidence
that there are weapons. If you don't find definitive evidence, then it's
perhaps less than definitive that there are no weapons of mass destruction
because they still might be hidden someplace; they might have been temporarily
shipped out of the country waiting to be shipped back in after the inspections
process is over. Would there have been a point where you could have said to
yourself definitive, `There's nothing here'?

Mr. BLIX: Well, you know, it's always very hard to prove the negative. If I
sit in this room or studio, can I swear that there's not a safety pin hidden
somewhere in this room? So it is hard, and the Iraqis often said that to us:
`How can we prove there is nothing in this vast country? That's what you
want.' And I said, `Yes, that is true, but you can at least help to make it
plausible, and in fact, the world needs to feel assured that there is nothing,
and they want to hear us say that. And it is more difficult for us than it is
for you because you have all the budgets, you have all the reports, you have
all the archives, all the witnesses. So you'd better make that effort. You
will not completely succeed, but you can make it plausible.' And they tried
to do that towards the end.

GROSS: If you had completed the weapons inspection process and you determined
that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and if the United States and
its allies did not invade Iraq, then Saddam Hussein would have still been in
power. Looking at that alternate scenario and looking at the way the war did
work out, do you have a sense in your own mind about which the preferable
scenario is?

Mr. BLIX: Yes. I think you're right in saying that it's likely that Saddam
would have remained in power, and this was one of the bloodiest terror regimes
the world has seen this century. So that would certainly have been something
negative. And I think it's the one gain I can see at the present time from
the invasion, that the regime is gone. And we all hope for democracy to come.
However, when it comes to the question: Was the whole armed intervention
justified, you can look upon that from different points of view. You can look
it upon it from the legal standpoint: Was this in conformity with the UN
Charter and resolutions? That's one aspect. I don't think they have, really,
devoted so much time to that question.

The other is: Was it justified from a political point of view? And, there,
the main argument advanced was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. And
I don't think that was justified. I mean, if you fought the war for to take
out weapons of mass destruction, clearly it was not justified, since they were
not there. And if they had said that, `We'll fight the war because the
uncertainty about the weapons is unbearable,' well, then they would have
achieved the certainty through the war. But that was not what they said.
Colin Powell said that, `There are real weapons, there are real anthrax, real
VX,' etc., and that was founded upon very, very shaky evidence, even
erroneous, of course.

GROSS: You think the evidence was shaky. Do you think that the Bush
administration knew that it was shaky and intentionally used whatever evidence
it could get to make its case--in other words, used evidence selectively--or
do you believe that the United States was acting, you know, the Bush
administration was acting after honestly assessing the intelligence
information it had?

Mr. BLIX: Well, I have never suggested that either Bush or Blair was in bad
faith in what they said. I don't think so. But, you know, in some laws, it
says that you are not allowed to do something wittingly or if you should have
known that certain circumstances existed. And I think that if they had
exercised more of a critical thinking, they would also, at the higher
political levels, have seen that the evidence was shaky.

GROSS: Now you write in your book "Disarming Iraq" that you believed that
Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Is there a point in which you
changed your mind?

Mr. BLIX: Yes, of course.

GROSS: What was that point?

Mr. BLIX: Well, first of all, see, when I took on the job and when we were
there with the inspectors in November and December 2002, I was asked
sometimes, `Do you think--what is your gut feeling about the weapons of mass
destruction?' And my answer then was, `Look, I'm engaged as an inspector of
the Security Council and not to give gut feelings but, rather, to inspect and
to report. That's what I do.' So I wouldn't have answered it in December.
But now we are over a year later and then I can tell you that, yes, in
December, like most people, I looked at the behavior of the Iraqis in the '90s
and I thought it was also very likely that they had weapons of mass
destruction. Even in beginning of January, I was of this feeling. When we
found some 12 warheads, which were meant for chemical weapons--They were
empty, but we found 12 warheads--I asked myself and I said to the Security
Council, `This might be the tip of an iceberg, or it might be broken up pieces
of an ice that was once there. So in January I kept the possibilities open.

However, it was in January that we also began to go to sites given by
intelligence, which they believed had weapons of mass destruction. And it
turned out to be wrong. We went to many of them, and only on three sites did
we find anything at all of interest. We found a stash of documents that
related to a nuclear matter. We found some ammunition of conventional kind in
a farm. And we found a lot of illegally imported vulgar rocket engines but no
weapons of mass destruction. So I began to feel that now the intelligence
doesn't really know. They were 100 percent convinced that there were weapons,
and they had 0 percent knowledge, it appeared, of where they were. And so we
said that. We told them--if we had received tips by them where to go, then we
would tell them that we didn't find anything. And I also said to Condoleezza
Rice that, `I will have to say something about this in the Security Council.'
That was after Colin Powell's presentation, because we had some doubts about
some of the cases he advanced.

GROSS: Well, another question--and you asked this in the book--is: If Iraq,
in fact, had no weapons of mass destruction, why was it behaving as if it had
something to hide?

Mr. BLIX: Yes, that is, I think, an important question, and maybe we only
get a real answer to it when we have talked to more Iraqis and at great
length. I would like, myself, to have a talk with Amir al-Saadi, who was my
opposite member, about it. And I've seen some glimpses of answers in
interviews by many excellent investigating journalists who have been there
from the US in particular. And there was one, he was a prominent man in the
chemical field. He was asked why did they behave as they did? They asked
him, `Why did Saddam behave'--and he said that, `Well, I don't know. Maybe it
was pride.' That was his answer.

I have some other speculations, and one of the most important is that often
the US would say that, `Sanctions will not be lifted until Saddam is gone,'
whereas the UN Security Council said, `Saddam, the sanctions will be lifted if
you have declared and destroyed all the weapons and the inspectors verify that
that is the case.' But then the US said that sanctions will not be lifted
unless Saddam disappears. Of course, that would not give him any incentive to
cooperate. He could perhaps just as well play cat-and-mouse with the
inspectors. That's one possibility.

Another is that although they said they had no weapons, maybe they didn't mind
the suspicion being there that they had weapons because it made them a little
more dangerous. And, of course, the US, when it went in here in 2003, the
soldiers were donning chemical protection suits again and again. So that
seemed to have worked, and the whole world believed that they had the weapons,
including their neighbors and their own population. That's one further--then
you could also think and be aware that the Iraqis knew that the inspection
teams was at work for intelligence, that probably they knew that they were
piggybacking. But they assumed, at any rate, that everything the inspectors
saw went directly to the agencies and that they, thereby, also were given the
possibility of finding targets for bombing, which occurred in connection with
the upholding of the no-fly zones. And you can imagine that there were not
any great enthusiasm for helping the inspectors to see something if they felt
that they were just giving better targets for an enemy.

GROSS: You write in your book that as, you know, the chief inspector, you
didn't want the inspectors' tone to be provocative; you wanted the tone to be
neutral. You say, `Inspectors aren't occupiers. Inspectors should avoid
humiliating the inspection.' Why is that important?

Mr. BLIX: Well, if you are an occupying army, then you are, by definition,
humiliating, and you bully the country hopefully within the laws of war. But
if you are inspectors, then you are more closer to observers. And you do
require their cooperation in order to get somewhere. They are, of course,
bound by the Security Council accepting snap inspections, and they are bound
to allow you to interview people, go anywhere anytime. But you need a measure
of cooperation with them. And the experience I had from inspections in the
'90s and what I'd heard from many of the inspectors on the sites--I've been
there--was that they usually got more information out of the Iraqi engineers
and the military if they treated them with some civility. I'm not saying that
you should be cozy--Absolutely not--but nevertheless some civility in that
same manner as we would like our police in our national societies to treat
people whom they arrest.

They are not to be humiliated. We know that they may have committed crimes.
And we must be firm with them. We must use our rights but not humiliation.
And I think there were in the past elements of that bullying, especially if
you came with white people from Northern Hemisphere, Western world, including
countries that had a colonialist past. You must be very careful about the
dignity of it, and that's true even today.

GROSS: My guest is Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq.
His new memoir is called "Disarming Iraq." We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Hans Blix is my guest, and he was the head of UNMOVIC, the UN weapons
inspection team in Iraq. And he has written a new book called "Disarming

The US military buildup in Iraq helped push Iraq to open itself up to your
weapons inspections. At the same time I think you feel that that buildup made
war just about inevitable. So looking back, how do you feel about that
military buildup and its kind of strengths and weaknesses in helping you do
your job?

Mr. BLIX: Yes, I'm not a pacifist, nor is the UN Charter a pacifist
instrument. On the contrary, the Charter foresees the possibility authorizing
the use of force and diplomatic pressure, economic pressure and military
pressure. And I think that the US buildup that began in December of 2002 was
welcome. The Iraqis had been sort of playing diplomatic cat-and-mouse with me
and with Kofi Annan, and we didn't get anywhere in our pressures to get any
inspections. But when the buildup began, well, then they changed course, and
they accepted inspections then in September of 2002. But then the buildup
continued. It was as if you had put a military train on a track, and they
loaded more and more people on it, more and more weapon and moved forward.
Now that I saw as a pressure. I think Condoleezza Rice also saw it as a
pressure that maybe the Iraqis at some point would crack, that they would sort
of come forward and say, `Well, look here, we're sorry. We have tried to fool
you, but here are the weapons, and here's the documentation.' But they didn't
because they didn't have the weapons. Maybe they didn't have the
documentation either.

So the buildup continued. And when in February they were up to about 200,000
men, well, this would have required, I think, at that point a very spectacular
something to get the US administration to call it off. They could have. And
I never thought that it was decided and final until they start to march in. I
mean, the president of the country, the commander in chief, he can give an
order at any moment. So looked at it in that way, I don't think it was final,
but it was building up to a very difficult thing to withdraw them. And they
were also looking forward then to a season that was hot, and to keep 200,000
men in the desert sitting and getting hot, that was not the tactics. I think
the weather, the season, had something to do with it.

GROSS: Would you like to see any formal criticism of the US in the UN?

Mr. BLIX: I don't think it really matters, you know, if you have--there are
people who want apologies and formal criticism. This only irritates and makes
it more difficult to heal rifts that have existed there. I think it's clear,
from my reading on media both in Europe, England and here in the US, that both
Blair and Bush have suffered somewhat on their credibility for this. And I
guess that's the natural consequence--in a way, if you want to say the
punishment--for not having been sufficiently sincere and frank about it.
There was too much spin.

GROSS: In your book you write that you concluded that President Bush, having
declared war on terrorism, needed to eliminate the Iraqi threat before the
next election. Are you saying in that statement that you think the war in
Iraq was, in part, politically motivated?

Mr. BLIX: Well, I think I've put it as a speculation rather than as an
assertion. Well, Bush President advanced the war on terrorism as a great
vocation of his presidency. And I think that he saw clearly a need that I
think many Americans responded to of meeting the threats that had manifested
and the terror that'd been manifested in the 9/11. And they must have had a
plan then how to go about it. I wholeheartedly approved of the first part of
this, and I thought it was done very legal. They turned to Afghanistan, and
they said that, `You must extradite al-Qaeda to us. And if you do not
extradite al-Qaeda, then we will take you out because you have hosted these
people, and you have allowed your territory to be a base for an attack against
the United States.' And I think that was an impeccable argument. And also
the invasion, I think the world approved of it and, I mean, lots of support
for that.

But it was as if it were not enough. It's my perception. I'm European; I
lived through this, too. I think it--to me, it seemed as if it were not
enough, that they would have to go on. Terrorism was a bigger thing. And
they ask themselves now, `What if these people had worse things than paper
cutters and the talent to fly planes, and they would also try to get hold of
weapons of mass destruction?' Well, they are biological, they are chemical
and they are nuclear. And they asked, `Well, they wouldn't hesitate to use
these weapons against us or others. No, probably not. But where could they
get them?' Well, then they looked at Iraq. Iraq had had them at any rate, so
that could be a place. And similarly, `Was there a link between al-Qaeda and
Iraq?' And they tried strenuously to construct such a link, and you can see
from the US media that it was much, much doubted. But Saddam fitted rather
well into a picture symbolizing the evil.

And there were many other reasons. We have heard speculations that if they
could establish a democracy in Iraq, well, that would change the whole
situation. Maybe the path to peace would be easier, etc. So there were many
reasons, as Wolfowitz has said, and they settled for the weapons of mass
destruction--he called it bureaucratic reason, rationale. Well, that was that
within the big US administration, this was the one reason that everybody could
agree on. And, in fact, the same thing applied to the world and to Congress.
If they had come to Congress and said, `We want to take out Saddam Hussein
because he's cruel and horrible,' they would not have got a resolution. If
they had simply said that, `We think he might be going for weapons of mass
destruction and the uncertainty is unbearable,' I don't think they, again,
would have had support.

But both President Bush and Blair in London went to their legislatures and
said, `It's a matter of fact; they have it. It's threatening,' and, in
Blair's case, even said that he could have weapons of mass destruction ready
for use within 45 minutes. Well, that was painting a very ominous picture of
the whole thing. I think that--well, I would call that spin and, really,
leading the people to conclusions that were more far-reaching than reality

GROSS: Hans Blix is the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq. His new
memoir is called "Disarming Iraq." He'll be back in the second half of the
show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)


(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our interview with Hans Blix, the UN's former
chief weapons inspector in Iraq.

Also, our linguist Geoff Nunberg considers the use of profanity on TV.

And rock historian Ed Ward remembers Dimension Records, which showcased the
talents of such songwriters as Gerry Goffin and Carole King.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Hans Blix, the UN's
former chief weapons inspector in Iraq. He headed the UN Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission, or UNMOVIC. His inspections were
terminated when the United States and its allies gave up on the inspection
process and decided to invade Iraq. Blix has written a new book about his
search for weapons of mass destruction called "Disarming Iraq." When we
left off, we were talking about his analysis of why President Bush and Prime
Minister Blair decided to invade Iraq.

If we proceed with the premise that you just stated, which is that weapons of
mass destruction was one of several reasons that the US led the invasion of
Iraq, but it was the reason that everyone in the administration could kind of
get behind and use as a kind of public face for the invasion, does that make
you and UNMOVIC something of a pawn in that game?

Mr. BLIX: Well, there were big parts of the US administration that didn't
like the inspection a bit. And Vice President Cheney said in August 2002 that
inspections are useless at best. And I'm sure that that view was shared by
Pentagon. Rumsfeld said on a later occasion, when they were saying that
Saddam would have to--had a change of heart and he will have to make a
strategic decision--he said, `For this, you don't need more than two
inspectors.' So I think there was not even criticism or critical
(unintelligible) but even a disdain for an inspection that I think was
misplaced and against me, too, personally. And there are some people who
claim that Blix had all--`Oh, he's being himself,' etc. However, in the
Security Council, which was my boss--they were the ones I reported to, and
there were instructions that I followed. There was never at any stage a
criticism of the inspections. We built them up methodically. We trained our
people. We prepared the analysis of past documents, etc.

And all through, until the very end, until the invasion had come, there was
nothing but appreciation for professionally run inspections. And we were much
more independent than UNSCOM, the previous inspection, were. They were very
closely knit to the intelligence services. They would allow themselves to be
piggybacked with electronic equipment that monitored Iraq for these
organizations, which was not in the UN resolution. We did not do that. We
treated intelligence as, in principle, being a one-way traffic; they should
tell us, but we should not share with them anything that could help them to
establish target or things like that. They did get--there was some feedback
because if they gave you a target, if they give you a site, and you go it and
you find nothing, you must tell them that there wasn't anything because that
will help them to evaluate the reliability of the source.

GROSS: Is that what you mean when you say in your book that you had to
protect UNMOVIC from becoming an arm of the CIA?

Mr. BLIX: Yes, that's right.

GROSS: What are some of the other ways that the United States tried to shape
the style or the tone of the weapons inspections in Iraq?

Mr. BLIX: Well, from the outset in the year 2000, when I came here, they
didn't really meddle at all or didn't--well, they were positive, helpful.
They told us they would assist us if we ran courses, etc. But they did not
really say anything about how should we run the inspections. And it would
have been premature because we were not allowed to get in. But in the autumn
of 2002, when we were beginning our work there, well, then they came in alone,
of all the members of the Security Council, and said that, `Now we will tell
you how we think you should go about this.' Well, we've been preparing
ourselves for two years already, so we had some views of our own. And, fine,
I was not resenting this at all. And it's fine if they want to recommend it,
but we decide what we'll do.

There were ideas, for instance, that we should go have a top-down approach,
which meant that we should go to the ministers and we should look at the
computers of the ministers, and from the computers we will probably learn
where the weapons of mass destruction were. And, well, I listened to that,
and I had some little doubts in my mind what was the purpose of this advice?
It could have been genuine, but it could also have been either they would like
us to get into a situation where we provoked the Iraqis and where they would
say no; we would have denial of access, and that would be a cause for war.

GROSS: So the impression I've gotten from your book and from what you've said
is that you think that the United States wanted UNMOVIC to be provocative in
Iraq in the inspections process in the hopes of getting Iraq to maybe block
the inspections, giving the US an opportunity and a motive to invade Iraq.

Mr. BLIX: Well, this was a doubt, a...

GROSS: Am I being accurate?

Mr. BLIX: ...feeling that I had. I'm not asserting that was the case. It
was given to us, and we didn't discuss that. I mean, I didn't voice my
doubts. But we had our plans how to go about it, and we wanted to go to
sites. Now the other conclusion I draw--I forgot a moment ago--from this was
that if they tell us that, `Go and look into the registers of the ministries,'
why, that seemed to indicate they didn't know themselves where they were. I
mean, we could also understand that if there are weapons, there will be
someone who knows where it is. But it seemed that the US didn't know, and yet
they were asserting that, yes, they knew. And, indeed, in the longer term, of
course, they came with lots of sites that had been given to them, I think,
mainly by defectors but in some cases also through the observation by
satellite images.

GROSS: My guest is Hans Blix, the former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq.
His new memoir is called "Disarming Iraq." We'll talk more after a break.
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Hans Blix is my guest, and he was the head of UNMOVIC, the UN weapons
inspection team in Iraq. He's written a new book called "Disarming Iraq."

I'd like to know if you think we are any safer from terrorism after having
invaded Iraq and, also, how you think the bombings in Madrid figure into that

Mr. BLIX: Well, I would agree with those who say that you--terrorism, there's
absolutely no excuse for groups attacking people who have nothing to do with
the conflict and that we must have a firm hand. You cannot negotiate with
terrorists, small minorities, who have lots of obscure or peculiar demands.
You asked me if I thought that the world has been safer from terrorism. And I
think what we are seeing in Iraq, in particular, and also in Spain, of
course--but Iraq in particular--that has not been safer. Now that's at the
current time. At some point let's hope that this peters out. But I think the
war has bred a lot of hatred in the Middle East, and I've met friends who tell
me that it's very different now from before. They feel like humiliated by it.

And I think the US or leading people in the administration here appear to
think that the UN Security Council was not really relevant; it didn't matter
whether they had the approval of the council or not. I think, in retrospect,
they'll find it had meant a lot. The lead for the legitimacy, the view of the
whole operation for the council refused to give its authorization. There were
11 states in the council that were not willing to vote for the resolution that
were accordingly not submitted to the vote. So, yes, I think that the way in
which it was done had a clear impact upon the countries and the people. And
it promoted--well, that's a harsh word, but at any rate it facilitated, it
gave reasons, for people to do terrorist deeds.

GROSS: We live in a very complicated, confusing world. What do you make of
the news that A.Q. Khan, the leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, sold more
than $100 million in nuclear technology to Libya and possibly sold nuclear
technology to Iran and North Korea, given that Pakistan is one of the United
States' allies in the war on terrorism?

Mr. BLIX: Well, you know, in many countries you do not have complete control
of all the secrets, and that's happened in the United States, too. You had
people who are sentenced here to death for passing nuclear secrets to Russia
in the past. So no one has complete control. The Iraqi nuclear centrifuges
for enrichment were, by design--that they had got from German engineers, who
were acting against the law. And, of course, you cannot criticize Germany for
it, but they were individuals who did so. In the case of Pakistan, the
question I would ask myself, of course, is: `How alone was Khan?' He must
have had some associates in the nuclear sphere who participated in this. But
did the military government or the army--did they know what was going on? I
mean, one would think it's quite plausible at any rate that they knew it.
Whether Musharraf knew it, that I have no idea. But he could not have been
completely alone in it.

GROSS: What are some of the lessons you feel you learned in Iraq that should
be applied to weapons inspection in Iran, if Iran does allow weapons
inspectors in?

Mr. BLIX: Well, I think the Iraqi affair has highlighted the usefulness and,
also, too, limitations of inspections. Inspection is powerful, but the
countries are big. And if you have a totalitarian country where you cannot
move around, then you may not--espionage, satellite things may not help you
completely. The combination of intelligence with inspection is very good and
it's fairly strong. And I think that in containment--that is, holding back
the development that you do not wish to happen--that is the sign of a patient
international community.

And we shy away--we do not wish to have war. War is the thing of last resort.
But what we saw in the first Gulf War, of course, was an aggression, so you
couldn't do anything but respond by force. But what we saw in the spring here
in 2003, I think, was not use of armed force in the last resort. It was
alleged to be that, but it wasn't. If they had planned it differently, they
wouldn't have had more than 50,000 men in the field in February, and they
could have allowed inspections to go on into the spring and into the summer.
And if it didn't work, if we had denial of access, maybe you could also have
gone in with armed force in the fall of 2003. So I think they went for the
policy of counterproliferation instead of the containment, which had been the
previous one, a new policy of impatience rather than the policy of patience.

And I think what you see now in Iran is, for the time being at any rate, a
policy of patience, not one without some threatening gestures. And I think
that's right as in the case of Iran; Iraq: you need some demonstration of
pressure that something will happen if they are not cooperative. And I hope
that this will work. The best would be that the Iranians voluntarily renounce
enrichment and that the Europeans and others will give them assurance that
they will get the enriched uranium they need for the power reactors, which is
a much lower level of enrichment than for bombs.

GROSS: You are the head of a new group, the International Commission on
Weapons of Mass Destruction. What is the purpose of this new group, and what
role might it play in Iran and North Korea?

Mr. BLIX: Well, from time to time we need such international commissions.
You had the ...(unintelligible) commission. And you had in the nuclear field
most lately the Canberra Commission. They came up with a number of
interesting proposals where one could go. So it's not that we will repeat the
area they went over, but the reality has changed. We have had the Iraqi case.
We now have the North Korean and Iranian case. And we're, of course, looking
not only at nuclear but also the other weapons of mass destruction. And we
will also try to look at the possible link between terrorists and the weapons
of mass destruction. And by the end of 2005 we should have a report in which
this international group will come with suggestions.

GROSS: You're 75, and you were brought out of retirement to head UNMOVIC, and
now you're heading a new agency. Why have you decided to do that instead of
going back into retirement?

Mr. BLIX: Well, I think I've been privileged all my life in dealing with
things that have interested me. I'm an international lawyer. And I believe
very much that the growing integration of international community, which we
cannot prevent even if we wanted to do, that goes on. And that requires
regulation. The closer we are to each other, the more regulation you need.
And you need some architects, you need some technicians who have some idea of
not only the direction or the compass points to but also something about the
map, you know, the terrain in which you move. And I've enjoyed that and
continue to enjoy it. And why should I go back home and just twiddle my

GROSS: Hans Blix, thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. BLIX: Thank you.

GROSS: Hans Blix has written a new memoir called "Disarming Iraq."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Commentary: Use of profanity over broadcast television and radio

Since the Janet Jackson Super Bowl flap, it seems like everybody is up in arms
about indecency on broadcast TV and radio. Clear Channel dropped the "Howard
Stern Show" from its stations, and CBS just announced that they would be
putting next month's NCAA Final Four basketball tournament on a 10-second
delay. As our linguist Geoff Nunberg observes, this is all part of a
conversation that goes back to Shakespeare's time.


A lot of people were dismayed when the FCC refused to sanction NBC last year
after Bono uttered the F-word on the Golden Globe broadcast saying, `This is
really, really F'ing brilliant.' But as the agency noted, their guidelines
limit indecency to descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs or
activities, whereas Bono merely used the word as `an adjective or expletive
to emphasize an exclamation,' as the agency put it. Actually some people
suggested that the F-word is really an adverb when it modifies the adjective
`brilliant,' but I could go either way on that one. I mean, if it were really
an adverb, wouldn't it end in L-Y?

In the wake of the flap over Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction at the Super
Bowl, FCC Commissioner Michael Powell announced that he would be reconsidering
the Bono ruling. And a California Republican congressman named Doug Ose
recently introduced the Clean Airwaves Act to close what he described as `a
loophole in the legal definition of indecency.' The act explicitly lists
seven words that will qualify a broadcast as indecent, however they're used,
including verbs, adjectives, gerund, participial and infinitive forms.

Ose's bill is easy picking for satirists, of course. It's a law that would
make it a punishable offense to read its own text over the airwaves. But you
have to admit that the FCC was being a little obtuse when it held that Bono's
remark wasn't profane. Who's kidding whom here? Does anybody really think
that the F-word is less of a profanity when it's an intensifier, modifying
`brilliant' than when it's describing sexual activity? The fact is that
profanity isn't a question of subject matter. It works by a kind of
contagious magic. The reference pollutes the word, and then the word profanes
everything else it comes in contact with, even if it has nothing to do with
the original meaning. That's a principle that children already know when they
take a naughty pleasure in pronouncing the word `shampoo.' And that's why our
sense of propriety can be satisfied by the simple expedient of bleeping out
part of the word or substituting an asterisk for its vowel.

Swear words are like magic spells. They lose their power if every syllable
isn't ennunciated just so. In fact, profanity is our first lesson in
linguistic transgression, even before we understand what it means to lie.
That's why it's always a little weird to hear foreigners cursing in English,
even if they speak the language fluently. You know that nobody ever washed
their mouth with soap for saying them. So the pruders and the profaners are
locked into an eternal co-dependence. Swearing has always flourished most
luxuriantly in ages when it could count on offending middle-class delicacy.
In "Henry IV, Part 1," Hotspur rebukes his wife for using the dainty
shopkeeper's oath `in sooth': `Swear me, Kate, like a lady as thou art, a
good mouth-filling oath.'

And say what you will about Ose's bill. At least he and his colleagues are
doing their part to keep some of the magic of swearing alive. When you turn
to one of the subscription channels and hear a profanity-laced monologue by
Margaret Cho, Bill Maher or Chris Rock, half the pleasure comes from imaging
how apoplectic some people would get if they heard that language on NBC or
CBS. It gives you the sense you're getting something for your 59 bucks a
month. And we all have a stake in keeping those inhibitions alive. Every
time we tell our children not to use the F-word, we're making a little
investment in the future health of profanity. If we ever reach the point
where every local TV weatherman is using the word, it won't mean any more for
us than `darn' does.

Still, while the family values crowd have already had their effects on
programming, they're ultimately fighting a losing battle. The problem isn't
that they're being obvious hypocrites. Of course they are. But then where
would profanity be without hypocrisy? What does a swear word come down to in
the end, if not something you can say in private but not in public? But the
boundaries have gotten pretty arbitrary nowadays. Time was that the
disapproval of public profanity reflected a basic line of demarcation in
American life between the parlor and the rooms in the back of the house. Now
it's just a tick mark on the double digits of the dial, not much of a
frontier, particularly when 90 percent of Americans pay for some form of
subscription TV.

And it's hard to imagine what Henry James would have made of a world where
you can use the F-word in The New Yorker but not The New York Times, not that
The Times is wrong to abjure profanity. It's of a piece with the Edwardian
habit as referring to everybody as `mister,' even Sting and Moby. But whom
exactly are we pretending to protect from what? And when you listen to the
run of broadcast fare, it's clear these linguistic scruples don't have much to
do with stemming the tide of vulgarity and coarseness. Nowadays questions of
public morality usually come down to purely symbolic gestures. The lesson of
the Super Bowl brouhaha was that images of crotch-biting dogs and farting
horses are less of a threat to the moral health of the republic than a glimpse
of nipple jewelry.

We've gotten to the point where somebody can offer a Clean Airwaves Act that
consists of a single paragraph containing a list of seven words. Actually
that's the one thing that makes me wonder if we've let things go too far.
Just seven words? Falstaff wouldn't have known where to start.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a Stanford linguist and author of the forthcoming
book "Going Nuclear."(ph)

Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward remembers the girl group label Dimension
Records. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Sundazed Records' "Dimension Dolls"

Late last year Sundazed Records reissued a classic American pop album,
"Dimension Dolls." It was dedicated to the female singers of Dimension
Records, complete with eight bonus tracks from this classic girl-group label
of the early '60s. Rock historian Ed Ward was delighted.

(Soundbite of song)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) I hear the neon lights are bright on Broadway.
I hear that dreams come true there every day. I hear the lights don't get you
down, the way it gets you in this small town. So I'm going to get me there
some way.

ED WARD reporting:

If you remember the name Don Kirshner, it may be through his TV show "Rock
Concert" or because he was the brains behind the Archies. But even before
that, in the early '60s, his partnership with Al Nevins and Aldon Music saw
him in charge of a stable of songwriters who wrote hit after hit: Neil
Sedaka, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Howie Greenfield and, most spectacularly,
Gerry Goffin and Carole King. These writers would come to work, sit at the
piano and eventually come up with something. If Kirshner liked it, there was
a small studio where they'd cut a demo. Then an acetate disc would be made,
and the song was ready to be sent to artists in need of material.

Aldon's demos, though, were legendary. Gerry Goffin often produced them. And
one day Kirshner decided to spend a little more on the demos and put them
out, and thus Dimension Records was born.

(Soundbite of song)

Chorus #1: (In unison) Up on the roof, up on the roof...

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) When this old world starts getting me down
and people are just too much for me to face...

Chorus #1: (In unison) Up on the roof.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) ...I climb way up to the top of the stairs,
and all my cares just drift right into space.

Chorus #1: (In unison) Up on the roof. Ahhh...

Unidentified Woman #1: (Singing) On the roof it's peaceful as can be, and
there the world below can't bother me. Let me tell you now when I come

WARD: Goffin and King were in their early 20s, married to each other and
almost obscenely talented. It was mostly to showcase their writing and
production talents that Dimension was formed, and the singers who recorded for
it were from the same pool that made the demos. To demo a girl-group record,
there was The Cookies: Earl-Jean McCrea, Dorothy Jones and Margaret Ross.

(Soundbite of song)

THE COOKIES: (In unison) You broke his heart and made him cry, and he's been
blue since then. Now he's found somebody new, and you want him back again.

(Singing) Ooh, little girl, little, little girl, who didn't want him the way
he wanted you. He's found another love. It's her he's dreaming of, and
there's not a single thing that you can do.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) But I love him.

THE COOKIES: (Singing) No, you don't. It's just your pride that's hurt.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) I still love him.

THE COOKIES: (Singing) If you got him back again, you'd go right out and do
him dirt. Ooh, little girl...

WARD: Solo demos were often handled by Eva Boyd, Little Eva, who sometimes
babysat for Goffin and King and who surprised everybody around Aldon by having
a number-one hit with her first record.

(Soundbite of "The Locomotion")

LITTLE EVA: (Singing) Everybody's doing a brand-new dance now.

Chorus #2: (In unison) Come on, baby, do the locomotion.

LITTLE EVA: (Singing) I know you'll get to like it if you give it a chance

Chorus #2: (In unison) Come on, baby, do the locomotion.

LITTLE EVA: (Singing) My little baby sister can do it with ease. It's easier
to learn than your ABC's. So come on, come on, do The Locomotion with me.
You've got to swing your hips now.

WARD: The other solo demo singer was Carole King herself.

(Soundbite of song)

Ms. CAROLE KING: (Singing) Mama doesn't like him 'cause he never cuts his
hair. Daddy doesn't like him 'cause he says he heard him swear. He's a bad
boy, but I don't care. He's not happy working. He's got no use for school.

WARD: What set Goffin and King's output apart from earlier Tin Pan Alley
hacks was its lyrical and harmonic sophistication. Can you imagine The
Beatles recording this?

(Soundbite of "Crying in the Rain")

Ms. KING: (Singing) I'll never let you see the way my broken heart is hurting
me. I've got my pride, and I know how to hide all my sorrow and pain. I'll
do my crying in the rain. If I wait...

WARD: So it's no surprise that when The Beatles came to New York in 1964,
Lennon and McCartney said they just hoped they'd someday be capable of
writing songs as well as Goffin and King. After all, they'd already recorded
the couple's song "Chains" after hearing The Cookies' version. But The Beatles
changed the American pop public's taste, too, and soon Dimension Records was
no more. Goffin and King got amicably divorced and kept on writing together.
Don Kirshner looked for other things to do. And Little Eva was a fixture on
the oldies circuit until her death in 2003.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Berlin. He reviewed "Dimension Dolls" reissued last
year by Sundazed Records.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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