"A Failure of Skepticism in Powell Coverage," ( http://www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html ,2/10/03) is an analysis by FAIR (Freedom and Accuracy in Media,) detailing the failures of the mainstream US press to investigate or in any way independently confirm many of the claims made by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his Feb. 5, address to the UN alleging Iraqi violations of UN resolutions prohibiting Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). FAIR also offers additional reports examining the inaccuracies in recent press coverage of Bush regime's claims, such as Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact, 2/4/03
Included in FAIR's report on Powell's charges is a brief history of false claims by the US used to justify military strikes. While the review focuses on the numerous bogus claims relating to the Bush Junta's plan to launch "Pre-emptive War" against Iraq, it also includes mention of the Clinton administration's false claim in 1999 that its target in a missile strike in Sudan was a weapons manufactouring plant when it turned out to be a pharmaceutical factory. In addition, faked reports of Iraqi troops massing along the Saudi border were used in 1991 to hype the Persian Gulf War.
Not included in FAIR's list is the phoney 1991 claim by the first Bush administration that invading Iraqi troops in Kuwait had thrown premature babies out of incubators onto the floor in order to loot the incubators for use in Iraq. The report was later shown to be a total fabrication; the alleged witness was not the maternity ward nurse she claimed to be but was instead, the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the US.
Likewise, FAIR makes no mention of the infamous "Gulf of Tonkin" incident which President Lyndon Johnson fabricated to get Congress to authorize massive bombing of North Viet Nam. Below the FAIR list of false allegations by the Dubya Regime is a report from the Observer of London by a reporter who visited one of the sites claimed by Powell to contain chemical and/or biological WMD production facilities.
As of Feb. 11, 2003, Saddam Hussain has capitulated to UN demands for increased cooperation in verifying the country's disarmament in several ways: UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors have been given "unfettered access" to any and all suspected sites; Iraq has allowed private interviews with scientists, absent Iraqi officials; Saddam has allowed searches of his palaces; most recently, he has announced acceptance of the demand for U-2 surveillance flights over the entire country. The Bush Regime has one after another discounted the significance of each of these indications of Iraq's cooperation. Not to put too much emphasis on the positive with respect to the brutal Iraqi dictator, nevertheless, at some point the burden of proof must be placed on the accusers, the US and Britain.
February 10, 2003
In reporting on Secretary of State Colin Powell's February 5 presentation to the United Nations Security Council, many journalists treated allegations made by Powell as though they were facts. Reporters at several major outlets neglected to observe the journalistic rule of prefacing unverified assertions with words like "claimed" or "alleged."
This is of particular concern given that over the last several months, many Bush administration claims about alleged Iraqi weapons facilities have failed to hold up to inspection. In many cases, the failed claims-- like Powell's claims at the U.N.-- have cited U.S. and British intelligence sources and have included satellite photos as evidence.
[ FAIR reports distorting and misleading coverage of the 2/5/03 Colin Powell speech by major news organizations. For the full article refer to the FAIR web link above]
Continuing the FAIR report's history of bogus US claims hyping war:
Journalists should always be wary of implying unquestioning faith in official assertions; recent history is full of official claims based on satellite and other intelligence data that later turned out to be false or dubious. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first Bush administration rallied support for sending troops to Saudi Arabia by asserting that classified satellite photos showed the Iraqi army mobilizing on the Saudi border. This claim was later discredited when the St. Petersburg Times obtained commercial satellite photos showing no such build-up (Second Front, John R. MacArthur). The Clinton administration justified a cruise missile attack on the Sudan by saying that intelligence showed that the target was a chemical weapons factory; later investigation showed it to be a pharmaceutical factory (London Independent, 5/4/99).
In the present instance, journalists have a responsibility to put U.S. intelligence claims in context by pointing out that a number of allegations recently made by the current administration have already been debunked. Among them:
* Following a CIA warning in October that commercial satellite photos showed Iraq was "reconstituting" its clandestine nuclear weapons program at Al Tuwaitha, a former nuclear weapons complex, George W. Bush told a Cincinnati audience on October 7 (New York Times, 10/8/02): "Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of his nuclear program in the past."
When inspectors returned to Iraq, however, they visited the Al Tuwaitha site and found no evidence to support Bush's claim. "Since December 4 inspectors from [Mohamed] ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have scrutinized that vast complex almost a dozen times, and reported no violations," according to an Associated Press report (1/18/03).
* In September and October U.S. officials charged that conclusive evidence existed that Iraq was preparing to resume manufacturing banned ballistic missiles at several sites. In one such report the CIA said "the only plausible explanation" for a new structure at the Al Rafah missile test site was that Iraqis were developing banned long-range missiles (Associated Press, 1/18/03). But CIA suggestions that facilities at Al Rafah, in addition to sites at Al Mutasim and Al Mamoun, were being used to build prohibited missile systems were found to be baseless when U.N. inspectors repeatedly visited each site (Los Angeles Times, 1/26/03).
* British and U.S. intelligence officials said new building at Al-Qaim, a former uranium refinery in Iraq's western desert, suggested renewed Iraqi development of nuclear weapons. But an extensive survey by U.N. inspectors in December reported no violations (Associated Press, 1/18/03).
* Last fall the CIA warned that "key aspects of Iraq's offensive [biological weapons] program are active and most elements are more advanced and larger" than they were pre-1990, citing as evidence renewed building at several facilities such as the Al Dawrah Vaccine Facility, the Amiriyah Serum and Vaccine Institute, and the Fallujah III Castor Oil Production Plant. By mid-January, inspectors had visited all the sites many times over. No evidence was found that the facilities were being used to manufacture banned weapons (Los Angeles Times, 1/26/03).
The Associated Press concluded in its January 18 analysis: "In almost two months of surprise visits across Iraq, U.N. arms monitors have inspected 13 sites identified by U.S. and British intelligence agencies as major 'facilities of concern,' and reported no signs of revived weapons building."
Regarding the number of allegations made by the Bush and Blair governments that have washed out on inspection, former U.N. weapons inspector Hans von Sponeck told the British newspaper The Mirror (2/6/03) following Powell's U.N. presentation:
"The inspectors have found nothing which was in the Bush and Blair dossiers of last September. What happened to them? They are totally embarrassed by them. I have seen facilities in pieces in Iraq which U.S. intelligence reports say are dangerous."
"The Institute of Strategic Studies referred to the Al Fallujah Three castor oil production unit and the Al Dora foot and mouth center as 'facilities of concern.' In 2002 I saw them and they were destroyed, there was nothing. All that was left were shells of buildings. This is a classic example of manipulating allegations, allegations being converted into facts."
Responsible journalists should avoid playing a part in such a conversion by making a clear distinction between what has been alleged by the U.S. government and what has been independently verified.
From The Observer of london here is an additional report discrediting another of Colin Powell's charges:Revealed: truth behind US 'poison factory' claim
Luke Harding reports from the terrorist camp in northern Iraq named by Colin Powell as a centre of the al-Qaeda international network
Sunday February 9, 2003 The Observer
If Colin Powell were to visit the shabby military compound at the foot of a large snow-covered mountain, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise. The US Secretary of State last week confidently described the compound in north-eastern Iraq - run by an Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam - as a 'terrorist chemicals and poisons factory.'
Yesterday, however, it emerged that the terrorist factory was nothing of the kind - more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery. There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere - only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking.
In the kitchen, I discovered some chopped up tomatoes but not much else. The cook had left his Kalashnikov propped neatly against the wall.
Ansar al Islam - the Islamic group that uses the compound identified by Powell as a military HQ to launch murderous attacks against secular Kurdish opponents - yesterday invited me and several other foreign journalists into their territory for the first time.
'We are just a group of Muslims trying to do our duty,' Mohammad Hasan, spokesman for Ansar al-Islam, explained. 'We don't have any drugs for our fighters. We don't even have any aspirin. How can we produce any chemicals or weapons of mass destruction?' he asked.
The radical terrorist group controls a tiny mountainous chunk of Kurdistan, the self-rule enclave of northern Iraq. Over the past year Ansar's fighters have been at war with the Kurdish secular parties who control the rest of the area. Every afternoon both sides mortar each other across a dazzling landscape of mountain and shimmering green pasture. Until last week this was an obscure and parochial conflict.
But last Wednesday Powell suggested that the 500-strong band of Ansar fighters had links with both al-Qaeda and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. They were, he hinted, a global menace - and more than that they were the elusive link between Osama bin Laden and Iraq.
This is clearly little more than cheap hyperbole.