The facts you need to know about their war drive
October 4, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7
GEORGE W. BUSH and his gang can't be bothered to offer any evidence to back up their case for a war on Iraq. So lapdog Tony Blair got the job.
Last week, Britain's Prime Minister issued a "dossier" of material that supposedly "documents" the crimes of Saddam Hussein--and justifies a new war on Iraq. Even the mainstream media had to admit that Blair and Co. hadn't come up with anything new.
A mountain of half-truths, guesswork and outright lies, the Blair "dossier" recycles old discredited allegations that Saddam has "illegally" developed an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons--and is trying to get a nuclear weapon.
Meanwhile, the report leaves out a slew of information--the embarrassing details of how the U.S. government, led by many of the same warmongers in charge today, spent years building up Saddam's government. Here, ERIC RUDER gives you the facts you need to know about Bush and Blair's case for war.
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THE MOST basic point of the Blair dossier is to prove that Iraq has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction--chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the long-range ballistic missiles to "deliver" them.
The foreword, written by Tony Blair himself, warns that Saddam Hussein could "deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so." Says who?
There, things get much more vague. There's a lot in the Blair report about the history of Iraq's weapons programs. But when it comes to evidence of Iraq's current capabilities, there's very little.
For example, the dossier claims that Iraq has "sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa"--but without saying from which country or when. It warns that Iraq "could" threaten the entire region "if" it acquires long-range missiles, which "might" happen within five years. Or might not.
The more concrete the claim, the easier it is to see what a hodge-podge of speculation and outright lies the Blair dossier really is. For example, the report repeats a tall tale told by Vice President Dick Cheney in August. In 1995, "weapons inspectors were actually on the verge of declaring that Hussein's programs to develop chemical weapons and longer-range ballistic missiles had been fully accounted for and shut down," Cheney told a group of veterans. "Then Saddam's son-in-law [Hussein Kamal] suddenly defected and began sharing information."
The dossier also refers to the defection of Kamal, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Committee, as a major source of information. "All of this would be valid, if it were only true," former United Nations (UN) weapons inspector Scott Ritter wrote in September. "Contrary to the myth propagated by Cheney, there were no 'smoking gun' revelations made by Hussein Kamal."
Ritter should know. From 1991 to 1998, he led dozens of inspection teams through Iraq. Ritter says that the teams destroyed between 90 to 95 percent of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and its ability to manufacture them.
And make no mistake about it--Ritter is no antiwar crusader. He voted for Bush in 2000 and says he would support a war if Iraq does possess weapons of mass destruction.
But in Ritter's opinion, this is a far cry from the truth. "Unfortunately, as far as the Bush administration is concerned, it seems that when it comes to Iraq and weapons of mass destruction, truth is more often than not the first casualty," wrote Ritter.
As if the lies didn't make the Blair dossier too hard to swallow, those parts of the report that get closer to the truth are stunning for their hypocrisy. Take, for example, the claim that Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons before--during Iraq's war against Iran in the 1980s, and in 1988 against Kurds living in the Iraqi village of Halabja.
The implication is that since Saddam has used these weapons before--even against "his own people"--he'll use them again, so a pre-emptive strike is justified. First of all, by this logic, the U.S.--the only country to have used nuclear weapons--should be the first target on the list of countries to be attacked.
But even more to the point, Iraq carried out its chemical weapons atrocities when it was a key Middle East ally of the U.S. government. Washington politicians condemned the gassing of Iranians and Kurds--then went right on supporting Saddam.
Of course, the Blair dossier dutifully avoids mentioning these inconvenient facts. Likewise, it doesn't explain the chief reason that so much is known about Iraq's weapons programs in the 1980s.
The truth is that the U.S. supplied much of the raw material and toxic bacteria used in Iraq's chemical and biological weapons programs prior to the 1991 Gulf War. "From 1985, if not earlier, through 1989, a veritable witch's brew of biological materials were exported to Iraq by private American suppliers pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce," writes foreign policy analyst William Blum, citing a 1994 Senate report.
Among the toxins shipped to Iraq in the 1980s was anthrax--something that the U.S. media were forced to admit last year in retreating from their accusations that Saddam must have been behind the post-September 11 anthrax attacks in the U.S.
But the ultimate hypocrisy is that while Iraq has never used chemical weapons against U.S. forces, the U.S. used between 320 and 350 tons of chemical weapons against Iraq. During the 1991 Gulf War, U.S. forces fired nearly 1 million rounds of depleted uranium (DU) ammunition--even though the Pentagon was fully aware of the devastating environmental and human impact.
More than 10 years later, hundreds of tons of radioactive dust remain scattered across the country. By 2000, in areas where the use of DU munitions were concentrated, the number of cases of leukemia had jumped by 300 percent, and malignancies by 384 percent. Down's syndrome has climbed by more than 500 percent.
"Ward after ward of children and adults dying, in all probability from the effects of internal radiation [that] entered the body through inhalation or ingestion to lodge in the deep lung or migrate to the lymph or bone giving off a steady pulse of alpha radiation," reports Joanne Baker, a peace activist who has researched the use of DU shells.
"The 1-year-old baby with a huge stomach cancer, the 2-year-old bleeding hopelessly from the ear and throat, the 8-year-old leukemia victim who buries her head in the pillow to hide her silent tears." And thanks to Washington's insistence on a decade of strict economic sanctions, "all die in pain, with even morphine denied," says Baker.
So while the Blair dossier paves the way for a war on Iraq in the name of stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the death toll from U.S. chemical weapons used in the first Gulf War continues to mount.
Don't buy Washington's lies
THE BLAIR dossier claims that Saddam Hussein poses a grave threat to the world because he has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. By this logic, the U.S. government should be in the crosshairs.
The U.S. has used chemical and nuclear weapons on a massively greater scale--from the tons of napalm and Agent Orange defoliant dumped on Vietnam in the 1960s and '70s, to the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War.
Today, Washington has the world's largest arsenal--by far--of weapons of mass destruction. That's why our side's case against a U.S. war on Iraq has to focus on Washington's lies and hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, some in the antiwar movement are looking for a softer option--calling for renewed UN weapons inspections in Iraq as an alternative to war. This is a mistake. Calling for weapons inspections only promotes the idea that the U.S. war drive has anything to do with Iraq's weapons--which it doesn't in the least.
The U.S. has no intention of allowing Iraq to avoid a war by "complying" with inspections. Washington's war makers are hoping inspections will provide some kind of pretext for the attack. If they succeed, antiwar activists who call for inspections could find themselves supporting the very war they started out opposing.
This was an important lesson from the first Gulf War. Some in the antiwar movement argued against U.S. military intervention in order to allow time for UN sanctions to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait--in short, to "let sanctions work."
A decade later, those sanctions have killed at least 1 million Iraqis. As attorneys and activists Michael Ratner and William Schaap wrote in the lead-up to the 1991 war, "The United States is there to control access to oil, build bases in the gulf and dominate the region. To the extent we give legitimacy to the belief that the U.S. deployment is about aggression and international law, the real reasons for the buildup and potential war are hidden from the U.S. people."
"Our job is to reveal those reasons, not mouth pieties The reliance on the United Nations as a means of avoiding war is not only unlikely to work, but has the potential to do just the opposite. The United States is using the United Nations as a cloak for imperial aggression."
The same is true today. We need to say: No war on Iraq! End the sanctions! U.S. out of the Gulf!
Who won't allow inspectors?
THE BUSH administration is constantly squawking about the Iraqi government's refusal to allow UN weapons inspectors "unfettered access." Iraq threw out the last weapons inspectors in 1998, Washington claims, and now they must allow their unconditional return.
But in truth, it was the U.S.--not Iraq--that ordered the inspectors to withdraw in 1998, on the eve of a new bombing campaign called Operation Desert Fox. What's more, U.S. officials admitted in 1999 what Saddam Hussein had long alleged--that the inspectors were spying for the U.S. In fact, data gathered by UN inspectors was used to pick targets during Operation Desert Fox.
Meanwhile, just last year, the Bush administration denied international inspectors access to U.S. chemical and biological weapons facilities--almost certainly the source of the anthrax strain that killed five people in the U.S. after September 11--on the grounds that it might violate "proprietary commercial interests."
In 1997, the Senate passed a bill declaring that "the President may deny a request to inspect any facility in the United States in cases where the President determines that the inspection may pose a threat to the national security interests of the United States." And the bill states that, "Any objection by the President to an individual serving as an inspector shall not be reviewable by any court."
Now Iraq faces the prospect of a savage new war--for expecting the same treatment that the U.S. demands for itself.
Terrorist group linked to...John Ashcroft
ONE DAY after the Blair dossier was released, the Bush gang weighed in with its own sensational accusations that members of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network are in Baghdad.
For months after the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration tried to connect Saddam and al-Qaeda--but to no avail. After downplaying the claim for months, the Bush gang is suddenly resurrecting it.
What hogwash! First, Saddam Hussein's secular regime in Iraq is fiercely opposed to Islamic fundamentalism--especially the Wahhabist version practiced by al-Qaeda. What's more, a 27-page document detailing Iraq's ties to terrorist organizations released by the White House in September made no mention of Iraqi ties to al-Qaeda.
But it did highlight Iraqi backing for the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO). The MKO, according to a September 26 Newsweek article, is "an obscure Iranian dissident group that has gathered surprising support among members of Congress in past years." One of those congressional representatives is now a "leader" in the "war on terrorism" and Bush's attorney general--former Sen. John Ashcroft (R-Mo.).
In 1997, the MKO was placed on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations, and in 1999, its front group--the National Council of Resistance of Iran--was added. In 2000, when the National Council protested a speech by Iranian President Mohammed Khatami at the United Nations, Ashcroft and the other senator from Missouri issued a "joint statement of solidarity."
A Justice Department flack defended Ashcroft as a supporter of "democracy and freedom in Iran." But, the spokesperson added, Ashcroft has "no problem" prosecuting U.S.-based terrorist groups, including the MKO.
But will Ashcroft charge himself as an accessory?