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Lots of Smokescreens, No Guns

A War in Search of a Justification

by JOSHUA FRANK

On March 20, the twits at FrontPageMag.com interviewed Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot, who stated without a doubt that Saddam shipped WMD off to Syria on the eve of the Iraq invasion. McInerney was referring to documents he believes prove that Saddam was hiding his horrible weapons. Of the 600 documents that have been released to the public thus far, none, I repeat none, say that Saddam shipped off his WMD to secret hiding spots.

It is clear that McInerney, a Fox News (sic) commentator, and the FrontPage conspiracy nuts are desperate to find evidence that WMD existed in Iraq prior to the invasion three years ago. They are also hoping to uncover ties between bin Laden and Saddam. Many of the documents they hope will uncover these claims contain forgeries, rumors, and disinformation. In short, they aren’t the most reliable sources.

Nonetheless, here’s an example of the hearsay propped up by McInerney:

"Yes, [Saddam shipped off WMD] to three locations in Syria and one in Lebanon [Bekaa Valley] in the September-December 2002 time frame. This information was provided by Jack Shaw, the former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security. He charged that Saddam’s stockpiles of WMD were moved by a Russian Spetznatz team headed by Yevgeny Primakov, the former Russian intelligence chief, who came to Iraq in December 2002 to supervise the final cleanup."

I suppose if Jack Shaw says it’s true, it must be. Right. Here’s a guy who in December 2002 released a report of Saddam’s alleged crimes, but as Noam Chomsky noted at the time,

"It was drawn almost entirely from the period of firm U.S.-UK support, a fact overlooked with the usual display of moral integrity. The timing and quality of the dossier raised many questions, but those aside, Straw failed to provide an explanation for his very recent conversion to skepticism about Saddam Hussein’s good character and behavior."

On the flip side of the translation game, Saddam noted over and again that Iraq had no WMD in 2002. In several of the documents now available on the Web in English, Saddam Hussein is quoted as saying to his deputies:

"[The UN inspectors] destroyed everything and said, ‘Iraq completed 95 percent of their commitment. We cooperated with the resolutions 100 percent and you all know that, and the 5 percent they claim we have not executed could take them 10 years to [verify]. Don’t think for a minute that we still have WMD. We have nothing."

McInerney and other war supporters have attempted to interpret the Arabic material that has yet to be released in English. Letting the amateurs slug it out is not likely to produce anything of quality or truth. Yet, many conservative bloggers have tried to nail down Saddam’s ties to bin Laden by highlighting documents that seem to refer to a 1995 meeting between bin Laden and an Iraqi intelligence officer in the Sudan. However, many intelligence officials claim such documents must be taken with a grain of salt. Conversations were recorded over the radio; others were only passed along by secondhand sources ­ but none have produced any direct link between Saddam and a-Qaeda. Even so, a meeting between in the mid-1990s doesn’t mean Saddam had anything to do with 9/11, or that the two were in cahoots against the U.S.

Besides, if a smoking gun did exist, wouldn’t the Bushies be the first to point it out? Why would they need an ex-fighter pilot on David Horowitz’s neocon site and a few right-wing bloggers to uncover the truth? As with most of Bush’s PR, the release of these documents is only meant to boost his dismal poll numbers.

Searching out justifications for the Iraq invasion are all the war’s backers seem to have left. I guess they all failed to read David Kay’s report on the matter of WMD. Even Charles Duelfer, another war supporter like Kay who sought Saddam’s nonexistent arsenal and wrote a report about it, is convinced Saddam didn’t have squat even before the first bombs dropped in 2003.

Now, I think it is pretty simple (but obviously hard for the war supporters to grasp): if Saddam didn’t have WMD before the war began, then he didn’t have any WMD to ship off to Syria and hide. That means there was nothing to destroy, either.

Nada. Zilch.

It’s just more fabrications from the seekers of the nonexistent smoking gun. The only thing smoking right now, however, is the war crowds’ continued lies and smoldering reputations.

JOSHUA FRANK edits the radical news blog www.BrickBurner.org and is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press (2005). Josh can be reached at BrickBurner@gmail.com.