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Case for war crumbles
Lies that paved the road to war

August 8, 2003 | Pages 6 and 7

WEEK BY week, the Bush administration's case for its bloody war on Iraq is crumbling.

Mostly, the mainstream media have focused on George W. Bush's State of the Union address lie--his claim, repeated before and since, that the Iraqi government was trying to obtain uranium from the African country of Niger to build a nuclear weapon. But the whole case for war is full of holes--and more and more people realize it. Now, Washington's occupation of its new oil colony is exposing an even bigger lie--that the U.S. government cares about justice and democracy for ordinary Iraqis.

ELIZABETH SCHULTE shows how the revelations about Bush's pack of lies is proving that the antiwar movement was right all along.

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SIXTEEN WORDS. When the loyal U.S. corporate media got done with telling the story about how the Bush administration lied to get the U.S. public to go along with a war on Iraq, it came down to just 16 words.

"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," Bush claimed in his State of the Union address. Antiwar activists recognized that for the fabrication it was at the time. But it took months for the mainstream media to get around to questioning the claim--well after the issue had become a scandal in Britain and elsewhere. Finally, this summer, CIA insiders admitted to the press that the White House had strong-armed the spy agency into supporting faked "evidence."

Of course, the lie about Niger and uranium was only one of many. Like the claim that Saddam Hussein worked with al-Qaeda to plot the September 11 attacks. Or that he was preparing to hand over weapons of mass destruction to Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.

Try as they might, Bush administration officials never found a link between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda. And they haven't found any "weapons of mass destruction"--despite the fact that the U.S. has had free reign to search Iraq for more than four months. In its desperate attempts to rationalize Bush's war after the fact, the U.S. has hit nothing but dead ends--like the June discovery of supposed "mobile weapons units," another fraud that captured front-page headlines until it was debunked.

In fact, senior administration officials last week told the Washington Post that U.S. officials under the direction of the CIA interviewed four senior Iraqi scientists and more than a dozen lower-level former government officials--and turned up nothing. If you remember the prewar propaganda offensive, these were the scientists who would tell all once the threat of repression by Saddam's regime was ended. Turns out the Pentagon still can't get the answers it wants.

Some Iraqis have been held for months in the desperate search for a smoking gun. Amir Saadi, Iraq's former chief liaison with United Nations weapons inspectors, gave himself up to U.S. military police more than three months ago. "I want to surrender," he told his wife Helma, according to her account in the Washington Post. "I want to cooperate. It will be just a matter of a few hours, and I'll be back."

He's still being held. His wife believes that the U.S. is holding Saadi because "he is telling the truth…They have realized there are no weapons of mass destruction and the quagmire they have created. They want to hold someone as a scapegoat."

But this hasn't fazed the Bush administration. "It's going to take awhile, and I'm confident the truth will come out," Bush said last week.

In the meantime, the White House is relying on its fallback position: The U.S. "liberated" Iraq. "Some have pointed in recent weeks to the controversy over those 16 words in the State of the Union, the missing weapons of mass destruction and continuing unrest in Iraq as evidence that President Bush misled us into an unjustified war," Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman--one of Washington's most fervent hawks--said on July 29. "But nothing we have learned since the end of the conflict should make us doubt that we were right to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein and protect America and the rest of the world from his aggression."

This is the biggest lie of all.

Ask Nudir, a young engineer who lives in the Zeyouna district of Baghdad. Nudir committed the "crime" of missing an 11 p.m. curfew--and was stopped by U.S. troops. When soldiers found a revolver that he kept for self-defense in his glove compartment, he was arrested, beaten and put in a wire-mesh cage with 350 other suspects. He ended up at the Camp Cropper detention center, where he spent more than two weeks registered as "enemy prisoner of war"--number 8,122.

"We slept on the ground, on newspapers or, for those who were lucky, on gunnysacks," Nudir told Paris' Libération newspaper. "The food was meager, army rations once a day, and water was even scarcer, scarcely three liters a day despite the extreme heat. The latrines were just holes dug inside the enclosure giving off a pestilential stench."

Their captors punished the detainees by making them stand for hours in the sun, arms and legs outstretched. "When a prisoner collapsed, they brought him to with a little water, and then he had to resume his standing position," said Nudir.

This is what the U.S. means when it claims to be bringing liberation to Iraq. And when the people of Iraq aren't being arrested and detained, they are being punished by the brutal conditions that exist throughout Iraq--where clean water, food and electricity remain still scarce.

The lies that Washington told to get their war have been laid bare for the world to see. Now it's time to expose the biggest lie of all. End the occupation now!

Bush's lapdog totters

GEORGE W. BUSH'S most important international ally in his war on the world is tottering. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is facing the worst crisis of his six years in office as a result of his lying to justify the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

In the most spectacular stage yet of the scandal over his shilling for the war, Blair and other top officials in his government will have to testify at a special inquiry into the suicide of a Ministry of Defense adviser who apparently was scapegoated by Blair's administration for talking to the press.

Dr. David Kelly was the unnamed official who told a BBC reporter that Blair's right-hand man, adviser Alastair Campbell, "sexed up" intelligence from the ministry and Britain's spy agency MI5 to make for a more persuasive case for war. Under mounting pressure after he was publicly identified, Kelly committed suicide in mid-July. Top officials around Blair are accused of being responsible for that pressure--by leaking Kelly's identity to intimidate other government officials from talking to the press.

Britain has been shaken for months by widespread questioning of the Blair government's "dossier" on the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein--particularly, the claim that Iraq possessed workable "weapons of mass destruction" and was capable of deploying them "in 45 minutes," as Blair famously said before the war. Blair and fellow Labour Party leaders have seen their popularity plummet as their prewar lies about Iraq have been exposed.

Former officials from his Cabinet have denounced their old boss as an "emperor" and a "complete convert to [George Bush's] neoconservative view of the world." But the real pressure on Blair is coming from below.

Blair won the prime minister's office in 1997 when a tide of anger with nearly two decades of rule by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party swept the Labour Party to a huge majority in Britain's parliament. But Blair disappointed his supporters ever since, following policies that in many ways were no different from the Tories (as Britain's Conservative Party is known).

For many, Blair's unquestioning support for the Washington war machine in its war drive against Iraq was only the final straw. Antiwar marches in the lead-up to the invasion were the largest ever to take place in Britain. The scandal over Blair's lies today is the result of that massive outpouring of opposition to war.

Blair hopes to ride out the storm, but the pressure is building for him to resign. That would be a huge blow for the warmongers in both Britain and the U.S.--and a victory for the antiwar movement.

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