This article is Part III of The Dubya Report's three-part response to Bush's State of the Union message. See also
Three quarters of the way through his State of the Union Message, Bush finally addressed the conflict with Iraq. He offered no new evidence, and seemed, as Salon.com suggested in the lead-in to Jake Tapper's piece, to be trying "to scare the bejesus out of his audience."
Subsequent revelations, particularly Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council, and its critique by experts and the media, have highlighted the varied history of US involvement in the region, and suggest that Bush's Iraq policy is being determined -- even more than by big-oil interests -- by a group of ideologically committed partisans with ties to Israel's Likud party, who have been advocating the overthrow of Saddam Hussein for nearly a decade.
Except where noted, block quotes are excerpts from the Bush State of the Union message
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost.
To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities. Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world.
In an open memo to Bush published in the journal CounterPunch in response to Powell's UN presentation, an association of intelligence professionals comprised primarily of CIA analysts, and calling itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) suggest that the appropriate question is not whether Iraq is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. "That had already been demonstrated by the chief UN inspectors," they write. Rather, "The key question is whether Iraq's flouting of a UN resolution justifies war."
Noting that Iraq is not the only nation in violation of UN resolutions, the VIPS memo cites Resolution 242, which requires Israel to withdraw from territories it occupied in 1967, and the Russian violation of the ABM treaty in 1983, which the US termed a "material breach" in 1988, but which Russia agreed to rectify in 1989. The writers of the memo add, "We adduce this example simply to show that, with patient, persistent diplomacy, the worst situations can change over time."
Chemical and Biological Weapons in Context
The 108 U.N. inspectors were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax, enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
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. He hasn't accounted for that material. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed it. Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He has not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them, despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990's, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
... Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.
Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy and it is not an option. The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues and rape.
If this is not evil then evil has no meaning.
Missing from Bush's litany is the contextual information that Iraq developed its chemical and biological capability with the full knowledge of the US, and with assistance from Western companies possibly including foreign subsidiaries of US firms. And, as we have reported elsewhere in The Dubya Report "Poppy" Bush's administration, like the Reagan administration before it, went to great lengths to bend the rules (if not violate the law) to provide millions of dollars for Iraq to carry out its war against Iran. Moreover, as Newsweek reported on February 24, Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq's program for developing "weapons of mass destruction" told British and US intelligence officers, and UN officials in 1995 that Iraq had destroyed its WMD stocks and the missiles to deliver them, at the end of the Gulf War.
When Iraq attacked Iran in 1980, the US adopted a public posture of neutrality, although Iran was armed almost exclusively with weapons that originated in the US, which it obtained from Israel, Europe, Asia, and South America. By 1982 the Reagan administration had decided that an Iranian victory did not serve US interests, and began adjusting policy so as to support Iraq. Among the measures taken was removing Iraq from the list of nations sponsoring terrorism; it had been placed on the list previously because of support of Palestinian nationalist groups. The White House and the State Department prevailed upon the Export-Import Bank and the Department of Agriculture to provide Iraq directly and indirectly with funds to enable it to continue the war against Iran.
In October 1983, culminating a series of complaints, Iran requested that the UN Security Council investigate Iraq's use of chemical warfare. Despite provisions of the 1925 Geneva convention requiring the international community to respond to allegations of chemical warfare use, Iran's earlier complaints had received only perfunctory response. A November 1983 State Department memo confirms that the US had knowledge of Iraqi use of chemical weapons. Moreover, the memo acknowledges that Iraq had the means to produce chemical weapons, obtained "primarily from Western firms, including possibly a US foreign subsidiary."
The Reagan administration decided to take no action other than to monitor the situation, although the State Department argued that the US should communicate to Iraq its opposition to the use of chemical weapons. Nonetheless, in November 1982 a National Security Decision Directive (NSDD 114) summarizing US policy in the Iraq-Iran war was primarily concerned with protecting oil facilities, and did not mention chemical weapons. "because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic."
In December 1983, Donald Rumsfeld -- then head of pharmaceutical firm GD Searle -- visited Baghdad as a special Middle East envoy. According to George Washington University's National Security Archive, Rumsfeld discussed with Saddam Hussein two issues of mutual US/Iraqi concern: enmity toward Iran and Syria, and alternatives for transportation of Iraqi oil (since the Persian Gulf and a pipeline through Syria were currently unavailable). Detailed notes of the meeting obtained by the National Security Archive show no mention of chemical weapons.
By 1984 the US had expressed its opposition to Iraq's use of chemical weapons, although defense department intelligence analyses suggested that Iraq was likely to retain its chemical weapons production capacity, and probably embark on a program to develop nuclear weapons, even after the war with Iran. Iran meanwhile had asked the UN to condemn Iraq's use of chemical weapons. The US delegation engaged in a series of maneuvers at the UN to restrain the UN response to Iran's complaint. The final resolution condemned the use of chemical weapons without identifying any country in particular.
According to a State Department memo dated November 16, 1984, Iraq had ceased to deploy chemical weapons in November 1983, but had resumed in February 1984. Joyce Battle of the National Security Archive writes, " Chemical warfare was viewed as a potentially embarrassing public relations problem that complicated efforts to provide assistance. The Iraqi government's repressive internal policies, though well known to the U.S. government at the time, did not figure at all in the presidential directives that established U.S. policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The U.S. was concerned with its ability to project military force in the Middle East, and to keep the oil flowing."
The Guardian (UK) reported recently that the Falluja 2 chemical plant, cited by the US as a key component of the Iraqi chemical weapons program, was built the British subsidiary of Uhde, Ltd. of Dortmund, Germany, in 1985. The disclosure was prompted by a statement from Uhde, issued on March 5, 2003. The Thatcher government intentionally concealed the existence of the plant from the US, and the British "export guarantee credit department" -- the equivalent of the US Export-Import Bank -- was instructed not to make the deal public, accroding to the Guardian. Despite protestations by an Uhde spokesman that the plant was used for routine production of chlorine and caustic soda, the Guardian asserted that British intelligence at the time was aware that the plant was involved in the production of mustard gas and nerve agents. The plant was reportedly completed in May 1990.
On February 24, 2003, Newsweek revealed that Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, who had managed Iraq's WMD development program, told a group of CIA, British, and UN officials, led by then chief UN weapons inspector Rolf Ekeus, that Iraq had destroyed its WMD stocks and related missiles after the Gulf War. Hussein Kamel defected to Jordan in 1995 and was debriefed during the summer of that year, according to the Newsweek report, and "aid out the main personnel, sites and progress of each WMD program." An aide who defected with Kamel provided technical data supporting Kamel's assertions.
UN inspectors reportedly kept Kamel's revelations quiet so that Saddam Hussein would not learn what had been revealed, and might be bluffed into revealing more. A CIA spokesperson speaking to Reuters on the day the Newsweek article was released, denied the Newsweek story, calling it "incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue." Two days later, however, Glen Rangwala of Cambridge University obtained a copy of the full UNSCOM/IAEA transcript, of Kamel's debriefing, which was marked "sensitive."
In the course of the debriefing Kamel was presented with a document that his debriefers had judged a fake, and Kamel confirmed their suspicions. The document, Kamel asserted, was written by Khidir Hamza. "He is a professional liar," Kamel said. "He worked with us but he was useless and was always looking for promotions. He consulted with me but could not deliver anything. He went to the Baghdad University and then left Iraq." Hamza has presented himself to the West as having been the head of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program. As noted elsewhere in The Dubya Report, Bush cited Hamza's statements in his October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, OH. Hamza testified before Congress in the fall of 2002, and his testimony has been used by hawks to justify the need for immediate military action against Iraq.
Regarding WMD, Kamel was unequivocal. On page 13 of the transcript he said, "there was no decision to use chemical weapons for fear of retaliation. They realized that if chemical weapons were used retaliation would be nuclear. They must have a revision of decision to start production. All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons -- biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed." Kamel was killed when he returned to Iraq in 1996.
Down the Tubes
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990's that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon, and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
A September 2002 British government report, which reflects the judgments of British intelligence, noted that "no definitive intelligence" links the tubes to a nuclear program. As reported elsewhere in The Dubya Report, even if one grants that the aluminum tubes were intended for use in nuclear weapons production, their acquisition would indicate that the Iraqi weapons program was essentially starting over from scratch. Separate reports by British and US intelligence agencies, and the Institute for International and Strategic Studies concluded that Iraq could not produce weapons grade uranium for at least five years. Experts have noted that even if Iraq were to obtain the uranium on the black market, it would still need years to develop the warheads and missiles necessary to reach beyond their own borders.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the CIA has previously acknowledged that all but two of Iraq's old inaccurate Scud missiles were used or destroyed as of 1997. Statements from US and British intelligence agencies contend that Iraq is developing longer range missiles, citing a photograph of an appropriately sized test stand. Iraq has countered that the test stand is horizontal, hence not suited for testing the large liquid-propellant engines that would be required to carry a warhead beyond Iraq's borders. Acknowledging that this is one of "many open questions," chief UN inspector Hans Blix observed, "... this is not the same as saying there are weapons of mass destruction."
On March 7, 2003, chief nuclear inspector for Iraq, Mohammed El Baradei, declared that the documents used to substantiate the British claim that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Africa were "not authentic." This is diplomatic parlance for labeling them fakes. An unidentified IAEA official told the Guardian (UK) "Close scrutiny and cross-checking of the documents, the letterheads on them, the signatures on them, led us to conclude with quite absolute certainty that the documents were false." The country of Niger had been identified by British officials as the source of the uranium. According to the Guardian, "The fabrication was transparently obvious and quickly established ... suggesting that British intelligence was either easily hoodwinked or a knowing party to the deceit." The documents had apparently been fabricated in Africa, and then passed to western intelligence agencies.
The Al Qaeda Disconnection
The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary, he is deceiving. From intelligence sources, we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses. Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks, to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack. With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East, and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
Before Sept. 11, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons, and other plans - this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes.
In October 2002 CIA director Tenet sent a letter to members of Congress stating that the CIA's "understanding of the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda is evolving and is based on sources of varying reliability." Speaking in Cincinnati, OH on October 7, Bush said "We've learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases." Tenet's letter stated only that there had been "reporting" of such training, and did not qualify the statement with adjectives such as "solid" or "credible" which were used elsewhere in the document.
Tenet's testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 19, 2002 highlighted al-Qaeda as "the most immediate and serious threat" that the US faces. Iraq was not similarly singled out, but rather included with a list of dangerous entities including Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, FARC in Colombia, the Revolutionary People's Party in Turkey, and the government of Iran.
Tenet pointed out that Iraq's military force had been "reduced" to "less than half its pre-war size," which was described as "capable of defeating more poorly armed internal opposition groups and threatening Iraq’s neighbors," but did not identify a threat to the US. While stating that Iraq "has had" contacts with al-Qaeda, and indicating that "tactical cooperation between them is possible" Tenet noted that "Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies...."
Rejecting the claim that the administration, and in particular the Defense Department, had been pressuring the CIA to produce analyses consistent with White House positions, officials pointed out that new information had emerged from "interrogations of several Al Qaeda leaders captured in Pakistan and elsewhere since spring." Critics questioned the validity of such information, citing the recent escalation of the terrorism threat level which was subsequently withdrawn when it became clear that the information on which it was based had been fabricated by a suspected terrorist in captivity.
Oil Money and the Quest for Coalition
The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal - Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.
We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
Although Bush has repeatedly stated that the US does not "need" approval of the UN to take military action against Iraq, most polls show that a majority of Americans want international consensus before an attack takes place. Among the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, only Britain has consistently supported the US position. Notably France, but also Russia and China have sought to limit the scope of resolutions conditionally authorizing military action against Iraq. Paul Saunders, of the nonpartisan Nixon Center foreign policy think-tank in Washington told Salon.com, "From their perspective, the U.N. is really the last line of defense from a world in which the United States does whatever it wants, wherever it wants. That kind of world is very frightening to them."
Economy trumps morality in many aspects of the Iraq matter, and this is true at the UN as well. For example, Iraq owes Russia $8 billion for military equipment purchased during the Soviet era, and has entered into oil drilling contracts worth many billions of dollars with Russian firms. "The oil is the main thing," Saunders continued. "There is widespread nervousness in Russia that if the U.S changes regimes in Iraq, then all the oil contracts will come to the United States and Russia will be left out. That could be a real problem for Putin. He has to demonstrate that Russia is getting something out of it, other than good will."
Michael McFaul of the Carnegie Endowment told Salon.com that he does not believe the Bush administration will take any action to protect the Russian oil contracts, and that Russia should focus on trying to get its debt repaid.
Ultimately, Saunders suggested, "It's clear Moscow is not prepared to let this issue stand in the way of the rest of U.S.-Russia relations."
France, though has proved more recalcitrant. In August 2002 France seemed willing to participate in a coalition against Iraq, perhaps even providing troops as they did in the Gulf War. But a policy split developed when the US rejected Saddam Hussein's first offer to allow inspectors, and recently French diplomats have been among the most vocal critics of the Bush Iraq policy. French prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, labeled the Bush approach a "simplistic vision of the war of good against evil."
The French position can't be dismissed as some kind of anti-American extremism, however, given French support of US military action in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. France's current government is led by moderate conservatives, not left-wing extremists. French opposition to the US is widely supported by French voters, and also by much of the European community. Anti-war rhetoric in Germany has perhaps exceeded that in France, with newly re-elected prime minister Gerhard Schroeder having made it the central theme of his campaign.
French commercial interests in Iraq are currently valued at more than $4 billion, making France Iraq's principal trade partner in the West. Iraq reportedly holds $4.5 billion in French debt, as well. Despite French opposition to US policy, observers suggest that French economic interests would be protected in the event of US-led military action in Iraq, because the European community would be called upon to assist in the postwar rebuilding effort.
When Bush spoke to the UN on September 12, challenging the body to respond to Iraq's defiance, Saddam Hussein declared that the US "wants to destroy Iraq in order to control the Middle East oil." And, as the Dallas Morning News reported, " The charge resonated with critics of the Bush administration around the world, who point to Mr. Bush's background in the oil business as further evidence of an oil-driven agenda."
R. Dobie Langenkamp, director of the National Energy-Environment Law & Policy Institute at the University of Tulsa warned of the danger of a new "economic imperialism," with Iraq divided up by the major powers like Germany in the post-WWII era. Known Iraqi oil reserves total 112 billion barrels, which is more than any nation other than Saudi Arabia. The presence of such enormous resources makes planning for a postwar Iraq fundamentally different from similar efforts in Kosovo, Afghanistan, Panama or Grenada.
According to John Lichtblau, chairman and chief executive of the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation in New York, US companies have kept mum about Iraqi oil to avoid exacerbating the political situation. But he suggested that every major oil company had an interest in access to Iraqi oil fields. "If the U.S. in some way controls Iraq, there's no question American companies would be allowed to go in there. Not to drive out the others, because there's room for all of them - the U.S., the Russians, the French - to develop the production that should have been developed over these last 20 years," Lichtblau told the Morning News.
After Bush's UN speech, Saddam Hussein offered lucrative deals to a number of non-US oil companies, signing agreements with firms from France, Spain and Turkey. The University of Tulsa's Langenkamp said that the US would be obligated under international law to honor those agreements, if it became an occupying power in Iraq. But it could apply Iraq's $80 million/month in oil revenue, now administered by the United Nations, to the costs of occupying and rebuilding Iraq. Langenkamp further warned that feuding among various opposition factions in Iraq might make the current administration plans for a coalition government impossible. "With the various factions suppressed over all these years, the Kurds, the Shiites, all these players will be playing for power and for what's almost the biggest oil prize in the world," he said. "The major powers will all have their favorites, and every one of them will be able to fund weapons acquisitions with smuggled oil."
Mr. Powell's Political Theater
Secretary of State Powell's presentation to the Security Council on February 5, which Bush advertised in his State of the Union message, was initially hailed as effective political theater. Once experts had a chance to review his claims, however, a number of problems emerged.
Powell reported that a terrorist camp in northeastern Iraq was producing chemical weapons intended for deployment in Europe, and that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda "associated", was the link between the camp and Saddam Hussein. Powell noted in passing that the camp is in the area of Iraq under Kurdish control -- an area protected by US and British aircraft. Journalists visiting the camp after Powell's presentation found no evidence of chemical weapons production. Writing for the Observer (UK), Luke Harding reported " "There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere, only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking." A report by the Brussels based International Crisis Group concluded that a connection between the Iraqi government and the Ansar al-Islam group that runs the camp is unlikely:
... [I]t is highly unlikely that Ansar al-Islam is anything more than a minor irritant in local Kurdish politics.
Profound ideological differences and a history of atrocities committed by the regime against the Kurds make a strong connection between Saddam Hussein and Ansar al-Islam extremely unlikely.
Ansar al-Islam has been catapulted to a significance that does not appear warranted by the known facts.
A German report summarized in the Wall Street Journal called into question Powell's assertions concerning al-Zarqawi, as well. Based on an 18-month investigation that produced hundreds of pages of documents and transcripts, German officials concluded that al-Zarqawi was connected to a terrorist organization in Europe, but did not find any connection to Iraq. "[W]e don't see any links between Zarqawi and Iraq," a German intelligence official told the Journal said. "We assume that the secular ideology of Iraq is too distant from the religion of al Qaeda for them to cooperate."
In 2002 a number of members of al-Zarqawi's Al Tawhid organization. Cell members characterized al-Zarqawi's ideology as concerned with the cause of the Palestinians, but that he was not a core member of al-Qaeda and that Iraq "never figured into the picture," in the Journal's words.
Powell also reported that two al-Qaeda operatives had been arrested leaving Iraq for Saudi Arabia. Commenting later, however, unidentified US officials suggested to the Journal that the two may have crossed through the Kurdish region of Iraq in fleeing from Afghanistan. Powell further asserted that Saddam Hussein has an "agent" inside Ansar al-Islam, but US officials later told the Washington Post that the agent might be spying on the group rather than directing it.
Powell's credibility was further undercut by a report leaked by the British Defense Intelligence Staff to the BBC on the day of Powell's presentation, which indicated British intelligence does not believe there are any current links between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda. The document, classified Top Secret and written within the last three weeks, stated that there had been contact in the past, but that "any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies," according to reports by BBC and The Independent (UK). According to the BBC, the report states that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden characterizes Iraq's ruling Ba'ath party as an "apostate regime.... His aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq."
Britain's Channel 4 News also reported that a dossier on Iraq prepared by the Blair government, and cited by Powell during his presentation as "the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities," was in large part plagiarized from an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi that appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) last September. Marashi is a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of the Monterey Institute of International Studies. The institute is a nongovernmental organization devoted to research and training on nonproliferation issues.
The British dossier contained numerous excerpts that had apparently been cut and pasted from Marashi's article, in some cases preserving typographical errors. Although the government report conveys the impression that it is based on up-to-date information, journalist William Rivers Pitt has pointed out that the footnotes to Marashi's article lead to the conclusion that the document was intended as an analysis of the Iraqi intelligence apparatus in the 1990s. The Guardian (UK) reported that besides the excerpts from Marashi's paper, another six pages appeared to paraphrase articles published in Jane's Intelligence Review in 1997. Cambridge's Glen Rangwala commented to the Guardian, "Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services, it indicates that the UK really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal policies. It just draws upon publicly available data."
MERIA itself, which published Marashi's thesis, despite a public posture of political neutrality, has ties through its editor, Barry Rubin, to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which in turn has a history of involvement with the Israeli lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (see below), the Israeli military, and the US government. Yossi Olmert and Dore Gold, both of whom served in the Netanyahu government in Israel, are former WINEP fellows or authors. Former US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, the most senior US diplomat to ever have his security clearance suspended, was a former head of WINEP.
Indyk was born in London and raised in Australia, and did not become a US citizen until just over a week before former President Clinton appointed him to the National Security Council as a the top expert on the Middle East. Indyk served twice as US ambassador to Israel, serving as assistant secretary of state for the Near East between ambassadorial stints. Indyk was not accused of espionage, but of mishandling classified materials.
MERIA editor Rubin's public appearances, along with those of Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, self-proclaimed Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidir Hamza, Charles Krauthammer, and other neocon pundits are handled by the "media relations firm" Benador Associates. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, at least nine of the 34 speakers on Benador Associates' list are connected with the conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI), WINEP, and an organization called the Middle East Forum (MEF). Among its projects, MEF sponsors Campus Watch, which it says "monitors and critiques Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them." In practice, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, this means that Campus Watch attacks academics that it deems to be pro-Arab. Its web site lists professors that "Campus Watch has identified as apologists for Palestinian and Islamist violence."
The link connecting Benador Associates, WINEP, and AEI is apparently the newly formed Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI). CLI "was formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations," according to its mission statement. Observers have noted, however, that its representatives advocate right-wing policies consistent with those of the Bush adminsitration. CLI reportedly also coordinates policy briefings and dinners with Condoleezza Rice and other administration officials. CLI's president is Randy Scheunemann, former National Security Advisor for Senators Trent Lott and Bob Dole. According to reporter Jim Lobe, CLI is a spin-off of AEI's Project for a New American Century (PNAC) which promotes the alliance of Christian evangelicals and the right-wing elements of the Israeli lobby. He describes PNAC's policy proposals on the Middle East as having "anticipated to a remarkable degree the administration's own policy course."
We Come in Peace
We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military and we will prevail. And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food, and medicines, and supplies and freedom.
By some accounts, the administration's pursuit of UN authorization for military action represents a victory of Secretary of State Colin Powell's position over that of Vice President Dick Cheney, and his fellow hawks Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz. That policy split has essentially survived intact from the first Bush administration, in which Cheney was Secretary of Defense, and Powell was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, officials in the first Bush administration disagreed about how to respond. Powell advised against countering the invasion with troops, proposing instead to commit forces to defending Saudi Arabia. Agreeing initially, Cheney -- then Secretary of Defense -- and Brent Scowcroft, National Security Adviser at the time, later urged Powell to use less caution in attacking Iraqi troops. And in a posture similar to his position on the current conflict, Cheney opposed seeking authorization for the use of force from Congress or the UN.
At the conclusion of the Gulf War, Powell successfully resisted pressure to send troops to Baghdad a step regarded by many conservatives as "the war's fatal error" Wolfowitz, who was then an aide to Cheney, wrote in 1993 that announcing the troops would not march on Baghdad, before the end of the war, was a mistake.
Wolfowitz and several other members of or advisors to the current Bush administration were signatories to an "open letter" to President Clinton in 1998 that stated in part:
It is clear that this danger cannot be eliminated as long as our objective is simply "containment," and the means of achieving it are limited to sanctions and exhortations. As the crisis of recent weeks has demonstrated, these static policies are bound to erode, opening the way to Saddam's eventual return to a position of power and influence in the region. Only a determined program to change the regime in Baghdad will bring the Iraqi crisis to a satisfactory conclusion.
In addition to proposing an air campaign against the Republican Guard and positioning US ground forces in Iraq, the letter advocated recognizing "a provisional government of Iraq based on the principles and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC)."
According to a February 1998 report by Peter Jennings, the name Iraqi National Congress was coined by the Rendon Group, a public relations firm whose clients include the CIA, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the government of Kuwait, and Monsanto Chemical corporation. The Rendon group has claimed that during the Gulf War it "established a full-scale communications operation for the Government of Kuwait, including the establishment of a production studio in London producing programming material for the exiled Kuwaiti Television." Among its propaganda activities Rendon Group operatives distributed hundreds of small American flags to the citizens of Kuwait City to enhance the television images transmitted when Kuwait City was liberated.
When "Poppy" Bush signed the "finding" authorizing the CIA to work to remove Saddam Hussein, the Rendon group was hired to disseminate information intended to encourage members of the Iraqi military to stage a coup. Their productions included satirical audio and video, a traveling photo exhibition of atrocities, and radio speeches encouraging defections. Jennings reported that $12 million of CIA funding was routed to the INC between 1992 and 1996. The nominal purpose of the INC -- in reality a loose coalition of 19 Iraqi and Kurdish organizations -- was to "gather information, distribute propaganda and recruit dissidents."
But in a logical twist worthy of Orwell or Borges, the Defense department's internal intelligence operation headed by Abram Shulsky uses the INC as a source for information with which it "rebuts" CIA analyses that are inconsistent with administration policy. Former CIA director James Woolsey, himself a relentless promoter of the link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, admitted to reporter Robert Dreyfuss "A lot of what is useful with respect to what's going on in Iraq is coming from defectors, and furthermore they are defectors who have often come through an organization, namely, the INC, that neither State nor the CIA likes very much."
In fact, last year the State Department stopped funding INC intelligence gathering activities inside Iraq after it was unable to account for $2 million of the $4.5 million it received. The Pentagon promptly filled the funding void, however, and INC information now goes directly to the Defense Department. According to Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. David Lapan. "The intelligence guys here get the information first and do the analysis." Former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman agreed, saying "The INC is in the Pentagon every day."
Former CIA counterterrorism chief Vince Cannistraro describes INC intelligence as unreliable. "Much of it is propaganda. Much of it is telling the Defense Department what they want to hear. And much of it is used to support [INC leader Ahmed] Chalabi's own presidential ambitions. They make no distinction between intelligence and propaganda, using alleged informants and defectors who say what Chalabi wants them to say ... cooked information that goes right into presidential and vice-presidential speeches. They're willing to twist information in order to serve that interest. They've opened up a channel at the Pentagon to collect intelligence from Iraqi exiles, using people off the books, contractors. It's getting pretty close to an Iran-Contra type of situation."
At the center of the campaign against the relatively objective information that the CIA provides is Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and currently chair of the Defense Policy Board. (The Defense Policy Board is a supposedly independent group composed primarily national security experts from the private sector. The board advises the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary and the Under Secretary for Policy on defense policy issues.) Perle has described CIA analysis of Iraq as "not worth the paper it's written on," according to The American Prospect. Perle has reportedly been instrumental in promoting communication between the INC and the Pentagon, in part through sponsorship of former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht. In addition to providing him with the use of a villa in France, Perle arranged for a fellowship for Gerecht at the American Enterprise Institute, where Perle is also employed.
Gerecht does not deny that he is working with the INC, but plays down the significance of his involvement. "It's pretty overstated," I talk to the Iraqi opposition now and then, but there are a lot more people in Washington who talk to the Iraqi opposition.," he told The American Prospect. "So I don't think that Pentagon requires my assistance ... in gathering information from Iraqi opposition." Gerecht is a member of the neocon cabal that includes Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith and other signatories of the 1998 letter, for whom defeating Saddam Hussein is a strategic imperative. Gerecht wrote in the Wall Street Journal "If we really intend to extinguish the hope that has fueled the rise of al-Qaeda and violent anti-Americanism throughout the Middle East, we have no choice but to re-instill in our foes and friends the fear and respect that attaches to any great power. Only a war against Saddam Hussein will decisively restore the awe that protects American interests abroad and citizens at home. We've been running from this fight for 10 years."
Perle and Feith's opposition to Iraq dates back at least to 1996, when Perle headed a group that produced for a political candidate a position paper on Middle East policy that proposed:
- Abandoning commitment to "comprehensive peace" in favor of a "balance of power"
- In cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, ... weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria," including attacking selected targets in Syria
- Removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq
The position paper was not written for any US candidate, however, but rather for Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign to become prime minister of Israel. Netanyahu's Likud party has close ties with the two most prominent Israeli lobbying groups, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Both of these organizations represent points of view that are often considerably to the right of the majority of American Jews. For example, a survey by Jewish Week one month after the terrorist attacks of September 2001 found that 85 percent of American Jews advocated increased US efforts in promoting negotiations to end violence between Israel and Palestinians, and 73 percent supported the US facilitating the peace process even if that caused diplomatic strains between Israel and Washington. By contrast, the core policy-making group at AIPAC seeks to foster "no daylight" between Middle East policy positions of the Israeli and US governments. And in the mid-1990s, Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents, regularly served as associate chairman of annual fundraising dinners for Bet El, a militant settlement near Ramallah that sought to sabotage the peace process by instigating confrontations with Palestinians.
Netanyahu is particularly close to former chairman of the Conference of Presidents and sometime New York mayoral candidate, Ronald Lauder (heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune). When Lauder was campaigning for chairmanship of the Conference of Presidents, Israeli and US Jewish media reported that he had helped bankroll Netanyahu's campaign -- illegal under Israeli law. Lauder provoked the ire of centrist and liberal members of the board of the Conference when he attended a rally in Jerusalem organized to express right-wing opposition to the Barak government's proposals for sharing sovereignty over Jerusalem with the Palestinians. Speaking at the rally, Lauder gave the impression that the Conference supported the right-wing position, saying that he represented "millions of Jews" who believe that Jerusalem should never be divided. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations felt so strongly about Lauder's conduct that he successfully led an effort to pass a resolution enjoining chairmen of the Conference of Presidents from speaking out on issues unless explicitly authorized by the board.
Israeli journalist Israel Shamir, a leading proponent of the One Man, One Vote, One State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict noted in October 2002:
... all senior politicians of the Jewish state, its prime-ministers and ministers for defense, its spokesmen, official and unofficial, publicly and privately call for war. An ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky asked his superiors why they were trying to cause a war between the US and Iraq. The reply was that Israel does not have the manpower and aircraft carriers to do the job. First thing said by Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu on 9/11 was their demand to destroy Iraq (followed by Iran and Libya). Ariel Sharon pushes for war relentlessly
The INC's Chalabi has irked some of his most ardent supporters in Congress and the Pentagon by suggesting that a provisional government should be declared once war begins. Other Iraqi exiles have warned that such an action would fragment anti-Hussein forces inside Iraq. Writing in the Guardian (UK) Kamil Mahdi, cautioned that "the objective of the US is to have regime change without the people of Iraq." "[T]he main historical opposition to the Ba'ath regime - including various strands of the left, the Arab nationalist parties, the Communist party, the Islamic Da'wa party, the Islamic party (the Muslim Brotherhood) and others - has rejected war and US patronage over Iraqi politics. The prevalent Iraqi opinion is that a US attack on Iraq would be a disaster, not a liberation," he wrote.
According to The Independent (UK) the US angered Iraqi Shia and Kurdish opposition leaders at a meeting in Ankara, Turkey in early February, by suggesting that a postwar military government would leave in place "most of the Sunni establishment that had served President Hussein.
"The Days of Mourning"
Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American armed forces: Many of you are assembling in or near the Middle East, and some crucial hours may lay ahead. In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you.
Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a president can make. The technologies of war have changed. The risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost, and we dread the days of mourning that always come.
Bush's compassion for service men and women in his State of the Union message was nowhere to be found when his administration recently cut off health care benefits for close to 200,000 veterans. In their open memo to Bush, members of VIPS suggested that the action was related to the equivalent number of Gulf War veterans who returned from the battlefield with unexplained nervous system disorders. The letter quotes an October 2002 report by the General Accounting Office that "serious problems still exist" in efforts to protect military personnel against chemical and biological agents. "Today's battlefield is likely to be even more sodden with chemicals and is altogether likely to yield tens of thousands more casualties," the intelligence group wrote.
As reported elsewhere in The Dubya Report, the most optimistic scenario envisioned by a panel convened by Barron's estimates many hundreds, or even thousands of US casualties, if ground operations in Iraq last only a few weeks. The worst-case scenario is one referred to in an October CIA report delivered to Congress, and cited by the VIPS report:
Should Saddam conclude that a US-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions.
[For now] Baghdad appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical/biological warfare against the United States.
[In the face of a US attack, however] Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a weapons-of-mass-destruction attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.
Echoing what other administration critics have argued, the VIPS memo concludes:
[T]errorism is like malaria. You don't eliminate malaria by killing the flies. Rather you must drain the swamp. With an invasion of Iraq, the world can expect to be inundated with swamps breeding terrorists. In human terms, your daughters are unlikely to be able to travel abroad in future years without a large phalanx of security personnel.
We recommend you re-read the CIA assessment of last fall that pointed out that "the forces fueling hatred of the US and fueling al Qaeda recruiting are not being addressed," and that "the underlying causes that drive terrorists will persist." That CIA report cited a Gallup poll last year of almost 10,000 Muslims in nine countries in which respondents described the United States as "ruthless, aggressive, conceited, arrogant, easily provoked and biased."
Mourning will of course not be confined to citizens of the US and its coalition partners. A confidential UN report obtained by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq, based at Cambridge University, UK, estimates that in the event of military action, "as many as 500,000 [Iraqis] could require [medical] treatment to a greater or lesser degree as a result of direct or indirect injuries." This number is based on 100,000 estimated direct casualties, and 400,000 indirect casualties. The indirect casualty estimate is based in part on the assumption that "the outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions is very likely." "It is estimated that the nutritional status of some 3.03 million persons countrywide will be dire and they will require therapeutic feeding. This consists of 2.03 million severely and moderately malnourished children under five and one million pregnant and lactating women," the report continues. And "It is estimated that there will eventually be some 900,000 Iraqi refugees requiring assistance, of which 100,000 will be in need of immediate assistance."
For the 5 million Iraqis who the UN estimates could be injured, starved, and displaced by US military action, Mr. Bush offered only the following homily:
And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.
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