OK, the 36 lies that launched a war

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Posted by Andreas from dtm2-t8-1.mcbone.net ( on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 at 4:12PM :

OK, the 36 lies that launched a war


The thirty-six lies that launched a war (11 July 2003)

(published in part in The Independent, 13 July 2003)

Author: Glen Rangwala


"the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt … that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons"
The Prime Minister's foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

After over three months of inspections, the UN weapons inspectors reported on 6 March that "No proscribed activities, or the result of such activities from the period of 1998-2002 have, so far, been detected through inspections." If Britain had any intelligence to indicate that Iraq had continued to produce prohibited weapons, where was it when it could have been checked out by inspectors?

"the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt .. that he [Saddam Hussein] continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons"
The Prime Minister's foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 that "After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq."

"We know that this man has got weapons of mass destruction. That sounds like a slightly abstract phrase, but what we are talking about is chemical weapons, biological weapons, viruses, bacilli and anthrax—10,000 litres of anthrax—that he has. We know that he has it, Dr. Blix points that out and he has failed to account for that."
Jack Straw to the House of Commons, 17 March 2003

The UN has never claimed that Iraq "has" these weapons, but that Iraq had certain amounts of weapons before 1991 or materials to build these weapons, and it hasn't adequately explained what happened to them. As Hans Blix said in September 2002, "this is not the same as saying there are weapons of mass destruction. If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or were constructing such weapons I would take it to the Security Council."

"There is no doubt about the chemical programme, the biological programme, indeed the nuclear weapons programme. All that is well documented by the United Nations."
Tony Blair, 30 May 2003

The UN has not found any evidence of any on-going programmes since the mid-1990s. Dr Blix said on 23 May that "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not."

"Iraq has chemical and biological agents and weapons available [..] from pre-Gulf War stocks".
Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

The claim that Iraq has managed to retain extensive stockpiles of these weapons for 12 years is not plausible. All chemical and biological agents that Iraq produced before 1991 - with the one exception of the chemical agent of mustard gas - would have degenerated by now.

"plants formerly associated with the chemical warfare programme have been rebuilt. These include the chlorine and phenol plant at Fallujah 2 near Habbaniyah."
Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

All eight of the sites mentioned in the Prime Minister's dossier were visited by inspectors, who found no evidence of prohibited activities at any of them. At Fallujah II, the inspectors reported that: "The chlorine plant is currently inoperative".

"According to intelligence, Iraq has retained up to 20 Al Hussein missiles … They could be used with conventional, chemical or biological warheads and, with a range of up to 650km, are capable of reaching a number of countries in the region including Cyprus, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel."
Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

There has been no sign of these missiles, and the government has downplayed the risk of there being any such weapons in Iraq since the invasion began. Chemical protection equipment was removed from British bases in Cyprus soon after September, indicating that the government did not take its own claims seriously.

"there is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa".
Prime Minister's dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

Mr Blair asserts that this claim is still true, but even the US administration accepts that there is no reliable evidence for it. The IAEA, to whom the government has a responsibility to give any credible information about nuclear-related sales, has not received any information other than the infamous forged Niger documents.

Saddam Hussein's "military planning allows for some of the WMD to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them."
The Prime Minister's foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002

Mr Blair himself contradicted this claim when he said on 28 April that Iraq had begun to conceal its weapons in May 2002, and that had meant that they could not have been used. The supposed source for this claim is one individual who was in Iraq's military: he or she has not been produced to provide evidence for this claim.

"Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."
President Bush, 7 October 2002

This claim was repeatedly rubbished by the International Atomic Energy Agency, who observed that the tubes were being used for artillery rockets, but the US administration kept making it. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for centrifuges.

"The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure."
President Bush, 28 January 2003

The UN in fact drew the opposite conclusion. In March, UN inspectors reported: "it seems unlikely that significant undeclared quantities of botulinum toxin could have been produced, based on the quantity of media unaccounted for."

"By 1998, UN experts agreed that the Iraqis had perfected drying techniques for their biological weapons programs."
US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, 5 February 2003

Drying technology is important because only dried biological agents can be stored for years. The UN has never claimed that Iraq had perfected these techniques. In fact, in March they recorded that it "has no evidence that drying of anthrax or any other agent in bulk was conducted."

"Saddam Hussein...has the wherewithal to develop smallpox"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, 5 February 2003

The UN recorded in March 2003 that "there is no evidence that Iraq had possessed seed stocks for smallpox or had been actively engaged in smallpox research".

"When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp, and this camp is located in northeastern Iraq. You see a picture of this camp."
US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, 5 February 2003
This camp was found to contain no suspicious materials. A journalist from ABC who entered the camp with US forces reported, "A specialized biochemical team scoured the rubble for samples. They wore protective masks as they entered a building they suspected was a weapons lab, but found nothing."

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
President George W. Bush, address to the nation, 18 March 2003

The "most lethal weapons" are nuclear weapons. Unlike the US, Iraq has never possessed nuclear weapons.

"The evidence in respect of Iraq was so strong that the Security Council on the 8th of November said unanimously that Iraq's proliferation and possession of the weapons of mass destruction and unlawful missile systems, as well as its defiance of the United Nations, pose – and I quote – 'a threat to international peace and security'."
Foreign secretary Jack Straw, interview of 14 May 2003

There have been repeated attempts by the government to claim that the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1441 demonstrated that everyone accepted that Iraq possessed prohibited weapons. This is untrue: it claims that Iraq was not complying with inspectors, but nowhere asserts that Iraq possessed these weapons. Jack Straw here is wilfully misinterpreting one clause of the resolution, which stated in the abstract that proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a threat to international peace: it did not accuse Iraq of doing this, because most countries on the Security Council did not believe that Iraq was engaged in proliferation.

Inspections and Iraq's concealment of weapons

"We issued further intelligence over the weekend about the infrastructure of concealment. It is obviously difficult when we publish intelligence reports"
Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 3 February 2003
Most of this "intelligence report" turned out to be cribbed from three on-line articles which were jumbled together sometimes in an incoherent manner.

"Escorts are trained, for example, to start long arguments with other Iraqi officials 'on behalf of UNMOVIC' while any incriminating evidence is hastily being hidden behind the scenes."
The dossier of February 2003

This claim was contradicted by the weapons inspectors. Chief UN inspector of Hans Blix told the Security Council on 14 February 2003 that "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 ... we note that access to sites has so far been without problems".

"Journeys are monitored by security officers stationed on the route if they have prior intelligence. Any changes of destination are notified ahead by telephone or radio so that arrival is anticipated. The welcoming party is a give away."
The dossier of February 2003

Hans Blix told the Security Council on 14 February that "In no case have we seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance that the inspectors were coming."

"Iraq did not meet its obligations under 1441 to provide a comprehensive list of scientists associated with its weapons of mass destruction programs."
US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN Security Council, 5 February 2003

Hans Blix had suggested in December that Iraq should give sets of names in stages: "Iraq may proceed in pyramid fashion, starting from the leadership in programmes, going down to management, scientists, engineers and technicians but excluding the basic layer of workers". This seems to be what Iraq did: it provided lists of 117 persons for the chemical sector, 120 for the biological sector and 156 persons for the missile sector by the end of December 2002. On the UN's request, Iraq added more names.

"the reason why the inspectors couldn't do their job in the end was that Saddam wouldn't co-operate."
Tony Blair, interview on 4 April 2003
Hans Blix told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 that "the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive'".

Past weapons inspections

"the UN has tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully."
Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003

In 1999, the Security Council set up a panel to assess the UN's achievements in the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. It concluded that: "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."

"The UN inspectors found no trace at all of Saddam's offensive biological weapons programme – which he claimed didn't exist – until his lies were revealed by his son-in-law."
Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003

This is pure fabrication, used to make the claim that weapons inspectors are ineffective. The UN had already determined that Iraq had had a biological weapons programme months before Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, defected. In the face of the evidence that the UN put to them, the Iraqi regime admitted that they had an offensive biological weapons programme on 1 July 1995. Saddam Hussein's son-in-law defected on 7 August 1995.

"Only then [after Hussein Kamel's defection] did the inspectors find over 8,000 litres of concentrated anthrax and other biological weapons, and a factory to make more."
Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003

UN inspectors have never found anthrax in Iraq. Iraq claimed that it had destroyed all its stocks of anthrax in 1991, and the dispute over anthrax since then has concerned the UN's attempts to verify these claims. The factory at which Iraq had made anthrax, al-Hakam, had been under inspection since 1991, contrary to the Prime Minister's claim.

Finding weapons

"I have got absolutely no doubt that those weapons are there. … once we have the cooperation of the scientists and the experts, I have got no doubt that we will find them."
Tony Blair, interview on 4 April 2003
Almost all the scientists have been captured, but there has still been no sign of the weapons.

"On weapons of mass destruction, we know that the regime has them, we know that as the regime collapses we will be led to them."
Tony Blair, press conference with George W. Bush, 8 April 2003

The regime collapsed over three months ago; still no weapons of mass destruction found.

"we know where they [the weapons] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."
US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld, interview on 30 March 2003

If Mr Rumsfeld knew where the weapons were, why haven't they been found?

"We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons"
Tony Blair, press conference in Poland on 30 May 2003

In fact, government experts believe that the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen for artillery guidance balloons, a system sold by the UK to Iraq in the 1980s.

Iraq and terrorism

"there is some intelligence evidence about linkages between members of al-Qaeda and people in Iraq."
Tony Blair to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 21 January 2003

In early February, a classified British intelligence report, written by defence intelligence staff, was passed to the BBC. Far from substantiating the charge that there were "linkages" between al-Qaeda and Iraq, the report states that there were no current links between the two, and claims that Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq". The report was written in mid-January, and had been presented to Tony Blair just prior to his 21 January presentation at the Liaison Committee.

"We believe that there have been, and still are, some al-Qaeda operatives in parts of Iraq controlled by Baghdad. It is hard to imagine that they are there without the knowledge and acquiescence of the Iraqi Government."
Foreign Office spokesperson, 29 January 2003

No evidence has been presented of al-Qaeda operatives in Iraq: if such persons were in Iraq, why haven't they been found?

The decision to go to war

"As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, resolution 1441 gives the legal basis for this [war]"
Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 12 March 2003

Resolution 1441 was secured on the British commitment that it did not authorise military action, even if the UK or US believed it was being violated by Iraq. Britain's UN ambassador Jeremy Greenstock told the Security Council on 8 November 2002 that "There is no 'automaticity' in this Resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion".

"Resolution 678 which says that the international community should take all necessary means to uphold security and peace. In other words, that Saddam Hussein should disarm".
Gordon Brown, interview on 16 March 2003

Resolution 678 was about using force to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait. It was not about the disarmament of Iraq, a topic that was only discussed at the Security Council for the first time some four months after Resolution 678 was passed.

"on Monday night, France said it would veto a second Resolution whatever the circumstances."
Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003

Mr Blair claimed that diplomatic solutions were impossible because of French obstructionism at the Security Council. In fact, President Chirac said that France would vote against any resolution that authorised force whilst inspections were still working. Chirac said that he "considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to ... disarm Iraq", a position borne out by UN reports on the progress of inspections.

Post-war Iraq

"the oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN."
Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003

Britain co-sponsored a resolution to the Security Council, which was passed in May as Resolution 1483, that gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues. There is no UN-administered trust fund.

"The United Kingdom should seek a new Security Council Resolution that would affirm ... the use of all oil revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people."
Motion to the House of Commons for war with Iraq, moved by Tony Blair, 18 March 2003
Far from "all oil revenues" being used for the Iraqi people, the British co-sponsored Resolution 1483 continued to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay in compensation for the invasion of Kuwait.

"our aim has not been regime change, our aim has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction"
Tony Blair, press conference, 25 March 2003
This claim is looking increasingly implausible. Weapons inspectors were reporting Iraq's "proactive" cooperation, and were projecting that Iraq could be declared as fully disarmed within three months if that cooperation continued. If Mr Blair was the elimination of prohibited weapons, why terminate the inspection process just when it was most effective?

-- Andreas
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