It was an embarrassing flop! What else could you call Collin Powell’s trying to play the celebrated attorney, Johnny Cochran, at the UN, on Feb. 5th? There wasn’t a single piece of credible evidence produced, before the Security Council, by the U.S. Secretary of State, to show that Iraq was in “material breach” of UN Resolution 1441. None!
By drawing a parallel to an actual criminal trial, one can see that what Powell did at the UN was make an “Opening Statement.” Now, every first year law student knows that an “Opening Statement” is NOT evidence. It is simply the preview of the prosecutor’s evidence he “hopes” to present through the witnesses at the trial in order to prove his case.
In fact, at a real trial, the judge, before introducing the opposing counsels, will instruct the jury that what they are about to hear from the attorneys is NOT evidence. The only evidence the jury is legally to consider is the evidence that comes from the witnesses in the case. Those witnesses are all subject to cross examination by counsel for the defense. If those witnesses intend to introduce any physical evidence, such as exhibits, then that evidence must be authenticated, and approved by the court, prior to the jury hearing it.
None of these necessary procedural steps were followed by Powell. It wasn’t enough for him to have the CIA spook, George Tenet, sitting behind him. Tenet, or one of his flunkies, should have been called as a witness by Powell. Absent that, the Security Council should have barred the admission into evidence of any of the U.S.’ highly-suspect exhibits. The audio tapes, videos, and the photos, including the reputed “intelligence sources,” were all, on their face, hearsay evidence. And, the only way they could have ever been lawfully admitted into evidence, is if a witness was produced to verify each items’ accuracy; authenticity; the chain of custody; the relevance; and, if necessary, the vocal identification of the speakers.
Nor are the charges against Iraq evidence of any wrongdoing. They are simply the beliefs of the moving parties, (in this case, it’s really the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and their silent partner, Israel,) that Iraq is allegedly hiding “weapons of mass destruction” from the UN Inspectors. The world must now wonder: “Where is that evidence?”
It is a cardinal principle of the law, embodied in the Federal Rules of Evidence, (and followed by every state in this country), that before an exhibit can legally be considered by a jury, that it must be properly authenticated. It order to do that, the moving party, in this case Powell, was duty bound to present a witness. And, that witness, after being properly sworn, and qualified as an expert in the field, must testify, with personal knowledge, that the exhibit “is what it is claimed to be.”
For example, with respect to the photos of the supposed “chemical munition bunkers,” Powell should have been required to produce a witness from the CIA, or some other agency that had personal knowledge of those photos, and who could have testified, under oath, that they were in fact, what they “claimed to be.” In addition, a representative from Iraq should have been given the opportunity to cross exam that witness about first, his qualification; and second and most importantly, the truth, accuracy and relevance of his testimony. This was not done.
All the Security Council heard was Powell’s unproved, speculative and highly circumstantial allegations against Iraq. He certainly did not make a case to justify a war. What he did demonstrate, however, is that the U.S. doesn’t have any “smoking gun.” Taking all of these assertions at their best, all Powell really has is hearsay, built on more hearsay, built on lots of shaky suppositions. And, all of them together don’t pass the smell test.
Also, the glaring flaws in Powell’s case were spotlighted by his ridiculous and totally irrelevant charge that Saddam has been aiding the al Qaeda Terror Network. First, this allegation has nothing whatsoever to do with UN Resolution 1441, which deals with the WMD issue. And, to make matters worse, It is a silly canard, that was recently raised by the Israeli windbag, Ariel Sharon.
The great South African statesman, Nelson Mandela, was right. He said that Powell’s performance before the UN, “undermined that agency,” and only reflected the U.S.’ “belligerent policies against Iraq.”
In summary, Powell’s case against Iraq was a big flop.
(C) WILLIAM HUGHES 2003
WILLIAM HUGHES is the author of “Baltimore Iconoclast” (Writer’s Showcase), which is available online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.