The Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal

Informed but opinionated commentary and analysis on urban transportation topics from the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal. Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

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Monday, February 09, 2004

Iraq Update: Disappeared WMDs Stashed in Disappeared Baghdad Tunnel Network?

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From the Cabalmaster:

As intrepid websurfers know, the capture on December 13, 2003 of Sadaam Hussein abd al-Majd at-Tikriti, (aka “The Big Bad Baghdaddy,“ aka “Da Guy Wid Da Mustache”) was followed shortly by public airing of high-level doubts regarding Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs). On January 23, 2004, the chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq, David Kay, said he believed the regime ousted by the U.S. military in April 2003 had not stockpiled “unconventional weapons” for years. On the following day, (January 24, 2004), U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell conceded that Saddam’s regime may no longer have possessed WMDs at the start of U.S. military action in March 2003.

Kay made his remarks upon stepping down from the Iraqi Survey Group, the team that has been scouring Iraq for WMDs – without success – since the end of “major combat operations” at the beginning of May 2003. What he didn’t say – and what we here at the Secret Worldwide Transit Cabal can’t help wondering – is whether the ISG found that legendary tunnel network beneath the streets of Baghdad.

Whatever else one may believe, Baghdad is populous enough to justify a subway network, and oil-rich Iraq could afford to build one. Saddam Hussein, in power, 1.) was anything but a nice guy, 2.) wanted to build a Baghdad subway, and 3.) wanted to build all sorts of nasty weapons and the facilities required for development – and concealment.

On the other hand, Your Favorite Transit Pundits find stories of a tunnel network, designed and built for transit purposes but converted to military use, hard to believe. At very least.

Underground bunkers and shelters are one thing (if you’d like one, there’s a firm in Belgrade that will build it for you

However, a network of tunnels extending up to 60 miles, of a cross-section large enough to accommodate subway trains, is another story. A project of this type could hardly be kept secret from residents above – nor, we suspect, from the watchful cameras of U.S. spy satellites. We can think of a number of things that would reveal the presence of such a project, including noise, vibration, excavation entrances and spoil disposal.

In 1998, UN inspectors did find bunkers and tunnels beneath some of Saddam’s palaces – but not the sophisticated tunnel network suggested by various reports. These reports described tunnels, connecting palaces, secret hideaways “and more,” built by Chinese, East German or Yugoslav engineers (,4395,182204,00.html).

The U.S. State Department lifted its long-standing ban on travel by U.S. citizens to Iraq more than six months ago. We admit that Baghdad is hardly a holiday destination owing to unrest and instability, but note the dearth of recent subway stories. As we reported previously, everything that can be found on the subject of Baghdad subways or Baghdad tunnels, everywhere in cyberspace, pre-dates the “end of major combat operations” announcement of President George W. Bush on May 2, 2003.

Your Favorite Transit Pundits have concluded – however tentatively – that the Baghdad subway tunnel story has little, if any, basis in fact. It arose most likely as an Iraqi “dezinformatsiya” effort, of the sort propagated by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, the hapless former Iraqi Minister of Information better known in the West as “Baghdad Bob.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in his December 2002 statement about “miles and miles of underground tunneling” may have propagated Iraqi dezinformatsiya, perhaps not unwittingly. Or, U.S. intelligence may have concluded that the tunnel network did exist (hey, they’ve been wrong before). In any case, the “full story” of Baghdad’s phantom subway has not yet emerged, and we’re certain that we’re not the only ones waiting to see it.

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