by Eric Margolis
TO: All Agents/Martyr Brigades
FROM: Col. Gassim, Dept 6, Section Q, Foreign Intelligence
SUBJECT: `Operation Kiss of Saddam'
Oh Brothers! Go forth and smite the infidel with our new secret weapons: convenient, travel-size, agents of mass destruction!
In your travel kit:
1. `Kiss of Saddam,' Eau de parfum, contains fresh anthrax and garlic.
2. Anti-tartar toothpaste with botulsim.
3. Liquid mustard gas disguised as mouthwash.
4. Spray deodorant contains VX nerve gas.
5. Shaving cream is foamy bubonic plague.
6. Condom with genuine Basra camel pox.
Your duty free-bag:
1. Scotch whiskey, laced with extra-strength anthrax.
2. Carton of cigarettes that emit toxic, second-hand smoke.
3. Cyanide after-shave.
In the manila envelope: one-way ticket to New York, London, and Toronto. Death to American, British, and Canadian imperialist dogs! (note: earn double airline points if you travel before March 31).
More brainless Ludlum spy fiction? No. A genuine, big scare this week provoked by Britain's tabloid `Sun' newspaper that provoked hysteria on both sides of the Atlantic. Besides being highly amusing, it's an excellent example of how governments manufacture and market news.
Saddam Hussein managed to outfox and outmanoeuvre his American/British/Israeli foes in the most recent Gulf war that almost was, but wasn't. Iraq appears to have gained assurances of an end to crushing sanctions, provided it fully complies with UN inspections. The Clinton Administration wanted to keep sanctions in effect until Saddam was somehow overthrown.
UN arms inspectors now report Iraq is being good as gold. This greatly annoys Washington, which is seeking another excuse to plaster Iraq - or at least keep it in permanent solitary. Perfidious Saddam is fighting dirty by cooperating with the UN. What to do?
Create anti-Iraq hysteria. London's `Sun, ' a rabid tabloid only infrequently acquainted with facts, proclaimed Iraqi agents were delivering chemical/bio-agents, secreted in toilette bags and duty-free items, to Britain, the US and Canada. The story was a painfully obvious plant. Its likely source: CIA, British intelligence, or Israel's Mossad.
A demi-panic ensued. On Monday, British air and sea ports were put on red alert. US borders went on high alert. Canada Customs said it also issued an alert. This was denied by Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axeworthy. The only thing missing from this burlesque were Iraqi agents - none were found.
Most scare stories about Saddam's chemical/biological arsenal originate from US government sources as part of the ongoing propaganda campaign against Iraq. Iraq certainly had a potentially deadly arsenal (supplied by the US and Britain). Baghdad may have some weapons left,. But claims Iraq threatens the world, are wildly - and purposefully - overblown.
Americans are particularly susceptible to Mideast-induced hysteria. Remember the comical uproar over non-existent Libyan hitmen that sent Reagan-era Washington into a Force 10 panic?. Or, more recently, Col. Khadaffi's `Tunnels of Death.'?
Israel has strong reasons to worry about Iraq's chemical/bio arms, and is waging an anti-Iraq campaign in the media aimed at getting the US to pulverize Iraq.. A steady procession of far-right `anti-terrorism' and `security' experts (usually code for pro-Israel) issues grave alarms about Iraq and the `Islamic threat. ' Israeli intelligence spoon-feeds information, both real and bogus, to the credulous Pentagon. An Israeli agent in Congress publishes alarming, but totally fake, reports about Iraqi weapons, that are instantly repeated by the world press as US government data.
When hysteria replaces policy, it's time for a change of thinking. Portraying Saddam as Hitler, or a modern version of Flash Gordon's `Ming the Merciless' (remember Ming's `Earth-destroying, Purple Death' powder?) is counter-productive.
Future attacks by bio-terrorists are probably inevitable. But not, this week, from Baghdad. Why would Iraq, which finally sees an end to sanctions, embark on such a murderous enterprise? This story simply makes no sense, and reeks of disinformation.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]
Copyright © 1998 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved