Lies, Half-Lies, and Truth about Iraq

America is gearing up for a full-scale invasion of Iraq, which will kill tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. In spite of what we're told, the reasons the Bush administration has trotted out to justify this war are insincere, misleading, and dishonest. To demonstrate this, let's look at each Bush administration claim in turn.

Saddam Hussein kicked the UN inspectors out in 1998.

Centerpiece to many a thundering op-ed, this is nevertheless untrue. After repeated requests by Iraq, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed a framework for reviewing Iraq's compliance, but Britain blocked Annan's initiative by, in UNSCOM Chief Richard Butler's words, "omitt[ing] the guarantee that Iraq would be released from sanctions on a certain date," in clear violation of UNSCR 687, Paragraph 22. [1]

Paragraph 22 of the Resolution reads:

"[The UN Security Council] Decides that upon the approval by the Security Council of the programme called for in paragraph 19 above and upon Council agreement that Iraq has completed all actions contemplated in paragraphs 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 above, the prohibitions against the import of commodities and products originating in Iraq and the prohibitions against financial transactions related thereto contained in resolution 661 (1990) shall have no further force or effect." [2]

America had stated since 1994 that, as US Secretary of State Warren Christopher put it, "The US does not believe that Iraq's compliance with Paragraph 22 of Resolution 687 is enough to justify lifting the embargo." [3] The Financial Times wrote that "Mr. Saddam's decision to cripple UNSCOM was triggered by the US refual explicitly to commit itself to lifting the oil embargo if Iraq complied with disarmament requirements," and The Economist wrote, "Iraq interpreted this as confirmation of its long-held - and plausible - belief that, even if it did come clean on all its weapons, no American administration would lift the oil embargo so long as Mr Hussein remained in power." [4]

After this, Iraq formally declared non-cooperation with the inspectors. Then, in the middle of November, Iraq restored cooperation with the inspectors, though this is seldom reported these days. Of the last 300 inspections, UNSCOM only reported five problems. [5] However, the US engineered another crisis by insisting that 12 inspectors enter a Ba'ath Party regional headquarters, even though Iraq and the SC had agreed that Iraq had to allow only four inspectors into such "special sites", with the possibility of more if the size of the site warranted it. The headquarters was a small site, but when Iraq balked at the large contingent, America declared that Iraq was not cooperating, when in fact it was America that was not cooperating. [6] The American Ambassador told Richard Butler to withdraw his inspectors, which he did, and then America and Britain launched Operation Desert Fox, a four day missile strike, about which they didn't bother to inform the UNSC.

At the same time, former US Marine Scott Ritter resigned from his position on the inspection team, claiming that US government agents had infiltrated UNSCOM and that American interference was obstructing the inspectors' efforts. The Iraqi government charged that American spies compromised the integrity of the inspectors. In March of 1999, reports surfaced that confirmed Ritter's claim. America had, in fact, been lying about the spies, and Iraq had been telling the truth.[7] This is rarely mentioned today. Instead, the old lie that Iraq "kicked out" the inspectors continues to circulate, even among people who certainly know better. One person willing to speak honestly about that disastrous year is Hans Von Sponeck, the former UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, who resigned in disgust over the sanctions. He wrote, "The refusal of individual Security Council members to recognize incremental progress in disarmament by Iraq in the pre-1998 period constituted a fundamental mistake of historic proportions."[8]

Saddam Hussein gassed his own people.

This is true, but only tells part of the story. In the 1980s, Iraq had a robust chemical weapons program, but we're seldom told that America provided Iraq with those chemical weapons. At the time, American military officials dismissed Iraq's use of weapons against Iran, saying "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern," and that chemical weapons were "just another way of killing people."[9]

According to State Department documents, Donald Rumsfeld, who was the US Special Envoy to the Middle East, helped to foster close relations with Iraq in the 1980s, and he did not make an issue of chemical weapons with Iraq's government. In fact, Iraqi leaders were "extremely pleased" with Rumsfeld's visits. Nor did American support for Iraq end after Iraq gassed Kurdish civilians, since, as assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy explained, "The U.S.-Iraqi relationship is ... important to our long-term political and economic objectives."[10] Rumsfeld's recent opprobrium towards Iraq's use of WMDs is strange, given his history as one of the prime architects of America's critical involvement in Iraq's WMD programs.

After the Gulf War, UN weapons inspectors found chemicals, missile components, computers, anthrax strains, and other military equipment provided by American and German companies. A leaked copy of the uncensored report prepared by the Iraqi government confirms this, listing 150 foreign companies, including companies from America, Britain, and Germany, that provided Iraq with chemical weapons capability. Quoting German newspaper Die Tageszeitung, The Independent's Tony Paterson reported, "From about 1975 onwards, these companies are shown to have supplied entire complexes, building elements, basic materials and technical know-how for Saddam Hussein's programme to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction."[11] It's hypocritical that the very country condemning Iraq for its chemical weapons helped Iraq to acquire those weapons. However, The US government censored out the sections of the report that implicated foreign companies before handing copies to the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The ostensible reason for keeping this information secret is not to jeopardize the UN's cooperation with the companies that provided the equipment, but this sounds suspiciously like a cover to save America embarrassment.

Iraq has, or nearly has, weapons of mass destruction.

According to Scott Ritter, over 90% of Iraq's weapons, components, materials, research centres, factories, warehouses, etc., were systematically identified, dismantled, catalogued, cross-referenced with receipts from suppliers, and destroyed. Ritter makes no bones about Iraq's cooperation with the inspectors: they stalled, backpedaled, and lied repeatedly, but in the end, the inspectors found and destroyed virtually everything. The remainder, less than 10%, remains unaccounted only because some of the sites had already been bombed, and there weren't enough scraps left to identify everything.

When Richard Butler ordered the inspectors to leave Iraq, their work was already more or less complete. Speaking about a meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister on December 4, 1998, Butler writes, "The foreign minister then asked how long it would take, through a comprehensive review, before we could declare Iraq disarmed. Given the key remaining issues in the missile and chemical areas, I replied, we might have a satisfactory account of Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programme within six to eight weeks." [12] Asked whether Iraq could have built new weapons since then, Ritter notes that with no equipment, facilities, or materials, and with close monitoring of Iraq's borders, its interior, and every possible supplier, Iraq could not manufacture new weapons without America knowing. As he puts it, "If Iraq was producing weapons today, we would have definitive proof, plain and simple."[13]

Colonel Terrence Taylor, the British official who helped prepare the Weapons Dossier, challenged Ritter's claims. However, his challenge is notable not for the force of his arguments but for his careful use of qualifications. Every claim of Iraq's capability is couched in "coulds", "unlikelys", "probablys", and "perhapses".[14] In any case, since the so-called "Intelligence" Dossier is now known to have been plagiarized from no less than three documents posted on the Internet [15], it loses much of the credibility it carried when the Blair and Bush governments treated it as a current military intelligence document.

Today, the UN acknowledges that Iraq is cooperating with the inspections. After months of renewed inspections by UNMOVIC and the IAEA, there is no evidence of Iraq's renewed development of WMDs. The IAEA asserts that Iraq has no nuclear capability, and the outstanding equipment of which UNMOVIC Chief Hans Blix has spoken does not constitute any threat. While American President George W. Bush continues to talk tough, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warns that America will have no justification to invade Iraq if the inspectors don't find anything. So far, in the words of one inspector, the team hasn't "found one iota of concealed material yet," adding that they have "zilch" to report to the UN Security Council.[16]

The International Atomic Energy Agency, charged with finding and eliminating Iraq's Nuclear Weapons program, has repeatedly asserted that Iraq has no nuclear weapons capability. On December 16, 1998, the IAEA reported that "There were no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapons-usable nuclear material of any practical significance." [17] More recently, in IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei's February 14, 2003, report to the UNSC, he stated, "We have to date found no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear related activities in Iraq." He went on to note that the IAEA's investigations are ongoing and that the IAEA intends "to make full use of the authority granted to us under all relevant Security Council resolutions to build as much capacity into the inspection process as necessary." [18]

Iraq supports terrorism.

This may be the flimsiest lie in the Bush arsenal. Although American authorities admitted that they had no evidence of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda [19], and al-Qaeda has stated repeatedly that it considers secular goverments like Iraq's to be evil and corrupt, Bush administration officials continue to allege that Iraq supports terrorism. Recently, the US government has tried to argue that a tape apparently made by Osama bin Laden proves the Iraq/al-Qaeda link, even though the voice on the tape calls the Hussein government "socialists" and "infidels." The voice argues that, in light of America's impending invasion of Iraq, "It is not harmful in such conditions for the Muslims' interests and socialists' interests to come along with each other during the war against the crusade, without changing our faith and our declaration that socialists are infidels. Socialists' leadership had fallen down a long time ago. Socialists are infidels wherever they are, either in Baghdad or Aden." [20] At best, this acknowledges that both Iraq and al-Qaeda are opposed to American imperialism, even though their own goals conflict - hardly relevatory or controversial!

Iraq is a threat to our security.

Since the UN weapons inspectors have yet to find any weapons, it is hard to see how Iraq might constitute a threat. Indeed, neither Kuwait nor Iran considers Iraq dangerous.

If you still believe that Iraq is the real threat to world order, then consider this: which country has enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire planet several times over, refuses to sign any non-proliferation treaties, is actively developing tactical nuclear weapons for use in limited engagements, refuses to allow UN weapons inspectors access to its military facilities, is working on building a defense system that would protect it from any nuclear retaliation, and has just adopted a national security policy that advocates striking first - with nuclear weapons?

Next Issue:

The second part in this series will look at America's violations of international law with regard to Iraq.


[1] Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq, Verso Books, 2002. p. 47 [2] UN Security Council Resolution 687, Adopted by the Security Council at its 2981st meeting on April 3, 1991 [3] Mai, p. 46 [4] ibid. p. 48 [5] ibid. p. 52 [6] ibid. pp. 50-51 [7] Barton Gellman, "US Spied on Iraq via UN", The Washington Post, March 2, 1999 [8] Hans Von Sponeck, "Too Much Collateral Damage", The Globe and Mail, July 2, 2002 [9] Patrick E. Tyler, "Officers say U.S. ignored Iraq's use of gas against Iran" Seattle Times, August 18, 2002 [10] Michael Dobbs, "US Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup", The Washington Post, December 30, 2002[11] Tony Paterson, "Leaked report says German and US firms supplied arms to Saddam", The Independent, December 18, 2002 [12] Mai, p. 64 [13] William Rivers Pitt, "The Coming October War in Iraq", Truthout, July 24, 2002, [14] Greg Goldin, "A Big Threat", L.A. Weekly, September 20-26, 2002, [15] Jonathan Rugman, "Downing Street Iraq Dossier Plagiarized", Channel 4 News, February 6, 2003 [16] David Usborne and Marie Woolf, "No Case for Iraq War, Says UN Chief", The Independent, January 1, 2003 [17] [18] Mohamed ElBaradei, "The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: 14 February 2003" Report to the UN Security Council [19] "US Drops Last Link of Iraq to 9/11", The New York Times, May2, 2002 [20] "Transcript of Osama bin Laden tape broadcast on al-Jazeera", The China Post, February 12, 2003,

Ryan McGreal
February 25, 2003

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