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Final drumbeat begins for war on Iraq

by z Thursday, Dec. 19, 2002 at 10:44 PM

Never in my lifetime - not even through Vietnam and Watergate - have I witnessed such blatently transparent propaganda tactics as those used to promote the war on Iraq.

The Bush White House today renewed its propaganda campaign to soften up public opinion in advance of an invasion of Iraq that many have predicted will begin around mid-January, 2003. Officials in the Bush administration have declared Saddam Hussein is in breach of the UN resolution for failing to declare all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (news reports). The announcement comes just one day before chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is scheduled to submit his initial report on Iraq's compliance to date, and seems a clear attempt by the US to undercut what is expected to be a generally favorable finding by the inspection team.

News reports earlier today identified the weapons "missing" from Iraq's declaration as limited stocks of mustard- and VX-filled artillery shells that UNSCOM inspectors inventoried and sealed (but did not destroy) before leaving Iraq in 1998. The reports make clear that the weapons in question were already known to UNSCOM, so it's difficult to understand the US position that Iraq is being evasive - at least with respect to the particular weapons cited. Whether or not Iraq failed to list these munitions, there is no indication that they are not still exactly where the UNSCOM inspectors left them in 1998. More importantly, it is highly probable that these munitions are no longer viable for use as weapons, given that even the most purified forms of VX have a storage life of only about four years. However, mainstream media have thus far not questioned the official statements.

Meanwhile, unnamed officials announced that in the event of a US attack, Saddam is preparing to destroy his own water and food supplies, electric plants, and other civilian infrastructure, and blame it on the US (story below). The anonymous officials declined to identify the source of this information, which has nonetheless triggered a flurry of largely concurring opinion from right-wing think tanks and the amen-chorus of talking heads. Sounds more to me like the administration trying in advance to cover themselves for the devastation they know an all out invasion will inflict.

I can't help but observe that never in my lifetime - not even through Vietnam and Watergate - have I witnessed such blatently transparent propaganda tactics as those used to promote the war on Iraq. Is the American population THIS gullible, and so disengaged as to allow without protest the human catastrophe of a completely unnecessary imperial war? My mind is drawn back to the Kitty Genovese murder, an incident that shamed human conscience after dozens of neighbors and passersby did nothing to intervene in the brutal stabbing murder of that poor woman on a New York sidewalk - a murder that was carried out in three separate attacks over a period of 35 minutes. Will Iraq merely be another Kitty Genovese to a nation of disinterested or uncaring people?


U.S. officials: Saddam ready to target his own country, blame U.S.


Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Iraq is preparing to destroy its own oil fields, food supplies and power plants and blame the destruction on U.S. bombs during a war, U.S. intelligence officials said Wednesday.

The officials, briefing reporters at the Pentagon, said they have evidence Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has plans to wreck his own infrastructure to foster a humanitarian crisis and turn international opinion against any U.S. and British advance into his territory.

Citing the need to protect intelligence sources, the officials declined to describe that evidence. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Several military experts in Washington said this was a plausible scenario, given Saddam's destruction of Kuwaiti oil fields as he abandoned that country in 1991. U.S. defense officials have also said Saddam forces once chopped off the top of a mosque to make it appear it was hit during a U.S. airstrike.

``It's very likely Saddam will use scorched-earth tactics,'' said Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute. ``Any amount of destruction to protect his rule is justified.''

Others said the course of the war will determine whether Saddam acts in this manner.

``A number of countries have prepared for operations like this in the past, but not executed them,'' said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ``Virtually everybody who has watched Iraq in action and is familiar with their military tactics probably thinks that Saddam will not go gently into that good night.''

The U.S. intelligence officials also predicted Saddam will use his biological and chemical weapons if he believes he is about to fall. They predicted he would attack U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. allies Israel and Kuwait, and any native Shiite Muslims and Kurds who rise up to oppose him.

Iraq can deliver these weapons with missiles, aircraft-mounted sprayers and artillery shells, the officials said. They expect Iraq to use disease weapons like anthrax, poisons like botulinum and ricin, and mustard gas. Saddam is not believed to have any nuclear weapons.

Iraq maintains it destroyed all of its chemical and biological weapons, and the intelligence officials acknowledged a lack of specific information about Saddam's weapons stockpiles.

Ivo Daalder, a Clinton administration National Security Council staffer, said the intelligence suggests a U.S. war on Iraq could lead to the very situation President Bush wants to prevent: Saddam attacking with weapons of mass destruction and wreaking havoc on his own people.

``I think Saddam has every incentive to make a war as horrible for anybody he can,'' he said. ``The easiest target is not the American people, or the Israelis, the Saudis, or even our troops. It's his own people.''

Saddam has been preparing for a war with the United States and its British allies almost since the Sept. 11 attacks, the intelligence officials said. But his military remains in worse shape than it was during the 1991 Gulf War, when U.S.-led forces crushed the vaunted Iraqi army.

Unlike the Gulf War, when Saddam engaged U.S. forces in the open desert along Iraq's borders, this time his military has prepared a multilayered defense, with Baghdad at the center. Saddam isn't expected to put up much of a fight for large southern cities like Basra, instead preparing for urban fighting in his capital.

On the outermost ring is Saddam's war-weary regular army, with perhaps 275,000 troops. They are conscripts, short on training, spare parts and a will to fight, the officials said.

His air force, mostly old jet fighters, is regarded as a limited threat. But his air defenses, while old, remain capable of downing low-flying American warplanes.

Some 80,000 to 90,000 troops in the Iraqi Republican Guard form the next layer of defense. They are better-equipped and trained, largely thanks to spare parts smuggled through Syria, the officials said.

Inside Baghdad are internal security forces, like the 10,000-strong Special Republican Guard, that are loyal to Saddam. They are lightly armed but present a threat as urban fighters who are less likely to flee or surrender, the officials said.

A rapid takedown of Saddam's regime may focus on military and popular uprisings against him and those security forces, officials said.

Combat in Baghdad could further Saddam's ends of creating a humanitarian crisis, as the civilian population is sure to suffer either from errant U.S. bombs or Saddam's reprisals against his own people. U.S. military planners fear the close quarters of urban fighting will lead to high American casualties.

One improvement in Saddam's military in recent years has been in communications, officials said. Chinese and Turkish companies have helped Iraq lay a nationwide fiber-optic network that is difficult for U.S. forces to cut off and monitor.

This allows surface-to-air missile sites, for example, to relay sightings of U.S. aircraft to each other, the officials said.


On the Net:

State Department's Iraq page: http://www.state.gov/p/nea/ci/c3212.htm

CIA report on Iraq's weapons programs: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/iraq_wmd/Iraq_Oct_2002.htm

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