by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
June 20, 2003
A WAR BUILT ON LIES
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Those of us who opposed Gulf War II knew that history would eventually prove us right. What we didn't expect is that it would happen so soon.
The lies and deception that the Bush administration used to justify invading Iraq have unraveled with astonishing speed. The lies and deception that sprouted forth from the conduct of the war itself are being debunked equally fast. The skepticism of those who thought that invading Iraq was a bad idea at best and a total violation of international law at worst have been justified.
It seems that everyone except the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair knew that the case for the much-touted WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) was flimsy.
Few figured we would hear the architects of Gulf War II admitting this just weeks after the fall of Baghdad.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Vanity Fair that Iraq's alleged stockpile of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons was the justification for Gulf War II because "for bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue ... because it was the one reason everyone could agree on."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted in a May 27 speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York that the reason no WMDs have yet been found in Iraq is that the Iraqis had "decided they would destroy (them) prior to a conflict."
Missing from Rumsfeld's remarks was when those weapons were destroyed. The press mostly ignored a story that appeared in the March 3 issue of Newsweek that quoted a secret United Nations transcript of a 1995 interview between UN weapons inspectors and Iraq's highest-ranking defector, the late Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel.
A son-in-law of Saddam Hussein and head of Iraq's weapons development program, Kamel delivered crate-loads of secret documents that detailed Iraq's past weapons programs. And Kamel plainly admitted to the UN inspectors in that 1995 interview that all of Iraq's WMDs had been destroyed.
Unfortunately, the Bush administration left that part of the story in its many attempts to scare the world into believing that Iraq had huge stockpiles of WMDs that were ready to be deployed. They cited all the information that Kamel gave to the UN as proof of the deadly intentions of Saddam Hussein without mentioning Kamel's admission of the non-existence of those weapons as of 1995.
There was no UN report issued after 1994 that claims Iraq possessed WMDs. Both the British and U.S. governments knew that UN inspectors had not found any WMDs since 1994. Both knew that any chemical or biological weapons that Iraq still might have possessed in 2003 would have been outdated and militarily useless after a decade or so in storage.
This goes a long way toward explaining why Hans Blix and the UN inspection team that was in Iraq before Gulf War II began didn't find any WMDs. Virtually all of them apparently had been destroyed by the Iraqis in the 1990s. Anything that might have remained probably was destroyed before Blix's team arrived in Iraq late last year.
But the U.S. and British governments managed to turn suspicions and possibilities into facts. As a result, they created a threat where none existed to justify a war that most of the world opposed.
The lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is just the tip of the iceberg of jive that struck us during and after Gulf War II.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the growing suspicions that elements of the Iraqi army were paid off by the Americans to not put up a fight. Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, recently admitted that well before the fighting began, Special Forces troops and intelligence agents paid large sums of money to a number of Iraqi commanders as a cost-effective way of insuring victory.
"What's the effect you want?" a senior Pentagon official told The Independent, a London newspaper. "How much does a cruise missile cost? Between $1 million and $2.5 million. Well, a bribe is a PGM (precision guided missile) - it achieves the aim but it's bloodless and there's zero collateral damage. This part of the operation was as important as the shooting part; maybe more important. We knew that some units would fight out of a sense of duty and patriotism, and they did. But it didn't change the outcome because we knew how many of these (Iraqi generals) were going to call in sick."
While it certainly helped to cut down on U.S. casualties, this story certainly tarnishes the master narrative of a great and glorious victory by American forces in Iraq. But the facts don't seem to get in the way of a good myth. The tale of Pvt. Jessica Lynch seems to be proof of that.
An investigation by the BBC accused the Pentagon of what it called "one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived" in hyping the story of Lynch's rescue from a Iraqi hospital.
But the daring raid turned out to be a staged operation; a made-for-television rescue recorded by a Pentagon camera crew that accompanied the raiders.
According to another London newspaper, The Guardian, Lynch, who had been captured by Iraqi forces, was rescued from an unguarded hospital by a commando force firing blank ammunition. [That report has not been confirmed by any other news organization.]
"It was like a Hollywood film," one of the Iraqi doctors told The Guardian. "They cried 'Go, go, go,' with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - a action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors."
Even more ironic, The Guardian reported that the Iraqi doctors had tried to deliver Lynch to a U.S. checkpoint two days earlier and were driven back by gunfire.
The Pentagon, of course, denies that the Lynch rescue was staged. But all available evidence shows that it was staged as surely as the staged toppling of the Saddam statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square that supposedly signaled the end of Gulf War II.
The war hasn't really ended, though. American troops are still dying in Iraq. They are getting shot at by angry Iraqis who are still waiting to see electricity, water, health care and other basic services restored to their cities and towns after nearly two months of "liberation."
This explains why the Bush administration is now taking the line that the invasion of Iraq was not a war, but a single battle in the continuing "war on terrorism."
But the "battle of Iraq," as the White House now prefers to call it, has been a military adventure that has left nearly 200 U.S. troops and as many as 10,000 Iraqi civilians dead.
And it was all built upon lies.
And the same people who lied to us about Iraq's military capabilities, lied to us about the conduct of the war and lied to us about what the aftermath of the war would bring to Iraq are now actively trying to do it all again - this time with the Iranians playing the part of the evildoers who must be vanquished.
Let's not get fooled again.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).