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Amid all the talk about Bush/Cheney administration conspiracies to forge documents or engage in “false flag” tactics in order to “get the war on” against Iraq, and about similar current efforts to get a new war going against Iran, lost has been the fact that many of the things that the administration falsely claimed as cassus belli actually don’t even qualify, whether they were true or not.
Take the infamous receipts which the administration claimed were proof that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy 400 tons of yellowcake uranium ore from the landlocked African nation of Niger—documents which were demonstrably forgeries, and which were composed on stationary that had been stolen during a suspicious break-in into the Niger Embassy in Rome during the first month of the Bush presidency in an incident which had all the markings of an intelligence agency black-bag job (the only things stolen were the stationary and some official stamps!).
Aside from the absurdity of thinking that Niger’s mining officials would have put their names and official stamps on documents proving that they were engaged in illegal activity—providing nuclear material to a nation under an international embargo—or that Hussein would have asked for a receipt—the point is that obtaining uranium ore is a long, long way from having a nuclear bomb.
As we have seen from the Iranian situation, it takes years and years, and enormous expenditure of funds for centrifuge arrays, plus the development of technologies for actually constructing a bomb, before even a test model can be made from yellowcake ore. No one ever claimed that Iraq had even one working centrifuge. So when president Bush ominously told Congress and the American people in his Jan. 29, 2003 State of the Union message that “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein has recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” he was not talking about something that posed an “imminent threat” to anyone, American or otherwise.
Never mind that he also knew, as he was speaking, that the documents that the British government had were papers he had been shown a year earlier, and which his own intelligence services had already spotted as forgeries (the signers were not even in office as of the dates of the alleged documents). Lying aside, the point, which members of Congress and the media completely failed to mention, was that under the UN Charter and the Nuremberg Charter, a country is only allowed to launch a war of preemption if it is faced with “imminent threat” of attack.
The fake yellowcake purchase was not an imminent threat by any stretch of the most fevered imagination.
The same can be said of those equally infamous aluminum tubes, which the administration claimed, fraudulently, to be likely parts for future Iraqi centrifuges for the refining of uranium gas into bomb-grade U-235.
In fact, those tubes had been anodized, making them unusable for centrifuge purposes, and moreover, they were pre-cut, making them too short for the purpose. In fact, they were intended as tactical battlefield rocket casings, were totally legal for Iraq to be purchasing, and posed no “imminent threat” to the US. But that’s not the point. Even if they had been components for illegal Iraqi centrifuges, and even if Iraq back in 2003 had the wherewithal to construct those centrifuges (Iran has just been buying them already made, which tells us how likely it was that Hussein would have tried to make his own), he still would have been years away from making significant quantities of U-235, much less a test bomb. Note again that Iran has had hundreds, even thousands of centrifuges running now for over a year, and even the Israelis say that the Iranians are a year or more away from making a bomb today (Of course, Iran says it isn’t even trying to make a bomb, or to make bomb-grade uranium, and there is no hard evidence to dispute that claim.)
The point here is that the mere buying of those aluminum tubes, had they truly been intended for centrifuge purposes, was not a legitimate cause for the US to invade Iraq.
We need to look back at these issues because even today, while the focus is on whether the president and his administration lied or forged evidence for going to war on Iraq, nobody is talking about why members of Congress—including those who opposed going to war—and especially members of the corporate media—took at face value the administration’s bogus claims that this “evidence” constituted legitimate grounds for launching a war.
It is important to ask these questions because now we are close to a seeing a disastrous war launched against Iran, which also poses no imminent threat to the US. Even if—and it is a big, unproven if—Iran were involved in a secret project to make nuclear weapons, that country would be at least a year away from being able to do so, and probably even five years away. And even if the Iranians were to build a weapon, they would have to test it before risking using it, meaning that the US would have fair warning that a bomb existed. And even if they tested such a bomb, they would have no way to launch it at the US, or probably even Israel. (The missiles that Iran has tested may be able to reach Israel, but, based upon existing Scud technology, they would be as likely to hit the target as were Iraq’s notoriously inaccurate Scuds. That is to say, Iran, if it launched a nuclear-tipped rocket at Israel, would be as likely to hit Gaza, the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem or Bethlehem as it would be to hit the Knesset building.)
Furthermore, the mere fact of Iran’s having a nuclear bomb would not make it any more of an imminent threat to the US or its allies than does Russia’s having nuclear bombs. Look at India and Pakistan. Implacable enemies who have even fought pitched battles against each other while both having the bomb, neither has used such devastating weapons against the other. Nor are they likely to.
There is no way, in other words, that Iran—even if it were shown to be making a nuclear weapon—poses an imminent threat to the US or even to Israel, such that a preemptive war would be justified.
So as the US boosts its Naval armada around Iran, and keeps upping the bellicose rhetoric of war (and as Barak Obama and John McCain continue to insist that in their administrations “nothing” would be off the table to prevent a nuclear Iran), it is critical that the American public demand that both Congress and the media put administration claims to that acid test: where’s the imminent threat?
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Imeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net