Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

 President Bush Lied…. Not.

 

November 2003

There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.
(Senator Edward Kennedy, Sept. 18, 2003.) 

The Bush administration pumps up the terrorist threat to distract attention from the economy and provide a pretext for some other action.
(Gwynne Dyer, Toronto Star, Sept. 10, 2003.)
 

The war against Saddam Hussein’s regime was swift and conducted with relatively little loss of life and damage to Iraq’s  physical infrastructure. A nation of 25 million people was freed in record time from one of the most gruesome tyrannies of our time. 

This amazing feat was accomplished by a superbly equipped and trained army that traveled halfway across the world to achieve what many said could not be done. This unprecedented military victory occurred because of the determination of President Bush, who assisted by British Prime MinisterTony Blair and a few other leading statesmen, ignored world popular opinion and said enough is enough. 

A History of Deception

For twelve years, the United Nations has cajoled, threatened and tried to cordon off the Iraqi regime led by a maniacal and cold-blooded Saddam Hussein.

Everyone agreed that the Iraqi regime cruelly oppressed its own people. Within the space of scarcely a dozen years it had waged a murderous war on Iran and invaded Kuwait. It had not shrunk from using poison gas on its own people in northern Iraq. Hundreds of thousands were killed in battle, poisoned, tortured and mutilated. Millions fled the country. 

If it had not been for twelve year of constant surveillance of the so-called no-fly zones, mostly by the American air force, at a staggering cost of billions of dollars, the number of those killed and tortured would have been far greater. But who cares? Who even remembers to give the U.S. credit when the hate-America frenzy is all the rage? 

Forced to concede defeat in 1991, Saddam agreed to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction in his possession. During the ensuing decade, the UN issued numerous resolutions demanding that the Iraqi regime comply with what it had agreed to do. It had no intention to do so. Years of weapons inspections and revelations by Iraqi refugees (including two of Saddam Hussein’s sons in law) confirmed the presence of chemical and biological agents as well as an active nuclear research program. 

The latest phase of inspections, begun in the fall of 2002 under the leadership of Hans Blix, was hampered by the obstructionist maneuvers of the regime. The inspectors did not find weapons of mass destruction. Neither could they confirm that the chemical and biological agents known to have existed had been destroyed, although the government had so claimed – while failing to provide any proof. 

United nations Resolution 1441 warned Saddam to provide proof that all weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed or to face serious consequences. No such compliance was forthcoming. A heated debate then took place at the UN, mostly between the U.S., Britain and a few smaller nations, and the rest of the UN. The debate was about the term “serious consequences.” What did this really mean, if anything? 

Most, led by France and Germany, demanded more of the same negotiations and possibly more sanctions. The U.S. would not be swayed from taking more drastic action. The rest is history, and the war to remove the Saddam regime commenced on March 20, while the defining event, toppling the massive Saddam statute in Baghdad with the aid of American soldiers, took place on April 9. 

Considering the terrible suffering endured by the Iraqis under the Saddam regime, would the successful conclusion of the war not be an occasion to rejoice and celebrate – and to cooperate in the rebuilding that is so desperately needed? For the first time, the Iraqi people have a chance to build a free and open society. Is that not something all freedom-loving people would welcome and support? 

But that’s not the way modern international relations work. Though a few have changed their minds, most of the opponents to the U.S.-led war say that there is nothing to celebrate. On the contrary, they are ignoring the good things that are happening and now insist that things are terrible and getting worse for the Iraqis. 

There even seems to be a certain delight in warning that the Americans will fail because the Iraqis resent the presence of alien soldiers whom they regard as occupiers not liberators. Such dire predictions are endlessly repeated in the media of the Arab countries, but also in Europe, Canada, and even in the U.S. itself -- not excluding members of the U.S. Congress. 

A Two-Front War

The reality is that the ongoing conflict in Iraq is fought on two fronts. The first is the one fought by the diehard supporters of the old regime, brought home to us via the spectacular  television pictures of bombed buildings and destroyed American military vehicles, that has killed 103 American soldiers in nearly six months since the end of the war was declared on May 1. 

The second theatre of this “war” is the home front in the U.S, and in the rest of the western world, This conflict is played out especially on  television and in the print media – and on numerous websites. It may well be that the war on that front will be harder to win than in the streets of Iraq and in the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. 

The issue of contention in this second-front war is two-fold. One, the Americans are doing everything wrong, and they will fail because they have no business being there in the first place. All the positive developments are ignored or barely reported whereas all bad news is exaggerated. The Americans are stuck in a Vietnam-type quagmire and unable to prevail against the terror tactics in Iraq. Such predictions are made in a way that suggests many of the doomsayers would like America to fail. 

But a second argument in the critics’ arsenal is even more destructive because it targets the integrity of the American leadership. It is the accusation that   President Bush has misled the American people about the real reasons for the war against the Saddam regime. He is charged with falsely claiming that the Saddam regime had been successful in obtaining weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. 

And here we are, six months after the war ended, and no such weapons have been found though a large number of experts has been searching for them. So, the case is closed: Bush is a liar and he recklessly sent soldiers and Iraqis to die for a cause that is bogus. 

But where is the substance for such a horrendous accusation? No problem, we now know that what he said about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities he knew to be untrue. Here is the incriminating statement in the President’s 2003 State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” 

Information has since come to light that there were serious questions about the truth of this claim. In fact, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet has bluntly stated: “These 16 words should never heave been included in the text written for the President.” 

But this was not the only bit of intelligence the President relied on at a time when a great deal of incomplete and conflicting information had to sorted, and decisions  had to be made without having perfect knowledge of all the facts. The reality is that President Bush has been very clear and persistent in justifying military action against the Saddam regime. 

Furthermore, the historic context within which the defeat of the Saddam regime took place is clear for all to see. First, the horrendous crimes of September 11, 2001 radically changed the Americans’ perception of the battle against terrorism. They began to understand the depth of a religiously driven fanatical hatred against the “Great Satan” as they had not done before. Then there was the Saddam regime’s cruel oppression of its own people, its lengthy war against Iran and its invasion of Kuwait, its support of terrorists, in addition to a known determination to obtain weapons of mass destruction. There is really no disputing of these facts. There is also no disputing the fact that twelve years of UN- orchestrated attempts to rein in this dangerous man had been a complete failure. 

But the critics will not hear of this. They “know” that Bush lied, and that he is a crook who is menace to his own country and the rest of the world. And that is how the tables are turned. Not Saddam but Bush is the evil one who must be curtailed. 

The Search Continues

When David Kay, who heads the new inspection team assigned to search for weapons of mass destruction, reported to Congress on October 2, the headlines in the major papers on the following day, were quite predictable. This is the New York Times’ take: “No Illicit Arms Found in Iraq, U.S, Inspector Tells Congress.” Other major American newspapers followed suit. The articles filling in these headlines invariably explained  that this failure proved that the given reasons for the war had been concocted and were therefore fraudulent. 

But those who take the trouble of actually reading the entire report* come to a very different conclusion. True, the Iraqi Survey Group (a bland name if there ever was one) had not found nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. But it did find plenty of evidence of a very active chemical and biological weapons research program, right up to the start of the war. This included: “A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents….A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service…. Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist’s home…. New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and CongoCrimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF), and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.” 

As to Iraq’s nuclear program, the Kay-led Survey Group found plenty of evidence that Saddam had not given up obtaining nuclear weapons, but that this program now was on hold waiting for the time that Iraq would have persuaded the UN that it had complied with its resolutions and would be free of sanctions. 

There is a great deal of information in this interim report, which does not draw final conclusions, but clearly shows that Saddam had not abandoned his plans to obtain weapons of mass destruction. President Bush was right in targeting Saddam’s regime as a threat to his own people and to the rest of the world. 

The war in Iraq in the form of guerilla tactics is making the job of rebuilding Iraq more onerous.  The intention is to wear down the resolve of the Americans by killing as many of their soldiers (and Iraqis) as possible so that they eventually will give up and leave. But the virulent anti-Bush campaign that turns the President into a villain and Saddam Hussein into a victim may be just as  formidable an obstacle to Iraq becoming a free and open society. And you can be sure that all the enemies of Free Iraq know this very well. 

The Stakes are High

It would be nothing short of tragic if this courageous and costly effort to help free the world of a dangerous menace and to establish a free and stable Iraq would fail. The repercussion of such failure would be horrendous. The revenge of the Baathist thugs on the then (again) abandoned people of Iraq would be more dreadful than what happened to the defenceless Kurds in the north and the Shias in the south of Iraq after the Allied forces withdrew in 1991. 

Who would then stop the brutal states in that part of the world from serving as terrorist havens and obtaining nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction? The dilemma then facing the western democracies would be terrifying and beyond description. 

Is this scenario too far-fetched to even consider? I do not think so. And I suggest that these are the considerations that need to go into thinking about the events in Iraq today. Instead, President Bush, who risked everything in his career and who had the courage of conviction to use the immense power of the American military to free Iraq, is now widely denounced as a liar and a threat to world peace. 

This is where we enter the strange world of Alice in Wonderland illusions – with a diabolical twist.  A world where reality is what the coarsest and most vociferous dupes and the haters of America say it is. 

The stakes in this dispute are very high. In the short term they will determine whether it will be possible to turn one strategically located nation in a volatile region of the Arab world from a slave to a free society that is no longer a serious threat to the rest of the world. The obstacles here are immense, and the outcome not at all assured. In the longer term what is at stake is whether freedom in the West will endure, now increasingly an uncertain prospect. 

Instead of showing respect and appreciation for the amazing accomplishments of the U.S.-led coalition, a sizeable and very vocal segment of the free world demonizes the Americans and their President. 

Let me again reassure the readers that my quarrel is not with those who in good faith disagree with American policy regarding Iraq – or any other subject. But to treat the elimination of a proven threat to the world and the liberation of a cruelly oppressed people as of no significance, while denouncing President Bush as a liar, must surely rank as one of the great follies of our time. 

Sidebar with “President Bush Lied….Not” 

Excerpts from Interim Report of Iraq Survey Group to U.S. Congress.

October 2, 2003. See website cia.gov

Iraq’s WMD programs spanned more than two decades, involved thousands of people, billions of dollars, and were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom…. 

We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002. The discovery of these deliberate concealment efforts have come about both through the admission of Iraqi scientists and officials concerning information they deliberately withheld and through physical evidence of equipment and activities that ISG has discovered that should have been declared to the UN….

In addition to discovery of extensive concealment efforts, we have been faced with a systematic sanitization of documentary and computer evidence in a wide range of offices, laboratories, and companies suspected of WMD work. The pattern of these efforts to erase evidence  - hard drives destroyed, specific files burned, equipment cleaned of all traces of use – are ones of deliberate, rather than random, acts….

Discussions with Iraqi scientists uncovered agent R&D work that paired overt work with nonpathogenic organisms serving as surrogates for prohibited investigation with pathogenic agents. Examples include: B.Thurengienses  (Bt) with B.anthracis (anthrax), and medicinal plants with ricin.  In a similar vein, two key former BW scientists, confirmed that Iraq under the guise of legitimate activity developed refinements of processes and products relevant to BW agents….

A very large body of information has been developed through debriefings, site visits, and exploitation of captured Iraqi documents that confirms that Iraq concealed equipment and materials from UN inspectors when they returned in 2002 One noteworthy  example is  a collection of reference strains that ought to have been declared to the UN….

….In searching for retained stocks of  chemical munitions, ISG has had to contend with the almost unbelievable scale of Iraq’s conventional weapons armory, which dwarfs by orders of magnitude the physical size of any conceivable  stock of chemical weapons. For example, there are approximately 130 known Iraqi Ammunition Storage Points (ASP), many of which exceed  50 square miles in size and hold an estimated  600,000 tons of artillery shells, rockets, aviation bombs and other ordinance. Of these130 ASPs, approximately 120 still remain unexamined. As Iraqi practice was not to mark much of their chemical ordinance and to store it at the same ASPs that held conventional rounds, the size of the required search is enormous

Second, we have found people, technical information and illicit procurement networks that if allowed to flow to other countries and regions could accelerate global proliferation. Even in the area of actual weapons there is no doubt that Iraq had at one time chemical and biological weapons. Even if there were only a remote possibility that these pre-1991 weapons still exist, we have an obligation to American troops who are now there and the Iraqi population to ensure that none of these remain to be used against them in the ongoing insurgency activity.

The environment in Iraq remains far from permissive for our activities, with many Iraqis that we talk to reporting threats and overt acts of intimidation and our own personnel being the subject of threats and attacks. In September alone we have had three attacks on ISG facilities or teams: The ISG base in Irbil was bombed and four staff injured, two very seriously; a two person team had their vehicle blocked by gunmen and only escaped by firing back through their own windshield; and on Wednesday, 24 September, the ISG headquarters in Baghdad again was subject to mortar attack.