Fri. Feb. 28, 2003
Gen. Hussein Kamel (or Kamal), no less than Saddam Hussein's own son-in-law, had been the head of Iraq's Ministry of Military Industrialization for a decade when he defected in 1995, providing the United Nations inspection regime with reams of documents (more than 150 boxes of them) about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs--documents which became the basis for a good deal of the subsequent questions about Iraq's retained capabilities with regard to those programs. Later killed on orders of Saddam Hussein, Kamel has been repeatedly cited, by the "President" and his underlings, as a major source for their own claims about Iraq's retained capabilities. Monday, John Barry, writing in Newsweek, dropped a bombshell right down the chimney of these claims:
"Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and United Nations inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them."
Barry has obtained the notes of Kamel's interview with UN inspectors. "The notes of the UN interrogation," he writes, "show that Kamel was a goldmine of information. He had a good memory and, piece by piece, he laid out the main personnel, sites and progress of each WMD program." UNSCOM head Rolf Ekeus, who was one of the UN interviewers, said Kamel's information was "almost embarassing, it was so extensive." And Kamel maintained, throughout it, that all of Iraq's WMD had been destroyed. All Iraq retained, according to the defector, were "the design and engineering details of these weapons"--the programs themselves were destroyed in order to hide their existence from UN inspectors in the hope that this information could be retained. Barry also reports that "a military aide who defected with Kamel... backed Kamel's assertions about the destruction of WMD stocks," and that "Newsweek has also learned that Kamel told the same story to the CIA and MI6."
Reuters, one of the VERY few press sources to cover the Newsweek revelations, managed to get a denial from both the CIA and the British on Monday:
"'It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue,' CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said of the Newsweek report's allegations that Hussein Kamel told the CIA that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had destroyed all of his weapons of mass destruction."
"'We've checked back and he didn't say this,' a British government source told Reuters. 'He said just the opposite, that the WMD program was alive and kicking.'"
CIA spokesman Harlow told Reuters "Newsweek failed to ask us this question"--the original Newsweek story notes that "the CIA did not respond to a request for comment."
What's the truth in all this? On Wednesday, Glen Rangwala of Cambridge University acquired the full transcript of the notes from the UN inspectors' interview with Kamel, and it shows the Newsweek account to be accurate in every detail. Either Kamel inexplicably offered to the inspectors a radically different story than he did to the CIA and MI6, or the quoted representatives of these agencies are lying.
A hot story, you would think. A HUGE one, given the circumstances. One that, if true, undercuts the major element of the administration's case for war.
The corporate press--the press virtually every conservative commentator in America assures us is fundamentally rotten to the core with heathen liberalism--couldn't possibly seem to care less. Newsweek seemed almost embarassed to even be carrying the story. As FAIR wrote yesterday, "the magazine placed the story in the miscellaneous 'Periscope' section with a generic headline, 'The Defector's Secrets.' Worse, Newsweek's online version added a subhead that seemed almost designed to undercut the importance of the story: 'Before his death, a high-ranking defector said Iraq had not abandoned its WMD ambitions.'" The intial Reuters story on the Newsweek report (02/24/03) was only seven sentences long--the follow-up story, with the official denials, only eight. FAIR examined the coverage the story has received overall:
"So far, according to a February 27 search of the Nexis database, no major U.S. newspapers or national television news shows have picked up the Newsweek story."
Meanwhile, the march to war continues...
 For some examples of this, see the Media Advisory by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) at http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.html. MAJOR kudos to the people at FAIR for publicizing this story while the press ignores it.
 Newsweek, Feb. 24; issue cover-dated March 3, 2003
 Barry writes that "Kamel's revelations about the destruction of Iraq's WMD stocks were hushed up by the UN inspectors, sources say, for two reasons. Saddam did not know how much Kamel had revealed, and the inspectors hoped to bluff Saddam into disclosing still more." Writing in the Chicago Tribune back in September, former UN inspector Scott Ritter had revealed the substance of Kamel's interview--that Iraq had destroyed its WMD. Of course, no one believed him.
 Reuters, 02/24/03
 "I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons--biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed." Kamel's words, from the transcript. FAIR has made the transcript available at http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.pdf. Rangwala's analysis of it can be found at http://middleeastreference.org.uk/kamel.html.
On the verge of war, MSNBC has apparently elected to go all-right-wing-all-the-time. Liberal Phil Donahue's show was abruptly yanked off the air this week, the host given his walking papers.
In public, NBC is trying to hide behind "low ratings" as the rationale for this. Donahue was in a fairly distant third-place in his unenviable time-slot, behind Fox News Channel's "the O'Reilly Factor" and Connie Chung's program on CNN. The show's ratings, however, have been improving for weeks, and, in fact, it was, at the time of its cancellation, the highest rated program on MSNBC's prime-time line-up.
So what's the real story?
Rick Ellis, in an article posted at www.allyourtv.com yesterday, said he'd been leaked an internal study commissioned by NBC News executives "to provide guidance on the future of the news channel." The study called Donahue "a tired, left-wing liberal out of touch with the current marketplace":
"The study went on to claim that Donahue presented a 'difficult public face for NBC in a time of war... He seems to delight in presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration's motives.' The report went on to outline a possible nightmare scenario where the show becomes "a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.'"
The firing, which eliminates the only major cable news program hosted by a liberal, was accompanied by news that NBC is to employ former Republican congressmen Dick Armey and Joe Scarborough (the latter a despicable demagogue), and reactionary Michael Savage--an open racist--as hosts.
 Specifically, here: http://www.allyourtv.com/0203season/news/02252003donahue.html
 It would be difficult to even conceive of a more damning comment about a press organization than that one of their hosts stands condemned for questioning the government.
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