What We Knew in September, 2002

 

 

Remember this? Selling war on Iraq follows rules for new product launch and Flight of the Chickenhawks. (Cartoons.)

 

September 1: Hail and farewell (Chris Matthews final column)

...this is my last column. The wisdom of middle age has taught me I can't have -- or do -- it all.

I remember Sen. Ed Muskie the night he won his last election back in 1976. He'd had some vodka, which I sensed he'd drunk fast -- like a Russian against the winter. He said:

"The only reason to be in politics is to be out there all alone and then be proven right."

That goes for good columnists, too.

So I'll say it: I hate this war that's coming in Iraq. I don't think we'll be proud of it. Oppose this war because it will create a millennium of hatred and the suicidal terrorism that comes with it. You talk about Bush trying to avenge his father. What about the tens of millions of Arab sons who will want to finish a fight we start next spring in Baghdad?

Well, that's it for now. You know where I stand.

 

September 2: The source of all evil
Anonymous 'intelligence officials' are preparing us all for war

When, long ago, Woodward and Bernstein found Deep Throat, they also found double trouble. A single source, according to the Washington Post house rules, wasn't enough. You had to have two separate ones to write the story that destroyed Richard Nixon. But that was politics, not war. And we live in more self-interested times.


This morning, there's Kerim Chatty, a Swede who was going to crash a plane into a US embassy, according to Swedish military intelligence sources. Or wasn't, according to Swedish police sources. Who had four accomplices, or worked alone (same sources). To this confusion, CIA, FBI and Scotland Yard sources added their bemused little codicils.

New questions for old. Where is Osama bin Laden? The Financial Times, in a report from Islamabad, has "Pakistan security officials" conducting the last rites: "Osama, who was not too well when last year's attacks happened, could not have survived the attacks on Tora Bora," according to "an unidentified senior Pakistani".

Excellent. He's toast, as American generals tend to put it when they talk to the New York Post. Unless, of course, he's in Pakistan (the Afghan security verdict as peddled by Kabul's foreign ministry). Is there "convincing proof" one way or the other? Nope: there is no such proof, according to General Tommy Franks, duly advised by the CIA and army intelligence. Bin Laden could be anywhere or nowhere. But luckily "we don't have to find him, because we are going to shut down his terrorist apparatus", according to the chaps who brief General Dan McNeill. Al-Qaida "is toast" says the NY Post.

The difficulty is, though, that these sources are everywhere, the mostest with the toastest. "Intelligence officials in the Kurdish self-rule area of Iraq" have found a major training base for 100-150 al-Qaida fighters fleeing Afghanistan. Maybe they'll bump into two of Bin Laden's senior lieutenants "planning operations from a safe haven in north-east Iran", according to Arab intelligence sources chatting to the Washington Post in a story filed from Jeddah, but not originating there because these particular sources "do not want their names and nationalities mentioned".

And so on and so forth, day after day, week after week. I cast no stones at newspapers trying to make sense of such murk. But we ought, almost a year in, to be desolately clear. If Richard Nixon was running this "war" - indeed, if he was also doubling as Bin Laden - Woodward and Bernstein would still be sucking their newsroom thumbs. What Tony Blair, in his man-of-the-people mode, calls "garbage, total garbage", is silting our lives.

Forget two mandatory sources. Some modestly useful clue about the identity of even one source would be a help. For several long years, the Guardian fought to reform the Westminster lobby system. We wanted to be able to tell you - the reader - where a story came from, to tab it beyond reasonable doubt as the spoonfeeding work of Bernard Ingham or Alastair Campbell (and not as more brilliant sleuthing by fearless political correspondents). Well, that fight is largely won: with few thanks to the lobby and some thanks to Mr Campbell for doing the decent, right thing. But see how the war against terror has blasted us back to the stone age of journalism.

I am a reader - a mere reader - too, now. I wish to be informed reliably: because I have a right to know. And I'm sick of smudgy sources.

You can guess a bit of what's going on: the Pakistanis dumping on the Afghans and vice-versa; the Saudis briefing against Iran; the Kurds briefing against Saddam Hussein; and the Israelis briefing against everybody. You want "convincing proof"? We sell it by the rod, pole and perch, sir. Thus President Saddam, who wasn't in the frame after 9/11, is suddenly back as public enemy number one. Thus "western intelligence reports" begin to overflow with his al-Qaida links.

What was wrong with the old lobby system? It was too damned lazy and convenient. It gave the press their stories, notebooks rustling in unison. It offered Number 10 power with deniability. For all the blather about the evils of spin, this was the ultimate spin doctors' compact. But it was as nothing, really nothing, beside the dangers when the doctors are spooks.

Why on earth should we expect intelligence men, spies from a secret world with their own secret agenda, to confess their innermost thoughts to every passing journalist? It doesn't happen. This is a giant souffle of spin. Yet, too often, as you open a newspaper or turn on the TV, you realise that our defences are down.

Consider (for those who haven't caught up with it yet) America's most popular 24-hour news channel: not CNN or NBC, but Rupert Murdoch's Fox News. There, it sometimes seems, the secret briefings have turned, through repetition, into uncontested fact. Terrorists, going about their appalling business, lurk behind every door. Those who question a bit - such as the New York Times - are enemies of the people. And slowly, insidiously, you begin to lose your own grip on reality.

Is Fox, the fact channel, standing tall (as one contributor there put it last week) beside "ideological, partisan newspapers such as the Guardian or Le Monde"? Or is it Mr Murdoch's beloved Sun, cloned electronically and allowed to shine 24/7?

The point is how, after prolonged irradiation, fiction turns to assumed fact; how coincidences become plots; how fiascos become triumphs; how agendas rule.

That isn't newspaper business, nor the news business either. It does nothing for readers. It leaves nuances out and truth trailing. And what, I sometimes wonder, does it do for our leaders, the Blairs and the Bushes who get to read this stuff first? Do their brains rot, too? Maybe some non-anonymous source could surface and send me a signal.

 

September 2: How low can we go?

I have read a lot of flabbergasting articles about Sept. 11 and its aftermath in the past 11 months, but one paragraph in the paper last week brought the bar to its lowest.

A poll by Knight Ridder "indicated that most Americans are gung-ho for the global war on terrorism and a solid 67 percent favor taking it to Iraq."

Close, but that's not the paragraph.

It was this one: "The poll results reflect some confusion about the war on terrorism, a conflict with shifting boundaries and elusive enemies. Nearly one-third of Americans view the entire Muslim world as the enemy, even though several Muslim countries support the U.S. war effort."

The question this presents is: What?

Well, what do you expect in a country where it sometimes appears government is using a Marx Brothers movie script as a template.

Where it sometimes appears Homeland Security should be renamed "Homeland Paranoia."

Where the economic policy resembles in sincerity and record-keeping a Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker telethon.

Where the media seem to spend more money printing fast-fading flags and producing flag-waving promotions than on researching and reporting the actual degradation of rights, even the dissolution of rights, among citizens.

Doesn't it seem as if the government is wasting billions and billions of dollars on unnecessary or unworkable "security" - an exercise that reminds me of a raccoon attracted to anything that sparkles? Doesn't it seem as if we are botching chance after chance to prove to the world that the United States, in the face of a potential threat, can still assure equal justice under the law?

Isn't it odd that government leadership is so rabidly intent on invading Iraq that it appears more attention is being paid to overthrowing a nation's psyche (our own) by zealous public relations than accumulating any solid evidence such an invasion is necessary?

Shouldn't we be a little worried when airport security has turned into an exercise in how best to amass eyebrow scissors and nail files, and detain and humiliate non-white travelers?

We wait and wait for someone in charge to ask: Invade Iraq? Are you nuts?

We wait and wait for the media to stop showing deference and start showing some defiance.

You want to send soldiers to Iraq? Didn't we do that already? Is it a measure of cynicism if we think that this is an attempt to take everyone's attention away from endemic regulator-ignored corporate criminality?

Or to keep people from noticing that a human-rights-stomping religious fanatic may be running the Justice Department?

Would it be a stretch to use adjectives such as mind-numbingly inept, politically bankrupt, or intellectually vacuous in describing American foreign policy, a policy seemingly cribbed from a collection of Little Golden Books?

More damning, perhaps, is the thought that it's nearly a year later and the administration is still looking not for justice, but for blood revenge, a lust fueled by intentionally vague or false information and a desire to rewrite the Constitution, in secret.

Who knew, a year ago, that a policy of building generations of hate, so cultivated by the terrorists as necessary to perpetuate blind acceptance of an evil goal, would gain a foothold in the threshold of democracy, too?

 

September 2: The Cheney Doctrine: War without end

Vice President Dick Cheney has just made the most powerful case yet for the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive War.

There is "no doubt," said Cheney to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, that Saddam "is amassing [weapons of mass destruction] to use against our friends, against our allies and against us." And when Saddam gets a nuclear weapon, he "can be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East and subject the United States to nuclear blackmail."

Dick Cheney is a serious man, and he may be right about Saddam's intent. And if we fail to kill this snake we may pay a hellish price. But Cheney's arguments do appear to contradict Cold War history and common sense.

Consider:

If Saddam is a "mortal threat" to the United States, 6,000 miles away, is he not a mortal threat to Israel next door? Yet tiny Israel seems less alarmed than Cheney and has not launched a pre-emptive war. What does Ariel Sharon know that we do not?

And if Saddam intends to use nuclear weapons to "dominate the entire Middle East," why has Iran not launched a pre-emptive war, before being made a satellite by Saddam? Is Iran perhaps far ahead of Iraq in the nuclear arms race, and delighted the Americans are about to emasculate their Arab rival in the Gulf?

Turks, Kurds, Iranians, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, Israelis – none of these people appear as frightened of Saddam Hussein as the vice president of the most powerful nation on earth. Why?

Should Saddam get nuclear weapons, says Cheney, he "will subject the United States to nuclear blackmail."

Pardon me, but there is serious doubt Saddam is close to a nuclear weapon and serious doubt he would ever dare try to blackmail us. Stalin acquired nuclear weapons in 1949, but did not blackmail us out of Berlin. Mao acquired nuclear weapons in 1964, but did not blackmail us out of Taiwan. Khrushchev, with a thousand times as many weapons of mass destruction as Saddam is ever likely to have, tried to intimidate us in the Cuban missile crisis. How did that work out?

History suggests that nations build nuclear weapons not to go on the warpath, but as deterrents to adversaries. North Korea has used its nuclear arsenal not to attack us but to extort from us nuclear power plants, foreign aid and diplomatic recognition.

Even should Saddam acquire a crude nuclear device, for him to threaten us with it would invite annihilation. To use it would ensure annihilation. Why would Saddam, who sleeps in a different bed every night to stay alive, risk the utter destruction of himself, his family, his dynasty, his monuments, his legacy?

Saddam could give a nuclear weapon to terrorists, Cheney warns. But why would this ultimate survivor put his fate in the hands of an Osama bin Laden, who might set the bomb off, then tell the Americans Saddam gave it to him – to ignite the U.S.-Islamic war Osama ardently desires?

Saddam's behavior over the years suggests that he wishes to avoid an all-out war with the United States. Why did he not use chemical weapons on invading Americans in 1991? Because Jim Baker told Tarik Aziz what Saddam could expect in return. Instead, Saddam accepted the most one-sided defeat in modern history.

Yet, let us concede that Cheney may be right, that there is a risk that Saddam, should he acquire a nuclear weapon, may commit suicide and use it. But what this administration does not seem to see is that the risks of its own bellicose war rhetoric may be far greater.

With President Bush daily threatening war on any "axis of evil" nation that seeks a weapon of mass destruction, every rogue regime from Libya eastward must be in the market for one, if only to gain the measure of security North Korea seems to have achieved.

The president and his War Cabinet are today giving our enemies the most powerful of incentives, i.e., survival, for seeking the very weapons whose proliferation we wish to prevent.

In making his case for pre-emptive war, Cheney quoted Kissinger: "The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge danger it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system, and the demonstrated hostility of Saddam Hussein combine to produce an imperative for pre-emptive action."

But this description applies not only to Saddam Hussein. It applies to Khadafi, Assad, the ayatollahs and Kim Jong-Il, all of whom might well conclude that, after Saddam goes down, their turn comes next. By the Kissinger formula, they should all be targeted "for pre-emptive action." For America, the logic of the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive War points to war without end.

 

September 3: Dick Cheney's Nightmare of Peace

In the dreams of Dick Cheney, to which I am not privy, I imagine there are boldly contrasting scenes of victory and despair.

In one fantasy, he leads a victorious U.S. Army to a hero's welcome through the crowded streets of Baghdad, cheered wildly for having been the most outspoken proponent of war against Saddam Hussein.

In his nightmares, meanwhile, he is led off in handcuffs, accused of crimes committed while CEO of Halliburton, securing that company's place in the ever-growing pantheon of post-boom corporate fraudsters.

Peace, particularly the functioning of the economic order, has turned out to be far riskier than the waging of war for this administration. A typical American POW these days is a captain of industry who played loose with his company's books, and both Cheney and his alleged boss ran with that crowd.

Of course, we should probably leave the novelization of a hawkish vice president's innermost thoughts to the likes of Tom Clancy. Regardless of Cheney's best-and worst-case scenarios, there are myriad other destinations still possible on the strange, grim trip we've all taken since that bizarre election night not yet two years ago.

For example, the go-it-alone invasion of Old Mesopotamia that Cheney is pushing could dangerously backfire in the ways a bunch of Republican elders are predicting: Eroding allied support for the campaign against Al Qaeda, further destabilizing the Middle East and raising the likelihood that Hussein might launch whatever nasty weapons he does have.

Cheney, though, is unmoved by voices of moderation. He even argues that the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq, something the U.S. and our allies have been demanding for years, would only strengthen Hussein.

Perhaps the veep is worried that the inspectors might not find the weapons of mass destruction that he, almost alone, is convinced are already operational.

As for the CEO-in-handcuffs nightmare, it would be wrong to deny Cheney the presumption of innocence in any of the possible violations by Halliburton being pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Still, one can imagine Cheney bolting awake in a cold sweat and moaning, "How could I have been so stupid as to make a video effusively thanking Arthur Andersen for giving me 'good advice over and above the normal by-the-books audit arrangements'?"

There's just no way that sounds good when the SEC is looking into whether Halliburton cooked the books like those of other companies that the disgraced accounting firm helped to defraud stockholders. Somehow, we Joe Blows thought corporate accountants should keep to "normal by-the-books audit arrangements" when assessing the companies we pour our retirement savings into.

Color us naive.

But, as with the Republican war skeptics, here too Cheney is being bitten from behind. A conservative organization that successfully hounded Bill Clinton for years, Judicial Watch, charged in a lawsuit that "Vice President Cheney broke the law" with accounting tricks as Halliburton's CEO.

Cheney also might be wondering whether he wasn't a bit too greedy in grabbing an $18-million profit on the sale of his Halliburton shares shortly before the stock tanked. Whether it was insider trading or just luck, the timing looks bad; no wonder, then, that a CNN poll showed only 11% of Americans believed that the vice president was telling the truth about his Halliburton history.

Cheney is not dumb. He assuredly recognizes his future reputation and domicile might be riding on a Republican sweep of the November election.

Imagine what a field day a Democrat-controlled Congress would have looking into how Cheney was able to cash out with $30 million after sending Halliburton down the road to possible bankruptcy, thanks to his lack of "due diligence" on a merger deal?

It might also take a close look at a decade of lucrative government contracts Halliburton secured while Cheney was in and then out and then back in the White House.

Or, how about that whole Enron thing, so many corporate scandals ago?

A Democrat-controlled Congress might be able to finally get answers to what exactly Enron's role was in the Cheney-led drafting of the administration's energy policy. The VP has managed to keep secret the minutes of meetings between himself and Enron officials--including top Bush campaign contributor and then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay.

Maybe the elusive Cheney has a bunch of good explanations for all of this bad-smelling stuff. Until he decides to publicly share them, however, his passion on Iraq will remind many of us of the old saying that patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. For Cheney and his embattled cohorts in the White House, facing a potential second recession in their first term, peace is just too risky. Better to go back to sleep and dream of war.

 

September 3: As hawks debate, ordinary Iraqis continue to suffer

The question dominating the news When will we go to war against Iraq?

The answer We are already at war with Iraq.

The debate over the Bush administration's call for war is usually described as hawks v. doves -- those for the war pitted against those opposing war. In fact, the debate in mainstream news is hawks v. hawks; the question isn't whether or not to wage war, but what form that war should take.

Bush and the ultra-hawks want a full-scale war as soon as feasible, to secure control over Iraq and its oil. The hawks at the moderate extreme argue for continuing "containment," a euphemism for devastating economic sanctions and regular bombing in the so-called "no-fly zones."

Sanctions, imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, are administered through the United Nations but in place only because the United States insists; most of the rest of the world has condemned them. The embargo has helped cause the deaths of more than 500,000 children under the age of 5, according to a UNICEF study. That's why two former U.N. humanitarian coordinators in Iraq -- Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck -- have resigned in protest, calling the sanctions immoral and even genocidal.

Though the sanctions have strengthened Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq while punishing ordinary people, the United States insists they remain.

Starting with a complete ban on oil sales and frequent restrictions even on basic medicines, the sanctions have gone through stages. Currently, there is no limit on total oil sales and most medicines are allowed in, but there are still major problems with funding projects to repair critical infrastructure and foster economic development.

Combined with the almost complete (and quite deliberate) destruction of Iraq's civilian infrastructure, particularly water- and sewage-treatment plants, by U.S. forces during the Gulf War, the sanctions have meant increased malnutrition, disease and death -- not for Saddam but for the Iraqi people.

U.S. official blithely claim that the so-called "smart sanctions" approved by the Security Council in July would solve these problems. But instead of feeding Iraqis, the changes mostly helped confuse the public -- which, according to some U.S. officials, was the original intent of smart sanctions.

Now, as worldwide attention to the effects of sanctions has decreased, the humanitarian situation has worsened. Even as cumbersome bureaucratic procedures for approving imports were supposedly streamlined, the monetary value of "holds" (contracts held up by some nation on the Sanctions Committee, almost always the United States) is at $4.7 billion, higher than before smart sanctions were proposed. Worse, because of a retroactive oil-pricing scheme recently implemented by the United States (oil companies don't know what price they'll pay for Iraqi crude until after it is loaded), Iraqi oil exports are way down; in August, exports averaged 800,000 barrels per day, compared with more than 2 million at earlier points. This funding shortfall means Iraq is unable to pay even for some approved humanitarian imports.

U.S. officials blame all this on Saddam, and certainly the Iraqi government has made some questionable allocations of resources. But Tun Myat, the current U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, has described Iraq's food distribution as "second to none," echoing evaluations by other UN officials.

While the sanctions kill slowly, the United States continues to patrol the no-fly zones in the northern and southern parts of Iraq, bombing at will and killing civilians -- at least 27 attacks by U.S. planes in 2002. The most recent, on Sunday (Aug. 25), killed eight, according to Iraq.

When challenged, U.S. officials robotically repeat that they bomb only when threatened by Iraqi air defenses. However, despite U.S. claims, there is no U.N. Security Council authorization for this violation of Iraqi sovereignty. U.S. journalists rarely mention the obvious point -- that if the United States ceased its illegal patrols, Iraqi radar would not "light up" U.S. planes, making U.S. attacks unnecessary.

While not militarily significant, these attacks serve to terrorize the Iraqi people and remind everyone that the United States exempts itself from international law. Combined with the sanctions, they constitute a war on the people of Iraq.

While the fanatical hawks argue with the moderate hawks about the way in which a war against Iraq should proceed, virtually all the world opposes a full-scale war. It's time for us to realize that most of the rest of the world also wants to stop the containment war, end the suffering of the Iraqi people and begin the diplomatic process necessary for regional peace.

 

September 3: Hypocrisy now!

Excuse me: I don't want to be tacky or anything, but hasn't it occurred to anyone in Washington that sending Vice President Dick Cheney out to champion an invasion of Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein is a "murderous dictator" is somewhere between bad taste and flaming hypocrisy?

When Dick Cheney was CEO of the oilfield supply firm Halliburton, the company did $23.8 million in business with Saddam Hussein, the evildoer "prepared to share his weapons of mass destruction with terrorists."

So if Saddam is "the world's worst leader," how come Cheney sold him the equipment to get his dilapidated oil fields up and running so he to could afford to build weapons of mass destruction?

In 1998, the United Nations passed a resolution allowing Iraq to buy spare parts for its oilfields, but other sanctions remained in place, and the United States has consistently pressured the U.N. to stop exports of medicine and other needed supplies on the grounds they could have "dual use." As the former Secretary of Defense under Bush the Elder, Cheney was in particularly vulnerable position on the hypocrisy of doing business with Iraq. (Although in 1991, after the Gulf War, Cheney told a group of oil industry executives he was emphatically against trying to topple Hussein.)

Using two subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll-Dresser, Halliburton helped rebuild Saddam's war-damaged oil fields. The combined value of these contracts for parts and equipment was greater than that of any other American company doing business with Iraq -- companies including Schlumberger, Flowserve, Fisher-Rosemount, General Electric. They acted through foreign subsidiaries or associated companies in France, Belgium, Germany, India, Switzerland, Bahrain, Egypt and the Netherlands.

In several cases, it is clear the European companies did no more than loan their names to American firms for the purpose of dealing with Hussein. Iraq then became America's second-largest Middle Eastern oil supplier.

This story was initially reported by the Financial Times of London over two years ago and has since been more extensively reported in the European press. But as we have seen with the case of Harken Energy and many other stories, there is a difference between a story having been reported and having attention being paid to it (a distinction many journalists have trouble with). Thus the administration was able to dismiss the new information on shady dealings at Harken as "old news" because not much attention was ever paid when the old news was new.

When Cheney left Halliburton, he received a $34 million severance package despite the fact that the single biggest deal of his five-year career there, the acquisition of Dresser Industries, turned out to be a huge blunder since the company came saddled with asbestos liability. (On the campaign trail, Cheney often claimed he had been "out in the private sector creating jobs." The first thing he did after the Dresser merger was lay off 10,000 people.)

Halliburton, America's No. 1 oil-services company, is the nation's fifth-largest military contractor and the biggest non-union employer in the United States. It employs more than 100,000 workers worldwide and does over $15 billion a year. Halliburton under Cheney dealt with several brutal dictatorships, including the despicable government of Burma (Myanmar). The company also played questionable roles in Algeria, Angola, Bosnia, Croatia, Haiti, Somalia and Indonesia.

Halliburton also had dealings with Iran and Libya, both on the State Department's list of terrorist states. Halliburton's subsidiary Brown & Root, the old Texas construction firm that does much business with the U.S. military, was fined $3.8 million for re-exporting goods to Libya in violation of U.S. sanctions.

If you want to know why the Democrats didn't jump all over this story and make a big deal out it, it's because -- as usual -- Democrats are involved in similar dealings. Former CIA director John Deutsch is on the board of Schlumberger, the second largest oil services firm after Halliburton, which is also doing business with Iraq through subsidiaries.

Americans have long been aware that corporate money has consistently corrupted domestic policy in favor of corporate interests, and that both parties are in thrall to huge corporate campaign donors. We are less accustomed to connecting the dots when it comes to foreign policy. But there is no more evidence that corporations pay attention to anything other than profits in their foreign dealings than they do in their domestic deals.

Enron, as usual, provides some textbook examples of just how indifferent to human rights American companies can be. Halliburton's dealings in Nigeria, in partnership with Shell and Chevron, provide another such example, including gross violations of human rights and environmental abuses.

No one is ever going to argue that Saddam Hussein is a good guy, but Dick Cheney is not the right man to make the case against him. I have never understood why the Washington press corps cannot remember anything for longer than 10 minutes, but hearing Cheney denounce Saddam is truly "Give us a break" time.

 

September 3: Powell Cites 'Real' Divide Internally on Iraq Policy
Bush Decision Expected Soon As Aides Pursue a Consensus

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell today acknowledged a fierce debate within the administration over a possible confrontation with Iraq but said that President Bush will soon "pull all these threads together" to conclude the debate, possibly next week.

Powell told reporters traveling with him to a U.N. development summit here that he had been working the phones with foreign officials in the past week to lay the groundwork for the president's impending decision. He said he had been trying to calm concerns about White House intentions and explore whether a new or enhanced U.N. inspections system would lead to elimination of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capabilities.

Perceived as the administration's moderate on Iraq, Powell often sidestepped questions about his personal views. Instead, he said the administration was working hard to reach a consensus. "It is a very serious issue and we are discussing it in a very serious way," he said, adding, "I think there are lots of differences -- some are real, some are perceived, some are overhyped."

Powell said he had not raised possible military scenarios in his conversations with foreign officials. But he made clear that a presidential decision could be expected shortly. "Now that the holiday period is over and all the European colleagues are back to work, and the United Nations General Assembly will be meeting next week," Powell said, "I think you will see the president will pull all these threads together" and firmly decide how to deal with Iraq.

Diplomatic maneuvering over that question continued as strong as ever today here and in other countries.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair laid out forcefully his concerns, calling Iraq "a unique threat to the security of the region and to the rest of the world."

Foreign ministers of the 15-nation European Union, meanwhile, are moving forward with a plan that would bridge European differences with the United States over the advisability of military action. Under the plan, the U.N. Security Council would pass a resolution under which Iraq would have to readmit weapons inspectors by a specific date or face being attacked.

Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, declared that his country would prevail in any war with the United States -- "Victory is in the heart," he said in a letter to the Iraqi people read on state television. At the same time, his deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, held open the possibility of readmitting U.N. weapons inspectors in exchange for an end to U.N. economic sanctions.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the administration has long favored a return of the weapons inspectors, who left Iraq four years ago. But he dismissed the offer from Aziz, saying he was "clearly doing the bidding of his master, Saddam Hussein."

Iraqi officials "have, over a good many years, demonstrated a wonderful talent and skill at manipulating the media and international organizations," Rumsfeld said. "When it's the right moment to lean forward, they lean forward. When it's the right moment to lean back, they lean back."

On Monday, former South African president Nelson Mandela expressed firm opposition to military action. Mandela said he had tried to speak to Bush and had instead spoken with his father, the former president. "I asked him to speak to his son, and I have already spoken to Powell," Mandela said. "I have not given up trying to persuade the president not to attack Iraq."

White House officials have hinted that Bush will address the Iraq issue in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly, scheduled for the day after the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and the Pentagon. "I would not prejudge what the president will say next week, but obviously this is a very timely issue," Powell said.

Powell's whirlwind African trip -- he will visit South Africa, Angola and Gabon in just two days -- is designed to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the development issues being discussed at the U.N. summit, which is a follow-up to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago.

The United States has been the subject of harsh criticism at the summit, in part because Bush is one of the few world leaders who chose not to attend and because other delegations contend that U.S. negotiators resisted deals on key development and environmental issues.

Powell will speak on Wednesday, the summit's last day, to argue that development involves not just direct aid, but a commitment to education, economics and the rule of law.

At the summit, the United States has actively promoted partnerships involving government, business and other private organizations to address problems of water, the environment and other issues. It argues that this is an effective way to leverage direct government aid.

On Wednesday, Powell also will hold discussions with officials from at least seven nations, including Turkey, Russia and Denmark, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union. He is scheduled to travel to Angola and Gabon on Thursday before returning to Washington.

Powell has been relatively quiet in recent weeks as other senior administration officials have stepped up their rhetoric against Hussein, and he initially appeared reluctant to brief reporters on the subject.

After reporters complained, he agreed to meet with them, bringing along a summit guest -- actor Chris Tucker, of the popular "Rush Hour" movie series. Powell joked that Tucker, who is making a comedy in which he will play a U.S. president, would conduct the briefing.

On Sunday, the BBC released excerpts from a Powell interview with David Frost suggesting that he viewed inspections as a "first step." Vice President Cheney, by contrast, scorned the idea of more inspections in two speeches last week, fueling speculation about disagreement within the administration.

In the briefing today, conducted aboard his official plane, Powell stressed points of agreement with Cheney, saying the vice president made the case "very powerfully and vividly that the inspections in and of themselves may not give you the assurance you need."

"The issue is not the inspectors, the issue is disarmament," Powell added. "Inspections are one way at getting at that question. Whether it's the only way or there are other ways that have to be used, to get at disarmament, is the debate we are having within the international community."

 

September 3: History will look back and say, jeeminy yow!

SO THIS IS interesting, living in a nation governed by an oligarchy of men whose supreme self-confidence seems to be based entirely on self-delusion and, perhaps, morally questionable behavior in their previous jobs.

They will do "the right thing," and they have an absolute monopoly on being able to discern and define "the right thing." Unlike the rest of us poor mortals, they know no doubt. Compared with the star chamber that runs our country now, the Inquisition was positively wishy-washy.

One thing they will not be is "swayed." God forbid they should be "swayed." They have swayed themselves so many times in the past 12 months it makes an observer dizzy, but we're not supposed to notice that.

Was it only 11 months ago that we were going to free Afghanistan from the grip of the Taliban and restore that nation to peace and prosperity? Taliban out of power, check; peace and prosperity, not really. Uneasy truce and grinding poverty would be closer to the mark. Here's a fact: Not a kilometer of new road has been built by anyone in Afghanistan since Sept. 12, 2001.

It's the American way: Promise much to get what you want, and then leave. Sounds like the way the guys in my high school used to conduct their social lives. For instance: Here's poor old Egypt, which has carried America's water for ever so long and taken much grief for it, being told to butt out of the Iraq thing.

BUT WHAT IS the Iraq thing? First, it was getting rid of those weapons of mass destruction -- which are now being referred to, I regret to tell you, as WMD. The U.N. Security Council, of which the United States is chair, has made that a top priority. Hence all those weapons inspectors. But of course the oligarchy thinks the United Nations is a plot by one-worlders to take away our precious corporate welfare, so it feels free to ignore it when it feels like swaying. The oligarchy swayed to "regime change" without telling anyone and put out the word that the weapons-inspection thing never worked a lick.

Scott Ritter, an ex-Marine who ran part of the U.N. inspection team from 1992 to 1998, called Dick Cheney a liar for saying that weapons inspection was not effective. He also said he believes that Iraq currently has no WMD. Probably another one-worlder.

It is interesting that the oligarchy presents Iraq as (a) a terrible threat to the world with unlimited capacity for raining down death and (b) a nation with a demoralized and scattered army that we can take over in a matter of weeks using our fine new weapons systems and maybe a soldier or two.

SO, PICK A scenario. One, Iraq has no WMD. In which case, why are we invading it? Of course Saddam is a bad man, but there are many bad men -- Robert Mugabe is starving his own people, and we're not talking about invading Zimbabwe.

Plus, most of Iraq's neighbors -- to say nothing of France, Germany, China and India, four countries whose good will it would be lovely to have -- think attacking Iraq is a really bad idea. But, as oligarch Rumsfeld says, we're going to "go it alone." He said it as though it were a virtue.

Sorry about your son, Mrs. Smith. We had to go it alone. Hint: Going to war with allies by your side is better than going to war without allies.

Scenario No. 2: Saddam does have WMD. We attack him. He is threatened. So if you are a power-mad dictator under attack with many scary weapons at your disposal, what do you do when all seems hopeless? You use the weapons. Boom goes Israel and boom Tehran, to paraphrase Randy Newman. Jeeminy yow!

 

September 4: Plans For Iraq Attack Began On 9/11

CBS News has learned that barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.

That's according to notes taken by aides who were with Rumsfeld in the National Military Command Center on Sept. 11 – notes that show exactly where the road toward war with Iraq began, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

At 9:53 a.m., just 15 minutes after the hijacked plane had hit the Pentagon, and while Rumsfeld was still outside helping with the injured, the National Security Agency, which monitors communications worldwide, intercepted a phone call from one of Osama bin Laden's operatives in Afghanistan to a phone number in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

The caller said he had "heard good news" and that another target was still to come; an indication he knew another airliner, the one that eventually crashed in Pennsylvania, was at that very moment zeroing in on Washington.

It was 12:05 p.m. when the director of Central Intelligence told Rumsfeld about the intercepted conversation.

Rumsfeld felt it was "vague," that it "might not mean something," and that there was "no good basis for hanging hat." In other words, the evidence was not clear-cut enough to justify military action against bin Laden.

But later that afternoon, the CIA reported the passenger manifests for the hijacked airliners showed three of the hijackers were suspected al Qaeda operatives.

"One guy is associate of Cole bomber," the notes say, a reference to the October 2000 suicide boat attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, which had also been the work of bin Laden.

With the intelligence all pointing toward bin Laden, Rumsfeld ordered the military to begin working on strike plans. And at 2:40 p.m., the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying he wanted "best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H." – meaning Saddam Hussein – "at same time. Not only UBL" – the initials used to identify Osama bin Laden.

Now, nearly one year later, there is still very little evidence Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. But if these notes are accurate, that didn't matter to Rumsfeld.

"Go massive," the notes quote him as saying. "Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

 

September 5: Don't look now: Saddam is drowning kittens
The warmongers failed to win public opinion, so they're suddenly cobbling together 'evidence'

So, they've got the evidence, about the weapons of mass destruction, but we can't see it just yet. Is it still at the printers? Is it being held up by a row about how you spell "aflatoxin"? Perhaps there's a problem with the plot, and the scriptwriters are refusing to let it go because the character of Tariq Aziz is left in the air and the relationship between Saddam and the scud missiles left hopelessly unresolved.

 

September 5: The Powell Trap: Easing Us Into War

There's something pathetic -- and dangerous -- about the crush of liberal commentators now pinning their hopes on Colin Powell.

Yes, the secretary of state is a "moderate" -- compared to the likes of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. But that's not saying much. And history tells us, even if the press won't, that Powell does not have a record as a man of conscience.

Media coverage is portraying Powell as a steady impediment to a huge assault on Iraq. But closer scrutiny would lead us to different conclusions.

Instead of undermining prospects for a military conflagration, Powell's outsized prestige is a very useful asset for the war planners. The retired general "is seen by many of Washington's friends and allies abroad as essential to the credibility of Bush's foreign policy," the French news agency AFP noted as September began.

Avid participation in deplorable actions has been integral to Powell's career. A few examples:

Serving as a top deputy to Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, Powell supervised the Army's transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA in January 1986. Nearly half of those missiles became part of the Reagan administration's arms-for-hostages swap with Iran. Powell helped to hide that transaction from Congress and the public.

As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell became a key operator in U.S. efforts to overthrow the elected government of Nicaragua. When he traveled to Central America in January 1988, Powell threatened a cutoff of U.S. aid to any country in the region that refused to go along with continued warfare by the contra guerrillas, who were in the midst of killing thousands of Nicaraguan civilians. Powell worked to prevent the success of a peace process initiated by Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias.

When U.S. troops invaded Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He had "emerged as the crucial figure in the decision to invade," according to British newspaper reporter Martin Walker. Hundreds of civilians died in the first hours of the invasion. Powell declared on that day: "We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, 'Superpower lives here.'"

In late 2000, while Bush operatives went all-out during the Florida recount to grab the electoral votes of a state where many thousands of legally qualified African Americans had been prevented from voting due to Republican efforts, Powell went to George W. Bush's ranch in Texas to pose for a photo-op and show support for his presidential quest.
Now, journalists tell us that the latest manifestation of Colin Powell's "moderate" resolve is his stance on Iraq. But the Powell rhetoric about the need for allied support and U.N. Security Council backing can be understood as a fervent desire to line up as many ducks as possible before the shooting starts. Under Powell's direction, U.S. diplomats -- diligently laying down groundwork for war -- are brandishing carrots and sticks at numerous countries.

"Access to Qatar's al Udeid Air Base will be essential to an Iraq invasion," a Wall Street Journal story reported on Sept. 3. Big deals are being cut. "Qatari officials have told U.S. officials that they want a guarantee that the U.S. military presence in Qatar would be permanent. They also want the U.S. to assume a greater portion of the $400 million cost of upgrading al Udeid air base for the U.S. Air Force."

As for reluctant members of the U.N. Security Council, some bloody quid pro quos are on the horizon. In the Journal's words, Moscow "is expected to seek an understanding with the U.S. that it will have a freer hand in putting down its rebellion in Chechnya and that it will get a portion of the postwar contracts for rebuilding Iraq."

Powell's "moderate" approach is in sync with the outlook of Fareed Zakaria, former managing editor of the elite periodical Foreign Affairs, who shares Powell's interest in urging the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq -- a good PR step in the quest for a confrontation leading to war. "Even if the inspections do not produce the perfect crisis," Zakaria wrote in a Sept. 2 Newsweek column, "Washington will still be better off for having tried because it would be seen to have made every effort to avoid war."

Along similar lines, CNN reports, Powell "is working to convince the president of the need to build a strong coalition, similar to the one that existed during the 1991 Gulf War, and win the support of the U.N. Security Council through a new resolution."

Deadly hawks come in many styles. Some have polished talons.

 

September 5: Clinton: Get bin Laden before pursuing Saddam

Former President Clinton urged the Bush administration Thursday to finish the job with Osama bin Laden before taking on Iraq. "Saddam Hussein didn't kill 3,100 people on Sept. 11," Clinton said. "Osama bin Laden did, and as far as we know he's still alive." Clinton made his remarks to several hundred people at a $1,000-a-plate fund-raising event in Orange County for Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove.

The former president's comments came as President Bush campaigned to drum up support for action against Iraq. Bush has said he will outline his case against Saddam in a Sept. 12 speech in New York.

Although Clinton told the audience he did not have access to current intelligence information about Iraq, he said news reports cited American officials saying the al-Qaida network remained a threat. "I also believe we might do more good for American security in the short run at far less cost by beefing up our efforts in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere to flush out the entire network," Clinton said. "We know they still have a terrorist network around the world, and we're already kind of changing the subject, looking at Saddam Hussein," the former president said. "We know he's not going anywhere."

Clinton said he supported Bush's efforts in Afghanistan, including military actions and support of the Afghan government. He told people the real concern in Iraq was Saddam's possible use of stockpiled chemical and biological weapons. The former president reminded the audience of Saddam's propensity to use the weapons in the past, citing an attack on the Kurds and the Iran-Iraq war. But Clinton also said Saddam did not use the weapons in the Gulf War or against Israel because "he knew we'd take him out."

"He has maximum incentive not to use this stuff," Clinton said. "If we go, he has maximum incentive to use it because he knows he's going to lose." Clinton said the public and the current administration have to ask several questions, including who will pay for action against Saddam and what would it mean for Iraq's Arab neighbors.

But more importantly, what consequences would it have for this country?

"What does this do to our standing in the world, if people think we just get up and take a notion to do without going to the United Nations and trying to work with other countries?" Clinton asked. "Do you want to run the world of the 21st century or do you want to lead it?"

Clinton also criticized many of Bush's policies, including his tax cuts. He told people the Bush administration had blown through the Social Security and Medicare surpluses that Clinton's administration had left behind. He said that shouldn't surprise anybody.

"That's what they promised to do," Clinton said. "All you have to do is pay attention to the details."

Clinton also said Bush's economic policy was too limited and headed in the wrong direction.

"We ought to give everybody the tax cut they've already got and put a lid on it," he said.

 

September 6: Bomb the lot of them

I love this time of year - the climatic anomalies of summer drift imperceptibly into the climatic anomalies of autumn; the kids go back to school; the really important people return from their holidays and, well, it just puts you in the mood to bomb the shit out of somebody. But then, I'm not a really important person and am, therefore, a touch uncertain when it comes to picking which civilian population centres deserve to be turned into hamburger and grit. I mean, I'm not even clear why it's a good idea to bomb Saddam Hussein's civilians when it was a bad idea to bomb Pinochet's and Suharto's.

If being an evil madman, torturing and killing your own citizens and foreign nationals, and purchasing western hardware to do so are any kind of qualification, then we could have pounded innocent bystanders in Chile and Indonesia into dust ages ago. Pinochet liked to drop people into the ocean (dead and alive); Suharto preferred mass shootings and the odd alfresco castration; Saddam has a penchant for bombings. Which I can see might be a problem: Saddam and the Forces of Light have the same tactical speciality - how embarrassing, like turning up at a party in the same frock as your hostess. Saddam should have picked something more ethnic (snake pits, camel grenades), but we could find a compromise: the west uses high explosive, Iraq goes for anthrax, that would be fair.

People do worry about our Bombing Fairness Ratings; it's second only to poor TV coverage of missile attacks among factors likely to disturb the electorate. Perhaps if the voter could feel more involved. For instance, how hard would it be to add a top 10 of the nation's favourite targets to each televised national lotto draw? We'd be much more firmly behind George and Tony if they could make bombing fun.

For example, we could bomb people who talk in the cinema during films. It's a trivial transgression, but does indicate sociopathic tendencies - we have no real idea what these people might eventually do. Selecting five or six Exemplary Cinemas and bombing everyone inside would leave the rest of us with a sense of completion. You might argue that this kills non-talkers as well, but they have made a decision not to intervene and kill the talkers, so, frankly, they only have themselves to blame.

The simplest legislation could fill sports arenas and large car parks with people who look at you oddly or have offensive lifestyles, are bad whistlers or queue jumpers, use poor grammar or dress badly - just whoever prevents you from having a nice day. Of course, you could be on someone else's list, but that's half the thrill, isn't it? Will they obliterate you and your family before you can puree them?

There are more serious targets, naturally. If you do have a grudge against people inflicting death and misery on others, then the corporations and "green" oil companies could keep your rocket launchers warm for months - with special attention for Big Tobacco and those asbestos companies dragging their feet over compensation. Or you might want to blast the calcium out of all the property developers sitting on low-value green belt farmland, waiting until they've handed out enough brown envelopes to buy its reclassification as essential lebensraum for yuppie box maisonettes. Remember, you have the right to defend your country and your children's inheritance - apart from anything else, it always feels nice when you've finished.

Not that children aren't actually a little problematic - observers can get very sentimental when one or two children die, and 20 or 30 dead sons and daughters can upset them even more. But there is a solution: annihilate a few thousand kids and the impact of your actions mysteriously lessens - too much horror numbs the mind. This means your wisest course of action is to bomb all the children of all the groups you don't like, just to get those numbers up. Naturally, you'll also have to bomb their mothers, aunts and sisters, who will otherwise end up wailing, or demonstrating with annoyingly quiet dignity outside your embassy.

This kind of misogynistic carpet bombing will, unfortunately, piss off the affected husbands, uncles, brothers and so on - and the last thing you want is a mass of aggrieved blokes planning unimaginable revenge against your prudent security measures. So you'll have to bomb them, too, if you really want to defend your freedom-loving way of life and your own husbands, kids and whatnot. In fact, to be safe, you should blast every individual you dislike, their communities, their records, their journalists and any supporters they may have. It's tough and costly, but if it wasn't the only way, George and Tony and all those really important people would have told us, right?

 

September 6: In war, some facts less factual

When George H. W. Bush ordered American forces to the Persian Gulf – to reverse Iraq's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait – part of the administration case was that an Iraqi juggernaut was also threatening to roll into Saudi Arabia.

Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid–September that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.

But when the St. Petersburg Times in Florida acquired two commercial Soviet satellite images of the same area, taken at the same time, no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.

"It was a pretty serious fib," says Jean Heller, the Times journalist who broke the story.

 

September 6: When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators

More than 10 years later, I can still recall my brother Sean's face. It was bright red. Furious. Not one given to fits of temper, Sean was in an uproar. He was a father, and he had just heard that Iraqi soldiers had taken scores of babies out of incubators in Kuwait City and left them to die. The Iraqis had shipped the incubators back to Baghdad. A pacifist by nature, my brother was not in a peaceful mood that day. "We've got to go and get Saddam Hussein. Now," he said passionately.

I completely understood his feelings. Although I had no family of my own then, who could countenance such brutality? The news of the slaughter had come at a key moment in the deliberations about whether the US would invade Iraq. Those who watched the non-stop debates on TV saw that many of those who had previously wavered on the issue had been turned into warriors by this shocking incident.

Too bad it never happened. The babies in the incubator story is a classic example of how easy it is for the public and legislators to be mislead during moments of high tension. It's also a vivid example of how the media can be manipulated if we do not keep our guards up.

 

September 6: U.S. officials worried by lack of Iraqi weapons evidence

Senior U.S. officials with access to top-secret intelligence on Iraq say they have detected no alarming increase in the threat that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein poses to American security and Middle East stability.

But some top officials, notably Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, argue that American intelligence can't be counted on to spot Iraqi nuclear, biological or chemical weapons breakthroughs in time to defend against them. Therefore, Cheney, Rumsfeld and other officials say, the United States has no choice but to remove Saddam before he can use such weapons or give them to terrorists.

It has long been known that Iraq is aggressively trying to rebuild its nuclear, chemical, biological-warfare and long-range missile programs. U.S.-led forces destroyed some of these weapons and production sites during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and U.N. inspectors eliminated more of them afterward.

Since Saddam blocked inspections in 1998, Iraq secretly has been trying to buy weapons-related materials and technologies and to repair plants that could be used to produce weapons, some senior officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But there is no new intelligence that indicates the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs, said a U.S. intelligence official who argues that Cheney's and Rumsfeld's focus on Iraq is hurting the hunt for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

"Do I have a smoking gun? No," said another U.S. official. "Can I tell you we've been looking like crazy? Yes."

Still another senior administration official said the Bush administration was finishing classified and unclassified versions of a report on Iraq for Congress, allies and other countries, but that it contained no dramatic new evidence that Iraq had made major advances on weapons of mass destruction or was supporting the al-Qaida terrorist network.

The absence of intelligence pointing to a spike in the Iraqi threat contrasts sharply with Cheney's warnings that Saddam soon will have a nuclear bomb, could move on his neighbors or could supply a weapon of mass destruction to terrorists.

The administration's failure to present hard evidence publicly has cost it significant support on Iraq from the American public and Congress. Many U.S. allies and other nations oppose an attack.

Yet it is precisely the absence of specific evidence that seems to have President Bush so worried about Iraq's capabilities.

"The things that we know that we don't know are part of the president's calculation and would have to be part of the Congress' calculation if we respond to this," Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, said after a classified briefing by Rumsfeld on Wednesday.

Rumsfeld has long questioned the abilities of U.S. intelligence agencies to predict threats in time for the United States to eliminate them.

"The question is . . . whether the nature and magnitude of a particular threat will be perceived with sufficient clarity in time to take appropriate action," said a 1998 report by a commission Rumsfeld chaired on the global spread of long-range missiles.

The report warned that it could take less time for Iraq, Iran and North Korea to develop missiles capable of reaching the United States than intelligence analysts thought possible.

Rumsfeld and Cheney separately have cited the U.S. intelligence community's failure to accurately assess Iraq's nuclear weapons program before the Gulf War. Both pointed out that after the war, U.N. inspectors found Iraq had been far closer to building a bomb than previous intelligence estimates of five to 10 years.

The fear that Iraq is closer to obtaining a nuclear device than estimated, the huge numbers of deaths that weapons of mass destruction could cause and Saddam's long history of aggression, deception and defiance appear to be the driving forces behind Bush's determination to oust him.

The question before the nation is whether these are sufficient grounds for sending tens of thousands of young Americans to war.

Bush has stressed that he has made no decision on how to topple the Iraqi leader. He said he would outline his reasons for ousting Saddam when he spoke at the United Nations next Thursday.

Cheney, in the administration's most detailed explanation so far, said Iraq had been "very busy" improving its chemical weapons and biological agents and that many top officials were convinced that Saddam would obtain a nuclear bomb "fairly soon."

"Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could . . . be expected to seek domination over the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten American's friends throughout the region and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail," Cheney asserted Aug. 26 at a Veterans of Foreign War convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Rumsfeld on Wednesday suggested that concrete evidence that Saddam is planning to use weapons of mass destruction or to supply them to terrorists might not be needed.

"You may want that kind of knowledge in a law enforcement case, where we're interested in protecting the rights of the accused," he said. "You may have a different conclusion if you're talking about the deaths of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We're not talking about combatants here. We're talking about the kinds of people who were killed on September 11."

U.S. intelligence officials said evidence actually suggested that Saddam had been careful to keep al Qaida at arms' length to avoid giving Bush an excuse to invade Iraq.

These officials said the consensus in the American intelligence community was that Saddam was more concerned with eliminating any domestic threat to his grip on power and ensuring that he was succeeded by one of his sons, Uday and Qusai.

Another part of this view is that Saddam didn't use gas against the Americans in 1991 and there's considerable skepticism that he would invite devastating retaliation by doing so now. And while he played host to terrorists in the past, they haven't been active while living in Iraq.

The officials insisted on anonymity because of the sensitive nature of intelligence information and an apparent desire not to be seen as disputing administration policy.

Sanctions, U.S. military containment and unobstructed U.N. inspections are the best way to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction, say critics of the administration's plan.

Former President Carter, in an opinion article this week, wrote: "In the face of intense monitoring and overwhelming American military superiority, any belligerent move by Hussein against a neighbor, even the smallest nuclear test (necessary before weapons construction), a tangible threat to use a weapon of mass destruction, or sharing technology with terrorist organizations would be suicidal."
 

September 7: TRACES OF TERROR: THE STRATEGY; Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq

ABSTRACT - White House officials say administration is following meticulously planned strategy to persuade public, Congress and allies of need to confront threat of Saddam Hussein; say centerpiece of strategy is to use Bush's speech on Sept 11 to help move Americans to support of action against Iraq, which could come early next year; Andrew H Card Jr, White House chief of staff, is coordinating effort.
 

September 7: Poll: Don't Go It Alone On Iraq

There's no question most Americans would like to see Saddam Hussein removed from power in Iraq, something a majority has wanted since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll.

But while they approve of U.S. military action to try to remove him, and believe war against Iraq is inevitable, most would prefer to wait -- for the U.N. to try to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq, for President Bush to get the approval of Congress, and for U.S. allies to join in.

The public doesn't believe the Bush administration has clearly explained the U.S. position on invading Iraq, and there is no public consensus on whether the U.S. should adopt a broader policy of pre-emptive strikes.

68% approve of military action to try and remove Saddam Hussein, while 24% disapprove - figures that haven't changed much in the last year.

But majorities cite three reasons to hold back for now. More than six in ten believe the U.S. needs to wait for support from its allies, and for the approval of Congress before taking action. Nearly that many want to wait for the United Nations to try again to get weapons inspectors back into Iraq.

The Bush administration has yet to convince the public that the U.S. needs to act now. In fact, despite two recent speeches by Vice President Dick Cheney, most Americans think the administration has not yet clearly explained the U.S. position on Iraq. Nearly two-thirds say it has yet to do so, while only about one in four think it has.

 

September 8: Bush, Blair Decry Hussein
Iraqi Threat Is Real, They Say

President Bush said yesterday the world has all the evidence it needs that Iraq is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, as he was host to British Prime Minister Tony Blair for a three-hour strategy session on building international support for aggressive action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Speaking to reporters before they began closed-door consultations at Camp David, Bush and Blair agreed the Iraqi threat must be addressed quickly. "We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem," Bush said.

"The policy of inaction, doing nothing, is not something we can responsibly adhere to," Blair said.

Bush is scheduled to address the United Nations about Iraq on Thursday. His advisers say the speech will lay out the case for urgent action, and warn the international community that time is running out for stopping Hussein's pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

With the exception of Blair, U.S. allies have been reluctant to subscribe to the administration's policy of "regime change," and have said they would not participate in a U.S. military invasion to oust the Iraqi leader. Warning that such action would violate international law and destabilize much of the world, they have insisted the United Nations is the proper venue for dealing with Iraq's reneging on promises to destroy its weapons capability and submit to U.N. inspections.

Led by Vice President Cheney, several senior administration officials have said they see no purpose in another round of inspections, since Hussein repeatedly obstructed efforts that began after Iraq's defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and has banned inspectors since 1998. Although officials said Bush shares that view, and believes a U.S. invasion of Iraq is inevitable, they said last week that he has agreed to issue one last challenge to the international community to make good on its resolutions against Iraq.Officials said the U.N. speech would amount to an ultimatum in which Bush will outline the threat in its starkest, most immediate terms and indicate that the United States will not wait much longer for international action. They said some details of the speech are still under discussion, including whether Bush would propose that the Security Council set a deadline for Iraqi compliance or issue a resolution authorizing an international military force to compel inspections.

The president said yesterday that "my administration still supports regime change," then added without elaboration, "There's all kinds of ways to change regimes." Asked whether anyone besides Blair supported his position that Iraq's threat will remain as long as Hussein is in power, Bush said "yes."

 

September 9: Interview with Scott Ritter

ZAHN: I want to have, hear your reaction to the whole range of Bush administration officials yesterday who essentially came out and have said that Saddam Hussein has been trying to obtain materials to build nuclear weapons, particularly trying to buy thousands of aluminum pipes that could be used in the manufacture of a centrifuge and ultimately used to manufacture weapons.

What do you make of that?

RITTER: What an absurd statement. Thousands of aluminum pipes, and we're going to go to war over thousands of aluminum pipes? Even the ISS report that you cite says that if Iraq was to have trying to do uranium enrichment, it would take them many years before they could do it. This is patently ridiculous. These are aluminum pipes coming in for civilian use. They are not being transferred to a covert nuclear processing plant or any covert nuclear activity whatsoever.

But the best way to figure this out is to send the weapons inspectors in. If they, if the United States has this evidence that Iraq has these pipes, why not, heck, give me the data. I'll come to Iraq, hunt it down and we'll bring it to a close. That would save us going to war, killing thousands of people and destroying our reputation in the international community.

We cannot go to war because Vice President Cheney's worried about some aluminum pipes. This is ridiculous.

ZAHN: But, Scott, why are you so convinced that these pipes would be used for civilian use when so many other people out there are absolutely convinced these pipes could ultimately be used to build a centrifuge? I mean that is true. These pipes could be used that way, right?

RITTER: Sure they could. But you say they're ultimately convinced. What makes them convinced? What evidence do they have? We're talking about going to war here, Paula. War. War kills people. War destroys things. War is something that's going to put the lives of American service members at risk and if we go to war along the lines that Bush is talking about, destroy our reputation in the international community.

So frankly speaking, I'm going to need a hell of a lot more than some aluminum tubes before I'm convinced there's a case for war. The bottom line is in 1998 the International Atomic Energy Agency said that Iraq had no nuclear weapons capability, none whatsoever, zero.

So how suddenly are they now an emerging nuclear threat? We'd better have a heck of a lot more to go on than some aluminum pipes.

 

September 9: Iraq weapons report

The assessment from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London that Iraq could develop a nuclear weapon ''within months'' contains a big ''if''.

The report acknowledges that Iraq would need to obtain supplies of fissile material (plutonium or bomb grade uranium) from abroad to make a bomb that quickly.

Developing its own capability to enrich uranium ''could take years'', according to the report's editor, Gary Samore, a senior fellow at the IISS.

Other published reports agree. The British Government in 1998 said five years; so did the Defence Department in Washington in 2001.

So the immediacy of a threat from an Iraqi nuclear weapon depends on its ability to get hold of black market material.

Mr Samore said Iraq had made attempts to get such material but there had been no reports it had been successful.

There was, he accepted, a ''low probability'' of Iraq getting its hands on the necessary ingredients (from elements in the former Soviet Union, for example, or a rogue government) but that if it did, then it could move quite fast to completion of a device.

It had been close to doing so, he said, in 1991 when it was stopped by the Gulf War.

In fact, the former UN weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, who has been in Iraq over the past few days arguing against an invasion, told the US Congress in 1998 that Iraq could have a nuclear bomb "in days or weeks" if it had the fissile material.

The IISS report contains little that is significantly new beyond reports previously published by other think tanks, by the UN and by both the US and British governments.It concludes that, other than an ambition to rebuild a nuclear capability, Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and that he has some Scud missiles that could hit neighbouring countries.

However, it provides no evidence that he has managed to build rockets which could reach Europe.

What is new, and what drew journalists by the dozen to the IISS for the launch of the report, is the context in which it is being produced - the context of threats against Iraq.

Other reports have been produced at regular intervals over the past few years - most have been of interest to experts only.

Now, with the US and UK governments on the warpath, this report will be used both by pro- and anti-war factions.

Those who argue that Iraq must be stopped will point to the report's conclusions that Baghdad could make a nuclear bomb.

For them, the Iraqi president's intention is the key. It's not what he has done but what he wants to do.

For those opposed to military action, the key issue is that Saddam Hussein has not made much progress, especially on nuclear weapons and on ballistic missiles, and we knew anyway that he probably retained stocks of chemical and biological agents.

For this faction, the president's ability is the key. It's not what he is trying to do but what he can do.

They say that there is time to develop other strategies - a new inspection programme, for example, and deterrence, which worked during the Gulf War in stopping Iraq from launching any chemical or biological weapons.

The IISS team tends to the warlike faction.

Mr Samore said that controls on fissile material could be effective in slowing down Iraq's efforts, but there could be no confidence that this would prevent Iraq from developing a nuclear capability.

 

September 10: Real Battles and Empty Metaphors

ABSTRACT - Susan Sontag Op-Ed article says Bush administration's war on terrorism is not a real war, but mandate for allowing US to do whatever it wants, wherever it wants, freed from constitutional and international constraints; says that instead of debate and reflection about this phantom war, nation is opting for commemorations, borrowing words of Abraham Lincoln, emptied of meaning

 

September 10: U.S. Not Claiming Iraqi Link To Terror

As it makes its case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has for now dropped what had been one of the central arguments presented by supporters of a military campaign against Baghdad: Iraq's links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a strong case tying Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence despite having combed its files and redoubled its efforts to collect and analyze information related to Iraq, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the U.S. government.

Most specifically, analysts who have scrutinized photographs, communications intercepts and information from foreign informants have concluded they cannot validate two prominent allegations made by high-ranking administration officials: links between Hussein and al Qaeda members who have taken refuge in northern Iraq and an April 2001 meeting in Prague between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

"It's a thin reed," said a senior intelligence official describing the information on both cases.

As a result of the CIA's conclusions, the Bush administration has accepted the notion that its stronger case against Iraq is Baghdad's apparent ongoing attempt to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. President Bush is expected to focus on this aspect during his speech Thursday to the United Nations in which he will present the administration's Iraq policy.

"At some point we will certainly make the case concerning Iraq and its links to terrorism," a senior administration official said yesterday. "We still have to develop it more."

The latest sign that the administration has chosen to drop references to Hussein's alleged links to terrorist groups came yesterday at a meeting in Detroit between Bush and Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. The Canadian premier, who told reporters afterward that he had specifically asked the president about links between al Qaeda and Iraq, said Bush had responded, "That is not the angle they're exploring now. The angle they're exploring is the production of weapons of mass destruction."

 

September 10: Ironic if Bush himself causes jihad

On September 5 and 6 the United States State Department held a high-powered conference on anti-Americanism, an unusual step indicating the depth of US concern about this increasingly globalised phenomenon.

Anti-Americanism can be mere shallow name-calling. A recent article in Britain's Guardian newspaper described Americans as having "a bug up their collective arse the size of Manhattan", and suggested that "'American' is a type of personality which is intense, humourless, partial to psychobabble and utterly convinced of its own importance".

More seriously, anti-Americanism can be contradictory: when the US failed to intervene in Bosnia, that was considered wrong, but when it did subsequently intervene in Kosovo, that was wrong, too. Anti-Americanism can be hypocritical: wearing blue jeans or Donna Karan, eating fast food or Alice Waters-style cuisine, their heads full of American music, movies, poetry and literature, the apparatchiks of the international cultural commissariat decry the baleful influence of the American culture that nobody is forcing them to consume. It can be misguided: the logical implication of the Western-liberal opposition to America's Afghan war is that it would be better if the Taliban were still in power. And it can be ugly: the post-September 11 crowing of the serves-you-right brigade was certainly that.

However, during the past year, the Bush Administration has made a string of foreign policy miscalculations and the State Department conference must acknowledge this. After the brief flirtation with consensus-building during the Afghan operation, the brazen return to unilateralism has angered even its natural allies.

In the year's major crisis zones, the Bushies have been getting things badly wrong. A Security Council source says the reason for the lamentable inaction of the UN during the recent Kashmir crisis was that the US (with Russian backing) blocked all attempts by member states to mandate the UN to act.

But if the UN is not to be allowed to intervene in a bitter dispute between two member states, both nuclear powers of growing political volatility, in an attempt to defuse the danger of nuclear war, then what on earth is it for?

 

September 11: The US Media: A Weapon of Mass Deception

Reading the US media's reporting on the Iraq question is very informative. Not because the coverage is so fact-filled, but because it so clearly illustrates just how propagandized and subservient the US press has become.

Headlines everywhere scream of Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction," and television talking heads endlessly repeat the word "threat," in relation to Iraq. Even the New York Times, which has been less enthusiastic about saber rattling than much of the rest of the media, offers plenty of rhetoric about alleged Iraqi "arsenals," and supposed links to terrorism.

Rivers of ink have been spent hyperventilating about the supposed Iraqi threat, but how much actual evidence has been presented? Where are the facts?

Very few have been forthcoming. Rarely if ever has rhetoric so disproportionately outweighed facts in what is supposed to be an independent press. In Saturday's Times, for example, several pages of coverage were devoted to the case the Bush administration is now presenting for an unprovoked attack on Iraq. A front page headline mentioned Iraqi "Arsenals of Weapons," while an inside headline mused about why Iraq stands out in Bush's "Axis of Evil."

But if a reader was hoping to see any actual facts revealed, he was in for a letdown. After extensive quoting and paraphrasing of Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, and, to a lesser extent, Secretary of State Colin Powell, all of whom repeated the well-worn, stock accusations against Iraq and Saddam Hussein, the Times finally weighed in with the "evidence." It seems that Iraq had attempted to buy thousands of aluminum tubes. Yes aluminum tubes. Fortunately, the forces of good were able to intercede and stop the shipment before it ever happened.

Whew! Close call. I guess we better annihilate Iraq right now to make sure it doesn't happen again. I mean, one of these days Saddam might actually succeed in getting his hands on aluminum tubes, and then what? Then we'll all be up the river without a paddle, and facing certain annihilation, as the Bush team is now warning. "Imagine a Sept. 11 with weapons of mass destruction," the Times quoted Rumsfeld as saying. "It's not 3,000, it's tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children."

If you are wondering how aluminum tubes will lead to this doomsday scenario, the Bushites are happy to explain. You see those are "specially designed" aluminum tubes, which can be used as components of centrifuges, which are machines that can be used for enriching uranium. Really? Or, just maybe, as Freud might have said, sometimes an aluminum tube is just an aluminum tube.

And if that "evidence" wasn't enough to convince you, the Times followed the aluminum tubes revelation with another hard-hitting piece of journalism: Dick Cheney says there is a "credible, but unconfirmed" intelligence report that Mohamed Atta, one of the Sept. 11 hijackers had met "at least once" with a senior Iraqi intelligence official, in Prague.

Now just how stupid do Dick Cheney and The New York Times think the American people are? I guess we are supposed to take this bit of innuendo at face value? From a guy whose trigger finger has been twitching in plain view for months now?

And this, in a nutshell, was the Times' big bushel of facts on the Iraqi threat: Aluminum tubes and a completely unsubstantiated report of an alleged meeting between a hijacker and an Iraqi-says Dick Cheney. In all, these "facts," took up about one inch of newsprint real estate, while several yards were devoted to the drum beating of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest.

This says a lot about the kind of press that America now has. Even more revealing are the questions that the media have chosen to suppress. For example, why do you see hardly any mention of the ongoing air raids that the US and Britain have been inflicting on the Iraqi people for more than a decade? Is this just business as usual? And I would like to see just one article explaining the legal basis for those no-fly zones in the first place. (There is none; they have never been approved by the UN.)

Another big question that has been swept under the rug has to do with the CIA spies that were exposed as part of the last weapons inspections team. Clearly, this was a deception that should have been enough to completely discredit the entire US position on Iraq, but the whole thing was shrugged off by the media like so much confetti. In the current debate-such as it is-this inconvenient little episode is never even mentioned any more.

And what about the most crucial question of all? Is Iraq a threat, or not? The media refuses to even allow this into the debate. By not asking this question, the media is saying, in effect, "The question of Iraq being a threat is beyond debate. So let's move on to the how and when of this war."

This is completely opposite to what the objective facts in the case tell us. There is indeed much to debate as to whether Iraq poses any threat or not. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter has brought to light key facts that point in the direction that Iraq is no threat at all. But Scott Ritter is only one man. In a truly independent-minded media, reporters would be falling over themselves to pick up this story and run with it. Thousands of questions could be asked, hundreds of sources unearthed, and dozens of revelations brought to light. The only trouble is, it might expose as so much rubbish the Bushites' entire yarn about Iraq.

And we couldn't have that could we? Not in a media culture where kowtowing to the ruling class takes precedence over honest reporting and journalistic duty.

 

September 11: Democrats Unconvinced On Iraq War

Congressional Democrats said yesterday that classified briefings by President Bush's top advisers have failed to make a compelling case for quick military action against Iraq, and several leaders said Congress should wait until after the November elections before voting to authorize a strike against Saddam Hussein's regime.

"I know of no information that the threat is so imminent from Iraq" that Congress cannot wait until January to vote on a resolution, said Minority Whip Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee. "I did not hear anything today that was different about [Hussein's] capabilities," save a few "embellishments."

The White House, after originally suggesting it might act against Iraq without congressional approval, has called on Congress to pass a resolution of support before adjourning in October.

After attending a classified briefing by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet yesterday, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said: "It would be a severe mistake for us to vote on Iraq with as little information as we have. This would be a rash and hasty decision" because the administration has provided "no groundbreaking news" on Iraq's ability to strike the United States or other enemies with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Senate Majority Whip Harry M. Reid (Nev.), the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, also advocates delaying the vote, according to Democratic aides.

Because Democrats narrowly control the Senate, they could keep an Iraq resolution from reaching a vote this fall. Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.), however, left the door open to a possible vote in the next few weeks if Bush meets several criteria, including obtaining more international support for a military campaign and providing senators a more detailed explanation of how the war would be conducted and how Iraq would be rebuilt.

If a resolution does reach the Senate floor before the Nov. 5 elections, it is doubtful that Democrats could muster enough votes to defeat a popular president's request, according to lawmakers in both parties.

 

September 11: Top arms official sees no solid case against Iraq

Evidence that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction is inconclusive, the United Nations' chief weapons inspector told the Security Council yesterday, thrusting the UN to the centre of the war on terrorism as the U.S. President prepares to make a case for toppling the Iraqi leader.

Hans Blix, head of the weapons-inspection team, played down the significance of recent satellite photos showing reconstruction at Iraqi sites that had been previously identified as nuclear-weapons facilities.

U.S. officials seized on the images as fresh evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is still trying to build bombs. Mr. Blix was less certain: "Satellites don't see through roofs. So we don't draw any conclusions from them."

An aerial photo may be a valuable clue as to where to inspect, "but we do not draw any conclusions there are weapons of mass destruction from it," Mr. Blix told reporters after a private meeting with Security Council members.

He said it is important for Iraq to allow UN inspectors to return for the country's own sake, so that Baghdad can show it is complying with Security Council resolutions to end its efforts to make nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

If Iraq complies, inspectors can be on the ground fast after being ejected almost three years ago. But it will take about a year of work before teams can verify that Iraq is not building weapons, Mr. Blix said.

A positive report from the inspectors would clear the way for the UN to lift economic sanctions, Mr. Blix said. "We see inspection as an opportunity [for Iraq], not as a penalty."

Whether the White House has the patience is an open question. Mr. Bush says he wants "a regime change" in Iraq, and his officials have said the sooner the better. The President will make his case for action on Iraq to the UN tomorrow, after a year in which the world body stayed on the sidelines of the war on terror.

But even Britain, the country that has aligned itself most closely with Mr. Bush's Iraq policy, indicated yesterday that it does not want Washington to act unilaterally.

"The important thing on Iraq is for the UN route to be taken and to work. And I hope that the President will make clear that he too believes that," Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the UN, said.

He was optimistic that Mr. Bush's much-anticipated speech will spur the UN into imposing a deadline for Iraq to comply with requirements to co-operate fully with inspections. The conditions were set after its defeat in the 1991 Persian Gulf war

Sir Jeremy and other Security Council sources threw cold water on news reports that council members are already gearing up for a new war with Iraq.

Many UN diplomats and officials were heartened that Mr. Bush is sensitive enough about world opinion to use the UN to make his first public pitch for action against Iraq.

 

September 11: THREATS AND RESPONSES: BAGHDAD ARSENAL; U.S. Lacks Up-to-Date Review of Iraqi Arms

ABSTRACT - George J Tenet, director of central intelligence, and John E McLaughlin, deputy director, acknowledge that government has not compiled updated, cross-agency assessment of Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons capacities, but assure senators in classified briefings that it will be completed within weeks; some Democrats in Congress want to see such an intelligence estimate before they vote on resolution backing military action against Iraq; administration officials and Senate Republicans play down lack of updated assessment; photo of building at Al Thwaita, 25 miles south of Baghdad, that may house nuclear reactor.

 

September 11: Russia to play key role in building Iraq attack support

President Bush takes his case against Iraq to the United Nations Thursday, but his success or failure at the world body may hinge on an audience of one: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As Bush seeks to rally U.N. support for possible military action, Russia looms as a pivotal swing vote. With veto power on the U.N. Security Council and longstanding ties to Iraq, Moscow could become a formidable obstacle in Bush's path to Baghdad or help clear the way for a U.S.-led invasion.

It is not an easy call for Putin. The Russian leader wants to align his country with the West, but he is under pressure at home to stand up to the United States and to protect Russia's economic stake in Iraq.

"While America thinks about bombing Iraq, we think about doing business there," said Alexander Yedokov, acting director of a Russian-Iraqi business council in Moscow.

Russia's importance to the international debate is a matter of both complex geo-political calculations and simple vote counting.

As one of five permanent members of the 15-member U.N. Security Council - along with the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China - Russia is empowered to veto any resolution, including one authorizing force against Iraq.

So far, only Britain is fully on board with Bush, but France has recently softened its opposition. China is a harder sell, but diplomats and foreign policy experts generally agree that Beijing would not want to stand alone if Russia and France fall in line with the United States.

"France is not going to veto the United States, so in that sense, Russia is important. If they go along, China is likely to go along," said Judith Kipper, a foreign policy specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "If Russia categorically says, `At no price will we go along with this,' it's a problem."

Russia's support for U.S. policy in Iraq would also send a powerful message of solidarity to the world. If it could clear the veto hurdle, a U.S.-backed resolution on Iraq would have little difficulty winning the nine votes needed for approval from the full 15-member security council.

Syria is the only likely "no" vote in a lineup that includes Mexico, Norway, Ireland and other U.S. allies.

While Bush attended ceremonies Wednesday marking the anniversary of last Sept. 11's terrorist attacks, U.S and British officials were hard at work on a proposed U.N. resolution that would give Iraq about three weeks to provide complete access to U.N. weapons inspectors - or else.

"We're back to early Afghanistan days in terms of how closely we're working with the British," said one Bush administration official.

France has proposed a two-step process that would require a second vote authorizing military force if Iraq refuses to cooperate with inspections, but the U.S. and Britain will press for a single vote. The proposed resolution would call for new inspections and simultaneously authorize the use of military force if Iraq balks.

"The challenge is the language. You have to write it so the language is tough enough to make clear what would happen, but not so tough that people will veto it," said John Hulsman, a foreign policy specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

U.S. officials, well aware that the road to Baghdad goes first through Moscow, are going all-out to bring Russia on board.

"We've been shadow-boxing for many months, but now the real game begins," said a senior American official.

Under Secretary of State John Bolton arrived in Moscow on Wednesday for talks, and he will be followed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair and foreign secretary Jack Straw.

Next week, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will meet in Washington with Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov and defense minister Sergei Ivanov.

Russia's decision may hinge on economics.

Saddam Hussein and his regime owe Russia an estimated $8 billion - a debt that is unlikely to be repaid as long as U.N. economic sanctions remain in place.

Russia is also on the verge of signing a $40 billion economic pact with Iraq that includes contracts to help rebuild Iraq's crumbling oil infrastructure.

The question for Putin and Russia's business moguls is, are they better off doing business with the current Iraqi regime or seeking a guaranteed slice of the pie from a new U.S.-backed Iraqi government?

"They don't care about Saddam Hussein," said Michael Mandelbaum, author of "The Ideas that Changed the World," a new book that examines Russia's role in the post-Cold War world. "Privately, what they'll be saying is, `What's in it for us?' You're going to start seeing a kind of (secret) bargaining over - to put it crudely - dividing up the spoils."

 

September 12: US accused of double standards at UN

America's determination to topple Saddam Hussein has intensified the debate over enforcement of UN resolutions, reviving claims they are selectively targeted to reflect the political interests of the major powers.


Opponents of UN sanctions against Baghdad allege that Israel has been permitted to defy resolutions for the past 30 years ordering it to quit the West Bank and Gaza, while Iraq's non-compliance has been punished by repeated bombings and a rigorously enforced trade embargo.

President Bush's speech to the UN general assembly in New York today recognises mounting international pressure for a fresh resolution against Iraq before any military action is taken.

His critics are unlikely to be persuaded. "The US has consistently employed a double standard when it comes to UN resolutions and international law," maintains Voice in the Wilderness, the campaign to end economic sanctions against Iraq. "For decades the US has vetoed UN resolutions condemning Israel's occupation of Arab territories."

 

September 12: President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly

 

THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, and ladies and gentlemen: We meet one year and one day after a terrorist attack brought grief to my country, and brought grief to many citizens of our world. Yesterday, we remembered the innocent lives taken that terrible morning. Today, we turn to the urgent duty of protecting other lives, without illusion and without fear.

We've accomplished much in the last year -- in Afghanistan and beyond. We have much yet to do -- in Afghanistan and beyond. Many nations represented here have joined in the fight against global terror, and the people of the United States are grateful.

The United Nations was born in the hope that survived a world war -- the hope of a world moving toward justice, escaping old patterns of conflict and fear. The founding members resolved that the peace of the world must never again be destroyed by the will and wickedness of any man. We created the United Nations Security Council, so that, unlike the League of Nations, our deliberations would be more than talk, our resolutions would be more than wishes. After generations of deceitful dictators and broken treaties and squandered lives, we dedicated ourselves to standards of human dignity shared by all, and to a system of security defended by all.

Today, these standards, and this security, are challenged. Our commitment to human dignity is challenged by persistent poverty and raging disease. The suffering is great, and our responsibilities are clear. The United States is joining with the world to supply aid where it reaches people and lifts up lives, to extend trade and the prosperity it brings, and to bring medical care where it is desperately needed.

As a symbol of our commitment to human dignity, the United States will return to UNESCO. (Applause.) This organization has been reformed and America will participate fully in its mission to advance human rights and tolerance and learning.

Our common security is challenged by regional conflicts -- ethnic and religious strife that is ancient, but not inevitable. In the Middle East, there can be no peace for either side without freedom for both sides. America stands committed to an independent and democratic Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Like all other people, Palestinians deserve a government that serves their interests and listens to their voices. My nation will continue to encourage all parties to step up to their responsibilities as we seek a just and comprehensive settlement to the conflict.

Above all, our principles and our security are challenged today by outlaw groups and regimes that accept no law of morality and have no limit to their violent ambitions. In the attacks on America a year ago, we saw the destructive intentions of our enemies. This threat hides within many nations, including my own. In cells and camps, terrorists are plotting further destruction, and building new bases for their war against civilization. And our greatest fear is that terrorists will find a shortcut to their mad ambitions when an outlaw regime supplies them with the technologies to kill on a massive scale.

In one place -- in one regime -- we find all these dangers, in their most lethal and aggressive forms, exactly the kind of aggressive threat the United Nations was born to confront.

Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable -- the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)
 

September 12: Why Aren't U.S. Journalists Reporting From Iraq?

Nina Burleigh is researching a book on the scientists who accompanied Napoleon into Egypt. Her book about James Smithson was published in September by William Morrow.

This week we are finally getting to the core excuse from the Bush administration for attacking Iraq right now. Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with CNN’s John King on Sunday, laid it out nice and simple, the way they like it back in Wyoming: "We have to worry about the possible marriage, if you will, of a rogue state like Saddam Hussein's Iraq with a terrorist organization like Al Qaeda."

This notion that the Iraqi leader is in cahoots with Osama will be easy to feed the American people. To the American people, one bad Arab is the same as the next, and Osama equals Saddam. People who wonder about the Bush war-urgency only need to think about this: There’s a blind spot that needs to be exploited now, before too many journalists get the idea to go inside Iraq and find out what’s really happening.

As long as the Condi Rices, Dick Cheneys and other hawks are talking to journalists with no experience inside Iraq, they won’t get a raised eyebrow about this notion that the secular dictator is in bed with the jihadis -- even though there have been reprinted reports by Washington Post writers in the International Herald Tribune that the CIA has found no link between the Iraqi dictator and Al Qaeda.

Why aren't more American journalists reporting from Baghdad? Admittedly, Iraq is a difficult place to cover. First there are the logistical problems. You can’t get a visa very easily and you can’t just fly into Baghdad. You have to spend fourteen hours sitting in a car, driving across the barren crust of earth that covers all those billions of barrels of oil Cheney and Co. are really interested in.

Once inside Baghdad, you are assigned a "minder" -- a sometimes very creepy member of the Iraqi government apparatus who is going to eavesdrop on everything you say and terrify any average person you happen to meet.

Thus, the reporting from Baghdad is usually very slight. Tom Brokaw, back in April, intrepidly got himself inside Baghdad. He reported from an open market -- as so many reporters have in the past 10 years -- to say it looked like Iraqis had ample food supplies. This visual assay is contrary to UN claims, but it’s an easy one to make. Look, there are some piles of food and there are some people. Cut back to New York.

Print reporters, with more time and column inches, aren’t doing much better. Larry Kaplow, Cox Washington Bureau, got inside this summer. Here’s what he reported: Iraqis, as deprived as they are, still get ice cream! Kaplow stood in line with average Iraqis lined up outside a stand in the steaming summer heat buying their pathetic cones of frozen ice drizzled with day-glo sweetener. See, these Iraqis still have a sweet tooth, years after the sanctions! And that was that.

The best of American reporters don’t seem to give a hoot about getting inside the country and looking around. Take the latest from ABC News. Producer Chris Vlasto spent months in an "unnamed middle eastern country" working his sources to get an interview for Claire Shipman with an alleged mistress of Saddam’s, just so we can learn this week that the freak uses Viagra and likes to watch torture videos of his enemies.

I’ve been to Iraq three times since the Gulf War and no, it’s not easy to get inside or get real interviews. But it can be done. American peace activists are going every month, walking the streets freely.

Anyone who spends a little time in Baghdad knows there is one thing the dwindling, beaten-down middle class of that country fears more than the hideous regime of Saddam Hussein: an Islamic uprising. The Iraqis sent millions of young men to their deaths in the 1980s fighting exactly the kind of fundamentalist Islamic mentality that we so dread now. As much as they hate their dictator, Iraqis hate the Islamists even more. As a Sunni Muslim, so does Saddam. As in the 1980s, this creepy strongman is standing between Iraqis and the jihad.

This observation is not difficult to come by. All it takes is a little time and little guts. Any journalist who spends a few weeks on the ground in Baghdad will start to hear this talk. People -- women especially, who have more rights in Iraq than any other Arab country -- are terrified of the jihadis in Iraq, even more than they are terrified of their dictator with his creepy Big Brother pictures staring at them from every crack and crevice of their wasted, wilted country.

The trouble is, the journalists with the guts and means to go in country aren’t doing their job. Maybe they’ll all try to get visas when the bombing begins, and report from the Rasheed Hotel at the point when informing Americans will mean snagging footage of dead civilians -- instead of asking Cheney why isn’t he more worried about nukes in Pakistan -- where the jihadis are actually in the army and intelligence?

 

September 12: Marketing Iraq: Why now?

There's a big question hanging over President Bush's Iraq policy: Why now? Why, more than 11 years after the Gulf War, is it suddenly so urgent for the U.S. to go after Saddam Hussein now?

Some people are asking, is President Bush's Iraq offensive being driven by the fall election? An idea the vice president calls "reprehensible."

"The suggestion that I find reprehensible is the notion that somehow, you know, we saved this and now we've sprung it on them for political reasons," Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC's "Meet the Press" last week.

But some people in very high places are warning that a life-and-death policy like Iraq "must not be a simple matter of political convenience, " as U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday.

What's the political convenience? Strategist Dick Morris spelled it out in a recent column: "Polls show that only one issue works in Bush's favor: terrorism."

Does Morris think the president is, as they say, "wagging the dog" to divert attention from other issues?

"He doesn't need to wag the dog," Morris writes. "He just needs to talk about wagging it to make the impact to keep control of Congress."

Even the White House has hinted at a political strategy. As long ago as last January, Bush strategist Karl Rove said, "We can also go to the country on this issue because they trust the Republican Party to do a better job of protecting and strengthening America's military and thereby protecting America."

Why did the Administration wait until September to make its case against Iraq? White House chief of staff Andrew Card told The New York Times last week, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

In his speech to the United Nations, President Bush tried to shut down the political speculation. This is a life-and-death matter, the President insisted. "Sound Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year," he told the U.N. General Assembly in New York Thursday.

To those who say, we want more evidence that there's a real threat, the Administration says, we can't wait for a smoking gun to turn up. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN's Late Edition recently.

To those who smell politics, the administration's answer is, sure, a crisis may benefit the president politically. So what? An issue of this magnitude should be the focus of a political campaign. What's wrong with that?

 

September 12: Poll: Most Expect War With Iraq

Most Americans expect the country will be at war with Iraq relatively soon, even as support for ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein drops to its lowest level this year.

In a FOX News poll conducted earlier this week by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, 81 percent of Americans say it is likely that the U.S. will go to war with Iraq in the next year (41 percent "very" likely and 40 percent "somewhat" likely). After weeks of debate on the issue, and with the war on terror marking its one-year anniversary, only 13 percent think war with Iraq is unlikely.

As President Bush attempts to persuade the international community that action must be taken, the level of public support for removing Saddam is at 66 percent, down from 72 percent two months ago and from a high of 77 percent in November 2001.

While there is almost no gender gap in support for ousting Saddam from power (65 percent of women and 68 percent of men support removal), a wide partisan gap exists. Seventy-six percent of Republicans support the action, compared to 61 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents. Over the last several months there has been only slight erosion in support among Republicans (7 points), but much more so among Democrats (11 points) and independents (14 points).

Furthermore, if Bush is unable to rally support from the U.N. Security Council and other allies, support for action erodes. While about half of the public (51 percent) believes the U.S. should consider acting alone, 40 percent would go along with our allies.

Not surprisingly, support for Saddam's removal is stronger among those who believe Iraq currently has nuclear weapons. Overall, about two-thirds of Americans (69 percent) believe Iraq already has nukes and, of those, 74 percent back military action. Among those who do not believe Saddam has nuclear weapons, support for action is only 49 percent.

Women are much more likely than men to believe Iraq has nuclear weapons (79 percent compared to 58 percent). Young people and lower income groups also strongly believe Saddam has access to nukes.

Support for U.S. military action is also high among those who believe Iraq would try to use nuclear weapons against the U.S. About three-quarters of Americans (76 percent) believe Iraq would use nukes against the nation if it could and, of those, 76 percent support removing Saddam from power. Only 31 percent of those who do not think he would use nukes support the U.S. taking action.

"The level of support for taking action clearly depends on the credibility of the threat that the public think he poses," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "As the administration tries to make its case to the allies, it will also have to reinforce the belief among Americans that there is a need for action based on real danger. If this perception is diminished, data suggest that support will drop as well."

Finally, support is strongest among those who believe inaction is too risky. Vice President Dick Cheney has been out in front on Iraq for the Bush administration with the mantra of "the risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action." A majority of Americans (62 percent) agrees with Cheney and, of those, fully 83 percent back U.S. action to topple Saddam.

Polling was conducted by telephone Sept. 8-9 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

 

September 12 & 13: CNN and Fox interviews with Scott Ritter.

 

From the Fox interview.

 

September 13: Observers: Evidence For War Lacking
Report Against Iraq Holds Little That's New

The White House document released yesterday as evidence that it is time to overthrow Saddam Hussein is a concise summary of his regime's abuses of Iraqis and its past use or possession of chemical and biological agents.

But it contains little new information -- and no bombshells -- showing that Hussein is producing new weapons of mass destruction or has joined with terrorists to threaten the United States or its interests abroad.

Administration officials, seeking to persuade the public, Congress and foreign allies that it is time to go to war, had indicated recently that their strongest case rested on evidence of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and its efforts to develop ballistic missiles to launch them beyond its borders.

But experts on Iraq's weaponry say that on this subject the report, with few exceptions, recycles a mix of dated and largely circumstantial evidence that Hussein may be hiding the ingredients for these weapons and is seeking to develop a nuclear capability and to weaponize chemical and biological agents.

The 20-page paper, "A Decade of Deception and Defiance," concludes Iraq harbors stockpiles of chemical and biological weapon it created before the 1991 Persian Gulf War, as well as a limited number of missiles and other systems for delivering them. The stockpile includes highly lethal VX, a nerve agent so potent that a few drops on the skin can kill, as well as anthrax and other staples of germ warfare.

The report concludes that Iraq retains the expertise and infrastructure to build new weapons and is seeking to acquire critical parts and supplies. On Iraq's nuclear program, it repeats a British think tank's finding last week that Iraq could likely build a nuclear weapon within a few months, but only if it managed the difficult feat of acquiring enriched uranium from an outside source.

The bulk of the report's assertions were attributed to reports by U.N. weapons inspectors who scoured Iraq for outlawed weapons programs from 1991 to 1998. Although the inspectors destroyed large amounts of weaponry and equipment, they were unable to account for all the chemical and biological warheads and bombs Iraq has admitted making. They disputed Iraq's claims that it destroyed the weapons to hide evidence.

Other claims in the report were attributed to Iraqi defectors or to surveillance imagery that showed new construction in places where Iraq once manufactured weapons.

Weapons experts who reviewed the document noted a few previously undisclosed details, such as a new test platform reportedly built for longer-range missiles at Iraq's al-Rafah-North facility. But several expressed surprise at the lack of fresh revelations.

"Given the high priority for knowing what is going on in Iraq, I'm stunned by the lack of evidence of fresh intelligence," said Gary Milhollin, executive editor of Iraq Watch, a Washington-based nonprofit institution that tracks developments in Iraq's weapons program. "You'd expect that, for the many billions we are spending on intelligence, they would be able to make factual assertions that would not have to be footnoted to an open source."

The document's evidence of Iraq's "support for international terrorism" is one-page long and lacks any reference to al Qaeda or to a purported meeting in Prague between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent. The document confirms that the last terrorism operation by Hussein's regime was the 1993 attempt to kill then-President George H.W. Bush during his visit to Kuwait. It cites Iraq's shelter of various anti-Iran and extremist Palestinian terrorist groups and says Hussein has increased from $10,000 to $25,000 his compensation to families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

 

September 13: A Decade of Deception and Defiance (pdf)

A Decade of Deception and Defiance serves as a background paper for President George W. Bush's September 12th speech to the United Nations General Assembly. This document provides specific examples of how Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has systematically and continually violated 16 United Nations Security Council resolutions over the past decade. This document is not designed to catalogue all of the violations of UN resolutions or other abuses of Saddam Hussein's regime over the years.

For more than a decade, Saddam Hussein has deceived and defied the will and resolutions of the United Nations Security Council by, among other things: continuing to seek and develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons , and prohibited long-range missiles; brutalizing the Iraqi people, including committing gross human rights violations an d crimes against humanity; supporting international terrorism; refusing to release or account for prisoners of war and other missing individuals from the Gulf War era; refusing to return stolen Kuwaiti property; and working to circumvent the UN's economic sanctions.

The Administration will periodically provide information on these and other aspects of the threat posed to the international community by Saddam Hussein.

 

September 13: Hawks hit by a rhetorical ricochet

By launching a major campaign over the past two months to extend the war on terrorism as far as the Saudi royal family, neo-conservative ideologues who have emerged as the predominant force around President George W Bush appear now to have overplayed their hand.

The result, according to some observers, is that the administration's most ardent hawks, those who consider an invasion of Iraq only the prelude to a radical US-led transformation of the entire Arab world, appear to have lost influence in Bush's inner councils. That, in turn, has offered Secretary of State Colin Powell, who favors a more moderate and far less ambitious approach to both the Mideast and the war on terrorism, some running room.

The most visible sign that the hawks have lost momentum came last week when the White House announced that Bush would seek formal Congressional authorization for an invasion of Iraq. The announcement effectively pulled the rug out from under Vice President Dick Cheney, who only a few days before said that Bush saw no need for Congressional action before a military attack.

Even more stunning was word out of the White House that Bush was now inclined to ask the United Nations Security Council, before taking military action, to demand that Baghdad accept and cooperate with a tough new inspection regime to ensure it was not developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

That not only deeply embarrassed Cheney, who had spent much of a major policy address delivered the previous week arguing that new UN inspections were a waste of valuable time. It also marked a rare victory for Powell, who since September 11 had lost virtually every major internal policy debate to Cheney and the equally hawkish Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

While Powell's victory may have been only a temporary detour in Bush's march towards war, or an attempt at "smile diplomacy" designed to reassure worried European and Arab allies that Washington is not as unilateralist or aggressive as they may have believed, some analysts believe the hawks have suffered a major setback. "I think the tide has turned," one foreign-policy veteran of the administration of George Bush Sr, told Inter Press Service on Wednesday. "I think some sanity has been restored to the sandbox."

If so, the credit or blame may go to the neo-conservative forces in and outside the administration that have called for a policy of "regime change" not only in Iraq, but toward all Arab governments considered hostile to Israel, including Saudi Arabia.

In the policy debates over the war on terrorism, both Cheney and Rumsfeld have relied heavily on the arguments of a group of neo-conservative staff and advisers with close ties to the right-wing Likud party in Israel.

They include, among others, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Cheney's chief of staff I Lewis Libby and a number of policy mavens, especially the chairman of Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board (DPB), Richard Perle, based at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neo-conservative think tank that also includes Cheney's spouse, Lynne.

Perle and AEI's top Mideast-policy "scholars", former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Reuel Marc Gerecht, Michael Ledeen and Michael Rubin (just hired by the Pentagon to plan for a post-Saddam Hussein government in Baghdad), along with former CIA director James Woolsey, have been at the heart of a well-orchestrated campaign.

Visible mainly on the editorial and op-ed pages of the right-wing Wall Street Journal and The Weekly Standard, it lobbied to extend the war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban to virtually the entire Arab Middle East, first through a US invasion of Iraq (which the same group has insisted has ties to al-Qaeda and may have been behind last year's September 11 attacks on New York and Washington), and then through US-backed popular insurrections in Iran and Syria.

"The War on Terror Won't End in Baghdad" was the title of a typical piece by Ledeen that appeared in the Journal last week. "This war cannot be limited to national theaters," he wrote; "we face a regional challenge and must respond accordingly."

The same group - along with like-minded associates in the administration and other think tanks - has depicted Saudi Arabia, and especially its Wahhabi clergy, as the fount of global Islamist extremism and terror. They have repeated endlessly that, of the 19 skyjackers who slammed airliners into the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon one year ago, 15 were from Saudi Arabia.

While these forces have been pressing that argument since late last year, it made headlines in August after a DPB member leaked details of a secret briefing arranged by Perle to the board, given July 10 by Laurent Murawiec, a French academic on temporary assignment at the Rand Corporation in Washington.

Murawiec described Saudi Arabia as "the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent" in the Middle East and called for "taking the Saudi out of Arabia". The leak created a sensation, not only infuriating the Saudis who had already been complaining bitterly about the media campaign against them; it also appears to have mobilized much of the foreign policy establishment, particularly those sectors linked to major US oil corporations with huge interests in Saudi Arabia.

The administration immediately disavowed Murawiec's views, and Bush, then on vacation at his Texas ranch, invited Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar for a high-profile visit. Rand effectively fired Murawiec, while Perle insisted that he had no idea what Murawiec would say in advance, an assertion met with general disbelief.

It was shortly afterwards that Bush Sr's national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, as well as his secretary of state James Baker, a long-time protector of Big Oil, published columns gravely warning against the administration's unilateralist course on Iraq.

In an even more pointed Washington Post op-ed, former president Jimmy Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, argued that "public support should not be generated by fear-mongering or demagogy, with some of it encouraged by parties with a strategic interest in fostering American-Arab hostility".

"Particularly disturbing in that regard," he went on, "has been the news report that some members of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board have been pushing, in addition to war with Iraq, a confrontation in US-Saudi Arabian relations."

Henry Kissinger, who had been present at the Rand presentation, reportedly was the only person in the room to speak in defense of the Saudi regime, pointing out the practical problems with making Saudi Arabia an enemy and also suggesting that perhaps Saudi motivations were less black and white than Murawiec might believe.

But it was none other than the president's father who made it clear early this week that the neo-conservative campaign against the Arab world in general and Saudi Arabia in particular had gone much too far.

In an interview with NBC-TV Monday that studiously avoided policy issues, the former president predicted that anti-American sentiment in the Arab world will pass but then went on to say - in an apparent reference to the Wall Street Journal, which has acted as the main mouthpiece for the public neo-conservative campaign over the past six months, "What I don't like is demonizing Saudi Arabia, for example, as we see some of the great national newspapers doing. I don't like that. It's not true. They're not enemies of ours. And for them to come under that kind of criticism, I think it's ridiculous."

 

September 13: Aides say Bush planned all along to seek U.N. support

Bush administration officials yesterday said the president decided long ago he would turn to the United Nations as the first step in dealing with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, despite talk as recently as Tuesday about pre-emptive U.S. military strikes.

President Bush in mid-August had virtually decided to seek redress through the United Nations by calling for enforcement of 16 resolutions Iraq has flouted since 1990, the officials said.

"The fact is, the president's obviously known for a long time he's coming to the U.N.," Communications Director Dan Bartlett said. "His idea was to challenge the United Nations. Is the U.N. relevant or not? That's something he's been talking about."

But the administration's stance — at least as described in press reports over the last few months — appeared to take a circuitous path, with dozens of articles flatly stating the president planned a unilateral U.S. attack on Iraq. The claims prompted angry reactions by some congressmen, who said the president had not yet made a compelling case for military action.

Yet through the carefully choreographed debate about how to handle Saddam, the administration has arrived at its desired destination: Congress and the United Nations have a last chance to act before, as Mr. Bush said yesterday, "action will be unavoidable."

Choosing a course of action on Iraq has been a challenge since the beginning of Mr. Bush's term. Just a month after taking office, the president called the U.N. sanctions "Swiss cheese" and vowed "there will be a consequence" if Iraq is found to be developing weapons of mass destruction.

While the issue died down after September 11, Mr. Bush stoked it back to life this summer by calling for a regime change quickly, before Saddam acquires nuclear capabilities.

 

September 14: Never Forget What?

ABSTRACT - Frank Rich Op-Ed column comments on Pres Bush ratcheting up our long-standing military engagement with Saddam Hussein; suggests that as we move from containment to attack mode, it might be best to focus less on procedural debates, such as timing and wording of whatever rubber-stamp approval Congress will deliver, and more on tougher questions adminstration would prefer to ignore, such as what happens if Al Qaeda attacks US, or if Afghanistan or Pakistan falls while we're at war in Iraq.

 

September 15: Iraq Briefings: Don't Ask, Don't Tell
GOP and Democratic Lawmakers Frustrated as White House Reveals Little

Sen. John McCain strode into the most secure room in the Capitol for a "top secret" briefing by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on the threat posed by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

With the windowless room swept for bugs and lawmakers sworn to deepest secrecy, Rumsfeld proceeded to disclose, well, absolutely nothing this group of lawmakers couldn't have read in the morning papers or watched on TV news channels, according to participants. Actually, they weren't told even that much. "It was a joke," said McCain (R-Ariz.), who soon rose and strode out the door.

This has become an increasingly familiar scene on Capitol Hill, especially since the Bush administration blamed senators this summer for leaking classified information about top-secret intercepts of communications among terrorists in the days leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Since the leak, the White House has put even tighter controls on classified -- and unclassified -- information available to most lawmakers, even those with special intelligence clearance. The FBI is hunting the alleged leaker, even as the administration promises to consult more closely with Congress on how to deal with Hussein.

It's not the first time legislators have seethed over Bush's tight grip on classified information. Last October, members of both parties strongly objected to the president's decision -- later rescinded -- to limit sensitive briefings to eight of Congress's 535 members.

The president's distrust of lawmakers now appears to be undermining his campaign to win congressional authorization to go to war with Iraq. Rumsfeld and other top advisers are not only keeping most lawmakers in the dark about new intelligence on Iraq, but they also are aggravating relations with Congress by portraying their briefings as top-secret affairs, according to interviews with several lawmakers.

"It becomes almost insulting after a while," said McCain, a staunch supporter of Bush's Iraq policy. "Everyone that goes to them is frustrated." McCain said he's very sympathetic to White House concerns about leaks, but suggested Bush should suspend the briefings rather than go through the "charade" of acting like he's keeping lawmakers in the loop.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Robert Menendez (N.J.) said several members are skipping the briefings rather than sign a secrecy pledge that restricts what they can and cannot talk about. "I heard nothing that was new, compelling, or that I have not heard before," said Menendez, who was briefed last week by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George J. Tenet.

Bush, who Friday said he wants Congress to vote on a resolution authorizing war in the next month, has offered the briefings as a means of building support for his Iraqi plans. "The White House will continue to as fully inform as possible members of Congress, while also preserving sensitive intelligence information so no inadvertent disclosure jeopardizes sources or methods or missions," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said in an interview.

After the handful of briefings held so far, members from both parties grumble that they're learning nothing new or revealing to back Bush's case. If this doesn't change, it could cost Bush when the resolution comes up for a vote, according to lawmakers.

"It makes it a lot harder for members who are policymakers and have a responsibility to their constituents" to vote for a resolution, Menendez said.

White House officials said they can't trust some members of Congress with classified information, which, if leaked, could jeopardize intelligence-gathering methods. "They say they will keep it quiet. They won't. They never do," said a senior White House official. This official said the president is aware of complaints but is unlikely to share much more than has been disclosed. To reveal more, the official said, "is a big risk to take."Vice President Cheney last week said in a television interview that the White House is withholding some "highly classified" information from Congress, but other officials said there's no "smoking gun" or "bombshell" being withheld.

Still, the White House seems to hold back information that might help bolster its case. Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) said they've been given access to information the public hasn't seen, and it has helped solidify their support for going to war with Iraq.

"In the briefings I have gotten, there has been additive information," Gephardt said. "But I understand some of the briefings I have not been at have not been credible or good. Members have told me of their frustrations."

A White House official said Gephardt's strong support for the war effort is evidence of a new, safer and more effective strategy for keeping key lawmakers in the know. The administration has pinpointed a select group of members in both parties whom they trust -- and whose support they need -- for more informative briefings, officials said. This helps explain why Democratic leaders are much more supportive of the Bush strategy than are rank-and-file members, the officials said.

Gephardt, for instance, had a private meeting Friday with Tenet to discuss the Iraq situation. The Missouri Democrat said the White House has gladly made top officials available to him since last September's terrorist attacks, and that as the trust has built, more information has flowed to him.

Lott talks often with Rice and others, and is Bush's most aggressive backer. Lott prodded the Senate to pass a resolution granting the president wide latitude and doing it before the United Nations Security Council votes on sending inspectors back into Iraq.

The White House plans another round of briefings this week, including more small group meetings in which more sensitive information can be shared. But unless the circle expands dramatically, some lawmakers say, many members will wonder why the administration isn't revealing anything new.

"It has us wondering," Menendez said, "if the administration does really have real, substantive, compelling information that, if shared, would change attitudes with Congress, the public and our allies."

 

September 16: Democrats Question Iraq Timing
Talk of War Distracts From Election Issues

Why now?

That's the question Democratic lawmakers and strategists are asking about President Bush's demand that Congress authorize war against Iraq before November's midterm elections. Though few doubt the merits of the case against Saddam Hussein, an increasing number are questioning whether the timing -- 60 days before an election -- was designed to benefit Republican candidates.

Bush provoked suspicions Friday when he warned Democrats not to wait for the United Nations to act. "If I were running for office, I'm not sure how I'd explain to the American people -- say, vote for me, and, oh, by the way, on a matter of national security, I think I'm going to wait for somebody else to act," he said. The president's words closely followed those used by one of his top advisers in a briefing Thursday, indicating a coordinated White House strategy.

Two weeks ago, the headlines were about a lethargic economy, a depressed stock market and corporate misdeeds; the news about Iraq was about policy disagreements among Bush advisers. Now, the debate has shifted almost entirely from Democrats' preferred domestic issues to preparations for military action, a GOP favorite.

"It's hard not to notice that the sudden urgency of war with Iraq has coincided precisely with the emergence of the corporate scandal story, with the flip in the congressional [poll] numbers and with the decline in the Republicans' prospects for retaking the Senate majority," said Jim Jordan, director of the Democrats' Senate campaign committee. "It's absolutely clear that the administration has timed the Iraq public relations campaign to influence the midterm elections . . . and to distract the voting public from a failing economy and an unpopular Republican domestic agenda."

 

September 17: American Historians Speak Out
'Consulting' Congress Is Not Enough

The nation stands on the verge of war with Iraq and American historians are speaking out: Consultation with Congress is not enough. A congressional resolution authorizing military action falls short. The Constitution is clear -- Congress must debate and vote on whether to declare war on Iraq. Over 1,200 historians have signed our petition to that effect.

At noon today, Sept. 17, Constitution Day, we are delivering our petition to Congress. "We ask our senators and representatives to do this," the petition reads in part, "because Congress has not asserted its authority to declare war for over half a century, leaving the president solely in control of war powers to the detriment of our democracy and in clear violation of the Constitution."

Petition signatories include: Sanford Levinson of the University of Texas; Jack Rakove, Stanford University; David Beito,, University of Alabama; David DeLeon, Howard University; Melani McAlister, George Washington University; David Levering Lewis, Rutgers University; and Teresa Meade of Union College. Read the complete list at www.HistoryNewsNetwork.org.

The Constitution is not a document to be selectively observed. The Founding Fathers balanced the president’s power as commander-in-chief against the authority of the people’s representatives to commit the nation to war. There is no ambiguity of original intent here.

A preemptive attack on Iraq is not like invading Grenada or Panama. The stakes are much higher. A resolution that is less than a declaration of war might satisfy people who think Congress should have a say, but it would not satisfy the Constitution. Either Saddam Hussein has pursued a path that requires us to wage war against him, or he has not. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is not about police actions or interventions or conflicts -- it is about WAR.

If we must consider the untested doctrine of preemptive war, let us rely on the well-tested Constitution to guide our decision. That course alone can give legitimacy to the initiative.

 

September 17: Untested administration hawks clamor for war

Beware of war hawks who never served in the military.

That, in essence, was the message of retired four-star Marine Corps general Anthony Zinni, a highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War and the White House point man on the Middle East crisis. Zinni is one of a growing number of uniformed officers, in and out of the Pentagon, urging caution on the issue of a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

In an address recently in Florida, he warned his audience to watch out for the administration's civilian superhawks, most of whom avoided military service as best they could. "If you ask me my opinion," said Zinni, referring to Iraq, "Gen. (Brent) Scowcroft, Gen. (Colin) Powell, Gen. (Norman) Schwarzkopf and Gen. Zinni maybe all see this the same way. It might be interesting to wonder why all of the generals see it the same way, and all those (who) never fired a shot in anger (and) are really hellbent to go to war see it a different way."

"That's usually the way it is in history," he said.

Another veteran, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who served in combat in Vietnam and now sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, was even more blunt. "It is interesting to me that many of those who want to rush this country into war and think it would be so quick and easy don't know anything about war," he said. "They come at it from an intellectual perspective vs. having sat in jungles or foxholes and watched their friends get their heads blown off."

The problem is not new. More than 100 years ago, another battle-scarred soldier, Civil War Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, observed: "It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation."

Last month, Vice President Cheney emerged briefly to give several two-gun talks before veterans groups in which he spoke of "regime change" and a "liberated Iraq."

"We must take the battle to the enemy," he said of the war on terrorism. Cheney went on to praise the virtue of military service. "The single most important asset we have," he said, "is the man or woman who steps forward and puts on the uniform of this great nation."

But during the bloodiest years of the Vietnam War, Cheney decided against wearing that uniform. Instead, he used multiple deferments to avoid military service altogether. "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service," he once said.

Cheney is far from alone. For instance, neither Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Defense secretary, nor Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, has served in uniform, yet they are now two of the most bellicose champions of launching a bloody war in the Middle East.

What frightens many is the arrogance, naïveté and cavalier attitude toward war. "The Army guys don't know anything," Perle told The Nation's David Corn earlier this year. With "40,000 troops," he said, the United States could easily take over Iraq. "We don't need anyone else." But by most other estimates, a minimum of 200,000 to 250,000 troops would be needed, plus the support of many allies...

 

......Indeed, the Bush administration's non-veteran hawks should review the origins of the Vietnam quagmire. Along the way, they might come across a quote from still another general, this one William Westmoreland, who once directed the war in Vietnam.

"The military don't start wars," he said ruefully. "Politicians start wars."

 

September 18: Inspectors face a daunting task if they are allowed in

United Nations weapons inspectors, if they do return to Iraq in the coming weeks, will head for the same tightly guarded palaces and ministries from which they were barred in previous years, raising the prospect of more stand-offs with the Iraqis.

 

September 18: Iraq's offer slows Bush momentum
Some U.N. members seem to be adopting a wait-and-see approach for crafting a new resolution to toughen weapons inspections.

UNITED NATIONS -- Russia, France and other nations on Tuesday questioned whether a new Security Council resolution was necessary in the wake of Iraq's offer to permit unconditional weapons inspections, slowing the momentum that had been building for a U.S.-backed plan to confront Iraq over its defiance of previous U.N. demands to give up its weapons of mass destruction.

While Bush administration officials swiftly rejected Iraq's offer as a ruse, many here hailed the Iraqi stance as a possible step toward averting a war and urged the United Nations to explore its implications. "From our standpoint, we don't need any special resolution for that (inspections) to occur," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said.

On Capitol Hill, leaders in both parties expressed skepticism about the Iraqi letter and support appeared to be gathering for a congressional resolution authorizing military action against Iraq. But the quickly shifting debate at the United Nations, just days after President Bush forcefully demanded the U.N. take action, suggested the administration still hasn't convinced much of the international community of the urgency of the Iraqi threat.

The administration plans to intensify its lobbying campaign today, when Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will testify on Iraq before the House International Relations Committee. Secretary of State Colin Powell will follow on Thursday, a week earlier than planned.

U.S. officials argue that the current inspection regime, which Iraq suspended in 1998, has such lengthy timetables that it would permit Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to drag out the inspections process for months, if not years. They said they are crafting a Security Council resolution that would set specific benchmarks and a much shorter timeline for judging whether Iraq is fully cooperating in the effort to eliminate any chemical, biological or nuclear weapons -- and also promise consequences if Iraq fails to live up to the U.N.'s demands.

Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, met Iraqi officials Tuesday to discuss details involved in restarting inspections. During a Security Council meeting, French officials pushed for Blix to report to the council as early as today, in an apparent attempt to shift the debate to the question of resuming inspections and away from the U.S. plan to win a new resolution with more stringent conditions.

U.S. and British officials objected to the French proposal, saying Blix should decide when he's ready to brief the council. In the end, it was decided Blix will brief the Security Council on Thursday. Blix briefed the council on the subject last week.

At the meeting, Iraq agreed to meet with the weapons inspectors in Vienna in 10 days to finalize the arrangements, said Saeed Hasan, a senior Iraqi official who oversees Iraq's relations with the United Nations. Hasan said Iraq had agreed to provide information on how it has used dual-use equipment since the beginning of 1999, after inspections were terminated.

 

September 18: Saddam's concessions will never be enough for the US
Unless it can engineer a war, Bush's administration is political roadkill

To the "man in the street", on whose support Tony Blair and George Bush ultimately depend, it looks like a fair enough offer. For months the US has been huffing and puffing, mouthing and mithering, making waves over Iraq, demanding that it do what Washington wants. Now, finally, it has received a simple answer: yes. So what does the US do? Ask for more.
It is worth recalling how this pseudo-epiphany was reached. The build-up began in earnest with Bush's "axis of evil" speech in January; then came his doctrine of "pre-emptive attack" (what security adviser Condoleezza Rice sweetly calls "anticipatory defence"). Then a startled world learned that "rogue states" holding weapons of mass destruction were more or less on the team with Osama and al-Qaida. That, it transpired, made them legitimate targets for America's "war on terror" and "regime change".

Last week, Bush turned his screw yet more fiercely. If Iraq truly wished peace, he hectored, it must not only agree to full, certified disarmament under UN auspices (and on US terms). It must also swiftly honour all the numerous obligations laid upon it after the Gulf war.

But Iraq's weapons remained the principal focus. Some chemical and biological capability is still most likely at Saddam Hussein's disposal, according to the final reports of the UN inspectors in 1998. He may since have developed more. Scarier still, hawks squawk, Iraq may be only three years, or three months, or who knows, three weeks away from acquiring a nuclear weapon. An image was conjured of the Baghdad bazaar. "Pop round next Tuesday Mr Saddam. Your package will be waiting."

Such angst with all this blethering did Bush and his cohorts inspire. Such discomfiture and war-feverish unease did they spread among European allies such as Blair and his party followers. What strains and stresses stole like shadows of the night over the deserts of the Middle East as Arab allies and foes alike contemplated a coming US onslaught. How greatly did they clamour and cringe, to the delight of the Cheneys and Rumsfelds, Wolfowitzs and Perles. One by one, slinking Saudis followed chapeau-chomping French into the American sheepfold.

And then, after all this hot and bother fuss, suddenly and out of the blue, even before General Tommy Franks, the wannabe "Stormin' Norman", has unpacked his Qatar camp bed, Iraq simply says "OK". To all these provocations, Baghdad puts a timely stopper.

Nor is there any doubting the popularity of Saddam's shift, enough to make the White House sick. Security council members declare themselves encouraged. Russia looks forward to a political settlement and an end to threats of war. China discerns a positive sign. Backsliding Germany's Joschka Fischer rubs it in with a told-you-so about the efficacy of the UN-centred, multilateral approach. Even in London, predictions fly suggesting that war, if it comes, has now been put back a year, that Bush and Blair are split over how to proceed, and that Downing Street will be blamed by US hardliners for steering their president up a diplomatic blind alley. Some Muslim countries, meanwhile, demand a lifting of sanctions.

Worse still, the no-strings nature of Iraq's riposte has plain-spoken appeal. And to the "man in the street", increasingly bowed, browbeaten and bamboozled by the government's line (as polls show) but now relieved and hopeful, it seems reasonable. After all, what more do these people want?

Quite a lot, actually, and the Bushmen's demands will increase rather than diminish as yesterday's momentary flummoxing fades. The gap between what America might wisely do, and what it really does, may yet grow schismatically chasmatic.

The US has a "moral obligation", says sensible Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell, to take the Iraqi offer seriously and explore it fully. Will it do so? The initially scornful and dismissive response can be expected to harden in the days ahead into a firm line insisting the threat has not diminished one whit, that Iraq will be judged by actions, not words, and that merely "tactical" manoeuvres of this sort have been seen before.

Far from welcoming Iraq's prima facie compliance with weapons inspections resolutions, the coming US emphasis will be on the several other "materially breached" UN decrees. And whatever Moscow says, the dogged pursuit of a new resolution authorising a yet tougher line will continue apace.

Far from facilitating the inspections process, quickly agreeing a timetable and fixing an end point, as Iraq has previously asked, the stress now will be on anywhere, anytime coercion, intrusion, paramilitary enforcement, and re-extraction of inspectors at the first glimmer of obstruction. The public message will be scepticism, that anything worth finding has already been hidden, that "cheat and retreat" is Iraq's game, and that the military option may still be the only option.

To this end, despite yesterday's developments, the military build-up will continue, the ships and tanks, planes and carriers so vital to America's sense of self-worth will edge towards Iraq, the tone-deaf Rumsfeld's Pentagon will bang on at what Syria calls the drums of war and deathly ominous B52s, like so many unChristian soldiers marching as to war, will once more silence the hedgerows of Gloucestershire. Expect US pretexts for escalation, fake and insincere negotiations, and false horizons.

For Saddam, with every concession, the bar will be raised ever higher. Almost whatever he says or does, the gun will remain at his head, the trigger ever cocked for the commencement of a battle which Bush et al will not be denied. Despite a broad international consensus against it, regime change and nothing less will remain the ultimate objective.

And why, the "man in the street" might ask, do they appear so set on violence? Because Bush's misconceived, over-hyped global "war on terror" has run out of targets and is far from won. Because Iraq is oil-rich (the second biggest reserves) and the Saudis grow unreliable. Because, purely in domestic policy terms, especially post-Enron, this government is political roadkill. Because the administration's predominant, evangelical clique believes it is solo superpower America's historic mission (Bush says it is a "calling") to spread its universal values and rescue a muddled world from itself. Because the Bush family has old scores to settle and new elections to win. Because Bush lacks the insight and imagination to act differently. Because in their September 11 pain and unforgotten anger, not nearly enough of America's "men in the street", and in high places too, are prepared to say stop, pause, and consider what it is they do.

September 18: Rumsfeld Repeats the Myths

that Iraq "threw the inspectors out" and that it was "ready to" invade Saudi Arabia. Rumsfeld also refers to chemical and biological weapons as "weapons of mass destruction," but according to arms control experts, they are not. (Links and text from: http://www.cursor.org )

 

September 18: Curses! Dubya Gets Foiled Again

Now we know just how vicious Saddam Hussein can be. Agreeing to unconditional United Nations inspections at a time when our president had his heart set on war is just the sort of mean-spirited treachery that one can expect from this modern-day Hitler.

The only greater betrayal will be if it turns out, upon inspection, that Iraq is not still building weapons of mass destruction and has no nuclear capability after all.

What if Scott Ritter, a onetime U.N. weapons inspector and former U.S. Marine who recently visited Baghdad, is right in arguing that Hussein's arsenal is a pale shadow of its former self?

The creation of that original arsenal of chemical and biological weapons was greatly facilitated by the sale of hardware by U.S. companies to Iraq, sales that were approved during the 1980s when the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both sided with Iraq in its war with Iran.

These weapons, however, were largely eliminated by previous inspections; what materiel remains, Ritter has argued, has deteriorated to the point of uselessness.

As for nuclear weapons, Iraq's program lags far behind that of other unstable extremist nations, including Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. Yet we have lifted sanctions against Pakistan intended to end its nuclear program, are building a nuclear plant for power generation in North Korea and have chosen to ignore Iran's well-documented nuclear weapons program.

And if concern over Iraq's nuclear program were truly the issue, we could destroy any suspicious installations from the air, as the Israelis did two decades ago in demolishing Iraq's French-built nuclear reactor.

Still, we must go to war or voters might start focusing on the dismal state of the economy under George W. Bush's stewardship and return a Democratic Congress in the November elections, right? Fortunately for Bush, arguments over Iraq now dominate water-cooler talk, rather than group commiseration over our Incredible Shrinking 401(k)s--but that can change.

 

September 18: President Bush wants war, not justice - and he'll soon find another excuse for it

Saddam Hussein's own cynicism - for he could have given UN inspectors free rein years ago - will be matched by Mr Bush's

You've got to hand it to Saddam. In one brisk, neat letter to Kofi Annan, he pulled the rug from right under George Bush's feet. There was the American president last week, playing the role of multilateralist, warning the world that Iraq had one last chance – through the UN – to avoid Armageddon. "If the Iraqi regime wishes peace," he told us all in the General Assembly, "it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and all related material." And that, of course, is the point. Saddam would do everything he could to avoid war. President Bush was doing everything he could to avoid peace. And now the Iraqi regime has put the Americans into a corner. The arms inspectors are welcome back in Iraq. No conditions. Just as the Americans asked.

September 19: Evidence on Iraq Challenged
Experts Question if Tubes Were Meant for Weapons Program

A key piece of evidence in the Bush administration's case against Iraq is being challenged in a report by independent experts who question whether thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes recently sought by Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program.

The White House last week said attempts by Iraq to acquire the tubes point to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. But the experts say in a new report that the evidence is ambiguous, and in some ways contradicts what is known about Iraq's past nuclear efforts.

The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security, also contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence. The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was authored by David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team. The institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group that studies nuclear and other security issues.

"By themselves, these attempted procurements are not evidence that Iraq is in possession of, or close to possessing, nuclear weapons," the report said. "They do not provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or when such a plant could be operational."

The controversy stems from shipments to Iraq of specialized aluminum metal that were seized en route by governments allied with the United States. A U.S. intelligence official confirmed that at least two such shipments were seized within the past 14 months, although he declined to give details. The Associated Press, citing sources familiar with the shipments, reported that one originated in China and was intercepted in Jordan.

The shipments sparked concern among U.S. intelligence analysts because of the potential use of such tubes in centrifuges, fast-spinning machines used in making enriched uranium for nuclear bombs. High-strength, heat-resistant metals are needed for centrifuge casings as well as for the rotors, which turn at up to 1,000 rotations per minute.

There is no evidence that any of the tubes reached Iraq. But in its white paper on Iraq released to the United Nations last week, the Bush administration cited the seized shipments as evidence that Iraq is actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said in a televised interview that the tubes "are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs."

Since then, U.S. officials have acknowledged differing opinions within the U.S. intelligence community about possible uses for the tubes -- with some experts contending that a more plausible explanation was that the aluminum was meant to build launch tubes for Iraq's artillery rockets.

"But the majority view, held by senior officials here, is that they were most likely intended for gas centrifuges," one U.S. intelligence official said in an interview.

The new report questions that conclusion on several grounds, most of them technical. It says the seized tubes were made of a kind of aluminum that is ill-suited for welding. Other specifications of the imported metal are at odds with what is known about Iraq's previous attempts to build centrifuges. In fact, the report said, Iraq had largely abandoned aluminum for other materials, such as specialized steel and carbon fiber, in its centrifuges at the time its nuclear program was destroyed by allied bombers in the Gulf War.

According to Albright, government experts on nuclear technology who dissented from the Bush administration's view told him they were expected to remain silent. Several Energy Department officials familiar with the aluminum shipments declined to comment.

September 19: Cheney makes plea in Conn. stop

GROTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney used his GOP campaign visit to Connecticut Wednesday on behalf of U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2, to hammer away at the urgent need to oust Saddam Hussein before it's too late.

But the vice president had barely left the posh fund-raiser before Simmons began explaining his continuing opposition to the Bush administration's claim that the U.S. may need to take swift, unilateral action against Iraq.

"The U.S. should only act alone if we face a clear and present danger, which means that Iraq has the capability and the intent to launch an attack on the United States with weapons of mass destruction, or on our European allies or on Israel," Simmons said. "I don't see that today."

"It is my understanding from reviewing open source literature and media reports that that capability is not there at this point in time," said Simmons, who is a former agent with the Central Intelligence Agency. "But it could be within a year or two, maybe five years," he added.

Cheney, who helped raise an estimated $150,000 for the Republican 2nd District congressional candidate, painted a very different picture of the Iraq situation for the approximately 320 GOP supporters in attendance.

"The entire world knows, beyond dispute, that Saddam Hussein holds weapons of mass destruction in large quantities and that he is seeking to acquire more," Cheney said. "Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations."

Cheney said Hussein has broken his promises not to produce or acquire weapons of mass destruction and has stockpiled chemical and biological weapons and is "aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program."

"We must and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our freedom and our security," insisted Cheney, who spent nearly one-third of his 17-minute speech on the dangers posed by Iraq and its dictator.

 

September 19: UN to upset Bush's war plans with one-year deadline for Iraq

The United Nations is likely to throw into disarray America's war plans for Iraq by introducing a timetable for weapons inspections that could give Saddam Hussein a breathing space of almost 12 months.

 

September 20: De-Saddamization, Not Disarmament

"No sensible person wants to go to war if war can be avoided." So said Secretary of State Colin Powell on September 15. Next time he is at the White House, he should take a good look around.

The day after Powell made that remark, Saddam Hussein offered unconditionally to permit UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq, after a four-year hiatus. His move, as skeptics quickly noted, was predictable. It split the UN which had been moving toward supporting--or yielding to--Bush's get-Iraq demand and gave Arab states and France, Russia and China (three-fifths of the permanent members of the UN Security Council, each with soft-on-Saddam governments) reason to call for slowing down the march to war. Just as predictable was the administration's response, as George W. Bush and his advisers dismissed the offer as an irrelevant ploy. They seemed irritated their express train to war, which was picking up momentum, had encountered a bad piece of track. Rather than slow down and take a look, they decided, let's ignore the bump, full speed ahead.

But if no sensible person wants a war that can be avoided, why not call Saddam's bluff? Bush's supposed aim has been disarmament in Iraq. The administration has sold "regime change"--that semi-polite term for ousting Saddam with military force--as a means for ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. Powell, in the past, has raised the prospect that an aggressive, intrusive, unfettered, and robust weapons inspection program could achieve this, while Vice President Dick Cheney has said it could not. But even though Bush cited Iraqi repression and human rights violations during his speech last week at the UN, the publicly-stated concern driving administration policy has been Saddam's development of WMD. After all, is Bush proposing war against other nations that treat citizens brutally and do not allow for religious, political and civil freedom? Say, China, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan? What makes Saddam different, we're told, is his development and potential use (which might include sharing) of horrific weaponry.

Inspections address this central point. The Bush administration and its conservative supporters in the punditry, though, have denied this. Testifying before the House armed services committee on September 18, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld--after being interrupted by protesters chanting, "inspections, not war"--said, "The goal isn't inspections. The goal is disarmament....You can only have inspections when a country is cooperating with you."

 

September 20: US threat to stop Iraq inspections

The American Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has said the United States will find ways to stop weapons inspectors going back to Iraq unless there is a new United Nations Security Council resolution on the issue.

Addressing a Congressional committee, Mr Powell said the Security Council must spell out to Iraq the serious consequences if it fails to co-operate with the inspectors.

The BBC State Department correspondent Jon Leyne says the US is in effect giving an ultimatum to the Security Council.

The development came as the chief UN arms inspector, Hans Blix, told the Security Council he hoped to have an advance party in Iraq on 15 October.

Mr Blix later told reporters an advance party would go there "as soon as possible".

"We will select some sites that we think are interesting to go to in the early phases," he said, "so it's not like it takes two months before we can send any guys out there in the field. It will be much earlier than that."

At the UN, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri delivered a message from President Saddam Hussein, accusing Washington of lying about Iraq's weapons.

Saddam Hussein insisted that Baghdad does not possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

His letter also appeared to qualify Baghdad's surprise announcement on Monday that the UN could resume unfettered weapons inspections.

He said any inspectors must respect arrangements on Baghdad's "sovereignty and security", raising fears that Iraq might prevent access to so-called presidential sites and other sensitive areas.

Congress pressed

The White House called the statement disappointing.

Earlier, President Bush sent a draft resolution to Congress, asking it to authorise all necessary and appropriate means to ensure Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions and to restore peace and security to the region.

 

September 20: The News Dissector And The President

Usually, the news I get to dissect originates in secondary sources -- newspapers, magazines, TV watching and radio listening. On Friday, I came face to face with the big guy himself, our commander in chief, the man called POTUS -- which stands for President of the United States.

I was ten feet away, staring into eyes that always look blank, like those of a deer caught in the headlights. I watched him utter the words that spawned the lead story in The New York Times, the one headlined "BUSH IS DOUBTFUL IRAQ WILL COMPLY WITH UN DEMANDS."

On page one, David Sanger’s article in the Times does not tell you where this pronouncement, which inches us closer to war, was made. In fact, the set and setting does not appear anywhere in the article. So, let me tell you about it. I was there.

 

Watching The Charade

His remarks were uttered in the Starlight room of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, in a meeting convened by "The President” (that’s all his name tag said), with Secretary of State Powell to his right. Around the table were ten Presidents of Central African countries, one of the bloodiest and underreported war zones in the world. All were flanked by cameramen, there to record their presence in his presence.

POTUS thanks the African presidents for coming, and hints at a discussion of their common interests in fighting terrorism and achieving prosperity. The African journalists are hoping to get in a question. After all, how often does the leader of the Free World speak with the press from some of the poorest and most ravaged lands in the world, such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda? These are people who know what war is and how destructive it can be. They had a lot to say -- but no one in the press cared to ask them to say it.

While the African presidents sat like plants, listening through headphones and interpreters, Bush invited three questions from the American press, picking a reporter from the Associated Press by name to get them started. It felt like a set up to me...

September 20: PBS Fails to Hold Rumsfeld Accountable

Asking tough questions of those in power is one of a journalist's most important jobs-- especially when a country may be going to war. But PBS's Jim Lehrer failed to challenge Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in a September 18 interview on the "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer"-- even when Rumsfeld made factually inaccurate assertions.

For instance, Rumsfeld repeatedly referred to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspectors being expelled from Iraq, saying, "We have seen the situation with Iraq where they have violated some 16 U.N. resolutions and finally threw the inspectors out." Rumsfeld went on to say that "we have gone through... four years where they threw the inspectors out and there's been no one there."

In December 1998, the U.N. inspectors were not thrown out; they were pulled out by UNSCOM chief Richard Butler prior to a U.S. bombing campaign in Iraq. As Madeleine Albright told Lehrer at the time (12/17/98), Butler "made an independent decision that UNSCOM could no longer work."

Rumsfeld also made a dubious assertion about Iraq's plans for "invading Saudi Arabia, which they were ready to do." This was presumably a reference to the Pentagon's claim in September 1990, after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, that Iraq was massing hundreds of thousands of troops along the Saudi border in preparation to take over that country as well.

But the St. Petersburg Times (1/6/91) published satellite imagery from the region that appeared to disprove the Pentagon claim, since no massive Iraqi build-up was visible in the satellite photos.

After the war, a U.S. "senior commander" admitted to Newsday (3/1/91) that reports of a major Iraqi troop mobilization were exaggerated, saying, "There was a great disinformation campaign surrounding this war." Despite the serious doubts about the veracity of Rumsfeld's charge, Lehrer allowed it to stand without comment.

A recent segment on CNN demonstrates precisely how journalists can clarify misleading statements from government officials. On September 18, CNN reporter Richard Roth explained the confusion about the UNSCOM inspectors this way:

"On our air, Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense... said look, it was Iraq, he said, that booted out, kicked out those weapons inspectors. That's not exactly accurate. It was the U.N. and the weapons inspections agency that withdrew them, under pressure from the U.S., because they had barely gotten out with their bags when U.S. military strikes occurred."
It's always important for journalists to correct misstatements of fact, but when an official is offering misinformation as a justification for war, that journalistic duty becomes an imperative.

 

September 20: Persistence on Iraq Pays Off for Bush
Strategy Mirrors Earlier Political Fights

As President Bush sent his proposed Iraq attack resolution to Capitol Hill yesterday, his rout of congressional Democrats was virtually complete. The opposition party had all but resigned itself to passing the resolution with the wording Bush desired on the timetable he demanded.

A few short weeks ago, it appeared the administration was in disarray on Iraq, and the opposition at home and overseas to attacking Iraq was formidable. Now, bewildered opponents are studying how the White House apparently turned the situation on its head both in Congress and the United Nations.

The Bush White House's maneuver on Iraq was nothing new. It followed a pattern of hard-nosed politics similar to Bush's victories in winning support for a massive tax cut, trade promotion authority, withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and even, to some extent, success in the Florida election recount.

The pattern goes something like this: Bush finds himself in a jam, with heavy opposition to the position he advocates. After a sometimes painful period of stumbling, he casts aside all other issues so that he can focus his administration's attention -- and the public's -- on just one topic. Then, he hammers away at the issue, using the bully pulpit with numbing repetition and marshaling all arguments to make his case. When one rationale doesn't sell, he drops it and adopts a new one.

"It happens again and again: People on Bush's own side worry and get antsy, while critics become euphoric and think these guys aren't that bright," said GOP strategist Jeffrey Bell. "Once the tactical situation is clear to Bush, they start pounding and won't let up."

A Bush adviser concurred with that sequence. "You have a policy imperative, and then it becomes, how do we sell it," the adviser said. Once Bush settles on his rationale, "he starts drilling in on it."

 

September 20: Bush-Hitler Remark Shows U.S. as Issue In German Election

ABSTRACT - Reported remark by German Justice Min Herta Daubler-Gmelin comparing Pres Bush's tactics over Iraq to those of Hitler demonstrates how anti-Americanism has moved to center of political debate in Germany's close-fought election campaign; Daubler-Gmelin first says she was not comparing persons Bush and Hitler, but their methods; later she denies making remark at all; Chancellor Gerhard Schroder says he believes Daubler-Gmelin did not compare two men; says anyone who compares Bush to criminal would have no seat in his cabinet; Germany's conservatives, who are challenging Schroder in national elections, immediately call for her resignation; say Daubler-Gmelin's comment is result of Schroder's decision to distance Germany from United States over Iraq, course that is politically rewarding for him but has opened sharp rift with Washington; White House spokesman Ari Fleischer calls Daubler-Gmelin's statement 'outrageous' but notes long established German-American relationship; photos

 

September 22: Culture War With B-2's

ABSTRACT - Maureen Dowd Op-Ed column likens Pres Bush on Iraq to 'guy who reserves a hotel room and then asks you to the prom'; charges administration exploits Sept 11 terrorism to target Iraq as latest chapter in conservative dream of restoring America's sense of Manifest Destiny, complete with Bushies' notion of imperial, imperious presidency.

September 22: Have local hawks flown south?

Our letter writers are not shy.

Indeed they are not.

We've printed several packages of letters recently on the possibility of war with Iraq. After the second one, I asked the man in charge of letters -- Jim Peipert -- if there truly were no letters in support of attacking Iraq.

Not one. At least not then.

 

September 22: Marching off to peace


If the politicians won't go to the people, or at least listen to them, then a mountain of people will come to the politicians, says Ken Loach, ahead of this week's anti-war demonstration

There's a discussion going on about the planned war against Iraq, a thoughtful, concerned and informed discussion ranging far beyond the confines of official political debate. We have glimpsed only a small fraction of it on television and in the press.
Amid the welter of speculation about Saddam Hussein's 'weapons of mass destruction', what about the likely impact of this war on the people of Iraq? In 1991, at least 100,000 Iraqis were killed. Many more were mutilated, their families destroyed. US and British servicemen and women suffered Gulf War syndrome.

Now we are being asked to approve a much wider war. The invasion and occupation planned by the Pentagon will require not only more extensive bombing than in 1991, but, ultimately, the conquest of Baghdad, a city of nearly four million people.

How many casualties are acceptable this time? We hear little about the consequences for the people on the wrong end of our missiles, cluster bombs, tanks and munitions; unspeakable terror for the ordinary people of Iraq.

 

September 22: Unveiled: the thugs Bush wants in place of Saddam
If Saddam Hussein is America's frying-pan, these men are the fire into which President Bush may be jumping. Foreign Editor David Pratt runs the rule over some of the highly assorted and far from loveable would-be beneficiaries of Iraqi 'regime change'

CORRUPT, feckless and downright dangerous. Some say they make the Butcher of Baghdad himself look good. Who are they? The contenders for Saddam Hussein's throne.

Ever since the September 11 attacks 'regime change' has been the catchphrase coming out of Washington. But if George Bush is as intent on invading Iraq as he seems to be, overthrowing the Iraqi regime and deposing Saddam may well turn out to be the easy bit...

...Ahmad al-Chalabi came to international attention not for his politics, but for fleeing to London from Jordan in 1989 amid allegations he had embezzled millions from the bank he used to own. Although he denies any wrongdoing, the collapse of the Petra Bank left thousands of its customers in penury and earned him comparisons with Robert Maxwell. He didn't return to Jordan to defend himself at his trial in 1992, which took place in his absence, and will begin his 32 years in prison only if he returns to Jordan, which he shows no sign of doing at present.

The long-time face of the Iraqi opposition in Washington, Chalabi took the reins of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an umbrella organisation created in 1992 with the assistance of the CIA. Although he was officially demoted in 1999 to be a member of the INC's executive council rather than its leader, he is widely accepted as the first among equals and is spoken of by INC officials as the future president of Iraq. This despite the fact that the US State Department recently found that about half of the $4m it had given to the INC was not properly accounted for. They clearly expected better from a former maths professor and banker, and cut off funding. Chalabi, however, galvanised his US supporters, and the Pentagon and the White House again started picking up the tab.

Chalabi is, if nothing else, an operator. One delegate at a New York meeting of the INC said of him: 'He takes more than his share, much more than his share, and I get nothing. Just look at the way he dresses. They say Saddam has 300 suits; well, this guy has 400.'

Many Chalabi mannerisms that appeal in the West may have been picked up at his Sussex private school, where he was a member of the cadet corps -- his sole training for planning an invasion of Iraq.

Just as the US was forgetting him in the wake of more accusations of financial irregularities, he came up with a plan to unseat Saddam in a choreographed 11-week manoeuvre. The plot, launched at Chalabi's Mayfair home and involving turning untrained volunteers into successful revolutionaries, provided him with the soundbite necessary to capture US policymakers' minds in the wake of September 11. Few stopped to question if it verged on the unrealistic.

Convicted embezzlers, accused war criminals and CIA stooges to a man, few if any of those who would dethrone Saddam match up to the proverbial man on a white horse, a respected military officer who can ride in, take control and unite Iraq's fractious tribes and religious groups. Serious questions remain as to the readiness, willingness and fitness to lead of those in main contention.

As Said K Aburish, the respected Middle Eastern writer and biographer of Saddam Hussein, concluded: 'I examined my notes of the interviews I conducted with 82 Iraqi opposition leaders, and began identifying those on my list whose thinking resembles Saddam's. To my horror, I decided 75 of the people I interviewed were men who would kill to achieve their goal.' One can only wonder whether Washington has come to the same conclusion, or indeed really cares.

Research and additional reporting by Dr Glen Rangwala, lecturer in politics at Trinity College, Cambridge

 

September 23: Lawmakers Hear Pleas Against War

Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.) had just begun to greet participants in the Governor's Day beach walk here Friday when he ran into Viola Babiarz -- and into the midst of the often-anguished debate among his constituents over the prospects of war with Iraq.

"I wish you could stop it. I hate to see another war," said the Wilmington visitor, 78, who wore a "Castle for Congress" button. "I think we have to do something. We have to stand up to him [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein]. But we need the support of other countries. I feel badly other countries aren't supporting us, but maybe they will."

It was a familiar story to Castle, whose own views -- along with those of many of his other constituents -- mirror those of Babiarz, who wants to see Hussein deposed but is reluctant to see the United States take unilateral military action to make it happen.

He will not say how he will vote on President Bush's request for unlimited congressional authority to take action against Iraq, including military force.

"Most people I speak to would be more comfortable going through the United Nations, and I believe I would as well," Castle said in an interview as he drove from Rehoboth to Wilmington, munching on crackers in what passed for lunch on a busy day of official and campaign activities. "But I wouldn't want to say that's an absolute condition," he added.

At a swearing-in ceremony later in the day for U.S. Marshal David Thomas, Castle crossed paths with Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), who said he was hearing much the same thing. "People don't want to go it alone," Biden said.

Judging by tallies offered by aides to a dozen other House and Senate members -- including Republicans and Democrats from areas that are normally hawkish as well as dovish -- a reluctance to embark on unilateral military action is also the dominant theme of phone calls, letters and e-mail messages that have been pouring in to Capitol Hill in recent weeks.

Most said constituents' communications were running overwhelmingly against war, especially if the United States has to fight without strong allied support.

 

September 23: Don't Ask, Don't Tell
The Bush administration is playing politics with the investigation of the 9-11 intelligence failures -- and standing in the way of a full accounting

Joint hearings on the intelligence failures that preceded September 11 took place in Washington last week, only to be conveniently upstaged by the Bush administration's demand for a resolution of congressional approval for a war against Iraq. As a result, the real significance of what did and did not happen in the post-September 11 investigation threatens to become lost in the cacophony of the Iraq debate. Adding to the frustrations of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Iraqi war issue is sure to pull members into their more political roles and cut into the time, already limited, available for their investigation of the most serious lapse of intelligence in recent memory. Though sidetracking or stalling the intelligence investigation has been an administration aim, and though Bush officials seem to have succeeded in the short run, late last week the White House suddenly abandoned its formerly staunch opposition to an inquiry by a commission independent of the intelligence committees. What happened here is an important indicator of both the real aims of the Bush administration and the strength of the political forces at work in this matter.

 

September 23: Forget the Evidence by Brendan O'Neill

Some commentators are holding out for hard evidence of Saddam's weapon-building antics before deciding whether they support bombing Baghdad. That's nice of them. But if they could please let Misters Bush and Blair know as soon as they've made up their minds, as Britain and the US are quite keen to proceed....

Who believes this evidence thing? The obsession with presenting dossiers of 'evidence' against Saddam indicates two things about this war: firstly, that the argument for intervention has been won, and all we allegedly need now are facts about Saddam before we start dropping bombs; secondly, that there are no convincing political arguments for ousting Saddam, causing Britain and the US to rely on hearsay, rumour and speculation about the Iraqi regime in the run-up to war.

Bush and Blair's focus on evidence captures their uncertainty over invading Iraq - where they seem more concerned with showing us photographs and maps and every little detail about Iraq's alleged weapons-building scheme, rather than putting a convincing political case for an invasion. But then, neither exists - neither a good political argument for bombing Iraq, nor any evidence that Iraq is threat to the West.

Before Iraq became public enemy no.1 all over again (taking over from bin Laden - remember him?), many admitted that there was little evidence of an Iraqi threat to Western interests. In February 2002, the New York Times reported that even 'the CIA has no evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations against the United States in nearly a decade, and the spy agency also is convinced that Saddam Hussein has not provided chemical or biological weapons to al-Qaeda or related terrorist groups'.

Already this year Bush and Blair have promised us dossiers of evidence, only to pull out at the last minute. Under the headline 'Blair steps back from Iraq fight', the UK Guardian reported in April 2002 that 'in a sign that Britain recognises that open prosecution of a war against Iraq is politically impossible, Downing Street has deferred plans to publish [its evidence], which purports to show how Saddam is...building weapons of mass destruction'.

Now Blair is preparing to 'rock parliament' (allegedly) by presenting evidence that Iraq has links to al-Qaeda and wants to build a nuclear bomb. Blair's intelligence has certainly come a long way since August 2002, when he admitted: 'We haven't the faintest idea what has been going on in the last four years other than what we know is an attempt to carry on rebuilding weapons. The details of it is something that the Iraqi regime should be forced to disclose.'

But commentators' focus on The Evidence does indicate a worrying trend - namely, how everyone now accepts the right of America and Europe to interfere in Iraq's affairs. When people say that they're 'waiting for the evidence' or 'waiting for better evidence' or even that they're 'unconvinced by the evidence', what they're really saying is: we accept the West's right to intervene in Iraq and to effect regime change and to oust Saddam. You just need to convince us that it is necessary right now. This is anti-war opposition based on the pedantic rather than the principled.

Forget the 'facts against Saddam'. Forget asking Bush and Blair 'Where is the evidence?'. A far better question would be: 'What right do you have to gather evidence on foreign states, and to tell others how to run their affairs?'

September 24: Bush doctrine makes waves overseas
International reaction to new policy of preemptive strikes casts a suspicious eye on "imperialist" designs.

Last week, the Bush administration published a 33-page document outlining an official shift in U.S. foreign policy and military strategy. In the post-Cold War era, the United States would act as a global policeman, willing to take preemptive action against hostile states and terrorist groups that the United States deems a threat to global stability or American interests.

 

This new policy of "distinctly American internationalism" is the culmination of changes in American foreign policy since the end of the Cold War, accelerated by the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And, the document makes clear, the Bush administration will tolerate no rivals to the U.S.'s position as the world's only superpower. "The president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago," the document states.

The global reaction to this new "Bush Doctrine" has been, to say the least, mixed. Some leaders charge that the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive strikes amounts to a new level of American arrogance. Others dismiss it as a rhetorical device to wage what Bush has called America's "war on terrorism."

Salon has culled reactions from a handful of international editorial writers to the Bush Doctrine, as the administration continues to use its new policy as a justification for a possible future war with Iraq.

Le Monde Diplomatique, France
"We must face facts: A new imperial doctrine is taking shape under George Bush. Now is reminiscent of the late 19th century, when the U.S. began its colonial expansion into the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, the first steps to world power. Then the US was seized by great imperialist fervor. Journalists, businessmen, bankers and politicians vied to promote policies of world conquest ...

"U.S. historians have generally considered the late 19th century imperialist urge as an aberration in an otherwise smooth democratic trajectory. The U.S. had emerged from a war of independence to cast off British colonial domination, and had played its part in the Enlightenment project against absolutist continental European monarchies. Surely this experience inoculated it once and for all against the virus of imperialism?

"Yet a century later, as the U.S. empire engages in a new period of global expansion, Rome is once more a distant but essential mirror for American elites. In 1991 the U.S. found itself the only remaining great power. Now, with military mobilization on an exceptional scale after September 2001, the U.S. is openly affirming and parading its imperial power. For the first time since the 1890s, the naked display of force is backed by explicitly imperialist discourse ...

"Bush does not seem to be trying too hard to resist. He is reluctant to invest in nation building or commit the U.S. to humanitarian interventions. But he is quick to deploy U.S. armed forces all over the world to crush the enemies of civilization and forces of evil. His vocabulary, with its constant references to civilization, barbarians and pacification, betrays classical imperial thinking.

"There is no knowing quite what Bush learned at Yale and Harvard, but since 11 September he has become the unlikely Caesar of the new imperial camp in the U.S."
-- Philip S. Golub

Irish Times, Republic of Ireland
"The Cold War threat came from states that pursued a strategy of deterrence. Now, however, the enemy is one who wishes to resort to weapons of mass destruction as a primary tool of attack. Should any such enemy ever succeed, the appalling carnage of September 11th last year could pale into insignificance.

"It is this perspective which is underpinning President Bush's policy of preemptive action. He refers to the 'unique responsibilities' of the United States. They are unique indeed: at the start of the 21st century, the U.S. is the only global superpower, a position that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. And that responsibility includes acting in concert with the rest of the civilized world.

"The U.S. says the case against Iraq is clear. The Americans, however, have yet to provide the evidence. There is near universal agreement that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and evil ruler. Let the president state his case, with evidence, to the United Nations."
-- unsigned editorial

The Observer, United Kingdom
"This Pax Americana that is being proposed -- including its commitment to throw itself into the 'battle for the future of the Muslim world' -- is a curiously old-fashioned one. It is one that has been shared by empires from that of Rome to Britain and the Soviet Union, that says by virtue of its unique inherent values it can educate and save while dominating.

"It is not a new strand in American thinking. From Roosevelt to Kennedy and the New World Order, statesmen have struggled to locate America's sense of its pre-eminent power to effect global change for the good.

"The difficulty, as ever, is that it inevitably encompasses a very partial and contradictory world view. The Bush Doctrine will inevitably be coloured by the prejudices of those who have contributed to Republican foreign policy thinking.

"In this world view, the security interests of Israel and the U.S. are indivisible. Turkey is among the good guys. So is Britain, among a sea of vacillating Europeans. The bad guys are a roll call of troubled states: China, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Iraq.

"It is here that the tensions are most likely to emerge. America may wish to be a power for good in the Muslim world, but it will try to do so from a position of strong uncritical support for Israel and the unpopular Saudi royal family, which will inevitably undermine that ambition and increase and not diminish Muslim suspicions about America's agenda.

"A bigger tension is likely to come from the Bush Doctrine's central tenet: That America, as the last man standing in the old superpower club, must be allowed to call the shots -- an ambition that is in conflict with the internationalism of the U.N. and treaty obligations and negotiations."
-- Peter Beaumont

The Globe and Mail, Canada
"After all, there are dozens of unpleasant regimes, and some of them have weapons of mass destruction. Is the United States ... going to overthrow every one of them? And what is to prevent other countries from claiming the right to pre-emptive attack? If Washington can overthrow Mr. Hussein because he might attack the United States one day, what is to stop, say, India from attacking Pakistan, or China from attacking Taiwan? As former Canadian ambassador Kimon Valaskakis put it on these pages the other day, 'unilateral pre-emptive war in the name of national interest opens up a Pandora's box much more dangerous than the problem it addresses.'

"That would certainly be true if Washington's new doctrine were as sweeping as the worriers say. Thankfully, it is not. No U.S. leader is claiming the right to overthrow every regime that Washington happens to dislike or that happens to dislike the United States. No matter how nasty they may be to their own people, no one is talking about unseating Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or even Fidel Castro of Cuba. Why? Because they pose no threat to international peace. Equally, no one in Washington is talking about taking on China or India just because they possess nuclear weapons.

"What the Americans are talking about is something far more limited. Under the emerging Bush doctrine, the United States would reserve the right to take pre-emptive action against a hostile regime if it (a) backed, harbored or conspired with terrorists; (b) had shown clear aggressive intent; and (c) had acquired or was consistently trying to acquire weapons of mass murder.

"Very few regimes are guilty on all three counts. In fact, only one currently is. Iraq has (a) backed, harbored and conspired with terrorists for more than 20 years (Abu Nidal, one of the world's leading terrorists, recently met his end in Baghdad after living there for many years); (b) made war against two neighbors -- Iran in the 1980s and Kuwait in 1990; and (c) spent billions of dollars trying to acquire weapons of mass murder, succeeding in the case of chemical and biological weapons and coming close in the case of nuclear weapons.

"This pattern of behavior puts Iraq in a class of its own."
-- Marcus Gee

Asahi Shimbun, Japan
"It is increasingly clear that following last year's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, rogue states, terrorists organizations and others involved in the development of weapons of mass destruction have replaced the socialist nations of the Cold War era as the United States' newly declared enemies.

"This has prompted George W. Bush's administration to state that while the United States will seek allies in the battle against terrorism, it will also not hesitate to act alone, when deemed necessary, to exercise its right to self-defense by acting pre-emptively. With this, Bush has underscored his willingness to resort to unilateral action or first strikes against Iraq or other members of the 'axis of evil.'

"The document also states the intent to maintain military strength capable of dissuading potential enemies with ambitions of building up arms on a par with the United States to abandon such aspirations. This is a signal of the Bush administration's determination for the United States to sustain overwhelmingly superior military might.

"The United States has emerged as the sole military superpower in the post-Cold War age, and there is no doubt the strength of the U.S. armed forces is integrally linked to global security. The sudden recent shift in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (North Korea) stance also reflects the impact of U.S. pressure.

"Yet this new strategy also reveals the desire of the Bush administration to make up the rules for what lies ahead. If allowed to develop in this context, this will be an inevitable source of concern and suspicion."
-- unsigned editorial

Die Tageszeitung, Germany
(Translation by Ewald Christians)
"It is becoming more obvious with every statement issued by Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: The U.S. administration is determined to go to war with Iraq and there is little chance to change their minds. Approval by Congress -- well before the upcoming November elections -- is assured. Every move that signifies Iraq's increased willingness to cooperate, the U.S. denounces as a mere attempt to conceal Iraq's true motives. Bush will attack, because if he hesitates now, or does not win a war by 2004, he need not bother seeking re-election.

"In November 2001, when the U.S. declared the 'axis of evil' and accused all countries seeking weapons of mass destruction of harboring terrorists, there should have been vocal protests from Europe's leaders. Their failure to protest led Bush to assume his allies were with him all the way. In the spring of 2002 Bush advisors followed up with more wholesale threats, and still there was no response. There could be no better way to make the U.S. feel very comfortable about a joint strike against Iraq.

"It seems too late to counteract now. It would be helpful, however, if Europe took Washington's war cries more seriously and spoke out against them right from the start. It's no guarantee to prevent U.S. war plans, but certainly worth a try."
 

September 24: A 'liberated' Iraq could end up like Weimar Germany

Assume the US has won its war: that's when the nightmare begins

James Fallows

(Longer version of article in Atlantic Monthly)

Recently I interviewed several dozen authoritative people about what could be expected in Iraq after the US dislodged Saddam Hussein. The assumption behind the question was that sooner or later the US would go to war - and that even with limited allied support US forces would win. What then? The people I asked were spies, Arabists, oil company officials, soldiers and diplomats. Some supported a pre-emptive war against Iraq; more were opposed.


The clearest theme to emerge was that even if the war were quick, escape from the post-war obligations would be difficult and slow. Some members of the "war party" in the US now stress this as an advantage. In this view, a long-term American commitment to "remake" Iraq - as Japan and Germany were remade 50 years ago - is the first step to real democracy throughout the Arab world. The majority of soldiers, diplomats, and Arabists laugh aside that possibility and view long-term presence as an inevitability rather than an opportunity. So what are the biggest problems Iraq's opponents would face after victory?

(There's much more that's worth reading at the linked articles.)

 

September 24: THREATS AND RESPONSES: CONGRESS; 3 Retired Generals Warn Of Peril in Attacking Iraq Without Backing of U.N.

ABSTRACT - Three retired four-star American generals testify before Senate Armed Services Committee, warning that attacking Iraq without UN resolution could limit aid from allies, energize recruiting for Al Qaeda and undermine America's long-term diplomatic and economic interests; testimony by former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman John M Shalikashvili and Gens Wesley K Clark, Joseph P Hoar and Thomas G McInerney discussed; comes on day when proponents and opponents of military action raise voices in support of positions; Pres Bush prods UN at campaign stop in New Jersey to demonstrate its relevance by standing up to Saddam Hussein; British Prime Min Tony Blair joins Bush in demanding tough action; some House and Senate Democrats prepare alternate resolutions authorizing use of force against Iraq; others issue detailed report of how much war will cost; former Vice Pres Al Gore harshly criticizes administration's push for military action; says it has hurt US standing and could dangerously undermine rule of law around world.

September 24: Blair's dodgy dossier

By Brendan O'Neill

'I have been increasingly alarmed by the evidence from inside Iraq', says UK prime minister Tony Blair in the foreword to the British government's assessment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, published today.

According to Blair, 'The assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme' (1).

Blair has come a long way since 7 September 2002. Then, while at Camp David with US President George Bush, he said: 'We haven't the faintest idea what has been going on in the last four years…other than what we know is an attempt to carry on rebuilding weapons.' (2) From not having the faintest idea to 50-plus pages of 'irrefutable evidence' in just 17 days? That ain't half bad.

Of course there is nothing new or shocking in Blair's dossier against Saddam. An early BBC analysis says, 'He may be a barrister but it is doubtful Blair would want to go into a court of law with [this] dossier' (3). Others point out that the dossier 'consists of a reworking of information that was already public' (4). According to one sceptic, 'It has everything you would expect, but little that would convince you'.

The dossier doesn't have everything you would expect. There is no mention of the alleged link between Iraq and al-Qaeda - even though British intelligence officials claimed just over a week ago that this would be Blair's 'major contribution' to the Iraq debate.

On 15 September 2002, the Sunday Telegraph reported that the draft dossier's central allegation was that 'Abu Zubair, believed to be in custody in the USA, and Rafid Fatah, still at large, were trained in Iraq and sent to work with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan' (5). The paper cited an intelligence official's claims that the dossier identifies two leading al-Qaeda operatives as having 'direct links' to Saddam.

Yet the final version doesn't mention al-Qaeda at all, or any of Iraq's other alleged links to terrorists. One commentator asks if those allegations were ditched because, 'amid all the speculation, there was no room left for lies' (8).

September 25: Louder War Talk, and Muffled Dissent
Party Leaders Make Opposition Difficult, Wary Democrats Say

Dozens of congressional Democrats are frustrated with their leadership for rushing to embrace President Bush's Iraqi war resolution and fostering an impression the party overwhelmingly backs a unilateral strike against Saddam Hussein.

Some are now looking to former president Jimmy Carter and former vice president Al Gore to help generate significant public opposition to unilateral action in Iraq, which they concede is an uphill and likely unwinnable battle. They also are drafting alternative congressional resolutions that would require Bush to win United Nations approval before attempting to oust the Iraqi leader.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said her party leaders are making it "very hard" for rank-and-file Democrats to alert the public to widespread concerns about Bush's Iraq policy, most notably his demand for the power to strike Baghdad unilaterally.

"I think we as a nation are better served right now by some patience to see if the United Nations can in fact compel compliance," she said. "It's much better to root out chemical and biological weapons with inspectors than it is to drop bombs. One of the dismaying things is there is a prevailing view that the votes are there, so let's just do it."

September 25: No More Bratwurst!

ABSTRACT - Maureen Dowd Op-Ed column says Pres Bush, Defense Sec Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, are behaving like 'petulant middle-school alpha girls' in their effort to punish Chancellor Gerhard Schroder for opposing war against Iraq and making it winning issue in German elections

September 25: US 'evidence' of Iraq's link with al-Qaeda

Donald Rumsfeld (pictured), the US defence secretary, on Wednesday made an explicit link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, saying the evidence was contained in a new report by the Central Intelligence Agency.

"Yes, there is a linkage between al-Qaeda and Iraq," he said at the end of a three-day visit to Poland in which he spent most of the time telling Nato's defence ministers what threats Saddam Hussein's Iraq posed.

However, European defence ministers who were shown the evidence were divided over whether it proved a link.

Diplomats said the Bush administration has for months been trying to establish links between al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations to Iraq. The aim was to garner international support to justify "regime change" in Iraq through military action.

Mr Rumsfeld said dossiers presented to Nato ministers - one on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, drawn up by Britain's intelligence services, the other from the CIA on the alleged links between al-Qaeda and Iraq - showed the nature of the threats.

John McLaughlin, deputy head of the CIA, presented a 20-minute slideshow. For some ministers, it provided sufficient evidence of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. For others, there was little new in the slideshow, indicating the emerging splits in the 19-member strong military over how to respond to any US attack on Iraq.

September 26: Bush Asserts That Al Qaeda Has Links to Iraq's Hussein

President Bush asserted a link yesterday between Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda terrorist network, saying he fears they will join forces and are already virtually indistinguishable.

"The danger is, is that they work in concert," Bush said. "The danger is, is that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world."

The administration had begun deemphasizing claims of links between Hussein and global terrorism. Senior intelligence officials told The Washington Post this month that the CIA had not found convincing proof, despite efforts that included surveillance photos and communications intercepts.

U.S. officials have continued to hint at connections, however. Evidence linking Hussein to the Sept. 11 attacks could help erode reservations on Capitol Hill and among world powers about the justification for a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

A few hours before Bush's remarks, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was asked by reporters traveling with him in Warsaw if there are linkages between al Qaeda and Iraq. "I have no desire to go beyond saying the answer is yes," he replied. Rumsfeld had just appeared before NATO defense ministers with CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin to give an intelligence briefing on the Iraqi threat. Rumsfeld said McLaughlin told them about linkages between Hussein and al Qaeda.

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer tried to play down the specificity of Bush's charge, saying the president was talking about what he feared could occur. Fleischer repeated the administration position that it would be a mistake to wait for a smoking gun. "Clearly, al Qaeda is operating inside Iraq," he said. "In the shadowy world of terrorism, sometimes there is no precise way to have definitive information until it is too late."

Bush was in the Oval Office with President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia when he was asked whether Hussein was a bigger threat to the United States than al Qaeda. "That is an interesting question," Bush began. "I'm trying to think of something humorous to say."

"But I can't when I think about al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein," the president continued. "They're both risks. They're both dangerous. The difference, of course, is that al Qaeda likes to hijack governments. Saddam Hussein is a dictator of a government."

Bush then drew another distinction that differs from longtime reports from the country. "Al Qaeda hides, Saddam doesn't," Bush said. In fact, military planners fear finding Hussein could be a challenge if Bush decides to depose him, because the Iraqi leader often works and sleeps at different palaces and other sites.

"The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," he said. "They're both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive."

September 26: Kucinich and Tauscher: War Vote Should Happen After Election
Reps. Kucinich and Tauscher Send Letter to Colleagues To Have Vote on War After November Elections

Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) and Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), today, circulated a letter among their colleagues stating that a vote on Iraq should occur after the November Congressional elections.

The letter states:

"As the greatest power on earth and the only great power to have made support for democracy a central tenet of our foreign policy, it is incumbent upon us to address matters of national security and decisions through the reasoned and deliberate process afforded us by our Constitution. This becomes particularly important when these decisions could possibly mean putting our young service men and women in harm's way. This is not a process that can be rushed for the sake of political expediency.

"The upcoming election is changing the nature of the debate over Iraq. The war has become a political issue in House and Senate campaigns. Every recent statement made about the war by the Administration and Congressional leaders is now being analyzed in terms of the impact on the election.

"The American people are poised to elect a new Congress in 41 days. The Congress that will face the consequences of war in Iraq should be the one to make this decision and take this vote.

It is not in the best interests of our nation, nor is it in the best interests of either party, for us to challenge each other's patriotism or our devotion to duty. Such conflict creates an image of instability to our allies and encourages our adversaries. Despite our differing views regarding Iraq, we should attempt to preserve the spirit of unity which was exemplified by our coming together after September 11, 2001."

September 27: Neoconservatives Are Crazy

The neoconservatives around George Bush are crazy. They actually believe the United States can run about the world, overthrowing governments by force and establishing democracies in their place.

This group of maniacs not only wants war with Iraq, but after that, war with Syria, Iran and North Korea. Any government that doesn't meet their standards of a modern, Western-style democracy is a target for America's military might in their warped minds.

This is a prescription for the decline and fall of the American Empire. Overextension — urged on by a bunch of rabid intellectuals who wouldn't know one end of a gun from another — has doomed many an empire. Just let the United States try to occupy the Middle East, which will be the practical result of a war against Iraq, and Americans will be bled dry by the costs both in blood and treasure.

This crowd has the gall to sneer at people trying to keep the United States out of war as being "appeasers," if not traitors. They act as if it were brave for a fat, pale-skinned journalist or commentator to advocate war that will be fought by other people's sons and daughters. It is the worst kind of moral cowardice to be for war if you yourself are not going to participate in the fighting.

There is one, and only one, justification for war, and that is self-defense when the country is actually attacked. For some two-bit politician with a third-rate mind to tell the American people that a Third World country is an imminent threat to the survival of the United States is ludicrous. The only threat to the United States that I can see on the present horizon is the folly of the Bush administration.

I was really wrong about that guy. I thought he was smart. He's not. Look at how he latches onto the bromides provided by his speechwriters and then repeats them over and over. Look at how totally unaware he is of the reality of the rest of the world, including the United States.

It's hard to see how the "world's worst leaders" can actually blackmail the United States with the "world's worst weapons," since the United States itself has more of these world's worst weapons than any country on the face of the earth except Russia. As a matter of fact, we might even have one of the world's worst leaders, at least as measured by competence.

As president, Bush ought to be paying close attention to countries that have the capability of destroying the United States, and at the moment, China and Russia are those countries. A lot is going on in Russia that does not bode well for the democratic people in that country. And maybe in the long run it does not bode well for us. If Saddam Hussein could get an atomic bomb, it would be in a crate in a warehouse. Every month, the Russians roll off the production line more of their mobile ICBMs. Not only can these missiles strike the United States, we can't even target them because we don't know where they are. Mr. Bush is like a hunter looking at an ant and not seeing the lion.

Bush showed us what a naive, out-of-touch-with-reality guy he is when, after meeting the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, he pronounced him a trustworthy friend "because I have looked into his eyes and seen his soul." I think you could look at a career KGB officer's eyes for a long time and not see anything he didn't want you to see. Bush even proposed a nuclear disarmament treaty based on a handshake, with not a word in writing. Fortunately, better heads led him away from that foolish idea.

It's unfortunate that he has surrounded himself with neoconservatives full of hubris. At their urging, he's acting like a little boy who suddenly fancies himself a soldier and emperor of the world.

September 27: Unwanted Debate on Iraq-Al Qaeda Links Revived

In a series of statements over the past 48 hours, the Bush administration has reignited debate over an issue it laid aside weeks ago: whether there is evidence of substantive, ongoing ties between al Qaeda and the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said there is evidence of links between al Qaeda and Iraq, which he said had been discussed during a CIA briefing for NATO defense ministers meeting in Warsaw. On Wednesday, President Bush spoke of "the danger . . . that al Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam's madness," and noted that "you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."

Wednesday night, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said al Qaeda captives, "in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development. . . . And there are some al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad" after U.S. attacks against them began in Afghanistan last October.

While the comments appeared to announce new proof of such ties, administration officials offered no details to substantiate them, leaving what some officials acknowledged was a confusing picture of both the strength and the substance of the evidence

"We have solid evidence of the presence in Iraq of al Qaeda members, including some members who have been in Baghdad," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday. "We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between al Qaeda and Iraqi officials going back a decade, and, as Condi said, of chemical and biological agent training."

But Rumsfeld, back from Warsaw, took a somewhat different approach. He told reporters that rather than the "chemical and biological training" Rice and Fleischer said was provided by Iraq, there was "credible evidence that al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts in Iraq who could help them acquire weapons of mass destruction capabilities." That report, he said, had come from only one source.

Another senior administration official with access to current intelligence, who asked that his name not be used, said that the report, dating from "the 1990s," included "no indication that those contacts were ever made or that they ever got anything."

While there was evidence that "senior al Qaeda . . . have been in Baghdad in recent periods," Rumsfeld said he did not know if they were there now. The second official, again referring to intelligence information, said that "just how high those people were, or whether they were there with the knowledge and support of the Iraqis, is unknown."

"We had dots," another senior official explained. "Now we have more dots. The density of the dots is increasing. Can we connect them categorically? No. Al Qaeda people have sought refuge" in Iraq, the official said. "Can we say Saddam Hussein welcomed them? We can't say that. You look for some kind of consensus on [intelligence] analysis, but it's very subjective."

It was the murky nature of intelligence reporting that led Bush and his advisers to decide weeks ago to focus their appeals to Congress and the United Nations for tough new measures against Iraq on the most clear-cut case they could make. Hussein's continuing efforts to assemble an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and defiance of a decade of U.N. Security Council resolutions were considered beyond dispute.

Although Bush frequently cites the potential nexus between Iraqi weapons and anti-American terrorist groups such as al Qaeda as the greatest threat to this country, officials decided not to make it part of their public indictment against Hussein. While many are convinced the nexus exists, and cite new intelligence reports coming in daily, it was determined that raising the al Qaeda-Iraq connection risked division instead of the domestic and international unity Bush seeks.

But this week, the administration seemed to veer widely by jumping directly into the al Qaeda thicket. "There's a lot of head-scratching going on," said one dismayed official. "We were all on message, and to kind of throw this out there might be perceived as an act of desperation" at precisely the time they were starting to gain traction on Capitol Hill and U.N. headquarters in New York.

September 29: 'This war is wrong and we won't stand for it'
Eye witness: Up to 350,000 people marched in London yesterday against military action in Iraq. And they were not the 'usual suspects'

The voice of middle-class England was how Debbie Mainwaring described herself yesterday as she stood amid the clamour of one of the biggest anti-war demonstrations ever, and it was clear that she was not alone. The sheer numbers who turned out to express vociferous opposition to military action in Iraq – between 150,000 and 350,000 on the central London march – meant there was no way they could be dismissed as "the usual suspects" of the hard left.

 

September 30: Unasked Questions

Larry Williams, a retired Marine colonel now teaching at George Washington University, has a few questions he'd like to ask his commander in chief. They aren't smart-aleck questions -- this is a serious military man, whose service included stints in Vietnam and Lebanon.

And though his questions may seem obvious, I think you'll be struck by how few of them the president has answered -- perhaps, as Williams says, even for himself. Here they are, abridged from his recent open letter to President Bush and elaborated in an interview:

What is the actual threat to the United States -- the purpose of war?

Chemical and biological weapons, Williams argues, are not weapons of mass destruction. "They are very inefficient and unpredictable and hard to use effectively. Casualty-producing, yes, but not on a large scale."

Says Williams: "Even if the Iraqis make a nuclear device -- which also concerns me -- what would they do with it? The Mideast region is not alarmed. Why are we -- thousands of miles away -- alarmed to the degree of war?"

How many American lives will we expend to punish Saddam Hussein?

Baghdad has nearly 5 million residents. It is reasonable to expect that many would see America not as a liberator but as an invader -- and that many of these would see our military as at least as great a threat as Hussein. "If," says the professor, "one million of them resist an American invasion in street-to-street resistance -- under a local threat of chemical and/or biological weapons -- how many Americans will die?"

How long will public support last when hundreds, possibly thousands, of body bags start arriving home?

"Desert Storm and Afghanistan make war look so easy, with so few casualties. When support at home wanes, how will you turn back the clock?"

How, militarily, do you plan to fight this war?

The Army is too "heavy" to get there short of a Desert Storm-style buildup. Air power and advanced technology get you little in the fight to conquer cities.

How many Iraqi citizens do you plan to kill in order to bestow democracy?

"You can't level cities by bombing, as in World War II. When newspapers and TV broadcasts around the world start to show pictures of Iraqi mothers carrying babies dead from U.S. bombs -- pictures real or staged, it doesn't matter -- the world will be inflamed in anti-American sentiment, and U.S. public support will dissolve."

How will you govern a defeated Iraq?

"Of course, a military victory is as assured as it was at the outset of Desert Storm. But then, how will you govern a country probably still resisting through guerrilla activity and in which we do not speak the language? Will your military forces be confined to cantonments at night because they do not control the streets of Baghdad?"

How does the war against Iraq contribute to winning the war against terrorism?

"The origin of the attacks of 9/11 and the preceding chain of attacks against the embassy in Beirut and the Marine barracks in 1983 and other embassies thereafter were in the Arab/Muslim world. Victory in the war against terrorism must necessarily be found in that worldwide presence. How does alienating every facet of that world contribute to victory in the current war on terrorism?"

Williams, a career Marine who insists that his thoughts are his and not to be linked to George Washington University, says he learned in Beirut and South Vietnam that his government didn't always have better information than he had -- not because officials lied but because critical details were filtered out as communiques made their way up the chain of command. "That experience," he said, "convinced me that the most senior leadership does not always have the best counsel."

He then offers Bush his own bit of counsel: "As president and commander in chief, you clearly have it in your power to move a reluctant nation toward war. But if war is too important to be left to generals, it is also too fraught with unforeseeable catastrophe to be left to the personal whim of one man. Please, sir, ask yourself my questions -- and make certain you have the answers right."