Letters at 3AM

You don't think that this whole thing with Iraq could have anything to do with the fact that Iraq sits on 10% of the world's oil reserves? Naw. It's gotta be them weapons of mass destruction.

History is no fun. Ian Urbino in Hong Kong's Asia Times (cited in the Dec. 6 issue of The Week): "In 1990, after Iraq invaded Kuwait, Congress was divided on whether to go to war. What swayed many representatives was the testimony about Iraqi atrocities in occupied Kuwait. One 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl ... was particularly compelling. 'Weeping and shaking,' she told a congressional committee that she had seen Iraqi soldiers barge into the neonatal ward [of a hospital] and dump dozens of babies out of their incubators onto the floor ... Before the congressional vote authorizing war, 'seven of the main pro-war senators brought up the baby-incubator allegations as a major component of their argument.' Turned out, though, the story was made up. The ostensible hospital volunteer [who testified] was really a Kuwaiti princess, the daughter of the ambassador to the U.S. And that wasn't the only Gulf War lie. The Pentagon leaked a gripping tale of 'a top-secret satellite image' showing a quarter of a million Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border. Most major U.S. newspapers simply ran the story with Pentagon attribution. But a few enterprising journalists followed up by checking commercial satellite photos -- which revealed an empty, quiet border. By that time, of course, the bombs were already falling."

The same high-ranking American officials who sanctioned the distribution of those lies -- Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell -- are now about to supply last-minute "proofs" of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Their hysteria-producing claims, parroted largely without examination by our mass media, are meant to bury the testimony of people in a position to know the truth and who (since their personal safety is as much at stake as ours) have no reason to tell anything but the truth.

Such testimony is cited by the award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger in his well-documented book The New Rulers of the World: "In 1998, UNSCOM [UN Special Commission on Iraq] reported that, despite Iraqi obstruction in some areas, 'the disarmament phase of the Security Council's requirements is possibly near its end in the missile and chemical weapons areas.' On Dec. 15, 1998, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that it had eliminated Iraq's nuclear weapons program 'efficiently and effectively.' Scott Ritter, for five years a senior UNSCOM weapons inspector, agreed. 'By 1998, the chemical weapons infrastructure had been completely dismantled or destroyed by UNSCOM or by Iraq in compliance with our mandate ... The biological weapons program was gone, all the major facilities eliminated. The nuclear weapons program was completely eliminated. The long-range ballistic missile program was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq's threat, I would say [it is] zero.'"

On Nov. 11, The New York Times reported a statement of Mohamed ElBaradei, the scientist leading the nuclear team of the UN inspectors now in Iraq. He "said he was confident he would find 'all large components' of nuclear weapons work in Iraq ... In a report in February 1999, the [International Atomic Energy Agency] said its inspections to that point 'revealed no indication' that Iraq had a nuclear weapon or retained 'any practical capability' to make [missile] fuel." George W. Bush was quoted in the same article as saying that "if Iraq acquired fissile material, it could build a weapon within a year." Cheney has often said the same. Without directly accusing them of lying, ElBaradei said "it is virtually impossible for Iraq to conceal an advanced nuclear weapons program, as it requires large industrial facilities and emits radioactivity."

On Nov. 9 The New York Times reported that "a key element of [Bush's] strategy, as described by administration officials, is to lure defectors from Mr. Hussein's weapons programs with promises that in return for their testimony, they will not have to return to Iraq under the current government. Their knowledge of where weapons and research facilities are located, officials hope, would provide Washington with the evidence to challenge the list of weapons sites and research facilities that Mr. Hussein is required to produce. ... The second element of the strategy, officials say, is to funnel American intelligence on scores of sites to Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspector."

If America has such intelligence why wasn't it shown to French, German, and Russian leaders, to secure agreement on an outright resolution to invade Iraq? Surely that would have made everything easier. But the leaders of these countries have repeatedly said that the United States has offered them no evidence whatsoever. Given our government's track record of disinformation (lies), can the springing of new "intelligence" be trusted? Or will it be propaganda, as difficult to prove as to disprove, meant to goad Americans into an unprovoked war?

As for the defectors' ploy, its transparency is embarrassing. The morality of scientists who develop weapons of mass murder is, to say the least, questionable. Bush is openly offering such scientists safe haven in exchange for saying what he wants to hear. That's powerful incentive for them to go on record with whatever fabrication suits Bush. "The key to the next few months is getting a couple of good defectors" [my italics]. So said "one senior administration official" on Nov. 8. He went on: "That's why we put in the perjury clause." The Times explained that clause: It "stipulates that any omission from Mr. Hussein's list would itself constitute a 'material breach' and give Mr. Bush the basis for military action."

Can such defectors be trusted? Ralph Ekeus was chief of a former UN weapons-inspection team in Iraq. He has been praised by conservative American commentators as "tough-minded"; they've repeatedly regretted that he is not heading the current inspections. In his role as inspections chief he interrogated Iraqi weapons-program defectors. On Nov. 19 he was quoted by The New York Times as to the defectors' testimony: "Ninety percent of what they were saying was crap."

Yet, by the administration's own admission, the testimony of two such defectors ("a couple") will be enough to plunge our country into war.

When the UN resolution was passed Bush warned everyone not to argue with him: "The world must not lapse into unproductive debates over whether specific instances of noncompliance are serious." Which means: He intends to bribe "a couple of good defectors," and he defies anyone to question their veracity.

On Nov. 8, the day the Security Council finally passed its Iraq resolution, Bush said "the outcome of the current crisis is already determined: the full disarmament of Iraq will occur." Most reliable testimony suggests that the full disarmament of Iraq has occurred. Nevertheless, as far as Bush is concerned, "the outcome of the current crisis is already determined."

You don't think that this whole thing with Iraq could have anything to do with the fact that Iraq sits on 10% of the world's oil reserves? Naw. It's gotta be them weapons of mass destruction. (North Korea, which has no oil, admits having atomic weapons; we have no plans to invade.)

Three thousand died in the indefensible attack on the World Trade Center. On Nov. 22, The New York Times reported that "tens of thousands of [American] patients die each year as a result of medical errors." If Bush was really concerned with your security and mine, you'd think he'd address that. You'd at least think he'd address this: The New York Times on Nov. 21 reported that "last summer Congress approved an emergency appropriations bill that included $39 million to upgrade federal inspections of container ships for dangerous cargo. But the president never allowed the money to be spent because he did not consider the problem to be an emergency. Last month, a study by former senators Gary Hart [Democrat] and Warren B. Rudman [Republican] concluded that the failure to adequately inspect cargo shipments entering United States ports was one of the government's most serious security lapses." Nor has Bush strengthened the protection of our nuclear reactors. Addressing such issues would make us lots safer, but it would not increase Bush's power or the revenues of the oil companies to which he and Cheney owe their lifeblood. It's that simple and that awful. The fact is, most Americans don't read well enough or often enough to know what's going on. For the ignorant, lies are easier to absorb than the truth. For thousands of the innocent on all sides, that means just one irreversible thing: death. end story

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Iraq, Gulf war, John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World, UNSCOM, Ralph Ekeus, Mohamed ElBaradei

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