GLW: Bush's And Blair's War Threat Based On Lies

Published: Wed 2 Oct 2002 02:29 PM
Bush's And Blair's War Threat Based On Lies
From Green Left Weekly, October 2, 2002
On September 24, British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented his much-anticipated "dossier", Iraq’s Weapons Of Mass Destruction, to the parliament. Supporters of a US attack on Iraq had promised that Blair would provide the definitive “evidence” that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's regime has retained chemical and biological weapons, is continuing to produce them and is on a crash program to build a nuclear weapon. It did nothing of the sort.
Blair's dossier was originally scheduled for release in April. However, it was “deferred” because, according the April 8 Financial Times, the British government feared “it would inflame matters while not presenting a convincing case”.
Six months later -- desperate to convince an increasingly sceptical British and world population that a US-British invasion of Iraq is urgently required -- Blair brazenly recycled the litany of lies, half-truths, hypocrisies and unsubstantiated allegations that have been repeated by US President George Bush, embroidered by his influential underlings and an army of establishment “independent experts”, and regurgitated without question by the mainstream capitalist media.
To add a touch of originality, Blair spiced his dossier up with a few extra unsubstantiated allegations and some unprovable “judgments” about Hussein's “intentions” and motives, based on “secret intelligence sources” (meaning the notoriously unreliable “ regularly produced by the US-puppet Iraqi National Congress).
However, the quality of Blair's “evidence” -- and of all similar efforts by the Bush administration and its allied “experts”, think tanks and “institutes” -- is betrayed by the dossier's surfeit of what respected journalist Robert Fisk calls “weasel words”: the ifs, mights, possiblys, probablys, believes, suspects and coulds that qualify almost every assertion and allegation.
In Australia, every claim, no matter how dubious or fantastic, uttered by the Bush gang and its British sidekick has been dutifully parroted within hours by Prime Minister John Howard and foreign minister Alexander Downer.
Bush, Blair and Howard have perfected the age-old technique of the “big lie” to justify the coming US-led invasion of Iraq: say it loud enough and often enough and it will become accepted as fact.
On September 24, Downer claimed on the ABC's Lateline program that Blair's document “puts beyond any question the fact that Saddam Hussein does have a chemical and biological weapons capability”.
Even Kevin Rudd, the ALP's foreign affairs spokesperson, chose to repeat the Bush-Blair-Howard big lie when he told Lateline: “There is no debate or dispute as to whether Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction.”
Below Green Left Weekly's NORM DIXON sorts the truth from some of the lies and misinformation being spread by Washington, London and Canberra to justify a massive and bloody war against the people of Iraq.
Lie #1: Iraq retained biological and chemical weapons after 1998.
A central claim of those advocating an attack on Iraq is that -- after almost seven years of the most intrusive inspections regime in history, following Iraq's defeat in the 1990-91 Gulf War -- Hussein's regime still retains chemical and biological weapons and the facilities to produce more.
While the Western press and the likes of Bush, Blair, Howard and Rudd continually claim that everybody “agrees” that there is “no doubt” about this, the simple fact is that there is not a trace of evidence that Iraq retained these weapons, can produce more or is attempting to.
Blair's September 24 dossier states: “Iraq has claimed that all its biological agents have been destroyed. No convincing proof of any kind has been produced to support this claim.”
US vice-president Dick Cheney told the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville on August 26 that “even as [UN] inspectors were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal”.
Bush, in his September 12 speech to the UN General Assembly, stated: “In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles and to prove this to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge85 Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents.”
However, contrary to these assertions, the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors between 1991 and 1998 successfully disarmed Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and destroyed its facilities to produce them.
According to Scott Ritter, who as head weapons inspector until 1998 led the inspections and the subsequent destruction of what was found, 90-95% of Iraq's biological and chemical weapons, its research facilities and factories used to produce them, and the means to deliver them had been destroyed by mid 1996. These included the massive Muthanna State Establishment, Iraq's main production site for chemical warfare agents, and al Hakem, Iraq's main biological weapons facility.
UNSCOM found that Iraq had not mass-produced VX nerve agent. The equipment purchased for its mass production was found still packed in crates and was destroyed in 1996. Tests showed the equipment had never been used.
UNSCOM destroyed 12,747 of Iraq's 13,500 mustard gas shells; Baghdad reported that the remaining shells were destroyed by US and British warplanes in the Gulf War.
In 1992, UNSCOM certified the destruction of 817 of Iraq's 819 long-range Scud missiles. The oft-repeated “fact” that Iraq still has a dozen of these missiles is based on a claim that they could have been rebuilt from parts salvaged from the destroyed missiles. But there is no evidence that this has taken place and the chances of building workable missiles from the debris must be considered highly unlikely.
Blair's dossier claims that Iraq has 20 Scuds, without offering any proof.
Likewise, the Blair dossier's main headline-grabber was that Iraq has developed missiles that can take out British bases in Cyprus. This claim is based on unspecified “intelligence” that Iraq's UN-permitted short-range missiles have been modified. The claim that Iraq is developing a 1000km-range missile is based solely on a grainy photo that purports to show a new rocket engine test bed that is larger than the others.
Washington and London base their charge that Iraq has “hidden” biological and chemical weapons (BCW) on the fact that some chemical agents, biological ingredients, munitions and missiles remained “unaccounted for” when the inspectors left in 1998. This assumption is based on the difference between the quantity the UN estimated Iraq had produced during the 1980s and what UNSCOM was able to verify as having been destroyed.
As British Labour MP Alan Simpson and Glen Rangwala, lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, point out in their informative “counter-dossier” (available at, “the fact that these quantities are unaccounted for does not mean they still exist”. This is because it is not known how accurate UN estimates were in the first place, how much of Iraq's BCW stockpile was expended during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war or how much of it was destroyed in US bombing raids during the Gulf War.
US bombing also destroyed documents and killed officials with knowledge of the true size of Iraq's stocks.
Ritter has stated that for these reasons, it is impossible to achieve 100% verification of Iraq's complete disarmament.
Lie #2: Since 1998, Iraq has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.
According to Bush on September 12: “It has been almost four years since the last UN inspectors set foot in the country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left?”
In the foreword to his government's dossier, Blair states: “I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.”
However, the dossier fails to deliver a single scrap of evidence that such weapons have continued to be produced. Instead, the document's writers use all their literary skills to imply sinister motives to Iraq's legitimate and legal pursuit of a civilian chemical industry. Here are some examples:
“Although the main chemical weapon production facility at al Muthanna was completely destroyed by UNSCOM and has not been rebuilt, other plants formerly associated with the chemical warfare program have been rebuilt. These include the chlorine and phenol plant at Fallujah 285 In addition to their civilian uses, chlorine and phenol are used for precursor chemicals which contribute to the production of chemical agents85
“Parts of the al Qaqa chemical complex damaged in the Gulf War have also been repaired and are operational. Of particular concern are elements of the phosgene production plant at al Qaqa85 While phosgene does have industrial uses it can also be used by itself as a chemical agent or as a precursor for nerve agent85 The Castor Oil Plant at Fallujah 85 was damaged in UK/US air attacks in 1998 but has been rebuilt. The residue from the castor bean can be used in the production of the biological agent ricin.” (Emphasis added.)
Similar attempts to link rebuilt or repaired factories to the production of banned weapons have been made previously by US and British officials. However, Western journalists who have visited the plants within hours of them being named have found no suspicious activities (and in some cases no activity of any kind, just empty buildings used for storage of foodstuffs).
One of the favourite excuses used by Cheney and US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld for why the resumption of UN weapons inspections cannot succeed is the claim that Iraq has “mobile” laboratories for the production of chemical and biological weapons. This unprovable charge is based on the claims of a single Iraqi “defector”.
However, even the September report of the conservative, pro-war International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) -- edited by Gary Samore, who was a senior member of President Bill Clinton's staff -- concluded that claims of mobile laboratories were “hard to confirm”.
Lie #3: Iraq is developing a nuclear weapon.
According to Ritter, UNSCOM and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors eliminated Iraq's nuclear weapons program “from the face of the Earth” before they were ordered out of Iraq by the US in 1998. “If Iraq is on the verge of building a nuclear weapon, it would be a miracle”, Ritter said on July 23.
The IAEA reported to the Security Council in October 1997 that Iraq had provided a “full, final and complete” account of its nuclear projects. In April this year, the IAEA stated that there “were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance”.
All the facilities for Iraq's nuclear weapons programs were destroyed in the Gulf War. Prior to 1990, despite massive imports of sophisticated technology and materials from European and US corporations (with the full knowledge of Western governments), the IAEA concluded that Iraq had never mastered the enrichment of uranium, despite persistent attempts.
This suggests that claims that Iraq was “within three years” of making a nuclear device in 1991 were a wild over-estimation, even if Western support had been maintained at pre-1990 levels. Claims that, 10 years later, impoverished and devastated Iraq is even closer to building a nuclear bomb are simply ridiculous.
Nevertheless, as the first anniversary of 9/11 approached, Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld and US national security advisor Condoleezza Rice embarked on a calculated campaign of outrageous lies to convince the world that Iraq, despite the absence of vital facilities or material, is miraculously on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Cheney has stated on several occasions that Iraq will have a nuclear bomb “fairly soon”. Rice stated that the US must “act” before the “smoking gun” (referring to sceptics' demands for proof that Iraq is developing nuclear weapons) turns up in the form of a “mushroom cloud”. On September 12, Bush told the UN that “the first time we may be completely certain he has nuclear weapons is when, God forbid, he uses one”.
These apocalyptic delusions reached their most ludicrous on September 26, when Bush declared that “each passing day could be one in which the Iraq regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or some nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally”.
The mantra of the pro-war forces and their apologists that continually captures the headlines in the fear-mongering Western press has been that, if Iraq could obtain sufficient weapons-grade material from overseas, it could have a nuclear weapon “within months” (IISS report, September 9), “within a year” (Bush) or “within one to two years” (Blair).
However, as Simpson and Rangwala point out, “this claim is no more than a tautology. If Iraq could import the core material for a bomb, then it would have a bomb. Obtaining the fissile material is the most difficult part of constructing any nuclear device, and there are not signs that Iraq has attempted to obtain such material from abroad.”
As the Nuclear Control Institute has pointed out, if science students in any country could get hold of “bomb-grade, high-enriched uranium”, they “could make a bomb powerful enough to destroy a city”.
Yet the shrill warnings of impending nuclear peril coming from the White House and 10 Downing Street are not even consistent with the bulk of the “evidence” that has been presented by the Bush gang, Blair and others. What has been proffered relates to the equally dubious charge that Iraq is attempting to manufacture weapons-grade material on its own.
Even if it was true that Baghdad had embarked on such a course, Iraq would not even be close to developing a nuclear weapon. In January 2001, the US Department of Defense showed none of the panic that boss Rumsfeld has exhibited since 9/11 when it stated: “Iraq would need five or more years and key foreign assistance to rebuild the infrastructure to enrich enough material for a nuclear weapon.”
Blair's dossier also acknowledged this when it stated: “While sanctions remain effective Iraq would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon. If they were removed or prove ineffective, it would take Iraq at least five years to produce sufficient fissile material for a weapon indigenously.”
“Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminium tubes to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon”, Bush told the UN on September 12, repeating claims made on TV talk shows by other administration officials on September 8. This was the only “proof” presented by Bush to justify his demands for UN-endorsement for a war to allegedly stop Iraq's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
The tubes were supposedly “intercepted” by an unnamed security service in an unnamed country. When this interception occurred was left unstated, as was the country of origin of the shipment or the manufacturer of the tubes. Why it was concluded they were destined for Iraq was also not disclosed. US officials refused to give details of the tubes' dimensions.
Gary Dillon, a former weapons inspector in Iraq, told Associated Press on September 18 that “aluminium tubes come in all shapes and forms, from crutches to centrifuge parts. Nobody has enough information to decide what was the objective of this piping”. Iraq would need “miles” of such tubes if they were to be used in centrifuge equipment needed to enrich low-grade uranium.
Even if the tubes were destined for Iraq and were to be used in an as yet unbuilt or secret enrichment plant, no evidence has been provided to show that any tubes have ever been delivered.
Nor is there evidence that Iraq has begun to rebuild the massively expensive and technologically sophisticated infrastructure required to enrich uranium or build a bomb.
As the respected Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists noted soon after the US administration's aluminium tube tale: “Just a little tip for those assigned to leak additional new `evidence' of a stepped-up Iraqi nuclear threat: The tubing in centrifuges is not nearly as hard to acquire or assemble as the mechanisms that allow them to spin at rapid speeds; getting that stuff right, and getting thousands of centrifuges working in concert, is really hard. Also, leakers, please note: Should you want to claim that an Iraqi cascade is already in operation, such a facility uses as much energy as a fairly large city; it could be detected [by US spy satellites] by its heat signature alone; uranium enrichment requires a huge supply of electricity, which would be easily detected by US and commercial spy satellites.”
And as Ritter told the September 19 British Guardian: “For Iraq to reacquire nuclear weapons capability, [it] would have to build enrichment and weaponisation capabilities that would cost tens of billions of dollars. Nuclear weapons cannot be created in a basement or a cave. They require modern industrial infrastructure that in turn require massive amounts of electricity and highly controlled technologies not readily available on the open market_ [UNSCOM] eliminated the nuclear program, and for Iraq to have reconstituted it would require undertaking activities eminently detectable by intelligence services”.
Blair's dossier claims that Iraq “is almost certainly seeking” an indigenous ability to enrich uranium to the level needed for a nuclear weapon. However, it gently distances itself from Bush's discredited aluminium tube story, stating that “there is no intelligence that [the specialised aluminium] is destined for a nuclear program”.
However, it then plays the same dishonest word games by detailing Iraq's “attempts to purchase”: “vacuum pumps which could be used in a gas centrifuge cascade”; “an entire magnet production line of the correct specification for use” in a centrifuge; a chemical that is “commonly used in the petrochemical industry but _ is also used in” centrifuge cascades; “one large filament winding machine which could be used” to manufacture centrifuge motors; and “a large balancing machine which could be used in initial centrifuge balancing work” (emphasis added).
The dossier claims that “there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa”. No details are provided about which African countries were approached or when. The September 25 Guardian reported that the claim “was first made by an Iraqi defector”.
The dossier's wording suggests that Britain is not claiming that the uranium (or the equipment that could be used in a centrifuge) ever reached Iraq. And since the dossier does not claim that Iraq attempted to get hold of enriched uranium -- South Africa is the only country in Africa capable of enriching uranium -- an approach made to a non-enriched uranium exporting country cannot be construed as evidence that Iraq is in a hurry to develop a nuclear device.
One central fact that is glaringly absent from Bush's UN speech and Blair's dossier is that Iraq was only able to develop weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s with the active and conscious assistance of Western governments, most importantly France, Germany, Britain and the US. Even with that support, Iraq failed to develop nuclear weapons or master the uranium enrichment process.
Blair and Bush singled out the Hussein regime's use of deadly chemical weapons during the brutal 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and against the oppressed Kurds in Iraq's north in 1988 as evidence that the Iraqi dictator would do so again.
What they did not mention was that those dreadful attacks were carried out with the blessing, encouragement and cooperation of the US and British governments. Washington and London were Hussein's allies throughout the bloody eight-year war with Iran, which resulted in the deaths of more than one million people.
Lie #4: Iraq continues to sponsor terrorism and may share its weapons of mass destruction with the al Qaeda terrorist network.
The US State Department's 2001 report on terrorism stated that Hussein's regime “has not attempted an anti-Western terrorist attack” since 1993.
The marginal Iranian and Palestinian groups based in Iraq that have used terrorist tactics are largely inactive and have never launched attacks in the US or Europe, nor are they known to have networks outside the Middle East.
No credible links have been found between Baghdad and al Qaeda, despite the best efforts of the Bush administration's hawks to find or invent them. This is no surprise since Osama bin Laden and his reactionary followers have long considered Hussein and his secular Baathist party “infidels”. Bin Laden fell out with the Saudi royal family in 1990 after it refused his offer to raise an army of religious zealots to drive Iraqi troops from Kuwait and defend Saudi Arabia.
Despite this, elements of the Bush administration continue to try to resurrect two particularly putrefied “links” with al Qaeda. The first is an alleged meeting between Mohammad Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers, and an “Iraqi agent” in Prague in 2001. However, investigations by the CIA and Czech intelligence have found that the rumour of the meeting has no substance.
The other claim is that the tiny fundamentalist Ansar al Islam group in northern Iraq contains al Qaeda members who have fled from Afghanistan and is also backed by Baghdad. This is what Bush was referring to on September 12 when he stated, “al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan are known to be in Iraq”.
Contrary to repeated assertions by Rumsfeld earlier this year, the Ansar el Islam group is not being harboured by the Baghdad regime. A few hundred Ansar al Islam fighters control a handful of villages near the Iranian border within the area dominated by the anti-Hussein, US-backed Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
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