Dodgy tapes, grainy videos, great rhetoric...

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Posted by Esperanza from ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 2:42PM :

In Reply to: Revealed:Truth Behind US 'Poison Factory' Claim posted by andreas from ( on Sunday, February 09, 2003 at 2:26PM :

Dodgy tapes, grainy videos, great rhetoric. Where's the proof?" - headline London Mirror, Feb. 6, 2003

"Powell's Case Against Iraq: Piling Up the Evidence," - headline The New York Times, Feb. 6, 2003

"Iraq: Failing To Disarm – Denial and Deception" - graphic, U.S. State Department AV Club

Buy Microsoft stock. PowerPoint will be selling off the shelves after Powell's multi-media tour de force yesterday at the UN. "Voluminous, thorough, shocking," are the adjectives the "objective" American media are using to describe the U.S. Secretary of State's 90-minute exposé.

The presentation was right out of an episode of "24"; damning phone intercepts ("Clean out all of the areas… make sure there is nothing there.''"), dramatic surveillance video (a French-built fighter takes off), and numerous incriminating satellite photos of alleged WMD-related trucks pulling up to alleged WMD-related buildings. But by far the most dramatic moment came when Powell whipped out a small vial of fake anthrax, reminding the nation: "Less than a teaspoon of dried anthrax shut down the U.S. Senate." Iraq, he said, had thousands of liters of the stuff.

The stunt was one of the most audacious uses of a visual aid since George Sr. produced an actual baggie of crack in a televised address to the nation in September 1989. The crack, a monster Ziplock's worth, purchased for $2,400 by undercover DEA agents in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House, was meant to underscore the out-of-control nature of the drug menace. Even the sacred home of our commander in chief wasn't safe from the scourge.

What Bush failed to mention, and what most of the mainstream media never reported, was that the drug bust was a staged event. Agents lured the teenage seller from a DC neighborhood to the park for theatrical purposes: making the bust a half-truth symbolic of the former CIA head's duplicity.

It was VP Bush's own shock troops, you might remember, the Contras, who had been sending thousands of tons of cocaine into America with the help of their friends in the basement of the White House and in the backrooms of Langley. Much of the operation is documented in the U.S. Senate's own Kerry Report and has been recounted by numerous U.S. government whistleblowers (see GNN's own little multi-media presentation we call "Crack the CIA").

For his part, Powell milked the specter of the white dust to great effect, because, in a way, he had to. The ex-General knows as well as anyone that fear is the only real way to sell a war, and that a terrorist attack on American soil is the only thing we're really scared of (not the abstract notion of battle thousands of miles away).

Does it matter that every U.S. law enforcement official involved in the anthrax letters case has said the suspect is most likely domestic, and that he/she appears to have stolen the spores from a U.S. government lab?

Does it matter that the U.S. government's own reports have stated that Saddam's anthrax vials could very well be stamped Made in America? The Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs revealed in 1994 that under Reagan and Bush Sr. the U.S. government and major U.S. corporations sold everything from anthrax to VX nerve gas to West Nile fever germs to Iraq right up until March 1992.

The report summarized: "These biological materials were not attenuated or weakened and were capable of reproduction ... It was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program."

Does it matter that a letter from CIA director George Tenet (who was sitting behind Powell during his presentation) to Senator Bob Graham, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in October stated: "[Iraq] for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or ... chemical and biological weapons against the United States," but if "Saddam should conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions."?

Or does it matter that the BBC is reporting today an even more inconvenient development? The news organization says a leaked classified document written by British defense intelligence officers three weeks ago concluded that, "there has been contact between the two [Iraq and Al Qaeda] in the past. But [the document] assessed that any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies."

Even The New York Times reported Sunday that sources inside U.S. intelligence agencies said, "they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network," they were upset that "the intelligence is obviously being politicized" and that "we've been looking at this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's there." The UN's Hans Blix has also said he has seen no evidence Iraq had or planned to supply weapons to Al Qaeda.

Now, of course, there could be new evidence, like what the Times is reporting today: an intel breakthrough that has revealed "a cell of Al Qaeda operating out of Baghdad was responsible for the assassination of the American diplomat Laurence Foley last October."

The story could be true. Al Qaeda, after all, has cells in more than 40 countries, according to U.S. intelligence. For all we know, they're camped out in Lafayette Park

: Observer (UK)
: February 9, 2003
: Revealed: Truth Behind US 'Poison Factory' Claim

: by Luke Harding
: 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.

: In the kitchen, I discovered some chopped up tomatoes but not much else. The cook had left his Kalashnikov propped neatly against the wall.

: Ansar al Islam - the Islamic group that uses the compound identified by Powell as a military HQ to launch murderous attacks against secular Kurdish opponents - yesterday invited me and several other foreign journalists into their territory for the first time.

: 'We are just a group of Muslims trying to do our duty,' Mohammad Hasan, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, explained. 'We don't have any drugs for our fighters. We don't even have any aspirin. How can we produce any chemicals or weapons of mass destruction?' he asked.

: The radical terrorist group controls a tiny mountainous chunk of Kurdistan, the self-rule enclave of northern Iraq. Over the past year Ansar's fighters have been at war with the Kurdish secular parties who control the rest of the area. Every afternoon both sides mortar each other across a dazzling landscape of mountain and shimmering green pasture. Until last week this was an obscure and parochial conflict.

: But last Wednesday Powell suggested that the 500-strong band of Ansar fighters had links with both al-Qaeda and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. They were, he hinted, a global menace - and more than that they were the elusive link between Osama bin Laden and Iraq.

: This is clearly little more than cheap hyperbole. Yesterday Hassan took the unprecedented step of inviting journalists into what was previously forbidden territory in an almost certainly doomed attempt to prevent an American missile strike once the war with Iraq kicks off. Ali Bapir, a warlord in the neighboring town of Khormal, leant us several fighters armed with machine guns and we set off.

: We drove past an Ansar checkpoint, marked with a black flag and the Islamic militia's logo - the Koran, a sheaf of wheat and a sword. We kept going. The landscape was littered with the ruins of demolished houses, destroyed during Saddam's infamous Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988. At the corner of the valley we passed a pink mosque, with sandbagging on the roof. Washing hung from a courtyard. A group of Ansar fighters - in green military fatigues - smiled and waved us on.

: Several of their comrades were in the graveyard across the road. There were numerous fresh plots, each marked with a black flag. After 20 minutes' drive along a twisting mountain track we arrived in Serget - the village identified from space by American satellite as a haven of terrorist activity.

: Yesterday, however, Hassan was at pains to deny any link with al-Qaeda. 'All we are trying to do is fulfil the prophet's goals,' he said. 'Read the Koran and you'll understand.'

: Senior officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan - the party with which Ansar is at war - insist that the Islamic guerrillas based in the village have been experimenting with poisons. They have smeared a crude form of cyanide on door handles. They had even tried it out on several farm animals, including sheep and donkeys, they claim. The guerrillas have also managed to construct a 1.5kg 'chemical' bomb designed to explode and kill anyone within a 50-metre radius, Kurdish intelligence sources say.

: Hassan yesterday dismissed all these allegations as 'lies'. 'We don't have any chemical weapons. As you can see this is an isolated place,' Ayub Khadir, another fighter, with a bushy pirate beard and blue turban, said. And yet, despite the fact there appeared to be no evidence of chemical experimentation, Ansar's complex was lavish for an organization that purports to be made up merely of simple Muslims. Concealed in a concrete bunker, we discovered a sophisticated television studio, complete with cameras, editing equipment and a scanner.

: In a neighboring room were several computers, beneath shelves full of videotapes. A banner written in Arabic proclaims: 'Those who believe in Islam will be rewarded.'

: Until recently Ansar had its own website where the faithful could log on to footage of Ansar guerrillas in battle. In small concrete bunkers the fighters operated their own radio station, Radio Jihad. The announcer had clearly been sitting on an empty box of explosives. Hassan denied yesterday that his revolutionary group received any funding from Baghdad or from Iran, a short hike away over the mountains.

: 'If Colin Powell were to come here he would see that we have nothing to hide,' he said. But Ansar's sources of funding remain mysterious - and their real purpose tantalizingly unclear. 'All Ansar fighters are from Iraq,' Hassan said. 'Iraq is one of the richest countries in the world. Our fighters have brought their own things with them.'

: But while they appear to pose no real threat to Washington or London, Ansar's fighters are a brutal bunch. They have so far killed more than 800 opposition Kurdish fighters. They have shot dead several civilians. They have even tried - last April - to assassinate the Prime Minister of the neighboring town of Sulamaniyah, the mild-mannered Dr Barham Salih. The plot went wrong and two of the assassins were shot dead. A third is in prison. 'We are fed up with them. We wish they would go away,' one villager, who refused to be named, said.

: The militia's weapons had been inherited, captured from their enemies or bought from smugglers, Hassan said. Kurdish intelligence sources insist that there is 'solid and tangible proof' linking Ansar both to Iraqi intelligence agents and to al-Qaeda. They say that a group of fighters visited Afghanistan twice before the fall of the Taliban and met Abu Hafs, one of bin Laden's key lieutenants.

: Hassan yesterday refused to say how many fighters were holed up in the three villages and one mountain valley under Ansar's control ('It's a military secret,' he said) and claimed - implausibly - that none of his men were Arab volunteers come to fight jihad in Iraq.

: © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003


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