What We Knew in October, 2003

 

October 1: THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE WHITE HOUSE; The U.S. Case Against Iraq: Counting Up the Reasons

DISPLAYING FIRST 50 OF 1079 WORDS - In seeking support from Congress and the United Nations to wage war with Iraq if he deems it necessary, President Bush has cited one overriding concern: Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction, his efforts to acquire more and the risk that he or others might use them against...(Article examines the wide array of arguments used by Bush administration officials to make its case against Iraq.)

 

October 1: Two GOP Senators Urge Iraq Coalition
Lugar, Hagel Ask Bush To Work With Allies

Two prominent Senate Republicans called on President Bush yesterday to build an international coalition before striking Iraq, setting the stage for a lively and divisive debate this week over the administration's strategy to enforce weapons inspections and topple Saddam Hussein.

Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) yesterday lobbied Bush to agree explicitly to work more closely with U.S. allies to eliminate Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities.

"I don't understand why the president would not want all the congressional and international support he can get if, in fact, the last option is taking a nation to war," Hagel said in an interview yesterday, a few hours after questioning Bush's broader policy of preemption in a major foreign policy speech. "The allies want to have a say, and should have a say, in how we initiate this effort."

Lugar, a former chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Hagel, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, are among the GOP's most prominent spokesmen on diplomatic and security issues. By joining numerous Democrats in calling for a more multilateral approach to Iraq, the two have increased pressure on Bush to modify the war resolution he proposed to Congress on Sept. 19. The White House objected to their proposal, but suggested a compromise will be reached as early as today, congressional officials said.

Hagel wants the administration to back a new proposal by Lugar and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.). It encourages the president to exhaust his diplomatic efforts at the United Nations before confronting Iraq. Bush's proposed language makes no such references.

"Our goal from the outset has been to construct a resolution that helps the president attract strong bipartisan support in Congress," Lugar and Biden said in a joint statement.

Bush is trying to diffuse partisan tensions before the debate on his war resolution begins in the Senate on Wednesday, the officials said, by stepping up negotiations for a bipartisan plan.

In talks with congressional leaders yesterday, White House officials suggested Bush would agree to new language in the resolution encouraging him to work closely with U.S. allies before confronting Hussein. "The White House is being more forthcoming," said a Democrat familiar with the talks.

Specifically directing the president to seek U.N. approval or involvement is more problematic. "The U.N. language is the biggest hurdle," the Democrat said. Many Republicans loathe the United Nations and don't want any mention of it in the resolution.

The resolution that Bush proposed to Congress on Sept. 19 would have given him unlimited authority to deal with Iraq as he saw fit, with or without support from other nations.

Informal debate over the resolution turned bitterly partisan last week, when several Democrats accused the president of trying to politicize national security matters. Tempers cooled somewhat over the weekend, and now White House and congressional leaders are trying to agree on compromise language to take to the House and Senate floors.

It remains to be seen if Bush budges enough to placate Democrats still stewing over his comment last week that the Democratic-controlled Senate was putting U.S. security at risk by opposing his version of legislation to create a Department of Homeland Security. The Senate is expected to begin debating the Iraq war resolution Wednesday and hold a final vote next week. The House is working on a similar timetable, which would carry the debate within four weeks of the Nov. 5 midterm elections.

Congress hopes to adjourn at the end of next week. House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) is much more supportive of Bush's Iraq efforts than are many other congressional Democrats, so the White House is focusing its attention on the Senate.

If Bush can reach agreement with key members, especially Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), on language regarding the role of U.S. allies, lawmakers predict an overwhelming majority of members will back the resolution. Democrats said Bush could win the support of 80 percent or more of congressional Democrats if he makes minor changes to his original war resolution.

That could strengthen Bush's hand in negotiations with China, Russia and France -- permanent members of the Security Council -- over a new U.N. resolution calling for unfettered weapons inspections in Iraq backed by an implicit or explicit threat of military action, because it would show the United States is united in its resolve.

Bush doesn't want his military options tied to any new U.N. decisions. But even most Democrats aren't calling for such a constraint. Instead, they want a firmer nod to U.S. allies, especially Security Council members.

The Lugar-Biden proposal, backed by Hagel, calls on Bush to seek a new U.N. resolution to enforce inspections. Should the United Nations balk, their proposal calls on the president to make a formal determination that Iraq's threat is so grave that it warrants military action in the face of Security Council opposition. This proposal in many ways mirrors the tack Bush has taken at the United Nations, but the president nonetheless has sought to keep such language out of the congressional resolution.

In a speech to the Eisenhower Institute yesterday, Hagel raised a new reason for Bush to work more closely with allies -- to help rebuild Iraq. "Diplomacy is essential for creating the international political environment that will be required for any action we take in Iraq, especially how we sustain a democratic transition in a post-Saddam Iraq," Hagel said.

In an interview, Hagel said Bush is "falling short" in explaining how the United States can build a democracy in Iraq and keep the peace in the region without the backing of Russia, France, China and Iraq's neighbors, such as Iran.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office provided Hagel and others with fodder by releasing a detailed study of the potential cost of a war against Iraq. Deploying an invasion force would cost $9 billion to $13 billion, the report said, depending on whether the Pentagon leaned heavily on air attacks or used more ground forces. A war making heavy use of ground forces would cost about $9 billion in the first month, falling to $8 billion in subsequent months, it said.

 

October 1: WH Press Briefing on the Biden-Lugar resolution

(See: Two GOP Senators Urge Iraq Coalition: Two prominent Senate Republicans called on President Bush yesterday to build an international coalition before striking Iraq, setting the stage for a lively and divisive debate this week over the administration's strategy to enforce weapons inspections and topple Saddam Hussein.)

MR. FLEISCHER: Good morning. I have no opening statement to begin, so we can start right away with questions.

John.

Q Can you tell us how the Biden-Lugar resolution is weaker than the resolution that was passed in 1998, specifically?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President appreciates Senator Lugar and Senator Biden's efforts in this regard. The President appreciates all members of Congress for their thoughts and their suggestions. Specifically, on your question, the President believes that the Biden-Lugar draft ties his hands because it pulls back from many of the provisions that Congress itself cited in 1998, such as requiring or asking or demanding of Iraq to cease their support for terror, to stop repression of his own people, to cease threatening his neighbors. Those are three of the specifics that have been in previous contained bipartisan drafts of what the Congress passed, and also what the United Nations has spoken to and supported. That would not be found in the too narrow Biden-Lugar proposal.

Q But the Biden-Lugar proposal does allude to Iraq being on the list of known state sponsors of terrorism, and the 1998 resolution didn't authorize the use of force to address any of what you just talked about. So how could it be that this resolution is weaker?

MR. FLEISCHER: Because it omits those key provisions that I just cited that the President thinks --

Q But it provides for the use of force, which the 1998 resolution didn't.

MR. FLEISCHER: Sure. And on that point, the President is grateful, for the fact that still the fundamental issue that Congress is focused on is the authorization of force. And as Congress debates the various "whereas" clauses, we're going to continue to listen to the Congress and work with the Congress. Dr. Rice met earlier today with Senator Lugar. And so we're going to continue the process. It's been a healthy one.

Q Is this resolution gaining any traction on Capitol Hill, Ari?

MR. FLEISCHER: Oh, I don't think I'm in a position to handicap --

Q Is it unacceptable?

MR. FLEISCHER: The President earlier today said it ties his hands, and that it's too narrow, too narrowly focused. And so we'll continue to work with Congress. I think what you're seeing in Congress, frankly, has been a real strong, bipartisan effort to support what the President has asked for. And the President has shown a real willingness to work with Congress. This has been a healthy process so far. I think it's winding down, coming to a conclusion. And the President tomorrow morning will meet with the four leaders of the Congress, a bipartisan meeting, House and Senate leaders. And I think that the Congress itself wants to be able to soon resolve this and speak with one voice.

<snip>

Q Ari, the CBO has new estimates that the war in Iraq would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion. Does the White House think that's too low?

MR. FLEISCHER: Again, the President has not made any decisions about military action or what military option he might pursue. And so I think it's impossible to speculate. I can only say that the cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than that. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that. The cost of war is more than that. But there are many options that the President hopes the world and people of Iraq will exercise themselves of that gets rid of the threat. But it's impossible to say what the President options are militarily from a price tag, because he's made no decisions.

 

October 1: Naming Names, or Not

Osama's been languishing seven months without a mention in a presidential speech.When al Qaeda's leader eluded capture in Afghanistan, President Bush gradually reduced his prominence in speeches to de-emphasize his individual importance. Now, with Saddam Hussein the villain of the hour and the Sept. 11 mastermind's coordinates still unknown, Osama bin Laden has fallen entirely from Bush's lexicon.

A search of the White House Web site indicates Bush has not made an unprompted mention of bin Laden's name since March 8. That day, at a GOP gathering in Florida, the president spoke of "this bin Laden fellow," and vowed: "We're going to find him." The last time Bush spoke the hated name in any public forum was a July 8 press conference, in which he was specifically asked if he would find bin Laden.

 

Lately, Bush has avoided mentioning the Evil One's name even when asked about him directly. At a Cabinet meeting last week, when a reporter asked Bush about Al Gore's charge that Iraq was deflecting attention from the failure to get bin Laden, Bush replied that "Saddam is a true threat to America."

This is quite a shift from the months after the terrorist attacks, when bin Laden was treated to daily mentions by Bush and colorful phrases such as "wanted: dead or alive." But now, with bin Laden's status unknown, invoking his name only reminds Americans of the failure to apprehend him.

The president's silence on bin Laden has served a strategic purpose. Last year, nearly two-thirds of Americans said the war on terrorism could not be called a success without bin Laden's death or capture. That number fell to 44 percent in the March Washington Post/ABC News poll, and the question has since been dropped.

 

October 1: Reality, If Not Normality

As the Iraqi Airways Boeing 747 lifted off and banked to the east, the captain took to the public-address system with details of the day's flight. Destination: Basra. Flight time: 50 minutes. Cruising altitude: 25,000 feet. Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the flight.

What went unmentioned, but was eminently obvious to everyone on board, was that the plane would be flying straight through about 150 miles of airspace designated by the United States and Britain as a "no-fly" zone. Any Iraqi plane that crosses the 32nd parallel, which was just a few minutes away, is in theory fair game for U.S. and British fighters.

"Don't worry," said Ali Hussein, a suave young man assigned by the Information Ministry to escort foreign journalists through Iraq. "They've been flying this route twice a day for months and nothing's gone wrong."

Nobody else in the first-class cabin of the creaky, nearly three-decade-old jumbo jet seemed the least bit fazed. Flight attendants passed out sweet tea and weak coffee. People peeled open newspapers. After living under debilitating economic sanctions and threats since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, Iraqis have a threshold for concern that is not what you might expect elsewhere.

In fact, it is practically impossible to find an Iraqi who is making any personal arrangements for coping with war with the United States. That is partly because Iraqis often depend on food rations. But people just laugh when asked if they keep a little extra food and water on hand or if they think about heading out of town.

"If we went shopping every time the Americans threatened us, we would always be at the market," said Taha Mahmud Fatah, 39, a jeweler in the northern city of Mosul.

Iraqis say their attitude is born not out of fatalism or foolishness, but a desire to live what several people here call "a normal life."

It is hard to know what normal is after more than two decades of war and sanctions. This is a place where most government employees make less than $3 a month. The rich use plastic bags as wallets because the largest denomination bill is worth 12 1/2 cents. The government says it cannot afford to build new schools, but there are no taxes on cigarettes.

"The government doesn't want to tax a tranquilizer," one chain-smoking Iraqi explained.

It was not always this way. Before 1980, when President Saddam Hussein launched a costly eight-year war with Iran, Iraq was deemed by the United Nations to be one of the world's fastest-developing countries. Hussein spent a greater portion of oil revenue on social programs than any other Arab leader.

Mandatory childhood education and free night classes for adult women increased the literacy rate to nearly 80 percent. Hospitals were stocked with medicines and equipment was imported from Europe. All sorts of products, whether Italian shoes or Japanese television sets, were subsidized by the government. Even mid-level civil servants could afford to take their families on vacations to Paris, London and Rome -- destinations once served by Iraqi Airways.

"We had a life that was as good as any European's," said Khalid Hassan, 54, a government employee. "Everything was in our reach."

Baghdad began to look like a large city in the American Southwest, dry and flat, sprawling and scorching, with four-lane expressways and elevated roads. Tall hotels and limestone-walled government ministries sprouted, as did trendy shopping areas and fancy restaurants. Because of generous loans offered by the government and because gasoline was nearly free, many residents bought new cars.

By some estimates, Iraq suffered 375,000 casualties in the war with Iran; billions of dollars in oil revenue was diverted to pay for it. When the war finally ended, in 1988, people hoped for a return to prosperity, but in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, starting a second debilitating war and bringing on tight U.N. economic sanctions.

The economy went to pieces. With tax revenue scarce, officials opted to print more money to pay salaries, sparking massive inflation. Middle-class families sold everything they had -- cars, rugs, jewelry. The markets of Baghdad came to have one of the world's greatest collections of pawned watches, pens and household curios.

Multinational firms pulled out, and infant mortality, malnutrition and disease expanded. Children quit school in droves to help their parents put food on the table. "It has been de-development," said Margaret Hassan, country director for the aid organization Care International.

But Iraqis never stopped trying for that "normal life."

PepsiCo may have left Iraq, but Iraqis continue to guzzle sweet, brown, fizzy liquid that comes in Pepsi bottles. The bottling plants are now run by Iraqis, who have tried with surprising success to duplicate the genuine article.

It is the same story for Sheraton Hotels. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., the chain's parent company, no longer operates any properties here. But that is not at all evident at the imposing Basra Sheraton. The cashier there still stamps a Sheraton logo on each bill.

The Basra airport, a cavernous building designed to accommodate thousands of international travelers, has reopened -- to handle two domestic flights a day. The duty-free shop, too, has come back to life, hawking perfumes, spirits and an odd assortment of leather jackets to Baghdad-bound travelers.

Getting out of the country no longer requires a 10-hour road trip to the Jordanian capital, Amman. Royal Jordanian Airlines now zips into Baghdad four times a week. And a charter carrier called Gulf Air Falcon flies to Syria using a 747 that is unmarked except for an Arabic inscription stating, "We fly by the grace of God."

Even television suggests normality. Recent Hollywood movies often are broadcast on the public airwaves. They're pirated, of course, but nobody has any shame about it. "We're already called a rogue nation," said one Iraqi video merchant. "What difference does it make?"

Today, Baghdad's markets are almost as well stocked as they were before sanctions, thanks to vibrant smuggling rackets with neighboring countries. There are late-model Pentium-powered computers from Jordan, ice-cream bars from Syria, cosmetics from Turkey, Coke from Saudi Arabia and electronics from Asia by way of the United Arab Emirates.

Iraqi officials make no apologies about flouting the sanctions. "If somebody wants to kill you, should you accept this?" said Trade Minister Mohammed Mehdi Saleh.

On Thursday morning, warplanes from the U.S.-British coalition attacked a radar installation at Basra airport. The Pentagon contends the radar tracked coalition aircraft, but Iraq says it was used only for civil aviation. Iraq accused the United States of a similar attack on Sunday. Now, officials here said, the Iraqi Airways planes will have to land at Basra without radar. But that still does not worry Iraqi travelers.

"After all we've been through, this is nothing," said an Iraqi journalist who is planning to fly to Basra soon. "It is normal."

 

October 1: War fear grips people of Baghdad
A long-suffering land braces for conflict with America

EDITOR'S NOTE: P-I foreign desk editor Larry Johnson and photographer Paul Kitagaki Jr. have been dispatched to Iraq to report on the mood and conditions as the country is under threat of attack from the United States. They are among only a handful of Western journalists reporting from Iraq.

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- In the shadow of war, the men, women and children of this 1,200-year-old city go about their lives with as much normalcy as can be mustered.

Despite a rich ancient history -- this is, after all, Mesopotamia, the Land Between the Rivers, where Western culture began 5,000 years before Christ -- and despite the world's second-largest oil reserves, Iraq, today, is a land of poverty, death and desperation.

Iraqis have been ruled by military strongmen for decades; Saddam Hussein has been in charge since 1979. The vast majority of Iraqis have no say in their nation's policies and practices. Many have suffered mightily under the repressive regime.

They also have been decimated by previous wars -- the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988 and the Persian Gulf War with the United States and its allies in 1991 -- and by 12 years of United Nations sanctions.

Now, with Congress debating a resolution to allow the United States to use force to oust Saddam, the shadow of war has darkened. Many Iraqis believe an attack is inevitable.

"The people are very scared," said Abdul Sittar Jabbar of Baghdad, a former civil engineer who now drives a truck to care for his wife and four children. "If the bombs start falling, there is nothing I can do but try to protect my family in any way I can."

Still, in a land where anti-U.S. sentiment is strong and anti-U.S. rhetoric is broadcast daily by the government, individual U.S. citizens are still welcomed, albeit with what seems an increasing weariness.

Among those welcomed recently were Democratic Congressmen Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California, who have drawn considerable attention in Iraq and controversy around the world for the past three days as they got a close look at the Gulf War destruction of Iraq's infrastructure.

"Fifty thousand Iraqi children die prematurely each year, because of this destruction that war brought," McDermott said yesterday at a news conference at a sewage treatment plant on the outskirts of the city.

"The sanctions have punished the Iraq people; they have not affected the leadership, they have not brought 'regime change,' and to go to war again would simply punish the Iraqi people again and put our own soldiers in harm's way in this country for a problem that I think can be handled diplomatically."

At an earlier appearance on ABC-TV's "This Week," McDermott said President Bush might mislead Americans about the threat Iraq poses, comparing the situation to misleading statements made by President Johnson about the Vietnam War.

Those comments were quickly dismissed by the Senate's second-ranking Republican, Don Nickles of Oklahoma.

McDermott and Bonior "both sound somewhat like spokespersons for the Iraqi government," he said.

Washington state Republican Chairman Chris Vance went much further, calling McDermott's actions "outrageous. . . . Congressman McDermott has pulled some absurd stunts before, but nothing like this. For him to go to Iraq now and essentially make excuses for Saddam Hussein is just contemptible."

Bonior said he and McDermott had come to Iraq to help make the humanitarian crisis known to the rest of the world.

The other point we've made very forcefully while we were here," Bonior said, "is to make sure that the government of Iraq understands how serious the United States is . . . about the need to have unrestricted and unconditional inspections."

U.N. resolutions from the Gulf War require Iraq to allow weapons inspectors to verify that all missiles and other weapons of mass destruction are eliminated before the sanctions, enacted in 1990, can be lifted.

"We are doing what we can to make sure that the message is clear -- to the Iraqi government and to our government, that war is not the answer," Bonior said. "There is a way to resolve this, and the way to resolve it is for the Iraqis not to interfere and for the United States not to interfere with the inspection process."

The sewage plant McDermott and Bonior used as a backdrop for their news conference was a deliberate choice. In the Gulf War, the United States and its allies destroyed electrical plants that powered sewage treatment plants. As a result, raw sewage was and is dumped into the rivers that supply water to most of the country, creating a deadly epidemic of diarrhea for children.

Many water treatment plants have not been repaired, and those that are in operation are not able to supply clean drinking water to all of Iraq's 23 million people.

Under the sanctions, U.N.-controlled oil exports are sold to allow Iraq to take care of its humanitarian needs. However, since the oil-for-food program began in 1996, only $20 billion in goods has been shipped to Iraq. That amounts to less than 50 cents a day per person for food and medicine and to rebuild the country's infrastructure.

During an interview later, as his car weaved through downtown Baghdad, McDermott talked about the congressmen's trip Sunday to southern Iraq, where they flew into the small civilian airport just after U.S. and British planes bombed what Pentagon officials said was a mobile military unit that had been concealed there. Iraqi officials said the civilian airport's control tower had been the target.

The congressmen visited a hospital in Basra that treats cancer patients and has done considerable research on the effects of depleted uranium, the slightly radioactive heavy metal the U.S. military uses to coat many of its munitions. Experts say some 300 tons of depleted uranium were used on the battlefields, mostly in southern Iraq, during the Gulf War.

The effect of depleted uranium on humans is hotly disputed -- the Pentagon says there is little if any adverse effect, a statement that has been supported by some studies.

However, in a report last year the Royal Society, Britain's academy of scientists, concluded that children playing at sites where the uranium munitions fell could be harmed if they ate the soil. In the long term, buried uranium shells also could eventually leach into local water supplies, the report said.

Critics have pointed to depleted uranium as the cause for birth defects, leukemia and Gulf War syndrome.

"You will see pictures you don't want to see of the malformations at birth," McDermott said.

He said almost all of the malformed infants died and the doctors there could do very little for those children who are suffering from leukemia, which has seen a dramatic increase. Most of the medicines needed for cancer treatment are too expensive or impossible to find in this country.

Shortly after the congressional delegation flew back to Baghdad Sunday night, the airport in Basra was bombed again.

The delegation left Baghdad last night, saying they were eager to join in the congressional debate on a resolution giving Bush authority to enforce U.N. sanctions on weapons inspections.

But McDermott is sure how he will vote. "I don't see any reason to give Bush any new authority," he said. "We should allow the inspections to proceed."

IRAQ FACTS

AREA
175,000 square miles, more than twice the size of Idaho.

(For comparison, the United States is 3.85 million square miles, half the size of Russia.)

POPULATION

24 million.

(For comparison, United States: 286 million.)

TERRAIN

Broad desert plains; reedy marshes along Iranian border in south; mountains along borders with Iran and Turkey.

CLIMATE

Mild to cool winters; dry, hot, cloudless summers; snow in northern mountains.

ETHNIC GROUPS

Arab, 75 percent to 80 percent; Kurdish, 15 percent to 20 percent.

RELIGION

Shiite Muslim, 60 percent to 65 percent; Sunni Muslim, 32 percent to 37 percent.

MILITARY

Under order by the United Nations to scrap weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles but has not allowed inspections since 1998. Standing military force of more than 380,000.

LITERACY

Male, 71 percent; female, 45 percent.

(For comparison, United States: Male and female, 97 percent.)

INFANT MORTALITY RATE

105 per 1,000 live births.

(For comparison, United States: 6.8.)

Main sources: UNICEF, CIA, State Department, U.S. Census.

 

October 2: Analysis: Can US stop Iraq inspections?

A senior State Department official has said the United States would be prepared to "thwart" the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq until the Security Council passes a resolution giving them a new, much tougher mandate.

But does any one Security Council member have the power to prevent the inspectors going back?

Officials working at the heart of the UN system say there are two answers to the question of whether the US can stop the inspectors - one legal and the other political.

Legally, no, they cannot.

The inspectors have their mandate, given to them under past Security Council resolutions, and they continue to carry out that mandate until it is revoked or changed by a new resolution of the council.

A new resolution is, of course, exactly what the US is trying to introduce at the moment, and the difficulty that it is having bears witness to the fact that it cannot do this on its own.

But the political answer is another matter.

Insiders point out that the inspectorate is the servant of the Security Council, set up by it to do its work.

It makes no sense for Hans Blix and his inspectors to proceed, blindly carrying out their existing mandate, if they can see that the council is unhappy with what they are doing.

So when Dr Blix returns to New York later this week to brief the Security Council, he will also try to get a sense of how the council wants him to proceed, and whether his inspectors should wait a little before they go to Baghdad.

As US Secretary of State Colin Powell said, there is no magic calendar which dictates exactly which day they should do what - and when it comes to political influence, America's superpower status means that the US opinion carries extra weight.

 

October 2: The Defense Budget And Wartime Profiteering
Wealthy Americans Have Always Made Fortunes in War

Since the founding of the republic, many of the richest Americans have made their fortunes from war.

In his book Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips documents such early capitalist highlights as John Hancock supplying the troops in his era, the northern industrialists who prospered during the Civil War, and in the 20th century, the many companies and industries that secured government contracts during wartime. The progression includes modern counterparts like Halliburton, the firm headed by Dick Cheney before he became vice president, which is now supplying United States military bases near Afghanistan.

Congress is now poised to pass the biggest increase in defense spending since Ronald Reagan's administration. The House and Senate versions of the defense budget, which have yet to be reconciled and adopted, authorize roughly $400 billion in spending for the federal 2003 fiscal year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The bill also commits taxpayers to "additional outlays" of $400 billion between 2002 and 2007.

The defense budget increase is itself larger than any country's entire defense budget with the sole exception of Russia, as reported in The Washington Post and elsewhere. The U.S. defense budget is larger than the total defense budgets of next 25 nations combined. But it's not all U.S military spending.

The defense budget doesn't include the entire Pentagon budget for Star Wars, which will militarize space with new nuclear weapons. It doesn't include unforeseen spending for the war on terrorism. It doesn't include the costs of a new war with Iraq. And it doesn't include yet another plum for American weapons-makers: what NATO allies may spend updating their militaries.

All of this has made defense stocks a 'bright' spot in an otherwise gloomy market. Yet The New York Times reported on Sept. 22nd that "military spending has been rising, but so far, at least, there has been no boon for the stocks of the Pentagon's big contractors."

That's not exactly the case.

The Times piece cited the Standard and Poor's aerospace and defense stock index, which said 2001 wasn't as good a year as 2000 for these companies. Part of that statistic is due to mergers and acquisitions in the industry this year. But don't be fooled, leading business publications report defense contractors will be doing well for years to come -- and they identify companies that have done quite well since 9/11.

Take Raytheon, for example, which had $6.3 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2000. Its stock, according to Barons online, is up 13 percent from a year ago. Shares of Lockheed Martin, the world's largest military contractor, with $15 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2000, are within 10 percent of its all-time high, according to Barons. The journal also predicted that missile defense spending should be good for Boeing and TRW, which had $12 billion and $2 billion in Pentagon contracts in 2000, respectively.

Indeed, market analysts have 'buy' recommendations for stock for most of the leading U.S. weapons makers.

"The sabers are rattling a bit more loudly in Washington. And Wall Street is noticing," wrote Dave Kansas, the Wall Street Journal Online deputy Managing Editor on Sept. 3rd, perhaps stating the obvious.

Kansas goes on to quote a New York investor who says his firm is "buying a basket of defense stocks. And it's not just because of a pending action in Iraq. There's also the economy, and the easiest way for the government to increase spending to boost the economy is by spending more on defense."

But what's good for Wall Street and the defense industry is not always good for the nation. Even in a new political era defined by terrorist threats, there's a big difference between spending on legitimate national security needs and opening up a new global arms bazaar, led by the United States and its corporate weapons makers.

When Congress takes up the 2003 defense budget and other military spending bills in coming weeks, it will not just be committing tax dollars for years to come. Congress will be helping a handful of companies and their top shareholders secure their fortunes.

While that's perfectly consistent with American history -- much of it comes at taxpayer expense while making the world a less-safe place for the rest of us.

 

October 2: Israeli General Disagrees

An Israeli general strongly disagrees with the Bush administration about the dangers posed by Saddam Hussein. For those of you who love Israel, I thought you might be interested in this viewpoint.

"The Bush administration has no solid grounds for waging war on Saddam Hussein, and the arguments about the variety of risks Saddam poses are exaggerated," wrote Brig. Gen. (res.) Aharon Levran in Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper well worth reading. It's on the Internet in English.

The general points out in his commentary that the United States is attributing to Saddam the same motives today that he had before the Gulf War. This is a mistake, the general says, because "His ambitions since the war (the first Gulf War) are curtailed. His limited aims are to protect Iraq and deter others from harming it and — of course — survive ... a brutal and crafty despot, Saddam has proved to be careful and sane in his moves."

The general says Saddam has no nuclear weapons, and even though he might have some chemical or biological weapons, he has shown restraint in the past in using them. He did not use them, for example, when he was defeated and driven out of Kuwait; and even during the Iran-Iraq war, he restricted their use.

I should add here that during the Iran-Iraq war, both Iran and Iraq used chemical weapons, just as the United States, Great Britain, France and Germany used them in World War I. The only time Saddam used them on the Kurds was when the Kurds decided to fight with Iran. Furthermore, at that time, the United States was actively assisting Saddam and did not — I repeat, did not — raise a stink over the use of chemical weapons.

As for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's so-called dossier, it did not impress anybody. Pat Buchanan had the most telling comment about it: "It proves the fax lines between Washington and London are working." In other words, it was a propaganda product concocted by Bush and Blair.

Why Blair and Bush persist in exaggerating the threat of Saddam to the point of trying to justify an invasion, I believe, boils down to oil. Iraq has the second-largest known oil reserves in the world, next to Saudi Arabia. At the present time, British and American oil companies are out in the cold. Saddam has deals with French and Russian companies.

Once the United States and Britain install a stooge government, then, of course, they, as the power behind the throne, will decide which companies get kicked out of Iraq and which ones get to profit from Iraq's oil. They will also decide which companies get the lucrative construction contracts for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure.

What I'm saying, quite frankly, is that that Bush and Blair are lying through their teeth. That's harsh, but one ought to be harsh when the evidence is clear that politicians are deceiving their constituents and are willing to sacrifice thousands of young lives to further their schemes for power and profits.

No American killed or maimed in this war Bush is so eager to start will profit by one penny from the billions of dollars made after the war. The pain and suffering and death and destruction of a war are too great to fight one for monetary gain. The only justification for fighting a war is to protect the American people, and even though Bush claims that is his motive, it is obvious from the deceptions that it is not his true motive.

Some Americans are childish in their belief in the goodness of politicians. It is time to grow up. Evil in this world is not confined to any one country or only to those who speak a different language than we do. I define "evil" as a willingness to take innocent life.

 

October 2: Anti-war - but what for?

'We're saying no to Bush, no to oil, and no to Israel's occupation', said an out-of-breath organiser of London's 'Don't attack Iraq' demo on 28 September 2002, as Muslims, peace protesters, left-wingers, eco-warriors, 'marching virgins' and 'marching veterans' made their way into Hyde Park.

'This is big, diverse and it has a clear message', the organiser said. 'No more war.'

It was certainly big - though nowhere near the half a million claimed by some. 'Thank God there are 400,000 people here', remarked an overexcited Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. 'It would have been a damning indictment of British values if we couldn't get more on a march to oppose killing Iraqis than on a march to defend ripping up foxes', he said, referring to the previous weekend's 400,000-strong Liberty and Livelihood demo organised by the Countryside Alliance.

The self-described 'ordinary urban folk who hate war' were desperate to outnumber the 'privileged country folk who hate foxes', but the police estimate of 150,000 'Stop the war' marchers seemed nearer the mark - bigger than last October's 20,000-strong demo against the Afghan war, but not quite the quarter of a million that marched against The Bomb in the 1980s or the 400,000 that marched for the right to 'rip up foxes'.

The march was certainly diverse: there were veil-wearing Muslims alongside dog collar-sporting priests; pensionable CNDers marching next to green-haired anti-globalists; a Jewish anti-war delegation doing its best to avoid a group of young British Muslims who kept burning the Israeli flag. 'It is the diversity that makes it', claimed one student marcher, though she was a bit 'put off by the flag-burning stuff'.

But did the demo have a 'clear message'? If so, it was well hidden. Some banners called for a 'UN solution', others for an 'Islamic solution'; some marchers wanted no war at all, while two speakers favoured 'pinpoint attacks' that got rid of Saddam without harming civilians. One placard claimed that 'Bush, Blair and capitalism' were the real axis of evil, while another said it was 'Bush, Blair and Israel'. Other placards said 'Imagination not annihilation', 'Ride a bike for peace' and 'Love your mum'.

The only thing that seemed to tie the disparate elements together is that they were all pro-intervention. The nebulous anti-war brigade may be anti-bombing, anti-missiles and anti-violence, but it supports the right of Western governments to change regimes and sit in judgement on countries like Iraq.

But such 'diplomatic intervention, which follows the rules of international law', as one speaker described it, shows scant regard for sovereignty or self-determination in third world states. It most often heightens divisions and tensions rather than bringing peace. Neither Western diplomacy nor a Western war will benefit the people of Iraq, instead ensuring that their future is decided either in the UN building in New York or in the battle plans of the British and American military.

One of the main themes of the demo was the charge that UK prime minister Tony Blair is acting like a poodle/lapdog/cheerleader to US President Bush. Alice Mahon, Labour MP for Halifax, said she was 'ashamed that we have leaders who think their first duty is to Bush', denouncing her boss Blair as a 'propaganda machine for the Bush administration'. Journalist-turned-radical-Muslim Yvonne Ridley called Blair the 'Billy No Mates of British politics' and accused him of shacking up with 'his evil twin, President Bush'. 'Blair is like a little lapdog', said Ken Livingstone, to rapturous applause.

'STOP BUSH' screamed the huge headline on Socialist Worker, the newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party, while SWP supporters carried placards saying 'No to US imperialism'. 'Stand up to Bush', said one set of banners, calling on Blair to 'stop taking orders from the White House'.

This all sounds very radical, challenging Britain's support for American imperialism. But there is a thin line between slating Blair for being a poodle and calling on him to take a lead in deciding the future of places like Iraq. 'Bush is like a cowboy', said Evelyn from London. 'Blair should try to control him rather than tripping around after him.' The Bishop of Bath and Wells opposed Bush's plans for war and called on Blair to ensure that ousting 'evil Saddam' was done through 'international law and moral principles', rather than 'American military might'.

This wrongly depicts Britain as a benevolent force on the international stage, as if British intervention, unlike the American version, is carried out in the interests of beleaguered peoples around the globe. It misses the point of Britain's role in international affairs, which is every bit as self-interested and self-serving as the Bush administration's. After all, it was British colonialism that caused most of the problems in the Middle East in the first place, which were later inherited by the Americans.

Blair is no poodle. Since he came to power in 1997, he has shown that he is predisposed to intervening abroad and launching wars. From the joint British/US air strikes on Iraq in December 1998, which Blair said were an attempt to put Saddam 'back in his cage', to the Kosovo war of 1999, to New Labour's 'ethical foreign policy', to the way in which Blair jumped on the post-11 September war against terrorism, Blair has fancied himself in the role of moral crusader - the knight in shining armour that bestrides the world. Depicting Blair as foolishly tripping after Bush detracts from the New Labour government's drive to foreign intervention.

Instead of challenging New Labour's taste for war, the poodle accusers depict Blair as gullible and foolish for allegedly following Bush. This does more than let Blair off the hook - it helps to champion his ethical foreign policy by contrasting it favourably to Bush's unethical foreign policy, when in fact British intervention abroad is every bit as dangerous and divisive as 'American imperialism'. (More at linked story.)

 

October 2: Why we need to go to war. (Mark Fiore cartoon. Original Link.)

 

October 4: A chink in the link

Pentagon officials are playing the Iraq/al-Qaeda card again, claiming that top al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab Zarqawi was in Baghdad two months ago (1).

According to one official, Zarqawi was there with 'the possible knowledge of the Iraqi government', proving that Iraq is 'providing a safe haven for al-Qaeda terrorists'. Hold on. Is this the same Abu Musab Zarqawi whom earlier this year US officials claimed was in Iran, with the 'knowledge of the Iranian military and intelligence forces', proving that 'Iran was allowing al-Qaeda terrorists to escape'? Then, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said 'there's no question that al-Qaeda have found a reasonably hospitable location in Iran', and that Iran was providing a 'safe haven' for al-Qaeda members (2). Is it also the same Abu Musab Zarqawi whom US officials linked to Hezbollah in July 2002, raising 'US misgivings about greater cooperation between the world's two most sophisticated Islamic terror networks'? Then, Pentagon spokesmen claimed that Hezbollah was tentatively accepting 'al-Qaeda cast-offs' like Zarqawi, providing them with a 'safe haven' and giving them 'resources and money' (3). Either Zarqawi is doing the rounds, or US intelligence officials have lost the plot.

References:

We think there's a link..., by Brendan O'Neill

(1) US: al-Qaeda operative was in Iraq, Fox News, 2 October 2002

(2) Rumsfeld says enemies fleeing through Iran, Iraq, OnlineAthens News, 21 June 2002

(3) US officials observe al-Qaeda members reaching out to Hezbollah, Associated Press, 27 July 2002

 

October 4: War is hell, so why are we so hell-bent?

By Al Neuharth


''War is hell.''

-- Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman


Congress is ''debating,'' but President Bush and his hawkish cohorts are demanding a virtual blank check to wage war on Iraq. They'll probably get it. That's a mistake.

Make no mistake, Saddam Hussein is a bad guy. But there is no real evidence that he has stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Least of all, that he is about to use them if he has any. Suspicions, yes. Evidence, no.

The president and Vice President Cheney, neither of whom has been on the firing line in war, are hell-bent on firing away at Iraq. Inspections or verification of suspicions be damned. They resent having Congress, or the United Nations, or the press, or the public questioning their military wisdom or their possible political motives.

Before you question mine, these credentials:

* Politically, I'm a registered independent. I vote for the person, not the party.

* Militarily, when it comes to war, I've been there. Three years in the infantry in World War II. Served in Europe and the Pacific. Brought home a Bronze Star.

War really is hell. If you're attacked, of course you fight back with all your might. But a ''preventive'' war, such as that planned against Iraq, should be a last resort, not a first option.

Bush properly declared all-out war on terrorists quickly after 9/11. He vowed to get Osama bin Laden ''dead or alive.'' A year later, that job hasn't been done. Bush hasn't mentioned bin Laden's name in many months.

In effect, we're now being told to forget about the world's most wanted bad guy because we failed to get him and to fire away at a new target.

In Bushtalk, that dog won't hunt for me.

 

October 5: Is the American empire already over?

All we seem to do these days is argue about the United States. And the arguments are awfully sparse, aren't they? Either our neighbour is the most powerful nation on Earth, a menacing imperialist intruder that we must resist, or it's the most powerful nation on Earth, a beneficial force of democracy and peace that we must join and support.

Let me offer you a new way of thinking about America: Over.

Under this school of thought, the United States stopped being the world's dominant nation years ago, and has quietly collapsed into being Just Another Country. We haven't really noticed this, the theory goes, because most other countries still act as if the United States has its old military and financial power, an assumption that could be stripped of its invisible clothes in the event of a protracted Iraq war.

This is not a fringe theory. It comes from within the United States, from respected political scientists on the Ivy League campuses. Why does it get such little play? Both the left and the right have their entire houses built on the notion of a fixed and immutable American hegemony, pro- or anti-. Somewhere between these poles is this small community of thinkers, declaring that the end has already occurred.

"The United States has been fading as a global power since the 1970s, and the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks has merely accelerated this decline." So says Immanuel Wallerstein, the Yale University political scientist who is by far the most outspoken member of this camp. A gravelly old contrarian with little time for the orthodoxies of the left or the right, he may have gained his remove by teaching at McGill University in the 1970s.

In a forthcoming book, to be titled Decline of American Power,he describes his country as "a lone superpower that lacks true power, a world leader nobody follows and few respect, and a nation drifting dangerously amidst a global chaos it cannot control."

In his view, America gave up the ghost in 1974, when it admitted defeat in Vietnam and discovered that the conflict had more or less exhausted the gold reserves, crippling its ability to remain a major economic power. It has remained the focus of the world's attention partly for lack of any serious challenger to the greenback for the world's savings, and because it has kept attracting foreign investments at a rate of $1.2-billion (U.S.) per day.

But if it comes to a crunch, the United States can no longer prevail either economically or -- here is the most controversial statement -- militarily. In Mr. Wallerstein's calculus, of the three major wars the United States has fought since the Second World War, one was a defeat and two (Korea and the Gulf War) were draws.

Iraq, he told me recently, would be an end game. "The policy of the U.S. government, which all administrations have been following since the seventies, has been to slow down the decline by pushing on all fronts. The hawks currently in power have to work very, very hard twisting arms very, very tightly to get the minimal legal justification for Iraq that they want now. This kind of thing, they used to get with a snap of the fingers."

You don't have to agree with Mr. Wallerstein's hyperbolic view to be a member of the Over camp -- and many do disagree: When he first brought it up in the journal Foreign Policy this summer, half a dozen editorial writers in the United States attacked him. But more moderate thinkers have joined the club, including Charles Kupchan at Georgetown University, whose forthcoming book The End of the American Era makes a similar point in more subtle terms.

Joseph Nye at Harvard, a friend of Henry Kissinger's, argues in his new book The Paradox of American Power that "world politics is changing in a way that means Americans cannot achieve all their international goals acting alone" -- a tacit acknowledgment of Mr. Wallerstein's thesis.

This is how great powers end: Not by suddenly collapsing, but by quietly becoming Just Another Country. This happened to England around 1873, but it wasn't until 1945 that anyone there noticed.

Outsiders do notice. Spend some time talking to a currency trader or a foreign financier, and you'll glimpse the end of the almighty dollar: Right now, about 70 per cent of the world's savings are in greenbacks, while America contributes about 30 per cent of the world's production -- an imbalance that has been maintained for the past 30 years only because Japan collapsed and Europe took too long to get its house together.

A Japanese CEO told me this in blunt terms the other day: "It was Clinton's sole great success that he kept the world economy in dollars for 10 years longer than anyone thought he would. But nobody's staying in dollars any more."

There are other signs: The middling liberals, who in the 1960s would have sided with the left in opposing U.S. imperialism, are today begging for an empire. Michael Ignatieff, the liberal scholar, argued at length recently that the United States ought to become an imperial force -- on humanitarian grounds. Would this argument be necessary if the United States actually dominated the world?

I'm not sure whether to fully believe the refreshing arguments of Mr. Wallerstein and his friends, but they do have history on their side. In their times, Portugal, Holland, Spain, France and England all woke up to discover, far after the fact, that they were no longer the big global powers, but Just Another Country.

Like the bewildered Englishmen in Robert Altman's Gosford Park, they struggled to maintain their dignity while wondering just what those strange visitors from abroad were talking about.

 

October 5: Graham: Expect retaliation
The senator says briefings indicate a war with Iraq is ''highly likely'' to provoke terrorist attacks.

WASHINGTON -- A war in Iraq could provoke international terrorist cells within the United States to attack American citizens at home, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham said Friday.

Moreover, Graham said, Iraq could respond to a U.S. attack by deploying chemical or biological weapons against Israel, which could possibly retaliate by firing nuclear missiles at Iraq.

"The worst case is modern Armageddon," Graham said.

The Florida Democrat spoke about the potential consequences of war with Iraq in an interview with the St. Petersburg Times as the Senate opened debate on a resolution authorizing President Bush to take action to remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Bush has asked Congress for broad authority to carry out a unilateral attack on Baghdad, if necessary.

Although former Vice President Al Gore, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd and other senior Democrats have criticized Bush's war plans, Graham's objections were among the most substantive offered so far by any lawmaker.

Republicans said the Democrats are risking retaliation in November from a majority of voters who, according to polls, support the president's intention to take action against Iraq.

A new Gallup Poll released Friday showed public support is high: 57 percent favor invading Iraq to remove Hussein, with 38 percent opposed. But only 37 percent favor going to war if the United Nations opposes it.

Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott told reporters that critical speeches by Gore, Daschle and others -- as well as a trip to Baghdad by three House Democrats -- "haven't been helpful" to Bush's effort to protect the United States against Iraq and other rogue states.

Graham, however, said it was his duty to challenge Bush. The threat of a retaliatory attack on the homeland is real, Graham said, yet the nation's intelligence agencies have resisted declassifying enough information about it to inform the American public.

The intelligence community has identified "specific threats that citizens of the United States may experience, not as a soldier in combat, but as a citizen living in an otherwise peaceful community," Graham said. "People have every right to know that."

Later, joining the debate on the Senate floor, the senator said, "Briefings that I have recently received suggest that the likelihood of such strikes within the United States is not remote or even probable, it is highly likely."

Among the groups Graham identified as already present in the United States and poised for attack are Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and "agents of Iraq."

Hezbollah in particular, he said, is a more serious threat to U.S. domestic security than most people realize. Hezbollah, or "party of God," has killed hundreds of Americans in bombing attacks in Lebanon, including 241 U.S. servicemen who died when a truck bomb destroyed their barracks in Beirut in 1983, but has not struck the United States at home.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, Hezbollah had claimed more American lives than any other international terrorist group.

On Friday, Graham and other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee met with CIA director George Tenet.

The panel's relationship with the CIA and other intelligence agencies has been strained by the aggressive joint House-Senate investigation into the pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.

Tenet recently wrote an angry letter to the panel objecting to the inquiry staff's note in a briefing book for lawmakers that a CIA official appearing before the committee could be expected to "dissemble," meaning to deceive or put forth a false appearance.

More recently, Graham has criticized the intelligence agencies for failing to provide information about their plans for Iraq sought by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Tenet, the nation's top intelligence official, agreed on Friday to answer some of the lawmaker's questions about Iraq but not all of them, Graham said.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the agency is "fully committed to working with the committee and doing our very best to accommodate their request" to declassify information about threats to the homeland.

Mansfield gave no time frame on declassification other than to pledge it would be "as soon as we can."

The FBI, which is responsible for investigations of international terrorists on U.S. soil, did not respond directly to Graham's criticism.

However, FBI spokesman John Iannarelli said "it has always been the policy of the FBI that if specific, credible information (of a terrorist threat) was received ... the general public would be immediately notified."

Iannarelli added: "Likewise, if the FBI was in possession of such specific and credible information, the bureau would take the necessary steps to protect the American public by seeking the immediate arrest" of the suspects.

Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the arrests Friday of four people in Oregon and Michigan accused of being al-Qaida members conspiring to wage war on the United States.

Graham said he does not discount the Iraqi threat but says he opposes a pre-emptive strike while the war on terrorism remains in full gear.

He described Hussein as "an evil man" whose chemical and biological weapons capabilities must be neutralized but said removing the Iraqi president should not be the nation's priority at this time.

Meanwhile, Bush plans to make a speech in Cincinnati next week to take the case for war directly to the American people, the White House announced.

 

October 5: More than 1.5 million Italians protest a possible war with Iraq

Analysis: Rallies change Italy on Iraq?

ROME, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- More than 1.5 million Italians took to the streets of dozens of cities Saturday afternoon and evening to protest possible U.S. military action against Iraq -- a surprise show of discord that could be fervent enough for the Italian government to re-think its support of Washington.

The larger-than-expected protests took place without violence, despite speculation from some fronts that the gatherings could become dangerous, especially to U.S. citizens. On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Rome circulated a warning to citizens residing in or visiting Italy to stay away from the demonstrations because of fears that they could become targets for violence.

But even though the protests were peaceful, demonstrators made it clear that they opposed U.S. action against Baghdad. The stance is significant because up to this point, Rome and London have been President George W. Bush's strongest allies in Europe.

Most European leaders -- most vocally France's Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder of Germany -- have called on diplomatic means to diffuse tensions between the United States and Iraq.

"For several weeks, Italians have been saying that they are opposed to action against Iraq, but this is the first time they have put those words into action," Maria Rossi, co-director of the polling firm Opinioni, told United Press International. "The site of thousands of Italians on the streets protesting against the potential war in Iraq has to be a sobering sight for government officials who will need public support for other issues."

Government officials were not available for comment on their stance on U.S.-Iraq relations on Saturday, but local television drew the same conclusion as Rossi.

"If the government can ignore this ... it can ignore anything," said one on-the-scene journalist for the network La 7 in Milan. "On this day, the Italian people have spoken ... and they say they are against support for the American position."

Opinion polls support that view, with a week-old survey from Opinioni showing that more than two out of every three Italians opposed any armed conflict over Iraq, and nearly four out of five Italians opposed to Italian participation in such action unless it was as part of a United Nations-sponsored force.

Most of the anti-war demonstrations took place on Saturday morning, with the biggest of those in Milan, drawing a crowd that police estimated at between 60,000 to 100,000 people.

Signs in the crowd showed Bush's head on the body of a hawk -- a reference to the president's hawkish stance toward Iraq's Saddam Hussein -- and others that showed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British leader Tony Blair as Bush's pets, referring to their support of U.S. policies. Other large morning rallies took place in Bologna, Florence, Naples and Palermo.

But the day's biggest march was held in the evening in Rome, where police said as many as 200,000 people gathered in protest.

"Our point is that we cannot support the United States's plan to kill innocent Iraqis in order to win the upcoming (Congressional) elections," Marco Filiberti, 38, a protester who came to Rome with six friends from the nearby city of Latina, told UPI.

Claudia Bacigalupo, 24, a teacher from Rome, said she hoped the day's unexpectedly large rallies would convince the government to backtrack on its support of Washington.

"We cannot control what the United States does, but we can tell them that if they want to march into Iraq they will have to do so without the support of the Italian military," Bacigalupo said.

Whether that will be the case or not is unclear. In the past, Berlusconi has paid only limited attention to public opinion -- which, combined his eagerness to support Washington on a variety of issues -- might make a change of plans unlikely. But pollsters say that because of the support the government will need to address an array of domestic issues, the public's view on Iraq could create a degree of doubt about the course the prime minister has chosen.

"Over the coming months, the government will try to pass a so-far unpopular budget, revisit controversial labor reform legislation and start to tackle painful pension reforms," Rossi, the pollster, said. "With the economy weakening, the government may have to pick its most important battles ... (and) what we don't know is whether Iraq is one of them."

The United States has taken an aggressive stance against Iraq -- including calls for Hussein's government to be toppled -- on fears that the Iraqi leader is building an arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

October 6: The war against Iraq has already begun

George W Bush will make a rare address on American primetime television tomorrow to outline the case for a war to disarm Saddam Hussein.
In his weekly radio address yesterday, the President said that war might now be "unavoidable" and described Iraq's weapons programme as a "grave and growing" threat to the United States.

The comments follow a sharp increase in bombing missions by American and British warplanes against Iraq's military infrastructure in the no-fly zones.

The President will deliver the 20-minute address in Cincinnati, Ohio, a Midwestern venue that appears to have been chosen to show that he is preparing the American heartland for the likelihood of war. His aides are comparing its importance with his televised remarks immediately after the September 11 attacks.

The increase in raids by Allied aircraft on targets that include command and control facilities has come as negotiations drag within the United Nations Security Council over a new round of weapons inspections.

The inspections are seen by many members of the Security Council as a last chance to avoid war with Iraq. As the diplomacy continues, however, the bombing raids are taking place at a level that suggests a covert conflict has already begun.

The northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq, set up in 1991 to protect Iraq's Kurdish population and patrolled by the United States and Britain, are witnessing what amount to the first battles of a new war between Iraq and Allied forces.

Last week an Iraqi cabinet meeting was called by Saddam to discuss the attacks, which are undermining the regime's strategy of delaying conflict through wrangling over the terms of new weapons inspections.

A joint statement issued after the meeting angrily declared: "The fever and croaking of those who harness themselves to attack the Arab nation has increased in these past days; this despite Iraq's agreement on the return of the inspectors."

During August and September more air raids were carried out by Allied warplanes against Iraqi military installations than in the previous seven months of the year combined.

British and American planes patrolling the southern and northern no-fly zones in Iraq carried out 12 bombing missions in August and a further 13 in September. During one attack on an Iraqi airbase, 12 American and British aircraft dropped 25 bombs on an Iraqi command and control centre, 240 miles southwest of Baghdad.

Another raid targeted the Iraqi air force Southern Sector Operations Centre at Tallil, 160 miles from Baghdad, which co-ordinates all Iraqi air defences south of the capital.

US and British military officials acknowledge that command and communications headquarters in Saddam's air defence systems and military airfields are now being routinely targeted along with anti-aircraft batteries and mobile radar vehicles. "The scope may well have been broadened," said one US military official.

In one concentrated attack, radar systems at Basra airport were destroyed along with parts of the civilian terminal building, causing protests from government officials in Baghdad.

In a television broadcast the Iraqi government accused America and Britain of "escalating their policy of spite and evil against our great Iraq. In violation of international laws and conventions, the US ravens of evil carried out a fresh sinful attack, targeting Basra international airport".

US Central Command officials in Tampa, Florida, said that raids on Basra airport were aimed at military radar installations and were "in response to hostile acts" towards allied planes.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, said last week that the increased number of attacks was in response to repeated firing at Allied planes by Iraqi forces in the northern and southern no-fly zones. In the two weeks since Iraq agreed to the return of weapons inspectors, the Pentagon said, Iraqi forces had fired on American and British aircraft 67 times.

Thousands of leaflets have been dropped over the southern no-fly zone in Iraq, warning in Arabic that "no tracking or firing on [Allied] aircraft will be tolerated". A US military official said: "We're saying: 'Don't shoot at us because if you do you could die.' "

Mr Rumsfeld said: "Here you have US and British planes flying daily to enforce the UN resolutions, putting their lives at risk, day after day for years. With each missile launched at our air crews, Iraq expresses its contempt for the UN resolutions."

US military officials privately acknowledge that the new level of bombing of air-defence sites in Iraq will create valuable "air corridors" for an Allied attack, if agreement on weapons inspections cannot be reached.

Russia, France and China are resisting Mr Bush's demand that a new UN resolution should include the threat of force if Saddam obstructs inspections of sites such as presidential palaces, where access has previously been restricted.

On Friday the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said that he would wait for a new resolution before making final arrangements for his team to go to Iraq.

 

October 6: The World; Will the Real Saddam Hussein Please Step Down

By TOM ZELLER (NYT) 1010 words
Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Page 14 , Column 1
ABSTRACT - American intelligence officials have long suspected that Pres Saddam Hussein of Iraq makes ample use of body-doubles; recent examination of hundreds of archived photographs and video stills of Hussein by German pathologist has determined that there are at least three Saddam Hussein lookalikes in rotation, making public appearances, firing rifles, smoking cigars, waving and strutting; Iraqi dissidents have told stories of impostor Husseins in past; photos of real and lookalike Saddam Husseins...

 

October 6: Attack May Spark Coup In Iraq, Say U.S. Analysts
Ouster of Hussein Tied To Onset of Military Action

Senior intelligence experts inside and outside government have reached a consensus that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would likely be ousted in a coup led by members of his inner circle in the final days or hours before U.S. forces launch a major ground attack.

Faced with an imminent, overwhelming U.S. assault and the choice of either being Hussein's successors or being imprisoned or killed in the fighting, top-ranking officers or a group of military and other senior officials would take the chance to eliminate the Iraqi leader, several senior administration officials and intelligence experts said in recent interviews.

"Someone will take action and cause it to happen," said one former high-ranking CIA officer with close ties to current thinking among intelligence officials.

It was unclear how widespread this view is within the administration. But with military preparations for a possible attack underway, senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, have recently spoken publicly about Iraqis eliminating Hussein themselves, either through assassination or sending him into exile.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer picked up the theme last week, encouraging a coup d'état or assassination in answer to questions about the possible cost of a U.S.-led invasion. "The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than [the cost of war]," Fleischer said. "The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."

"Saddam Hussein could decide that his future is limited and he'd like to leave," Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee on Sept. 18. "Another way to do it would be to persuade enough people in Iraq the world would be a lot better world if that regime weren't there and they decided to change the regime."

The "silver bullet" approach -- Iraqis eliminating Hussein on their own -- has long been central to the CIA's efforts to end the Iraqi leader's dictatorship. Earlier this year, President Bush directed the CIA to undertake a comprehensive covert program to topple the Iraqi leader, including authority to use lethal force.

It included instructions to increase support and contacts with Iraqi opposition groups and forces outside and inside Iraq, and authorized expanded efforts to collect intelligence within the Iraqi government, military and intelligence service where pockets of anti-Hussein sentiment have been detected.

The Washington Post reported in June that CIA Director George J. Tenet briefed Bush and senior Cabinet members that the newly authorized covert plan had only a small chance of working unless it was accompanied by outside military action, or at least by convincing the Iraqis that overwhelming military action was imminent.

Iraqi officers over the years have watched Hussein have his own sons-in-law shot for temporarily defecting and the brutal elimination of senior colleagues based on rumors that they were disloyal. These officers "will have to be certain the Americans are coming with overwhelming force before they move," said one top government analyst. "They have been hurt before."

A former senior Clinton administration official agreed with this assessment, citing a failed CIA attempt employing Iraqi senior officers to eliminate Hussein in 1996. "It always has been the view of [the] intelligence community that there was a low chance of success in the absence of the sound of [military] footsteps in Baghdad," the official said.

Several officials said one reason for their view that the inner circle in Baghdad would move against Hussein is the Bush administration's vocal and seemingly determined planning to launch a war with a goal not just of eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction but also of changing the country's leadership. Senior defense and intelligence officials have spoken openly of their conviction that many Iraqi military units would not defend Hussein in the event of a U.S. attack, or could be persuaded not to do so.

The assessment that a coup in Baghdad would be possible, if not probable, may have helped shape some of the administration's thinking about planning for a post-Hussein Iraq.

It has led many CIA and State Department officials, for example, to oppose recognition of the leaders of prominent Iraqi exile groups as a government in exile, arguing that they would never be accepted to head any new Baghdad government. "The exiles would be seen as a U.S. quisling government," one senior analyst said, referring to the Norwegian who betrayed his country to the Nazis in World War II and then headed the government under Fascist occupation.

Although U.S. officials have talked of instituting a democratic government in Baghdad, many intelligence officials believe that a military-led coup could help keep Iraq together and avoid moves toward separation that could come from its three major ethnic groups: the Shiite majority, Kurdish groups of the north and the Sunni minority that has dominated the country in recent times. A coup also would leave many of Iraq's upper- and middle-level bureaucrats in place, limiting the need for major rebuilding of the government, according to the intelligence community's thinking.

Since the late 1990s, one of several clandestine Iraq operations the CIA has underway is to identify key officials around Hussein and find ways to contact them, mostly through intermediaries. The object is to plant the seeds for an eventual coup or possible assassination, according to current and former U.S. officials. Promises of future power or wealth are among the rewards dangled in front of the Iraqis, sources said.

Exiled Iraqi officers and political figures are being used by U.S. intelligence to keep in touch with former colleagues and there are continuing efforts, mostly unsuccessful, to approach and perhaps recruit Iraqis who travel outside the country, officials said.

Hussein is aware of these activities and has regularly shaken up his top officer corps and others with access to him, including those in his own security force. "He came up through the security ranks of the Baath Party and is obsessed with his own security," one senior analyst said.

Hussein's closest aides are often the only ones to see him and he constantly is on the move, sources said. His public appearances, for example, are almost never announced ahead of time and it is well publicized that he almost never sleeps in the same bed two nights in a row.

The Special Republican Guard and other key security forces are run by Hussein's younger son, Qusay, and they include a large number of members from their tribe in Tikrit, the Iraqi leader's power base in northern Iraq. Even so, Hussein and his son constantly move key people around "just to keep them off balance," one intelligence official said.

Another official said that these people are so identified with the Iraqi leader that his ouster would probably include wiping out most of his tribe. "They have profited from the relationship and they know his death could be theirs," one official said. "That makes them even more loyal."

One of the more curious nuances in the administration's public pronouncements in recent weeks is the idea of Hussein and his family and advisers being sent into exile.

"If Saddam Hussein is in a corner, it is because he has put himself there," Rumsfeld said in his House testimony last month. "One choice he has is to take his family and key leaders and seek asylum elsewhere. Surely one of the 180-plus countries would take his regime -- possibly Belarus."

When questioned about Rumsfeld's comments afterward, Pentagon officials said some people in the administration thought exile was a possibility. "But," one Rumsfeld spokesman said, "there was no secret message being sent [by the secretary]."

Most intelligence analysts said they doubt Hussein would take that route. "He knows that if he is not in power, he's dead," one top government Iraq analyst said. "What country would take him and how could he be sure he would be safe?"

 

October 6: Scramble to carve up Iraqi oil reserves lies behind US diplomacy
Manoeuvres shaped by horsetrading between America, Russia and France over control of untapped oilfields

Oil is emerging as the key factor in US attempts to secure the support of Russia and France for military action against Iraq, according to an Observer investigation.
The Bush administration, intimately entwined with the global oil industry, is keen to pounce on Iraq's massive untapped reserves, the second biggest in the world after Saudi Arabia's. But France and Russia, who hold a power of veto on the UN Security Council, have billion-dollar contracts with Baghdad, which they fear will disappear in 'an oil grab by Washington', if America installs a successor to Saddam.

A Russian official at the United Nations in New York told the Observer last week that the $7 billion in Soviet-era debt was not the main 'economic interest' in Iraq about which the Kremlin is voicing its concerns. The main fear was a post-Saddam government would not honour extraction contracts Moscow has signed with Iraq.

Russian business has long-standing interests in Iraq. Lukoil, the biggest oil company in Russia, signed a $20bn contract in 1997 to drill the West Qurna oilfield. Such a deal could evaporate along with the Saddam regime, together with a more recent contract with Russian giant Zarubezhneft, which was granted a potential $90bn concession to develop the bin Umar oilfield. The total value of Saddam's foreign contract awards could reach $1.1 trillion, according to the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook 2001.

The Russian official said his government believed the US had brokered a deal with the coalition of Iraqi opposition forces it backs whereby support against Saddam is conditional on their declaring - on taking power - all oil contracts conceded under his rule to be null and void.

'The concern of my government,' said the official, 'is that the concessions agreed between Baghdad and numerous enterprises will be reneged upon, and that US companies will enter to take the greatest share of those existing contracts... Yes, if you could say it that way - an oil grab by Washington'.

A government insider in Paris told The Observer that France also feared suffering economically from US oil ambitions at the end of a war. But the dilemma for Paris is more complex. Despite President Jacques Chirac and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder of Germany agreeing last week to oppose changing the rules governing weapons inspectors, France may back military action.

Government sources say they fear - existing concessions aside - France could be cut out of the spoils if it did not support the war and show a significant military presence. If it comes to war, France is determined to be allotted a more prestigious role in the fighting than in the 1991 Gulf war, when its main role was to occupy lightly defended ground. Negotiations have been going on between the state-owned TotalFinaElf company and the US about redistribution of oil regions between the world's major companies.

Washington's predatory interest in Iraqi oil is clear, whatever its political protestations about its motives for war. The US National Energy Policy Report of 2001 - known as the 'Cheney Report' after its author Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly one of America's richest and most powerful oil industry magnates - demanded a priority on easing US access to Persian Gulf supplies.

Doubts about Saudi Arabia - even before 11 September, and even more so in its wake - led US strategists to seek a backup supply in the region. America needs 20 million barrels of crude a day, and analysts have singled out the country that could meet up to half that requirement: Iraq.

The current high price of oil is dragging the US economy further into recession. US control of the Iraqi reserves, perhaps the biggest unmapped reservoir in the world, would break Saudi Arabia's hold on the oil-pricing cartel Opec, and dictate prices for the next century.

This could spell disaster for Russian oil giants, keen to expand their sales to the West. Russia has sought to prolong negotiations, official statements going between opposition to any new UN resolution and possible support for military action against an Iraqi regime proven to be developing weapons of mass destruction.

While France is thought likely to support US military action, and China will probably fall in line because of its admission to the World Trade Organisation, Putin is left holding the wild cards.

Russia recognises potential benefits of reaching a deal with the US: Saddam's regime is difficult to work with. Lukoil's billion-dollar concessions are frozen and profitless to Moscow and Baghdad under UN sanctions, leading to fears that Saddam might have declared the agreement null and void out of spite. Iraqi diplomats say Zarubezhneft won its $90bn contract only after Baghdad took it away from TotalFinaElf because of French support for sanctions.

Russia stands to profit if intervention in the Gulf triggers a hike in Middle East oil prices, as its firms are lobbying to sell millions of barrels a day to the US, at two-thirds of the current market price.

Moscow's trust of Washington may be slipping after what a Russian UN official calls 'broken promises' that followed negotiations over Moscow's support for the Afghan campaign.

Russia turned a blind eye to US troops in central Asia, on the tacit condition that US-Russian trade restrictions would be lifted. But they are still there, and other benefits expected after 11 September have also not materialised.

'They've been making this point very strongly,' a senior Bush administration official conceded to the Washington Post , 'that this can't be an all-give-and-no-get relationship... They do have a point that the growing relationship has got to be reciprocal.'

 

October 6: Worth More Than a One-Liner

In an address Sept. 27 to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, just a few blocks from The Post, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) laid out what was arguably the most comprehensive case yet offered to the public questioning the Bush administration's policy and timing on Iraq. "Resorting to war is not America's only or best course at this juncture," he said. "There are realistic alternatives between doing nothing and declaring unilateral or immediate war."

The next day, The Post devoted one sentence to the speech. It was deep inside an article based on an interview with Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) that dealt with his distrust of President Bush's political motives about congressional resolutions authorizing action against Baghdad.

The Kennedy speech made the front pages of many newspapers, or was the subject of separate stories inside, and excerpts were shown on television. Several Post readers, having seen it on C-SPAN or read about it elsewhere, called or e-mailed to complain that The Post had not covered it. "What's going wrong with The Post? You can't depend on The Post for the news these days," one caller said.

Well, The Post does cover the news, and does it quite well. But this is a time of great concern for many people, and when public events of some importance take place and the paper doesn't report on them, it is not surprising that the complaints are sharp.

Ironically, Kennedy made ample use in his remarks of the public testimony in Senate Armed Services Committee hearings a week earlier by retired four-star Army and Marine Corps generals who cautioned about attacking Iraq at this time -- hearings that The Post also did not cover.

Last Saturday, antiwar rallies involving some 200,000 people in London and thousands more in Rome took place and nothing ran in the Sunday Post about them. On Monday, The Post's London correspondent produced an informative, front-page article surveying broad European concerns about U.S. policies, with references to the rallies. A picture of the protesters in London accompanied the story. Nevertheless, the failure to report the news of the rallies when they occurred produced complaints from readers and an organized e-mail campaign assailing the paper for this lapse.

I'm in agreement with the readers on these complaints. Whatever one thinks about the wisdom of a new war, once it starts it is too late to air arguments that should have been aired before. The Post has done a good job reporting on the administration's case, and it has done important stories on the opposition, including front-page treatment of former vice president Al Gore's recent speech, the questioning views of key Republicans such as Sens. Richard G. Lugar and Chuck Hagel, and political roundups that posed the question "Why now?" on the front page.

Yet a great many stories also focus on the process and the politics, with the substance of the issues and what was said about them submerged or reduced to insider shorthand. Opinion polls report that the president enjoys strong general support (61 percent) for his policy of military action against Iraq. But the mail I receive, a very unscientific and anecdotal measure, doesn't reflect those numbers in The Post's circulation area. A lot of people out there, it seems, are very worried about the prospect of starting a war.

No matter what one's views are, people look to newspapers at times like these. This is not Sept. 11, 2001, when television images so captured our attention and drew us together. This is murky intelligence and muscular, high-stakes policy put before the public in an election season. No one else can provide the kind of comprehensive, daily reporting on this literally life-or-death subject. When something happens and The Post doesn't report it in a timely and proper fashion, readers get more concerned. Me, too.

 

October 7: Just Asking... by Eric Alterman

Shortly after September 11, Dan Rather--or "El Diablo" as he is known to conservatives--appeared on Letterman and announced, "George Bush is the President, he makes the decisions, and, you know, as just one American, he wants me to line up, just tell me where." About a year later, Rather came to understand how misguided a sentiment this is for a journalist and took it back: "We haven't lived up to our responsibility," he admitted. "We haven't been patriotic enough to ask the tough questions."

The costs of the media acquiescence to the atmosphere of superpatriotism are all around us. We're fighting one war in Afghanistan and may be about to enter another in Iraq. And yet because of the Bush Administration's penchant for obsessive secrecy coupled with the media's misplaced deference, we're not much more knowledgeable about our path than thirty-eight years ago, when Lyndon Johnson sent US troops into combat in Vietnam by retaliating for an imaginary attack.

As a patriotic American, I'd like to offer up a few questions to which we might like answers related to the attacks of September 11, the war against Al Qaeda (which I support) and the proposed war against Iraq (which I don't). In addition to my own research, I have relied on recent reports by Patrick Tyler and Jim Dwyer of the New York Times, Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post, Eric Boehlert of Salon and Juan Gonzalez, author of the new book Fallout. Here goes:

Why did the Bush national security team ignore the Al Qaeda briefing it received from President Clinton's National Security Adviser, Sandy Berger, in the fall of 2000?

Why did the President ignore the August 2001 intelligence briefing warning him of the likelihood of an Al Qaeda hijacking?

Why, in August 2000, was the FBI unable to locate Al Qaeda operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, both of whom had been placed at a terrorist planning meeting by Malaysian intelligence in December 1999? Hazmi was listed in the San Diego telephone directory and Midhar was using a credit card with his name on it. Both were active at the San Diego Islamic Center.

Why didn't the National Security Agency have foreign language expertise to translate the words "Tomorrow is zero hour," spoken by Al Qaeda operatives and picked up in real time on September 10, 2001?

Why can't the FBI afford a decent computer system and people who know how to run it? Can't they hire Microsoft?

Why can't the CIA and the FBI talk to each other? Why can't either talk to the NSA? Microsoft could probably handle this one, too.

Why has no one, apparently, been fired, anywhere, despite a clear systemwide breakdown?

What was really up with George Bush flying around the country on September 11? If they thought they had a "credible threat" to Air Force One, why the hell did he fly on Air Force One?

What's up with those "loose" and missing Soviet-era nukes in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere? Why is the White House cutting funding for the Nunn-Lugar program, designed to protect them and keep them away from bad guys?

Why couldn't the cops and firemen communicate during 9/11? How many lives will be lost next time if this problem isn't fixed? (Ahem, Mr. Gates? This too.)

Who besides Rudy Giuliani thought it was a smart idea to build a terrorism crisis control center inside an obvious terrorist target? How many people might have survived if it had been built in a halfway intelligent place?

Speaking of Ground Zero, anybody got any idea if it's safe to breathe the air down there? Anybody know how all those contaminants--mercury, asbestos, benzene, etc.--combining in unprecedented chemical cocktails, affect the long-term health of children, pregnant women, old people? Who is monitoring the health effects on the rescue workers? Who made the decision to reopen downtown so quickly, knowing so little?

Why is John Ashcroft arresting people who grow medical marijuana? Ditto New Orleans hookers? Isn't there a war on? Don't the terrorists win if we give up pot and hookers?

What about those detention camps Ashcroft wanted for the purposes of indefinitely incarcerating US citizens deemed to be "enemy combatants," while stripping them of all constitutional rights, including the right to trial? Is that still happening? That sounds kinda bad.

When did George Bush decide to appoint Ariel Sharon as de facto US representative to what used to be called the Middle East peace process? Isn't Marty Peretz supposed to be Gore's guru?

How did Bush decide on war with Iraq without consulting the uniformed military, the intelligence agencies, the UN, NATO, the Republican national security establishment--including both of his dad's secretaries of state and his National Security Adviser--the Republican Party in Congress, the Democratic majority or just about anyone who did not already want to go to war with Iraq?

Why was it OK for Iraq to use nerve gas when we were helping it fight the Iranians during the Reagan Administration? Wasn't Richard Perle in the Defense Department back then? Didn't Reagan send Rumsfeld over there to suck up to the guy? Well, what did they know and when did they know it?

Got any real evidence about those nukes Saddam is building? Got any real evidence regarding his CBW and WMD delivery capabilities? Why is he not deterrable again?

About this pre-emptive war stuff, who gets to go next? China against Taiwan? India against Pakistan? Or is it just a white guy thing?

What happens with Iran if Iraq collapses?

What happens with Kashmir if Musharraf is overthrown?

Does Israel go nuclear if Saddam unleashes a gas attack on Tel Aviv? What happens then?

Is anybody thinking about this stuff?

Who elected this guy anyway?

 

October 7: Saddam's inner circle is defecting, say Iraqi exiles

Saddam Hussein's power base is coming under extreme pressure, with members of his inner circle defecting to the opposition or making discreet offers of peace in the hope of being spared retribution if the Baghdad dictator is toppled, according to Iraqi exiles.

Ayad al-Awi, the head of the opposition Iraqi National Accord, said his group in recent weeks had received senior defectors from the Iraqi security services, which form the regime's nerve centre.

At the same time Kurdish groups said they had received secret approaches from military commanders offering to turn their weapons on Saddam when the war began.

They said members of the al-Majid clan, the pillar of Saddam's tribal power base, had made contact to seek assurances about their fate.

These signs of fragmentation indicate for the first time that Saddam's senior lieutenants believe that the United States and Britain are serious about toppling him.

The reports will raise the hopes of British officials who have long maintained that a credible threat of overwhelming force to bring down Saddam's regime could destroy his reign of fear and prompt senior lieutenants to seize power and avert a devastating war.

The American intelligence community harbours similar hopes. One ex-CIA senior officer told the Washington Post yesterday: "Someone will take action and cause it to happen."

American officials, including Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, have recently spoken of Iraqis eliminating Saddam themselves, either through assassination or by sending him into exile.

Last week, Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said: "The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than [the cost of war]. The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."

Exiled Iraqis have been reporting for weeks that members of the regime have been trying to build relations with the opposition. Ghassan Attiyeh, a writer on Iraq, said: "This is the kind of thing I would expect.

"For example, I just found a message on my answering machine from somebody telling me he had seen lorries moving weapons into houses in a certain area of Baghdad."

Mr al-Awi said the INA, a group formed by former members of the ruling Ba'ath party, had seen a surge of interest from senior members of the regime.

"We have been getting approaches for the past two or three months, but the trend is increasing. Those contacting us come from Saddam's inner circle.

"Some have defected, while others have been asked to stay to help us from inside. We cannot say much about the defectors at the moment, but some may speak after they have been debriefed.

"Things are happening inside the regime that will hopefully mean we can get rid of this evil regime. You can speak of Saddam in the past tense."

A Kurdish source said members of Saddam's al-Majid clan had been in contact with Iraqi opposition groups, as well as Western governments.

 

October 7: Military imprecision (Afghanistan)

It is exactly one year since US forces launched the Afghan war. Brendan O'Neill counts down the Top 10 errors of the war on terror.

10) Losing bin Laden

'We've got bin Laden surrounded' said a US military official in November 2001, as American bombers closed in on Tora Bora in south-eastern Afghanistan. But somehow bin Laden and other 'high-ranking al-Qaeda officials' managed to escape - 'in broad daylight and in full view of US forces', according to one report.

In January 2002, New Yorker magazine reported that 'a US-approved evacuation of Pakistani military officers and intelligence advisers last November "slipped out of control" and a number of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters joined the exodus' - or, as one US official put it, 'Dirt got through the screen'. Is that how bin Laden got out - under the noses of US forces that couldn't tell one 'towel-head' from another?

9) Killing bin Laden (not)

Following January's embarrassing revelations about Tora Bora, US officials had some good news in early February 2002. They claimed that US forces had killed a 'prominent al-Qaeda leader', who was 'tall, with a beard' and was 'being treated with deference by those around him'. 'It would be nice if [it] was Osama bin Laden', said one US official. 'But we don't know at this stage.'

In fact it was Daraz Khan, a tall Afghan peasant with a beard. Khan and two friends were killed by American bombs as they gathered scrap metal near the south-eastern city of Khost. Some now speculate whether the 'deference' that US officials claimed was being dished out to the 'tall man with a beard' was in fact simply his peasant friends 'bending down to pick up pieces of metal'….

8) Doing Afghans' dirty work

Usually it is big Western armies like the American, British and French that get proxy armies to do their dirty work for them. This time, Afghan warlords exploited the US military's lack of intelligence to settle old scores and get rid of long-standing enemies.

In December 2001, Afghan warlord and governor of the Paktia province Bacha Khan allegedly 'tricked US commanders into bombing a convoy of tribal leaders travelling to his inauguration by telling the Americans that the vehicles carried Taliban leaders'. In February 2002, US forces and their Afghan allies killed 16 alleged al-Qaeda members in a house in southern Afghanistan - though Afghan officials later claimed that 'the Americans were fed false information from a local warlord hoping to help his side in a power struggle'. 'The Americans should look before they leap', advised one Afghan commander.

7) Blowing up friendly weapons

After two months of 'hanging around and getting bored', Britain's Royal Marines celebrated their first big success in Afghanistan in mid-May 2002: they found and destroyed a 'massive al-Qaeda arms dump', boasting of how they had created the 'biggest controlled explosion since World War II' by blowing up 'four caves full of enemy ammunition'.

Three days later, it was revealed that the arms didn't belong to al-Qaeda at all, but to a 'friendly Afghan warlord'. 'Arms blown up by marines were mine', said a headline in the Daily Telegraph, reporting that 'thirty lorry loads of supposed terrorist arms destroyed by the Royal Marines in Afghanistan probably belonged to a coalition ally'. 'Effectively', said one report, 'the Royal Marines are blowing up their own guns'.

6) Seen through at Camp X-Ray

Despite the initial difficulty in determining the status of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (were they 'ordinary prisoners', 'prisoners of war', 'detainees', 'internees' or 'unlawful combatants'?), everyone agreed that Camp X-Ray would squeeze important intelligence out of al-Qaeda and Taliban members.

But in April 2002, reports claimed that 'the questioning of al-Qaeda prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay has descended into farce', with 'inexperienced interrogators routinely outwitted by detainees'. With most army interrogators and Middle Eastern linguists in Afghanistan, Camp X-Ray has relied on young, underqualified and inexperienced interrogators, who the prisoners 'actually laugh at', according to one report. 'The detainee is in full control', said one linguist. 'He's chained up, but he's having fun.'

And according to recent reports, there are 'no high-ranking al-Qaeda members' at Camp X-Ray, just bin Laden's and Muhammad Omar's foot soldiers. 'It is very limited what these people can tell us', admitted one US official.

5) Don't mention Shah-i-Kot

As Operation Anaconda in the Shah-i-Kot region in east Afghanistan came to an end in mid-March 2002, US General Tommy Franks said it had been 'an unqualified and absolute success'.

Except for the lack of dead al-Qaeda fighters: US officials claimed that 800 had been killed, but only about 20 bodies were found. Then there were Afghan allies' claims that Anaconda had been 'terribly organised', and that US forces 'went ahead without making trenches, without reinforcing their positions; and then they were cut off and they retreated really'. There were also the locals' claims that most al-Qaeda and Taliban members had left the region before the bombing started, raising the possibility that Anaconda's 3250 bombs had been dropped on largely vacated territory, allowing the enemy to 'escape further, while the US military focused on a red herring zone'.

4) Three weddings, many funerals

On 1 July 2002, an American bomb 'went astray' in southern Afghanistan killing about 30 civilians at a wedding party. In early May 2002, Australian troops allegedly came under fire from al-Qaeda forces, and called in American bombers to launch an attack - but according to an Afghan press agency, the men 'engaged' by the Australian troops and later bombed by US forces in fact 'belonged to a wedding party, whose traditional AK-47 firing celebrations had been mistaken for offensive fire'. On 29 December 2001, a wedding in eastern Afghanistan was bombed and 62 civilians killed, many of whom were 'vapourised', according to the UK Guardian. The lesson? While the war drags on, don't get hitched in Afghanistan.

3) Dogs of war

In early 2002, a US marine sentry feared that his camp in southern Afghanistan was coming under attack from al-Qaeda fighters after he heard suspicious noises, so he opened fire. Neighbouring American bunkers were startled by the gunfire and they too started shooting. As the marines moved to their forward positions, one was hit by a bullet in the leg and was later awarded a Purple Heart for bravery. What had started this little clash?

'The next day patrols went to check the perimeter for al-Qaeda casualties. Instead they found a dead dog. Later it appeared that the single American casualty had been hit by a ricochet fired by his own side. There never had been an al-Qaeda raid. The gun battle was started by an Afghan mongrel….'

2) Almost killing Karzai

In early December 2001, US officials announced that a B-52 bomber had accidentally dropped a bomb on US soldiers, killing three American special forces and five Afghan allies. 'I, along with the rest of America, grieve for the loss of life in Afghanistan', said President Bush in a special statement in the Oval Office.

Four months later, in March 2002, the Los Angeles Times reported the 'untold story' of the 'B-52 incident'. The paper revealed that in fact 25 Afghan allies, not five, had been killed by the stray bomb and that many Afghans had been injured - including one Hamid Karzai, who was 'bloodied by flying glass that penetrated his face and head'. Where were the US special forces, the Afghan allies and Hamid Karzai going when the B-52 accidentally bombed them? To the ceremony that would install Karzai as Afghanistan's interim prime minister.

1) Chasing shadows

'We will stop chasing shadows', said a US military spokesman in January 2002, claiming that America would put a 'clear focus on capturing bin Laden'. 'I truly am not that concerned about [bin Laden], I know he is on the run', said President Bush in March 2002. 'The goal has never been to get bin Laden', said General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, in April 2002. 'I don't have a particular name affixed to what I'm going up against', said US lieutenant-general Dan McNeill in June 2002. 'We are fighting a shadowy enemy dwelling in dark corners of the Earth', said President Bush in July 2002. Does that mean the US will be chasing shadows…?

 

October 7: On to Baghdad – and beyond

By Patrick J. Buchanan

When Richard Gephardt left the White House with the president's blessing on a Gephardt-Bush resolution empowering the commander in chief to attack Iraq at a time of his own choosing, congressional resistance instantly crumbled.

The debate is over, the issue settled. If Saddam does not open up his "palaces" to U.N. inspectors, his successor will open them up to U.S. troops.

The president still demands a U.N. resolution authorizing force. But a Security Council refusal to vote for it will not deter him.

Thus, with millions of Americans skeptical, most of Europe opposed and the Islamic world either bitterly against this war or terrified of its consequences, the president will likely give the order to U.S. forces this winter to smash Iraq.

Congress' abdication is astonishing. For no one knows what America's plans are, once U.S. troops reach the gates of Baghdad.

Some, however, have made plans. Read antiwar.com. The War Party sees the attack and invasion of Iraq as but the first battle in an imperial war of conquest against the entire Arab-Islamic world.

According to Ha'aretz, Rep. Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the House International Affairs Committee, soothed Colette Avital, a visiting Knesset member, with this assurance: "My dear Collette, don't worry. You won't have any problem with Saddam. We'll be rid of the bastard soon enough. And in his place we'll install a pro-Western dictator, who will be good for you and good for us."

Our "pro-Western dictator," said Lantos, will rule for "five or six years," and "after America gets rid of all the regimes of evil, it will go straight to Syria and tell young Assad that's what will happen to him if he doesn't stop supporting terrorism."

In "War Against the Terror Masters," scholar Michael Ledeen identifies the "regimes of evil" we must destroy:

"First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the Big Three: Iran, Iraq and Syria. And then we will have to come to grips with the Saudis. ...

"[O]nce the tyrants in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia have been brought down, we will remain engaged. ... We have to ensure the fulfillment of the democratic revolution."

If you have been wondering about the difference between a true conservative and a neoconservative, hearken to Ledeen's idea of the "historic mission" Providence has given to America.

"Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. ... We must destroy them to advance our historic mission."

These are the men who have hijacked the once-honorable name of conservative. Yet Ledeen's wars of conquest are far too modest for Norman Podhoretz, who claims that Bush's mission is "to fight World War IV – the war against militant Islam." Podhoretz' enemies list dwarfs Ledeen's:

"The regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown ... are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as 'friends' of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority." If this is the minimum, what, one wonders, is the ideal?

Podhoretz believes, writes columnist Paul Craig Roberts, that Bush "must find the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated" Islamic world, just as we did on Germany and Japan.

What Lantos, Ledeen and Podhoretz are cawing for is for our country to invade, occupy and pacify hundreds of millions of Islamic peoples, the same policy Ariel Sharon, perhaps the most hated man in the Middle East, is pursuing on the West Bank.

Is this truly America's mission, or neoconservative madness?

How many body bags filled with American boys will it cost to realize the vision of Lantos, Ledeen and Podhoretz, and destroy all the regimes in Iraq, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority? Whose sons will they be? Do they care?

How much treasure must we sink into a war of civilizations to impose Podhoretz's "new political culture" on an Islamic world of hundreds of millions? Who made this America's mission, and why? Cui bono, World War IV?

 

October 7: Petroleum fuels debate on Iraq war

For the skeptics, a war with Iraq isn't really about Saddam Hussein and his deadly military arsenal. For some ardent supporters, it is about that and much more.

As the Bush administration tries to nail down a U.N. agreement to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, activists pro and con say much more is at stake than the fate of one dictator in one middling Middle Eastern country.

The real motivations behind the Bush administration's hard line with Baghdad, critics say, include lucrative oil and defense contracts, and winning control of Congress to rewriting the Middle East political map for the benefit of America's main regional ally, Israel.

They contend that U.S. military moves in the war on terrorism since September 11, from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Iraq, have been dictated by the country's thirst for foreign oil.

"If the chief export of this area were broccoli, do you think this stuff would be going on?" asked Kevin Danaher of the human rights group Global Exchange.

Iraq has the world's second-largest proven oil reserves after Saudi Arabia, and exploration of promising new fields has been crippled by a decade of U.N. sanctions. French and Russian firms have an inside track on exploration, based on previously signed contracts, but a war and a new regime in Baghdad could give eager U.S. energy firms a fresh opportunity.

Both sides in the U.S. debate have been accused of letting financial considerations influence their policy prescriptions.

Prominent Republican skeptics of unilateral action, including former secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Lawrence Eagleburger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, have seen their own business and consulting deals in the Middle East come under scrutiny.

The Scowcroft Group, a Washington-based "international business advisory group," says on its Web site that Mr. Scowcroft and other firm principals enjoy "strong ties to key decisionmakers" in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Mr. Eagleburger's law firm consults for energy companies operating in the Middle East, while Mr. Baker is a senior counselor to the Carlyle Group, the Washington-based merchant banking firm whose clients include major defense firms and the ruling family of Saudi Arabia.

Left-wing and isolationist sites on the Internet teem with conspiracy theories that the war is being pushed by an administration with personal and financial ties to the oil industry, starting with the president, a charge angrily denied by the White House.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice served on the board of oil giant Chevron for a decade before assuming her present post, while Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans ran a multibillion-dollar Denver oil and gas firm.

Most suspicious to the conspiracy theorists are the former business dealings of Vice President Richard B. Cheney, seen as a leading hawk in the internal administration debate. Mr. Cheney was the chief executive officer at the energy-services firm Halliburton in the mid-1990s, a company that had contracts to rebuild many of the exploration and drilling facilities in the region damaged in the Persian Gulf war.

Ironically, some of the staunchest supporters of war with Iraq say oil is indeed a reason to take on Saddam — but not for its financial value to the United States.

Clinton administration CIA Director R. James Woolsey, who has testified before Congress in support of military action against Saddam, argued that oil profits have financed "the three totalitarian movements in the Middle East."

These are Iraq, Iran and al Qaeda, which is financed in large part by the seed money provided by terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and other Saudis.

"We are at war," Mr. Woolsey said. "We should start by asking what we can do, as soon as possible, to undercut our enemies' power."

For a small, critical core of conservative intellectuals in and close to the Bush administration, the focus on Saddam did not begin September 11, and the campaign to eliminate him from power would benefit U.S. strategic and economic interests around the world.

Mr. Cheney hinted at this in an Aug. 26 speech to a veterans group in Nashville, Tenn.: "Extremists throughout the region would have to rethink their strategy of [holy war]. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991."

The argument is not new.

In 1996, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies assembled a study group to produce recommendations for the incoming government of Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Among the participants were American analysts destined to become key voices in the Bush administration, including Douglas Feith, now undersecretary of defense for policy; David Wurmser, now a special assistant to State Department arms-control chief John R. Bolton; and Richard Perle, the immensely influential conservative defense strategist who how heads a civilian Pentagon advisory board.

Their recommendation: Israel should make a "clean break" with past peacemaking efforts and "shape its strategic environment" by using a traditional balance-of-power approach.

Elements of such a strategy would include removing Saddam from power and working with Turkey and Jordan to "roll back" Syria.

Israel would "transcend its foes" by "re-establishing the principle of pre-emption, rather than retaliation alone, and by ceasing to absorb blows to the nation without response," according to a summary of the panel's deliberations prepared by the think tank.

 

October 7: Byrd Chastises White House, Democrats

Even though he is unlikely to succeed in preventing a Congressional grant of blank-check warmaking powers to the Bush administration, Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, has done America the service of clarifying the issue at hand. Thanks to Byrd's fierce denunciations of an unnecessary resolution to promote an unnecessary war, members of Congress who side with the administration will not be able to plead ignorance to the charge that they abandoned their Constitutionally-mandated responsibilities in order to position themselves for the fall election.

Rarely in the history of the Senate has a member so bluntly identified the hypocrisy of the White House on a question of warmaking. But there was no partisan malice in Byrd's remarks. In a remarkable speech delivered as the Senate opened its debate on Bush's request for broad authority to use military force against Iraq, Byrd chastised his fellow Democrats for engaging in equally contemptible acts.

"The newly bellicose mood that permeates this White House is unfortunate, all the moreso because it is clearly motivated by campaign politics. Republicans are already running attack ads against Democrats on Iraq. Democrats favor fast approval of a resolution so they can change the subject to domestic economic problems," declared the senior Democratic senator. "Before risking the lives of American troops, all members of Congress -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- must overcome the siren song of political polls and focus strictly on the merits, not the politics, of this most serious issue."

With fury entirely appropriate to the moment, Byrd roared: "We are rushing into war without fully discussing why, without thoroughly considering the consequences, or without making any attempt to explore what steps we might take to avert conflict. The resolution before us today is not only a product of haste; it is also a product of presidential hubris. This resolution is breathtaking in its scope. It redefines the nature of defense, and reinterprets the Constitution to suit the will of the Executive Branch. It would give the President blanket authority to launch a unilateral preemptive attack on a sovereign nation that is perceived to be a threat to the United States. This is an unprecedented and unfounded interpretation of the President's authority under the Constitution, not to mention the fact that it stands the charter of the United Nations on its head."

Typically, Byrd was strongest when he asked today's politicians to square their actions against the historical imperatives and insights that he, above all other members of Congress, recognizes and understands. In a speech that began with reference to the Roman historian Titus Livius and closed with a detailed recreation of the Senate debate that preceded the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Byrd summoned the words of an Illinois congressman who in the 1840s chastised a proponent of expanded presidential warmaking powers:

"Representative Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to William H. Herndon, stated: ‘Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purpose - - and you allow him to make war at pleasure... The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress, was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons: Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us. But your view destroys the whole matter, and places our President where kings have always stood.'"

The West Virginian asked the Senate: "If he could speak to us today, what would Lincoln say of the Bush doctrine concerning preemptive strikes?" No doubt, Lincoln would join millions of Americans in telling senators to listen to the wisdom of Robert Byrd.

 

October 8: Inspection as invasion

The US has been seeking to prevent a resolution of the Iraq crisis for the past eight years

There is little that those of us who oppose the coming war with Iraq can now do to prevent it. George Bush has staked his credibility on the project; he has mid-term elections to consider, oil supplies to secure and a flagging war on terror to revive. Our voices are as little heeded in the White House as the singing of the birds.
Our role is now, perhaps, confined to the modest but necessary task of demonstrating the withdrawal of our consent, while seeking to undermine the moral confidence which could turn the attack on Iraq into a war against all those states perceived to offend US strategic interests. No task is more urgent than to expose the two astonishing lies contained in George Bush's radio address on Saturday, namely that "the United States does not desire military conflict, because we know the awful nature of war" and "we hope that Iraq complies with the world's demands". Mr Bush appears to have done everything in his power to prevent Iraq from complying with the world's demands, while ensuring that military conflict becomes inevitable.

On July 4 this year, Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, began negotiating with Iraq over the return of UN weapons inspectors. Iraq had resisted UN inspections for three and a half years, but now it felt the screw turning, and appeared to be on the point of capitulation. On July 5, the Pentagon leaked its war plan to the New York Times. The US, a Pentagon official revealed, was preparing "a major air campaign and land invasion" to "topple President Saddam Hussein". The talks immediately collapsed.

Ten days ago, they were about to resume. Hans Blix, the head of the UN inspections body, was due to meet Iraqi officials in Vienna, to discuss the practicalities of re-entering the country. The US airforce launched bombing raids on Basra, in southern Iraq, destroying a radar system. As the Russian government pointed out, the attack could scarcely have been better designed to scupper the talks. But this time the Iraqis, mindful of the consequences of excluding the inspectors, kept talking. Last Tuesday, they agreed to let the UN back in. The State Department immediately announced, with more candour than elegance, that it would "go into thwart mode".

It wasn't bluffing. The following day, it leaked the draft resolution on inspections it was placing before the UN Security Council. This resembles nothing so much as a plan for unopposed invasion. The decisions about which sites should be "inspected" would no longer be made by the UN alone, but also by "any permanent member of the security council", such as the United States. The people inspecting these sites could also be chosen by the US, and they would enjoy "unrestricted rights of entry into and out of Iraq" and "the right to free, unrestricted and immediate movement" within Iraq, "including unrestricted access to presidential sites". They would be permitted to establish "regional bases and operating bases throughout Iraq", where they would be "accompanied... by sufficient US security forces to protect them". They would have the right to declare exclusion zones, no-fly zones and "ground and air transit corridors". They would be allowed to fly and land as many planes, helicopters and surveillance drones in Iraq as they want, to set up "encrypted communication" networks and to seize "any equipment" they choose to lay hands on.

The resolution, in other words, could not have failed to remind Iraq of the alleged infiltration of the UN team in 1996. Both the Iraqi government and the former inspector Scott Ritter maintain that the weapons inspectors were joined that year by CIA covert operations specialists, who used the UN's special access to collect information and encourage the republican guard to launch a coup. On Thursday, Britain and the United States instructed the weapons inspectors not to enter Iraq until the new resolution has been adopted.

As Milan Rai's new book War Plan Iraq documents, the US has been undermining disarmament for years. The UN's principal means of persuasion was paragraph 22 of the security council's resolution 687, which promised that economic sanctions would be lifted once Iraq ceased to possess weapons of mass destruction. But in April 1994, Warren Christopher, the US secretary of state, unilaterally withdrew this promise, removing Iraq's main incentive to comply. Three years later his successor, Madeleine Albright, insisted that sanctions would not be lifted while Saddam remained in power.

The US government maintains that Saddam Hussein expelled the UN inspectors from Iraq in 1998, but this is not true. On October 30 1998, the US rejected a new UN proposal by again refusing to lift the oil embargo if Iraq disarmed. On the following day, the Iraqi government announced that it would cease to cooperate with the inspectors. In fact it permitted them to continue working, and over the next six weeks they completed around 300 operations.

On December 14, Richard Butler, the head of the inspection team, published a curiously contradictory report. The body of the report recorded that over the past month "the majority of the inspections of facilities and sites under the ongoing monitoring system were carried out with Iraq's cooperation", but his well-publicised conclusion was that "no progress" had been made. Russia and China accused Butler of bias. On December 15, the US ambassador to the UN warned him that his team should leave Iraq for its own safety. Butler pulled out, and on the following day the US started bombing Iraq.

From that point on, Saddam Hussein refused to allow UN inspectors to return. At the end of last year, Jose Bustani, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, proposed a means of resolving the crisis. His organisation had not been involved in the messy business of 1998, so he offered to send in his own inspectors, and complete the job the UN had almost finished. The US responded by demanding Bustani's dismissal. The other member states agreed to depose him only after the United States threatened to destroy the organisation if he stayed. Now Hans Blix, the head of the new UN inspectorate, may also be feeling the heat. On Tuesday he insisted that he would take his orders only from the security council. On Thursday, after an hour-long meeting with US officials, he agreed with the Americans that there should be no inspections until a new resolution had been approved.

For the past eight years the US, with Britain's help, appears to have been seeking to prevent a resolution of the crisis in Iraq. It is almost as if Iraq has been kept on ice, as a necessary enemy to be warmed up whenever the occasion demands. Today, as the economy slides and Bin Laden's latest mocking message suggests that the war on terrorism has so far failed, an enemy which can be located and bombed is more necessary than ever. A just war can be pursued only when all peaceful means have been exhausted. In this case, the peaceful means have been averted.

 

October 8: With Congress Aboard, Bush Targets a Doubtful Public

Includes this picture with the caption: "These newly declassified intelligence photos show construction at two Iraqi nuclear weapons-related facilities, Al Furat Manufacturing Facility, Iraq. Construction of the building depicted on this graphic was suspended in 1991 but resumed in 2001. (Declassified Photos)"

The White House billed last night's speech by President Bush as a chance for him to explain to average Americans why it is necessary to disarm and replace Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The speech didn't come a moment too soon.

Even as Bush in recent days has become assured of lopsided votes in Congress that would authorize military action, a series of opinion polls have indicated that the public's enthusiasm for such action is tepid and declining. Americans remain unsure of the threat Hussein poses and unconvinced about the best method to deal with that threat.

Last night, Bush acknowledged the many doubts Americans have about a confrontation with Iraq, and he offered a lawyerly refutation of those doubts. "Many Americans have raised legitimate questions about the nature of the threat, about the urgency of action. Why be concerned now?"

As expected, Bush offered little new information last night, other than to disclose that Iraq has a growing number of aircraft that could deliver chemical and biological weapons, possibly even to target the United States.

Rather, his address had elements that ranged from frightening ("he could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year") to reassuring ("we will act with allies at our side") to belligerent ("Saddam Hussein is a homicidal dictator who is addicted to weapons of mass destruction") to sobering ("military conflict could be difficult"). Its effect was to amass evidence -- much of it inconclusive in the eyes of security experts -- that painted Iraq as a clear and present danger to the United States and a firm ally of al Qaeda.

Just as Bush did at the United Nations a month ago, when he presented himself as the champion of multilateral action and not its foe, he sought last night to turn arguments against him upside down. To those raising doubts that Bush is leading the nation on a dangerous and ill-conceived military adventure, Bush argued that he is the one pursuing the safest approach. "There is no easy or risk-free course of action," he said. "Some have argued that we should wait, and that's an option. In my view, it's the riskiest of all options."

White House officials had grown concerned that public support for using force against Hussein has softened despite Bush's growing support in Congress. A Gallup poll released yesterday found a bare majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- favored a ground invasion of Iraq, down from 61 percent in June and 74 percent last November. An ABC News poll, also released yesterday, found that 50 percent of Americans agreed with the proposition that diplomacy does not work with Iraq and the time for military action is near; 44 percent favored holding off on military action and pursuing diplomacy.

The divergence in views between ordinary Americans and their elected representatives indicates the administration has done an uneven sales job -- and one that Bush aides said last night's address was meant to remedy. "They really haven't made an attempt yet to explain to the American people in real terms the necessity of the action," said John Weaver, an adviser to several Democratic congressional candidates.

Bush aides interpret the soft poll numbers to mean that Americans are giving Bush the benefit of the doubt but are not convinced about the merits of his argument.

In the short term, such ambivalence is not a problem. History has shown that as soon as the United States launches a military action, a surge in public support is a virtual certainty. But the soft support presents a potential problem for the long term. If Americans have doubts about the rationale for the action in the first place, their support could fade if the conflict in Iraq becomes bloody and extended.

With such concerns in mind, the administration set out last night to convey more comprehensively and methodically its rationales for war. The arguments were not new, but the packaging was. Bush eschewed most of the Iraq applause lines he shouts from the campaign stump. Instead, he spoke soberly in front of a world map in the Cincinnati Museum Center, the United States behind his right shoulder and the Persian Gulf behind his left.

The White House selected the location for the speech -- Ohio -- because there were no competitive races in the area that would make Bush appear to be playing politics with the war. And, to make the threat more vivid, Bush aides decided to declassify for the speech a series of before-and-after photos of Hussein's weapons facilities.

To those who wonder why Iraq represented a unique threat, Bush said: "Because it gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place." To those who argued that Iraq would distract America from the war on terrorism, Bush replied that "confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror." To those who wondered how far Hussein is from acquiring the bomb, he answered: "Well, we don't know exactly, and that is the problem."

Bush labored to link Iraq to al Qaeda, even mentioning an unnamed terrorist leader allegedly associated with chemical and biological attacks who was given medical treatment this year in Baghdad. But while the ties between Iraq and al Qaeda are hotly disputed, Bush ultimately linked the two by pointing to the new sense of vulnerability Americans acquired on Sept. 11, 2001 -- stating that Iraq could threaten Americans on their own soil.

"We resolved then, and we are resolved today, to confront every threat from any source that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America," he said.

 

October 8: Only one Adolf Hitler

Round here, we are not very keen on the notion of banning words of any kind. The time has come to make an exception. The following words should be banned henceforth from political discourse: "Hitler" and "Nazi".
This would not apply to discussion of German history in the years up to 1945. That is not the problem. The problem is the incessant appearance of the words as a resort to winning arguments about modern politics. Their use (along with that of "fascist") has always been a ploy of the intellectually dishonest. At rock-bottom they are tools for inductive reasoning: "I like dogs." "Hitler liked dogs. You're a Nazi, then!" Since the Iraq dispute began, mild overuse has turned to plague, and both sides have been as bad as each other.

Let's be clear about this. Saddam Hussein is not Hitler, as hysterical Americans keep claiming. The charges of external violence are 12 years old. There is no coherent evidence that he had any plans (at least before the US began goading him) for more adventures, merely that he is obsessed with stockpiling weaponry, a charge that applies equally to the Pentagon. Far from seeking global or regional domination, he only dominates portions of Iraq.

George Bush is not Hitler. The former German justice minister's comparison was absurd; John Pilger's rants are increasingly ludicrous. Tony Blair is not Hitler either. Those who should note this are not so much anti-war campaigners as countryside marchers. "Hitler 1936. Blair 2002," said one banner. If there were a shred of sense in this analogy, hunting would have been banned five years ago, whereas in fact Blair has "crawfished" about like anything trying to avoid it.

Israel, a democratic state, is not "the mirror image of Nazism," as claimed by Michael Sinnott, professor of "paper science" (paper-thin arguments, more like), at Umist. Those who criticise Israel for its expansionism, oppression and sheer thick-headedness are not Nazis either, nor necessarily anti-semites. An American attack on Iraq would not be the equivalent of Pearl Harbor, as claimed by a Canadian MP, Bonnie Brown. After all, this is going to be the most heavily trailed sneak attack in history.

On the other hand, Colin Powell is not Neville Chamberlain, as claimed by the rightwing American pundit Frank Gaffney. Nor is Kofi Annan. Those who believe an attack on Iraq to be counter-productive in terms of American interests are not appeasers. Tony Blair should not compare, as he did in Blackpool, his mysterious liaison with George Bush with the second world war alliance. And most emphatically, Bush is not Churchill, as he impertinently imagines.

I had thought that the second world war addiction was a peculiarly British phenomenon, a drug we reached for because we have achieved damn all as a nation ever since. If anything, it seems worse in the US, a country where an education in world history consists of little more than learning the lines:

In fourteen hundred and ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Yet week after week I am overwhelmed with emails from Americans crowing about how they saved our pansy asses 60 years ago.

What one gathers from history is that politicians who try to cut-and-paste past events into their understanding of current situations are prone to lead their countries to disaster. The real appeasers were guided by their - often first-hand - experiences of the trenches and an over-anxiety to avoid the catastrophe of 1914. A generation later, Anthony Eden convinced himself, Bush-style, that Nasser was Hitler, and conducted the Suez campaign on that basis. The Vietnam war was largely caused by the Americans' conviction that Ho Chi Minh was Stalin or Mao, whereas it is far from clear that Ho was anything other than an opportunistic nationalist until US enmity left communism as his only resort.

Of course, politicians should understand history. Unfortunately, it is not something that either Bush or Blair bothered about much when they had more time. All they now have to guide them are fuzzy ideas about Hitler and Churchill they might have picked up from bubblegum cards.

If the president must drag Hitler into it, he might consider the thoughts of Christopher Layne, of the Cato Institute, as expressed in last Sunday's Los Angeles Times: "The rise of a would-be hegemon always has triggered the formation of counter-hegemonic alliances by other states . . . The big question is whether the same fate will befall a hegemonic America, or whether the United States somehow is exempt from the lessons of history." Any comments, Mr President?

 

October 8: Some administration officials expressing misgivings on Iraq

WASHINGTON -- While President Bush marshals congressional and international support for invading Iraq, a growing number of military officers, intelligence professionals and diplomats in his own government privately have deep misgivings about the administration's double-time march toward war.

These officials charge that administration hawks have exaggerated evidence of the threat that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein poses -- including distorting his links to the al-Qaida terrorist network -- have overstated the amount of international support for attacking Iraq and have downplayed the potential repercussions of a new war in the Middle East.

They charge that the administration squelches dissenting views and that intelligence analysts are under intense pressure to produce reports supporting the White House's argument that Saddam poses such an immediate threat to the United States that pre-emptive military action is necessary.

"Analysts at the working level in the intelligence community are feeling very strong pressure from the Pentagon to cook the intelligence books," said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A dozen other officials echoed his views in interviews.

No one who was interviewed disagreed.

They cited recent suggestions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that Saddam and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network are working together.

Rumsfeld said on Sept. 26 that the U.S. government has "bulletproof" confirmation of links between Iraq and al-Qaida members, including "solid evidence" that members of the terrorist network maintain a presence in Iraq.

The facts are much less conclusive. Officials said Rumsfeld's statement was based in part on intercepted telephone calls, in which an al-Qaida member who apparently was passing through Baghdad was overheard calling friends or relatives, intelligence officials said. The intercepts provide no evidence that the suspected terrorist was working with the Iraqi regime or that he was working on a terrorist operation while he was in Iraq, they said.

Rumsfeld also suggested that the Iraqi regime has offered safe haven to bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

While technically true, that also is misleading. Intelligence reports said the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, a longtime Iraqi intelligence officer, made the offer during a visit to Afghanistan in late 1998, after the United States attacked al-Qaida training camps with cruise missiles to retaliate for the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But officials said the same intelligence reports said bin Laden rejected the offer because he didn't want Saddam to control his group.

In fact, the officials said, there's no ironclad evidence that the Iraqi regime and the terrorist network are working together or that Saddam has ever contemplated giving chemical or biological weapons to al-Qaida, with whom he has deep ideological differences.

None of the dissenting officials, who work in a number of different agencies, would agree to speak publicly, out of fear of retribution. But many of them have long experience in the Middle East and South Asia, and all spoke in similar terms about their unease with the way U.S. political leaders are dealing with Iraq.

All agreed that Saddam is a threat who eventually must be dealt with, and none flatly opposes military action. But, they say, the U.S. government has no dramatic new knowledge about the Iraqi leader that justifies Bush's urgent call to arms.

"I've seen nothing that's compelling," said one military officer who has access to intelligence reports.

Some lawmakers have voiced similar concerns after receiving CIA briefings.

 

October 8: White House Global Message

KEY POINTS

A Decade of Deception and Defiance: Saddam Hussein has defied and deceived the UN for more than a decade. He has chemical and biological weapons, is seeking nuclear weapons, has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against his own people.

A Unique Threat: Iraq is a unique threat that gathers the most serious dangers of our age in one place - weapons of mass destruction controlled by a murderous tyrant who has used chemical weapons to kill thousands of people. This same dictator has an unrelenting hostility towards the US.

An Urgent Threat: The danger from the Iraqi regime is significant and only grows worse with time. Iraq has a massive stockpile of chemical and biological weapons never accounted for and capable of killing millions.

The Means of Delivery: Saddam Hussein has many means of weapons delivery at his disposal - from ballistic missiles, to unmanned aerial vehicles, to small containers.

Iraq's Support of Terror: The Iraqi regime has direct links to international terrorist groups and continues to finance terror and give assistance to groups that use terrorism to undermine Middle East peace.

Winning the War on Terror: Confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. Those who harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves. Saddam Hussein is harboring terrorists and the instruments of terror, and the risk is too great that he will use these instruments or provide them to a terror network.

 

October 8: When Did Iraq Become More Important Than America?

Saddam Hussein is an imminent threat OR he’s just a convenient political distraction wielded by the White House.

Whichever way you see it, you must agree: The attack-Iraq tempest has eclipsed most other issues.

With mid-term elections just weeks away, the lack of substantive debate and coverage of domestic issues poses more of a threat to the nation’s security than Saddam. But anyone who says so has trouble getting a microphone.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, is trying. He’s asking a question made famous in 1980 by California Republican Ronald Reagan: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

"An analysis of current indicators of the nation’s social and economic well-being shows that many are again declining," Waxman writes. He cites a dozen examples, including rising unemployment, record-high numbers of bankruptcies and mortgage foreclosures, and the return of the federal budget deficit. The number of Americans living in poverty and the number of people without health insurance are both at their highest level in years, and prescription drug costs are soaring.

Look past Iraq and a broad picture of an uneasy nation emerges. A New York Times/ CBS News poll found that 70 percent of people would like to hear candidates talk about the economy rather than the war. Most voters (57 percent) say they will cast their ballots based more on economic issues than on foreign policy.

Yet it still seems like the upcoming elections will be more about Saddam’s fate than the future of Social Security. Preemptive war will get more attention than prescription drug prices. We’ll talk more about high-flying F-16s than crashing 401(k)s.

Americans must be wondering: When did Iraq become more important than America?

 

October 8: Waxman Pops The Question

"Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

Rep. Henry Waxman has represented the 29th District of California since 1974, is the Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Government Reform and a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In the 1980 Presidential debates, Ronald Reagan asked the memorable question, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Over 20 years later, and almost two years into the term of President George W. Bush, this question is still relevant. An analysis of current indicators of the nation's social and economic well-being shows that many are again declining.

Economic Indicators

Unemployment is increasing. The unemployment rate averaged 4.1 percent in 2000 and reached a 30 year low of 3.9 percent in October 2000. Today, the unemployment rate has increased to 5.7 percent. There are presently 8.1 million unemployed Americans, an increase of 2.5 million compared to 2000.1 The number of Americans experiencing long-term unemployment -- over 27 weeks -- has almost doubled in the last year.2

Job creation has reversed. In 2000, the year before President Bush took office, the economy created 1.7 million new jobs. This trend has been reversed, and the economy has lost almost 1.5 million jobs since President Bush took office in January 2001.3

Poverty is increasing. After decreasing for eight straight years and reaching its lowest level in 25 years, the poverty rate increased from 11.3 percent in 2000 to 11.7 percent in 2001. In the first year of the Bush administration, 1.3 million Americans slipped back into poverty, with a total of 32.9 million Americans living in poverty in 2001.4

Incomes are falling. After increasing every year since 1991, and reaching an all time high in 2000, median household income in the United States fell 2.2 percent in 2001. Median incomes fell for households in every income group in the country except for those earning over $150,000.5

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are filing for bankruptcy. Almost 800,000 Americans filed for bankruptcy in the first half of 2002. In the second quarter of 2002, over 400,000 bankruptcies were filed in the United States, an all-time high.6

Mortgage foreclosures are at record highs. In the second quarter of 2002, 1.23 percent of home loans were in the foreclosure process, a record level. Over this same time period, almost 5 percent of mortgage loans were delinquent, up almost 20 percent from the average delinquency rate in 2000.7

The federal budget deficit is increasing. In 2000, the year before President Bush took office, the federal budget, excluding Social Security, showed a surplus of $86.6 billion. The most recent figures from the Congressional Budget Office indicate that for FY 2002, the federal budget, excluding Social Security, will show a deficit of $314 billion.8 This represents the largest budget decline in U.S. history, and it is the third-largest on-budget deficit in history, exceeded in size only by the deficits of 1991 and 1992 under the first President Bush.9

Health Care Indicators

The number of Americans without health insurance is increasing. Between 1999 and 2000, the number of uninsured Americans fell by 600,000.10 But this trend has reversed itself and in 2001 the number of uninsured Americans increased by 1.4 million.11 Over 41 million Americans -- 14.6 percent of the population -- had no health insurance coverage in 2001.12 The percentage of small businesses offering insurance to their employees fell by 10 percent between 2000 and 2002.13

Health insurance costs are increasing rapidly. Health insurance costs increased by 12.7 percent in 2002, the second consecutive year of double-digit increases and the largest annual increase in costs since 1990.14

Prescription drug prices are rising rapidly. Overall, prescription drug prices increased by almost twice the rate of inflation in 2001.15 For seniors, who use the most prescription drugs, cost increases were even higher. The cost of the 50 most popular drugs for seniors increased by 7.8 percent in 2001, over three times the rate of inflation. The price of Prilosec, the most popular drug for seniors, increased at over four times the rate of inflation.16

Crime and Drug Use Indicators

The crime rate is increasing. In 2000, the year before President Bush took office, the crime rate reached its lowest level since 1972. This represented the culmination of a 22 percent decrease in crime during the 1990s.17 But in 2001, the crime rate increased by 2.2 percent. The murder rate increased by 3.1 percent, the robbery rate increased by 3.9 percent, and the rate of property crimes increased by 2.2 percent.18

Drug use is increasing. Drug use among all Americans increased by 13 percent between 2000 and 2001, including significant increases in the use of marijuana and cocaine. Among young adults, the percentage of drug users increased by over 20 percent between 2000 and 2001. The number of Americans in need of drug treatment increased from 4.7 million in 2000 to 6.1 million in 2001.19

Environmental Indicators

Air pollution is increasing. Recently released data indicate that the number of times that air quality exceeded the health standard for ground-level ozone, or smog, almost doubled between 2000 and 2002.20

Fuel economy is declining as global warming accelerates. Automobile and light truck fuel economy declined in 2001, reaching their lowest levels since 1980.21 Overall, average fuel economy levels have declined by 8 percent since reaching their peak in 1998. At the same time, 2001 was the second warmest year on record,22 and areas across the country are experiencing their worst droughts in decades.23

Endnotes

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary (2002) (online at http://www.bls.gov).

2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary: Duration of Employment (September 2002) (online at http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t06.htm).

3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Situation Summary: Seasonally Adjusted Employment Level, Civilian Labor Force (September 2002).

4. U.S. Census Bureau, Poverty in the United States: 2001 (September 2002).

5. U.S. Census Bureau, Money Income in the United States: 2001 (September 2002).

6. American Bankruptcy Institute, Bankruptcy Cases Total More Than 1.5 Million for First Time, Personal and Quarterly Filings Hit Historic Highs (Aug. 14, 2002) (online at http://www.abiworld.org/release/2Q2002.html).

7. Mortgage Bankers Association of America, Delinquencies and Foreclosures Increase Slightly in Second Quarter 2002 (Sept. 9, 2002).

8. Congressional Budget Office, The Budget and Economic Outlook: An Update (August 2002).

9. Congressional Budget Office, Revenues, Outlays, Surpluses, Deficits, and Debt Held by the Public, 1962-2001 (2002).

10. U.S. Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage: 2000 (Sept. 28, 2001).

11. U.S. Census Bureau, Health Insurance Coverage: 2001 (Sept. 30, 2002).

12. Id.

13. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002 Employer Health Benefits Survey (September 2002).

14. Id.

15. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001 Annual Average Price Indexes (2002) (online at http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpid01av.pdf).

16. Families USA, Bitter Pill: The Rising Prices of Prescription Drugs for Older Americans (June 24, 2002).

17. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States: 2000 (2001) (online at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm).

18. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States: Preliminary Report 2001 (2002) (online at http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/ucr.htm).

19. Department of Health and Human Services, Results from the 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (September 2002).

20. U.S. PIRG, Danger in the Air: The 2001 Ozone Season Summary (August 2002).

21. U.S. EPA, Light Duty Automotive Technology and Fuel Economy Trends, 1975 through 2001 (September 2001)(online at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/cert/mpg/fetrends/s01001.wpd).

22. National Climatic Data Center, Annual Climate Review (2002).

23. National Weather Service, Climate Prediction Center, U.S. Drought Monitor (September 2002) (online at http://drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html).

 

October 9: White House 'exaggerating Iraqi threat'

Bush's televised address attacked by US intelligence

President Bush's case against Saddam Hussein, outlined in a televised address to the nation on Monday night, relied on a slanted and sometimes entirely false reading of the available US intelligence, government officials and analysts claimed yesterday.
Officials in the CIA, FBI and energy department are being put under intense pressure to produce reports which back the administration's line, the Guardian has learned. In response, some are complying, some are resisting and some are choosing to remain silent.

"Basically, cooked information is working its way into high-level pronouncements and there's a lot of unhappiness about it in intelligence, especially among analysts at the CIA," said Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA's former head of counter-intelligence.

In his address, the president reassured Americans that military action was not "imminent or unavoidable", but he made the most detailed case to date for the use of force, should it become necessary.

But some of the key allegations against the Iraqi regime were not supported by intelligence currently available to the administration. Mr Bush repeated a claim already made by senior members of his administration that Iraq has attempted to import hardened aluminium tubes "for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons". The tubes were also mentioned by Tony Blair in his dossier of evidence presented to parliament last month.

However, US government experts on nuclear weapons and centrifuges have suggested that they were more likely to be used for making conventional weapons.

"I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around here," said a department of energy specialist.

David Albright, a physicist and former UN weapons inspector who was consulted on the purpose of the aluminium tubes, said it was far from clear that the tubes were intended for a uranium centrifuge.

Mr Albright, who heads the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington thinktank, said: "There's a catfight going on about this right now. On one side you have most of the experts on gas centrifuges. On the other you have one guy sitting in the CIA."

Mr Albright said sceptics at the energy department's Lawrence Livermore national laboratory in California had been ordered to keep their doubts to themselves. He quoted a colleague at the laboratory as saying: "The administration can say what it wants and we are expected to remain silent."

There is already considerable scepticism among US intelligence officials about Mr Bush's claims of links between Iraq and al-Qaida. In his speech on Monday, Mr Bush referred to a "very senior al-Qaida leader who received medical treatment in Baghdad this year".

An intelligence source said the man the president was referring to was Abu Musab Zarqawi, who was arrested in Jordan in 2001 for his part in the "millennium plot" to bomb tourist sites there. He was subsequently released and eventually made his way to Iraq in search of treatment. However, intercepted telephone calls did not mention any cooperation with the Iraqi government.

There is also profound scepticism among US intelligence experts about the president's claim that "Iraq has trained al-Qaida members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases".

Bob Baer, a former CIA agent who tracked al-Qaida's rise, said that there were contacts between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi government in Sudan in the early 1990s and in 1998: "But there is no evidence that a strategic partnership came out of it. I'm unaware of any evidence of Saddam pursuing terrorism against the United States."

A source familiar with the September 11 investigation said: "The FBI has been pounded on to make this link."

In making his case on Monday, Mr Bush made a startling claim that the Iraqi regime was developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which "could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas".

"We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States," he warned.

US military experts confirmed that Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets, known as L-29s, into drones, but said that with a maximum range of a few hundred miles they were no threat to targets in the US.

"It doesn't make any sense to me if he meant United States territory," said Stephen Baker, a retired US navy rear admiral who assesses Iraqi military capabilities at the Washington-based Centre for Defence Information.

Mr Cannistraro said the flow of intelligence to the top levels of the administration had been deliberately skewed by hawks at the Pentagon.

"CIA assessments are being put aside by the defence department in favour of intelligence they are getting from various Iraqi exiles," he said. "Machiavelli warned princes against listening to exiles. Well, that is what is happening now."

 

October 9: Iraq attack likely 'only if provoked'

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) believes Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could respond with chemical or biological weapons if he thinks an American-led strike against him is imminent.

But in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA director George Tenet also said the likelihood of Iraq launching an unprovoked attack on the United States was "low".

In a subsequent statement, Mr Tenet insisted that the letter did not contradict President Bush's tough stance on Iraq.

It comes as Congress is debating a resolution authorising President Bush to use military force against Baghdad.

Mixed signals

According to Mr Tenet's letter, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might help Islamic militants use weapons of mass destruction against the US if he sees it as "his last chance to exact vengeance".

For now, the letter says, Baghdad "appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical weapons".

But in a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA director George Tenet also said the likelihood of Iraq launching an unprovoked attack on the United States was "low".

In a subsequent statement, Mr Tenet insisted that the letter did not contradict President Bush's tough stance on Iraq.

It comes as Congress is debating a resolution authorising President Bush to use military force against Baghdad.

Mixed signals

According to Mr Tenet's letter, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein might help Islamic militants use weapons of mass destruction against the US if he sees it as "his last chance to exact vengeance".

For now, the letter says, Baghdad "appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or chemical weapons".

In a statement released on Tuesday, he said Baghdad's links to Islamic militants was likely to increase even absent US military action.

"There is no question that the likelihood of Saddam using weapons of mass destruction against the United States or our allies grows as his arsenal continues to build," he said in the statement.

However correspondents say some CIA officials are concerned that the agency - whose role is to give politically neutral information to the President - may be endorsing the administration's agenda.

Mr Tenet's assessment comes as both the House of Representatives and the Senate are debating a congressional resolution to authorise President Bush to use force against Iraq.

The resolution in expected to be approved next week.