Bush & Powell Try To Shut Down The Inspectors
(Active Resistance to the Roots of War, UK)
February 21, 2003
CO-OPERATION IS IRRELEVANT
President Bush is determined to go to war, whatever Baghdad does: 'Saddam Hussein can now be expected to begin another round of empty concessions, transparently false denials. No doubt he will play a last minute game of deception. The game is over.' (Telegraph, 7 Feb., p. 1) 'It would not surprise the US if Saddam Hussein pretends all of a sudden to have a change of heart and allow the U2 to fly or to show up with some of the weapons he promised he never had,' a White House spokesperson said. 'But it wouldn't change the fact that Saddam Hussein is not co-operating.' (Times, 7 Feb., p. 1) However much Iraq actually co-operates with the weapons inspectors, 'Saddam is not co-operating'. In his barnstorming briefing to the UN Security Council on 5 Feb., Colin Powell said, 'The issue before us is not how much time we are willing to give the inspectors to be frustrated by Iraqi obstruction, but how much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq's non-compliance before we, as a council, we, as the United Nations, say, "Enough. Enough".' (Telegraph, 6 Feb., p. 1) The only possible fate for the inspectors is to be 'frustrated by obstruction'. The US Secretary of State was more direct earlier: 'The question isn't how much longer do you need for inspections to work. Inspections will not work.' (Independent, 23 Jan., p. 1)
One aim of the Powell presentation to the Security Council was to undermine public and international confidence in the inspection agencies.
THE TAJI FACILITY SHELL GAME
The most striking images used in the 5 Feb. presentation were of the Taji weapons facility. One satellite photo from 10 Nov. 2002 shows two shapes by a bunker-one is alleged to be a decontamination vehicle, and the other a security building for monitoring leakages from the chemical weapons allegedly stored in the bunker. A second photo taken on 22 Dec., shows UN weapons inspectors' vehicles approaching the 'sanitized bunkers'-from which the vehicle and security building seem to have been removed. Jonathan Ban, a chemical weapons expert at the Washington-based Chemical and Biological Arms Control Institute, found the juxtaposition of the two images 'strange': 'It wasn't clear to me whether the bunkers that were shown in the second image were the same ones that were shown in the first. If that is what they are claiming, then I would have liked to see more detail of the decontamination truck and the security building being moved. And if they were different buildings, what happened to the active bunkers when the weapons inspectors showed up? This is something that needs to be explained better.' (Guardian, 6 Feb., p. 3) Studying the photos, the angle of the access road behind the bunker, and the presence of trees in the second photo indicate that the photos actually are of two quite different bunkers. It seems that the second photo has been chosen because it includes the inspectors' vehicles driving through the Taji facility-to dramatise their alleged inability to detect Iraqi deception.
THE AL-MUSSAYYIB MISDIRECTION
'Mr Powell's case for Iraqi concealment also relied heavily on interpretation of a second set of satellite images, which captured the al-Mussayyib weapons facility', allegedly involved in shipping chemical weapons from production facilities out to the field. 'The first picture, from May last year, showed a bunker surrounded by what the US said were three 35-tonne cargo trucks, along with a decontamination vehicle-strong evidence according to Mr Powell that the site was being used for chemical or biological weapons activity. A second image, taken two months later, showed that the entire site [actually only part of the site-ARROW] had been bulldozed and the earth freshly graded to conceal banned weapons activity from UN inspection teams. The images were hugely important for the US case, because, said Mr Powell, an Iraqi human source had confirmed that the chemical weapons had been removed at that time.' On 13 Dec., inspectors went to al- Mussayyib and found only ready- to-use pesticides. Jonathan Ban again: 'I find it very difficult to believe that if there was chemical weapons contamination in the area that the Iraqis would be able to completely get rid of that contamination. The image shows that there are some areas of ground on the site that haven't been graded and I think the inspectors would be able to take samples from there to prove conclusively whether or not there has been recent chemical weapons activity.' (Guardian, 6 Feb., p. 3) Sounds like a job for those inspectors that Mr Powell says are pointless.
US FLOUTS RESOLUTION 1441
UN Resolution 1441, which Colin Powell exhorts us all to re-read, 'Requests all Member States to give full support to UNMOVIC and the IAEA in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes or other aspects of their mandates'. (Para. 10) The Resolution was passed on 8 Nov. 2002, but these dramatic photos from May, July, Nov. and Dec. 2002 were not handed over to UNMOVIC- they were kept to be publicly displayed on 5 Feb. 2003. THE MOBILE CONFIDENCE TRICK 'Because Powell's slideshow showed Iraq giving the UN inspectors the runaround, it also weakened Blix's argument that more time would bring success. Talking of the 18 lorries that are believed to be mobile biological weapons factories, Powell asked rhetorically how long it would take to find even a single one among the "thousands and thousands of trucks" on Iraq's roads... Blix's report to the UN last week put the US on the back foot, in arguing that the inspectors deserved more time. Powell's performance yesterday won back a lot of that ground.' (Times, 6 Feb., p. 15) In the real world, 'Biowar experts concede that no scheme is too crazy for Saddam. Still, they say, truck-mounted labs would be all but unworkable. The required ventilation systems would make them instantly recognizable from above, and they would need special facilities to safely dispose of their deadly wastes. A routine highway accident could be catastrophic. And US intelligence, after years of looking for them, has never found even one.' (Newsweek, 17 Feb., p. 20)
I SAY, I SAY, HEARSAY
Richard Beeston of The Times observed that, 'most of what General Powell said was open to interpretation. There was no named high-ranking defector prepared to substantiate the allegations. There was no visual evidence of soldiers or scientists handling weapons such as chemical or biological weapons, nor even attempting to conceal huge items such as Scud missiles.' His colleague Michael Evans noted that there were 'no pictures of the inside' of any of the alleged mobile biological weapons laboratories, nor 'photographic evidence' of a chemical weapons programme. (Times, 6 Feb., p. 14) Joseph Cirincione, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC, said, 'We should never go to war based on a defector's tale. There's a long history of defectors' tales being erroneous... It is a problem that detectives have all the time; somebody comes to them hoping to get something in exchange.' (Guardian, 6 Feb., p. 2) 'He barraged the members [of the Security Council] with questions: "Who took the hard drives? Where did they go? What's being hidden? Why?" Yet he offered few answers and much speculation.' (Guardian, 6 Feb., p. 1) Egyptian political scientist Emad Shahin observed wryly, and accurately, 'The speech was long on accusations, and short on evidence.' (Telegraph, 7 Feb., p. 14)
Many Western observers were convinced by intercepted conversations between Iraqi military officials. 'But doubts remain about the credibility of the tapes, not least because many observers doubt that senior Iraqi officers would speak so carelessly on open telephone or radio conversations. The conversations were also open to interpretation. Jonathan Ban, a chemical weapons specialist said. "For example, what do they mean by a 'modified vehicle'? That could mean absolutely anything as could 'prohibited ammo'."
(Guardian, 6 Feb., p. 2)
EVEN THE SPIES REVOLT
Before his speech, it was reported that Powell 'yesterday appeared to pull back from claims that he would show the United Nations a link between al- Qaeda and Iraq, amid anger among Washington's spies over the way intelligence was being distorted to prove the link existed.' (Telegraph, 4 Feb., p. 13) There is evidence that the supposed 'link' man, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was treated in Baghdad, but there is no evidence he contacted Iraqi officials: 'The intelligence is practically non-existent', said one 'exasperated American intelligence source'. The source went on: 'It is impossible to support the bald conclusions being made by the White House and the Pentagon given the poor quantity and quality of the intelligence available. There is uproar within the intelligence community on all of these points, but the Bush White House has quashed dissent.' The Telegraph commented, 'This could all be dismissed as a turf war between rival intelligence agencies were it not for the near unanimity across the British and American intelligence communities, including the Defence Intelligence Agency analysts whose bosses produced the line the White House wanted to hear.' (Telegraph, 4 Feb. 2003, p. 13) Despite the uproar, Powell trotted out the Party line.
1998 ALL OVER AGAIN
President Bush famously said, 'This looks like a re-run of a bad movie and I'm not interested in watching.' (Guardian, 22 Jan., p. 1) Let's remember that in Dec. 1998 the inspection agency UNSCOM was driven out by the US, not by Baghdad. UNSCOM chief Richard Butler records in his memoirs that he was called in by US Ambassador to the UN Peter Burleigh, and advised to be 'prudent' with the safety of UNSCOM staff. 'Repeating a familiar script, I told him that I would act on this advice and remove my staff from Iraq.' (Saddam Defiant, p. 224) UNSCOM withdrew, creating the right political climate for days of US/UK military strikes, and leading to the destruction of the agency. The US shut down UNSCOM in 1998 to pave the way for war. President Bush is trying to re-run this bad movie with UNSCOM's successor, UNMOVIC. He must be stopped.
ARROW (Active Resistance to the Roots of War) is a nonviolent direct action affinity group that opposes US/UK intervention in the Third World. This article originally appeared on February 10, 2003, as WAR PLAN IRAQ Update Number 8. Visit the ARROW website at: http://www.j-n-v.org