Lying in the Rose Garden
By Rod Holt
In the last weeks of September and the first weeks in October, the American ruling class fully engaged the machinery of the executive branch of government to get Congress to pass a resolution granting the president the power to start a war with Iraq at the time and place of his choosing, to use Mr. Bushs famous line.
On the first anniversary of 9-11, the president spoke on national TV in the most solemn fashion with the Statue of Liberty in the background. Thereafter, the administration shifted the propaganda machine into high gear with all of the new members of the Bush anti-terror police squad making speeches and holding news conferences daily. Meanwhile, various senior Republicans and Democrats in Congress made all the proper noises both pro and con.
Those in Congress who demur are expecting to bargain with the administration for the maximum gain for themselves. The administration plays this game too, with Bush featured at megabuck fundraisers in exchange for the beneficiary enthusiastically beating the war drums.
A typical bargain hunter is Richard Gephardt, a Democrat and House minority leader. In the New York Times of September 27, he complains about the administrations tactics of using the whipped up patriotic fervor for partisan politics, saying, On Monday, he [Bush] went so far as to say that the Democrat-led Senate is not interested in the security of the American people. But Gephardt is not going to let Bush get very far ahead of him: Like many Democrats, I share the administrations goals in dealing with Iraq. Gephardt and the rest are not going to oppose a war, they are simply engaged in a swap meet with the administration.
The president and the UN
On September 26, President Bush met with the congressional leaders of both parties and then held a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden. He read a short, carefully prepared report and he succinctly repeated every lie necessary for the next war of U.S. imperialism. Here we quote most of what Mr. Bush had to sayalong with some facts in the interests of accuracy.
We just concluded a really good meeting with both Democrats and Republicans, members of the United States Congress, to discuss our national security and discuss how best to keep the peace. The security of our country is the commitment of both political parties and the responsibility of both elected branches of government.
We are engaged in a deliberate and civil and thorough discussion. We are moving toward a strong resolution. And all of us, and many others in Congress, are united in our determination to confront an urgent threat to America. And by passing this resolution, well send a clear message to the world and to the Iraqi regime: The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. The Iraqi dictator must be disarmed. These requirements will be met, or they will be enforced.
Did you notice that? The demands of the U.N. Security Council must be followed. Of course the Security Council has not demanded that Saddam Hussein disarm; only that he allow UN inspectors into Iraq and go to work without putting restraints on them.
Ten days before Mr. Bushs confab with the Democrats and Republicans, Iraq announced that it would comply with the Security Councils request. Ten days before Mr. Bush spoke in the Rose Garden, CNN reported:
Russia and Chinatwo of the five U.N. Security Council members with veto powerwelcomed Iraqs offer.
Now our main task is to ensure that the inspectors can get to Iraq as soon as possible and start their work, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said, adding that the inspectors would face very difficult, great and laborious work.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said: We hope that Iraq will comprehensively implement the U.N. resolutions to create the necessary conditions for the orderly and peaceful resolution of the Iraq issue.
But you would never know this if you only heard what the Bush administration was passing out.
The U.S. in grave peril?
Then Mr. Bush goes on to his next big lie.
The danger to our country is grave. The danger to our country is growing. The Iraqi regime possesses biological and chemical weapons. The Iraqi regime is building the facilities necessary to make more biological and chemical weapons. And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as 45 minutes after the order were given.
Today we can say with confidence that no one who has access to the same secret information possessed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has reached that conclusion. Rumsfeld, supported by a high level military and intelligence delegation, went to the recent NATO meeting in Europe where all important defense ministers and NATO generals were present. The New York Times reported (September 27, 2002), The Americans, including the deputy director of central intelligence, John McLaughlin, presented a 40-minute classified briefing on Iraqs chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, including its effort to build new missiles. After that, Rumsfeld, speaking of Iraq, told reporters, But you can be certain that if and when the president decides to do something, that therell be other nations assisting, he added, saying some European colleagues, whom he refused to name, had expressed support.
However, The German defense minister, Peter Struck, made it clear that Germany was not among them, and would not take part in any war in Iraq. In Moscow the Russian foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, denounced the propaganda furor over Iraq. A sane observer would, at this point, conclude that Mr. Rumsfeld and associates were not very persuasive.
Does the United Nations believe Mr. Bush? No reason for reaching Bushs conclusion has appeared yet. An Associated Press story filed September 9, 2002, said, The U.N. chief weapons inspector said Tuesday there is no evidence from aerial photos or other sources that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or is trying to build them. The report quotes Hans Blix: If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or was constructing such weapons I would take it to the Security Councilreport to them.
There are many other knowledgeable skeptics. We will consider two; Scott Ritter, until 1998 a high-ranking U.S. Marine officer assigned to the United Nations inspection team in Iraq, and Reserve Major-general Avihu Bin-Nun, commander of the Israeli air force in the 1991 war period.
Testifying before Congress in May, 2000, Scott Ritter outlined the capacity of Iraq to produce weapons of mass destruction. He described the situation:
Lets talk about weapons production. The point is today there are no weapons of mass destruction of any meaningful scale in Iraq and should United Nations weapons inspectors be brought back into Iraq and an effective program of monitoring put in place, monitoring which includes export-import control regimes as envisioned by the Security Council in Resolution 1051, Iraq will not be able to reconstitute these weapons. This is the reality.
Since that time, almost every effort Saddam has made to build a structure more mysterious than a roadway bridge has been frustrated by constant attacks by British and U.S. warplanes.
David Wallis interviewed Ritter in early September, 2002, (San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/02) and asked:
Q: What is the case against the Bush administrations Iraq policy?
A: There is no case that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The weapons inspectors eliminated 90-95 percent of Iraqs weapons of mass destruction capability. The indicators of Iraqs efforts to reconstitute are readily detectable, not only by U.S. intelligence but by Israel, France, Germany and Great Britain. No nation has brought any credible evidence to substantiate allegations that Iraq has reconstituted its weapons.
That is a straight question and a straight answer.
The Israeli view
Maj. Gen. Bin-Nun is another story. He has access to the most extensive intelligence organization in the Middle East, that of Israel. He was interviewed by Leslie Susser for the Jerusalem Report, a moderate Zionist bi-weekly published in Jerusalem. The purpose of the interview was to give the reader an assessment of some of the risks of the oncoming U.S. war against Iraq. We print a substantial portion of the interview.
Iraq today is not the power that it once was, despite its attempts to produce or obtain weapons of mass destruction. Despite the departure of the UN weapons inspectors in 1998, its much harder for the Iraqis today to develop the offensive capacities they had then . If and when the Americans attack, the probability that they will use non-conventional weapons is even more remote than in 1991. They know very well how the world would respond. Moreover, they have been claiming for 10 years that they dont have anything, and if they were to launch a non-conventional strike, they would be inviting sanctions for the next 50 years.
So far Saddam has been extremely adept at psychological warfare and he is still doing it brilliantly. But when it comes to actual decisions, he has always been very careful. For example, he has used chemical weapons only on Iraqi soil. He used them twice: once against the Kurds on his side of the border, and again when the Iranians moved into the Fau peninsula, which was also Iraqi territory. During the entire War of the Cities, when he fired 200 missiles at Iran, never once did he use non-conventional weaponry. Moreover, during the Gulf War, despite all his threats to use non-conventional weapons, he didnt even equip his own forces in Kuwait with gas masks. The Americans and other coalition members werent prepared to move a millimeter until they had three layers of anti-chemical warfare protection. And they were lucky they didnt have to fight like that because it would have been very difficult for the soldiers with all those protective layers to fight against Iraqis who werent even carrying gas masks.
[To sum up]
I would say the danger of Iraq launching any missiles against us is remote. And the chances of their carrying non-conventional warheads are even smaller. Road accidents in Israel endanger us far more than anything Saddam might do, not to speak of the suicide bombers, who are in effect highly accurate guided missiles.
Well, if the Israelis are not worriedwith Iraq their neighborthen should the U.S. worry?
Iraq is allied to terrorists?
President George Bush continued his press briefing with:
The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations, and there are Al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq.
Here President Bush has spoken a truth partly because his own agency, the U.S. state department, considers itself the sole authority on terrorist organizations. It has its own list which includes a wide assortment of Arab organizations concerned with politics and social welfare, Hezbollah and Hamas being the most widely known. Both are present and supported in the surrounding countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Without doubt, many of these organizations find friendly surroundings in Iraq as the people there have always supported the struggle of the Palestinians. One of the main causes of the fall of Saddams predecessor, Abd as-Salam Arif, was that governments inability to confront Israel in the 1967 war. There is no doubt that Mr. Bush has every reason to complain and, to keep all the lies hanging together, he has to raise this issue. But no threat to America follows from his observation.
As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, they are everywhere. (Shadowy networks of individuals, Bush has called them in his recent document, National Security Strategy.) It seems logical to expect to find them in Iraq along with Germany, Canada, Afghanistan, and the U.S., to name a few he knows of.
The U.S. has been trying for a year to tie Saddam to the attacks of September 11, 2001. They have not succeeded that we know of. The U.S. has claimed that an Iraqi diplomat Farouk Hijazi went to Kandahar when bin-Laden was there in 1998. Also, Mohamed Atta, suspected of organizing 9-11, is said to have met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in 2001. The press repeats every rumor but nothing more substantial has come to light.
Each passing day could be the one
Continuing to read his report, the president of the United States prophesized:
The dangers we face will only worsen from month to month and from year to year. To ignore these threats is to encourage them. And when they have fully materialized, it may be too late to protect ourselves and our friends and our allies. By then, the Iraqi dictator would have the means to terrorize and dominate the region. Each passing day could be the one on which the Iraqi regime gives anthrax or VX nerve gas or someday a nuclear weapon to a terrorist ally.
There is an important point here, although it is not said directly. Saddam might give a weapon of mass destruction to some terrorist to deliverbecause he cannot deliver it himself. Saddam has no missiles of any consequence. The SCUD missiles he used ten years ago were almost useless then. They were hopelessly inaccurate and of short range. In his war with Iran, Saddam eventually had to ask the U.S. to bomb Iranian oil tankers and oil well platforms (which the U.S. did in October of 1987 and April of 1988.)
Once we realize that Saddam cannot shoot non-conventional warheads at us, then we have to wonder why Mr. Bush is so anxious to start a war with him.
Bush fears nothing but fear itself
Mr. Bush now comes to the heart of his message. He fears nothing but fear itself.
We refuse to live in this future of fear. Democrats and Republicans refuse to live in a future of fear. Were determined to build a future of security.
One hardly knows what to say. Fear is awful? Fear is fierce? Fight fear by once again killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis?
This rhetoric of Mr. Bushs speech writers is affecting an ever smaller part of the U.S. working class. It is becoming more difficult to hide the hard reality of more unemployment and shrinking of social services behind the Stars and Stripes. But those who lie for a living do not realize the depth of the pit in front of them nor how easily they can be pushed into it. And so George Bush ends his remarks in his traditional way, with a bit of speculation:
Thank you all for being here. God bless America.