- js reader version
- view hidden posts
- tags and related articles
by Cynthia Cotts
Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 2:58 PM
Extra, extra: Evidence is emerging that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq may never provide a compelling justification for the war.
by Cynthia Cotts
What, No Smoking Gun?
The Media and the Specter of WMD
April 23 - 29, 2003
Extra, extra: Evidence is emerging that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq may never provide a compelling justification for the war. You remember: Saddam Hussein was supposed to have a huge cache of chemical and biological weapons which he was hiding from UN inspectors and would happily share with terrorists so they could attack the U.S. The threat was so dire it called for a preemptive strike, and as for evidence—well, U.S. troops would team up with hand-picked media to find and publicize stockpiles of WMD. That way, the war would be justified . . . retroactively.
But since the war began, the military and its media have trumpeted one WMD discovery after another that turned out to be a dud. Searches of "sensitive sites" have turned up gas masks, protective suits, antidotes, manuals, white powder, barrels of chemicals, and a cache of mystery shells—but no smoking gun. The military types who could not wait another week for UN inspectors to do their job are now saying their own WMD search will take weeks, maybe months.
This is all so peculiar it calls for a heightened level of skepticism. But after weeks of false alarms, some major media outlets have fallen into the habit of unironically reporting the absence of news. Last week, CNN began a WMD report with the words "No smoking gun yet," and the headline on a recent New York Times story read, "U.S. Inspectors Find No Forbidden Weapons at Iraqi Arms Plant." On Monday, the Times reported that an unnamed scientist who claims to have worked for Iraq now says WMD evidence was destroyed just days before the war began.
Sure, unambiguous proof of the hidden stockpiles may turn up any day now. But the threat of Iraq's WMD may also turn out to be the biggest media hoax since Y2K.
Remember Y2K? The phrase alarmed business people everywhere. Playing on apocalyptic fears, its theory was that computers not programmed to recognize the date 2000 would shut down, causing systematic chaos. Along with media scare stories came the companies that fed on Y2K, remora-like, selling consulting services at a premium. In the end, Americans paid big time for protection from a threat that never panned out.
If no significant WMD turn up, U.S. taxpayers footing the bill for rebuilding Iraq might begin to suspect Bush's motives. But the real victims of WMD may turn out to be the journalists who were issued gas masks and fed a constant diet of hype. By reporting over and over on a hunch that did not come to pass, they risk the fate of the boy who cried wolf—when they discover an authentic threat in the future, no one will believe them.
There's no hard proof that the Bush administration overhyped Iraq's hidden WMD as an excuse to introduce its own inspection teams. But the evidence is suspicious, indeed. The lead WMD team in Iraq is the Chemical Biological Intelligence Support Team, a/k/a/ the 75th Exploitation Task Force, or 75th XTF. The head of the task force, army colonel Richard McPhee, was identified last month by The New York Times and The Washington Post, but McPhee would not give details on the XTF's members, numbers, or operations to the Post, and asked a reporter not to reveal his home base.
The XTF tests WMD "samples" first in the field, then in its mobile labs. After that, according to an article in the April 17 Baltimore Sun, the samples are flown to a top-secret lab in Maryland, which is surrounded by concertina wire and M16-toting soldiers. The lab at the Aberdeen Proving Ground usually produces tests within 72 hours—but officials say these are not "usual" times. No results have been announced.
WMD hype surged on April 7 and 8, when the media reported the discoveries of suspicious-looking warheads and barrels. Introducing a barrel story on April 7, Wolf Blitzer announced, "We begin with what may turn out to be the smoking gun" in the hunt for WMD. After telling viewers that preliminary tests on the barrels indicated nerve or blister agents, Blitzer added, "Officials caution they also simply could be pesticides." As CNN's Ryan Chilcote concluded, the evidence was inconclusive.
On April 8, the Times ran a photo on B1 in which the suspicious barrels appeared under a yellow sign that said, "Gas." The Times' Bernard Weinraub wrote that "according to preliminary tests, [the drums] may contain deadly nerve agents and mustard gas," but could also be "false alarms." Also on April 8, the New York Post hyped the barrels in a story headlined "Seized Chem Stashes May Be Smoking Gun," along with a sidebar offering facts about sarin, tabun, lewisite, and mustard gas. The next day, the Post noted that "more testing is needed."
Then there was the discovery of "chemical warheads," which were believed to contain nerve and mustard gas. On April 7, NPR's John Burnett reported that a U.S. officer called the warheads a "potential smoking gun," and the story was heard around the world. A few days later, the story died.
In early April, even as U.S. officials insisted they would find WMD, skeptics began saying the U.S. inspection teams had lost credibility and insisting that any WMD in Iraq must be verified by independent weapons inspectors—or risk being dismissed as manufactured evidence. Also this month, the Times began supplementing its rah-rah XTF stories with news analyses by William J. Broad. (Broad is the science writer who helped the Times gently correct its Wen Ho Lee coverage.) An April 18 Times editorial quietly posited that U.S. teams in Iraq "are not truly expert in finding hidden weapons."
Then Bush began threatening to invade Syria in search of the missing WMD. But how will that play in the Mideast? On April 17, The Washington Post reported that "almost every country in the region has pursued [WMD] . . . primarily because of the arsenal Israel has built up." One expert told the Post, "You can't get rid of [WMD] in Arab countries unless you also address the elimination of Israel's nuclear and chemical programs."
As long as the Pentagon can find a home for WMD stories based on anonymous sources and unverified claims, why ruin a good story with the truth?
Report this post as:
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 10 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
|But we know...
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 3:00 PM
|Where are they?
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 5:58 PM
|Them WMD's is in Iraq
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 6:55 PM
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 8:47 PM
|The sky is falling!
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 8:49 PM
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 9:03 PM
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 9:05 PM
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 9:06 PM
|The sky is falling!
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 9:17 PM
|and so what?
||Friday, Apr. 25, 2003 at 9:29 PM
Change Links September 2018 posted
More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre
Site Outage Friday
Change Links August 2018
Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land
More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke
Change Links 2018 July posted
More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena
"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena
Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles
Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert!
Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California
Change Links June 2018 posted
The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years
Unity Archive Project
Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi
CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police
Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies
California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings)
Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico
Change Links May 2018
Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed
GUIDE TO REBEL CITY LOS ANGELES AVAILABLE
lausd whistle blower
Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images
UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light
Change Links April 2018
More Local News...
Creative Destruction Hack Diamonds Windows/iOS/Android - Creative Destruction Generator
The Dictatorship of Corporations
18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting
Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue
Creative Destruction Hack Mod Generator
Shopping du bashing
After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again
“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen
Probabilités de fin d'humanité
Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW
Propagande de virus, virus de propagande
Steer clear of work morality!
Sweatshop Lodge Ceremony Continues in US Fed Prisons Led by Inmates
Paraphysique de l'origami
The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally!
August 2018 Honduras Coup update
Du réussissement putréfié
Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges
Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts
Paraphysique de contextualité
Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism
Ex-voto de réification
Please Oppose Warmonger, Execution and Torture Supporting Bush Operative Brett Kavanaugh
Paraphysique d'exploitation occultation
Ryan Zinke Is Charging Taxpayers For A Trophy Hunters' Council
Is the Financial Crash 2.0 Coming?
More Breaking News...