Having managed to kill his two sons—who have been responsible for horrible crimes as various television footage has shown—the U.S. searched for Saddam Hussein for months.
On December 13, 2003, Saddam Hussein was finally captured1, after months of eluding U.S. forces. He was found hiding in a hole-like underground hideout, near his home town of Tikrit.
The BBC also noted that while Saddam’s capture needed to be shown on television, showing part of his medical examination contravened Geneva Conventions2, adopted in 1949, that require among other things that countries protect prisoners-of-war in their custody from public curiosity. This was an issue raised by Washington earlier this year when Iraq aired videotapes of captured American soldiers, the BBC noted, implying it didn’t care about this issue this time round. (Admittedly most of us probably don’t care too much about the state of Saddam Hussein and how he would be paraded after being captured, but the concern here is the double standards and propaganda opportunities.)
Before and since his capture people have been debating if he should be held on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC), or by local Iraqi judges.
The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council recently announced that a court would be established to try former members of the Baathist regime, presided over by Iraqi judges. Saddam Hussein could be tried there.
Amnesty International, for example, said that whether it is a trial in Iraq, or in an international court, the issue of fairness and indepenence that meets international standards is paramount, and that the trial process must not be turned into a political revenge agenda. In addition, Amnesty also reiterated a suggestion that some non-Iraqi judges also be included in the process to help with impartiality and expertise in such complex cases:
(See this site’s section on the ICC4 for more information about the ICC.)
But some see the capture of Saddam Hussein as being also used as a propaganda opportunity to side-step the issue of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and the lack of progess on that front.
Questions are being asked, even in the mainstream about the location of the weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMDs and their immediate availability and danger was central to the case for war in Iraq.
Months after the war has ended, the hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) still has not revealed anything that could justify war and match the scarey picture portrayed by the Bush and Blair administrations.
Iraq Study Group Does not Find WMD
The U.S.’s leading man in charge of this search for WMDs in 2003, David Kay, had signaled his intention to resign before the release of Iraq Study Group’s final autumn 2004 report. While citing personal reasons, many analysts took this as a sign to mean an end of major efforts to locate WMDs. Quoting NewScientist.com, for example:
Another major concern at this point is that only American and British forces have been involved in this search, and currently not the U.N. inspections team.
As Reuters reported, (
April 17, 2003
13) the United States does not want the U.N. inspectors back any time soon, saying it prefers to do the job itself.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald (April 24, 200314), both in Washington and in New York, the U.S. announced that the United States will not permit United Nations weapons inspectors to return to Iraq, saying the US military has taken over the role of searching for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and that both the White House and the US ambassador to the UN said they saw no role in postwar Iraq for the UN weapons inspection teams.
AFP reported in December 2003, that the United Nations weapons inspection team (UNMOVIC) noted that it
still hadn’t been given access
15 to the US-organized Iraq Study Group’s interim report on weapons of mass destruction.
WMD Inspection Team is Not Neutral
Given the large number of lies, fabrications and exaggerations16 (many proven by the U.N. inspection team itself), and ignoring for a moment what right the U.S. has to make this imposition on the United Nations (for it is theoretically meant to work the other way) the concern that many have is if WMDs are supposedly found, what is the chance that it is a genuine find and not somehow a setup by the U.S. and U.K., as there is a lot at stake for them politically if nothing is found.
It has been common knowledge that the U.S. has not liked Blix because his reports were not favorable to them. The above Sydney Morning Herald article also adds a possibility that the U.S. might allow the U.N. weaspons inspection team in after Blix has ended his term (in June) and a new head is in place.
Without an independent (i.e. U.N.) inspection team, the credibility of any finds will be questioned, as Hans Blix himself had suggested17.
The U.N. inspection team had international credibility and was believed by most nations to be doing a good job, and just needed some more time.
The weapons of mass destruction argument was the main thrust for military action initially. As that argument started to lead to dead ends, the U.S. and British shifted their propaganda tactics to also highlight the moral case, to justify a war of liberation.
In addition, as the Associated Press reported (May 23, 2003), Hans Blix has questioned 18 whether WMDs actually exist or not.
Donald Rumsfeld Concedes that WMDs May Not Exist
As early as the end of May 2003, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself conceded that Iraqi WMDs may not exist:
Hints From Early On that WMDs May Not Exist
The BBC also reported, September 24, 2003 that a Bush administration source has said that no weapons of mass destruction have been found by the group in charge of looking for them 21. This was to become the conclusion of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group’s interim report. UK’s Downing Street was quick to dismiss this, though the BBC showed on television, a speech from Tony Blair some time back that this group’s finding is what he would wait for regarding the existence of WMDs. The interim report was just a draft, so things could change later. But it is interesting to note British foreign secretary Jack Straw’s response, as the BBC also reported. Straw said that people did not need the ISG report for evidence of that threat because it was already shown in volumes of reports from UN inspectors for 12 years. Yet, he failed to mention that many of the reports he refers to are from many years ago before it turned out that key sources were pointing out that WMDs were being or were eliminated. His arguments therefore appear to form part of the propaganda used to justify the invasion in the first place22.
Colin Powell Originally Claimed Saddam Hussein Not a Threat; Concedes WMDs Unlikely to be Found
Colin Powell himself stated in February 2001 that Saddam Hussein was no threat
23. Journalist John Pilger reveals, back in February 24, 2001, at a conference in Cairo, video footage showing Colin Powell stating that, He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.
History Will Forgive Him If No WMDs Found, Blair Says, Because Dictator Removed
As part of a visit around the globe, Tony Blair was in the U.S., and in a speech to Congress suggested that history might forgive him26 if WMDs are not found because he contributed to ridding the world of an evil dictator. Not only is this a weak admission that they might not exist, but, to be quite blunt, as stated above and elsewhere on this site’s section on Iraq, Tony Blair and the U.S. have not really cared about the plight of Iraqi civilians, else the sanctions policy which they had a lot of influence over would not have decimated and contributed to the deaths of so many people. Perhaps to achieve geopolitical aims (discussed further below), propaganda was used to convince citizens of U.K. and U.S.A. that it is right to wage war. Debates will no doubt go on for a long time on whether the war was worth it or not because Saddam Hussein was toppled, but issues such as whether or not people like Bush and Blair really cared about the plight of Iraqi citizens, the impacts of sanctions, which former top U.N. staff described as genocidal, etc. do not typically get as much analysis.
Interestingly, Tony Blair alleged that British and American weapons hunters had unearthed massive evidence of a huge system of clandestine laboratories in Iraq. Yet this was contradicted by an unlikely source—Paul Bremer, head of the occupation forces in Baghdad.
Until the handover of power to Iraqis, Iraq was, in effect, being run by the Americans and the British. Even since the handover, critics claim the US does hold most influence. In the aftermath of the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime, intelligence documents and other findings are coming to light. However, given the control by the U.S. and U.K., in the eyes of many around the world, any American and British findings may not be credible. Some reports may even be fabrications or the truth, but we would never be certain. For example, the CIA and Iraqi opposition groups claim to have found documents showing links29 between Al Jazeera and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Yet, as the previous link also highlights, given that the find was by the CIA, this might serve to further tarnish Al Jazeera’s image which has often been a thorn in the side of the American and British propaganda battle.
As a result, it is hard to know for sure without independent verification if these are fabrications or truths, etc. In the previous page30, about the build up to the war, more detail was provided about how the U.S. and U.K. (as well as others) had, in the past, supported Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime, for example, when he used chemical weapons on his own people. With British and American intelligence controlling the intelligence findings in Iraq now, it would be likely that the darker aspects of U.S., and British involvement could be ommitted. It is even possible that French and other less favourable nations’ involvements may be highlighted and leaked to reporters.
All this risks going down the avenue of conspiracy because control is by the occupying power. History is written by the victor is a common phrase and a much accepted part of war and culture. In modern times, such writing of history could involve sanitizing some aspects, and highlighting others, and result in revisionist history. For more on this angle and how propaganda has been used in various ways, and how history has been written by the victors, see for example, the Institute for Economic Democracy31 web site.
Accustations of Bush and Blair’s Intelligence Being Exaggerated or Outright Lies
Around the end of May, and the beginning of June, the mainstream started to ask more and more about the WMDs. The administrations of George Bush and Tony Blair started to come under more pressure about things like various leaks about possible exaggeration, lying and/or pressuring their intelligence services to produce favorable reports regarding the existence of WMDs, and so on. (Yet, as mentioned on the previous page about the build up to war, long before Iraq was invaded, intelligence services were being pressured to come out with more favorable reports, even when agencies such as the CIA itself had questioned the existence of WMDs or the likelihood that Saddam posed a threat to the U.S. or the world.)
Doubts from many top experts about intelligence quality
As Jime Lobe of Inter Press Service says (June 2, 200332), When all three major U.S. newsweeklies—Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report—run major features on the same day on possible government lying, you can bet you have the makings of a major scandal.
A South African newspaper, Daily News noted (June 9, 2003) that an intelligence report, which said there was no proof that deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein posed a growing threat to the West, was suppressed
33 by the British government. Similar reports came out on many British media outlets at the time.
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper also revealed (May 31, 2003), that Colin Powell and Jack Straw had serious doubts over their Iraqi weapons claims34. For example, the newspaper article mentioned that, The [British] foreign secretary [Jack Straw] reportedly expressed concern that claims being made by Mr Blair and President Bush could not be proved. The problem, explained Mr Straw, was the lack of corroborative evidence to back up the claims. and that Much of the intelligence were assumptions and assessments not supported by hard facts or other sources.
USA Today reported on June 17, 2003, that former CIA director Stansfield Turner accused the Bush administration Tuesday of overstretching the facts about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
35 in making its case for invading that country. This criticism adds the retired admiral’s name to a list of former intelligence professionals concerned that the CIA and its intelligence reports were manipulated to justify the war, the article also notes.
The Sydney Morning Herald summarizes (June 21, 2003) how most of the intelligence that helped go to war was garbage36. The article comments on the dossiers from British and American intelligence that as three legislative bodies in the US, Britain and Australia review that intelligence, some of it is becoming shaky. In one instance it was manufactured. In others, the intelligence was hedged with qualifications that were somehow dumped once it appeared in political speeches or declassified reports. The effect of this was that There’s more and more evidence that public opinion in our three countries was manipulated by the Bush Administration with the fragments of intelligence that they had, said Jonathan Dean, a security analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington.
While revealed back in March that claims of obtaining Uranium from Africa were lies and reported on this site’s previous page about the build up to war37, further, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq who was dispatched to Niger in 2002 to investigate these claims had reported that these claims had no substance (but the Bush Administration still decided to quote this as British intelligence). But as MSNBC and NBC noted, the ambassador, Joseph Wilson charged the Bush administration of wreklessly making the charge, knowing it was false:
Hans Blix, according to the Washington Post (June 22, 2003) said he suspected that
Baghdad possessed little more than debris39 from a former, secret weapons program when the United States invaded the country in March.
In addition, Blix lashed out at both Washington and Iraq bastards who had
tried to undermine him
40 in his three year post. While speaking to the Guardian (June 11, 2003) he accused the Iraqis of spreading lies about him being homosexual, and of Washington he accused
The Bush administration of leaning on his inspectors to produce more damning language in their reports;
Some elements of the Pentagon of being behind a smear campaign against him; and
Washington of regarding the UN as an alien power which they hoped would sink into the East river.
MSNBC revealed that
parts of intelligence used by the Bush Administration in October 2002 was highly dubious
Intelligence which was often qualified with uncertainty was presented as solid
Under pressure, in mid-July the Bush Administration released parts of an intelligence document from October that cited compelling evidence of reconsitution of a nuclear weapons program by Iraq. Yet, as MSNBC detailed, this document contained many claims, including that most of the main ones used by people such as Bush and Powel during important speeches were highly dubious. For example,
Many important or serious accusations were qualified with words such as moderate confidence, even low confidence;
Other sentences which marked uncertainty, or low confidence in the claims being true, were highlighted in boldface;
In England, there are accusations about some dossiers being sexed up and being dodgy. Those claims and investigations have been constant news, yet, as the U.S intelligence document and MSNBC’s report on it highlights, regardless of whether documents themselves were sexed up or not, the information presented looks as though they were misportrayed through propaganda, and not mentioning how in many cases key claims had low confidence or were even highly dubious.
The Washington Post reported at the end of September 2003 that the U.S. House Committee on Intelligence had criticized intelligence about Iraq’s WMDs and ties to al Qaeda as being weak42. The committe criticized the U.S. intelligence community for using largely outdated, circumstantial and fragmentary information with too many uncertainties to conclude that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, the Post noted.
This came after some four months of investigation by top members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, going through 19 volumes of classified material used by the Bush administration to make its case for the war on Iraq. As the Post continues, the committe found significant deficiencies in the community’s ability to collect fresh intelligence on Iraq, and said it had to rely on past assessments dating to when U.N. inspectors left Iraq in 1998 and on some new piecemeal intelligence, both of which were not challenged as a routine matter. And, The absence of proof that chemical and biological weapons and their related development programs had been destroyed was considered proof that they continued to exist according to a letter written by a couple of these members in a letter to CIA chief, George Tenet.
In the U.S., there has been some debate about whether it is the intelligence community’s failings, or the politicization of intelligence information in both the case for the Iraq war, and the failings to address warnings about the September 11 terrorist attacks. This round of criticism would seem to add to that debate.
Former UN weapons inspector and critic of the war on Iraq, Scott Ritter, also added that the British Intelligence such as MI6 ran a campaign designed to exaggerate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction in the late 1990s 43 in order to shift public opinion.
This campaign was also aimed at the public of other countries, such as Poland, India, and South Africa, all non-aligned UN countries, against the U.S.-U.K. sanctions regime.
The Hutton Report and the BBC
Award-winning journalist, John Pilger is worth quoting at length a commentary that ties in some broader aspects of media reporting in Britain and America, especially as it relates to this inquiry and the BBC:
Danny Schechter, mentioned by Pilger above, adds about the media and BBC:
In addition, media research organization, Media Tenor also founded by Schechter, finds that BBC and ITV (another British mainstream media channel) reporting on the Iraq war and related issues on prime time, were quite similar, and revealed little evidence for an alleged BBC bias52.
And as Jackey Ashley comments in the Guardian, (July 24, 2003), an attack on the BBC is not just from the British government that have long-wanted to do this, in order to dumb down BBC content (borrowing a phrase from Schechter in the link above), but has also come from Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, so that he can more easily challenge the popularity of the BBC. In sum, as Ashley says, this is not an issue about sources, but an issue about power53.
Powell Admits Mobile Lab Claims False—But This is an Old Story
Pressuring Officials to State a Link Between 9-11 and Saddam Hussein
As mentioned in the previous page about the build up to the Iraq war, the CIA and others had been pressured to show a link between the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and Saddam Hussein, even though they had said that they could not find any credible links, some of this being mentioned as far back as September 2002.
In the middle of June 2003, General Wesley Clark, former Supreme NATO Allied Commander in Europe and Commander-in-Chief of the United States European Command, revealed that he was pressured to identify a link even when there was no evidence. On NBC’s Meet the Press show, the following was part of an exchange with anchor Tim Russert:
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting, quoted above, also noted that
And back in March, 2003, in an interview with Salon magazine, General Clark also noted that
The Washington Post also noted (June 22, 2003) that
U.S. intelligence community did not have concrete links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda
Pressure for Investigations into Intelligence and War Justification
Public pressure for public hearings into whether or not faulty information was used to justify war on Iraq mounted on both the Bush and Blair governments quite early on. Neither had public hearings, but closed-door sessions (see for example, Boston Globe (June 12, 200366) and BBC (June 18, 200367)).
While all information and findings won’t be available to the public, some information has come out such as how some officials felt pressured to produce favorable reports, and how some senior cabinet members in the UK government accused Blair of having decided to go to war regardless of evidence of WMDs or not. (Robin Cook, for example, former UK House of Commons Leader, who had resigned over the decision to go to war, said the British government had already decided on a policy of ousting Saddam and used intelligence to justify it68, as reported by The Canadian Press (June 17, 2003). In addition, as the same article also continues, Clare Short, the former [UK] International Development Secretary, said Blair 'pre-committed' Britain to conflict months before the war, even as the United Nations was working to resolve the crisis peacefully.
Both Clare Short and Robin Cook were prominent cabinet members, and, as various British media outlets reported at various times, would have been privy to most (if not all) high level discussions by the Blair administration on issues related to going to war or not. Their resignations and comments have caused a bit of a stir in the British media. Blair denies such accusations. However, it is worth quoting the Canadian Press article further:
The New York Times highlighted for example, that not only were some intelligence officials pressured to come out with favorable reports, but that the Bush Administration selectively used the worst case ones to raise the fear of imminent threat to the U.S. (implying there wasn’t one, and that the war was not justified on those grounds):
Since about July 2003, the revelations and accusations on all sorts of intelligence, whether it was doctored or not, who influenced passages, where sources came from and so forth are, are to some extent being questioned in the mainstream. Yet, in some cases, the scope of questioning is narrow71, as FAIR suggests.
Bush and Blair Order Inquiries Beginning Of 2004
The Butler Report Finds Serious Flaw in Intelligence on Iraq
But there are also wider geopolitical perspectives and ramifications this attack on Iraq may have, and they could be felt for a long time to come.