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Uncovering Bush's Weapons of Mass Destruction

Some commentators are beginning to call this “Weaponsgate.” Though the lies are enormous, public outrage has yet to catch up

by Mark Pickens

07/07/03: (IndyMedia) Lies. It’s the “L” word that almost killed Clinton. And now with Iraq, Bush and Co. find themselves on the political defensive for the very first time. After nearly two years of patriotic photo-ops, growing ranks of fearful Americans hungry for leadership, and a free pass on a stagnant economy that would sink any other president’s credibility, Bush may finally feel a twinge of fear. One hundred days from the fall of Baghdad and still no weapons of mass destruction.

The evidence that Bush lied is readily available. Disaffected CIA and other intelligence officers have leaked a variety of secret reports, resentful for being ignored before the war and now blamed for faulty intelligence. UK Prime Minister Blair is being pilloried by his own party, with the BBC, The Guardian newspaper and others providing ammunition. In America, a sweeping range of public figures is trying to turn a spark into a bonfire under Bush’s chair, including ultra-conservative Pat Buchanan, several residents of The New York Times editorial pages, and even Richard Nixon’s former Watergate counsel John Dean (who should know something about lying).

Some commentators are beginning to call this “Weaponsgate.” Though the lies are enormous, public outrage has yet to catch up and Bush still enjoys popularity ratings in the sixties. But, as John Dean might point out, it took two years and an insistent campaign for the truth before Nixon was pinned on his lies.

NUCLEAR PROGRAM

Bush and Co. repeatedly made the specter of a nuclear-capable Iraq a centerpiece of their case for war. On Oct. 7, Bush graphically warned, “we cannot wait for the final proof – the smoking gun – that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” The month before, Bush claimed an International Atomic Energy Agency report stated that Iraq was “six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon.”

The problem? No such report ever existed. In fact, in January 2003 the IAEA told the U.N. Security Council, “we have found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s.”

Regardless, Bush continued to tell Americans that Iraq was working hard on a nuclear weapon. In his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, Bush declared, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

However, as early as March 2002, the CIA told the White House that this claim was dubious. When the IAEA gained access to the documents reportedly proving Bush’s assertion, they quickly determined that the documents were “crude forgeries.”

The administration continued to flog the nuclear issue up to the eve of the war. Vice President Cheney appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press just days before the invasion began, saying, “We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.” Faced with a lack of evidence, the administration has done a 180; Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a U.S. Senate hearing on May 14, “I don’t believe anyone that I know in the administration ever said that Iraq had nuclear weapons.”
(Gordon & Risen – New York Times 01.28.03, Institute for Public Accuracy SOU Response, Donovan – Toronto Star 01.31.03, Hans – Common Dreams.org 02.04.03, Raddatz - ABCNews.com 03.10.03, Hersch – The New Yorker 03.31.03, Pincus – Washington Post 06.13.03, NBC’s Meet the Press – 03.16.03)

IRAQ AND AL QAEDA

Another major plank of the Bush case for war was Iraq’s alleged connections to al Qaeda and the threat that Hussein would arm terrorists. In his Oct. 7 speech to the nation, Bush declared “We know that Iraq and al Qaeda have had highlevel contacts that go back a decade,” adding, “Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists.”

Bush’s speech played a key role in crystallizing Congressional support. Within four days, the House and Senate overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution granting the president the authority to go to war.

However, a national intelligence report given to the White House just three days before the president’s Oct. 7 speech cast serious doubt upon the extent of Iraq’s al Qaeda connections and claims that Hussein would give them banned weapons.

According to the report, Iraq’s al Qaeda connections were a decade old, as the president said, but had gone sour after bin Laden called for an Islamic revolution to overthrow the secular Hussein. The report also said for Hussein to give WMDs to his ideological enemies would be an “extreme step” taken only in the case of a U.S. invasion. Despite this statement from his major intelligence agencies, Bush continued to trot out the Iraq-al Qaeda connection in the Jan. 28 State of the Union address and Secretary of State Powell did likewise in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 5. (Pincus – Washington Post 06.22.03)

CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL WEAPONS

The Bush administration charged over and over that Iraq possessed enormous stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. However, in November 2002, an assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency concluded: “No reliable information indicates whether Iraq is producing or stockpiling chemical weapons or where the country has or will establish a chemical agent production facility.” But the same month, Rumsfeld declared testily, “There’s no debate in the world as to whether they have those weapons. We all know that. A trained ape knows that.”

Bush listed huge quantities of Iraq’s alleged WMDs, including 63,000 liters of anthrax and botulism that he said were “unaccounted for” as well as 1 million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX gases. In his March 17 speech giving Hussein an ultimatum to leave Iraq or face invasion, Bush proclaimed U.S. intelligence “leaves no doubt” that Iraq possessed “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Just days into the war, Rumsfeld assured Americans the weapons would be found, telling ABC, “We know where they are, they are in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad.”

However, no evidence of chemical and biological weapons has been uncovered, despite three months of searches involving 13,000 U.S. troops and hundreds of suspected locations.
(Kaplan and Mazettis – US News 06.13.03, ABC This Week 03.31.03, NBC’s Meet the Press – 06.08.03, Ruben Bannerjee – Al Jazeera 04.06.03, NOW Update 05.22.03, Scheer – AlterNet.org 06.10.03, AP 06.08.03, Guardian – 03.31.03)

DRONES

In his Oct. 7 speech to the nation, Bush said Iraq possessed a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles that “could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas,” including “missions targeting the United States.” If true, Iraq’s UAVs would have been among the world’s longest-range aircraft, capable of striking the United States from the other side of the globe. However, U.S. intelligence estimates then available to the White House clearly stated that Iraqi drones were limited to several hundred miles and incapable of reaching U.S. territory, exactly the opposite of what Bush told Americans.
(Washington Post 10.22.02; Burns – New York Times 03.13.03)

He Gasses His Own People

One of Bush’s many justifications for war was “Saddam gassed his own people,” referring to the thousands of Kurds poisoned in 1988 by the Iraqi military. The Kurds were seeking independence at a time that Iraq was embroiled in a bloody war with Iran, a conflict in which Iraq also used chemical weapons. All told, an estimated 26,000 Kurdish civilians and Iranian troops died from Iraqi chemical attack in the late eighties.

However, the U.S. government’s role in helping its thenally Iraq acquire chemical weapons is rarely cited.

A 1994 Senate Banking Committee hearing revealed 74 shipments of deadly chemical and biological agents (ranging from botulism to gas gangrene) from the United States to Iraq in the 1980s. Many of the purchases were facilitated by export credits granted by the Reagan administration. In one instance in September 1988, a Maryland company sent Iraq 11 strains of germs – including four types of anthrax. The Commerce Department approved the sale. This was six months after the infamous massacre of the Kurds.

In addition, an August 2002 New York Times report carried interviews with numerous retired U.S. Army officers who revealed that the Defense Intelligence Agency had up to 60 agents providing Iraq with readymade battle plans. Iraq used the plans to launch attacks that included the use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops. One veteran of the program said the Pentagon “wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas,” adding “It was just another way of killing people – whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn’t matter.”
(Statement of Rep. Ron Paul before U.S. House of Representatives – 10.10.02; Tyler – New York Times 08.18.02; Leupp – Counterpunch 06.20.03)

Mobile Germ Labs

In his Feb. 5 presentation to the Security Council, Secretary of State Powell declared, “We know that Iraq has at least seven mobile, biological agent factories.” He went on to describe how the “road trailer units… can produce enough dry biological agent in a single month to kill thousands upon thousands of people. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts.” Two trailers were indeed found in May.

On May 31, Bush cited the two trailers and declared, “For those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong. We found them.”

The CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency described the seized trailers as “the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program.” But many analysts, including ones in the State Department and the British government, reject that conclusion. They validate Iraq’s claim that the trucks produced hydrogen gas to fill weather balloons.

Repeated inspections have failed to find any trace of anthrax, smallpox or any other pathogens in the trucks. Crucially, the trucks do not carry autoclaves or other equipment to sterilize laboratory equipment, which would be necessary in any lab growing dangerous germs.

The New York Times has uncovered a June 2 report from the State Department that disputes the conclusion that the trailers are germ labs. In addition, The Observer reported on June 8 that a secret British government investigation has concluded the trailers are not weapons labs. A British biological weapons expert, who examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer: “They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were.”

A June 21 story by the LA Times reported the U.S. Army has its own fleet of trucks that are used to make hydrogen for weather balloons.
(Beaumont, Barnett and Hinsliff – The Observer 06.08.03; Miller – LA Times 06.21.03; Jehl – New York Times 06.22.03)

The Reluctant Warrior

In the build-up to war, Bush repeatedly attempted to play the part of a reluctant warrior who would only act if “war was thrust upon us.”

Bush was anything but a reluctant warrior. By all appearances, the decision to invade Iraq was made many months before Congress voted to authorize the attack in October 2002. In March 2002 Bush interrupted a meeting between Condoleezza Rice and three Senators to exclaim, “[Expletive deleted] Saddam! We’re taking him out.” By the first week of July 2002, Rice told a State Department Officer, “the decision’s been made, don’t waste your breath.” Chief of Central Command Tommy Franks admits that he was preparing for the war since March 2002.

However, it’s now clear the Bush administration started pushing for an Iraq invasion even earlier – within hours of the Sept. 11 attacks. On the June 15, 2002, edition of NBC’s Meet the Press, former Gen. Wesley Clark said that there was a concerted effort to “pin 9/11 and the terrorism problem on Saddam Hussein.” Clark, who was to appear on CNN on the day of the attacks, reported getting a call from the White House demanding “You got to say this is connected. This has to be connected to Saddam.” Clark’s account corroborates a little-noticed CBS Evening News story aired on Sept. 4, 2002, in which correspondent David Martin reported: “Barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, the secretary of defense was telling his aides to start thinking about striking Iraq.”
(Fidler – Financial Times 03.27.03; NBC’s Meet the Press – 06.15.02; CBS Evening News – 09.04.02; FAIR Media Advisory – 06.20.03)


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