March 13, 2002
On the eve of important meetings between UN Secretary General Kofi Annon and the Iraqi foreign minister, Naji Sabri, the US presented flimsy evidence to members of the United Nations Security Council that Iraq is violating the UN weapons embargo and/or sanctions regime by converting dump trucks into WMD ( "US 'Proof' Over Iraqi Trucks." by Oliver Burkeman, 3/07/02 ) According to this Guardian of London report, the Bush administration is attempting to pressure the UN and other nations to support what is now a unilateral US plan to attack Iraq, with the goal of killing or deposing Saddam Hussain. The former UNSCOM weapons inspector in Iraq, Scott Ritter, is quoted as saying "The US wants to undermine [the Iraqi meeting with the UN], pure and simple."
The Bush administration's public relations campaign against Iraq got a boost from National Public Radio's uncritical 3/07/02 interview with Charles Defler, a former UN official in charge of weapons inspections in Iraq, who supports the Bush plan. Presenting yet another excuse for attacking Iraq, Delfer claims liberation of the Iraqi people from despotism is justification for ending Saddam's regime. He says the entire region would benefit. The report did not mention the opinions of former head of UNSCOM, Richard Butler and inspector Scott Ritter, both of whom resigned in 1999 in protest over the US abuse of the inspections regime. Ritter has repeatedly stated that Iraq poses no threat to US national security:
Mirror, 3/13/02, "BLINKERED BUSH HAS GOT IT ALL WRONG"
Christian Science Monitor, 1/23/02, Iraq: the phantom threat .
Additional resignations by high UN officials in protest of the sanctions against Iraq include: Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck both successively resigned from the position as Assistant Secretary General and Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq. von Sponeck, Seattle Times, 5/08/01
The Derfler sugestion that an attack by the US would be a humanitarian effort for the benefit of the Iraqi people is an indescribably grotesque hypocrisy in view of the estimates by the UN that 500,000 Iraqi children have died in the 11 years since the Gulf War due to the US-led sanctions on Iraq Voices in the Wilderness, 11/24/01, A Reply to David Cortright's Recent Article in The Nation by Gabe Huck (in response to "A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions" by David Cortright, a feature story in the December 3, 2001 issue of The Nation).
Additionally, NPR has reported on the intentional destruction of the Iraqi education system by the sanctions. In her 11/2/01 report for NPR on the "diminished expectations" of the young people of Iraq, (Audio Report, requires RealPlayer) Kate Seelye interviews several Iraqi children who are making a futile effort to secure an education because of the destruction of the intellectual infrastructure during the war and the sanctions.
Under the theory that education leads to technology which leads to WMD, the US and Britain have used the UN sanctions to restrict educational materials from reaching Iraqi children. By strategically impoverishing the people, the sanctions prevent resources and time being devoted to education. Education of Iraqi children threatens US National Security
Of course, the purpose of an attack against Iraq is mingled with the Bush administration's desire to "finish the job" begun in the Gulf War by George I. The senior Bush's failure to depose or kill Saddam is still stuck in the craw of Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle and other administration hardliners. Failing to find credible evidence to link Iraq with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, the administration's case for attacking Iraq has refocused. They now claim that Iraq presents a continuing threat from weapons of mass destruction (WMD). No case is made that such weapons exist, only that no conclusive proof has been obtained that such weapons are not available or desired by Saddam. Whether or not such a double-negative proof of non-existence is logically or practically possible is unquestioned. Nothing more than Hussain's simple desire for WMD is required as justification.
The overlapping, inconsistent, and conflicting excuses and purposes for attacking Iraq (terrorism, humanitarian, WMD, originally to protect Kuwait, Saudi) add up to just one thing: the Bush Administration needs another target for continuation of the Bush "War against Evil" and the re-election campaigns of Bush supporters.
In 1999, soon after Iraq completed the process of expelling the UN weapons inspectors, it became public knowledge that the US had used the UNSCOM inspections to spy on the Iraqi government, with the capability to gather real-time information on the movements of Saddam Hussain. Quoting from the Washington Post article by Barton Gellman, January 6, 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "is convinced that Washington used the operation to penetrate the security apparatus protecting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein." Sources close to the UN investigation suggested that a main purpose of the spying was to facilitate an assassination plan against the Iraqi leader. In a further twist of the knife, Washington's spy team refused to share the results of the spying with the UN weapons inspectors!
According to statements (below) by the Washington Post reporter who broke the story, he knew months before that the spying operation was going on but withheld the information from the public at Washington's urgent request. Not only is this a spy scandal, with the US undermining once again the credibility of the UN - justifying Iraq's rejection of weapons inspections - but there is also US Government censorship of the story!Extra!
The following are excerpted passages. For the full Extra article, consult the above link:
On January 6, the Washington Post's Barton Gellman revealed in a front-page article, sourced to "advisors" and "confidants" of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, that Annan had "obtained what he regards as convincing evidence that United Nations arms inspectors helped collect eavesdropping intelligence used in American efforts to undermine the Iraqi regime." A similar story appeared in the same day's Boston Globe.
Gellman's article, along with the Globe story, was widely credited with "breaking" the UNSCOM-spying story--a story that touched on a highly contentious issue at the U.N.
Iraq had frequently accused UNSCOM arms inspectors of being conduits for American spying, and was often joined in its criticism of the disarmament agency by U.N. Security Council members like France and Russia.
Coming after December's bombing campaign against Iraq, the revelations in Gellman's article--along with corroborating information that came to light in the U.S. and British media over the next few days--gave further ammunition to UNSCOM's critics at the U.N., and were considered to be a final nail in UNSCOM's coffin.
But Gellman, who had produced some of the best and most enterprising coverage of UNSCOM during the past year, had known about the UNSCOM-spying story for months--all the way down to its "operational details," such as the brand names of surveillance equipment used in eavesdropping operations--and was in a position to publish what he knew by early October 1998. But at the behest of a senior U.S. government official, he and the Washington Post's top management chose not to reveal the extent of U.S. intelligence's links to (and possible abuse of) UNSCOM, for reasons of "national security."
The links finally came to light in January only because of aggressive leaking from Annan's staff--leaks which Gellman knew were being pursued by a competing reporter at the Boston Globe. Gellman's January 6 story included a paragraph disclosing that information had been withheld from readers:
The Post reported on October 12 that an UNSCOM operation code-named Shake the Tree involved synchronizing arms inspections with a new synthesis of intelligence techniques allowing Washington to look and listen as Iraq moved contraband. At the request of the U.S. government, the Post agreed to withhold from that report operational details on national security grounds.
In an interview with Extra!, Gellman said his decision was based on a longstanding Post policy not to spoil ongoing U.S. intelligence operations by exposing them. Although Gellman and his editors were "well aware of the news value" of the story, he said, they believed that the potential drawbacks of publishing it--as explained to them by the official--outweighed the advantages.
The U.S. official had insisted that the nature of this particular operation in Iraq was such that any reference to the eavesdropping would have given the mission away, Gellman said. The official also told Gellman that the Iraqis might use evidence of U.S. spying to justify arresting and executing UNSCOM inspectors, who were expected to return to Iraq soon....
Moreover, the story was far more newsworthy in October, when Gellman and his editors decided to hold it, than in January when it finally ran. In January, few people believed the inspectors would ever return to Iraq. By contrast, in October, the U.N. was embroiled in a prolonged stand off between Iraq and the weapons inspectors in which Iraq's accusation of spying by UNSCOM was one of several issues being discussed.
In fact, during that standoff, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz sent a letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, demanding an investigation specifically into whether UNSCOM was being used by U.S. and other intelligence agencies "to carry out exposed espionage on Iraq." Had the Post run its story in October, it would have been a timely--and potentially explosive--contribution to the debate.
So it appears that the serious concern here was that the Washington Post's journalism might affect the real world--that the revelation of a questionable U.S. espionage operation would upset people, including some U.S. allies, and embarrass U.S. policymakers, thus exposing U.S. policy in Iraq to harsh questioning. Faced with this possibility, the newspaper chose to protect the operation from public scrutiny--until it mattered much less.