WE DELIVER HEADLINES!
1. Do Not Use False Evidence
POWELL'S UN CHARGES AGAINST IRAQ (And Some Plausible Explanations) Recorded conversations - Iraqi officers discussing removal of a "modified vehicle" and deleting references to nerve gas from documents. If genuine, and not spliced, these radio intercepts suggest Iraq may have been hiding some biowarfare arms, or was racing to eliminate any residues or evidence of its 1980s weapons program in advance of UN inspections.
(Considering the U.S. military loses tens of millions worth of weapons and supplies each year, and the Los Alamos centre has misplaced large amounts of nuclear materials, it's not implausible that Iraq has bits and pieces of chemical arms scattered about, such as the empty 122-mm rockets recently discovered in a bunker, that escaped its UN-mandated inventory.)
Satellite imagery - ammo storage bunkers which Powell claimed were used for chemical weapons that were moved out prior to inspection.
(UN inspectors examined them and found nothing suspicious. "Sniffers" used by inspectors can detect the past presence of chemical and biological weapons.)
The infamous mobile biological weapons labs mounted on trucks - a.k.a. "Saddam's vans of death." Powell claimed defectors reported there were 18 of these cruising around Iraq.
(Defector information is always suspect. UN chief arms inspector Hans Blix said his men had examined some of the "death trucks" and found they were, in fact, mobile food-testing labs.)
Some 100-400 tons of chemical agents, including four tons of VX nerve gas, and some biological weapons, originally supplied in the 1980s by the U.S. and secretly developed by British technicians, were still unaccounted for.
(This remains a major question. Iraq says it destroyed them, but lacks proper documentation. They may be hidden. But most were made in the 1980s, and may be degraded or inert from age. Nerve gas and germs are weapons of mass destruction. Mustard gas, the bulk of Iraq's chemical weaponry, is not, being no more lethal than napalm or the fuel-air explosives the U.S. and Russia are using in Afghanistan and Chechnya.)
Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.
(UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly contradicted U.S. claims. They concluded the notorious aluminum tubes Powell said were for uranium-enrichment centrifuges were actually conventional 122-mm rocket artillery casings.)
According to UN Resolution 687 after the Gulf war, Iraq is permitted missiles with a range of 150 km. The U.S. charges Iraq is testing missiles that have flown 14-20 km farther.
(This is nothing unusual when testing a new propellant system. Powell also accused Iraq of developing a 1,200-km missile that could reach Israel, based on photos of an enlarged test stand. Iraq may have a dozen or so old Scud missiles hidden away.)
Iraq is dragging its feet on private interviews of its nuclear scientists.
(True. Hawks in the Bush administration and Israel say the only way to ensure Iraq never builds strategic weapons is to jail all of its 10,000 military scientists and technicians - who also face the wrath of Saddam if they appear to turn over incriminating evidence.)
Powell claimed he had proof positive Iraq was linked to al-Qaida through Ansar al-Islam, a small, 600-man Islamist group in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq (not under Saddam's control), and through a "deadly terrorist network" led by one Abu Musa al-Zarqawi.
(The first charge was immediately dismissed by Ansar's leader, Mullah Krekar, a longtime, bitter foe of Saddam. And al-Zarqawi turned out to be an unknown nobody, not on any FBI wanted list. His name came from suspects being tortured in Jordan. Many reputable experts on terrorism scoffed at Powell's overblown charges.)
Sitting silently behind Powell was Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet. His agency has contradicted White House claims that Iraq had nuclear capability and posed an imminent threat to the U.S. or anyone else. In a recent article, former CIA Iraq desk chief Stephen Pelletiere cast doubt on the charge, repeated by Bush and Powell, that Iraq gassed its own Kurdish citizens in the town of Halabja.
Note: America's two most recent major wars - Vietnam and the Gulf - began with release of faked "intelligence" information: the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin attack in 1964, and doctored photos of a non-existent Iraqi invasion buildup on the Saudi border in 1990.
A more neutral observer might have concluded the U.S. was exaggerating scraps of uncorroborated information, while Iraq was trying to appear co-operative while still hiding some of its most sensitive military secrets.
Polls show most people around the globe remain skeptical of Powell's charges. Starting a war that could kill tens of thousands on the basis of vague audio intercepts, photos of empty buildings and defectors' tales makes no sense. Further inspections, not war, is the right answer. --Eric Margolis, 02.09.02
BLAIR-POWELL "DECEPTION CAN ONLY CORRODE PUBLIC TRUST" "The Government has grudgingly admitted a failure to acknowledge sources - while insisting that the information remains valid. This misses the point. Plagiarism is not the main issue. The central issue is that of public trust. At best, this episode demonstrates incompetence and the failure to oversee the most important claims which the Government puts into the public domain. At worst, a deliberate attempt to hoodwink and mislead the public will undermine trust in anything the Government says about the Iraqi threat at this vital time." 02.09.03
INTELLIGENCE DOCUMENT POWELL PRAISED AS EVIDENCE CUT AND PASTED BY SECRETARY OF BLAIR'S SPIN DOCTOR AND GOFERS FROM PUBLIC SOURCES, MAJOR ONE 12 YEARS OLD "Late last Tuesday night, a three-page email started circulating among a select group of friends concerned about the impact of sanctions on Iraq... Full of academic outrage, it explained how the so-called 'secret spy dossier' published last week by the Government as a crucial plank in the argument for why the West should go to war was largely cribbed from an American postgraduate's doctoral thesis - grammatical mistakes and all - based on evidence 12 years out of date... And, to cap it all, the finished document appeared to have been cobbled together not by Middle East experts, but by the secretary of Alastair Campbell, the Government's chief spin doctor, and some gofers...One crumb of comfort is that with Blair's reputation for trustworthiness on the war already dented - a poll last week found that, while 81 per cent of Britons believe UN inspector Hans Blix, only 43 per cent trust Blair to tell the truth over the war and only 22 per cent trust Bush - the dossier debacle is unlikely to make it any worse." 02.09.03
Britain Admits That Much of Its Report on Iraq, Cited by Powell As Reason For War, Came From Magazines With Obsolete Data "The British government admitted today that large sections of its most recent report on Iraq, praised by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell as "a fine paper" in his speech to the United Nations on Wednesday, had been lifted from magazines and academic journals.... The document, "Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation," was posted on No. 10 Downing Street's Web site on Monday. It was depicted as an up-to-date and unsettling assessment by the British intelligence services of Iraq's security apparatus and its efforts to hide its activities from weapons inspectors and to resist international efforts to force it to disarm. But much of the material actually came, sometimes verbatim, from several nonsecret published articles, according to critics of the government's policy who have studied the documents. These include an article published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs in September 2002, as well as three articles from Jane's Intelligence Review, two of them published in the summer of 1997 and one in November 2002. In some cases, the critics said, parts of the articles — or of summaries posted on the Internet — were paraphrased in the report. In other cases, they were plagiarized — to the extent that even spelling and punctuation errors in the originals were reproduced.... But critics of the government said that not only did the document appear to have been largely cut and pasted together, but also that the articles it relied on were based on information that is, by now, obsolete.... Critics of the British and American policy toward Iraq said the report showed how little concrete evidence the two governments actually have against Iraq, as well as how poor their intelligence sources were. " 02.08.03
POWELL'S CLAIMS OF IRAQ-AL QAEDA CONNECTION NOT CREDIBLE "The Bush administration creates the impression that the US is still as wounded and ready to lash out as it was in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the World Trade Centre. I am not sure that this is true of the majority of Americans, but the country's moribund political structure and the Democrats' horror of appearing unpatriotic combine to make effective opposition very difficult. The President may take comfort from the thought that Tony Blair's Gladstonian vision lends him some moral authority, but it does not wash over here. If the world has become a more dangerous place since 11 September 2001, it is not solely because of the activities of a bunch of Islamic terrorists. " 02.09.03
POWELL'S "TERRORIST FACTORY" TURNS OUT TO BE RUINS, BAKERY "If Colin Powell were to visit the shabby military compound at the foot of a large snow-covered mountain, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise. The US Secretary of State last week confidently described the compound in north-eastern Iraq - run by an Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam - as a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory.' Yesterday, however, it emerged that the terrorist factory was nothing of the kind - more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery. There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere - only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking."
"MUCH U.S. EVIDENCE MUST BE ACCEPTED ON TRUST" "This is the heart of the matter. Much of the US evidence must be accepted, if it is accepted at all, on trust. Mr Powell's sources were mostly anonymous defectors, detainees, third country spooks and US intelligence. His overall case was undercut by the recycling of old tales about al-Qaida "poison plotters" in Baghdad. He refused to accept the IAEA's conclusions on Iraqi nuclear bomb-making. His evidential interpretations were often harsher than those of Hans Blix. Mr Powell certainly did the UN a service in finally opening his Iraq dossier to public view. But the way forward must now be expanded, intensified inspections equipped with this new evidence, as France proposes. Iraq must disarm. The US and Britain must not jump the gun."
BRITISH INTELLIGENCE CONTRADICTS POWELL. NO LINK BETWEEN SADDAM AND AL QAEDA, THEY SAY "There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaeda network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News. The classified document, written by defence intelligence staff three weeks ago, says there has been contact between the two in the past. But it assessed that any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies. That conclusion flatly contradicts one of the main charges laid against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein by the United States and Britain - that he has cultivated contacts with the group blamed for the 11 September attacks. The report emerges even as Washington was calling Saddam a liar for denying, in a television interview with former Labour MP and minister Tony Benn, that he had any links to al-Qaeda. " 02.06.03
IRAQI TERRORIST GROUP POWELL IDENTIFIES AS LINK BETWEEN SADDAM AND AL QAEDA RULES KURDISH TERRORITY NOT CONTROLLED BY SADDAM AND TARGETS SADDAM AS THEIR ENEMY "As part of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council today, he said there was a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network" — the nexus being a small, little known terrorist group called Ansar al-Islam, which is now at the center of the U.S. case. Powell showed a satellite photograph of what he said was a chemical weapons training center in Northern Iraq, used by al Qaeda and protected by Ansar al-Islam. "Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq," said Powell. The group, whose name means "Supporters of Islam," rules a remote portion of the autonomous northern Kurdish territories in Iraq near the Iran border, which is not controlled by Saddam Hussein. In fact, their leaders say they seek to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his government...In an interview with ABCNEWS, the man considered the leader of Ansar al-Islam, Majamuddin Fraraj Ahmad, who is also known as Mullah Krekar, denied all allegations that he is in any way linked to al Qaeda. "They are our enemy," he said, adding that his group opposes Saddam Hussein because, unlike Osama bin Laden, Saddam is not a good Muslim." 02.06.03
SMOLDERING GUN OF IRAQ'S NUKE PROGRAM LEFT IRAQ IN '95 FOR U.S. "In the summer of 1998, when Hamza first went public with his story about Saddam's relentless desire for the Bomb, much of the press ignored him. The country was transfixed by the saga of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
But in March 2001, the scientist found himself sitting next to an influential Republican named Richard Perle at a seminar at George Washington University. He briefed Perle, one of the earliest and most vehement proponents of regime change in Iraq, about his past.
"I came away very impressed, thinking this is a sensible, sober fellow," says Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's advisory Defense Policy Board. Hamza said he'd been debriefed only by low-level "civil servants" in the Clinton years. Perle soon introduced the defector to the top tier of the Bush administration, including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"Given its history, US intelligence should come with a health warning " "We know from experience that politicians about to go to war are not above manipulating information to heat up public opinion. They have manufactured international incidents - the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin "clash", for example, which President Johnson used to deceive the Senate into giving him a declaration of war against North Vietnam. They can be the simple peddling of "evil Hun" stories, as with the discredited accounts of Iraqi soldiers pulling Kuwaiti babies from incubators. History has revealed the truth about such episodes, but too late. On the few occasions we are allowed sufficient facts to form an independent assessment, the intelligence on offer is rarely persuasive. " 02.06.03
QUESTIONED PENATGON CLASSIFIED PHOTOS USED PRIOR TO FIRST GULF WAR REMAIN CLASSIFIED "The photographs, which are still classified in the US (for security reasons, according to Brent Scowcroft, President Bush senior's national security advisor), purportedly showed more than a quarter of a million Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border poised to pounce. Except, when a resourceful Florida-based reporter at the St Petersburg Times persuaded her newspaper to buy the same independently commissioned satellite photos from a commercial satellite to verify the Pentagon's line, she saw no sign of a quarter of a million troops or their tanks." 02.06.03
BUSH SPEECH "SKIMMED ALONG EDGES OF REALITY," PARTICULARLY RE SADDAM AND AL QUEDA "As far as the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq is concerned, one of the most prominent authorities on the deadly terrorist group remains unimpressed by the evidence offered up to date - including Bush’s stab at connecting those dots in the State of the Union, during which he insisted that "Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda." Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. (Free Press, 2001) and a fellow at the New America Foundation, told me after the speech that the Saddam/Osama connection "is really [the administration’s] default mode, isn’t it?" Bergen pointed me to his December article in the Nation, in which he pooh-poohs the Iraq/Al Qaeda link as "somewhere between tenuous and nonexistent." "Al Qaeda members live in 60 countries around the globe," Bergen wrote in the Nation, "so by the law of averages a few of them will show up in Iraq. Indeed, intelligence estimates suggest there are some 100 Al Qaeda members at large in the United States, although that is not an argument to start bombing Washington." " 02.03.03
byrne | related stories
U.S. INTELLIGENCE AGENTS PUZZLED BY BUSH, POWELL CLAIMS OF SADDAM-AL QUEDA CONNECTION "Intelligence officials said they are puzzled by the administration's new push.
"To my knowledge, there's nothing new," said a senior U.S. intelligence official who asked not to be identified. The expectation within the CIA regarding Powell's speech, the source said, "is that it's going to be more comprehensive than bombastic and new."
Intelligence officials have discounted if not dismissed other information believed to point to possible links between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
The CIA said it can find no evidence supporting post-Sept. 11 reports that Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers in the attacks, met with an Iraqi agent in the Czech capital, Prague, in 2001.
Similarly, intelligence officials described reports that Hussein is funding an Al Qaeda-connected extremist group in northern Iraq as "wildly overstated."
There is no evidence so far to confirm that Iraq is arming, financing or controlling the group, known as Ansar al-Islam, one official said. "There isn't a factual basis for such assertions," the official said.
Evidence For Iraq Attack Found...In U.S.
At a moment when Americans were hungry for reassurance that the monomaniacal focus on Iraq makes sense when the economy is sputtering, Mr. Bush offered a rousing closing argument for war, but no convincing bill of particulars. Republican senators tried to back up the president. While admitting that there was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction yet, John Warner told reporters that an attack was justified "if you put together all the bits and pieces that are out there right now." Americans will never understand the Bush rationale for war if they simply look at the bits and pieces of physical evidence. They will understand the Bush rationale for war only if they look at the metaphysical evidence, the perfect storm of imperial schemes and ideological stratagems driving the desire to topple Saddam. --Maureen Dowd, 01.29.03
--Katrina vanden Heuvel
On Chris Mathews this evening, the editor of the Nation magazine said "Bush lied to the American people" last night when he said Iraq's shipment of aluminum tubes is evidence of Saddam's ongoing weapons of mass destruction program. She noted that last week Pentagon official and Bush Administration Neocon War Hawk Paul Wolfowitz said, when asked about previous Bush Administration statements that pointed to the aluminum tubes as evidence, "We made a mistake." Here's what Bush said last night: "Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. "
It turns out that the aluminum tube story was floated by the Bush Administration in September and was commented upon by Iraq to the UN thereafter. "Citing Bush administration officials, The New York Times reported Sunday that Iraq tried to buy thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes. The tubes, Rice said, "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." (CNN, Sept.8)
In December Christiane Amanpour reported that Iraq told U.N. weapons inspectors that they, indeed, tried to import aluminum tubes and failed, but the tubes were intended for conventional rockets, not a nuclear weapons program, and they were not usable for the latter: "The official also said that the Iraqis presented details of what they said were the diameter, the thickness (and) the size specifications of the aluminum tubes. And weapons experts are saying that if this does turn out to be true -- that these sizes they were trying to procure are as Iraq says they were -- then these tubes could not have been used as centrifuges for the enrichment of uranium," as Rice had claimed. Iraq did, however, break their UN agreement in trying to obtain aluminum tubes for any reason.
A fuller discussion of aluminum tubes and centrifuge building concludes, "The administration claims that these intercepted shipments are specific to centrifuges. The public evidence for this case is fragmentary and the government has released little officially. Instead, unnamed officials have released a series of difficult to understand statements to the media. Nothing in these statements provides clear technical evidence that the tubes were intended for centrifuges." Earlier this evening top nuclear inspector for the UN Mohamed ElBaradei, who "made it a top priority for his team to investigate the matter when inspections resumed" in November, told AP, "'We believe the tubes were destined for the conventional rocket program. They could be used for enrichment but they need substantial modification before they could be used. He said such a process would be expensive, time-consuming and detectable."
ElBaradei also dismissed another Bush's allegation that "Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview" by suggesting that the inspectors wouldn't fall for that: "We know all the scientists from the past and I think our people could easily detect if that person is a scientist or not." --Politex, 01.29.03
Bush Documents Supporting Iraq Attack Do Not Exist
In a September 7 press conference with Prime Minister Blair, Bush leaned on what he called a report from the International Atomic Energy Commission, based on Hussein's nixing of inspections in 1998. "I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied—finally denied—access, a report came out...that they were six months away from developing a weapon," the president said. "I don’t know what more evidence we need." But last week the commission claimed that no such document exists. "There’s never been a report like that issued from this agency," Mark Gwozdecky, head of the group, told Reuters last week. Asked why Bush referred to an apparently imaginary document, the White House claimed he was really talking about a report from 1991. But Gwozdecky told Reuters no paper to that effect was issued by his agency in 1991, either. --James Ridgeway, Sept. 30, 2002
"Blair Report to Link Hussein With Al Qaeda "
A British newspaper said on Sunday Prime Minister Tony Blair's promised dossier on Iraq will reveal that Saddam Hussein trained some of Osama bin Laden's key lieutenants....Blair's Downing Street office declined to comment on the report, but a British government source voiced skepticism. ``I wouldn't go down that route,'' the source said....
The Sunday Telegraph said a draft version of the dossier contains detailed information about how two leading alleged al Qaeda members, Abu Zubair and Rafid Fatah, underwent training in Iraq and are still linked to the Baghdad government.It said Abu Zubair was an Iraqi intelligence officer trained in terrorism techniques against the Kurds in northern Iraq. Rafid Fatah also worked with him against the Kurds, the paper added. They were then said to have joined ranks with bin Laden.
-- REUTERS, Sept. 15, 2002
"Believes the West is lying about Iraq's weapons programme."
"Scott Ritter, the UN's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, says the United Nations des troyed most of Iraq's wea pons of mass destruction and doubts that Saddam could have rebuilt his stocks by now. According to Ritter, between 90% and 95% of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were des troyed by the UN. He believes the remainder were probably used or destroyed during 'the ravages of the Gulf War'. Ritter has described himself as a 'card-carrying Republican' who voted for George W Bush. Nevertheless, he has called the president a 'liar' over his claims that Saddam Hussein is a threat to America. Ritter has also alleged that the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons emits certain gases, which would have been detected by satellite. 'We have seen none of this,' he insists. 'If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof.' He also dismisses claims that Iraq may have a nuclear weapons capacity or be on the verge of attaining one, saying that gamma-particle atomic radiation from the radioactive materials in the warheads would also have been detected by western surveillance.
"The UN's former co-ordinator in Iraq and former UN under-secretary general, Count Hans von Sponeck, has also told the Sunday Herald that he believes the West is lying about Iraq's weapons programme. Von Sponeck visited the Al-Dora and Faluja factories near Baghdad in 1999 after they were 'comprehensively trashed' on the orders of UN inspectors, on the grounds that they were suspected of being chemical weapons plants. He returned to the site late in July this year, with a German TV crew, and said both plants were still wrecked. 'We filmed the evidence of the dishonesty of the claims that they were producing chemical and biological weapons,' von Sponeck has told the Sunday Herald. 'They are indeed in the same destroyed state which we witnessed in 1999. There was no trace of any resumed activity at all.'" -- SH, Sept. 8, 2002
"54 Percent...Would Support War If..."
The George H. W. Bush administration concerned itself with trying to propagandize the public into supporting war. According to the November 14, 1990, New York Times, then-Secretary of State James Baker had "grown exasperated with White House speech writers" who had not yet come up with a way to sell the Gulf War to the American people. Baker said he wanted to "bring it down to the level of the average American citizen."
At first, Baker thought the American people might support the Gulf War if they feared job losses. The same issue of the New York Times said, "Mr. Baker first began to say that what was at stake in the Gulf was the 'pocketbook' and 'standard of living' of every American."
Then in the fall of 1990, according to James Ridgeway (The March to War, 1991), a New York Times opinion poll showed that 54 percent of respondents would support war if they thought the war would prevent Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. A short time later, at Thanksgiving, Bush told troops, "Every day that passes brings Saddam one step closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal."
The fact was there was no immediate nuclear weapons threat from Iraq. In April of 1992, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded Iraq was "at least three years away from making one crude atomic weapon." (Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1994.) --Online Journal, Sept. 16, 2001
"Atta Consulted Saddam...We Have Proof"
On Sunday, Sept. 8, The TimesofIndia.com reported: "Mohammed Atta consulted Saddam Hussein prior to leading the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, according to Richard Perle, an advisor to the US defense secretary. 'Mohammed Atta met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad prior to September 11. We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn't just there for a holiday' Perle told Italy's business daily Il Sole 24 Ore. 'The meeting is one of the motives for an American attack on Iraq,' added Perle, who is chairman of the Defense Policy Board and consultant to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, a leading advocate of an attack on Iraq. 'The main objective of the American administration is to avoid weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands,' said Perle."
"The administration has proof that the 9/11 hijackers met with Saddam and they're not shouting it out from the highest rooftop? Instead a surrogate just happens to mention it casually in an interview with a foreign business newspaper most Americans have never even heard of?" -- Tom Tomorrow
"U.S. Not Claiming Iraqi Link To Terror. As it makes its case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has for now dropped what had been one of the central arguments presented by supporters of a military campaign against Baghdad: Iraq's links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.
Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a strong case tying Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence despite having combed its files and redoubled its efforts to collect and analyze information related to Iraq, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the U.S. government." --Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2002
An agitated Vice President Cheney, in a tête-à-tête with NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday, said it was "reprehensible" that people would think the administration had "saved" its ammunition on Iraq to bring it out now, 60 days before an election. "So the suggestion that somehow, you know, we husbanded this and we waited is just not true," Cheney said. Now where would people get such a cockamamie idea? Well, maybe from White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Bush political adviser Karl Rove, who made the case to the New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller last week that they pretty much did what Cheney said they didn't do -- waited patiently and deliberately to launch a long-planned rollout. "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August," Card said. Added Rove: "The thought was that in August the president is sort of on vacation." --WP, Sept. 10, 2002
In his meeting with Blair, Bush cited a satellite photograph and a report by the U.N. atomic energy agency as evidence of Iraq’s impending rearmament. However, in response to a report by NBC News, a senior administration official acknowledged Saturday night that the U.N. report drew no such conclusion, and a spokesman for the U.N. agency said the photograph had been misinterpreted.
Blair cited a newly released satellite photo of Iraq identifying new construction at several sites linked in the past to Baghdad’s development of nuclear weapons. And both leaders mentioned a 1998 report by the U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, that said Saddam could be six months away from developing nuclear weapons.
“I don’t know what more evidence we need,” Bush said, standing alongside Blair. “We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem.”
In a joint appearance before the summit, the two leaders repeated their shared view that Saddam’s ouster was the only way to stop Iraq’s pursuit — and potential use — of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
“The policy of inaction is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to,” Blair said as he joined Bush in trying to rally reluctant allies to deal with Saddam, perhaps by military force.
--MSNBC, Sept. 9, 2002
Contrary to Bush’s claim, however, the 1998 IAEA report did not say that Iraq was six months away from developing nuclear capability, NBC News’ Robert Windrem reported Saturday.
Instead, Windrem reported, the Vienna, Austria-based agency said in 1998 that Iraq had been six to 24 months away from such capability before the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the U.N.-monitored weapons inspections that followed.
The war and the inspections destroyed much of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure and required Iraq to turn over its highly enriched uranium and plutonium, Windrem reported.
In a summary of its 1998 report, the IAEA said that “based on all credible information available to date ... the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its program goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material.”
--MSNBC, Sept. 9, 2002
A senior White House official acknowledged Saturday night that the 1998 report did not say what Bush claimed. “What happened was, we formed our own conclusions based on the report,” the official told NBC News’ Norah O’Donnell.
Meanwhile, Mark Gwozdecky, a spokesman for the U.N. agency, disputed Bush’s and Blair’s assessment of the satellite photograph, which was first publicized Friday. Contrary to news service reports, there was no specific photo or building that aroused suspicions, he told Windrem.
The photograph in question was not U.N. intelligence imaging but simply a picture from a commercial satellite imaging company, Gwozdecky said. He said that the IAEA reviewed commercial satellite imagery regularly and that, from time to time, it noticed construction at sites it had previously examined.
Gwozdecky said the new construction indicated in the photograph was no surprise and that no conclusions were drawn from it. “There is not a single building we see,” he said.
--MSNBC, Sept. 9, 2002
In the fall of 1990, members of Congress and the American public were swayed by the tearful testimony of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only as Nayirah.
In the girl's testimony before a congressional caucus, well-documented in MacArthur's book "Second Front" and elsewhere, she described how, as a volunteer in a Kuwait maternity ward, she had seen Iraqi troops storm her hospital, steal the incubators, and leave 312 babies "on the cold floor to die."
Seven US Senators later referred to the story during debate; the motion for war passed by just five votes. In the weeks after Nayirah spoke, President Bush senior invoked the incident five times, saying that such "ghastly atrocities" were like "Hitler revisited."
But just weeks before the US bombing campaign began in January, a few press reports began to raise questions about the validity of the incubator tale.
Later, it was learned that Nayirah was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington and had no connection to the Kuwait hospital.
She had been coached – along with the handful of others who would "corroborate" the story – by senior executives of Hill and Knowlton in Washington, the biggest global PR firm at the time, which had a contract worth more than $10 million with the Kuwaitis to make the case for war.
"We didn't know it wasn't true at the time," Brent Scowcroft, Bush's national security adviser, said of the incubator story in a 1995 interview with the London-based Guardian newspaper. He acknowledged "it was useful in mobilizing public opinion." --CSM, Sept. 6, 2002
– When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia.
Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.
But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.
"It was a pretty serious fib," says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke the story.
The White House is now making its case. to Congress and the public for another invasion of Iraq; President George W. Bush is expected to present specific evidence of the threat posed by Iraq during a speech to the United Nations next week.
But past cases of bad intelligence or outright disinformation used to justify war are making experts wary. The questions they are raising, some based on examples from the 1991 Persian Gulf War, highlight the importance of accurate information when a democracy considers military action....
That [Iraqi buildup] was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn't exist," says Heller. Three times Heller contacted the office of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney (now vice president) for evidence refuting the Times photos or analysis – offering to hold the story if proven wrong. The official response: "Trust us." To this day, the Pentagon's photographs of the Iraqi troop buildup remain classified....
"My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence that you get is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the intelligence," says former US Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, a 34-year veteran lawmaker until 1999, who served on numerous foreign affairs and intelligence committees, and is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The Bush team "understands it has not yet carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will look for any kind of evidence to support their premise," Mr. Hamilton says. "I think we have to be skeptical about it." --CSM, Sept. 6, 2002
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