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Weapons Inspection: another pretext for regime change?

by Rational Newview Thursday, Nov. 07, 2002 at 7:22 PM

(this article about the previous round of inspections show that the US manipulated inspections to suite its own ends and however much Hussein cooperated, they kept moving the goal posts making the whole process futile. With Hans Blix, the current chief inspector, supporting the US resolution, I wouldn't discount a replay of this travesty. It's clear, contrary to what many liberals are arguing, that inspections can just as easily be used as a pretext for war rather than as an alternative to it.) Is there a way to ensure that they are not used that way?

-------------------------------------

Iraq And Arms Inspectors: The big Lie

Part one

ZNet

Introduction

To read the 34 short pages (pp.20-54) at the heart of former chief UN

arms inspector Scott Ritter's book, War On Iraq (Ritter and William

Rivers Pitt, Profile Books, 2002), is to understand the utter

fraudulence and staggering immorality of the proposed war on Iraq. In

these pages, Ritter describes exactly how and why Iraq has been

"fundamentally disarmed", with 90-95% of its weapons of mass

destruction eliminated. Of nuclear weapons capability, for example,

Ritter says:

"When I left Iraq in 1998... the infrastructure and facilities had

been 100% eliminated. There's no doubt about that. All of their

instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design

facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted

down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor - both from

vehicles and from the air - the gamma rays that accompany attempts to

enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything." (p.26)

Ritter explains how UN arms inspectors (Unscom) roamed the country

monitoring Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear facilities,

installing sensitive sniffers and cameras and performing no-notice

inspections:

"We blanketed Iraq - every research and development facility, every

university, every school, every hospital, every beer factory..."

(p.38)

Are we seriously to believe that a country that permitted such

thorough, intrusive and effective inspections leading to 90-95%

disarmament just four years ago, is suddenly hell-bent on secretly

developing weapons of mass destruction now? How could this be when,

as Ritter says, such efforts would be easily detectable by modern

technology? Thus on the reconstruction of Iraq's chemical weapons

capability, Ritter says:

"If no one were watching, Iraq could do this. But just as with the

nuclear weapons programme, they'd have to start from scratch, having

been deprived of all equipment, facilities and research. They'd have

to procure the complicated tools and technology required through

front companies. This would be detected. The manufacture of chemical

weapons emits vented gases that would have been detected by now if

they existed. We've been watching, via satellite and other means, and

have seen none of this. If Iraq was producing weapons today, we'd

have definitive proof, plain and simple." (p.32-3)

Relying on public ignorance of the true extent of Iraqi cooperation

with arms inspectors, and the true extent to which inspectors were

successful in disarming Iraq, warmongers argue that Iraq must have

something to hide because it "kicked out" the inspectors in 1998 and

has since refused to permit their return. This is a crucial lie,

which, as we will see in the two-part Media Alert that follows, the

media has played a central role in protecting.

Unscom arms inspectors were withdrawn in December 1998 at a sensitive

time in US politics, as Bill Clinton faced impeachment over the

Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton launched a 4-day series of strikes,

Operation Desert Fox, the day before his impeachment referendum was

scheduled, and called them off two hours after the vote. Ritter notes

that just prior to the strikes, "Inspectors were sent in to carry out

sensitive inspections that had nothing to do with disarmament but had

everything to do with provoking the Iraqis." (p.52)

In a report published on the second day of bombing, Ritter was quoted

as saying:

"What [head of Unscom] Richard Butler did last week with the

inspections was a set-up. This was designed to generate a conflict

that would justify a bombing." Ritter said US government sources had

told him three weeks earlier that "the two considerations on the

horizon were Ramadan and impeachment". Ritter continued:

"If you dig around, you'll find out why Richard Butler yesterday ran

to the phone four times. He was talking to his [US] National Security

adviser. They were telling him to sharpen the language in his report

to justify the bombing." (Quoted, New York Post, 17 December, 1998)

Arguing that Butler deliberately wrote a justification for war, a UN

diplomat, described as "generally sympathetic to Washington", said:

"Based on the same facts he [Butler] could have said, There were

something like 300 inspections [in recent weeks] and we encountered

difficulties in five.'" (Washington Post, 17 December 1998)

Around this time it emerged that CIA spies operating with arms

inspectors had used information gathered to target Iraq during Desert

Fox. The role of the CIA in corrupting the arms inspection regime was

one of the main reasons for Ritter's resignation in 1998.

The basic conclusions are clear: Iraq cooperated in the "fundamental

disarmament" of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction. The United

States nevertheless manufactured a conflict for cynical reasons in

December 1998. Inspectors were then not kicked out, as claimed, but

were withdrawn by Butler to protect them from bombing. The Iraqis

subsequently refused to allow arms inspectors - accurately described

by them as "spies" who had participated in the bombing of their

country - to return.

Readers might like to compare the above account with the versions

presented by the US/UK governments. George W. Bush said of Iraq in

his State of the Union Address:

"This is a regime that agreed to international inspections - then

kicked out the inspectors." (George W. Bush, State of the Union

Address, January 29, 2002)

Tony Blair, naturally, has followed the Bush line:

"Before he [Saddam Hussein] kicked out the UN weapons inspectors

three years ago, they had discovered and destroyed thousands of

chemical and biological weapons.... As they got closer, they were

told to get out of Iraq." (Blair, leader, 'The West's Tough Strategy

On Iraq Is In Everyone's Interests,' The Express, March 6, 2002)

Note the deceptiveness of the phrase, "As they got closer". In fact

inspectors were not getting uncomfortably close to hidden horrors, as

Blair implies; they were 5% short of 100% disarmament. We spend our

time well when we recall Ritter's version, and then reflect on the

brazen mendacity of our 'elected' leaders.

The Media and The Strange Case of the Vanishing Spooks

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) recently produced a

remarkable piece titled: 'What a difference 4 years makes: News

coverage of why the inspectors left Iraq'. (www.fair.org) The piece

consists of ten paired examples of mainstream media quotes from 1998

and 2002, covering the withdrawal of weapons inspectors from Iraq.

Without fail, the quotes from 1998 report that inspectors were

withdrawn, while the quotes from 2002 assert that they were "thrown

out", or otherwise forcibly expelled. This pair of quotes was taken

from the Washington Post:

"Butler ordered his inspectors to evacuate Baghdad, in anticipation

of a military attack, on Tuesday night - at a time when most members

of the Security Council had yet to receive his report." (Washington

Post, 12/18/98)

"Since 1998, when U.N. inspectors were expelled, Iraq has almost

certainly been working to build more chemical and biological

weapons." (Washington Post editorial, 8/4/02)

We thought it would be interesting to conduct a similar investigation

of the UK press. Consider the following quotes from The Guardian, all

from last month:

"The inspectors left Baghdad in December 1998, amid Iraqi allegations

that some inspectors were spying for the United States and

countercharges that Iraq was not cooperating with the teams." (Mark

Oliver, 'UN split over Iraqi arms offer', September 17, 2002)

And:

"Unlike previous inspectors, who were seconded to the UN by

governments, the Unmovic staff are employed directly by the UN - a

move intended to address Iraqi complaints that the earlier

inspections were used as a cover for spying." (Brian Whitaker and

David Teather, 'Weapons checks face tough hurdles', The Guardian,

September 18, 2002)

And again:

"For its part Iraq claimed Unscom was full of spies." (Simon Jeffery,

'What are weapons inspection teams?', The Guardian, September 18,

2002)

What is so remarkable about these references to "Iraqi allegations",

"complaints" and "claims", is that they directly contradict The

Guardian's own reporting of events just three years earlier. Consider

this March 1999 report by Julian Borger:

"American espionage in Iraq, under cover of United Nations weapons

inspections, went far beyond the search for banned arms and was

carried out without the knowledge of the UN leadership, it was

reported yesterday. An investigation by the Washington Post found

that CIA engineers working as UN technicians installed antennae in

equipment belonging to the UN Special Commission (Unscom) to

eavesdrop on the Iraqi military." (Julian Borger, 'UN "kept in dark"

about US spying in Iraq', The Guardian, March 3, 1999)

Note that this was not an "Iraqi allegation", it was an allegation

made by a leading national US newspaper, the Washington Post. Earlier

that year, The Guardian had reported another non-Iraqi source:

"United Nations arms inspectors in Iraq had secret

intelligence-sharing deals not only with the United States but with

four other countries, a former inspector said yesterday. Britain is

likely to have been one of the four.

"Scott Ritter, a former American member of the Unscom weapons

inspection team, said the UN body agreed to provide the five

countries with information it collected in return for intelligence

from their sources. His claims will fuel the controversy surrounding

Unscom's activities, with US officials admitting it was infiltrated

by American spies." (Richard Norton-Taylor, 'Arms inspectors "shared

Iraq data with five states"', The Guardian, January 8, 1999)

Again, this was a US and UN claim backed up by US officials

"admitting it [Unscom] was infiltrated by American spies."

Even more disturbing is the performance of individual reporters. In

January 1999, The Guardian's Ian Black co-authored a piece, stating:

"International disarray over Iraq deepened last night after United

States officials acknowledged that American spies participated in the

work of United Nations weapons inspectors tracking down Baghdad's

weapons of mass destruction... [T]he admission that US intelligence

agencies provided information and technology to the UN Special

Commission, Unscom, confirmed long-standing suspicions in Baghdad and

appeared to knock another nail into Unscom's coffin." (Mark Tran and

Ian Black, 'UN spies scandal grows, American officials admit Iraqi

data aided air strikes', The Guardian, January 8, 1999)

Five months later, Black reported merely that Unscom had been

"discredited by allegations of US spying." (Black, The Guardian, June

17, 1999) In fact, of course, Unscom had been discredited by

admissions of US spying. Acknowledgement and admission had already

become allegation. Three years later they have become "Iraqi

allegations".

Three years after their January 1999 piece, Black's co-author, Mark

Tran, also made reference to the spying issue:

"Iraq itself has stoked war fever. By rejecting a return of UN

weapons inspectors to Iraq and calling them "western spies" for extra

measure, Baghdad seems to be almost daring Mr Bush to attack." (Tran,

'Greasing the wheels of warfare', The Guardian, March 12, 2002)

Tran appears to suggest that there was something provocative about

Iraq describing UN weapons inspectors as "spies", despite having

himself described them as "spies" in 1999. Again there is no

acknowledgment of UN/US admissions of spying.

Julian Borger was lead author of an article in March 2002 that

reported Iraqi claims of spying:

"Iraq's vice-president, Taha Yassin Ramadan, last night said his

country would not allow UN weapons inspectors to return.

"'Iraq's rejection of the teams of spies to return back to Iraq is

firm and won't change,' Mr Ramadan was quoted as saying by the

official Iraqi News Agency INA. 'Iraq is fully convinced that there

is no need for them to return. They had carried out vicious spying

activities in Iraq for more than eight years.'" (Julian Borger and

Richard Norton-Taylor, 'Bush in new warning to Iraq,' The Guardian,

March 11, 2002)

Given Borger's own report on the Washington Post's revelations three

years earlier, his and Norton-Taylor's response to these allegations

is truly remarkable:

"UN weapons inspectors withdrew at the end of 1998 after

confrontations with the Iraqi regime over access to Saddam Hussein's

palaces and other restricted sites." (Ibid)

Not a word about the fact that "American espionage in Iraq, under

cover of United Nations weapons inspections, went far beyond the

search for banned arms", as Borger had himself reported in 1999. The

silence in response to the Iraqi vice-president's fierce and repeated

allegations reads as a contemptuous dismissal of claims deemed

unworthy of comment.

In similar vein, an Observer overview of Western relations with Iraq

since 1920, submits this entry for 1998:

"Iraq ends all co-operation with the UN Special Commission to Oversee

the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom). US

and Britain launch Desert Fox, a bombing campaign designed to destroy

Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes." ('From

friend to foe', The Observer, March 17, 2002)

There is no mention of claims of deliberate US provocation, of a

conflict manufactured for domestic political reasons. Again, the

infiltration of inspectors by CIA spies has been airbrushed from

history. There is no mention of the fact that the information gained

by the spies was then used to blitz Iraq. US military analyst William

Arkin suggests that the primary goal of Operation Desert Fox was to

target Saddam Hussein's internal security apparatus using information

gathered specifically through Unscom.. (see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq,

Verso, 2002) One might think that this would be significant in an

honest appraisal of why Iraq is reluctant to readmit inspectors on

the basis of "unfettered access - any time, any place, anywhere", as

the US/UK have been demanding. But for our utterly compromised 'free

press', truth of this kind is deemed mere pro-Iraqi propaganda, best

quietly omitted.

This year (as of October 24) the words 'Iraq and inspectors' have

been mentioned in 497 Guardian/Observer articles. We managed to find

some half a dozen articles confirming that arms inspectors had been

infiltrated by CIA spies in 1998. These generally make brief mention

of the presence of spies, or report that spies merely "passed on

secrets" to the US and Israel, omitting to mention that the

information was used to launch a major military strike against Iraq.

This, to be sure, is only one example of how the US/UK media act as a

filtering system for power, ensuring that the public is presented

with the right facts and the right ideas at the right time.

In Part Two, 'What a Difference 3 Years Makes: UK News Coverage of

Why the Inspectors Left Iraq', we will show how reporting throughout

the UK media has closely mirrored the deceptive performance of the US

media, as reported by FAIR.

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