Left Hook! The Blog
On Sept. 7, 2002, "President" Bush and British PM Tony Blair, trying to make a case for war, cited two pieces of evidence of Iraq's development of nuclear weapons. One was a newly-released satellite photo of Iraq from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was alleged to show new construction at sites identified as having been associated with Iraq's nuclear weapons program in the past. The other was a 1998 report by the same agency that predicted that Iraq may be only six months away from developing a nuclear capability:
"I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied--finally denied--access, a report came out of the Atomic... the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need."
Without knowing any further details, the incident raised a particularly red warning flag--the "President," with the whole of the United States intelligence community at his fingertips, was being forced to rely on obscure reports by obscure international agencies to defend his own claims, on which he wants to base an aggressive invasion.
And then the truth came out, and the flag grew even redder:
The IAEA never issued any such report with any such conclusion at any time.
They did, however, issue a report in 1998--the year to which Bush referred--stating that, "based on all credible information available to date, ...the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its programme goal of producing nuclear weapons or of Iraq having retained a physical capability for the production of weapon-useable nuclear material or having clandestinely obtained such material."
Additionally, the IAEA immediately disputed the assessment of the satellite photo offered by Bush and Blair. Mark Gwozdecky, IAEA spokesman, said there was nothing in the photo that aroused their suspicion, and that, in fact, no conclusions of the sort proffered by Bush and Blair could be drawn from it.
This was only one of what became many presentations, by the administration, of "satellite photos" alleging the same sorts of things--new activity at WMD sites, new construction, etc. As we've learned in recent years (and as those of us who follow such things have known from the beginning), the administration had only demanded the reintroduction of UNMOVIC because it was assumed Saddam would refuse, and that refusal would provide a legalistic pretext for war. With this expectation, Bush and his underlings had made all sorts of outlandish allegations in public about Iraqi weapons sites, in the belief that no one would be ever be able to check out those claims until after they'd gotten their war.
When Saddam, who had nothing to hide, instead called the bluff and allowed the inspectors to return, the inspectors set about systematically disproving those outlandish allegations. Site after site, there was nothing in Iraq resembing what Bush and his underlings had been describing for months--no prohibited activity or sign that there had been much of ANY activity at any of the "sites of concern," most of which had been abandoned for years. Equipment tagged and sealed by previous UN inspections were still sitting around, undisturbed, gathering dust.
The administration sent the inspectors on one wild-goose-chase after another--one inspector described the Bush information they were getting as "garbage after garbage after garbage." The administration's response was to use this as evidence of the ineffectiveness of the inspection regime. The corporate press, with few exceptions, did its level best to sit on this information in the lead-up to war, but it was very clear, from January 2003 forward, that the most tangible part of the Bush case for war--its claims about weapons sites--was an utter hoax.[*]
The brazenness of the Bush regime in perpetrating it is breathtaking--they were absolutely confident the press would not call them on it, and they turned out to be absolutely right. For example, a major point of Colin Powell's disgraceful compendia of lies before the UN was more nonsense about these "sites of concern", complete with satellite photos and a fictionalized narrative of what they depicted, all of which had already been debunked by the inspectors on the ground. Powell's performance was almost universally praised in the U.S. corporate press, while the facts--which stood in such sharp contradiction to Powell on every point--were buried.
[*] The Los Angeles Times and the AP were two of the very few corporate press sources in the U.S. that wrote about the ongoing inspections in Iraq before the war.
On 19 Jan., 2003, the AP reported that "In almost two months of surprise visits across Iraq, U.N. arms monitors have inspected 13 sites identified by U.S. and British intelligence agencies as major 'facilities of concern,' and reported no signs of revived weapons building" As an example of what was being turned up, the administration had claimed an animal vaccine plant (Al-Dawrah) previously used to produce botulinum toxin was operating again; inspectors "found it abandoned and full of trash."
A little later, the L.A. Times reported that, after 350 inspections, the inspectors had found nothing to support the Bush allegations. Inspectors examined, among other places, the Qaim phosphates complex in western Iraq, another identified by the Bush regime the previous fall; they found "mostly rubble on a near-vacant lot." The administration had publicly claimed "that Baghdad had rebuilt and expanded factories that also could produce chemical weapons. The 'best examples,' it said, were the chlorine and phenol production plants at Fallujah II, which was bombed in 1991." Inspectors discoverd that the plant was inoperative, and equipment sealed by previous inspections was still present and accounted for. The administration "said Iraq had begun renovating or constructing facilities at several sites secretly used to produce biological agents for germ warfare in the 1980s, including the Al Dawrah Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Facility, the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, and the Fallujah III Castor Oil Production Plant. U.N. inspectors have now visited all three sites several times. They searched warehouses, refrigerators, trucks and laboratories, checked equipment, and took soil and water samples. Some of the buildings were abandoned shells, while others had limited operations. No evidence was found that Iraq is using the facilities to produce microbes for banned weapons."
And so on.
All of this was public before Powell's presentation. The press
was too busy cheerleading for war to cover it.
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