What Will the US Find If It Invades Iraq?

Does anyone seriously believe that in the event of US invasion, “discovery” of Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction won’t be long delayed? The stakes are simply too high. It won’t take much: a blueprint or two, a few canisters noisily identified as chemical or biological agents, a “facility” for production of nuclear munitions.

CounterPunch has heard unconfirmed stories of preliminary manufacture of the necessary smoking guns that can be deployed by undercover teams as US troops advance, and then dramatically disclosed to the hungry press. For those who entertain doubts about the likelihood of the US or its ally Britain to manufacture necessary “evidence”, consider the recent explicit charge of forgery leveled by Mohammed Elbaradei, the chief UN inspector looking for evidence of nuclear capability in Iraq.

Here’s the relevant passage, from his testimony on behalf of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency before the UNSC last week:

“With regard to uranium acquisition, the I.A.E.A. has made progress in its investigation into reports that Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger in recent years. This investigation was centered on documents provided by a number of states that pointed to an agreement between Niger and Iraq for the sale of uranium between 1999 and 2001.

“The I.A.E.A. has discussed these reports with the governments of Iraq and Niger, both of which have denied that any such activity took place. For its part, Iraq has provided the I.A.E.A. with a comprehensive explanation of its relations with Niger and has described a visit by an Iraqi official to a number of African countries, including Niger, in February 1999, which Iraq thought might have given rise to the reports.

“The I.A.E.A. was able to review correspondence coming from various bodies of the government of Niger and to compare the form, format, contents and signature of that correspondence with those of the alleged procurement-related documentation. Based on thorough analysis, the I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents, which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transaction between Iraq and Niger, are in fact not authentic. We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.”

Now the documents that Elbaradei labels as forgeries were part of a dossier prepared by British intelligence services and given by Britain to the UN and to the US last year.

Here’s what Ray Close, a former CIA officer with particular experience in the Middle East, (see his detailed commentary on this site) concludes:

“Quite clearly, the more one thinks about this intrigue, the more obvious it becomes that someone was responsible for a deliberate intelligence disinformation campaign targeting the United Nations with an aim toward padding the evidence supporting an American-British invasion of Iraq. That is a world-class criminal act, a felony of historic proportions, by any definition. We should not let it be swept under the carpet.”

So we have been warned, and may confidently expect the requisite discoveries to be made in Iraq, in the likely event of attack.

The Spaniel Press

Across the past few weeks the Bush/Powell rationales for attacking Iraq for possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction has been spectacularly demolished, not least by UN inspectors Elbaradei and Blix. It has become surreal to follow the determination with which most of the mainstream US press ignores these demolitions, not least the important piece by John Barry in Newsweek detailing the debriefing of Saddam’s son-in-law Kemal when he defected in the mid-1990s when he defected with profuse documentation of Saddam’s destruction of biological and chemical stocks.

Incidentally, our position is that possible possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq is not the issue, and has no merit as a rationale for attack, any more than possession of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons should be a basis for attacking North Korea, or India, Pakistan, or Israel, or other members of the “club”.

We watched Howard Dean last Sunday twist and turn last Sunday as a sullen Tim Russert battered him for refusing to issue outright endorsement for Bush’s war. Dean held on, and from his performance we reckon he’ll doing well in the battle for the Democratic nomination. But in fact the line separating his from the White House line is scarcely visible. (We also listened incredulously as the supposed “liberal” Dean proclaimed his support for a balanced budget amendment and all but conceded he favored raising the retirement age to 70. Assuredly, he’s a worthy neoliberal successor to BC.

Talking of liberal attacks on Bush’s rationales for war, over the weekend we ran on this site Perry Anderson’s attack on the liberals from the London Review of Books. Now, our old friend PA, editor of New Left Review, is a very smart fellow, but though we thought his views deserved a wider airing than that afforded by the London Review of Books we were disappointed.

Anderson instructed the antiwar movement that if it is to have staying power it has to get beyond “the fixations of the fan club, the politics of the spectacle, the ethics of fright”. This seems to us an excessively patronizing and wrong-headed assessment of where this huge antiwar movement is. It starts from something unaddressed by Anderson, to wit, that many millions of people have been declaring that it’s wrong to drop high explosive on people in the interests of rearranging the strategic furniture. It has been powered by a sense of the extreme vulnerability of the White House’s case.

Anderson’s defense of the White House’s case is very disingenuous, as Michael Neumann outlines in his riposte on this site today. What particularly depressed us was Anderson’s sense of audience and occasion. Was this the moment to have a jousting match with wrong-headed liberals, with a parting wave to the worldwide antiwar movement to the effect that there is a truly radical case to be made against the war, but that the Editor hasn’t the time or space to make such a case at this time. We recall a time when Anderson was fond of saying that 9/11 was a media blip on the radar screen like the death of Diana. It hasn’t been like that. The administration has encountered huge obstacles to its plans. The antiwar movement already has changed the political temperature, and Anderson should have allowed himself more time to speak constructively to this huge popular movement.

Booze and Cigarettes in the White House?

It was a nice coincidence to turn from the stories of Stalin’s death being hastened by doses of rat poison to George Bush’s recent press conference, if only because Stalin’s regime is usually, and correctly associated with the absolute repression of dissent in the press. We haven’t got to Stalin’s 100 percent success rate yet. Sun day’s New York Times came out against the war, as did George Bush 1. But there were portions of the recent press conference which surely would have made the Georgian tyrant nod in approval, as Bush worked his way through a list of approved questioners, wincing out his formulaic replies.

But even some of the President’s most servile admirers, like Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, were forced to admit that Bush’s performance was scarcely his finest hour, despite the admiring flackery in the press in the days after it. Particularly effusive was Felicity Barringer in the New York Times last Sun day, who reported in awed tones that as the deadline for his press conference approached, the commander in chief suddenly told his chief aide, Andrew Card, that he wanted to be alone for ten minutes. Why? Was in a moment’s private consultation with the Big Fellow? Or maybe a quick dram of some distilled, 90 percent proof Weapon of Private Destruction, probably vodka, tucked away in a cabinet that escaped the vigilance of Laura.

The First Lady, we learn, does not include herself in the spartan, booze-free regime imposed on her husband. Though she apparently makes flying visits to the White House kitchen to ensure that no wine goes into the Boeuf Bouguignon, she herself enjoys a margarita from time to time. Nor is tobacco a stranger to her. CounterPunch hears that she has a tacit arrangement with the White House press corps that she will not be photographed with a cigarette in hand or dangling from her lovely lips. In an earlier time the press was famously careful to shield FDR’s occupancy of a wheel chair from the public, preferring to concentrate on his jaunty cigarette in its long holder.

Those Security Council Vetoes in 1956

So as we head down to the wire, and that upcoming vote in the Security Council, who remembers that there was another time when France, along with Britain, exercised a veto at a crucial moment of invasion of a middle eastern country. Yes, you’ve guessed it: 1956 and the invasion of Egypt by Britain and France, a venture frowned upon by the Eisenhower administration, which wanted to make it clear that the region was now under its supervision. Read this important public letter to the peace movement by Ken Coates, of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation:

“Dear Friend,

“Is the United Nations finished if Britain and America launch a unilateral war against Iraq, in defiance of the will of the Security Council? Already there are dark voices suggesting that this must be the case, and the Foreign Secretary has tried to argue that it is impossible to oppose the United States in the modern world, because “the United States has a quarter of the world’s wealth, the world’s GDP, and it has stronger armed forces than the next twenty-seven countries put together. So its predominance is huge.”

“Things are actually worse than Jack Straw says, because the United States is also basing its actions on a quite explicit military doctrine, known as ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, and determined to assert hegemony over “land, sea, air and space” as well as information. Nonetheless, there are precedents for dealing with arbitrary action, and there are legal ways of challenging what the Prime Minister calls ‘unreasonable’ vetoes.

“In 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, and was promptly invaded by Britain, France and Israel. President Eisenhower insisted that the invasion should cease, and tabled resolutions in the Security Council to this effect. France and Britain vetoed them. At that point, the United States appealed to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and proposed a resolution calling for a cease-fire, and withdrawal of the invading forces. In emergency session the General Assembly upheld the resolution, and Britain and France withdrew from Egypt almost immediately.

“The 1956 decision was made under the procedure which is known as ‘Uniting for Peace’. It is specifically designed to deal with the problem of impasse in the event of a stalemate brought about by vetoes, “reasonable” or not. This procedure has been invoked ten times, most frequently at the behest of the United States. Jeremy Brecher of the Pittsburgh Law School has been circulating a proposal for a ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution which Governments can submit to the General Assembly. It declares that unauthorized military action when taken outside the Security Council’s remit is contrary to the United Nations Charter, and therefore to international law.

“We think it is urgently necessary for peace movements everywhere to support the Brecher initiative, calling on Governments to invoke these procedures so that the General Assembly can insist that it still regards the UN as a viable institution and is determined to uphold its authority.

Yours sincerely,

Ken Coates Chairman, Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation 112 Church Street, Matlock, DE4 3BZ UK

Harkin: “We Wuz Duped” Frist: “We Wuz Hacked”

Tom Harkin, US senator from Iowa, proclaims that he was “duped” by George Bush. This surely furnishes grounds from a recall movement in Iowa. A man capable of being duped by George Bush is surely inadequate as a representative of the people of that fine state. Meanwhile Bill Frist, US Senate Majority leader, has acted swiftly to suppress the embarrassment of declining public approval for Bush’s war. Frist’s website has long been carrying an online poll. Last week, this poll suddenly disclosed 65 percent opposition in the Volunteer State to war on Iraq. Frist ordered the poll to be taken down, explaining to the world that the site had been “hacked”. Meanwhile Tennessee’s Bureau of Investigation is busy interviewing antiwar protesters in an obvious drive to intimidate dissent.

But even Tennessee, homeport for cop dog killers, pales in comparison to what’s been going on in Idaho. The following letter is chilling testimony to the campaign of fear and intimidation on university campuses.

State Terror in Idaho

From: Prof. Elizabeth Brandt at University of Idaho School of Law:

“Well, yesterday was an exciting day in my small town. The FBI flew in 120 agents, fully armed in riot gear, on two C-17 military aircraft (I think — they were BIG planes) to Moscow Idaho (population 17,000 +/-) to arrest one Saudi graduate student for visa fraud. The raid went down in University of Idaho student housing at 4:30 a.m. in the morning, terrorizing not only the suspect’s family (he lived in student housing with his wife and three elementary school age children) but also the families of neighboring students who were awakened by the shouting and lights and were required to remain in their homes until after 8:30 a.m.

“At least 20 other students who had the misfortune to either know the suspect or to have some minor immigration irregularities were also subjected to substantial, surprise interrogations (4+ hours) although none were detained or arrested yesterday. Now, however, a witch-hunt for additional unamed suspects who supposedly helped the guy who was arrested is on.

“The INS and FBI are working together using Gestapo tactics to question the students — threatening their immigration status (and hence their education) if they don’t answer questions which are really aimed at the criminal investigation. They have also threatened their partners and spouses with perjury charges if they don’t talk. I spent yesterday working with our immigration clinic director and local criminal defense attorneys to organize legal representation for the students who are being swept into the hunt for co-conspirators. We have reached out to our entire area (40 -mile radius) to find enough attorneys. Now I’m working on getting resources and support to them. The Saudi government is providing financial support. Reading about this stuff is one thing. Having it in your backyard is another. The international students at the University of Idaho are terrorized and scared.

Elizabeth Barker Brandt Professor, University of Idaho College of Law

Life After Death: New Evidence It Can’t Be, It Is It’s Jeanne Kirkpatrick

Now this. CounterPunch hears that the administration is wheeling out Jeanne Kirkpatrick to head up the US delegation to the upcoming session of the UN commission on human rights. Just another way to say Screw You to the rest of the world. With Israel & the Occupied Territories likely to be a major focus of the session, her selection is especially telling.


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined!, A Colossal Wreck and An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents are available from CounterPunch.