Report documents lies leading to Iraq warBy Askia Muhammad
and Richard Muhammad | Last updated: Feb 6, 2008 - 11:58:00 PM Report documents falsehoods that pushed U.S. into costly military misadventure
Now nearly 4,000 U.S. servicemen are dead, billions of dollars have been spent, the domestic economy lurches toward recession, and the U.S. has suffered an astounding loss of credibility abroad.
It also appears that the Bush administration is using the same tactics to build support for a war against Iran. U.S. news media trumpeted a recent encounter between U.S. warships and Iranian army speed boats in the Gulf of Hormuz. Mr. Bush blasted Iran for acting dangerously and labeled the Islamic nation the world’s leading sponsor of terror.
Within days the Hormuz story crumbled, as a Navy official admitted the so-called encounter was not a dangerous one. Doubt was cast over audio of threats aired in repeated media broadcasts and attributed to the Iranians. Analysis of the sound, which had no wind or water as background, raised questions about whether it came from Iranian speedboats.
Advance word about the president’s Jan. 28 State of the Union address, scheduled after The Final Call went to press, was that the speech would be modest with no grandiose plans, and a significant focus on the economy, domestic surveillance for his war on terror and talk of progress in Iraq. It could be a tough sell, the war and the president remain unpopular in opinion polls.
Exploiting fears about national security?
When it came to the Iraq War falsehoods, President Bush told the most untruths, logging 260 false statements. Sec. Powell made 254 false statements. Their false statements about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were exposed Jan. 23 in an exhaustive study by the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism. The untruths were “part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses,” the report’s authors Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith wrote.
“The cumulative effect of these false statements—amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts—was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war,” said the authors.
On October 7, 2002, for example, Mr. Bush spoke about Iraq in a primetime speech in Cincinnati. “The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people,” he continued.
The report noted, “On January 28, 2003, in his annual State of the Union address, Bush asserted: ‘The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production.’ Two weeks earlier, an analyst with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research sent an email to colleagues in the intelligence community laying out why he believed the uranium-purchase agreement ‘probably is a hoax.’ ”
“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose ‘Duelfer Report’ established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it,” it concluded.
According to the report: “On February 5, 2003, in an address to the United Nations Security Council, (Colin) Powell said: ‘What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources.’ As it turned out, however, two of the main human sources to which Mr. Powell referred had provided false information. One was an Iraqi con artist, code-named ‘Curveball,’ whom American intelligence officials were dubious about and in fact had never even spoken to. The other was an Al Qaeda detainee, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who had reportedly been sent to Egypt by the CIA and tortured, and who later recanted the information he had provided. Libi told the CIA in January 2004 that he had ‘decided he would fabricate any information interrogators wanted in order to gain better treatment and avoid being handed over to (a foreign government).”
Mr. Powell, who was secretary of state, tarnished his reputation by presenting major testimony, false testimony, a month before the invasion of Iraq.
The report analyzes public statements, speeches, briefings, as well as Senate Intelligence Committee reports, and compares that information with what has since been revealed by administration whistleblowers, such as former National Security adviser Richard Clarke, in order to compare what was being said publicly with what was known behind the scenes.
The lies, however, persist and one was repeated by GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee during a Jan. 24 debate in Florida. “Everybody can look back and say, oh well we didn’t find the weapons. Doesn’t mean that they weren’t there. Just because you didn’t find every Easter egg didn’t mean it wasn’t planted,” he said, in response to a question. The only problem is no evidence points to the existence of the weapons of mass destruction.
Warnings against military action
“Most Black folks knew, almost instinctively, that the rationales that were being given by the Bush administration for this war were inadequate. I don’t think the Black community is at all surprised about this report concerning the 900 lies told by Bush and members of his administration,” said Lawrence Hamm, of the Newark-based Peoples’ Organization for Progress, which had a King holiday protest against the Iraq war.
No voice has been more strident in repeated warnings against the war than the Honorable Min. Louis Farrakhan. A day after Mr. Bush laid out the case for striking Iraq in October 2002, Min. Farrakhan held a press conference in Detroit, urging the America public to determine the truth of the president’s words and not let soldiers march blindly into battle.
“For instance, ‘Saddam Hussein is the greatest threat to world peace.’ Truth or falsehood? What is the actual fact? Here is a man whose country is 6,000 miles from here or more. He has no rockets that can reach these shores, no bombs to reach these shores, but the president says: ‘He has weapons of mass destruction.’ What is the proof of that?” the Minister asked.
He condemned the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive military strikes, noted that only the U.S., Britain and Israel seemed eager to go to war, pointed out how Israel’s former prime minister lobbied the U.S. Congress to war. Min. Farrakhan blasted the hypocrisy of citing UN resolutions to attack Iraq and ignoring similar violations by Israel. He warned those who would die on the battlefield would be the Black, the Brown and the poor—not the children of administration neo-cons who saw taking Iraq as the first step to remaking the Middle East and ensuring Israel’s safety. The soldiers “are patriotic, but their patriotism should not be manipulated by the president with half-truths and assumptions and maybes,” Min. Farrakhan said.
In two letters to Mr. Bush, the Minister warned the war would not be a cakewalk with Iraqi liberation celebrations forecast by neo-cons, like then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“Afghanistan is only a preliminary to a much wider war, which is already planned, and this war also has a home front aspect as well,” Min. Farrakhan wrote in a letter to Mr. Bush on Dec. 1, 2001. “Should you persist in this, you will do what no Islamic Leader is able to do. No leader of any Muslim nation can call for Jihad or Holy War and cause the Muslim world to obey that call.”
“You will unite the Muslim world in hostility against America and Great Britain, and you will use your great position of power, inadvertently, to call for a Holy War against the West.”
Months later, Min. Farrakhan warned President Bush once again about his planned war. “Mr. President, if you do this, you will bring down upon America an increase in the Divine Judgment of rain, hail, snow, wind, earthquakes, pestilence and famine that is already witnessed in the country. As you go about destroying other nations and cities, you will bring this kind of Divine Wrath on the American people and on American cities,” the Muslim leader said in an Oct. 30, 2002 letter.
While Min. Farrakhan has spoken against the war in practically every public message since it began, in a recent Final Call interview, he warned the world community to act justly and reject Bush efforts to make war with Iran. He also urged the Muslim world to unite to stop U.S. military aggression.
“If the international community would deal fairly, they could prevent a war that is triggered by an unprovoked attack on Iran,” he said, in a Jan. 5 interview. “However, the Zionists have worked their way into control in America, Britain, France, Germany and other countries of the world, so Europe will not favor a just solution to the problem presented by Iran’s desire for Atomic knowledge, and how to use that knowledge for peaceful purposes,” the Minister said.
“If the Islamic people will hold on to that rope (principles of Islam), and be united around that, we can stop the West from any attempt to bomb Iran. Or, if they do, our unified response would be devastating to the Western powers,” he added.
Framing public debate with false statements
Before the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003, in the hallways and offices of the White House, the Defense Department and the State Department, high level Bush appointees went about their work. When they spoke publicly, the script was the same and it was false.
“On at least 532 separate occasions, Bush and these three key officials (Mr. Cheney, Dr. Rice and Sec. Rumsfeld), along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war,” the report states.
“Not surprisingly, the officials with the most opportunities to make speeches, grant media interviews, and otherwise frame the public debate also made the most false statements, according to this first-ever analysis of the entire body of prewar rhetoric,” according to the Center for Public Integrity report.
“On September 8, 2002, Bush administration officials hit the national airwaves to advance the argument that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes designed to enrich uranium. In an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, for example, Vice President Dick Cheney flatly stated that Saddam Hussein ‘now is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium.’
“Condoleezza Rice, who was then Bush’s national security adviser, followed Cheney that night on CNN’s Late Edition. In answer to a question from Wolf Blitzer on how close Saddam Hussein’s government was to developing a nuclear capability, Rice said: ‘We do know that he is actively pursuing a nuclear weapon. We do know there have been shipments going into . . . Iraq, for instance, of aluminum tubes that really are only suited to high-quality aluminum tools that (are) only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs,’ ” the report noted.
The falsehoods came despite April 2001 Energy Department conclusions that the applications were likely for “conventional ordnance production,” and September 2002 National Intelligence Estimate work by the Energy Department and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research stated their belief that Iraq intended to use the tubes in a conventional rocket program, the report said. Despite those factors, “the Central Intelligence Agency’s contrary view prevailed,” it added.
“From the beginning the polls showed, that more than any other section of the American population Black people were opposed to this war and consistently have been opposed to the war,” said activist Larry Hamm. “That opposition to date has not been made manifest except at the ballot box last November. I think it’s important not only that we vote for peace, but that we also organize and mobilize and agitate for peace,” he said.
Though the Democrats were given the majority in Congress, they have not stopped the war, he said. Many Democrats have continued to vote for war funding, Mr. Hamm said. Speeches aren’t enough to end the war, Democrats have to act, he said. Beyond ending the war, the troops have to be brought home and the money squandered in Iraq spent on domestic needs, Mr. Hamm added.
“It’s abominable that this is happening, but sadly the Democrats really are not doing anything about this in regards to considering impeachment,” observed Max Obuszewski, of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, an anti-war group. The damage that’s been done to the nation is incalculable, he said. The war, which is a drag on the economy, is the issue presidential hopefuls should tackle, the activist argued. And, he said, voters should contact their congressmen and press for the impeachment of Vice President Cheney and Mr. Bush.
Jim Baldridge, of Veterans For Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War, sees reminders of the dark days of Vietnam with the quagmire in Iraq. The dehumanization of the enemy, deception to start and maintain the war and the growing opposition to the Iraq War parallel Vietnam, he said.
The Vietnam era veteran has seen post-traumatic stress disorder and the aftermath of war. New technology is saving lives, but veterans and families aren’t getting medical care they need, he said. “It doesn’t support the troops by putting them in a bad situation under false pretenses. To me, supporting the troops simply means bring them home. Defending the country could be done much better here. By having the National Guard, for example, available for domestic catastrophes like Katrina,” Mr. Baldridge said.
The Strait of Hormuz incident with Iran sounds just like the false Gulf of Tonkin incident that justified U.S. intervention in Vietnam, he added.