Media, Propaganda and Iraq
Author and Page information
- This page: http://www.globalissues.org/article/400/media-propaganda-and-iraq.
- To print all information (e.g. expanded side notes, shows alternative links), use the print version:
Since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, there have been additional conflicts and confrontations with Iraq, such as the bombing campaign of 1998, and the recent events amidst the so-called "war on terror".
The United States and Britain primarily have been highlighting that Iraq poses an immediate and grave threat to the world.
A large segment of the public in numerous countries has remained skeptical about the claims, or not supportive of an all out war. The challenge, for these two countries therefore, has been to wage and win a propaganda war to convince citizens that action is needed urgently.
This web page has the following sub-sections:
- Media Spin and Official Propaganda During Gulf War in 1991
- Bush Claimed Iraq was "six months away from developing a weapon" Citing Non-existent Report
- Saddam Hussein was an Ally when he used Chemical Weapons on his own People
- CIA and Bush Administration Appear At Odds on Level of Threat
- Resolution 1441, the United Nations and the 'Diplomacy'
- The State of Iraq's Weapons Programs?
- Inspection Process So Far Reveals No Reason For War
- No Nuclear Weapons Program
- Iraq Declaration
- Nuclear Documents at Scientists Home
- Discovery of Empty "Chemical Warheads" No Big Deal Says Blix
- Short Shelf Life of Some Chemical Weapons
- Getting Information from Defectors
- Bush and Blair Not Cooperating On Sharing Information
- Unmanned Drones
- Iraq Missiles
- Some Intelligence is Not Very Intelligent
- Is it Worth a War?
- Some Examples of Propaganda
- The Blair Dossier: Proof or Propaganda to build the case against Iraq?
- Weapons Inspectors Were Not Kicked Out in 1998, but Withdrawn
- Tony Blair Faces a Skeptical TV Audience
- Subtle Propaganda
- Bush's State of the Union Speech on Iraq
- Colin Powell Presentation of Evidence Before U.N. Security Council
- Playing the Morality Card
- Mixed Reactions from "International Community"
- Large Anti-war Protests
- Proposed Second U.N. Resolution By Bush and Blair
- Draft Resolution Designed to Fail and Therefore Allow War
- Bush/Blair Dropped Second War Resolution due to International Opposition
- Not International 'Deadlock' But Opposition to US/UK
- Blaming France
- Members All Knew That Serious Consequences in 1441 Meant War, Even Though US and UK Themselves Said it did Not
- Is War Legal or Illegal
- War Is Not the Only Option; Resolution 377
- War Is Not Only Option; Lack Of Patience Is Not Enough of a Reason for War
- Major Resignations
- Considering the Option of Using Nuclear Weapons against Iraq
- Learning from Past Lessons of Propaganda
Media Spin and Official Propaganda During Gulf War in 1991
During the Gulf War of 1991, the United States had imposed military control on the information, which meant that the media portrayal would not have given a complete picture.
There was a lot of bad intelligence or outright disinformation, as Christian Science Monitor highlights, that contributed to supporting a war against Iraq in 1991. In addition, a lot of PR and spin was used, and is currently being used in the more recent crisis.
One often-presented fact was that there were remarkably almost no casualties. This led to claims of a new type of war that could be successfully fought. It was often not clarified how many Iraqis had been killed. Estimates vary, but most suggest around 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi troops. In terms of civilian deaths, estimates are difficult, some estimates suggesting "13,000 civilians were killed directly by American and allied forces, and about 70,000 civilians died subsequently from war-related damage to medical facilities and supplies, the electric power grid, and the water system" as reported by Business Week (February 6, 2003). Side NoteThe Business Week article quoted discusses a researcher, Beth Osborne, who's actual report you can see at this link. It was also interesting to note that when asked by the New York Times, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who was the highest ranking military officer, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during the Gulf War, said "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in". (New York Times, March 23, 1991) The original NY Times article couldn't be located on line, but a Google Search verifies this from many sources. Subsequent U.N. Sanctions have caused a further million deaths, half of which were children. Yet, when 30 to 50 people are killed together by the "enemy" or other nations, then that is often described as a massacre by the same media institutions.
As an example of media manipulation, here is a quote from an article on journalism and reporting on peace and conflict:
One of the concerns with this is what efforts officials and governments may go through to emotionally reach out to their citizens for support.
This does not in any way say that the Iraqi regime is completely innocent of all accusations. It just puts into perspective the unaccountability of some western reports and the process of propaganda that western media is also a part of. (And its an example of the media's influence itself, that one has to defend the need to disprove a fact presented about the "enemy". The automatic conclusion from the mainstream has been that one who critiques them must therefore be "one of them". That is a narrow view that does not allow diversification of the discourse. Dom Hélder Câmara's famous quote captures this quite well: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.")
The following example, from the above-mentioned article by Christian Science Monitor is worth quoting because of the ramifications that unaccountable propaganda can have:
People's support was gained due to propaganda. One has to wonder if without propaganda the war, to the extent that it was then carried out, could have still been justified and supported by the masses. For a long time, there has been concern at a buildup specifically for war. This requires propaganda to build support and justification. Yet, it seems that whether successful or not, it has been perhaps more challenging to justify war on Iraq this time, than for previous conflicts.
Bush Claimed Iraq was "six months away from developing a weapon" Citing Non-existent Report
George Bush has made some false claims as part of the campaign to get support for war on Iraq. For example, at Camp David on September 7, 2002 he cited a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying that "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."
Yet, as the Washington Post reports (October 22, 2002 or alternative location), "The IAEA did issue a report in 1998, around the time weapons inspectors were denied access to Iraq for the final time, but the report made no such assertion. It declared: 'Based on all credible information to date, the IAEA has found no indication of Iraq having achieved its program 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.' The report said Iraq had been six to 24 months away from nuclear capability before the 1991 Gulf War."
The Washington Post does continue on to point out that, "The White House said that Bush 'was imprecise on this' and that the source was U.S. intelligence, not the IAEA." Hence it might be that Bush did indeed have a slip of the tongue and gave credit to the wrong agency and that if it was U.S. intelligence that perhaps it is still true that he is some 6 months away (from Sept 2002) of "developing a weapon."
However, another paper, the Washington Times, also highlighting that the IAEA denies the above, points out (September 27, 2002) that the White House said Bush was referring to a 1991 report (which also seems to contradict the above claim of being a U.S. intelligence source), "'He's referring to 1991 there', said Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan. 'In '91, there was a report saying that after the war they found out they were about six months away.' Mr. Gwozdecky [the IAEA's chief spokesman] said no such report was ever issued by the IAEA in 1991."
In addition, Yes Magazine highlights that,
And as John Pilger adds back in April 2002:
As part of the United Nations weapons inspections process, on January 27, 2003, Mohammed El Baradei reported back to the U.N. Security Council that there was nothing to suggest a clandestine nuclear weapons programme in Iraq. (More about this and the U.N. weapons inspections process under resolution 1441 is discussed below.)
Saddam Hussein was an Ally when he used Chemical Weapons on his own People
Given the above from Yes Magazine, it seems unlikely that in four years since 1998, with some 90-95 percent destruction of weapons of mass destruction capability that Saddam Hussein could get back to pre-Gulf War levels or even a sufficient level of threat. One must also consider that the Gulf War left much of the military and civilian infrastructure destroyed. The subsequent sanctions and various bombings since have also been effective in this aspect. Prior to the Gulf War, when Hussein was at his strongest militarily, the development and use of such weapons required a lot of investment and support. Much of this actually came from countries such as Germany, U.S., U.K. and others. This included shipments of biological weapons from the U.S. to Iraq to use against Iran in the 1980s, up to 1993 when Clinton was in office, almost 2 years after the Gulf War had ended. (This is also discussed further below.)
Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons on his own people, which we are always reminded of, occurred during the time that Hussein was an ally of the United States, and was armed by the U.S. (which we are hardly reminded of).
The New York Times reported (August 18, 2002) that the Reagan administration had provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance in waging decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. While this story was also re-reported by international media, as William Blum points out, this revelation on the whole doesn't reveal anything new, and indeed omitted anything about "the furnishing of chemical and biological materials by the United States to Iraq which markedly enhanced Iraq's CBW [Chemical and Biological Weapons] capability."
Furthermore, as Dilip Hiro points out in The Observer (September 1, 2002), if concerns about chemical weapon usage was real, why was there no concern, or even condemnation at the time it actually happened, when it was a well-known incident? (Instead, at that time, Hiro points out that the response was to arm and support Hussein even more. Iraq was supported by the U.S. after its previous ally in the region, Iran, had a revolution where one authoritarian regime -- the U.S. puppet, the Shah -- was overthrown by another authoritarian regime, the Ayatollah and his religious variant, threatening a loss of some influence in the region, and when Iran went one step further and took American hostages.)
Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill also revealed the extent to which Saddam Hussein was supported. The Institute for Public Accuracy, mentioning Scahill points out that, " In August , Scahill broke the story of Donald Rumsfeld's meeting with Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials in Baghdad in 1983 and again in 1984. Scahill said today: 'Just as Iraq was beginning its use of chemical weapons, Rumsfeld was not trying to stop it, but was restoring diplomatic relations. Now, Iraq's use of these weapons is being used as a pretext for massive invasion.'" Scahill, in a report, observes that
As if to answer Dilip Hiro's question above, the Scahill report also adds that "in an article about Rumsfeld's aspirations to run for the 1988 Republican Presidential nomination, the Chicago Tribune Magazine listed among Rumsfeld's achievements helping to "reopen U.S. relations with Iraq." The Tribune failed to mention that this help came at a time when, according to the US State Department, Iraq was actively using chemical weapons."
While the mainstream media has often been criticized for failing to mention this often and without sufficient context, occassionally it has done so. The Washington Post for example, at the end of 2002 provides some detail and also points out that "U.S. Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup". And the Post adds:
The mention of the "domino theory" in Southeast Asia and a similar effect in the Middle East, is an important point in understanding the geopolitical framework, and the underlying causes of post World War II global politics and power struggles. Fighting communism has been the most commonly remembered reason. But, the aftermath saw virtually the entire colonial world eventually break free from imperial rulers, having been weakened attempting to destroy each other. In this context, powerful nations were fearful of losing more influence and dominance. If a country could successfully develop, independent of western, or even Soviet influence, then others might catch on to the idea! This is detailed a bit more on this site's section on Middle East resources. Although that section is mostly in the context of the Middle East, additional information is available there to other sources for more on this geopolitical context.
CIA and Bush Administration Appear At Odds on Level of Threat
The above-mentioned Washington Post article also highlights other inaccuracies, such as claims by Bush of Iraq having unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States". However, the Post also points out that the CIA itself had said that this was more an experiment or attempt, and that if there was any threat, it was to neighbors, and international military forces in the region, not mentioning sufficient range to reach the United States.
Trying To Find a Link With Terrorism
The Australian paper, The Age noted (September 11, 2002) that the CIA failed to find a link between Iraq and terrorism.
- In addition, "European anti-terrorist officials warned that an invasion of Iraq will worsen the threat of Islamic terrorism", as reported by the Los Angeles Times (January 30, 2003).
- The Bush Administration has constantly tried to highlight a link, in an attempt to muster support and play on the concerns of citizens regarding terrorists. As a propaganda ploy, connecting Iraq with Al Qaeda would be ideal.
- The Age article also points out that the Bush Administration will still try to develop a case to link terrorism and Iraq. Yet, Daniel Benjamin, who previously served on the U.S. National Security Council (1994 to 1999) says in a New York Times op-ed that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda Are Not Allies.
- An audio recording, allegedly by Osama Bin Laden, in February 2003, was used as further evidence by the
U.S. of links.
Yet, this appears to be highly questionable
On February 12, 2003, just a few days before a key presentation by United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and amidst growing skepticism and even sheer hostility to the idea of war with Iraq, an audio tape, allegedly of Osama Bin Laden, was broadcast by Al Jazeera. The recording called Muslims to rise up, and was supportive of Iraqi people in the event of war, but also said that the people of Iraq should rise up to oust Saddam Hussein.
Yet, U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell and others still jumped on this to point to a strong link between Al Qaeda and Iraq, even though most others do not believe this to be the case and because Bin Laden had supported the idea of killing Saddam Hussein, which is not exactly what allies would do!
This occurred amidst such a heightened security alert, that military troops were seen guarding London's Heathrow Airport, even in tanks, and the U.S. also went on high alert, with both nations saying they expected an attack similar to the September 11 one in ferocity, any time soon. Many have ridiculed or criticized this even in mainstream circles, due to the timing (heightening fear just before Blix's major report), as fear-mongering to further justify war, while others suggest that this would be so obvious and damaging that it can't possibly be just that, and there must be some real concerns.
CIA Plays Down Some Bush Hype
In addition, as the BBC reports (October 10, 2002), the CIA has played down some of the hype that the Bush Administration has raised about Iraq using weapons of mass destruction. Instead, the CIA has said that if Iraq does posses any such weapons, it might use some of them if attacked. (Side NoteIt is interesting to note that the above-mentioned BBC report was titled "CIA undermines propaganda war", thus acknowledging that there is propaganda also from the west and the U.S. in this particular case. Yet, the media in general, including the British media, and the BBC itself has been strongly criticized by Media Lens and other media watchdogs for things like perpetuating propaganda, not questioning propaganda but treating it as news or undisputed fact, and so on. (See for example, the Media Lens alert, November 8 2002, with severe criticism about BBC being subservient to, and hence a mouthpiece of, the British government.))
And the Los Angeles Times reports (October 11, 2002) that "Senior Bush administration officials are pressuring CIA analysts to tailor their assessments of the Iraqi threat to help build a case against Saddam Hussein". (And in his State of the Union Speech, President Bush claimed that there is a link to terrorism, citing intelligence sources. This is discussed further below.)
In addition, as if reiterating The Age's report one month earlier, the LA Times continues: "Evidence of the differences between the agency and the White House surfaced publicly this week when CIA Director George J. Tenet sent a letter to lawmakers saying the Iraqi president is unlikely to strike the United States unless provoked." (Emphasis Added)
In other words then, it was just before 1991, at a time when Iraq was a U.S. ally, that Iraq was militarily a greater threat than at present. In addition, Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons against his own people was also at the time of receiving such support.
CIA and Bush Differences are Significant
Given that the Bush Administration relied a lot on intelligence sources prior to weapons inspectors going into Iraq for a number of the claims made, and given that the CIA is one of the most prominent intelligence agencies in the world, this difference would appear to be quite significant.
- If the CIA is correct that Saddam Hussein may strike if provoked, then not only is the basis for provocation different to the concerns mentioned by Bush to the public, but in addition, the path taken by the Bush Administration possibly risks the lives of ordinary American citizens as well as Iraqis, not to mention the other geopolitical fallouts war would likely lead to.
- One of the arguments put forward by proponents of war is that something must be done, for if not, then
Iraq will do something and we will all regret it.
- Yet, the CIA highlights that not only will Iraq be unlikely to use chemical weapons but that if attacked, then it might use such weapons in retaliation.
- In addition, reaction from extremist factions from the Middle East and elsewhere on an unpopular bombing campaign could itself also risk lives of people around the world.
- Furthermore, notions of regime change (which sets a dangerous precedent, both imperialist in its undertones, and giving other nations an excuse to potentially do similar things) has been put forth quite seriously in the United States by the Bush Administration. This could increase antagonisms further.
- Ultimately then, a war on Iraq then might be a self-fulfilling prophecy, risking the lives of citizens in Iraq and also the West.
Resolution 1441, the United Nations and the 'Diplomacy'
For weeks, amongst various United Nations Security Council members, there was disagreement about how to deal with the Iraq issue.
- There were disagreements between various permanent members on how any resolutions should be formulated and the objectives of them.
- The U.S. and U.K. were taking an openly hostile stance, while the other three (France, Russia and China) wanted a more measured approach, not convinced of the claims made by the other two, and not convinced of the need for military action, either. (It should also be noted that Russia, and France also have their own interests in Iraq, related to oil.)
The Will of the United Nations, or Will of the U.S Through the U.N.?
On 8 November 2002, the controversial resolution, 1441 was adopted unanimously. Surprising for a lot of people was that even Syria, the Arab member on the Council also accepted the resolution. But 1441 was the result of a lot of political maneuvering (i.e. diplomacy).
- The U.S. was initially threatening to take unilateral action (with one or two allies), which would have been illegal according to international law under the United Nations. In order to ensure that the U.S. still took that path of the U.N., other members of the Council dropped various concerns and stances they had in terms of the resolution wording. Side NoteAs foreign policy expert and author, Phyllis Bennis puts it, for most of the U.N. Security Council members, vote to support the resolution "was not about constraining Iraq, it was about constraining the U.S. The message was: if the U.S. desires to launch a massive attack, it will have to return to the U.N. and win its approval. If the president makes war without U.N. backing, it will be violating the United Nations charter and international law."
- The final resolution then is seen as a successful diplomatic effort by the U.S. and U.K. interests.
- One of the key concerns raised by most states was that the resolution should not automatically mean war and that it should require further U.N. Security Council authorization. This aspect made it into the resolution, but with some controversy.
- When the Resolution was adopted, the various member nations all gave speeches. Almost all stressed at that time, (and was broadcast on major television news stations) that there is no hidden trigger in the resolution for means automatic war.
- It was mainly because of this clause that all nations agreed to the resolution. The "will of the United Nations" hardly represents one voiceSo when we are reminded by the likes of Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Colin Powell and others of the "will of the United Nations" being expressed through this resolution, and that member states should therefore live up to their responsibilities and demand war, we should bear in mind that the resolution did not represent a common will, but a number of negotiated differences, and if anything, much of the "will" of the Security Council was to not have automatic war.
- The U.N. Security council would have to agree once weapons inspections are complete and they report a material breach.
- Even though later toward justifying war, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said a second resolution was not needed, on the day that 1441 was passed, he himself pointed out that it was:
- Even the U.S. representative, John Negroponte, and the U.K. representative, Sir
Jeremy Greenstock, confirmed this:
Most other Security Council members reiterated this
The same link above to the speeches has transcripts for the other members. Almost all reiterated that the resolution doesn't mean automatic war, but that another decision is needed by the Council. (Those that did not specifically mention that the resolution didn't mean automatic war did not say that it meant automatic war, either.) Taking just a few examples (the rest can be seen from the same source as above):
- The French minister, Mr. Levitte, for example added, "France welcomes the fact that all ambiguity on this point and all elements of automaticity have disappeared from the resolution."
- For Mexico, Mr. Aguilar Zinser said, "this resolution also constitutes progress, as it eliminates the concept of automaticity in the use of force in response to a serious violation without the explicit agreement of the Council."
- Yet, well after those speeches, Bush, Blair and others in their governments have stated that 1441 doesn't require another U.N. resolution for war, even though almost all other U.N. ambassadors and ministers, including their own, say the opposite. Side NoteThis perhaps lends credence to those who argue that either the U.S. and U.K. were just going through the motions to attempt to get support on paper, and/or they did this to allow time to deploy their huge military machine in the Gulf, and that they intended to go to war anyway. The media rarely questions or challenges Bush or Blair when they make such assertions then. This allows propaganda to go unchallenged, thereby strengthening it.
- While the resolution does not automatically authorize war, it requires weapons inspections combined with very strict conditions for compliance.
- Yet many point out that the resolution leaves enough vagueness making it open to a lot of interpretation. Due to its strict nature, for example, it is very easy to find fault in compliance on the most minor of details, if needed.
- For an example of a detailed, almost paragraph-by-paragraph analysis of the resolution, see the Institute for Public Accuracy's analysis. (Amongst many other things, it also highlights that the Resolution does not authorize automatic war, even though Bush and Blair claim it does so, because, the final article of the Resolution says that the U.N. Security Council "Decides to remain seized of the matter", meaning that it retains jurisdiction, and has not given anyone else the power to act.)
The U.N. resolution, its vagueness, and the 'diplomatic' goings on surrounding it, also highlights concerns that the U.S. and U.K. are pushing for their own geopolitical agendas, but now under the auspices of the United Nations.
Furthermore, the credibility and authority of the U.N. in the area of international law and relations is seriously being questioned, and potentially undermined by two of the countries that helped create it in the first place.
As Karen DeYoung, of the Washington Post also highlights (January 19, 2003), the U.N. resolution "was a model of what its authors called "constructive ambiguity," allowing those favoring military action to say further U.N. agreement was not required, and those against action to say the opposite." Hence the various members were agreed to a resolution, but based on different expectations. Yet, such ambiguity amongst various nations surely threatens to pose a serious issue.
In short, the leverage of aid, military assistance and the like helped win backing. As ordinary citizens, we might find it shocking to read such things, but in the world of geopolitics and "diplomacy", there appears to be little democracy in these processes. Power and influence wins out. So, just to get the U.S. on board, the resolution has been made to have "dangerous ambiguity."
Will or no will, there will be war
Leading up to the resolution, the U.S. and British leaders had often implied that if the U.N. does not act, then they will. In the international arena, this is seen as quite threatening. An article from The Nation magazine described the Bush Administration tactics as "attempting to use UN resolutions improperly to justify an illegal pre-emptive war against Iraq". As the title of that article suggested, this was an attempt at "Subverting the UN".
Even well after that resolution had been passed, Tony Blair and others had pointed out on national television that they were prepared for action if the U.N. did not authorize war. (See further below for more on Tony Blair appearing in a television debate on this and many other issues.) Politicians such as Britain's Jack Straw and Tony Blair have repeatedly highlighted the U.N. resolution as representing the will of the international community to disarm Iraq, not as perhaps as others have seen it, as a last resort to try to get the U.S. in line with international law. Side NoteFor example, on Britain's BBC, February 12, 2003, there was a debate program that included a number of key politicians, including Jack Straw. In that program he said that Security Council members had all agreed on the importance of disarming Iraq (by supporting resolution 1441), and that they all knew that it would result in the use of force if Iraq did not comply. Yet, this went unchallenged, because as various interviews on television at the time of the resolution showed, a number of ambassadors and senior officials from various countries had indicated that they supported the resolution precisely because there wasn't an automatic clause for war, and that the ambiguous term "serious consequences" though it could definitely be interpreted to mean war, didn't necessarily mean so. Furthermore, as Asia Times highlights,
In the above passage, the note of instrumentality is crucial.
- For most nations, the U.N.'s existence is not questionable.
- Yet, for the U.S., it is to be used as and when needed, as has been seen for decades on all sorts of international issues.
- Hence, the U.N. resolution can also be seen as yet another failure, not success, by other states to hold their ground against U.S. and British political and "diplomatic" pressures. (See the above article for more details on how "diplomacy" has been used by the powers to get the votes of the other members in the past as well as present. See also this short article by media critic, Normon Solomon)
But as well as indicating that if the U.N. does not act, the U.S. and U.K. will, some had long suggested that the U.S. and U.K. would act regardless. Even Bush's top security adviser, Dr Richard Perle, has admitted so back in November 2002. UK's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, had also stated such things, as reported by the Guardian (October 19, 2002).
And possibly complicating matters is that in October 2002, the U.S. Congress had authorized Bush to invade Iraq without U.N Security Council authorization. Yet, this is illegal in international law. As professor of politics, Stephen Zunes highlights, President Bush is violating or disrespecting the U.S. Constitution as well:
As the above highlights, the illegality is important. As media critic David Edwards also adds:
Furthermore, Tony Blair has constantly mentioned, in front of television cameras as well, that if he feels that a Security Council decision not to go to war is unreasonable, then in that situation he may feel obligated to go to war anyway. Not only does this have no basis in international law, but it raises questions on why he should be able to determine if something is reasonable or not, when a large part of the Security Council may have decided the other way. Why is his judgement better than theirs? What would it mean for future situations? Why even bother with the United Nations if its charter is to be validated anyway! (Under international law, a nation may only go to war on two accounts: 1) if it is under attack, 2) if the U.N. Security Council gives authorization.)
Heavy Pressure on Nations to Support the U.S. After 1441
On February 15, 2003, during the day of global protest, discussed further below, where millions took to the streets, in London, the London Mayor, Ken Livingston highlighted in a speech how the U.N. diplomacy process to get the 1441 resolution was fraught with political maneuvering, and described it as "corruption" and "bribery" of the U.N. by the U.S. and U.K. in the way they arm-twisted other Security Council members to get in line. He then warned listeners to beware of similar processes in any other subsequent calls for a U.N. resolution.
It is interesting to note that as well as pressure for support on the U.N. Security Council the U.S. had continued to using its diplomatic abilities to gain support of key nations in the area as well.
- Reuters reported (February 15, 2003) that, "The United States was offering Turkey an expanded aid package that includes about $6 billion in grants and up to $20 billion in loan guarantees to secure Ankara's support in a possible invasion of Iraq" and that "The Bush administration is finalizing separate multibillion-dollar aid packages for Israel and Jordan."
- The Catholic Institute for International Relations (CIIR) highlights (February 14, 2003) that the U.S. had offered three other members of the Council some incentives to side with the U.S. position and "approved an extra $4.1 million for the resettlement of returnees to Angola. It has given an extra $2.1 million for the care of Liberian refugees, much of which will go to Guinea. And it has promised 'more leeway' on immigration restrictions on Pakistani nationals."
Some of these sums may sound like little money, but for poor countries these can be crucial. The CIIR highlights the example of Yemen:
Of course, we expect all nations to be involved in this form of diplomacy, and indeed, nations such as France and Germany also tried to talk to the U.S. and U.K., and the other way round. Yet what is worth highlighting is that how this was (and is) spun by officials can perhaps be misleading as to the true nature of those diplomatic processes. The New York Times posted the above-mentioned Reuters article, but the previous link is to a reposted version at truthout.org because it included an interesting editor's comment, that rather than the U.S. creating a coalition of the willing, it was more like a "coalition of the bought and paid for." When thought of with that perspective, the claims of Bush and Blair of genuine support seem a bit more questionable.
The Washington D.C.-based Institute for Policy Studies is even more blunt, asking, as the title of a report, asking, is this a Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced?
As they highlight, they find that:
- Although the Bush Administration claims that the anonymous "Coalition of the Willing" is the basis of genuine multilateralism, the report shows that most were recruited through coercion, bullying, and bribery.
- The pursuit of access to U.S. export markets is a powerful lever for influence over many countries, including Chile and Costa Rica, both of which are close to concluding free trade deals with the United States; African nations that want to maintain U.S. trade preferences; and Mexico, which depends on the U.S. market for about 80 percent of its export sales.
- The populations of the countries in the so-called "Coalition of the Willing" make up only about 10 percent of the world's population. Opponents of the U.S. position currently include the leading economies of four continents (Germany, Brazil, China, and South Africa).
- President Bush could make or break the chances of Eastern European members of the "Coalition of the Willing" that are eager to become members of NATO. In order for these nations to join the military alliance, Bush must ask the Senate for approval.
The following summarized from links provided below, are some of the areas that were targeted to try and persuade undecided or opposed countries in the Security Council by the U.S., U.K., Spain etc using their "diplomatic" abilities:
Guniea: More money and fewer human rightsThe United States is top of the list in terms of aid to this, one of the 15 poorest countries in the world, with 50 million dollars. There are 300,000 refugees from Liberia and Sierra Leone, and recently, Washington had promised increased aid to help deal with this. In addition, human rights in Guniea is not great. These could all be overlooked for a favorable vote.
Angola: Oil ContractsEmerging from a 27 year civil war, with millions of refugees, this nation depends a lot on America, economically. It is also one of the most corrupt countries. Exxon recently concluded a 3 billion dollar oil contract. Angola is the sixth largest supplier of oil to the U.S. (ahead of Kuwait), selling some 5 billion dollars each year to the U.S.
Mexico: Immigration Agreement SuspensionAs detailed further below, Mexico has been subtly threatened or pressured that if it doesn't side with the Americans it could "stir up feelings" against Mexicans in the U.S. In addition, some 80% of Mexican exports go to the U.S. Mexico was also hoping the U.S. would follow up on its earlier promise of amnesty for the large number of illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S.
Chile: Free-Trade AgreementOne of Chile's main economic concerns is to join the American Free Trade Agreement (FTA). However, while it is close to being a done deal, they are waiting on the U.S. Congress to ratify that agreement. This can therefore be used as a lever against Chile.
Cameroon: Bartered Commercial AssistanceCameroon sells some 2.3 billion dollars of oil to Italy, France and Spain in that order. Italy and Spain are strong supporters of war. Its depleting oil reserves means that it will depend on an oil pipeline from Chad. This is being built by Exxon and Texaco Chevron.
Pakistan: Kashmir in the BalanceDespite what militants in Pakistan might think (and a large majority of the ordinary citizens), the government needs U.S. support. The risk of going against the U.S. could even mean the Americans get even more friendly with India, in an already tense situation with Kashmir and other issues.
- For more details about the above, see for example, the following:
- Security Council minnows under pressure in UN vote scramble, an interview with Martin Walker of UPI, by Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), March 10, 2003
- Concerns About The Undecided Six to be Seduced, by Pascal Riche, La Liberation, March 6, 2003. (Link is to translated version of the French original.)
Consider one of the ways in which the U.S. tried to pressure its neighbor Mexico, which also has a seat on the U.N. Security Council:
Chile, another nation on the Security Council also found pressure being applied to it to side for war. Inter Press Service (IPS) reported (March 10, 2003) that Chile senator Carlos Ominami said that "Chile, like the other non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, are subjected to all sorts of pressures from Washington to vote in favour of the resolution against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein."
The pressure applied does not always mean though that the U.S. would automatically or easily get its way.
- The BBC had reported that while the Turkish government were interested in a large deal, the population was as much as 94% opposed to a war with Iraq, making Turkey's position difficult.
- In addition, Turkey had said it wanted to enter part of Northern Iraq, to "secure its interests" to which the Kurds there, already controling northern parts of Iraq, feeling threatened, were very strongly opposed, warning of clashes if that happens. The Kurds and Turkey have long had violent disputes in that area.
- Three African nations on the U.N. Security Council, Guinea, Cameroon and Angola, were part of a 52-nation African summit held by France, where they indicated support for France's stance.
But the media described the processes more benignly, presenting it as a challenge for Bush and Blair who would be under intense pressure to use more "diplomacy".
The U.S. had used its diplomatic muscle and abilities to try and obtain support, while claiming it as "willing" support. Some nations though, appeared to have a chance to have a go at their own diplomacy and try and use this situation to their own advantage, sensing opportunities they rarely get. Channel 4 News in UK for example, pointed out (February 26, 2003) how Mexico tried to highlight George Bush's promise of amnesty for millions of illegal Mexican immigrants in the U.S. but never gave it. This was therefore seen as an opportunity to push for it. (In the end, nothing came of it.) Turkey, while on the whole being pressured with incentives was trying to play the game as well, with its own demands. But this does not negate that the U.S. strongly pressured for international community support, highlighting both that international opinion was against war, and that the U.S., U.K. and other supporters of war are less than honest when describing a supposed coalition as "willing".
U.S. Evesdropping on Other Council Members
It was revealed in a leaked memo, obtained by the British paper, The Observer (March 2 2003) that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had targetted other Council member nations for surveillance by tapping phones and intercepting emails, etc, in a bid to find ways to pressure those countries to back the U.S. plans for war against Iraq.
The Observer described this as "dirty tricks" adding that, "The disclosure comes at a time when diplomats from the countries have been complaining about the outright 'hostility' of US tactics in recent days to persuade then to fall in line, including threats to economic and aid packages."
In addition, the above-mentioned IPS highlights that this is not new, and continues that, "Former [Chilean] foreign minister and Christian-democrat senator Gabriel Valdés, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the government should present a formal protest before the UN about the U.S. espionage operations. 'I served 10 years at the United Nations. I was under-secretary general, and there were continuous complaints from countries that the U.S. government was tapping their telephones,' said the senator, father of Juan Gabriel Valdés, Chile's current ambassador to the UN and directly affected by the spying."
It is interesting to note also, that the American mainstream media has also admitted this is not new and has gone on for years. However, they have used that reason to therefore shun the story. This is regarded as major news for many around the world, yet the U.S. audience will miss a key tactic used by their leaders, who, if successful, will be able to claim international support, whereas, that would be questionable given such tactics.
In fact, the media also tried to discredit the popular story by pointing out spelling mistakes etc, but this was because The Observer had merely anglicized the spelling for the British audience. This is usually easy to spot, and so suggests that the American media were not interested in highlighting the story.
This has been serious enough an issue for the United Nations to start an inquiry into the American spying.
UN Security Council is Undemocratic; General Assembly Harder to Buy Out
This also once again highlights the undemocratic nature of the United Nations Security Council.
- For years, many have pointed out that the idea of five permanent members forms a non-democratic "nuclear club" which reflects old power structures.
- Veto powers by those five also add to the non-democratic nature.
- Finally, in situations such as this Iraq crisis, the more inclusive U.N. General Assembly, which is where all members get a voice (but not a vote), would be harder to buy out.
The State of Iraq's Weapons Programs?
Inspection Process So Far Reveals No Reason For War
In March 1999, UNSCOM, reported on the state of the weapons inspections program to date and revealed the following:
The above indicates that a great deal of Iraq's capabilities had already been destroyed. The report no doubt highlights that not everything was destroyed, but does suggest that the inspection process had been effective in contributing to the containment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program.
As detailed further below, a key defector, often cited by Colin Powell and others, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation had stated categorically in 1995 when he defected to Jordan that "All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed."
Even by the beginning of 2003, Hans Blix reported at the United Nations (January 9, 2003) that they had so far found no "smoking gun". Since then, with continued inspections, to date there had been no compelling reason to justify war. Blix has highlighted on many occassions that there were still some questions outstanding and that although Iraq has been cooperating, they need to provide more substance and need to be more forthcoming and urgent about it.
January 27, 2003 Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, and Mohamed El Baradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), delivered a report to the U.N. Security Council on the inspection process so far.
- On the one hand they pointed out that Iraq has largely cooperated with arms experts.
- In addition, according to El Baradei, there was nothing to suggest a clandestine nuclear weapons programme
in Iraq, though indicating that Iraq should be more "pro-active" in helping nuclear experts do
Side NoteFrom the D.C.-based Center for Defence Information (CDI):
In addition, Reuters reports (January 30, 2003) that in an interview El Baradei had with BBC Radio 4, he said that "in his view, Iraq was not as yet in material breach of a U.N. resolution on disarmament, contrary to what Britain and the United States have argued." An individual cannot determine whether Iraq is in material breach or not, as it has to be a U.N. Security Council decision. But at the same time, the U.S. and Britain also cannot make such claims, which is the point here.
- Yet, Hans Blix also highlighted concerns about unaccounted-for chemical weapons, and processes such as interviewing scientists, as only a small number had been interviewed so far.
- They both urged for more time to complete the inspection process, which they highlighted as being quite successful in the past at eliminating most of Iraq's large weapons, and should therefore be given more time to continue.
- Their report was also seen by American and British officials as more proof that Iraq was defying the United Nations while other nations seemed less hard-lined.
- However, as the Sydney Morning Herald also reports, (February 1, 2003), Hans Blix has said that
the "US is misquoting my Iraq report"
Summarizing from their article:
- "Dr Blix took issue with what he said were US Secretary of State Colin Powell's claims that the inspectors had found that Iraqi officials were hiding and moving illicit materials within and outside of Iraq to prevent their discovery. He said that the inspectors had reported no such incidents."
- Blix also said that "he had not seen convincing evidence that Iraq was sending weapons scientists to other countries to prevent them from being interviewed."
- And continuing on from the above, the article continues that "Nor had he any reason to believe, as President George Bush charged in his State of the Union speech, that Iraqi agents were posing as scientists, or that his inspection agency had been penetrated by Iraqi agents and that sensitive information might have been leaked to Baghdad." (Side Note Perhaps an additional irony of Bush's claim is that in 1998 it wasn't Baghdad intelligence penetrating the inspection agency, but western intelligence agents, as mentioned further up.)
Pressure by a number of members of the U.N. Security Council allowed for another report by Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei on February 14, 2003, which would be a key report, giving strong indications of whether or not war might occur. However, just two days after their January report, George Bush, in his State of the Union Speech made claims that were counter to the findings of Blix and El Baradei. (Bush's State of the Union Speech is discussed further below.)
The Washington Post also reports (February 12, 2003) that on February 11, 2003, just a few days before this key presentation by Blix, the U.S. National Security adviser, Condoleezza Rice had an unannounced meeting with Hans Blix, "to press chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix to acknowledge in a Security Council briefing Friday that Iraq has failed to voluntarily scrap its prohibited chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, according to U.S. and U.N. diplomats." However this is controversial.
- This tactic "underscored the Bush administration's concern that the Swedish diplomat's report to the council on Friday, while critical of Iraq, may not be decisive enough to persuade wavering Security Council members to support an immediate move to war", as the Post continues.
- This unfair pressure to get Blix to tailor the report to suit the objectives of the Bush Administration, is described by editors of Truthout.org, a media watchdog, as "at its core, ruthless and unacceptable" and that this is a "reason that the US is today, widely viewed around the world as dictatorial."
Like the January report, the February 14, 2003 report by Blix and El Baradei again confirmed no "smoking gun" which could justify war, and no nuclear weapons program.
- Blix politely criticized some of the claims Colin Powell had made (as "evidence") in his presentation to the U.N. Security Council a few days earlier (this is also discussed further below).
- All in all, it would seem that there has not been enough to justify a war, though both inspectors highlighted the need for continued pressure on Iraq.
- They further highlighted the need for continued inspection process (implying not military action), and also suggested that these processes were working.
- This of course did not go down well with the American and British positions.
- The report did not trigger a move by the U.S. and U.K. of a second U.N. Security Council resolution, this time to authorize war.
- Tony Blair had stressed in a televised interview (detailed further below) that if the U.N. Security Council would not authorize war, then under some conditions, the U.S. and U.K. may take action anyway.
- While this has been criticized as arrogant and a violation of international law, that had not deterred Blair from taking that stance, though, as noted below in more detail, the February 15 report has been so damning to the U.S. and U.K. position, and not highlighted any imminent threat, that his propaganda tactic has now appeared to change course.
- The following day, in the largest protest against war to date (at time of writing), some 10 million people turned out in various cities around the world, even in countries already against war. This further angered officials such as Tony Blair (also discussed further below).
Another major report by Blix and El Baradei on March 7, 2003 revealed that
- The inspection process is having a positive impact, but it would not take weeks, which the Anglo-American position demands, but it would not take years that opposers also demand. Instead, it would be a matter of months.
- That Iraq was showing signs of buckling from international pressure into accelerating cooperation with weapons inspections and conceeding a "substantial measure of disarmament".
- El Baradei mentioned that again there was no evidence of a revival of a nuclear weapons program. He had stressed this many times on previous occassions, but the American and British position is that regardless of what El Baradei has said, they believe otherwise.
- There was enough in this report to fuel both war mongering and anti war positions. For example, Colin Powell said that Blix and El Baradei's reports highlighted "a catalogue of non co-operation" whereas the French foreign minister, while French/German and others highlighted that the same report showed that instead the inspection process was actually working.
- Blix did highlight that while there was cooperation, there was not the "immediate" cooperation that the U.N. resolution 1441 demanded. (Whether this would be enough to justify war, which Colin Powell hinted, is another issue, which the rest of this page attempts to shed some light on.)
- In addition, interviewing scientists was still proving difficult, because even though there were no Iraqi minders, the scientists were being bugged.
- But significantly, the reports dismissed some major claims by the U.S.:
- Blix said there was no evidence to that Iraq was hiding biological and chemical weapons in mobile laboratories and underground shelters, a claim made by Colin Powell earlier in February. (Side NoteThis would also negate the need to use small nuclear weapons by the U.S., as they said they would, which is also discussed further below.)
- Also highlighted was that that claims about Iraq trying to purchase Uranium from Africa were based on documents that were "not authentic". Obtaining Uranium from Africa was something raised, for example, by Tony Blair in his dossier earlier in 2002, also discussed below, yet Blix here is suggested that the intelligence was fake, having been forged and fabricated, as the Washington Post describes it (March 8, 2003).
- The IAEA also mentioned that there was no evidence of resumed nuclear activities in buildings rebuilt since 1988, and no evidence that Iraq had attempted to import uranium since 1990.
- In addition, detailed examination of imported aluminium tubes revealed that they were not destined for use in enriching uranium, which has been another claim by the U.S. and U.K.
In sum then, it would seem that some of the main claims to justify war seems to have proven hollow.
The weapons programs took decades to develop with a lot of outside assistance, which is now all lacking. Continued inspections, repeatedly stressed by the current weapons inspection teams and some nations, therefore has some merit to it as an alternative to war. War being a last resort, as we are also reminded by Bush and Blair themselves, would mean that ideally weapons inspections should perhaps be given a further chance. Peaceful disarmament is the phrase used by many, including war mongers, as the preferred way.
No Nuclear Weapons Program
As detailed elsewhere on this section, months of intrusive inspections by the IAEA has revealed no nuclear program in Iraq. In addition, as mentioned by Blix and El Baradei in their report to the U.N. Security Council in March, 2003 that
- There was no evidence to that Iraq was hiding biological and chemical weapons in mobile laboratories and underground shelters, a claim made by Colin Powell earlier in February.
- Claims about Iraq trying to purchase Uranium from Africa were based on documents that were "not authentic".
- There was no evidence of resumed nuclear activities in buildings rebuilt since 1988.
- There was no evidence that Iraq had attempted to import uranium since 1990.
- Detailed examination of imported aluminium tubes revealed that they were not destined for use in enriching uranium.
These were all claims that the U.S. and U.K. had made in various "intelligence" briefings.
During the U.N. investigations in Iraq in December 2002, Iraq had to produce a declaration of its weapons programs and list its position and detail what it had, what it was using etc. Iraq produced a 12,000 page declaration.
Both Sides Not Cooperating
On December 19, Hans Blix, head of the UN weapons inspection team pointed out that much of what was in that declaration was not anything new, and even the Iraqi information ministry accepted that, saying that most of the report listed details from previous years to 1998, which the UN already knew about. However, a number of controversies occured during this period:
- Hans Blix pointed out or implied on public television, when interviewed, that while Iraq had to date been complying and cooperating with the inspection process, the declaration left many questions unanswered by Iraq.
- However, Blix also implied that nations like the U.S. and U.K. were not cooperating because they were withholding intelligence they have claimed to have about Iraq's various weapons of mass destruction. Though at around that time the U.S. eventually announced that it would share intelligence data.
- Yet, all the way into February, 2003, The Independent reports (February 14, 2003) that senior Democrats in the U.S., including Senators, have accused that the CIA of "sabotaging weapons inspections in Iraq by refusing to co-operate fully with the UN and withholding crucial information about Saddam Hussein's arsenal." In addition, "Led by Senator Carl Levin, the Democrats accused the CIA of making an assessment that the inspections were unlikely to be a success and then ensuring they would not be. They have accused the CIA director of lying about what information on the suspected location of weapons of mass destruction had been passed on."
- In March 2003, as mentioned further up, when Blix reported back to the U.N. Security Council, he pointed out that some intelligence was "not authentic" such as the intelligence of Iraq supposedly trying to get Uranium from Africa.
- Against accusations of not providing sufficient information, the CIA rejects those charges. The LA Times reports (March 8, 2003) that "In a letter to key lawmakers released Thursday night, CIA Director George J. Tenet said the agency has 'provided detailed information on all of the high-value and moderate sites' to the United Nations."
- However, the same LA Times article continues, "A U.S. intelligence official said some of the information the CIA has compiled is of such low value that it would not be useful to inspectors."
- This suggests that perhaps there is not compelling intelligence against Iraq in the way it is claimed, or that the U.S. and U.K. are not cooperating, as they are determined to go to war anyway, and showing the inspection process to be limited may be to their advantage.
U.S. Intercepted Report Giving Edited Copies to the Rest of U.N. Security Council
Another controversy was over the way the whole Iraqi declaration was dealt with:
- The United States took the declaration, wanting to copy it itself, rather than let the U.N. do it.
- Copies were made and given to the other permanent members of the Security Council.
- However, they gave an edited version of the document to the rest of the UN Security Council members.
- There is no basis or right for a nation to intercept such documentation and this caused a lot of uproar in many circles.
- The edited version was cut down to about 3,000 or 4,000 pages.
- Apparently one concern was Iraq's details of where its weapons and facilities were procured and by whom.
They had listed a large number of nations and this could potentially be embarrassing to say the least.
The United States was able to do all this, some believe, because of the influence it was able to exert on the country that currently serves as the chair of the UN Security Council at this time, Colombia:
Iraq Document Detailed Nations and Companies That Helped To Arm It
But another concern to the U.S. about the Iraq document was that it would reveal that the U.S. and other nations had helped to arm Saddam Hussein in the past:
Andreas Zumach, a journalist at the Berlin (Germany) newspaper, the Die Tageszeitung managed to get hold of key parts of the 12,000 page report which are believed not to have been received by the non-permanent members of the Council.
- In his articles for the paper, he lists the various countries and their companies that gave Iraq assistance in various ways to develop weapons of mass destruction, such as biological weapons, chemical and other abilities.
- The U.S. radio program Democracy Now! translated the news reports, and quoting from there, Zumach points out, amongst other things that,
- A list of the various nations and companies involved can be seen at this link from the Die Tageszeitung web site. (Note the article is in German.)
- In an interview with Zumach, by Democracy Now!, "Zumach also said the U.S. Departments of Energy, Defense, Commerce, and Agriculture quietly helped arm Iraq. U.S. government nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia trained traveling Iraqi nuclear scientists and gave non-fissile material for construction of a nuclear bomb." (Emphasis Added).
- There were also more than 80 German companies contributed to chemical weapons and missile development.
The issue raised of omissions in the Iraq report for data after 1998 is of concern of course. Iraq maintains that there is no omission because there has been no weapons of mass destruction development since 1998 hence there is nothing to report. Yet, Blix and others have legitimate questions about what the status of certain items now is and where the documentary proof is.
In addition, at the United Nations press conferences, as Inter Press Service (IPS) reports, (December 19, 2002) the U.S. was the only country to accuse Iraq of being in "material breach" of its obligations. That IPS article also mentions an interview with Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law who points out that "it is for the Security Council to determine whether or not there has been a material breach of these resolutions" not the United States or any other individual nation. Furthermore, Boyle adds that the Bush Administration "has no right to deputise itself as the judge, jury and lord high executioner of international law".
Hans Blix did indicate in his interview to the press at the United Nations (19 December, 2002) that his report to the Security Council was not the final report and more analysis will still be done. Yet, whether these concerns can justify a war or not is perhaps highlighted by the following:
Nuclear Documents at Scientists Home
In addition, around the beginning of 2003 new documents discovered at the home of an Iraqi nuclear scientist raised more concerns, due to fears of possibly relating to the development of nuclear weapons. The scientist has been adamant that these were old personal documents, and mostly concerned research into technology that proved infeasible. UN officials acknowledged to the press (e.g. BBC, January 19, 2003) that much of what was in these documents were known. A concern has been that some of these documents would be found in a home of a private citizen, and so what else could be in such places.
Discovery of Empty "Chemical Warheads" No Big Deal Says Blix
On 16th January 2003, the UN inspections teams discovered empty warheads that could potentially be used to deliver chemical and biological weapons.
- As reported by AFP (January 18, 2003), the White House found the discovery to be "troubling and serious".
- At that same time, in contrast, "inspections chief Hans Blix downplayed the find as 'not a big deal'" as the AFP also reported.
- And just some two weeks later, Hans Blix confirmed his initial reaction. As the New York Times reported on an interview with Blix,
Side NoteIt is also interesting to note some points made by William Rivers Pitt, author of the book 'War on Iraq', which has been a best seller on a number of newspaper lists, such as the New York Times, Washington Post and others. He points out that the a lot of the mainstream have been referring to the discovered weapons as "chemical warheads" when in fact they are artillery munitions, and that even using the term warhead is misleading. In addition, Iraq is allowed to have certain weapons, including the ones found. The implication then, is that the use of the term "chemical warhead" is subtle propaganda.
(Further below, in the part that looks at George Bush's 2003 State of the Union Speech, there is more information about unaccounted for chemical and biological weapons.)
Short Shelf Life of Some Chemical Weapons
Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector in 1998 has pointed out that a number of chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein may have hidden from inspectors in 1998 would now be useless as some of them only have a 3-year shelf life. Given that such a large quantity was already destroyed by 1998, and more may have become useless, to rebuild all that (this time without support from key powers), would appear to be rather difficult.
In addition, Professor Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University in Britain provides detailed analysis of the state of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Amongst many things he notes that
Getting Information from Defectors
While there have been occasional mention by officials and mainstream reports that defectors from Iraq show that Saddam Hussein is indeed developing nuclear weapons, it seems that less reported in the mainstream is that some other defectors actually argue that point. Imad Khadduri, for example, a former nuclear scientist in Iraq worked at the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission from 1968 until 1998, when he left Iraq. He admits he was involved in various programs including nuclear weapons research as well as meeting U.N. weapons inspectors. However, in an article for YellowTimes.org he finds that "present allegations about Iraq's nuclear capability, as continuously advanced by the Americans and the British, to be ridiculous." He argues that the whole state apparatus was redirected to rebuild other destroyed industries and in addition, the nuclear scientists and others working on these programs have been reduced to poverty and lack of updated skills.
As the Bush administration looks toward, and encourages more defectors that support their view, the defector's own agendas must also be considered. Khidhir Hamza, for example, author of Saddam's Bombmaker, has written that Saddam may have up to three nuclear weapons and so must be removed from power. However, Khadduri, mentioned above, has written claiming Hamza to be lying. Khadduri claims that Hamza was not a high level nuclear scientist in the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, as he claimed, but a low-level official, as Khadduri knew him quite well.
Responding to Colin Powell's presentation on February 5, 2003 to the United Nations Security Council of supposed evidence, the Washington Post (February 6, 2003), noted that Jonathan Tucker, a former weapons inspector and currently a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace said that "the sources apparently were defectors, who have not always been reliable or credible" and as the article title had highlighted, "despite defectors' accounts, evidence remains anecdotal."
Key Defector Often Cited by Powell and Others Said Opposite to the Claims. WMDs Were Destroyed
Perhaps one of the biggest revelations (and one of the most silent in the mainstream media) has been how perhaps the most key defector, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, General Hussein Kamel, the former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation had stated categorically in 1995 that "All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed." He said this in an interview to UNSCOM and IAEA after he defected to Jordan in in August 1995. When he had returned to Iraq in 1996 he was assassinated. He was no friend of the Iraq regime, for in that interview, he said "I can state publicly I will work against the regime." Yet on the issue of weapons of mass destruction, he is clear that Iraq destroyed these weapons after the Gulf War.
This revelation is key because, even if some defectors have been unreliable, this particular person, at such a high level, has been cited by George Bush, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and many others as one of their most reliable intelligence sources on Iraqs weapons, and as proof that Iraq has not disarmed and that inspections cannot disarm it.
Examples of the citing of Kamel by Bush, Blair, Powell and others
Prime Minister Tony Blair in his statement to the House of Commons on 25 February 2003, said: "It was only four years later after the defection of Saddam's son-in-law to Jordan, that the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme were discovered."
President Bush declared in a 7 October 2002 speech: "In 1995, after several years of deceit by the Iraqi regime, the head of Iraq's military industries defected. It was then that the regime was forced to admit that it had produced more than 30,000 liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents. The inspectors, however, concluded that Iraq had likely produced two to four times that amount. This is a massive stockpile of biological weapons that has never been accounted for, and capable of killing millions."
Colin Powell's 5 February 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council claimed: "It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX. A single drop of VX on the skin will kill in minutes. Four tons. The admission only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamal, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."
In a speech on 26 August 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney said Kamel's story "should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as the result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself".
Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley recently wrote in the Chicago Tribune (2/16/03) that "because of information provided by Iraqi defector and former head of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs, Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel, the regime had to admit in detail how it cheated on its nuclear non-proliferation commitments
Professor Glen Rangwala of Cambridge University, reposted the interview transcript and provided analysis of it, saying, the "quotes from President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and Secretary Powell refer to material produced by Iraq before the 1991 Gulf War. The administration has cited various quantities of chemical and biological weapons on many other occasions -- weapons that Iraq produced but which remain unaccounted for. All of these claims refer to weapons produced before 1991. According to Kamel's transcript, Iraq destroyed all of these weapons in 1991.
And as Rangwala additionally notes, "If Kamel is to be taken as seriously as the UK and US administrations have previously held him to be, then his claim that "[a]ll weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed" should be taken seriously."
While the key article on this appeared in Newsweek, (March 3 2003, the media in general has not taken this issue up, given the importance of it. As media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) also point out, "Kamel's testimony is not, of course, proof that Iraq does not have hidden stocks of chemical or biological weapons, but it does suggest a need for much more media skepticism about U.S. allegations than has previously been shown."
And as the magazine In These Times went to press it said, "this story has been largely ignored by the [American] national media. It is particularly odd that the New York Times has overlooked it, since Kamel has been cited four times on the Times op-ed page by supporters of war as providing proof that Iraq poses a clear and present danger, when in fact he did exactly the opposite."
Bush and Blair Not Cooperating On Sharing Information
One of the main themes of the whole crisis has been about how key officials such as Bush and Blair have evidence of Iraq building weapons of mass destruction, but are unable to share it with anyone.
- Yet, so many around the world have been asking where the proof is.
- However, the promised intelligence from U.K. and the U.S. has (at time of writing) been very limited, with even Tony Blair and Colin Powell indicating that they are only giving a small amount of information at this time. The U.S. and U.K. fear of compromising their intelligence sources, so have said they will give more information as it becomes more evident that they can do so safely.
- At the same time, France for example has urged all governments to share data. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said in a conference in Moscow on January 7, 2003 that "all countries with specific information must convey it", implying U.K. and U.S. should urgently share more of their intelligence (Associated Press, January 8, 2003).
- President Bush indicated in his 2003 State of the Union Speech at the end of January that on February 5, Colin Powell would meet the U.N. Security Council and share intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors and its links to terrorist groups.
- While a number of nations welcomed this, many were asking various questions that if important information had been known for so long on illegal weapons programs, why had it not been shared with the weapons inspection team? And, in addition, if at the same time Bush and Blair are talking in terms of weeks for action, how would this information be used by the inspection teams? Would the various governments who see this information be given enough time to analyze and verify it for themselves? From some perspectives then, this whole process was been described as hampering the U.N. inspection team's ability to do their work most effectively.
- It turned out that Powell's evidence was not very good (see below for more details on this).
- Against accusations of not providing sufficient information, the CIA rejects those charges. The LA Times reports (March 8, 2003) that "In a letter to key lawmakers released Thursday night, CIA Director George J. Tenet said the agency has 'provided detailed information on all of the high-value and moderate sites' to the United Nations."
- However, the same LA Times article continues, "A U.S. intelligence official said some of the information the CIA has compiled is of such low value that it would not be useful to inspectors."
- The UN Security Council Resolution 1441, clause 10 "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."
- On the one hand as detailed below, Powell gives a lot of information. However, this is all the way on February 5, 2003 and furthermore, the information he gives is questionable. If the U.S., U.K. and other nations have information, they are not providing it.
- In his March 7, 2003 report to the United Nations Security Council, amongst many other things (discussed above), Hans Blix also highlighted the it would be preferable to have better information on sites than double the number of inspectors.
In March 2003, Tony Blair and others had raised concerns about unmanned drones, as part of the various things to quantify in a draft second resolution. Yet, this issue was already dismissed in October 2002. The Washington Post highlighted (October 22, 2002) amongst other inaccuracies, such as claims by Bush of Iraq having unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States". However, the Post pointed out that the CIA itself had said that this was more an experiment or attempt, and that if there was any threat, it was to neighbors, and international military forces in the region, not mentioning sufficient range to reach the United States. One would also think that they would be no match for the U.S./U.K. air forces, especially with the no-fly zones enforced since the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
In February, just days before Blix's February 14, 2003 report to the United Nations Security Council, there were fresh allegations of material breach after discover of a missile, part of the Al Samoud 2 rocket program, that could possibly travel beyond the limits imposed at the end of the Gulf War. Britain and U.S., in particular have been quick to jump onto this allegation to imply a "serious" material breach, and point to Iraqi deceptions, etc. Yet,
- It was Iraq that actually disclosed this information, fueling the argument that the inspection process may have some merit.
- As the BBC highlighted (February 13, 2003), "a panel of experts summoned by UN weapons inspectors said the missile could travel up to 180km (112 miles), just over the 150km limit imposed by the UN after the Gulf War." (Emphasis Added). That is, it was not confirmed for sure that it did go these distances, and even if it could, it would only amount to some 30km (less than 19 miles) over the limit. Iraq also claims that when weighed down by a guidance system, the range is within the limits. This has still to be confirmed though at time of writing.
- Contrasting Washington's claim of seriousness, the Washington Post reported (February 13, 2003) that "U.N. diplomats and missile experts maintain that the current ranges of Iraq's missiles do not significantly alter the military balance in the region."
- In addition, another BBC report, (February 20, 2003), reveals that the weapons inspectors are being pressured, presumably by the U.S. for a favorable report. "[Russian] Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the inspectors were being pushed to leave Iraq or to write reports that said Iraq was not complying with UN demands."
But Iraq was initially hesitant to let go of this weapon system amidst threats of war. Stephen Shalom adds that
In early March, Iraq agreed, reluctantly, to destroy these weapons.
As some have asked then, is this really worth going to war over?
Some Intelligence is Not Very Intelligent
As discussed further below in more detail, a number of key pieces of evidence that Colin Powell presented in February 2003, was dismissed by Hans Blix himself, such as evidence of mobile biological weapons laboratories, and Iraq foiling inspection processes by moving equipment before teams would arrive. In general, Powell's sources appeared vague. A key intelligence document turned out to be plagarized from a report describing the situation in the early 1990s.
As mentioned above, intelligence from the U.S. and U.K. has been either limited or, as one U.S. intelligence officer revealed "of such low value that it woudl not be useful to inspectors."
In other cases, major threats have been exaggerated or falsified, such as the imminent threat and a nuclear weapons program.
CBS News reports Inspectors Call U.S. Tips 'Garbage':
(CBS also points out, "The inspectors do acknowledge, however, that they would not be here at all if not for the threat of U.S. military action.)
In Australia, another key nation that backs the U.S./U.K. stance, a senior Australian intelligence officer quit in protest over Australia's support for a possible war against Iraq. The senior analyst, Andrew Wilkie, at the intelligence agency, the Office of National Assessments (ONA), said the Australian Government's policy on Iraq was "dumb" and "not worth the risk". He raised similar concerns that the CIA have raised (mentioned further up) that, "Going to war against Iraq, invading Iraq is exactly the course of action that is most likely to cause Saddam to do the things that we are trying to prevent." (Side NoteThe Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer in an attempt to discredit Wilkie, questioned his seniority, but Australian opposition leader Simon Crean says that Wilkie "was going to be put on the Iraq taskforce if Australia went to war. Now don't tell me that's not senior, don't tell me that's not connected." It was interesting to note a subtle propaganda technique here of discrediting, and a reverse psychology of sorts, whereby the foreign minister said in respect to all his dealings with the ONA that "In Mr Wilkie's case he is, I'm not sure how senior to be honest, I'm not sure he's terribly senior in the media, he will be increasingly senior over the next few days as is the way, but in any case I may have met him - I don't remember meeting him but I could be wrong there.")
As some have asked then, is this really worth going to war over when the international community is unable to verify or see this intelligence, or disagrees with the general concern about Iraq's threat?
Is it Worth a War?
David Edwards, was quoted further above, relating to the find on possible chemical warheads (to which Hans Blix had said it was "not a big deal", also mentioned above) that to a lot of media and politicians, it seemed there was "No need to question if use of these awesome weapons - described by arms inspectors as battlefield weaponry of minimal importance - might be deterred by the US's 6,144 nuclear warheads." Combining that with the latest Iraq missile disclosure, such questions of whether it is still worth killing people over, is perhaps still valid.
In addition, the following, also from back in December 2002, perhaps also raises this question:
To many people then, the reasons for war do not seem justified. This has therefore made the reasons given seem to be propaganda attempts, many of which have proven to be lies, misinformation or overstating the significance of an issue.
Some Examples of Propaganda
As the media propaganda part of this web site has highlighted, propaganda occurs on both sides. Iraq propaganda is well reported and it would seem needless to reiterate the poor level of media, the dictatorial propaganda and so forth. What is perhaps highlighting here though, is propaganda that comes from our side as well. Throughout this section, claims of the links to terrorism, of certain types of WMDs, of imminent threat, and exaggerating other claims are all examples of propaganda, too. However, the following are just a few examples of other types of propaganda.
The Blair Dossier: Proof or Propaganda to build the case against Iraq?
The Blair government in UK has been supporting Bush's position quite vocally. Yet there has been a lot of skepticism around the world about whether or not Iraq really does pose the threat that Bush and Blair describe (especially after 10 years of crippling sanctions). As a result, a lot of people around England (including many member's of Blair's own government) have constantly been demanding more concrete proof if they are to support sending people into another war (and one that requires regime change may imply more troops on the ground, something a lot of Americans and British are wary about).
Under public pressure, Tony Blair promised a dossier which he said contained the information people were demanding, though he delayed its release (with no explanation why) until less than a day before Parliament was recalled to debate the issue (which meant politicians had less time to analyze the details in the dossier or verify the points and facts). This was all around September 2002.
A number of British media outlets contained articles that pointed out the dossier was not as ground breaking as might have been perceived, though at the same time, many commentators were also not expecting too much from this. Prior to Tony Blair's release of the dossier, some of his own Labour Party members produced what they described as a "Counter Dossier" with many issues that refuted Blair's official line.
For some additional and more detailed analysis of the Blair dossier, see the following for example:
- Notes further to the Counter dossier by one of the authors of the counter dossier that was produced in response to Blair's dossier.
- Weapons of Mass Destruction, by Zaid Al-Ali that looks at a number of claims made by Blair and shows them to be false.
Indeed, as Robert Fisk highlights, for example, there were so many "ifs and buts" that this dossier did not provide much concrete information, mostly speculation. A number of other nations such as Russia, France, Germany and others had also reacted negatively in various ways to this dossier suggesting that it should be left to independent investigators to come out with this information (such as under the U.N.), and that Blair's dossier amounted to propaganda.
As an aside, while the media have not commented much on the decade or so of sanctions, they have had a devastating effect on the people of Iraq, to the extent that key U.N. officials have resigned over these sanction policies (blaming them for the misery in Iraq, more than blaming Saddam Hussein, incidentally). When commenting on the deaths of children caused by sanctions, in 1998 Madeline Albright, then Secretary of State in the U.S. had said that the price was worth it:
Yet, as Fisk highlights another concern about Blair's dossier, if the dossier is correct, then the brutal sanctions and resulting deaths amounted to "nothing":
Weapons Inspectors Were Not Kicked Out in 1998, but Withdrawn
As another common example also reported often by the mainstream media, Iraq supposedly kicked out the U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998.
- The inspectors were not kicked out, but withdrawn by the U.S. in order for the bombing to commence.
- It was also claimed that Iraq was not cooperating and that this was another reason for withdrawing.
- However, there were many reports from U.S. newspapers that CIA engineers were working amongst the UN inspection team.
- Iraq therefore felt it had some legitimate reasons not to cooperate any more.
Media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) highlights the difference in reporting by contrasting various reports from December 1998 and now, showing that it was fully reported then that inspectors were withdrawn, not kicked out.
Media Lens, in a similar way to FAIR mentioned above, contrast the reporting of 1998/1999, with 2002, by the British media, and note a similar parallel to FAIR, whereby in 1998/1999 it was reported that inspectors were withdrawn, though now it has become a claim that they were kicked out. In summing up, they are quite blunt about the media and its role in supporting, or not critiquing, statements from officials:
In addition, another subtle change in media reporting more recently has been how the mention of CIA spying is dealt with:
- Back in 1998 when it was first reported, it became widely acknowledged and accepted that this indeed happened.
- However, the more recent coverage describes it as Iraqi claims.
- As FAIR describes in the title of an article of theirs, the media has moved from fact to allegation. "Suddenly," they add, "facts that [Washington Post's] own correspondents confirmed three years ago in interviews with top U.S. officials are being recycled as mere allegations coming from Saddam Hussein's regime."
As well as the media describing the withdrawal of inspectors as them being kicked out, David Edwards highlights quite scathingly how Bush and Blair have described it, in contrast to what actually happened:
The age-old propaganda technique of demonizing the enemy lends well to these accusations, which have often been repeated constantly by top level officials, almost to the extent that the lie becomes a truth in some circles. This subtle propaganda technique can serve to discredit or minimize the issue (because one can claim that the vile Iraqi regime said it, so there cannot be any credibility to it whatsoever).
Tony Blair Faces a Skeptical TV Audience
At what could initially be thought of as a somewhat courageous decision, given the huge skepticism and lack of support for war in Britain, British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, decided to sit in a televised interview where a small audience of ordinary citizens would question his policies, on February 6, 2003. This was on the BBC's Newsnight program.
However, while this might appear as part of a democratic process, where leaders are to be held accountable, this was seen by some as a charade by the BBC. That is, when real experts could have instead faced Tony Blair, we instead had ordinary citizens, who no doubt posed good questions to Blair, but would perhaps be unable to counter all of Blair's points immediately. David Edwards, with more criticism of this media and government process highlights this and is worth quoting again:
In addition, one of Tony Blair's own Labour Party Members of Parliament, Dianne implied in a BBC political program following up on this interview on the same day that Blair's "inner circle" was very close minded. She also noted that this circle believed a lot in "Blair Myth". Basically she was implying that there is something similar to group think going on, which makes it harder for them to relate to the enormous skepticism in the country and amongst even the Labour Party's own Parliament members. She also added that he was "very Thatcherite".
There have been a number of televised debates with experts and politicians defending the need for war and action, while skeptical audiences pose tough questions. Yet, often (not always), experts that oppose war and could really challenge points made by politicians supporting war, are rarely present or given the chance to take up all the points. This may be unintentional in cases where the agenda of the debate seems to be driven by the television time allowed, but the effect is that this can allow subtle propaganda to go unchallenged.
Focusing on Leaders' Thoughts Without Challenging Claims
In the Elements of Propaganda section on this web site, it was noted how concentrating on the dilemmas of individuals such as political leaders could also be a form of propaganda.
- We see this with George Bush and Tony Blair attempting to build up for war.
- It was noticeable, especially in the last few months of 2002, how much of the mainstream media reporting (at least on TV in particular) in their respective countries had been concentrating on the tough challenges that each leader faced.
- It was almost presented as a personal battle, an epic struggle to reach the minds of the masses, while the actual details of the issues or their claims were subject to less scrutiny (or often not analyzed at all in the same reports).
As a rather vivid example, UK's Channel 4, on its daily evening news program, on 14 November 2002 had a special look at what it called the Propaganda War.
- In the title alone, it acknowledged that there was propaganda on all sides, including the Tony Blair government.
- The program showed how polls could be manipulated to gain the desired response, or to change the response of participants as well as indicate to leaders and opinion makers how to address issues and win an information war.
- Yet, remarkably, the program used this in a panel discussion to discuss what Tony Blair should do to convince people, and what challenges he faced.
- This program had the potential to provide an important understanding of propaganda and warning citizens of a democracy to ensure leaders are accountable. Instead, this program appeared to concentrate on the dilemmas of Tony Blair's position; what he should or could do to win the British people's support for a possible war on Iraq.
- The major issues discussed here (and elsewhere) were not subject to question on this program, perhaps because it was not the scope of the program.
- Yet, the underlying theme, of Blair's precarious situation, and how to convince British people (not whether the issues presented by Blair are to be scrutinized or not, but to convince the British people of Blair's perspective) appeared to be the main thrust.
Channel 4's news programs are usually highly regarded for their quality, yet this time it appeared to contribute to a subtle form of propaganda, unwittingly maybe, which is highlighted well be Media Lens and worth quoting again on their description of this element of propaganda:
Narrow Source of Views and Experts
Media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting released a study criticizing the types of sources used by major American media outlets.
- Using the four major U.S. networks' main news programs, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the study showed that they had concentrated their sources heavily on current and former U.S. officials and largely excluding Americans skeptical of or opposed to an invasion of Iraq.
- Their study concentrated on the first two weeks of February 2003, a cruial time in building the case for war.
- Of the 393 sources, only 17 were skeptics.
- In a radio interview with Democracy Now!, Steve Rendell, a senior analyst at FAIR defined skeptics as being different to those who opposed war, in that skeptics questioned the timing, costs, and so forth, whereas anti-war views were those opposed to the idea of war for various reasons.
- Rendell also said there were only 3 anti-war views.
This countered another media organization, Media Research Center, who had released a study accusing ABC Nightly News of championing France and the United Nations over the US, treating Iraqi propaganda with less skepticism than Bush administration pronouncements, and: "sanitizing radical protesters."
Earlier in March 2003, there was criticism of MSNBC firing a host Phil Donahue for presenting guests critical of Bush and reasons for war. In response, MSNBC owners (GE and Microsoft) said it was committed to diverse views. However, as FAIR charged, this
Note the emphasized phrase at the end of the above quote, highlighting that MSNBC recognized that other networks had taken a pro-war stance.
Subtle Use of Fear
Various claims have often been made about alleged Iraqi links to Al Qaeda, or of Iraq attempting to obtain nuclear material, which, as Brian Whitaker highlights in a Guardian news report, (December 16, 2002) are often false claims, but all contribute to softening up public attitudes to war with Iraq. Amongst various examples he cites, there is one interesting part on how choice of words can impact perceptions. He uses Reuters' example of the phrase 'doomsday' weapons:
As mentioned earlier, the discovery of "empty warheads" has understandably raised a lot of concern. But, it is also interesting to note some points made by William Rivers Pitt, author of the book 'War on Iraq', which has been a best seller on a number of newspaper lists, such as the New York Times, Washington Post and others. For example, he points out that
- The mainstream have been referring to the discovered weapons as "chemical warheads" when in fact they are artillery munitions, and that even using the term warhead is misleading.
- In addition, Iraq is allowed to have certain weapons, including the ones found.
Head of the UN inspection team, Hans Blix himself had said that the discovery of these weapons were "not a big deal" as mentioned earlier as well.
The implication then, is that the use of the term "chemical warhead" contributes to subtle propaganda. Perhaps if considered in isolation, this point being made here is very insignificant (weapons are weapons). Yet in terms of building the case for war, the choice of words obviously have their effect, and using more demeaning terms, and attempting to raise fears and concerns can add up.
Highlighting Tactics Over Political Analysis
Sensationalism is a known problem in media coverage on many issues. Perhaps less discussed though is the focus of media reporting. Even before the invasion on Iraq had actually commenced, media reporting was primarily over a small range of issues, such as tactics, rather than deeper analysis that might give context to the crisis. Without the deeper history and context, it is easier for political leaders to make claims that do not get analyzed and scrutinized, and for ordinary citizens to therefore believe it. The organization, Essential Information captures this very well, in an article signed by some 35 political and media experts, where, amongst other things they highlight the following:
(Since the war has started, it has been observable how there is even less political analysis, and more on how the military actions are taking place and analysis of military maneuvers.)
Good Journalism: When Interviewing Iraq Minister, and Thoroughly Questioning Him
It is worth noting a contrast, and highlighting some good journalism: that is, how critical and analytical journalists are, appropriately, of leaders and politicians from other parts of the world. As an example, on November 17, 2002, a lunch time Sunday political program on the U.K's mainstream ITV channel had an interview with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz. The interview was conducted by Jonathan Dimbleby, well known in UK, who went to Baghdad.
- It was noticeable how well Dimbleby interviewed Aziz, being both polite and disrespectful of authority at the same time!
- He questioned many of Aziz's assertions and followed up many points made by Aziz.
- We would surely expect this quality from journalists all the time. Yet, conversely, we rarely see such
challenging efforts on our own political leaders.
- Indeed, as the interview ended, there was a follow up discussion with an American politician who also heard the interview.
- The politician made claims which were questionable to say the least (given the discussions above), or at least not hard fact as made out to be.
- While he has the right to make such criticisms, journalists should be responsible for holding those claims accountable and not accepting them at face value, just as the way Dimbleby challenged Aziz with such vigour.
- The politician also expressed criticisms and doubts about some of Aziz's claims, yet the interviewer hardly displayed the same polite yet authoritative questioning on this politician.
As David Edwards has implied above, this amounts to not holding our own leaders accountable, which is critical for a functioning democracy where people are to be truly informed citizens. (Side NoteIt is also noticeable how predictable this pattern has been for years in mainstream media reporting and journalism. For example, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their book, Manufacturing Consent (Pantheon Books, New York, 1988) highlight how during the Cold War, there were many occasions where the mainstream were very critical and analytical of claims made by enemies, and other nations, when it came to geopolitical issues. However, when it came to politicians from their own country, they seemed to be less critical and analytical, and were instead more supportive of the authorities. This aspect is also discussed in more detail on this site's section that looks at the media in the U.S.)
The media's role is also questionable. On the one hand they attempt to be "objective" by reporting what leaders are saying. But, concentrating on such angles without appropriate time for other views from other segments of society itself repeats the official line, and hence promotes a line of propaganda. David Cromwell, co-editor of Media Lens captures this well in his critique of the BBC:
But as well as subtle propaganda, there have been opportunities and occassions to push forth what many have described as blatant propaganda. Oftentimes, experts who support war come on television and make claims that are rarely challenged in depth. Other times, debate shows make it look like active debate, but rarely are their experts that are against war. Instead, the skeptical audience gets to challenge the expert panel, often supporting war, who make various claims that is hard to challenge unless expert and detailed knowledge is available. A partial reason for this is a sort of dumbing down of the media in past years, and less attention to international issues, as also discussed on this web site's media section. In addition, mainstream media are sometimes afraid to question power and authority too much:
But there are also occassions where blatant propaganda can go unchallenged. Such examples, below, include the President Bush State of the Union Speech, and U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell's address to the U.N. Security Council. These were examples where prominent leaders were able to make various claims in front of a large, captive audience, where the chance to challenge assertions and claims at that time were impossible. While analysis later on may show controversies etc, in some of the claims, part of the effect of such speeches and claims may have been achieved, as it would seem likely that everyone would always get to see all the analysis afterwards as they are typically not as prominent as a key speech by a key politican.
Bush's State of the Union Speech on Iraq
Just two days after chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and IAEA director general, Mohamed El Baradei reported to the U.N. Security Council on the inspection process, George Bush delivered his State of the Union Speech in the U.S. While he covered many other issues, such as the state of the U.S. economy, environment, terrorism (though, interestingly as some observers pointed out, he didn't mention Osama Bin Laden's name once!), Iraq was an important part of that speech. In it he reiterated the objectives for a war on Iraq:
- to eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (WMD);
- to diminish the threat of international terrorism;
- to promote democracy in Iraq and surrounding areas
Yet, these are all controversial points treated with skepticism, often justifiably
That is, while some of these concerns may be real, a number of people around the world are skeptical on George Bush's real objectives.
- That is, as argued above, and as reported by the UN weaspons inspection teams so far, there has been no evidence of nuclear weapons, which was the main concern that made Saddam a threat.
- As also mentioned above, the CIA and others have long held that there is little linkage between terrorism and Saddam Hussein. Indeed, as also mentioned above, "Senior Bush administration officials are pressuring CIA analysts to tailor their assessments of the Iraqi threat to help build a case against Saddam Hussein."
- One of Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda and other such Islamic extremist organizations, is to overthrow any government in the Islamic world that does not adhere to a fundamentalist version of Islam. Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime is one of the more secular of the Middle East countries, and as mentioned above, at odds with such terrorist organizations.
- The ideal of promoting democracy in Iraq would be welcome by almost everyone. Yet many are skeptical if
that is really an objective of the U.S., given the long history of supporting dictators and even overthrowing
popular leaders, due to geopolitical interest.
- This aspect is detailed a bit more on this site's middle east resources section.
- This has also been one of the reasons for increasing anti-Americanism, and in that context, this is seen more as another power trying to dictate who should lead the people of Iraq. True democracy can only come from within. Outside assistance may be welcome, but after the last Gulf War in 1991, promised support from the U.S. for an internal uprising against Saddam Hussein was not delivered and they were dealt a crushing blow by Hussein's forces.
- Furthermore, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein during the Iran/Iraq war, and before that had supported the dictator Shah or Iran to try and regain control of the nationalized oil. When there was an Islamic revolution and another threat of a loss of control of access to oil, the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein, also giving him weapons of mass destruction capability, knowing that he was using it on his own people as well.
- As Professor of Peace and World Security Studies, Michael Klare highlights:
- (While this page hasn't explored or discussed alternative objectives given the arguments above, many point out that perhaps the real objective is to do with oil. Some have also hinted towards the need for geopolitical dominance, while others still point to the undermining of international law and the United Nations as another objective in order to project power. These and other objectives may all be part of alternative objectives.)
But, as expected by most, the speech was an opportunity for George Bush to make claims and push forth an agenda where so many people would be listening. The risk of unaccountable propaganda therefore was high.
- For example, George Bush highlighted in that speech that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to procure aluminum for use in enriching uranium, for nuclear weapons development. Yet, just two days earlier, El Baradei had reported to the U.N. Security Council that this was not the case and that they were for conventional rocket systems. Under the U.N. sanctions, Iraq is permitted some conventional weaponry.
- As mentioned above, a Sydney Morning Herald article (February 1, 2003) had pointed out that in an interview, Hans Blix had said that the U.S. was misquoting his Iraq report. Amongst other things, in Bush's speech, he had claimed that that Iraqi agents were posing as scientists, or that Blix's inspection agency had been penetrated by Iraqi agents and that sensitive information might have been leaked to Baghdad. Hans Blix said he does not have reason to believe this.
- Bush also stated that "All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks,
and we're asking them to join us, and many are doing so" then adding that, "Yet the course of
this nation does not depend on the decisions of others."
- This can be interpreted to imply that the U.S. is willing to go it alone when the international community would disagree.
- Yet, this also violates international law, all the more significant when it comes to war.
- The charges by many of irony or hypocrisy here is that on the one hand Saddam Hussein must follow U.N. resolutions and international law, and even be bombed for failing to comply, yet, the U.S. "does not depend on the decision of others" as if it is above the rest.
Side not on free nations having responsibility to prevent attacks
While the point made by Bush of contributing to "preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks" seems reasonable, noble and even a moral argument, the concern is not that "free nations" may be unwilling to contribute, but that if other nations are not as convinced of the threat of such calamity, as with Iraq, then the U.S. is willing to risk going it alone. The French paper, Le Monde captures this aspect in regards to Iraq, and how the French and U.S. official positions differ in the way they approach the issue:
- A number of claims were made about unaccounted for biological and chemical weapons with the use of chilling numbers on how serious the concerns were. So too were various details on how Iraq was not cooperating. Yet, most of these points made were questionable, as highlighted by the following annotation of the speech, by the Institute for Public Accuracy (the annotations are indented and preceded by the analysts name). It is a detailed annotation, and is quoted here at length:
- Bush also stated that "Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous
sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible
explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack."
- What Bush has omitted is how much of that ability to build such weapons came with direct support from the U.S. in the 80s when looking to destabilize Iran, as mentioned earlier.
- In addition, as mention on this web site's sections on Arms Control and the Arms Trade, many nations have felt the need to bolster their militaries due to perception of external threats from larger powers or because neighbors have been purchasing weapons systems of various kinds. Hence, the risk of an arms race is often there. Side NoteAnd, as Stephen Zunes comments in the above-mentioned annotation, "This is hardly the 'only possible explanation.' The most likely reason for a country in a heavily armed region within missile range of two nuclear powers to pursue weapons of mass destruction is for deterrence. Even the CIA has reported that there is little chance that Iraq would use WMDs for offensive purposes in the foreseeable future. By contrast, so says this CIA analysis, there is a far greater risk that Saddam Hussein would use whatever WMDs he may possess in the event of a U.S. invasion, when deterrence has clearly failed and he no longer has anything to lose."
- Bush often referred to various reports by his intelligence agencies on links to terrorism, use of weapons of mass destruction, etc, yet as highlighted further up, the CIA has often said it has not found such links.
- Bush also highlighted the gross human rights abuses that Iraq has long been known for and concluded,
"If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning."
- Yet, most of the claims here were not false as such, but the propaganda technique used here was to omit other details, such as the U.S. support at the time of a lot of these violations.
- The response from Stephen Zunes in the above-mentioned annotation is worth highlighting: "The use of chemical weapons by the Iraqi armed forces against Kurdish villages took place in the 1980s when the U.S. was backing Saddam Hussein's government. The U.S. even covered up for the Halabja massacres and similar atrocities by falsely claiming it was the Iranians -- then the preferred enemy -- who were responsible. Human rights organizations have indeed reported torture and other human rights abuses by the Iraqi regime and did so back in the 1980s when the U.S. was supporting it. As a result, one can only assume that this professed concern about human rights abuses is insincere, particularly since the Bush Administration is currently sending military and police aid to repressive regimes such as Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Egypt and others that are guilty of similar human rights abuses. If President Bush really thinks that this constitutes evil, why does he support governments that engage in such crimes?"
- Towards the end, he added that "We seek peace."
Colin Powell Presentation of Evidence Before U.N. Security Council
On February 5, 2003, U.S. Secretary of State, General Colin Powell presented the case for a strike on Iraq. In what was regarded in many mainstream media circles as a "performance" he presented a plethora of information using a variety of media, from satellite photos, tapes of alleged intercepts of conversations between Iraqi military officers, information from defectors, slides and charts, etc. Though there was a lot of information provided, there were roughly three aims of the presentation:
- To show that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction
- Links with terrorists such as Al Qaeda
- Deception by Iraq of the U.N. weapons inspectors, and hiding weapons
As detailed further above, all three of these themes have been questioned, and top officials have often said that for example, there is no evidence of nuclear weapons development (though there are some questions about chemical and biological weapons but much has been destroyed in prior years), that the links with terrorism is dubious.
Leading up to the presentation, a number of media outlets were pointing out that Powell himself said that he would provide no "smoking gun" but would nonetheless provide a compelling case.
Danny Schechter highlights some of the media strategies and other issues used in the build up to the presentation:
But, even after the speech was made, there has been some criticism of the way the media has handled it. For example, as media watchdog FAIR has highlighted, there has been a lack of scrutiny of some of Powell's claims by some mainstream media outlets, giving the effect, intentional or not, of journalists treating allegations as fact.
The following introduction to a Democracy Now! radio broadcast analyzing Powell's speech, highlights the issue of the sources Powell had used:
The Washington Post added (February 6, 2003), that "despite defectors' accounts, evidence remains anecdotal."
Blix Dismisses Some Claims of Powell
Powell had shown satellite photos of alleged movement of mobile biological weapons laboratories and highlighted concerns about Iraqi officers moving equipment before UN inspectors got to the sites. However, as the Guardian reported (February 5, 2003), "Hans Blix said there was no evidence of mobile biological weapons laboratories or of Iraq trying to foil inspectors by moving equipment before his teams arrived."
Recent Sounding Intelligence was Plagiarized From Early 1990s
One revealing incident of the presentation was how Colin Powell cited a British intelligence report released just days before Powell's speech. This was first revealed by Britain's mainstream news program, Channel 4 News. (Seen also an on line article from Channel 4, for some details.)
Perhaps Powell did not know, and maybe even Tony Blair who helped release the document did not know, the intelligence report was plagiarized. The report, "Iraq - Its Infrastructure of Concealment Deception and Intimidation" included so much plagiarized material from 1990, even typographical errors.
William Rivers Pitt highlights some concerns from this:
The same Channel 4 News had also revealed in their evening broadcast (February 7, 2003) that
Given that political officials were involved, the department of communications does begin to bear more resemblance of a department of propaganda, as many have since charged. All that a spokesman for Tony Blair could say was that "we all have lessons to learn from this." What was not clear was if this was to mean that such propaganda should be avoided or that they will ensure next time such blatant use of propaganda is more careful.
No Indication Of Imminent Threat
Perhaps the following is a good summary of how Powell addressed the issue of an imminent threat:
A number of nations were not convinced by Powell's speech.
Scott Ritter, key member of U.N. weapons inspections during the 1998 crisis has been an ardent critic of the current attempts by the U.S. and U.K. to go to war. He commented on Powell's speech that
For some additional analysis on Powell's statement, see for example the following:
- A First Response to Sec. Colin Powell's Presentation Concerning Iraq by Professor Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in Politics at Cambridge University. He addresses many points that Powell makes. (Note that Rangawala also has a detailed analysis of the claims concerning Iraq's proscribed weapons capabilities.)
- Responding to Colin Powell by Rahul Mahajan, February 7, 2003
Playing the Morality Card
Presumably stung by the lack of a "smoking gun" at the February 14, 2003 reports by the chief U.N. inspectors to the U.N. Security Council, and with the onset of mass demonstrations around the world the following day, Tony Blair appeared to concede that he would take the U.N. route. (He had previously stressed on a televised interview that he would in circumstances where he disagreed with the U.N. Security Council decision, act anyway.) But more than that, his speech on the morning of the February 15 to his Labor Party revealed a change in concern over Iraq. No longer was there an "imminent threat" (which ironically, had been a repeated claim for many months), or proof of nuclear weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, or possible links to terrorism. So instead, the justification of war seems to have shifted to the morality and justness of deposing of Saddam Hussein.
Blair Blames Anti-War Protestors For Future Iraq Problems
At a Labour Party spring conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Tony Blair made a speech on the morning of February 15, 2003, warning that there would be "consequences paid in blood" by the Iraqi people if Saddam Hussein were to remain in power. Knowing that massive protests were to be held later that day in London and around the world, (which resulted in some 750,000 to 2 million people in London alone, as part of some 10 million world-wide that same day) that statement was implying that protestors are in effect supporting Saddam Hussein to stay in power. Yet, this is not only over-simplistic, ignoring history, but is offensive to the countless number of citizens who took part in the various protest and peace movements, for at least two reasons:
- It was the U.S. and U.K., as well as other powerful nations that helped Saddam Hussein come into power and give him weapons of mass destruction in the first place (as detailed further above). It was at that time, when he was an ally that he was the biggest threat to other regions, and gassed so many people.
- Criticism of U.S., British and other countries' policies on this have occurred for years, even during the time that the U.S. and U.K. were actively supporting the dictator, yet, their voices were not listened to (they were ignored). International Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and others, throughout the 1980s and 1990s have reported on gross human rights violations of the Iraqi regime. Such concerns have only come to the fore when Saddam Hussein has become the "bad guy" and no longer the ally he initially was (when he committed some of his worst crimes and used weapons of mass destruction).
Those same voices have continued, though of course has now grown to massive proportions on some issues, such as the current Iraq crisis, as detailed by the demonstrations discussed below. Furthermore, as mentioned in the Iraq sanctions page on this site:
- The United Nations, for many years, has repeatedly pointed out that the sanctions regime is killing thousands of people, especially children every month (to which even then U.S. Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, had said that the price was "worth it".)
- Tony Blair for example, has repeatedly said that the fault of this lies squarely at the feet of Saddam
Hussein, and the way he has chosen to implement those sanctions. However, as also highlighted on the
- It has been the U.S. and U.K., primarily, through the U.N. who have obstructed essentials including things like Chlorine for disinfecting water, ambulances and other necessities on the grounds that they could be used for military purposes as well.
- The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has said that the Iraq food distribution system has been of high quality
- Top U.N. officials have resigned in 1998 after 34 years from the U.N. based on what has been done
- Denis Halliday was Humanitarian Coordinator and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. He resigned because he said that the economic sanctions policy was "totally bankrupt" and that it was "destroying an entire society." When interviewed by award-winning journalist John Pilger, he said:
- Hans von Sponeck succeeded Halliday as Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. He resigned in February 2000, asking "How long should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?"
- Just a couple of days after that, Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, resigned, saying privately that she too could not tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people.
- The John Pilger article above also highlights how Kofi Annan in October 1999 had also criticized the political goings-on at the U.N. by some powerful nations, when, as John Pilger highlights, "he accused the U.S. 'using its muscle on the Sanctions Committee to put indefinite 'holds' on more than $700 million worth of humanitarian goods that Iraq would like to buy.'"
- It has been primarily the United States and United Kingdom that have opposed the lifting of sanctions which the United Nations has implied as being the major cause of the deaths of so many Iraqis.
- As Jan Oberg, of the Swedish organization, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research adds:
It could therefore be argued that sanctions have failed, and even strengthened Saddam's grip, so therefore bombing seems like the only alternative, and that opposing this means anti-war protestors are in effect supporting Saddam. However:
- Various protestors and critics of such foreign policies, especially by the British and Americans, have opposed these countries supporting and arming Saddam Hussein in the first place.
- Such people and citizens have then also opposed the harsh impacts of the sanctions regime which have killed thousands of innocent Iraqis, and strengthened Saddam Hussein.
- In addition, there are now protests at potential war, which threatens to kill countless more civilians, and also risks an increase in hatred and terrorism around the world, not least directed to Britain and America.
- Alternatives proposed by other Arab nations, and even South Africa, have been welcomed by the U.N. and/or Iraq. Yet, it has been easy for U.K. and U.S. to dismiss these as either being a propaganda victory for Hussein, or just further excuses for him to delay. It is difficult to therefore say there are no alternatives, given that some alternatives have not been considered, or allowed to take their course.
In that context, for the British Prime Minister (and others) to blame the ordinary citizens who have been right to be sceptical of his and other's claims that have turned out to be false, and to imply that they are the ones that will make the situation worse, could be considered scandalous. Yet, it seems this is almost met with deafening silence in mainstream media "analysis".
In that same speech, Blair said that there was "no righteous anger" at Saddam Hussein's use of torture, killing thousands of people and so forth. He also said "if there are 500,000 on that march [in London later that day], that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for. ... If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started."
But yet again, not mentioning how Saddam had the ability to kill those people (i.e. with support from U.K., America and others), these passionate claims are easy to make and inspire people. (And comparing how many are in a march versus how many have died does not seem like a sensible comparison anyway.)
In addition, contrasting Blair's statement implications that protestors do not care about the number of Iraqis that will die, the following, arguing against war to avoid the deaths of many more Iraqis, would imply the opposite:
Perhaps such statements by Blair and others also highlight how disconnected some people in the position of power are to a variety of views, for while they perhaps acknowledge the large numbers and crowds, they have ignored all the details and analysis of critics for years, and even the United Nations protests at the Iraq policies by these nations.
- And again, the media "analysis" has done little to comment on the particulars of Blair's claims, though noting the overall change in strategy. For example, Nick Assinder, in looking at the new moral cause of Tony Blair, ends by saying "Tony Blair has found a cause. And he is displaying the sort of single mindedness in pursuing it that few have previously witnessed."
- But if there remains a lack (as seems to be the case so far) of analysis of specific issues and claims made by leaders such as Blair in the mainstream reporting, then this risks allowed some aspects of propaganda to go unchallenged.
- Not only then, does Tony Blair supply propaganda (which is to be expected), but the media's general unchallenging position on the claims, has the effect of strengthening that propaganda.
Blair Claims Ridding the World of Saddam Hussein will be a Humanitarian Act
In the same speech as mentioned above, Tony Blair also claimed "Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane." This implies regime change, which the BBC noted (News 24 broadcast, February 15, 2003) was not official British policy.
But the claim of deposing Saddam Hussein can hardly be a humanitarian act:
- The main U.S. and U.K. position all along has been that Iraq poses imminent danger to the west for reasons related to weapons of mass destruction.
- After threatening to take military action, the U.K. convinced the U.S. to come to the U.N. and they put forth a hard resolution, 1441. This revealed no reason for war.
- Still looking for a reason for military action, and appearing (at least for now) to have exhausted the "imminent threat" or weapons of mass destruction type of argument, Blair seems only now to be playing the humanitarian argument.
- Given that this appears to be a shift in propaganda strategy, then the act can hardly be considered humanitarian, even if the effect were to be so (which itself is hard to know, given the past history of supporting other dictatorial regimes and puppets, as mentioned above).
- When the U.S. and U.K. and others helped him acquire weapons of mass destruction, and supported him to wage a war against Iran where some 1 million people were killed, it would seem that in comparison, there was hardly any moral concern that it was "inhumane". Even if one were to argue that Blair was not in power then (ignoring for a moment a systemic level policy of successive U.S. powers and some of their allies), Blair does not acknowledge at all those past acts of supporting and arming a killer.
- This then makes it easier to imply that Saddam Hussein is a brutal person which will only be stopped if we now do something to save those people, and that protestors are not helping. It makes it easier to side-step that people criticized the U.S. support for Sadam Hussein in the first place as well.
And the issue of foreign-imposed regime change that this implies, is also dangerous:
- It sends a dangerous message to other nations that if they don't agree with a leader of another country, they can depose of them.
- History suggests that deposing a foreign leader, by the powers of the time, has been accompanied with the installation of a puppet regime, and has not improved the state of the people of that nation, and in many cases made things much worse. In Latin America, democracy has been stifled to due support of dictators by America. In the Middle East, support of authoritarian regimes has contributed to anger, hatred, resentment, and fueling the fires of extremism, providing easy recruits to terrorist causes. (See this site's pages on the Middle East in general, for more on this.)
Blair also said he felt he had a "moral conviction" on his Iraq stance, suggesting an almost religious-like quality for himself sounds dangerously imperialistic. (It was interesting to note, for example, that even someone like Tim Robbins, a Hollywood actor, who appeared at the mass demonstrations in London on that same day, in an interview with the BBC on television, suggested that the cries for an unjustified war sounded more like cries for empire.)
A number of critics of Bush and Blair have pointed out the double standards in their claims. This has been especially the case for allies that are far from democratic. For example, Saudi Arabia, where a lot of the suspected terrorists that planned the attacks on America in September 11, 2001, has a very authoritarian regime, long criticized by human rights groups and others. Israel has been a sore point for many, as they have nuclear weapons and are accused by human rights groups and others of countless abuses of human rights violations and military occupations of Palestinian areas. Turkey has for years had a harsh crackdown on Kurds. North Korea has recently increased hostility in its nuclear posture. There are various other examples, too. (See for example, the Noam Chomsky archive for extensive collection of articles on more on the double standards.)
The journal, Monthly Review, looking at who has, and who has used weapons of mass destruction, highlights that the U.S. by far has more weapons, and has also used some of them. The article concludes that "the closer one looks at the question of suspected Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, in the context of the existence of such weapons in other countries, the more the Iraqi threat to world peace diminishes by comparison, while the threat represented by the United States looms ever larger."
Throughout the various sections under the geopolitics part of this web site, it has constantly been highlighted that the stances of various powerful nations, such as the U.S., to go against various nuclear weapons treaties, and against other treaties related to international security, rightly or wrongly, other nations may feel threatened and re-consider their military options, where possible. We have seen both India and Pakistan go nuclear, as well as Israel. Other nations are believed to be developing nuclear or chemical and biological capabilities to varying degrees. Considering Iraq in a much wider geopolitical context then perhaps it does not occur to leaders such as Tony Blair and George Bush, that perhaps there is a chance that some nations are becoming hostile, in part, because of their own actions (as well as the previous governments of these nations) either of supporting dictatorial and other non-democratic regimes, or, the use of aggressive politics and military in the international arena, in an almost systematic way. For far more detail and insight into this, see for example, the Institute for Economic Democracy.
Channel 4 News in UK also highlighted (February 18, 2003) another aspect of Blair's propaganda dishonesty:
- In that same speech, he read out a letter from an Iraqi women supporting the war, making a passionate plea and highlighting understandable reasons a war is needed to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
- What Blair did not read out though, was another letter also sent by Iraqi women in exile, but arguing against war, and instead of supporting democratic movements and an uprising from within Iraq.
- Despite the viewpoints one might have of how it should be done, that Tony Blair only highlighted one of the letters (the one that strengthened his argument) made for a propaganda speech, raising more concerns about dishonesty and trustworthiness of the Blair government.
Many are therefore skeptical that the humanitarian concerns were genuine, and ask why other nations that are more of a direct threat, or potentially so, are not being dealt with in the same way.
Democracy Domino Theory
Towards the end of February, 2003, George Bush gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, where he said, "A new regime in Iraq would serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the region." This "Democracy Domino Theory" though sounding promising and full of hope is full of controversy.
Many nations in the Middle East did not receive it well (understandably, as most of the corrupt regimes would not want democracy to reduce or remove their positions of power.)
At the same time, many have argued (including, for example, a group of Iraq women, exiled in Britain, appearing on public television, as mentioned above), that genuine democracy can only come from within, not installed from outside. The challenge from within when Saddam Hussein has a strong grip is another issues, but the sanctions regime currently has impacted the people, not Saddam, and had the effect of actually strengthening him, as a result, as detailed on that sanctions part of this section of this web site. Lifting or changing focus of the sanctions to target Saddam Hussein and not his people could allow for the beginnings of a domestically grown democratic challenge. It is easy to argue against this given Saddam's position of strength and brutality. The sanctions regime and its implementation has not, as often raised in the mainstream, been down to Saddam Hussein. A UN Sanctions Committee (heavily containing British and American influence) is the key implementor.
But further complicating matters, as reported by the Los Angeles Times (March 14, 2003) has been that according to a classified U.S. State Department Report, Bush's Democracy Domino Theory is 'not credible'.
Because, as argued above, the humanitarian card has been played so late, the justifications or goals for a war on Iraq do not seem concerned with humanitarianism as such, else that would have been the stated goals from the beginnings.
To many parts of the international community then, this sounds similar to imperial times where colonial rulers justified actions to save people from themselves. The irony often ignored in the mainstream is that the U.S., Soviets, as well as a few others were the ones that helped support a large number of corrupt, non-democratic regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Mixed Reactions from "International Community"
We often here on media reports that the "international community" feels this way or that way. Yet, the countries that make up the "international community" in the context of the Iraq crisis is often an unstated assumption of being other influential and powerful countries, such as France, Russia and occasionally China (the other three permanent members of the U.N. Security Council), plus occassionally other European countries, Japan and other key allies.
Public dissent in parts of that "international community" seems to be growing. For example, it appears that mass protests throughout Europe have contributed to a number of key nations also indicating that they are opposed to military action, or have highlighted the need to go the route of the United Nations. For example, summarizing from a Chicago Tribune article (January 21, 2003) commenting on the impact the the mass protests around the world on the weekend of January 18 had:
- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a speech that "We will not take part in a military intervention in Iraq, and that is exactly how our voting behavior will be in all international bodies."
- France concurred. The article adds that, "In Paris, senior French officials said that France will use its seat on the Security Council and all of its influence to restrain U.S. militarism."
- (Germany just recently began a rotating seat at the United Nations Security Council, as one of the non-permanent members.)
- In countries such as Britain, Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, there are extremely large percentages of the population against military action, in some cases even if there is a U.N. backing for such action.
- Even in Britain, Tony Blair suffered a major revolt, mostly from his own Labour Party, in what is the biggest revolt in recent times by the leader's own party. DetailsTony Blair had put a motion forward asking Parliament for backing a UN effort to disarm Iraq. It did not explicitly mention war, but there was an ammendment put forward to say that the case for war is unproven. It was thought that of the approximately 600 parliament members, some 100 would vote for this, and the rest would successfully defeat this ammendement hence allowing for war. Instead, an unexpected 199, or an entire third of government voted for this ammendment, 120 or so of whom were from Blair's own Labour Party (with the rest including all members of the third major party, the Liberal Democrats, and a handful from the Conservative party as well). Blair won his backing by a vote of 393 to 199 mostly because of the large majority that Labour has in Parliament, and because most of the main opposition party the Conservatives, backed him, perhaps highlighting how far to the right Tony Blair has gone. (Most of the Labor Party did back Blair, some 254, but that some one third of his own party were against this is seen as extremely significant.)
The positions of France, Germany, Russia, Belgium, China and others, in opposing immediate war have, to some extent, angered the U.S. and Britain, and have even led to rifts in NATO, where there has been disagreement on whether NATO should agree to defend Turkey if there is a war on Iraq.
Around the world, governments have raised concerns. So too have many ordinary citizens. In some cases, (for example, Britain and Italy), while the government may openly be supporting the Bush position, a large majority of people have been openly critical of their government and the U.S. war agenda. As just a small example:
- Indonesia, the worlds most populous Muslim nation, has expressed concerns and doubts and has stated that it opposes possible war with Iraq (as reported by Associated Press, January 9, 2003).
- Malaysia, another predominantly Muslim nation also expressed concerns of the implications of war and the reaction in Muslim countries, as reported by the Gulf Daily News, Bahrain (January 9, 2003).
- Some African countries have also said they are against a unilateral military strike. For example, The Namibian reports (January 8, 2003) that, "Namibia has said it is against military action against Iraq."
- The Financial Times also reports (February 4, 2003) that after a summit of the African Union, the 53-nation union stated that it was firmly opposed to war.
- Reuters reports (January 9, 2003) that even Iran, the longtime foe and neighbour of Iraq, feels that war with Iraq is unnecessary.
- The above-mentioned Reuters report also highlights that Greece and other European countries are against war, saying that "Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is planning to lead an EU mission to Arab states including Iran in the next few weeks in a bid to avoid war."
- Reuters also reports (January 7, 2003) that the large, non-aligned group of nations want a more open debate, rather than a closed-door debate on the Iraq crisis at the United Nations, and that a number of countries are in opposition to any military action.
- The Hindu (February 4, 2003) reports that Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee has said that India does not favor an attack on India.
- United Press International (UPI) reports (February 4, 2003) that the secretary-general of the 22-member Arab League raises concerns about great instability in the region if the U.S. starts a war.
- Jordan is Iraq's largest trading partner, while also being an American ally. It also has fears ranging from economic consequences to domestic political problems and refugee influx concerns if war erupts.
- In Italy, opposition senators have denounced their government's support of Bush, as reported by the Los Angeles Times (January 30, 2003)
- As the previous LA Times link highlights, reactions to George Bush's 2003 State of the Union Speech was met with much resentment around the world.
- In Japan, while the government has been strongly in favor for war and supporting the U.S., some polls suggest that around 80% are against war. The BBC suggests (March 14, 2003) while it has a pacifist constitution, in reality it has long relied on the U.S. for military protection. North Korean tensions and need for continued support from the U.S. against it has contributed to the unpopular stance of the Japanese govt.
- It is interesting to note how much Asia in general has been against the war, and how so many Asian nations
view the U.S./British projection of power. The following is quoted at considerable length as it touches on
many issues typically not discussed in context of Iraq in the mainstream:
Because the above citation covers a vast history in such a short space, see for example, the Institute for Economic Democracy web site which provides on line books that analyzes this and more in far more detail.
But it does not mean that these and other countries are happy to let Iraq get away with things themselves. As mentioned by the Center for Defense Information (Jan. 30, 2003), "On Jan. 30, the leaders of Spain, Britain, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Portugal published joint op-ed pieces in European and American newspapers supporting the U.S. line on Iraq. Russian President Vladimir Putin also publicly warned Iraq that time was running out and patience was at a premium. On Jan. 23, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Turkey met in Istanbul and issued a statement warning Iraq to take advantage of the opportunity left to it to avoid war."
This highlights that as well as opposing a U.S.-led and non U.N.-authorized war, many nations are also warning Iraq to make sure it cooperates and doesn't give an excuse for war to happen.
France has also put itself in an awkward position by chiding some Eastern European nations for supporting the war. Some commentators had suggested that various East European nations had supported the U.S. position, perhaps because of their need to become a NATO member. Regardless, the French leader, Jacques Chirac's comments to them, that they should have known when to keep quiet, has done nothing to help the splits within Europe. Britain and the U.S. of course will be quick to pick up on this an exploit this situation, as would any nation.
But the U.S. have, in a more tactful way, implied that France is also displeasing them. The U.S. ambassador in Paris said that the U.S. would view any French veto of a new U.N. resolution authorizing force as "very unfriendly." In diplomatic speak, this is a very serious accusation.
It would be futile here to try and list the myriad of concerns of all countries around the world. But, some sources that provide more international coverage and voices of governments, peoples, NGOs etc from around the world include:
These are just a small set of examples of course, but these have links to other web sites with more information.
That some countries from the Middle East, such as Iran, who have hardly been friends with Iraq do not see a concern that the U.S. and U.K. have is perhaps quite significant. Yet, a number of Middle East countries show other concerns about their own situation, maybe regardless of how they feel about a war with Iraq: political stability in the region, where anti-Americanism could rise even more is a big concern, so some states have expressed an anti-war stance as a result.
Some of the countries from the developing world and the non-aligned movement have highlighted their concerns about the political process and "diplomacy", which reflect a less-than democratic process in the international arena, and highlights more one of the ways power and influence works, in terms of the closed-door negotiations rather than open door policy. "World opinion" or "international community" in that context has often not included the developing world, which has the majority of the world's population.
The lack (so far) of clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction development by Iraq, or lack of a clear "smoking gun" with which to claim Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. resolution has led to a slight shift in emphasis on how to pin Iraq down. From an innocent until proven guilty paradigm (which itself was a weak paradigm in the whole Iraq issue, and nation states are rarely 'innocent'), the emphasis is shifting to guilty until proven innocent. A New York Times article (January 23, 2003) captures this, where it is pointed out that "Bush administration officials said today that next week they would confront France, Germany and other skeptics of military action against Iraq by demanding that they agree publicly that Iraq had defied the United Nations Security Council." This is because it might be realized that there appears to be no hard evidence and that
While American and British troops began to prepare for deployment in the Gulf French President, Jacques Chirac, suggested to his troops the importance of being ready, if need be. In March 2003, just before the onset of war, France even suggested that they would be ready to offer military assistance if Iraq used chemical weapons. This was met with some cynicism and humor in British and American circles, given France's hostility to war.
And even if some governments are supportive of the American and British governments, large segments of society within those nations may be opposed to various aspects of the crisis. For example,
- MediaLens mentioned (January 1, 2003) that "The Pew global attitudes project revealed in December  that when asked if Saddam Hussein should be removed by force 71% said no in Germany, 64% in France and 79% in Russia. In Turkey - a major US ally - 83% are opposed to the use of Turkish bases for an attack on Iraq. In Britain 47% said no, and 47% yes to the removal of Saddam Hussein by force. In the US 62% favoured war and 26% were opposed." Side NoteThe BBC indicates by February 21, 2003, the Turkish opposition to war may be running as high as 94%, all while the U.S. and Turkey governments play with the idea of massive amounts of aid in return for allowing the U.S. to use their bases.
- The above-mentioned Chicago Tribune article also highlighted that in France, a new poll showed that there were "82 percent against a war with Iraq and 75 percent in favor of France's using its veto on the UN security council to block a new UN resolution" while in Germany a poll showed that "76 percent of the population opposed a war with Iraq even if it had UN backing". In Italy there were some "61 percent against war and only 30 percent in favor."
- Copely News Service reports in the Sandiego Tribune (February 14, 2003) that "A New York Times/CBS poll published today says 66 percent of Americans approve of war with Iraq as an option. Fifty-nine percent said they believed the United States should give U.N. weapons inspectors more time. Sixty-three percent said Washington should not act without allied support and 56 percent said President Bush should wait for U.N. approval."
U.S. Says Some 50 Willing Nations For War. Some Didn't Know They Were
On the eve of war, the U.S. annouced that it had some 30 nations supporting it, in a "coalition of the willing" offering various means of support. Yet, the radio show Democracy Now! (March 19, 2003) highlighted some of the complexities in this support:
Later, this number increased to 50. However, some nations wanted to remain anonymous, while others did not wish to be on it at all, as highlighted by AFP (March 29, 2003). In addition, as Jan Oberg of the Swedish research organization, Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research, says that given that 95.8% of the troops come from four countries (U.S., U.K., Australia and Poland), "It would be more appropriate to call the aggressors the Gang of Four."
And while polls can always be questioned, there have been large numbers of people turning out in protests, vigils and demonstrations in various places.
Large Anti-war Protests
In various parts of the world, many people have protested on the streets against possible war on Iraq. For example (and these are very limited examples):
- A very large number of protestors, estimated from 150,000 (police estimates) to 350,000 (organizer estimates) marched in London in September 2002 (and at that time was considered one of the biggest peace demonstrations in UK in recent times). Side NoteMedia watchdog group, FAIR, noted how media coverage of these protests was lacking, compared to other kinds of protests, such as protests in London at a similar time against a possible ban on hunting.
- Some 1.5 million in Rome took to the streets, October 5, 2002.
- A march in Florence, Italy on November 9, 2002 saw some 300,000 protestors as well.
- On the weekend of 18th January, 2003, hundreds of thousands of people protested around the world, in various cities, including throughout the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
- February 15, 2003 saw a day of global protests, with some of the biggest protests to date for some nations
(at time of writing):
- The BBC reported (News 24 broadcast, February 15, 2003) that some 10 million protestors took part in demonstrations in 600 cities around the world.
- In London, UK, estimates ranged from "in excess of" 750,000 protestors (police estimates) to over some 1.5 to 2 million (organizer's estimates). Whichever it was, the BBC highlighted that this made it the "biggest demonstration in British history" for anything.
- An estimated 1 million turned up in various cities in Spain, another country behind the U.S. in supporting a war (about 200,000 in Seville, 600,000 in Madrid, for example).
- Sydney, Australia (another country that backs the U.S. for war on Iraq) saw some 250,000 people protest, described as the largest since the days of the Vietnam War. Melbourne saw about 150,000.
- In New York, near the United Nations, some 100,000 (police estimates) to 400,000 (organizer's estimates) people turned up, despite what news site, alternet.org described as "draconian restrictions". With some 200,000 in San Francisco, up to 100,000 in Los Angeles, and with large protests in Canada and Mexico, there was possibly over a million people throughout North America that protested.
- 3,000 Jews and Arabs marched together in Tel Aviv, as reported by the BBC (which also reports on some of the other protests mentioned here)
- In Paris, France, 100,000 turned up, and this is in a country which is already against war!
- Germany saw some 500,000 people, also a nation against war on Iraq!
- (Mass protests on various issues have often been ignored or marginalized by the mainstream media as discussed on this web site's protest against corporate globalization section, or the coverage has been marginal. But this was so big that the mainstream could not ignore it. To their credit, the BBC and other British mainstream media, for example, provided a lot of coverage and viewpoints.)
- Protests have even taken on different dimensions and creativity. For example, "virtual demonstrations" whereby people have emailed, phoned and faxed the Senate and White House has drawn some 400,000 people, as reported by CNN (February 28, 2003)
- Since February 15, there have been many other rallies. March 15, 2003, was another big global rally, (though not as large as February, with war looking more likely) where according to Reuters in the previous link, various cities throughout the world saw tens of thousands often turned up. IPS reports (March 16, 2003) for example, that Washington DC alone saw 50,000 people.
These are just a very small sample of the protests that have occurred very frequently throughout the crisis. Various peace groups, religious organizations and others have held vigils, demonstrations and protests around the world against the idea of war.
As exemplified by the enormous march in London, on February 15, 2003, and constantly seen in the footage and live coverage by the BBC at the time, the diversity of the people that turned up was immense. People from all colors, religions, ages and classes had turned up. The Sandiego Tribune also highlighted (February 14, 2003) that even for the U.S. protest movement, not only is there such diversity, but that the "U.S. anti-war movement [is] based in the mainstream". The same could be applied to many other countries, given the large turnouts.
Some have commented that some protests have been larger than those seen during the Vietnam war, and yet these current and large anti-war protests have been before war has even started. In Vietnam, it was many years before mass protests started, and only when the cost in American lives were becoming unacceptable.
Initially, some of the protests were not covered, or not in much depth, by the mainstream media. It seemed that only after activism by media watchdog groups such as FAIR that some of the mainstream media whom they criticized started mentioning these protests a bit more.
Around the world, as war has started, people have continued protests. School children from all over UK have walked out of schools. In cities around the world children and adults continue to protests. Some have been met with violence. Throughout the middle east, cities see continual protests almost each day, by more and more angry people.
It would be impossible to try and list all the various protests that have occurred here. But while there are many, many web sites out there, covering various angles of the protests movements, the following may be some useful starting points, perhaps:
- Free Speech TV coverage of protests in audio, visual and online articles.
- Protest.net provides listings and calendars of upcoming major protests on many issues, including the possible war on Iraq.
- Iraq Watch from ZMagazine's ZNet web site provides many articles, some of which are related to protests, vigils, etc.
- IndyMedia.org, The Independent Media Center, provides reports from grassroots activists and journalists, and often highlights protest meetings, etc.
Proposed Second U.N. Resolution By Bush and Blair
Bush and Blair had proposed a second resolution to the Security Council, basically seeking authority for war. This resolution made six measurable demands. However, France and others said that the inspections were working so there was no need for war at this time, so would oppose any war-requesting resolution (not any resolution, as simplified by the U.S. and U.K., making it appear that France were opposed to any concerted U.N. effort.)
Draft Resolution Designed to Fail and Therefore Allow War
Politicians supporting war of course are not going to analyze the negative side of their own proposed resolutions. Hence, often not mentioned was that at least one of the terms in the draft second resolution would be unaccetable whether the receiver of the demands was ruthless and despotic, or completely democratic and peaceful. This resolution was designed, then, as some would argue, to ensure Saddam Hussein would lose, and no-one would expect Saddam to surrender, hence, this resolution basically supported war. The BBC mentioned this:
One can also add that as well as the World War I example above, another example more recently was during the Kosvo crisis, where the peace demands set in the Rambouillet Accords were written in such a way that Milosevic was not going to accept them, and so make the bombing campaign inevitable. The Americans and British were key in contributing to that accord as well (though France and others were also involved in that one). See this site's section on the Kosovo Crisis for more information.)
Bush/Blair Dropped Second War Resolution due to International Opposition
By March 17, 2003, it was clear that for all the pressure from the U.S. and U.K. (and Spain), described above, only Bulgaria was a sure bet. All the rest remained unconvinced and opposed.
Seeing no chance for winning a second resolution put forth by the British and Americans, and noting that France was going to veto it anyway, the second resolution was withdrawn.
But how this was handled, and spun, is interesting to note:
Not International 'Deadlock' But Opposition to US/UK
A common phrase used in some mainstream media outlets, for example, the BBC, has been the benign phrase 'deadlock', or 'deep division' or some other phrase that gives a false impression of an even split. Yet, by most accounts it has been an opposition to the U.S./U.K. position, given that most nations were going to oppose war or abstain (an opposition but without formally noting so, so as not to face the future wrath of the US/British.)
In addition, withdrawing from the UN process highlighted a number of things.
- Withdrawing the second resolution highlighted international opposition, especially in the Security Council
- But withdrawing ironically also may imply that official history will never record such opposition, because it was never put to the vote.
- Also ironically, Iraq technically speaking (though in real terms it would not amount to much), has the right under Article 51 to use force to defend itself. Had the U.S. and U.K. managed to get Security Council Authorization for war (eventually if not now), Iraq would have had no such right.
- Withdrawal paved way for the British, Americans and Spanish to:
- Blame France for the breakdown at the U.N.
- Decide to go its own way and go to war anyway.
For a while the French were being blamed for causing rifts amongst Europeans and Americans. Now, more explicitly than ever, as the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors to the United Nations gave speeches to the press on March 17, 2003, they explicitly blamed France solely for the breakdown because, as they claimed, France would veto anything.
However, it was not only France, but Russia that also indicated it could use its veto. But not only that, most of the U.N. Security Council seemed opposed.
Consider what Tom Craver, a correspondent at the United Nations for the BBC's political news programme, NewsNight had to say:
Members All Knew That Serious Consequences in 1441 Meant War, Even Though US and UK Themselves Said it did Not
As mentioned further above, even the American and British ambassadors to the U.N., and even Tony Blair himself, just after 1441 was passed stated that there was no automatic trigger for war, and the Security Council had to decide.
1441 was passed unanimously precisely because most countries did not want automatic war type of clause to be in the resolution.
However, from the likes of Britain's Home Secratary David Blunkett (interviewed on BBC, March 16, 2003), and Colin Powell (March 17, 2003), they have said that it was obvious what "serious consequences" meant, and that it meant war. Most people agree that this is what the intention of the U.S. and U.K. was. However, technically, the resolution did not authorize war, and, the last paragraph stated that the U.N. remained seized of the matter, meaning nations had to come back to the U.N. to determine another resolution.
Instead, using spin, it has been argued, with almost no challenge, that the other nations should have known this, and so it is ok to go to war, regardless of what the majority of the council thinks.
Is War Legal or Illegal
In announcing the withdrawal of the draft second resolution, the U.K. ambassador said "The co-sponsors reserve their right to take their own steps to secure the disarmament of Iraq." This went unchallenged by various media outlets and journalists, but the questions would have included, what gave these nations the right to take actions into their own hands, when the final paragraph of 1441 said that "the Security Council remained seized of the matter"?
In Britain, the Attorney General annouced March 17, that war on Iraq would be legal, because of the combined effects of two resolutions from 1991, 678 and 687, and with 1441.
But many lawyers disagree. Some say that explicit authorization from the U.N. Security Council is still needed. International Human Rights Lawyer, Keir Starmer QC, argues:
The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) in New York detailed in a report the illegality of war. They also highlighted that Bush's doctrine of pre-emptive strikes itself was illegal, saying that, "In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the necessity for preemptive attacks against its neighbors and instead outlawed preventive war as a crime against the peace. In the Tribunal's judgment, 'To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.'" (The phrase "supreme international crime" was the condemnation and definition used at the Nuremberg Trials.)
(See also also a debate between the executive director of CESR and a professor of law who argues that war is legal. The previous link will allow you to listen to a real audio archive of the show. You can also watch a streaming video of that show.)
War Is Not the Only Option; Resolution 377
The United Nations Charter, which binds all member states, in Article 2 states that all members "shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force".
Ignoring for a moment that the build up has actually involved both the use of threat and use of force (Coalition forces had begun to deploy troops and bomb key installations in Iraq before March 20, 2003, when bombing really commenced), the United Nations charter highlights that the purpose of the U.N. is "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law."
Given there was so much disagreement in the U.N. Security Council on whether to authorize war or not (the U.S./U.K. now revealing that this was their intention all along, the French/Chinese/Russian camp not seeing the need for war), the solution to by-pass the U.N. and go to war anyway, sets many dangerous precedents. For example
- It sends a message to the world that if the U.S./U.K. don't like anyone else (for there are "allies" that are gross violators of human rights in various ways), they could be next. This would normally fall in line with geopolitical interests that the U.S. would have.
- Any nations fearing U.S. actions may think twice about developing their military capabilities
- Or they may feel the need to increase their military capabilities, otherwise they would face the fate of Iraq.
- Other nations may also see fit to do as they please as well, regardless of if the U.N. authorizes action or not.
- The anger and resentment this has cause around the world risks fueling more terrorism in the future.
However, the impasse, or lack of unanimity at the Security Council did not justify action outside of U.N. authority, for there has been an alternative option used a number of times in the past: A little-mentioned U.N. resolution, 377 A (V), also known as "United For Peace".
The resolution addressed the case where there was a lack of concensus. The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and others have been raising the awareness of this resolution, and highlights:
- The Uniting for Peace resolution, allows the General Assembly to meet to consider the threat to international peace and it can then recommend collective measures to U.N. Members to maintain or restore peace.
- If one U.N. Member State requests that a meeting be convened to consider adoption of such a resolution and either seven Members of the Security Council or a majority of the Members of the General Assembly agree, an emergency special session will be called and the General Assembly will come together to discuss the threat to international peace.
Citing the resolution directly:
Note, the above resolution recognizes for example, that
- The Security Council on occasion may not agree
- In such cases, the larger and more inclusive General Assembly can get involved.
- The General Assembly has a responsibility to get involved.
This resolution was first created in 1950. It is posted on the United Nations web site as a land mark document. Ironically, the U.S. was one of the main supporters of this important resolution.
The Uniting for Peace resolution procedure has been used ten times since 1950.
See for example, the following for more details:
- A U.N. Alternative to War: 'Uniting for Peace' by Michael Ratner, posted on the Let Iraq People Live Campaign web site, Denmark, March 2003. (See also their section on Uniting For Peace in general, for more information)
- A Google Search for the phrase "General Assembly resolution 377 A (V) of 3 November 1950" at the United Nations web site, reveals a number of articles and resolutions showing that it has been used as recently as the late 1990s.
However, as of March 21, 2003, Reuters reports (March 21, 2003) that the U.S. has been pressuring many nations to avoid having a special session of the General Assembly.
War Is Not Only Option; Lack Of Patience Is Not Enough of a Reason for War
One of the many reasons Tony Blair, Colin Powell and other stated that it was time for war was their impatience with more inspections. Despite other nations and Hans Blix himself saying inspection processes were working and they just needed more time, the reason of impatience was one of the reasons given to stop, and choose war, instead.
Yet, patience and its limits is subjective, which is why the Security Council would have to decide together whether to go to war, or choose another course of action. Because the U.S. and U.K. realized, or felt they did not have enough support for war, that not enough other nations were as impatient, they decided to go to war, anyway.
In Tony Blair's Labour Party, a key minister, Robin Cook, resigned. In a long resignation speech at the House of Commons, he received an unprecedented standing ovation. Amongst many things, he said:
The BBC, commenting on Cook's speech said the following:
Other ministers also resigned during those days leading up to war.
It would seem then that war was the option regardless of proof of Saddam being a genuine threat to world peace, ignoring the opinions of the international community and possibly international law.
Considering the Option of Using Nuclear Weapons against Iraq
In March 2002 Pentagon Nuclear Posture documents came to the fore describing nuclear options at named countries. This raised further fears about nuclear weapons being turned from deterrents to possible weapons. The New York Times reported:
And on Iraq, nuclear weapons usage on the battlefield has been an option that has been considered.
Military analyst for the Los Angeles Times reported (January 26, 2003) on
Arkin highlights that
the Bush administration's decision to actively plan for possible preemptive use of such weapons, especially as so-called bunker busters, against Iraq represents a significant lowering of the nuclear threshold. It rewrites the ground rules of nuclear combat in the name of fighting terrorism. (Emphasis is original)
- Nuclear weapons have long been considered to be used as either a matter of immediate national survival, or in retaliation to a nuclear strike.
- But now, to raise the possibility of using these weapons in a preemptive strike sends a hypocritical message to the rest of the world, especially other nuclear powers, or states considering their nuclear options, who could conceivably choose to lower their own thresholds for nuclear use.
- The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would also both be breached.
Arkin adds another concern that the decision-making of nuclear use options is being more and more concentrated, thus making dissent harder to hear:
Furthermore, options are being considered to use nuclear weapons in the event that chemical and biological weapons are used:
The BBC also revealed a report from the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear disarmament organization, that a leaked document suggests that Washington is beginning detailed planning for a new generation of smaller nuclear weapons. This has raised further concerns of double standards; that Iraq is not allowed to have such weapons, while the U.S. can, and also breach the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty in the process.
In an interview with the BBC (see the previous BBC page for a link to a Real Audio of the interview), Dan Plesch of the Royal United Services Institute, an organization that studies defence and international security, said that the U.S. position amounted to a
policy which is
do as we say, not as we do, when it comes to nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. We have nuclear weapons; other people can't have it.
For additional information see
- An interview with William Arkin for additional discussions, by Democracy Now! radio, January 30, 2003, archived online).
- This site's section on arms control for further background and issues relating to nuclear weapons.
The U.S. have also considered using illegal biochemical weapons
The British daily, the Independent revealed (February 16, 2003) that the U.S. have considered "using biochemical agents which are banned under international law. The US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, revealed earlier this month that American forces are planning to use "non-lethal" biochemical weapons such as anti-riot gases and crowd control agents if they invade Iraq." The news article also quoted Professor Alistair Hay, an epidemiologist at Leeds University, a leading authority on chemical weapons in Britain, who said, "It would be absolutely outrageous if they did this. Surely this war against Iraq is to stop the use of those weapons, not about also using them."
Learning from Past Lessons of Propaganda
Christian Science Monitor describes how in the Gulf War in 1991, there was bad intelligence and even outright disinformation to build the case for war. They further note then that such concerns still abound today and propaganda is always something to be wary of.
As has been mentioned in the propaganda sections of this site, occasionally, official versions and media reporting go hand in hand, which strengthens propaganda, while at other times, official establishments may attempt to successfully contain or manipulate the media. The Boston Globe highlights (November 20, 2002) the challenge that many media outlets have and will face, with the Pentagon restricting access in various ways for reporters. The article quotes Mark Thompson, Time magazine's national security editor, who says that, "This Pentagon practices, regularly, lack-of-information warfare against the press". The article also quotes a media representative from the Pentagon at a military reporter's conference who says, "We're committed to access. But it's probably not going to be the access you want."
An article from Asia Times (November 14, 2002) also highlights that Public Relations (PR) firms have been hired by the U.S. to produce spin, and have done so for many years, for many conflicts. (The dead baby story mentioned further up was a PR spin.) That article is worth quoting on this aspect in detail:
And the relationship between PR and Pentagon perhaps continues subtly as implied by the following:
Side NoteNayirah Al Sabah was the Kuwaiti US Ambassador's daughter who testified before U.S. Congress that Iraqi soldiers had pulled babies from incubators in Kuwait City Hospital and left them on the floor to die. This story turned out to be a propaganda stunt created by PR firm Hill and Knowlton's.
It is perhaps to the credit of ordinary citizens the world over that so much propaganda has to be necessary and yet many remain skeptical.
- Journalists and politicians from the west in countries such as the U.S. and U.K. have shown appropriate cynicism and critique when reporting claims and announcements from the Iraqi regime.
- The same does not seem to happen very often though, when questioning our own leaders.
- As John Pilger points out, there are a few who do, but these are not the norm, and they do not usually get the prominence they deserve.
- Yet, the same healthy cynicism and criticism needs to be applied to our own leaders for the sake of accountability, and for the lives of ordinary citizens in the Middle East and the West.
The following two quotes perhaps serve as ominous warnings, given the sources:
Side note continuing above Hitler quote
In the above article, Tom Hartmann continues:
For additional detailed insights of these and other examples, especially in the area of media reporting and propaganda, see for example the following:
- Media Lens a media watchdog from the U.K.
- Iraq resources from Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
- Media await war on Iraq from MediaChannel.org looks at media reporting on Iraq.
- Iraq Under Pressure is a special report section from OneWorld.net including coverage from partner sites from around the world.
- ZNet's Iraq Watch provides a large collection of articles and analysis, many of which include articles related to media, propaganda and the geopolitics.
- Between Iraq and a Hard Place from Britain's Channel 4, looking at the issue of Iraq using humour to highlight some of the absurdities of the issue! What is interesting about this link is that you can watch the comedy on line, but also that such harsh critique of Britain, the U.S. and Iraq policies, and the history of the conflict appeared on a mainstream television channel, albeit using comedy and humor to highlight the issues. It is good to see such critique, though as well as comedy, it would be good to see similar issues being raised and discussed in more depth in the regular programming!
- Media and Iraq Crisis from the Global Policy Forum, presents a look at the mass media coverage of the Iraq crisis, and as it says in its introduction, "It looks especially at how the big US-based media companies adopt an overwhelmingly pro-Washington slant. In the US, the major television networks, newspapers and magazines steadily bombard the public with sensational, pro-war news reports that demonize Saddam, exaggerate the level of international support for Washington's policies, and pass along uncritically false rumors spread by US intelligence agencies. These reports, which are scornful of the UN and the inspection process, pay little heed to the consequences of war, especially the consequences for innocent Iraqis. Washington's oil interests and its former ties to Saddam are usually a taboo topics."
- Democracy Now! radio show in the U.S. provides archives and on-going coverage interviewing and reporting on perspectives that the mainstream media typically have not.
(This web site's section on the Iraq crisis provides more details of how the media portrayed the Iraqi crisis in 1998 plus other on-going issues. Links to other web sites are also provided.)
This article is part of the following collection:
Back to top