Revolutionary Worker #1202, June 8, 2003, posted at rwor.org
"This conjures up Winston Churchill's famous phrase when he said--don't quote me on this, okay? I don't want to be quoted on this, so don't quote me. He said `sometimes the truth is so precious it must be accompanied by a bodyguard of lies.'"
Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Pentagon briefing shortly after 9/11 (Sept. 25, 2001)
"George Bush is the president, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American: He wants me to line up? Just tell me where.... Whatever arguments one may or may not have had with George Bush the Younger before September 11, he is our commander-in-chief, he's the Man now. And we need unity, we need steadiness. I'm not preaching about it. We all know this."
Dan Rather, CBS News anchor
"In Congress, a senior legislative aide...commented, `Some are astute enough to recognize that the alleged imminent WMD [weapons of mass destruction] threat to the U.S. was a pretext. I sometimes have to pinch myself when friends or family ask with incredulity about the lack of WMD, and remind myself that the average person has the idea that there are mountains of the stuff over there, ready to be tripped over.'"
Seymour M. Hersh, investigative reporter, May 28, 2003
A Knight-Ridder poll conducted in January 2003 reported that 41 percent of Americans believed that Iraq already had a nuclear weapon. Only 24 percent knew the truth: Iraq has no nukes.
How did so many people get a wrong impression on such an important fact? They were fed a steady stream of distortions and hype. They were given the impression that the U.S. government needed to invade Iraq to protect the people of the U.S. from a devastating terrorist attack.
Government officials from Bush down insisted the Iraqi government was close to deploying nuclear weapons and already had battle-ready stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. They insisted the Iraqi government had an alliance with al-Qaida. And they said that Saddam Hussein was a special kind of "evil" who could not be contained by diplomacy or military threats.
This government lied. And the media treated the government's lies as credible,
In May 2002, CBS News anchor Dan Rather said in an interview with BBC, "What we are talking about here--whether one wants to recognize it or not, or call it by its proper name or not--is a form of self-censorship... One finds oneself saying: `I know the right question, but you know what? This is not exactly the right time to ask it.'"
In Part 1, we examined government lies about Iraq's weapons programs. In Part 2 we discuss more lies the U.S. told as it moved toward the war on Iraq.
Lies Offered as "Intelligence"
Government claims about the accuracy of their charges:
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said (Dec. 5, 2002): "The President of the United States and the Secretary of Defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it."
What the facts show:
Before the war, Vincent Cannistraro, former head of CIA counter-intelligence, said: "Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements." ( Guardian , Oct. 9, 2002) Cannistraro added, `'The politicization of intelligence is pandemic, and deliberate disinformation is being promoted. They choose the worst-case scenario on everything, and so much of the information is fallacious." ( Observer,May 11, 2003; "pandemic" means widespread, "fallacious" means misleading.)
UPI, May 29, 2003: "Britain's dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was rewritten on orders from Prime Minister Tony Blair's government... An unidentified expert in Britain's intelligence network told the BBC the 50-page document contained unreliable information and was `transformed' on instructions from Blair's office in the week before its release last September, to make it `sexier.' `The classic example,' the BBC quoted the intelligence officer as saying, `was the statement that weapons of mass destruction were ready for use (by Iraq) within 45 minutes.' "
The governments now claim:
New York Times, May 30, 2003: "Prime Minister Tony Blair angrily denied today that his government had exaggerated intelligence reports showing that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction."
Donald Rumsfeld: "I can assure you that this war was not waged under any false pretext." (AFP, May 29)
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz: "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." ( Vanity Fair,July) Wolfowitz added that one huge, "almost unnoticed"reason for war with Iraq was that it allowed the U.S. to remove troops from Saudi Arabia, a major source of outrage among Muslims.
To the cold-blooded Mr. Wolfowitz, it was acceptable to bomb and conquer a people if that enabled the U.S. to develop better military placement in a strategic region--even while he and his government told a deliberate lie: that the war was needed to protect people from non-existent weapons.
Donald Rumsfeld: "It is also possible that (the Iraqis) decided that they would destroy (weapons of mass destruction) prior to a conflict." ( CBS News,May 29)
What the facts show:
Baltimore Sun, May 22, 2003: "It's possible that the Iraqis could have hidden or deeply buried sensitive materials, but even the leaders of WMD hunters from Task Force 75 and a special operations group from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency don't believe such a theory."
Joseph Cirincione, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: "It's impossible to destroy or hide the quantities the Administration said they had without our noticing it." ( NYT , May 29, 2003)
Former British foreign secretary Robin Cook: "If Donald Rumsfeld is now admitting the weapons are not there, the truth is the weapons probably haven't been there for quite a long time." ( CBS News,May 29)
Inventing Iraqi Links to al-Qaida
Government claims about Saddam Hussein, September 11, and al- Qaida:
NYT, Sept. 27, 2002: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that American intelligence had `bulletproof' evidence of links between al-Qaida and the government of President Saddam Hussein of Iraq."
George Bush said Saddam Hussein is "a man who loves to link up with al- Qaida, a man who is a true threat to America." ( NYT , Sept. 28, 2002)
A poll in October 2002 said that 66 percent of people in the U.S. believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks (Pew Research Center for People and the Press).
What the facts show:
There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved with al-Qaida or with the September 11 attacks.
Wall Street Journal, right after 9/11: "Few U.S. officials believe that any real alliance between Iraq and al-Qaida ever emerged... The two groups share few aims and have very different motivations."(Sept. 19, 2001)
BBC, Feb. 5, 2003: "There are no current links between the Iraqi regime and the al-Qaida network, according to an official British intelligence report seen by BBC News."
New York Times (Oct. 11, 2001) reported that intelligence officials from Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia do not believe there is any serious Hussein-bin Laden connection.
On Sept. 11 itself, top government officials decided to use the airliner attacks to justify war with Iraq. "CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq--even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks." (Sept. 4, 2002)
In October 2002, the New York Times reported that Rumsfeld created a Pentagon operation "to search for information on Iraq's hostile intentions or links to terrorists"--despite CIA reports saying there were none.
Shortly afterward, Rumsfeld announced that he had "solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al-Qaida members" (Seymour Hersh, May 28, 2003). Soon other officials of the U.S. government were presenting what he said as "evidence."
When examined, these U.S. government claims have no basis in fact. Their "evidence" relies on a bogus McCarthyite method of linkology-- If A is linked to B, and B is linked to C, then D must be backing terrorists, and anyone who questions that is probably also linked to terrorists.
Government claims about al-Qaida camp in Iraq:
Secretary of State Colin Powell, UN speech, Feb. 7, 2003: "Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida lieutenants.... When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern Iraq."
During the war on Iraq, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers said (March 30, 2003): "We attacked and now have gone in on the ground into the site where Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida had been working on poisons. We think that's probably where the ricin (poison) found in London came from."
What the facts show:
There was a small camp in northeastern Iraq established by a Kurdish Islamic fundamentalist group called Ansar al-Islam. The camp was in the no-fly zone controlled by U.S. air power for ten years. During this time, it was never under Iraqi government control or protection.
After U.S. commandos took the camp, an L.A. Times reporter on the scene said no chemical or biological weapons were found (April 27, 2003). Associated Press (April 1) reported that after the U.S. takeover of the Ansar camp, " there was no indication any of the evidence tied Ansar to Saddam Hussein as Washington has maintained."
Government claims about links between Sept. 11 hijackers and Iraq:
Shortly after Sept. 11 CNN reported: "U.S. officials revealed Thursday that Mohammed Atta--one of the suspected suicide hijackers--had two meetings, not one, with Iraqi intelligence officers in Prague, Czech Republic. The first meeting was in June 2000 and the second one was in April 2001, sources said. In both cases Atta met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence officers operating under cover as diplomats." (Oct. 11, 2001) U.S. intelligence supposedly got this information from Czech intelligence agencies.
What the facts show:
A year later, the New York Times reported (Oct. 21, 2002): "The Czech President, Vaclav Havel, has quietly told the White House he has concluded that there is no evidence to confirm earlier reports that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the Sept. 11 attacks, met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague just months before the attacks on New York and Washington, according to Czech officials.... Czech officials say they have no evidence that Mr. Atta was even in the country in April 2001. In fact, American records indicate he was in Virginia Beach, Virginia in early April... Over the years, Czech security officials also say that they have never seen any other evidence that Iraqi intelligence officers stationed in Prague were involved in terrorist activities."
Government claims about a "senior al-Qaida leader" and Iraq:
George Bush--in his Oct. 7, 2002 speech--talked about a "very senior al-Qaida leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year."
What the facts show:
The so-called "senior al-Qaida leader" discussed is Abu Musab Zarqawi, an Islamic fundamentalist. Washington Post reported that senior U.S. officials acknowledged Zarqawi " is not under al-Qaida control or direction ." Their report quotes one intelligence analyst saying: "U.S. intelligence officials acknowledged that the terrorist, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was no longer in Iraq and that there was no hard evidence Hussein's government knew he was there or had contact with him." (Feb. 7, 2003)
Presence in various countries is obviously not proof of support by various governments. After all, al-Qaida members and leaders are alleged to have passed through many countries--including Germany, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and the United States itself.
The government now admits:
Now that the U.S. has conquered Iraq, senior American intelligence officials admit "they have not yet found any new and conclusive evidence inside Iraq of connections between Mr. Hussein's government and al-Qaida." ( NYT,May 22)
Invented Threats from Uncontainable "Evil"
Government claims about Saddam Hussein:
U.S. government officials insisted Saddam Hussein was so uniquely "evil" that his government could not be contained or deterred from attacking other countries, including the U.S. Simple self-defense, they insisted, demanded U.S. war and "regime change."
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: "This is an evil man who, left to his own devices, will wreak havoc again on his own population, his neighbors and, if he gets weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, all of us. It is a very powerful moral case for regime change." ( CBS News, Aug 15, 2002)
George Bush, State of the Union speech, Jan. 29, 2002: "Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror... States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
George Bush, Oct. 7, 2002: "While there are many dangers in the world, the threat from Iraq stands alone... By its past and present actions, by its technological capabilities, by the merciless nature of its regime, Iraq is unique." ( Washington Post,Oct. 8, 2002)
These arguments are a mix of misinformation, religious demonology, and profound hypocrisy.
What the facts show about deterrence:
During the first Gulf War in 1991, Iraq's military had chemical weapons and did not use them, even when facing defeat. Clearly Iraq's government, though ruthless in war, had never displayed some special, irrational "evil" but calculated the dangers of escalation and retaliation from its nuclear opponent.
What the facts show about threats on Iraq's neighbors:
In January 2001, when the Bush administration entered office, the outgoing Secretary of Defense William Cohen said in a briefing: "Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors." Iraq had not threatened any countries (including the U.S.) in over ten years. On the contrary, it was Iraq that lived under constant attack.
Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report,points out: "Other powers are actively disrupting the peace in the region: Israel is trying to crush Palestinian resistance to occupation with brute force, and the U.S. and Britain have bombed Iraq 46 times in 2002."
It was hypocrisy for the U.S. to denounce Iraq's history of aggression, when the U.S. supported Iraq's war against Iran. Iraq invaded Iran in September 1980. In February 1982, the Reagan-Bush administration took Iraq off the list of states that sponsored terrorism -- allowing U.S. credits to be used for Iraq's war effort.
Ted Koppel, ABC Nightline , June 9, 1993: "It is becoming increasingly clear that George Bush [Sr.], operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq...."
Government claims about Iraqi use of poison gas:
George Bush, State of the Union speech, January 29, 2002: "This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens."
Colin Powell at the UN, Feb. 5, 2003: "Underlying all the facts and the patterns of behavior that I have identified as Saddam Hussein's contempt for the will of this council: his contempt for the truth and most damning of all, his utter contempt for human life. Saddam Hussein's use of mustard and nerve gas against the Kurds in 1988 was one of the 20th century's most horrible atrocities; 5,000 men, women and children died."
What the facts show:
International Herald Tribune, Jan. 17, 2003: "The public record shows that Saddam's regime repeatedly spread poisonous gases on Kurdish villages in 1987 and 1988 in an attempt to put down a persistent rebellion. Yet it is cynical to use them as a justification for American plans to terminate the regime. By any measure, the American record on Halabja is shameful. Analysis of thousands of captured Iraqi secret police documents and declassified U.S. government documents, as well as interviews with scores of Kurdish survivors, senior Iraqi defectors and retired U.S. intelligence officers, show (1) that Iraq carried out the attack on Halabja, and (2) that the United States, fully aware it was Iraq, accused Iran, Iraq's enemy in a fierce war, of being partly responsible for the attack. The State Department instructed its diplomats to say that Iran was partly to blame. The result of this stunning act of sophistry was that the international community failed to muster the will to condemn Iraq strongly...."
Prof. Peter W. Galbraith, former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, now at National War College: " The Kurds have not forgotten that Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds."
Chris Toensing, editor of Middle East Report : "After being presented with evidence that Iraq had used chemical weapons to attack the Kurds in 1987-88, the Reagan administration blocked a Senate resolution [called the Prevention of Genocide Act] imposing sanctions on Iraq, and continued to pursue good relations with the regime."
To justify their plans to conquer Iraq, the U.S. government portrayed Saddam Hussein as a special kind of monster who had to be overthrown for the good of the world. In fact, the repressive bureaucratic-capitalist government of Saddam Hussein suited the U.S. government just fine when his military served U.S. interests -- especially in the 1980s. It was only after he started defying U.S. demands that the U.S. government started arguing that he was evil.
Robert Fisk, The Independent,Sept. 16, 2002: "Sitting in the UN General Assembly last week, watching President Bush Jr. tell us with all his Texan passion about the beatings and the whippings and the rapes in Iraq, you would have thought they'd just been discovered. For sheer brazen historical hypocrisy, it would have been difficult to beat that part of the president's speech. Saddam, it appears, turned into a bad guy when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. Before that, he was just a loyal ally of the United States, a `strong man'--as the news agency boys like to call our dictators--rather than a tyrant."
If, as the U.S. charges, Saddam Hussein was some "unique evil" for "gassing his own people" -- what does that make the U.S. government, which supplied many of the weapons and helped cover up those attacks?
And what does that make the U.S. government--the government that committed a century of systematic genocide against Indian people within its own borders, unleashed nuclear fire on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dropped thousands of tons of napalm and agent orange all over Indochina, and backed a long list of oppressors who killed "their own people" (including Suharto in Indonesia, Mobutu in the Congo, Pinochet in Chile, the Shah in Iran, Marcos in the Philippines, and, of course, Saddam Hussein himself in Iraq)?
In Part 3, we will examine U.S. government lies during the war itself: their claims about the bombings that supposedly "minimized civilian casualties," the stories of American "heroism," and how they were "bringing democracy and liberation" to Iraq.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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