by Eric Margolis
American Secretary of State Colin Powell used the UN
Security Council last Wednesday to make Washington's case
for war against Iraq. The widely respected Powell delivered
a weighty indictment based on a mosaic of circumstantial
evidence obtained by U.S. intelligence.
Powell's philipic encouraged those favouring war. Skeptics
dismissed it as a farrago of dubious claims.
A good defence attorney would have had most of Powell's
charges thrown out of court. France, Germany, Russia and
China concluded Powell's indictment showed the need for
stronger, continued inspections rather than war.
Powell's charges (and some plausible explanations):
Recorded conversations - Iraqi officers discussing removal
of a "modified vehicle" and deleting references to nerve gas
from documents. If genuine, and not spliced, these radio
intercepts suggest Iraq may have been hiding some biowarfare
arms, or was racing to eliminate any residues or evidence of
its 1980s weapons program in advance of UN inspections.
(Considering the U.S. military loses tens of millions worth
of weapons and supplies each year, and the Los Alamos centre
has misplaced large amounts of nuclear materials, it's not
implausible that Iraq has bits and pieces of chemical arms
scattered about, such as the empty 122-mm rockets recently
discovered in a bunker, that escaped its UN-mandated
Satellite imagery - ammo storage bunkers which Powell
claimed were used for chemical weapons that were moved out
prior to inspection.
(UN inspectors examined them and found nothing suspicious.
"Sniffers" used by inspectors can detect the past presence
of chemical and biological weapons.)
The infamous mobile biological weapons labs mounted on
trucks - a.k.a. "Saddam's vans of death." Powell claimed
defectors reported there were 18 of these cruising around
(Defector information is always suspect. UN chief arms
inspector Hans Blix said his men had examined some of the
"death trucks" and found they were, in fact, mobile
Some 100-400 tons of chemical agents, including four tons of
VX nerve gas, and some biological weapons, originally
supplied in the 1980s by the U.S. and secretly developed by
British technicians, were still unaccounted for.
(This remains a major question. Iraq says it destroyed them,
but lacks proper documentation. They may be hidden. But most
were made in the 1980s, and may be degraded or inert from
age. Nerve gas and germs are weapons of mass destruction.
Mustard gas, the bulk of Iraq's chemical weaponry, is not,
being no more lethal than napalm or the fuel-air explosives
the U.S. and Russia are using in Afghanistan and Chechnya.)
Iraq was developing nuclear weapons.
(UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly contradicted U.S.
claims. They concluded the notorious aluminum tubes Powell
said were for uranium-enrichment centrifuges were actually
conventional 122-mm rocket artillery casings.)
According to UN Resolution 687 after the Gulf war, Iraq is
permitted missiles with a range of 150 km. The U.S. charges
Iraq is testing missiles that have flown 14-20 km farther.
(This is nothing unusual when testing a new propellant
system. Powell also accused Iraq of developing a 1,200-km
missile that could reach Israel, based on photos of an
enlarged test stand. Iraq may have a dozen or so old Scud
missiles hidden away.)
Iraq is dragging its feet on private interviews of its
(True. Hawks in the Bush administration and Israel say the
only way to ensure Iraq never builds strategic weapons is to
jail all of its 10,000 military scientists and technicians -
who also face the wrath of Saddam if they appear to turn
over incriminating evidence.)
Powell claimed he had proof positive Iraq was linked to
al-Qaida through Ansar al-Islam, a small, 600-man Islamist
group in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq (not under
Saddam's control), and through a "deadly terrorist network"
led by one Abu Musa al-Zarqawi.
(The first charge was immediately dismissed by Ansar's
leader, Mullah Krekar, a longtime, bitter foe of Saddam. And
al-Zarqawi turned out to be an unknown nobody, not on any
FBI wanted list. His name came from suspects being tortured
in Jordan. Many reputable experts on terrorism scoffed at
Powell's overblown charges.)
Sitting silently behind Powell was Central Intelligence
Agency chief George Tenet. His agency has contradicted White
House claims that Iraq had nuclear capability and posed an
imminent threat to the U.S. or anyone else. In a recent
article, former CIA Iraq desk chief Stephen Pelletiere cast
doubt on the charge, repeated by Bush and Powell, that Iraq
gassed its own Kurdish citizens in the town of Halabja.
Note: America's two most recent major wars - Vietnam and the
Gulf - began with release of faked "intelligence"
information: the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin attack in 1964,
and doctored photos of a non-existent Iraqi invasion buildup
on the Saudi border in 1990.
A more neutral observer might have concluded the U.S. was
exaggerating scraps of uncorroborated information, while
Iraq was trying to appear co-operative while still hiding
some of its most sensitive military secrets.
Polls show most people around the globe remain skeptical of
Powell's charges. Starting a war that could kill tens of
thousands on the basis of vague audio intercepts, photos of
empty buildings and defectors' tales makes no sense. Further
inspections, not war, is the right answer.
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
Secretary of State Colin Powell Addresses the U.N. Security Council,"
The White House, February 2003
"No casus belli?
Invent one!," Guardian, February 5, 2003
Michel Chossudovsky, "Who is Abu Musab
Al-Zarqawi," globalresearch.ca, June 11, 2004
"UN speech on Iraq's WMDs 'a blot' on my record: Powell," AFP, September 9,
[This propaganda campaign - highlighting "aluminum tubes" which were allegedly
"only suited for nuclear weapons programs" - was orchestrated by the White House
Iraq Group, which had been created in August 2002 to "market" the (bogus) nuke
threat posed by Saddam Hussein.--Gordon Prather, "Armitage: Cheney Cabal
Scapegoat," antiwar.com, July 7, 2007]
Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis, "Colin Powell: Another War Criminal Cashes
In," antiwar.com, June 6, 2012
Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights