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The UN weapons inspections scam

December 6, 2002 | Pages 6 and 7

MANY OPPONENTS of the Bush war drive against Iraq hope that United Nations (UN) weapons inspections will prevent military action--or at least put a brake on it. But from the record of the last 10 years, it's clear that UN inspectors aren't an alternative to Washington's war on Iraq--but a crucial part of it. ASHLEY SMITH explains why.

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"THE BUSH administration has no intention of disarming Iraq through inspection. Their intention is regime removal, and using weapons inspections as a way to trigger military action that will achieve regime removal." That was former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter's conclusion in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ritter is speaking from experience. During his years as an inspector--from the end of the Gulf War in 1991 through 1998--the U.S. government manipulated weapons inspections in order to maintain UN economic sanctions, and then to justify a new bombing campaign against Iraq.

From the beginning, the U.S. made sure that the UNSCOM teams weren't neutral. They were staffed with CIA agents who concentrated on finding out military secrets. The CIA also put scanners in UNSCOM equipment that would relay information directly to the U.S. and Israeli military.

Ritter argues that this "discredited the entire inspections regime. [UNSCOM Chief] Richard Butler allowed several programs--most importantly, a signals intelligence program I designed and ran from 1996 to 1998--to be taken over by the CIA for the sole purpose of spying on Saddam."

In 1996, the CIA used its inspection spies to aid a coup attempt by a group of exiled Iraqi generals who were part of the Iraqi National Accord (INA). According to his new book War Plan Iraq, Milan Rai reports that UNSCOM spies made contact with potential assassins in the elite Republican Guard.

The Iraqi government foiled the plot. But as journalist Dilip Hiro put it, "Once the Iraqi regime had got over its alarm and shock, it stiffened its stance on UNSCOM inspections. It now perceived these exercises as a part of communications channels for coordinating a coup to be staged after its attention had been diverted by U.S. military strikes, which would also provide a chance for the Jordan-based INA insurgents to enter Iraq to carry out subversive acts."

In 1998, Washington used UNSCOM again--this time to justify a new bombing campaign. The U.S. pressured Richard Butler to step up provocative inspections of sites like the Ba'ath Party headquarters, in violation of protocols negotiated earlier.

Because the Iraqi regime had cooperated with the vast majority of inspections, the U.S. had to stage confrontations--and highlight infrequent clashes that did take place, making them seem like the rule, not the exception.

Butler did the dirty work. Bill Clinton and his National Security Adviser Sandy Berger vetoed the first draft of Butler's report to the UN, forcing him to rewrite it to provide a justification for air strikes. U.S. officials played a "direct role in shaping Butler's text during multiple conversations with him at secure facilities at the U.S. mission to the United Nations," the Washington Post reported.

Though Butler could only claim that Iraq had obstructed five out of 300 inspections, he concluded that UNSCOM "is not able to conduct the substantive disarmament work mandated to it by the Security Council." The U.S. then told UNSCOM inspectors to leave Iraq--and launched a four-day bombing campaign.

Ever since, Washington has lied about what happened--and the U.S. media willfully reported these lies, claiming that Iraq obstructed the inspectors, forced them to leave the country and left the U.S. with no choice but bombs. Now, the Bush White House is set to use the UN and its new weapons investigation unit UNMOVIC in exactly the same way.

Fearing that he would be too principled, U.S. officials didn't want Hans Blix to head up UNMOVIC. But almost daily harangues in the U.S. media have pressured Blix to take a tough line, promising unannounced inspections of sensitive sites without any kind of protocols.

And even if the inspections fails to turn up a suitable pretext, Bush adviser Richard Perle told British lawmakers last week that the U.S. will go to war, regardless of what UNMOVIC discovers in Iraq.

In other words, Bush--like Clinton before him--is using inspections to provide international cover for Washington's war on Iraq. UN inspections aren't an alternative to war. They are a tool for waging war.

Twisting some arms at the UN

ONE STORY that you probably didn't read in the bluster about last month's unanimous United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq was about how the U.S. government made sure it was unanimous. A little bit of carrot, and a lot of stick.

One of Washington's victims was Mauritius, a poverty-stricken African country that held one of the rotating Security Council seats during deliberations on the resolution.

The Mauritius government recalled its ambassador for failing to support Washington's original draft. Seems that Mauritius is a recipient of U.S. aid--and wanted to keep it that way.

Government officials in Mauritius were, as the InterPress Service news agency put it, "seemingly aware of the fact that in 1990, the United States almost overnight cut about $70 million in aid to Yemen immediately following its negative vote against a U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution to militarily oust Iraq from Kuwait."

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