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Iraq: The Torrent of Deceit
by Robin Miller
The Bush team's campaign for war on Iraq would have made Nazi master propagandist Joseph Goebbels proud.
Fabrications are announced as facts. Lies are repeated until they displace the truth. Deception is the order of the day.
And demagoguery supplants democracy.
Sadly, this deceit has born fruit: At least 60 percent of Americans think Iraq is close to having, or already has, nuclear weapons, and more than half believe Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11 atrocities, although there's no significant evidence for either proposition.
Even proof of the Bush team's duplicity doesn't derail the propaganda train.
Case in point: Administration spokespeople have characterized testimony by Hussein Kamal, the director of Iraq's weapons program prior to his 1995 defection, as proving that Iraq still possesses chemical and biological weapons.
Now a transcript of Kamal's testimony has surfaced, and he actually said exactly the opposite--that he had personally ordered the destruction of all of Iraq's nonconventional weapons.
But Bush, Powell and the rest didn't miss a beat.
Our government's propaganda began with the first Gulf War. Americans were told that Iraqi soldiers were pulling Kuwaiti babies from incubators to die, and that Iraq was massing hundreds of thousands of troops to invade Saudi Arabia.
Both stories were fabrications.
The "incubator babies" ruse, in particular, galvanized America. In October 1990 a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, identified only as "Nayirah" and described as a "refugee," appeared at a congressional hearing. She claimed that Iraqi soldiers had pulled hundreds of babies from hospital incubators and left them "on the cold floor to die."
It was all a lie cooked up by public relations powerhouse Hill & Knowlton under a $12 million contract with the Kuwaiti aristocracy. "Nayirah" was actually the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S. She had never been to the hospital she described.
(Of course, real babies died during the Gulf War when U.S. bombing knocked out Iraqi electrical supplies. And real babies die today in Iraq because U.N. sanctions prohibit importing necessary medical equipment.)
And as for the first Bush administration's dire warnings that Iraq had massed 250,000 troops preparing to invade Saudi Arabia?
Another lie. Jean Heller, an enterprising reporter for the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, persuaded her employer to buy two photographs from a Russian commercial satellite.
Massed Iraqi troops were notably absent from the photos' panoramic expanse.
The "intelligence photographs" allegedly showing the Iraqi formations remain "classified" to this day.
Now, fast forward to the present.
(Pause briefly, though, to recall the "leaks" suggesting September 11 mastermind Mohammed Atta met an Iraqi agent in Prague. Richard Perle, now deeply entrenched in Bush's circle, even claimed that Atta met Saddam Hussein himself in Baghdad: "We have proof of that, and we are sure he wasn't just there for a holiday.")
Today, the administration's torrent of deceit flows unabated.
Bush claims Iraq presents a nuclear threat, yet according to head U.N. nuclear weapons inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, three months of intrusive inspections have found "no evidence or plausible indication" of an Iraqi nuclear program--and documents allegedly describing Iraqi attempts to buy uranium in Niger were fabricated.
Bush calls Iraq's disarmament a "charade," but Hans Blix, the chief chemical and biological weapons inspector who has found no evidence of either, insists that Iraq has undertaken "a substantial measure of disarmament."
And South African disarmament experts visiting Iraq maintain it's doing its best.
Bush asks America to go to war based on secret evidence, but weapons inspectors complain that the "intelligence" given them by the U.S. has been "garbage after garbage after garbage."
Insisting that Resolution 1441 gives the U.S. authority to attack Iraq unilaterally, Bush seems to feel he can wish away the historical record: After that measure was adopted, the U.N. ambassador of every Security Council member--including the U.S. and U.K.--affirmed that it didn't provide for "automaticity"--the resort to force without a further vote.
Nor does 1441 authorize member states to use "all necessary means," the accepted language for military force.
(It should be unnecessary to observe that neither 1441 nor any prior resolution authorizes, or could authorize, forcible "regime change" in any country.)
Bush continues to link Saddam with al Qaeda, even though the CIA, FBI and Britain's MI6 all disagree.
Bush invokes the U.N.'s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda while concealing the reason for that failure: Washington's own opposition.
(During his 2000 campaign, Bush expressly rejected the use of U.S. troops in Rwanda, even "to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide.")
The "terrorist poison and explosive factory" denounced by Colin Powell turns out to be a dilapidated video studio.
Iraq's "deadly" drone has wings held together with tin foil and duct tape, and two wooden propellers bolted to engines far smaller than those of a lawn mower.
Iraq's Al Rafah missile testing site, called "top secret" by Powell, has in fact been inspected five times.
U.N. inspectors have rejected administration claims that Iraq's fabled aluminum tubes were linked to nuclear weapons, that Iraqi agents have impersonated scientists, that Iraq has spirited weapons away as inspectors arrive, and that Iraq has mobile biological weapons laboratories or hidden underground research facilities.
Even today, the administration has no "specific information" about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, according to the Washington Post.
It's true that one party to this conflict has been playing a shell game.
And it's clear that the only limits on the administration's litany of lies are those imposed by the imagination.
What's less clear is why Americans continue to believe them.
1. For more commentary on the administration's propaganda on Iraq, see:
The "Lies and Evasions" section of the Crisis Papers website.
John Donnelly and Elizabeth Neuffer, "Dubious Claims Erode US Credibility," Boston Globe, March 16, 2003. This appears to be the first article in the mainstream press acknowledging even partially the administration's string of deceptions on Iraq.
Haroon Siddiqui, "We Should Sit Out This War; U.S. Credibility on Iraq Has Eroded to an Extent That It Is Becoming Hard to Believe Anything from the Bush Administration," Toronto Star, March 13, 2003. This is slso available on Common Dreams.
Dennis Hans, "Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His 'Techniques of Deceit,'" Scoop, February 10, 2003.
Maggie O'Kane, "This Time I'm Scared; US Propaganda Fueled the First Gulf War. It Will Fuel This One Too--And the Risks Are Even Greater," The Guardian, December 5, 2002. This is also available on Common Dreams.
John R. MacArthur, "To Drum Up Rage Against Iraq, Bush Senior and Junior Have Been Known to Tell Tall Tales," The Globe and Mail [Toronto], October 28, 2002.
Bush Iraq Evidence Lies Return to text
2. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released on February 6 reports that 61% of Americans believe that Iraq "is trying to develop nuclear weapons." See "Washingtonpost.com - ABC News Poll: Powell's U.N. Address," February 6, 2003.
An October 2002 poll from The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press pegged the figure at 79%. See "Americans Thinking About Iraq, But Focused on the Economy," The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, October 10, 2002 Return to text
3. A poll released February 20 by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found 57% agreed with this proposition. See "U.S. Needs More International Backing," The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, February 20, 2003.
The question asked in the poll was "And what's your opinion, based on what you've heard or read: Do you believe that Saddam Hussein helped the terrorists in the September 11th attacks, or don't you think he was involved?"
However, a New York Times poll released on March 11 puts the figure at 45%. See Adam Nagourney and Janet Elder, "Growing Number in U.S. Back War, Survey Finds" ["The poll found that 45 percent of Americans said Mr. Hussein was 'personally involved' in the attacks, a number essentially unchanged from a month ago."] Return to text
4. See the statements collected in Glen Rangwala, "The Interview with Hussein Kamel." Return to text
5. News of the transcript's existence was broken in John Barry, "The Defector's Secrets," Newsweek (March 3 issue).
For analysis, see Glen Rangwala, "The Interview with Hussein Kamel."
Tim Cornwell, "Allies Hushed Up Weapons' Destruction," The Scotsman, February 24, 2003.
Julian Borger, "Iraqi Defector's Testimony Confuses Case against Iraq," The Guardian, March 1, 2003. Return to text
6. On the "incubator babies" story, see:
Maggie O'Kane, "No Casus Belli? Invent One!" The Guardian, February 5, 2003.
Mitchel Cohen, "How the War Party Sold the 1991 Bombing of Iraq to US," antiwar.com, December 30, 2002.
Lucy Komisar, "HBO Recycles the Incubator Hoax," Pacific News Service, December 3, 2002.
Tom Regan, "When Contemplating War, Beware of Babies in Incubators," Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2002.
The most detailed analysis of this episode can be found in John R. MacArthur, "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," N.Y.: Hill and Wang, 1992, pp. 37-77. Return to text
7. Suzanne Goldenberg, "Iraq's Vital Services Balance on a Knife Edge ... Even Without a War," The Guardian, February 11, 2003 ("During the last Gulf war, when hospitals went dark, patients died on the operating table, or in intensive care units when the electricity ran out."). Return to text
8. Kathy Kelly, "What About the Incubators?" Voices in the Wilderness, April 13, 2000. Return to text
9. On the "massed troops" hoax, see:
Interview with Jean Heller, CounterSpin, February 14, 2003 (RealAudio).
Maggie O'Kane, "No Casus Belli? Invent One!" The Guardian, February 5, 2003.
Maggie O'Kane, "This Time I'm Scared; US Propaganda Fueled the First Gulf War. It Will Fuel This One Too--And the Risks Are Even Greater," The Guardian, December 5, 2002. Also available on Common Dreams.
Scott Peterson, "In War, Some Facts Less Factual; Some US Assertions From the Last War on Iraq Still Appear Dubious," The Christian Science Monitor, September 6, 2002.
Jon Basil Utley, "Questions About the Supposed Iraqi Threat to Saudi Arabia in l990--Aerial Photos Were Never Released," Americans Against World Empire, undated. Return to text
10. See the "Mohammed Atta in Prague FAQ."
Right-wing columnists devoured this story; see, for example, William Safire, "Mr. Atta Goes to Prague," New York Times, May 8, 2002. Return to text
11. Perle's claim was reported by the Agence France-Presse in a story distributed on September 8, 2002:
Mohammed Atta met Saddam prior to September 11: US official Sunday, 08-Sep-2002 4:40AM
MILAN, Sept 8 (AFP) - 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. Return to text
A copy of the AFP story is available here.
For commentary, see:
Gary Leupp, "Perle's Bombshell in Milan," CounterPunch, September 10, 2002.
Bush Iraq Evidence Lies (scroll down to "Atta Consulted Saddam...We Have Proof") Return to text
12. For a transcript of Dr. ElBaradei's March 7 report to the Security Council, see Mohamed ElBaradei, "Statement to the United Nations Security Council; The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update," March 7, 2003. For other documents concerning his mission in Iraq, see the IAEA Website. Return to text
Dr. ElBaradei reached the same conclusion in his prior reports. See:
Mohamed ElBaradei, "The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: 14 February 2003 Update." ["We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq."]
Mohamed ElBaradei, "The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq," January 27, 2003. ["To conclude: we have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons programme since the elimination of the programme in the 1990s."]
As to the latter report, see Colum Lynch, "U.N. Finds No Proof of Nuclear Program; IAEA Unable to Verify U.S. Claims," Washington Post, January 29, 2003.
For more on the faked uranium purchase documents, see:
Ian Traynor, "UK Nuclear Evidence a Fake," The Guardian, March 8, 2003.
Felicity Barringer, "Forensic Experts Uncovered Forgery on Iraq, an Inspector Says," New York Times, March 9, 2003.
Dana Priest and Susan Schmidt, "FBI Probes Fake Evidence of Iraqi Nuclear Plans," Washington Post, March 13, 2003.
The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) apparently was given the fabricated documents in early February, as in his February 14 oral report Dr. ElBaradei stated "The IAEA recently received some additional information relevant to this issue, which will be further pursued," while in his January 27 oral report he had said that "A fourth focal point has been the investigation of reports of Iraqi efforts to import uranium after 1991. The Iraqi authorities have denied any such attempts. The IAEA will continue to pursue this issue. At this stage, however, we do not have enough information, and we would appreciate receiving more." Return to text
13. For a transcript of Dr. Blix's testimony, see Hans Blix, "Oral Introduction of the 12th Quarterly Report of UNMOVIC," March 7, 2003.
All of Dr. Blix's statements, and much other related information, may be accessed at the UNMOVIC website. Return to text
14. Niko Price, "Experts Say Iraq Doing Best to Disarm," Associated Press, February 27, 2003. Return to text
15. See the following, which appear to be two versions of the same story:
Richard Wallace, "Angry Arms Inspectors Hit Out," The Mirror, February 22, 2003.
Richard Wallace, "U.N. Inspectors Trash Bush's Evidence," The Mirror, February 22, 2003. Return to text
16. On Resolution 1441, see:
"SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS IRAQ IN `MATERIAL BREACH' OF DISARMAMENT OBLIGATIONS, OFFERS FINAL CHANCE TO COMPLY, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1441 (2002)," November 8, 2002. Return to text
For the council members' statements, scroll down to the "Statements" section at the end. U.S. ambassador John Negroponte's statement is described as follows: "The resolution contained, he said, no 'hidden triggers' and no 'automaticity' with the use of force. The procedure to be followed was laid out in the resolution." The description of U.K. ambassador Jeremy Greenstock's statement is similar: "He said there was no 'automaticity' in the resolution. If there was a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter would return to the Council for discussion."
The statements are given in the third person because the text contains accounts of the statements given, rather than the statements themselves.
Peter Willetts, Index Page for Selected Documents and Speeches on the Crisis over Iraq, City University, London.
"Joint Statement by China, France and Russia Interpreting UN Security Council Resolution 1441 (2002)," November 8, 2002. This joint statement is also available here. Return to text
17. U.N. Security Council resolutions authorizing the use of force always use this language. For example. Resolution 678 of November 19, 1990, authoring military action to expel Iraq from Kuwait, "authorizes Member States ... to use all necessary means ... to restore international peace and security in the area." Resolutions authorizing force in Bosnia and Herzegovina were equally straightforward. Resolution 816, issued on March 31, 1993, "authorizes Member States" to take "all necessary measures" to enforce a ban on flights over Bosnia. And Resolution 1031, issued on December 15, 1995, "authorizes the Member States" to "take all necessary measures" to enforce the Dayton Accords. Return to text
The operative paragraphs of these resolutions are as follows:
2. Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the foregoing resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.
[Resolution 660 was the first Security Council resolution passed shortly after Iraq invaded Kuwait; it "demands that Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990."]
4. Authorizes Member States, seven days after the adoption of this resolution, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take, under the authority of the Security Council and subject to close coordination with the Secretary-General and UNPROFOR, all necessary measures in the airspace of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the event of further violations to ensure compliance with the ban on flights referred to in paragraph 1 above, and proportionate to the specific circumstances and the nature of the flights;
5. Requests the Member States concerned, the Secretary-General and UNPROFOR to coordinate closely on the measures they are taking to implement paragraph 4 above, including the rules of engagement, and on the starting date of its implementation, which should be no later than seven days from the date when the authority conferred by paragraph 4 above takes effect, and to report the starting date to the Council through the Secretary-General;
14. Authorizes the Member States acting through or in cooperation with the organization referred to in Annex 1-A of the Peace Agreement to establish a multinational implementation force (IFOR) under unified command and control in order to fulfil the role specified in Annex 1-A and Annex 2 of the Peace Agreement;
15. Authorizes the Member States acting under paragraph 14 above to take all necessary measures to effect the implementation of and to ensure compliance with Annex 1-A of the Peace Agreement, stresses that the parties shall be held equally responsible for compliance with that Annex, and shall be equally subject to such enforcement action by IFOR as may be necessary to ensure implementation of that Annex and the protection of IFOR, and takes note that the parties have consented to IFOR's taking such measures;
16. Authorizes the Member States acting under paragraph 14 above, in accordance with Annex 1-A of the Peace Agreement, to take all necessary measures to ensure compliance with the rules and procedures, to be established by the Commander of IFOR, governing command and control of airspace over Bosnia and Herzegovina with respect to all civilian and military air traffic;
17. Authorizes Member States to take all necessary measures, at the request of IFOR, either in defence of IFOR or to assist the force in carrying out its mission, and recognizes the right of the force to take all necessary measures to defend itself from attack or threat of attack; Return to text
18. As to intelligence agencies' rejection of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, see:
James Risen and David Johnston, "Split at C.I.A. and F.B.I. on Iraqi Ties to Al Qaeda," New York Times, February 2, 2003.
Barnaby Mason, "Analysis: Danger of Spinning Iraqi Case," BBC, February 5, 2003.
Paul Lashmar and Raymond Whitaker, "MI6 and CIA: The New Enemy Within," The Independent, February 9, 2003. Return to text
19. Gerald Caplan, "How Dare Bush Invoke Rwanda to Justify His War," The Globe and Mail [Toronto], March 12, 2003. Also available on Common Dreams. Return to text
20. On the "terrorist poison and explosive factory," see:
C.J. Chivers, "Kurds Puzzled by Report of Terror Camp," New York Times, February 5, 2003.
Borzou Daragahi, "Media Tour Alleged 'Poison Site' in Iraq," Associated Press, February 8, 2003. Return to text
21. On the "deadly" drones, see:
John Daniszewski, "Iraq Shows Media Its Controversial Drone Aircraft," Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2003.
David Filipov, "Iraqis Display Drone And Some Surprise," Boston Globe, March 13, 2003.
Scott Peterson, "The Case of the 'Deadly' Drone," The Christian Science Monitor, March 13, 2003.
Niko Price, "Iraq Shows Drone Powell Called Dangerous," Associated Press, March 12, 2003. Return to text
22. Regarding the Al Rafah missile testing site, see:
John Daniszewski, "Iraq Opens Suspicious Sites to Eyes of Media; The Rocket-Engine and Missile Facilities Played Key Parts in Powell's Speech at the U.N.," Los Angeles Times, February 8, 2003.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Iraq Shows Facilities Cited by Powell; Missiles Within U.N.'s Limits, Officials Assert," Washington Post, February 8, 2003. Return to text
23. According to chief nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, "Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets." See Mohamed ElBaradei, "Statement to the United Nations Security Council; The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update," March 7, 2003. Return to text
Dr. ElBaradei previously expressed doubts about the the aluminum tubes' nuclear connection in both his February 14 oral report and his January 27 oral report.
As to the aluminum tubes, see also:
Joby Warrick, "Bush Evidence of Iraq 'Appetite' for Nuclear Weapons in Doubt," Washington Post, January 23, 2003.
Richard Wallace, "Angry Arms Inspectors Hit Out," The Mirror, February 22, 2003 ["US claims that aluminium tubes imported by Iraq were being used for enriching uranium rather than to make rockets were bogus. One inspector said: 'The Iraqi alibi on this is airtight.'"]. Return to text
24. See Dafna Linzer, "Inspectors Dispute Bush Iraq Allegations," Associated Press, January 29, 2003, which states:
On the Iraqi scientists, ElBaradei said it was unlikely his inspectors "could be fooled in the nuclear area on who is a scientist and who is not."
"We know all the scientists from the past and I think our people could easily detect if that person is a scientist or not." Return to text
25. Dr. Blix rejected this assertion in his March 7 oral report. See Hans Blix, "Oral Introduction of the 12th Quarterly Report of UNMOVIC," March 7, 2003, in which Blix stated: "As I noted on 14 February, intelligence authorities have claimed that weapons of mass destruction are moved around Iraq by trucks and, in particular, that there are mobile production units for biological weapons. The Iraqi side states that such activities do not exist. Several inspections have taken place at declared and undeclared sites in relation to mobile production facilities. Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have so far been found." Return to text
As Dr. Blix observed, he had previously rejected this charge in his February 14 oral report to the Security Council, in which he stated: "Since we arrived in Iraq, we have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites. All inspections were performed without notice, and access was almost always provided promptly. In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming."
In that same report, Dr. Blix dismissed Colin Powell's surveillance allegedly showing chemical weapons being removed from one site: "The presentation of intelligence information by the US Secretary of State suggested that Iraq had prepared for inspections by cleaning up sites and removing evidence of proscribed weapons programmes. I would like to comment only on one case, which we are familiar with, namely, the trucks identified by analysts as being for chemical decontamination at a munitions depot. This was a declared site, and it was certainly one of the sites Iraq would have expected us to inspect. We have noted that the two satellite images of the site were taken several weeks apart. The reported movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection."
See also Dan Plesch, "US Claim Dismissed by Blix," The Guardian, February 5, 2003. Return to text
26. See the sources cited in footnote 25, just above. Return to text
27. Dr. Blix rejected this assertion in his March 7 oral report. See Hans Blix, "Oral Introduction of the 12th Quarterly Report of UNMOVIC," March 7, 2003, in which Dr. Blix stated: "There have been reports, denied from the Iraqi side, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on any underground structure suitable for the production or storage of WMD. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far." Return to text
28. See Walter Pincus, "U.S. Lacks Specifics on Banned Arms," Washington Post, March 16, 2003, which states: "Despite the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, U.S. intelligence agencies have been unable to give Congress or the Pentagon specific information about the amounts of banned weapons or where they are hidden, according to administration officials and members of Congress." Return to text
29. For essential analysis of the U.S. and U.K. claims about Iraq's weapons, see the following documents by British academic and activist Glen Rangwala:
Claims and Evaluations of Iraq's Proscribed Weapons
Response to Powell, February 16, 2003 (response to Powell's February 5 Security Council presentation)
Review of Feb. 14 Blix and ElBaradei Reports Return to text
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