Disarmament Insight


Tuesday, 8 May 2007

On the Ropes

BBC Radio Four (Intelligent Speech is how the Beeb modestly describes it) has some of the best radio programmes in the English-speaking world.

Many will be familiar with the BBC World Service. But unless you’ve lived in the numerous isles off just of the west European coast, chances are that you will not quite understand how addictive the station is. From aficionados of Women’s Hour to eccentric fans of Mornington Crescent and Just a Minute, Radio Four listeners are a peculiarly well-read, well informed group of obsessives. (I should here, I suppose - if I have to - give the The Archers addicts a mention. But they’re a very strange lot and are probably right now listening to one of the twice-repeated daily episodes dedicated to the sleepy, fictitious farming town of Ambridge and its drama-queen inhabitants).

(Disarmament Insight team note – for our part, we’re addicted to Melvyn Bragg’s weekly BBC Radio Four show and pod cast on the history of ideas, In Our Time.)

It was to just such an erudite public audience that Dr Hans Blix, former Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and former Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission in Iraq bared his soul.

On the Ropes is a half-hour interview slot in which journalist John Humphreys interviews famous people about a difficult time in their lives, in which they have had to endure stormy weather.

Dr Blix was asked tough questions about the time leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. No doubt all reading this will remember how Dr Blix, along with Dr ElBaradei of the IAEA, regularly faced the Security Council to give accounts of the progress that UN inspectors were making in the search for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq.

In the On the Ropes interview we learned of Dr Blix’s dawning realization that there were no major stocks of biological weapons in Iraq, or any other type of WMD for that matter. He was also increasingly uncomfortably aware that this understanding was not going to be able to stop the war. He talked also in the interview about Dr David Kelly, the British bioweapons inspector who died soon after the invasion.

The interview is thought-provoking, honest and, at times, moving. It’s a fascinating account of how one man – Blix – with the knowledge was also powerless to stop the war, despite being able to tell the facts openly and honestly. Something this Swedish lawyer is still determined to do.

I recommend you take the time to listen to On the Ropes and – who knows? – you may become as addicted to Radio Four as the rest of us.

Guest blog from Patricia Lewis

Patricia is Director of UNIDIR.


Dr. Blix’s radio interview is online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/ontheropes/pip/sy4r8/

BBC Radio 4’s show entitled “In Our Time” can be downloaded at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/

Photo of Hans Blix retrieved from Flickr, see http://www.flickr.com/photos/epsen/447192121/