Misled or Stupid?

The US invasion of Iraq took place on 19th March 2003. At the time I was vehemently opposed to the invasion. In the 2½ years since the I have not wavered in my opposition.

Recently I criticised Evangelical leaders in America for their unthinking support of the war. A good friend of mine - a supporter of the invasion at the time who has not changed his mind - has questioned whether I have been unfair in my assessment of these evangelical leaders. After all, his argument goes, weren't they simply acting on the evidence that they had at the time? The evidence, of course, was the October 2002 CIA report into Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction.

At the time I remember looking at virtually every piece of evidence that had been presented by both Bush and Blair. Nothing - nothing - convinced me that there were WMDs. This lack of evidence was the reason why so many nations refused to endorse the invasion when it was discussed at the UN.

So what were the claims that were made in the lead-up to the invasion - these claims that I so willingly dismissed?

11 September 2001 - A pathetic CIA

I'll start with the CIA. 9/11 was a total embarrassment for America's intelligence agencies - especially the CIA, whose area of responsibility involves threats from international terrorists. You must understand that the CIA failed dismally in my books. It would therefore seem probable that the CIA would attempt to make themselves look better by somehow "discovering" information that helped to justify an invasion. Given the CIA's dark role over many decades in staging coups in foreign nations, it would seem in the CIA's own interest to placate and please a very angry and very popular president.

So for me, nothing that came from the CIA was trustworthy. And that includes the October 2002 report that apparently convinced so many Americans. I will admit, however, that my doubts over CIA intelligence grew as the war drew nearer as I discovered many other problems.

20 July 2002 - Former Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter publically doubts Iraq's threat of WMDs.

Scott Ritter isn't the world's most favourite former weapons inspector. From what I can tell, he's made some injudicious comments in the past. However, we must remember that this guy was in Iraq in the late 90s and he was involved in finding evidence of WMDs. Ritter, in a 2002 article in the Boston Globe, says:
While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.

Ritter's article does not say "Iraq did not have WMDs". It says "Iraq is not a threat to America". His wrote about this eight months before America invaded. Whatever you may personally feel about Ritter, his 2002 Boston Globe Article was proven totally correct.

24 September 2002 - The September Dossier

From the Wikipedia article:

The September Dossier is the name given to a document published by the United Kingdom Labour government on 24 September 2002. The paper, entitled Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government, was part of a campaign by the government to bolster support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Its release date was brought forward due to increasing pressure from the media, and in the face of fierce criticism of the claim that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs).

The much-anticipated document was based on reports made by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of the British Intelligence 'machinery'. Most of the evidence was uncredited in order to protect sources. On publication, serious press comment was generally critical of the dossier for tameness and for the seeming lack of any genuinely new evidence. Those politically opposed to military action against Iraq generally agreed that the dossier was unremarkable, with Menzies Campbell observing in the House of Commons that:

"We can also agree that Saddam Hussein most certainly has chemical and biological weapons and is working towards a nuclear capability. The dossier contains confirmation of information that we either knew or most certainly should have been willing to assume."

The September Dossier is important because it is linked to the claims made by George Bush that Iraq was attempting to source Uranium from Niger - the so called "16 words" - and Tony Blair's claim that Saddam could unleash WMDs on Britain in 45 minutes. The Dossier is also important because it also involved a controversy at the BBC where a journalist (Andrew Gilligan) had reported that the dossier had been "sexed up" to make it look worse than it actually was. David Kelly, a British WMD inspector and expert on Chemical Weapons, was found to have directed some information to the BBC. Kelly later committed suicide.

The September Dossier is notable because it failed to provide any real evidence that Iraq was an imminent threat. Moreover, hindsight has proven that both Bush's "16 words" and Blair's "45 minutes" could not have been reliably based upon the Dossier's contents.

20 January 2003 - France announces that "military intervention would be the worst possible solution"

Everybody hates the French - despite the fact that they fully supported the US-led war in Afghanistan in 2001 and participated directly in the 1993 Gulf War. The fact that one of America's allies came out so publically against such a war is notable. EIther the French are Cheese-eating surrender monkeys (a racial epithet thrown at them around this time - along with the "Freedom Fries" controversy) or America was rushing in where angels fear to tread. At the time I felt that France's stance was important.

22 January 2003 - France and Germany oppose Iraq War

Again, two major European nations officially declare that the invasion of Iraq was simply not on. This is not a situation where some pissant third world dictatorship is trying to look good by verbally disagreeing with America - these are two major Western nations with cultural and military links to the US. These are allies - fellow members of NATO - telling America that any invasion is wrong.

22 January 2003 - Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "Russia deems that there is no evidence that would justify a war in Iraq."

Normally anything from Russia should be taken with a grain of salt - especially during the Soviet era. However, relations between Russia and America have generally been warm since communism collapsed. Russia had nothing to gain by defying America's position on this.

28 January 2003 - Bush's yellowcake forgery

Bush said the famous 16 words at the State of The Union Address : "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." So Saddam was building Nukes, yes? This claim by Bush eventually led to the Plame Affair, where senior Bush officials ran a smear campaign against Joseph Wilson, an expert who publically disagreed with Bush's comments.

What is notable about the Yellowcake Forgery is that the documents were handed over to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for their own analysis. On 7 March 2003, the IAEA publically announced that the documents were fake. In fact, if you read the Wikipedia article about the Yellowcake Forgery, you'll read that the IAEA detected the forgeries fairly early on - so badly had they been written. Further investigation since then has revealed a web of lies and deceit by various government agencies, both in America and, strangely enough, Italy.

So one important plank in the war against Iraq had been revealed to be a complete forgery - and all this before the war began.

3 February 2003 - The Dodgy Dossier

Another British dossier that, when released, appeared to back up the claims of the September Dossier and provided evidence that showed that Iraq was an imminent threat. At least, that's what it was intended to be. Fairly soon after the dossier was released, British TV station Channel 4 revealed that the Dossier had, in fact, been plagiarised from three different sources. Rather than being an "official" government report, it was a hodge-podge of three separate articles that could be found easily on the internet. Even spelling mistakes had been copied over.

So, here we all were, on the brink of invading Iraq, and the British government releases a dossier that had clearly been the result of someone "cutting and pasting" in Microsoft Word information that was already available, and from sources that were not exactly reliable when it came to military intelligence.

It was around this point that I had simply had enough. Why couldn't anyone see what I was seeing? Why were people supporting an imminent invasion when all the evidence pointed towards a forgery on behalf of The White House and 10 Downing Street?

5 February 2003 - Colin Powell loses what little reputation he had left

Colin Powell's career will be forever bookended by two humiliating reports. The first was his "investigation" into the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam war in 1968, which found that no such event took place (it was subsequently revealed that it did). The second was his performance in front of the United Nations, using satellite and spy plane photos to argue that Iraq was making WMDs. This performance was reminiscent of Adlai Stevenson in front of the UN during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 - except that it was a complete sham.

No one left the UN building convinced. Powell produced fuzzy out-of-focus photos of trucks and buildings and tyre-tracks in an effort to show mobile chemical weapon laboratories. The evidence appeared very dodgy, and very, very circumstantial. Subsequent comments from UN inspectors showed that they were images of water tanks, cement trucks or other such nondescript things.

8 February 2003 - Hans Blix accuses British and American Governments of overstating the threat from Iraq

Blix himself was the head UN weapons inspector. While he and his fellow inspectors were running around around trying to find WMDs, American cartoonists lampooned their attempts as futile. The inspectors were seen as bumbling idiots while omniscient Saddam kept them from his obvious stash of WMDs.

Let me make it clear: Blix and his fellow inspectors were experts. For Blix to accuse America for overstating Iraq's threat meant that, as an expert and as a person IN Iraq, he was putting his own professional expertise on the line.

14 February 2003 - Hans Blix announces that Iraqis have been co-operating with the inspectors. No WMDs have been found.

When Blix made this announcement, he did point out that the Iraqis were hardly falling over themselves to help. Nevertheless, he did point out that they had complied with everything that had been asked of them.

7 March 2003 - Mohamed ElBaradei announces that there was no evidence of Iraq restarting a nuclear weapons program.

Just two weeks to go and ElBaradei announces that the smoking gun could never have been Condoleeza Rice's mushroom cloud. Hey, it's hard to hide nuclear weapons. Things have to be specially built and radiation tends to leak out. But ElBaradei and his team heard no strange noises from their geiger counters.

If this were a court of law, what would the evidence so far have been treated. Was it possible that Iraq had WMDs? Of course it was possible. Nevertheless it was the clear opinion of experts that, if weapons did exist, they could not be found. Donald Rumsfeld, in a turn of phrase that can only be described as cynical and Machiavellian, once declared "Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence". Sorry, but this doesn't sit well with me. In this line of thinking, it was Iraq's responsibility to prove themselves innocent rather than America's responsibility to prove them guilty. Could Iraq prove that they were innocent? Of course not. Even the neutral weapons inspectors knew that it was possible, though unlikely, that Iraq had WMDs. But possibility is not the point - the point is whether it could be proved "beyond reasonable doubt" that Iraq had WMDs. From all the evidence that I had viewed thus far, there was absolutely no certainty at all. At the time I honestly believed that Iraq had no WMDs.

11 March 2003 - Andrew Wilkie, an Australian intelligence official working with the Office of National Assessments, resigns.

This was the icing on the cake for me here in Australia. Wilkie, a government intelligence official, resigned because he could no longer work for a government that was ignoring the evidence. This was a career soldier with a solid and reputable record, who left a well-paid and highly respectable job because his conscience got the better of him.

Wilkie was convinced that Iraq did not pose a threat to America, Britain or to us in Australia. He staked his job on this issue. He was proven right.

19 March 2003 - Invasion begins

19 March 2003 - Robin Cook resigns from Tony Blair's cabinet in protest against the war.

Robin Cook was one of British Labour's better known cabinet ministers. On the day of the invasion he very publically and angrily stood up in Parliament and announced his resignation from the Labour Party. As a higher-up member of Tony Blair's cabinet, he was privvy to quite a lot of intelligence that passed through the higher echelons of the British Government. He resigned because he, too, felt that Iraq posed no threat and that the war was unjust. Cook could have lost a lot politically by making this stance, but made his decision because, sometimes, people do make decisions based upon their beliefs and values. Sadly, Cook died before being truly vindicated for his actions.

14 October 2005 - Paul Krugman praise Howard Dean for his anti-war stance.

I wasn't aware of Howard Dean's anti-war stance before the 2003 invasion. However, Paul Krugman, a commentator from the New York Times, recently said this about Howard Dean:
Read the speeches Howard Dean gave before the Iraq war, and compare them with Colin Powell's pro-war presentation to the U.N. Knowing what we know now, it's clear that one man was judicious and realistic, while the other was spinning crazy conspiracy theories. But somehow their labels got switched in the way they were presented to the public by the news media.

So why wasn't Dean listened to by most Americans? And why was Powell so respected? Although the MSM (Mainstream media) are to blame, so is the rest of America (and Britain, and Australia) for not questioning the spurious and sensationalist reports that it was reading. The evidence was there, and those who should have been objective and sober were being reactionary and populist.

From the One Salient Overlord Department

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.

1 comment:

Jim Printz said...

To answer your question at the end, Powell was listened to because he had been a respected general, SecDef, and Sec. of State, with a career filled with accomplishment.

Dean was ignored because he is perceived as having gone off the deep end. As is Krugman.