Powell's Pretext

Revolutionary Worker #1187, February 16, 2003, posted at http://rwor.org

"Much of what we know is akin to an impressionist painting. It's a compilation of several different strands of information that are then triangulated to draw a conclusion."

Top U.S. government official, New York Times , January 25

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stood in front of the United Nations, and the TV cameras of the world, to "make the U.S. case for war"--again.

It reminds us of the way Senator Trent Lott kept "apologizing" for his public racism, because no one believed him. On the global stage, U.S. officials keep having to "make the case" for this war because they have no believable argument.

They claim they are threatened by a small, battered third world country half a world away--a country that has been body-searched like a super-max prisoner. They claim Iraq might give weapons it doesn't have, to people who aren't named, for attacks that are not yet planned. They claim to "know" about huge stockpiles of weapons that no one can find.

And meanwhile, everyone knows that Iraq floats on a sea of oil--and everyone suspects that this is a big part of the unspoken real reasons why the U.S. government is so eager to take over.

Powell is considered the best "face" for the final pre-war arguments.

But on February 5, this mask of the "reasonable imperialist" dropped. General Powell is the guy who conquered the Persian Gulf once before for the U.S. and he was there at the UN to press for a new war to "finish the job" (as hawks say).

Consider the Source

Powell played recordings that (he claimed) were conversations between Iraqi officers about banned weapons. He presented pictures that (he claimed) were mobile trailers filled with different war materials--being "evacuated" for places unknown.

Powell himself said, "The photos that I am about to show you are sometimes hard for the average person to interpret--hard for me."

The Iraqi government's chief scientific advisor, Amer Al-Saadi, made the obvious point: "Any third-rate intelligence outfit could have produced such recordings." To accept this "evidence" you have to assume it was not fabricated by the CIA.

Why would any reasonable person support invading a small country based on such assumptions?

Charges of Evacuation

Powell claimed Iraq has an elaborate network of moving stockpiles. In direct contradiction to this the head of the UN weapons inspection team, Hans Blix, said that there is no evidence of mobile biological weapons laboratories or of Iraq trying to foil inspectors by moving equipment before his teams arrived.

Powell claimed the Iraqis were moving weapons out the back door as inspectors were coming in the front. UN inspector Blix said that his inspection teams had taken extensive and sensitive tests with air, soil and water samples at such sites. If forbidden materials had been produced and recently moved, they would have known. In only one case has the U.S. asked Blix to investigate specific trucks--these proved to be food-inspection vehicles with no trace of military materials.

Waving Receipts

Powell charges that the U.S. knows how many weapons Iraqi had years ago and says he doesn't accept Iraq's explanations about the destruction of those materials. On TV, a "military expert" quipped: "We know they have this stuff, cuz we have the receipts." (The U.S. is threatening to bomb Iraq for weapons that the U.S. itself sold the Hussein regime.)

It is hard to know exactly what the Iraqi government has or doesn't have--but this much is clear: the U.S. claims are flimsy and disputed. Many of the weapons they are discussing were used up in the 1991 Persian Gulf war or incinerated in the last inspections round. Some experts (including former inspector Scott Ritter) estimate that this accounts for as much as 90 to 95 percent of these materials.

Hans Blix summed up after Powell's speech: "I don't think there was clear-cut evidence that they have weapons of mass destruction."

The Strange Case of the Aluminum Tubes

The U.S. has claimed that Iraqi military officials traveled the world seeking special "aluminum tubes" to build centrifuges that create nuclear weapons material. UN inspectors investigated the tubes and concluded these tubes were really intended as the casings of rather typical battlefield rockets.

Powell specifically rejected the inspectors' evidence. And it is no mystery why : These aluminum tubes are the only "evidence" for an Iraqi nuclear program. And much of the U.S. war hysteria rests on the scenario that Iraq may soon have nukes.

So Powell argued at the UN that the inspectors were overlooking the suspicious increase in Iraqi specifications for the aluminum tubes they purchase. Powell said, the last batch detected by U.S. intelligence included an "anodized coating" on their surface. If the Iraqis are building battlefield rockets, he asked, why do they need "anodizing" (rust proofing) on them.

Experts quickly pointed out that anodizing makes the tubes unusable for nuclear centrifuges. When Iraqi battlefield weapons were stored for years, they corroded. The anodized coating was to solve that problem. Powell, a expert in stockpiling and using modern weapons, knows all this perfectly well.

The Case of the Missing Links

To frighten people in the U.S., Powell has to paint a picture of Iraq threatening the American "homeland." Powell produced a map of Iraq's missile capabilities--which showed a range limited to a few hundred miles from Iraq's borders. Iraq (unlike General Powell) does not have any means of bombing a country halfway around the world. So to create fear of "threat," Powell must suggest that Iraq may give biological poisons to al-Qaida operatives to deliver in some U.S. city.

The problem is that there is no evidence of such "links." (Though there is lots of evidence of al-Qaida ties within the Pakistani and Saudi governments--close allies of the U.S.)

So Powell must invent evidence for the "missing links." He claimed, first, that there is an Islamist group Ansar al-Islam in northeastern Iraq and, second, that people "linked" to al-Qaida passed through Baghdad, Iraq's capital.

These charges prove nothing. Ansar al-Islam is not in al-Qaida, and it is based in parts of Kurdistan that are outside Iraqi government control. In fact, Ansar al-Islam's base is inside the U.S.- patrolled "no fly zone."

Furthermore, if Islamist forces "passed through" Baghdad or got medical treatment there, it does not necessarily mean that the Iraqi government is allied with them. Iraq's Ba'athist Party is a secular movement--much hated by the Islamists, including specifically Osama bin Laden.

Powell admits that his main source for his charges are the detainees that were seized by the U.S. in Afghanistan or other countries and handed over to allied governments for interrogation. What reasonable person accepts as "evidence" the forced confessions of unnamed captives brutalized in the growing global network of sub-contracted U.S. torture chambers?

The week of Powell's speech, his British allies were embarrassed when a British intelligence document surfaced: it dismissed any relation between the Iraqi regime and al-Qaida. Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, then vaguely accused Iraq of creating a "permissive environment" where al-Qaida could move in and out of their country.

The U.S. government charges that 60 different countries have al-Qaida forces operating within them. Are all of these countries supposed to now to be accused of a "permissive environment" and threatened with "regime change" by these imperialists?

Violating Resolutions?

The argument that Iraq is violating UN resolution 1441 is a figleaf legal argument.

First of all, that UN resolution itself reeks of imperialism and hypocrisy--Iraq, a besieged country, is condemned if it acquires weapons which its major accusers (the U.S., Britain, France and Russia) have in huge stockpiles.

If countries are now to be bombed and occupied for ignoring UN resolutions then U.S. allies like Turkey and Israel are far bigger offenders. Iraqi spokeman Amer Al-Saadi made the interesting observation: Resolution 1441, Para. 10 calls upon member states to submit "all evidence in their possession" if they suspect Iraq has committed violations. The U.S. has refused to give its so-called "evidence" to be checked by the UN. So, perhaps the U.S. should include itself among those refusing to cooperate with 1441.

No to This Unjust War!

This speech was a smokescreen--not a "smoking gun"--it was designed to hide the real reasons and motive of this war. Nothing in Powell's disinformation was believable, and even if some of it were true, it would not justify the massive war crime about to pound down on Iraq's people.

At one point, Powell held up a small vial of powder, and said this much militarized anthrax had been enough to paralyze the U.S. Congress in the fall of 2001.

But Powell did not mention that it was the U.S. military's own secret bioweapons used in the attempt to assassinate Democratic senators and liberal news anchors with anthrax--and it was widely suspected that whoever had planted the anthrax was connected to the U.S. military.

If the world wants to inspect and disarm the most dangerous stockpilers of "weapons of mass destruction" it would be wise to start with the U.S. superpower.

As the U.S. government ruthlessly prepares to start this war, people need to cut through this smoke, and expose the lies that portray this imperialist conquest as a way to make people safer.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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