On Native Ground
FOR USE, A BOGU.S. PROBE OF BOGU.S. WAR
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- So the Bush administration is going to launch a big investigation into why the intelligence that they used to justify an invasion of Iraq turned out to be totally wrong.
I think they should save our money. Everyone knows why the pre-invasion intelligence was totally wrong.
Because virtually every bit of it was a lie.
Last year at this time, the Bush administration's hype machine was going full bore on why we needed to invade Iraq immediately. Last year's State of the Union address detailed Iraq's alleged stash of weapons of mass destruction - 30,000 warheads, 500 tons of chemical weapons, 25,000 liters of anthrax and 38,000 liters of botulism toxin, 1 million pounds of sarin, mustard and VX nerve gas and tons of "yellowcake" uranium ore that Iraq allegedly bought from Niger - material that was never found before or after the invasion because it never existed.
This year, President George W. Bush bypassed the laundry list of death he presented in 2003 and stated that Iraq was guilty of having "weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities."
Is that what hundreds of American troops and thousands of Iraqi civilians died for? The extremely remote possibility that a nation bled dry by two major wars, more than a decade of economic sanctions and periodic U.S. bombing raids could develop nuclear, chemical or biological weapons?
Remember the President's response a few weeks ago to Diane Sawyer's questions about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: "So what's the difference?"
There's a big difference. It's the difference between "I killed him because he had a loaded gun pointed at me and he threatened to kill me" and "I killed him because he was thinking about going out to buy a gun that he might kill me with."
It's the difference between obeying the rule of international law and standing in violation of it.
Richard Perle, one of the architects of the invasion, admitted the often-overlooked fact that the invasion was illegal under international law last November during Bush's visit to Britain.
Speaking at an event organized by the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Perle said that "I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing" because "international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone," and this, Perle believed, would have been morally unacceptable.
The Bush administration has consistently argued that the invasion was legal because of existing UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq. Just the same, the U.S. sought another UN Security Council resolution specifically authorizing an invasion. When opposition by France, Germany and Russia effectively scuttled the U.S. resolution, Perle said that action meant there had been "no practical mechanism consistent with the rules of the UN for dealing with Saddam Hussein."
According to the United Nations Charter - a treaty signed by 192 of the world's 196 sovereign states - it is a crime for a nation to attack another nation unless there is a clear and present danger to that nation's security.
This isn't seeking "a permission slip" to go to war, as President Bush called it in this year's State of the Union speech. This principle of waging war only in self-defense or with the explicit approval of the UN Security Council is the bedrock of the post-World War II international order. While it has been occasionally evaded, this principle had never ignored outright until the Bush administration decided it has the right to attack any nation it perceives to be a present or potential threat.
It's worth remembering that UN Security Council Resolution 1441, adopted in the fall of 2002, ordered Iraq to begin disarming. For the most part, Iraq had complied with 1441's terms. The UN inspectors, led by the now forgotten Hans Blix, had found no weapons of mass destruction. That was good enough for the rest of the Security Council, but not good enough for the U.S. and Britain. They claimed Iraq was in "material breech" of 1441 and claimed the right to forcibly disarm Iraq.
But there was no specific authorization in 1441 for the use of force if Iraq was in non-compliance. It stated only that it was up to the Security Council alone to both determine the extent of compliance and what actions would be taken if there was non-compliance.
The Nuremburg Tribunal, which dealt with German war crimes after World War II, determined that the planning, preparation or initiation of a war that was contrary to the terms of an international treaty was a "crime against peace" and that "to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime."
Few will disagree that the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime is a good thing. But it you asked people last winter if they still would want to get rid him if doing so meant the deaths of more than 500 (and counting) American soldiers and the maiming of thousands more? Or spending hundreds of billions of dollars of money our government doesn't have? Or poisoning relations with our allies and making the U.S. more hated and isolated than ever before? Or destroying democratic debate in this country?
If this bill was presented to the American people at this time last year, I doubt many would have supported invading Iraq. But thanks to the lies of the Bush administration and its manipulation of the public, it was able to push through a war that it had sought from the moment Bush took office but couldn't get until the 9/11 attacks provided the opening they sought.
Months before the invasion, many knew that the Bush administration cherry-picked intelligence to bolster their case and that they ignored reputable sources of information to instead listen to people who told them things they wanted to hear. You didn't have to look all that hard to find the real story - that Iraq had been effectively disarmed by the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War and the years of sanctions and inspections that followed it.
Quite simply, Iraq posed no imminent threat to the safety of the U.S., and that there was no need for the U.S. to rush off to war - a act that now stands in violation of international law.
The Bush administration didn't want to hear this and sent our young men and women off to fight and die in a war that was completely unnecessary. Now that the lies have come back to haunt them, the Bush team is looking for someone else to blame.
They could save the nation a lot of money and aggrevation by just looking in the mirror.
Randolph T. Holhut was a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.