Sunday, June 01, 2003

A short history of the Anglo-American lie concerning the alleged presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq:

  1. STEP 1: Bush needed an excuse to attack Iraq. He wanted to attack Iraq for five main reasons, none of which would be acceptable to Congress or the American electorate:

    • to steal Iraq's oil and to gain control of the international oil market for the benefit of his crony capitalist friends;

    • to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq so that it may be partially rebuilt at huge profits by Bush's crony capitalist friends using the profits from the oil that can't be decently stolen by the oil companies;

    • to remove a potential future threat to Israel;

    • to take control of a geopolitically important piece of land and put American military bases there; and

    • to show the rest of the world that the Bushite American government is without any scruples and will break any and all rules of international law or morality to get what its oligarchs want, and therefore to encourage future compliance from other countries in the world.

    Since September 11, a great many Americans actually perceive themselves to be at war, and Americans are lazy and stupid and easily deceived by the media, so it wasn't difficult for the Bush Administration, using faked terror warnings to emphasize the point, to claim that the United States was under imminent attack by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and that this threat justified war. Bush actually managed to convince many Americans that Saddam was responsible for the attacks of September 11! Of course, anyone with half a brain could see that even if Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, he had no way to deliver them to the United States, but that minor detail appears to have escaped the majority of Americans. There were other reasons given for the war, most notably that it was to liberate the people of Iraq from a tyrant - a laughable reason coming from the Americans who have spent most of the last 50 years propping up tyrants - and the equally ridiculous notion that Saddam was somehow allied with with his archenemy bin Laden, but there was no other reason besides the weapons of mass destruction that could possibly justify the unprovoked attack on a sovereign country. The argument was repeated over and over again (there are some compendiums of the many statements by Bush Administration officials on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction). Bush's poodle, Tony Blair, needed even more of an excuse for the war, so he gilded the lily with the idea that the WMD could be ready for use in as little as 45 minutes, an idea that was rejected by British intelligence as being unreliable but was included in Blair's dossier to make it 'sexier'. Without the story of the weapons of mass destruction, neither Bush nor Blair could have had this attack on Iraq.

  2. STEP 2: Find the weapons of mass destruction. They looked here, they looked there, they looked everywhere. Nothing. They looked some more. Still nothing. Time for the spinning.

  3. STEP 3: Claim that the WMD are there and will be found.

  4. STEP 4: We found them! Er, no.

  5. STEP 5: As the attack on Iraq proceeded, keep claiming you found them and hope the repetition of the lie will make people believe it.

  6. STEP 6: Bolton's argument that they didn't need to find actual WMD, but all that was required was that Iraqis have the intellectual capacity, at some indeterminate time in the future, to possibly produce such weapons. Since every country in the world has biologists and nuclear physicists, this argument means that Americans can attack any other country if they can imagine that such country might possibly produce WMD in the future.

  7. STEP 7: Wolfowitz's arguments that the weapons of mass destruction were part of a propaganda exercise: "The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason . . . ." Here is the whole section of Wolfowitz's controversial comments from an interview (or here) with Sam Tannenhaus of Vanity Fair:

    "Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into -

    Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but - Hold on one second.


    Kellems: Sam there may be some value in clarity on the point that it may take years to get post-Saddam Iraq right. It can be easily misconstrued, especially when it comes to -

    Wolfowitz: There have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. Sorry, hold on again.

    Kellems: By the way, it's probably the longest uninterrupted phone conversation I've witnessed, so -

    Q: This is extraordinary.

    Kellems: You had good timing.

    Q: I'm really grateful.

    Wolfowitz: To wrap it up.

    The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.

    Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia -

    Wolfowitz: I was. It's one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don't understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.

    I understand what they're thinking about. I'm not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It's as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed.

    The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting - the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check - I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they'd say that's not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.

    Q: Which also makes you wonder about how much faith there is in spreading democracy and all the rest among some of those who -

    Wolfowitz: Probably not very much. There is no question that there's a lot of instability that comes with democracy and it's the nature of the beast that it's turbulent and uncertain.

    The thing is, at a general level, I've encountered this argument from the defenders of Asian autocracies of various kinds. Look how much better off Singapore is than Indonesia, to pick a glaring contrast. And Indonesia's really struggling with democracy. It sort of inherited democracy under the worst possible conditions too, one might say. But the thing that - I'd actually say that a large part of Indonesia's problems come from the fact that dictatorships are unstable in the one worst way which is with respect to choosing the next regime. Democracy, one could say, has solved, not solve perfectly, but they represent one of the best solutions to one of the most fundamental instabilities in politics and that's how to replace one regime with another. It's the only orderly way in the world for doing it other than hereditary monarchy which doesn't seem to have much of a future.

    Q: Thanks so much."

    Wolfowitz himself admits that the argument of regime change for the benefit of the Iraqi people isn't sufficient for the war, and gives an extraordinarily weak account of the alleged evidence for the connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. He also makes a coded reference to the Israeli reason for removal of Saddam, which he calls 'instability', but which he gives away in referring to threats to 'most friendly governments' and to the $25,000 payments allegedly made by Saddam to families of suicide bombers (has anyone actually proved that any of those payments were made?). The 'bureaucracy' wasn't convinced of the evidence of a connection between Saddam and al Qaeda. Since by 'bureaucracy' he seems to be referring to the intelligence agencies who would be in a position to know, his comments seem to contain irritation that the 'bureaucracy' wouldn't let them use the Saddam-al Qaeda lie to sell the war. Of course, the reason weapons of mass destruction was chosen was that saving the Iraqi people from Saddam and the protection of Israel from Iraq would not have served the propaganda purposes of the Bush Administration in mongering this war, as those reasons would not have convinced the American people. Wolfowitz's comments have been misconstrued, but what he actually said is damning enough. He makes it clear that the concept of weapons of mass destruction is part of a propaganda operation, and that it was chosen as the selling point for the war because the other selling points had flaws. His statements aren't a 'smoking gun' that they knew there were no such weapons, but they are evidence that their existence was essentially irrelevant, as the main purpose of the allegation was to sell the war to the American people.

  8. STEP 8: Rumsfeld's argument that Saddam destroyed the WMD just before the war started. This is a recycled argument made popular by Judith Miller in her now infamous article in the New York Times, an article of such dubious journalistic integrity that it has probably made the courses of every school of journalism in the world. Some feel that the hugely overwrought Jayson Blair imbroglio in the New York Times, a matter which could easily have been handled with tact and class, was intended to draw attention away from this article and the reporting of Judith Miller generally, an area where the whole integrity and credibility of the New York Times is damaged much more severely than the relatively trivial problems with Jayson Blair as it reaches right into the relationship between the New York Times and the Pentagon/CIA propagandists, and whether the New York Times has any independence or journalistic integrity. The Rumsfeld argument is silly on its face: if Saddam had WMD he either would have used them or destroyed them when such destruction could have averted war, not held on to them until war was inevitable and then destroyed them. Miller's acknowledged main source for her reporting on WMD was Chalabi, and Chalabi was the main source for Tony Blair's 45 minute allegation, not to mention the probable source for the Bush Administration's assurances that the Iraqis would welcome their 'liberators', and Chalabi is a convicted fraudster, the Pentagon's choice to run Iraq, and the man closest to the Bush Administration on the whole Iraq issue - we have all the makings of a grand conspiracy theory running through Chalabi and his odd relationship to the Bush cabal! Are we looking at a Cheney-Chalabi concoction?

  9. Step 9: Two, er, truck trailers are the weapons of mass destruction (this is getting pathetic, particularly as no chemical traces were found, thus serving as 'proof' that they must have been scrubbed clean by a deceitful Saddam, i. e., the absence of evidence is now evidence that weapons did exist but were destroyed!!). Experts question the purpose of the trucks, and doubt the Bush Administration's story.

  10. STEP 10: Bush's allegation that they have discovered weapons of mass destruction, referring to the truck trailers. So they killed at least thousands of Iraqi civilians and who knows how many soldiers, and permanently damaged international law and destroyed the international reputation of the United States, all because of two truck trailers? Were all the American and British intelligence agencies aware of these two truck trailers, and was this the real reason for the war?! I wonder what Tony Blair thinks Saddam was going to do with them in 45 minutes. Would he shoot them to London? I hope they save them and put them in a museum dedicated to man's folly.

  11. STEP 11: Poodle Blair's argument that he has 'secret proof' that Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction, and that the British are too busy to look for them.

In summary, the Bush Administration needed a story to sell the war. They couldn't sell it on protecting Israel or liberating the Iraqi people, and they certainly couldn't give the real reasons for the war. The government experts doubted the Saddam-al Qaeda connection, so, much to Wolfowitz's disgust, they couldn't use that reason (though they certainly hinted at it). They were left with one lie, that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States through his possession of weapons of mass destruction. The fact that Chalabi was:

  1. the source for the most important of Blair's allegations, allegations which Blair needed to sell the war to his skeptical caucus, and Bush needed Blair's support;

  2. the source for the whole Bush Administration's view of the feelings of the Iraqi people towards American 'liberation'; and

  3. the main source of Miller's extremely influential reporting,

may mean that the story of Iraq's imaginary weapons of mass destruction is one of the most important frauds in history.