Home Part I

Part II

The Amorim Report
September 11 and the Road to War
Iraq Admits Inspectors
The Case for War Weakens
Powell's Hard Sell
Inspectors Speak and Are Not Heard
Last Gasp at Consensus
Bush's Ultimatum
The Conquest of Iraq
The Plunder of Iraq
The Inspectors' Final Verdict
Damage Control
Rogues' Gallery

The Amorim Report

After the fiasco of UNSCOM, which submitted its final report in January 1999, the Security Council sought to re-establish a UN presence in Iraq for disarmament. A multinational panel chaired by Brazilian Ambassador Celso L. N. Amorim convened in February and March to assess the state of Iraqi disarmament, according to data gathered by UNSCOM, the IAEA, the UN Secretariat, and other sources. The panel stated its findings in the so-called Amorim report (S/1999/356), which was issued on 27 March 1999.

Regarding Iraq's nuclear capability, the Amorim report summarized the finding of the IAEA:

Most of the IAEA activities involving the destruction, removal and rendering harmless of the components of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme which to date have been revealed and destroyed were completed by the end of 1992. In February 1994, the IAEA completed the removal from Iraq of all weapon-usable nuclear material essentially research reactor fuel. On the basis of its findings, the Agency is able to state that there is no indication that Iraq possesses nuclear weapons or any meaningful amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material or that Iraq has retained any practical capability (facilities or hardware) for the production of such material.

In 1999, Iraq had no nuclear weapons capability whatsoever. However, the panel noted that "questions remain with regard to the lack of certain technical documentation, external assistance to Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons programme and Iraq's abandonment of its nuclear weapons programme." Iraq had not yet enacted any enforceable penal laws against nuclear weapons development.

UNSCOM was able to account for the destruction of 817 out of 819 imported missiles that exceeded the proscribed range of 150 km, as well as all mobile launchers for Al Hussein missiles. Warheads for these prohibited missiles were also largely accounted for, including all 75 declared non-conventional warheads and 163 out of 210 declared conventional warheads. UNSCOM also concluded that Iraq could not indigenously produce BADR-2000 missiles or a so-called "supergun." Still, Iraq needed to account for about fifty conventional warheads, seven domestically produced missiles, and proscribed propellants claimed to have been destroyed.

UNSCOM was able to verify the destruction of massive quantities of chemical weapons, as well as associated raw materials, equipment and facilities. Still, some questions remained, including a discrepancy between Iraq's declared consumption of chemical warheads during the eighties and an Iraqi Air Force report indicating a smaller figure. Further, 550 mustard shells were lost after the Gulf War, and Iraq did not adequately account for 500 R-400 bombs. Also, questions remained regarding the degree of weaponization that had been achieved by Iraq's VX program prior to dismantlement.

Iraq had concealed the prior existence of its biological weapons program until evidence was uncovered by UNSCOM. Its biological weapons productions facilities had been converted to civilian use, and the Iraqis undoubtedly concealed their previous biological program in order to protect these facilities from destruction. Indeed, UNSCOM demanded that these facilities be destroyed, due to their potential for dual use. No biological weapons agent was found, but 22 tons of growth media was destroyed. "As a result, the declared facilities of Iraq's BW programme have been destroyed and rendered harmless," the Amorim report concludes.

UNSCOM did not believe that Iraq had fully disclosed the extent of its past biological weapons activities. The Amorim panel considered that the bulk of Iraq's program was eliminated, though biological weaponry could be reproduced with relatively simple equipment as long as Iraqis retained the knowledge. Given the ease with which biological weapons could be concealed, "Both UNSCOM and IAEA have therefore been adopting a pragmatic approach which assumes that 100% of verification may be an unattainable goal."

In sum, the report acknowledged that Iraq's WMD capability had been largely destroyed, though it could not preclude the possibility of some concealment. There were several instances where items declared to have been destroyed were not adequately documented. These discrepancies would have to be resolved in order to verify Iraqi disarmament. Further, it would not be possible to verify continued Iraqi compliance without the continued presence of inspectors.

As of 1999, Iraq was hardly a formidable WMD threat, especially in comparison with nations like North Korea, known to have a much more highly developed nuclear program. The level of scrutiny to which Iraq was subjected eight years after the Gulf War was beyond all proportion to its relative threat. While Western nations chased the phantoms of Iraqi WMDs, India and Pakistan were developing nuclear weapons, and Al-Qaeda operatives were plotting the worst terrorist act on American soil. Rather than admit their failure to properly assess threats, the Americans would wreak vengeance upon Iraq for the actions of Al-Qaeda.

Pretexts for Invasion: September 11 and the Road to War

The controversial presidential election of 2000 resulted in the inauguration of George W. Bush, son of the former president. The younger Bush had ample motivation to set Saddam Hussein in his cross-hairs, not only because it would bring closure to his father's unfinished work, but it would avenge a 1993 assassination attempt on Bush Sr. in Kuwait, allegedly ordered by the Iraqi government (though recent evidence casts doubt on this connection). Further, his administration was filled with warmongering neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz who openly called for the "liberation" of Iraq, in the hopes of ushering an era of U.S.-style "democracy" (i.e., plutocracy) throughout the Middle East. According to one account, Bush Jr. made his new priorities known to outgoing President Clinton just before the inauguration. He said he considered Saddam Hussein to be the primary threat, more so than the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. (D. Schorr, "Was Bush Fixated on 'Getting Saddam'?" Christian Science Monitor, 26 March 2004)

On September 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda proved to be the most real threat, successfully hijacking four commercial airliners and crashing three of them into New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people. The Bush administration's response to this unprecedented terrorist threat is a story unto itself, so we will restrict our attention to the aspects pertaining to Iraq. Bush did not take long to make a connection with Saddam Hussein. As Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke would later relate, Bush had made the removal of Saddam an unquestioned top priority from the first National Security Council meeting 10 days after his inauguration. On 12 September, Clarke met with the president and some aides, and had the following exchange:

Bush: Go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam did this.

Clarke: But Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.

Bush: I know, I know. But see if Saddam is involved. Just look. I want to know any shred.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who as a member of PNAC had called for Iraqi regime change in 1997, also had Saddam on the brain. At 12:05 p.m. on 11 September, the CIA reported to Rumsfeld an intercepted 9:53 a.m. communication from one of Usama bin Laden's operatives in Afghanistan claiming he "heard good news" and that another target was still to come. This indicated knowledge of the fourth hijacked airliner, which crashed in Pennsylvania prior to reaching its target in Washington. Nonetheless, Rumsfeld regarded this communication as "vague," and considered "it might not mean something," so there was "no good basis for hanging hat." As reluctant as he was to pull the trigger against Usama bin Laden, he was eager to look for an Iraqi connection. At 2:40 p.m., according to notes leaked to CBS News a year later, Rumsfeld sought to strike against Saddam Hussein as well as Bin Laden, though evidence only pointed to the latter, as three hijackers were by then identified as Al-Qaeda operatives. Rumsfeld ordered the military to gather intelligence and "Judge whether good enough hit S.H. at same time. Not only UBL." Clearly looking to implicate the Iraqi leader as a pretext for war, Rumsfeld directed, "Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

As would later be revealed by the infamous Downing Street Memo, the U.S. and Britain plotted to invade Iraq as early as April 2002, by embarking on a series of bombing campaigns in the "no-fly" zones designed to provoke Iraq into providing a casus belli. A briefing paper for a British cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister Tony Blair in July 2002 reveals that "when the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April, he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change." Since "regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law," it was "necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action." That the British and the Americans should play the dirty game of provoking another country into war is shocking only to those unfamiliar with history, as this old trick has been a staple of Anglo-American foreign policy for over a century.

Discarding previous rules of engagement, in May U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered aircraft in the southern no-fly zone to attack Iraqi command centers and air defenses even if unprovoked. The tonnage of bombs dropped on Iraq rose sharply.


If it were not clear from the above that the U.S. was escalating its activity in order to prepare for a war it sought, the evidence in the Downing Street Memo is damning. At the aforementioned July meeting, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon

...said that the US had already begun "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime. No decisions had been taken, but he thought the most likely timing in US minds for military action to begin was January, with the timeline beginning 30 days before the US Congressional elections.

The director of Britain's foreign intelligence, Sir Richard Dearlove,

reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw agreed that the Bush administration had already decided on war. The minutes of his statement record:

It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

Here we come to the crux of the plan. The call for the restoration of weapons inspections would serve only as a pretext for invasion. The Americans and the British knew that Iraq's WMD capability, if it existed, was modest. The Downing Street Memo expresses concerns by the military that Saddam might use WMDs, due to their lack of knowledge of his current capability. Still, the WMD issue was a red herring, a mere excuse for war. Britain, no less than the U.S., was guilty of this cynicism.

The Prime Minister said that it would make a big difference politically and legally if Saddam refused to allow in the UN inspectors. Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD. There were different strategies for dealing with Libya and Iran. If the political context were right, people would support regime change. The two key issues were whether the military plan worked and whether we had the political strategy to give the military plan the space to work.

The restoration of inspections would enable the UK and US to link the WMD issue to regime change, their true goal. Raising the WMD issue was purely a "political strategy" to make the military plan palatable to the public and to other nations.

In the UK as well as the US, the urgency for invasion was in no small part motivated by the hyper-cautious mindset created after the September 11 attacks. This is candidly admitted in a memo from British Foreign Office Political Director Peter Ricketts to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, dated 22 March 2002:

The truth is that what has changed is not the pace of Saddam Hussein's WMD programmes, but our tolerance of them post-11 September. This is not something we need to be defensive about, but attempts to claim otherwise publicly will increase scepticism about our case. I am relieved that you decided to postpone publication of the unclassified document. My meeting yesterday showed that there is more work to do to ensure that the figures are accurate and consistent with those of the US. But even the best survey of Iraq's WMD programmes will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile or CW/BW fronts: the programmes are extremely worrying but have not, as far as we know", been stepped up.

Mr. Ricketts felt that Prime Minister Blair could help shape American policy, and "bring home to Bush home of the realities which will be less evident from Washington. He can help Bush make good decisions by telling him things his own machine probably isn't."

Ricketts found American attempts to link Iraq to Al-Qaeda "frankly unconvincing."

To get public and Parliamentary support for military operations, we have to be convincing that:

- the threat is so serious/imminent that it is worth sending our troops to die for;

- it is qualitatively different from the threat posed by other proliferators who are closer to achieving nuclear capability (including Iran).

We can make the case on qualitative difference only Iraq has attacked a neighbour, used CW and fired missiles against Israel). The overall strategy needs to include re-doubled efforts to tackle other proliferators, including Iran, in other ways (the UK/French ideas on greater IAEA activity are helpful here).

All the rationalizations are just excuses to gain popular support for a military campaign that is desired for other reasons. The canard that Iraq attacked its neighbor and used chemical weapons is especially flimsy, considering what we know of U.S. support of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. At any rate, Iraq is hardly the only country to attack its neighbor, use chemical weapons (ask the British), or launch missiles against Israel. We should not expect these reasons to be substantial, as they serve only to mask the true objective.

Ricketts saw an opportunity for the British to re-shape the objective from the American goal of simple regime change. In his memo to Secretary Straw, he reasoned:

Military operations need clear and compelling military objectives. For Kosovo it was: "Serbia out, Kosovars back" peace-keepers in. For Afghanistan, destroying the Taleban and Al Qaida military capability. For Iraq, "regime change" does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam. Much better, as you have suggested, to make the objective ending the threat to the international community from Iraqi WMD before Saddam uses it or gives it to the terrorists. This is at once easier to justify in terms of international law but also more demanding. Regime change which produced another Sunni General still in charge of an active Iraqi WMD programmme would be a bad outcome (not least because it would be almost impossible to maintain UN sanctions on a new leader who came in promising a fresh start). As with the fight against UBL, Bush would do well to de-personalise the objective, focus on elimination of WMD, and show that he is serious about UN Inspectors as the first choice means of achieving that (it is win/win for him: either Saddam against all the odds allows Inspectors to operate freely, in which case we can further hobble his WMD programmes, or he blocks/hinders, and we are on stronger ground for switching to other methods).

Here principle and expedience seem to merge in a muddle. At first, Ricketts and Straw seem to suggest making the Iraqi WMD threat the objective only as a public relations measure. Yet they must also recognize that regime change would not be a good outcome if there were still an active Iraq WMD program, so making WMDs the objective rather than Saddam is not only good PR, but good policy. There is a concern that Bush personalizes conflicts with Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda's Usama bin Laden, losing sight of the most important issues. If WMD is to be the central concern, UN Inspections should be given a serious chance to work.

Cynicism is interspersed throughout the memo, as Ricketts wants to avoid outcomes that would end UN sanctions, and place Saddam in a lose/lose situation. Ironically, Ricketts thinks it highly unlikely that Saddam would cooperate with inspectors, but Saddam would do precisely that. The U.S. would go to war anyway, proving that they did not regard the WMD objective as central, but were bent on removing Saddam no matter what. They could not admit this publicly of course, since there was little popular support for war based solely on regime change, and openly declaring such a crassly imperialistic motive would provoke international opposition.

In March 2002 meetings with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, UK Ambassador Christopher Meyer expressed his government's support of regime change, and its willingness to help provide a justification for public consumption, in the form of a dossier against Saddam. While recognizing the U.S. could "go it alone if it wanted to," the British diplomat recommended a strategy for drawing international support. "I then went through the need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN SCRs and the critical importance of the MEPP [Middle East Peace Process] as an integral part of the anti-Saddam strategy." Once again, inspections are just a trap to provoke a casus belli, and the invocation of UN Security Council Resolutions is ironic, considering the context of two countries flouting the will of the international majority. The invocation of the Arab-Israeli peace process as central to the "anti-Saddam strategy" is revealing.

Wolfowitz likewise seemed to see Israel as highly relevant to Iraq policy. He wanted to detail Saddam's "barbarism," including the atrocities he had committed in the 1980s. Much of this had been compiled by the first Bush administration, notwithstanding the fact that many of the elder Bush's cabinet had aided and abetted those very crimes in the Reagan years. Strangely, Wolfowitz thought it important to destroy "any notion of moral equivalence between Iraq and Israel."

Wolfowitz was convinced that there was a link between Al-Qaeda and Saddam, and even asked the British ambassador if he knew anything of the supposed Prague meeting between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence. We now know that Atta was not in Prague at the time, and such a meeting never occurred. Still, Saddam gave comfort to anti-Israeli terrorists, which was relevant enough for Wolfowitz.

Secretary Wolfowitz also seemed to have a high estimation of the Iraqi National Congress defectors, and Ahmed Chalabi in particular. In retrospect, we know Chalabi was a highly unreliable source and thoroughly corrupt, yet the CIA warned of this even before the war, only to be brushed off by Wolfowitz.

Let us examine the UN Security Resolutions, which the unilateralist Americans would hypocritically invoke as a justification for war. The UK Foreign Office made such an examination, reporting to Tony Blair on 8 March 2002:

In the UK’s view a violation of Iraq’s obligations which undermines the basis of the cease-fire in resolution 687 (1991) can revive the authorisation to use force in resolutions 678 (1990). As the cease-fire was proclaimed by the Council in resolution 687 (1991), it is for the Council to assess whether any such breach of those obligations has occurred. The US have a rather different view: they maintain that the assessment of breach is for individual member States. We are not aware of any other State which supports this view.

To the surprise of no one who has witnessed American exceptionalism firsthand, the U.S. is the only country that thinks it can decide on its own whether an obligation to the UN Security Council has not been met. Such American nationalism, differing from racism in name only, regards the rest of the world as inferior in judgment, giving the U.S. the prerogative to decide for other nations over and against their will whether their interests have been violated.

Another possible rationale for war considered by the British was SC Resolution 1205, which had been invoked to justify Operation Desert Fox in 1998. This pretext was also fraught with difficulties.

The more difficult issue is whether we are still able to rely on the same legal base for the use of force more than three years after the adoption of resolution 1205 (1998). Military action in 1998 (and on previous occasions) followed on from specific decisions of the Council; there has now not been any significant decision by the Council since 1998. Our interpretation of resolutions 1205 was controversial anyway; many of our partners did not think the legal basis was sufficient as the authority to use force was no explicit. Reliance on it now would be unlikely to receive any support.

In 1998, the UK had joined the US in presuming to enforce Resolution 687 without the approval of the Security Council, though Resolution 1205 at least established that Iraq was in violation of its obligations under 687. As the memo under discussion observes, such a dubious justification would be even less convincing in 2002.

Under international law, nations may exercise the right of self-defense, reporting this exercise to the Security Council. However, the British memorandum notes, to exercise this right there must be more than "a threat."

There has to be an armed attack actual or imminent. The development or possession of nuclear weapons does not in itself amount to an armed attack; what would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack. During the Cold War there was certainly a threat in the sense that various States had nuclear weapons which they might, at short notice, unleash upon each other. But that did no mean the mere possession of nuclear weapons, or indeed their possession in time of high tension or attempt to obtain them, was sufficient to justify pre-emptive action.

Clearly, the later U.S. propaganda claim that Iraq's pursuit of nuclear weapons with hostile intent necessitated preemptive "self-defense" is without foundation in international law or the accepted understanding of what constitutes self-defense. The British knew this and stated so clearly, while the Americans would have no scruples about cavalierly re-defining "self-defense." Post-9/11 paranoia yielded speculation that Saddam might pass weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, yet this fearmongering did not consider that Iraq was far from being able to develop a nuclear weapon, and that its chemical and biological programs did not, of themselves constitute a justification for pre-emption. During the Cold War, a far greater threat existed in the nuclear-armed Soviet Union, which was often hostile in its diplomatic stance and had the ability to launch a devastating attack on a moment's notice. Nonetheless, in the absence of an imminent attack by the Soviets, the Americans could not justify a preemptive strike as self-defense. It is absurd, then, to claim that the much less imminently dangerous Iraq situation justified preemption. Indeed, the UN Security Council had unanimously condemned Israel for its preemptive strike on Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981.

The British also considered justifying the use of force as a humanitarian intervention. This novel doctrine, invoked to justify the 1999 NATO invasion of Kosovo, had no clear legal standing, but the British position was that it should be used only when a humanitarian catastrophe is "clear and well documented," and no means short of the use of force could prevent it. Even then, only proportionate measures should be taken to stop the catastrophe.

Humanitarian concerns were used to justify the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq, which the British memo acknowledges were "not established by UN Security Council Resolutions," contrary to public U.S. claims that they are enforcing resolutions 687 and 688. In fact, the memorandum notes, Resolution 687 does not deal with Iraq's internal political repression, and Resolution 688 makes no provision for enforcement. Short of an imminent massive humanitarian catastrophe, there would be no basis for an attack on Iraq beyond limited self-defense of aircraft in no-fly zones.

Lacking a legal basis for invasion, the U.S. and U.K. implemented a two-pronged plan to pave the way for war. In September 2002, the U.K. would release a dossier on Iraq's weapons programs, grossly exaggerating Iraqi capabilities in order to rally international support for an invasion. At the same time, U.S. and U.K. fighters greatly escalated their bombing campaign, in order to soften Iraqi air defenses in advance of the war.

On 5 September, 100 allied aircraft attacked the H-3 airfield in western Iraq, far from the Shi'ites they were supposedly defending. With Iraqi air defenses down, the British and Americans could leak special forces into Iraq through Jordan. Attacks on Iraqi air defenses continued, and the bombing in September tripled from August's high rate of 14.1 tons to 54.6 tons. The U.S. and Britain were already waging war against Iraq, more than two months before they sought authorization from the UN Security Council or the U.S. Congress, and all the while telling the public they sought to avoid war except as a last resort. This aggression failed to provoke Iraq into providing a casus belli, but it did succeed in destroying Iraqi air defense systems that could not be replaced in time for the invasion. American pilots conducted "practice runs, mock strikes and real attacks" in southern Iraq. (New York Times, 3 October 2002) In the words of U.S. Rear Admiral David Gove, the pilots were "essentially flying combat missions."

While the U.S. and U.K. were effectively conducting a war against Iraq, the British released their dossier of intelligence on Iraq's WMD programs. The British were concerned with finding a plausible justification for the war they sought, so it was in their interest to exaggerate the weapons capability of Iraq. Thus the dossier produced extravagant claims, most notably that Iraq could build a nuclear weapon within months of receiving weapons grade material, and that it could deploy chemical and biological weapons in forty-five minutes. The report also asserted that Iraq still had large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as mobile weapons labs to hide their programs. These assertions are now known to be completely false, though there remains a question as to whether the dossier reflected the best intelligence of the time.

Since there had been no weapons inspectors in Iraq since the UNSCOM spying scandal of 1999, there was little direct intelligence regarding the status of Iraqi weapons programs. Western intelligence agencies increasingly relied on Iraqi agents of dubious credibility in order to gather information. The CIA and British intelligence (SIS or MI6) were unable to penetrate Saddam's personal security forces, who protected documents from former weapons programs. There was little understanding to what degree these programs may have been reconstituted in the last three years.

Ironically, according to Iraqi accounts after the war, Saddam was convinced that his security forces had been infiltrated, and assumed that the U.S. knew that Iraq no longer had WMDs. Accordingly, Saddam sought to appease the U.S. by various means in the months before the war, believing that he could return to the good graces of the Americans. As much as Saddam publicly postured against the Americans, thereby increasing his stature in the Arab world, he also recognized the benefits of U.S. support, and sought a return to the relationship maintained in the 1980s. His American counterparts, however, had by this time held a Manichaean view of the Iraqi regime as simply evil, in contrast with Saddam's more complex attitude toward the United States.

After the war, it was found that many of the dossier's WMD claims were false and the supposed mobile biological weapons factories were merely for hydrogen gas production. British weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly was found dead in July 2003, leading to an inquiry that exposed Dr. Kelly's concerns that the dossier had been manipulated by Mr. Blair's government for political ends. In particular, he had objected to the claim that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons in forty-five minutes when he reviewed the dossier in August 2002. According to BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan, Dr. Kelly attributed the inclusion of the "45-minute claim" to Mr. Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, Alastair Campbell. An inquiry into the circumstances of Dr. Kelly's death, which was either suicide or murder, led to public accusations that the government had manipulated the evidence on Iraq and then killed Dr. Kelly to silence him.

Regardless of whether Dr. Kelly was murdered, his claim that the government manipulated the dossier merits examination. Ostensibly, the dossier was to be a report provided by British intelligence (SIS/MI6), summarizing the best information that its own agents and other independent agencies had gathered. In defense of the government, MI6 chief John Scarlett secretly wrote to the prime minister (4 June 2003) that, as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), he had been in charge of the drafting of the report without interference from the government.

According to Scarlett, the dossier originally was to have been a "paper for public consumption" on the WMD capabilities of several countries, but in mid-March 2002 it was decided to limit its scope to Iraq. A draft was sent from the Overseas and Defense Secretariat to Ambassador David Manning on the 21st, but "It was decided that the moment was not right to proceed with the exercise and the paper was not released." The defense secretariat sent intelligence updates to Manning throughout the summer months, until on 3 September the prime minister announced the dossier on Iraq would be published.

Over the next few days discussions took place between David Manning, Alastair Campbell, myself and our respective teams about the appropriate structure for the dossier. At meetings on 5 and 9 September it was agreed that this should cover the history of Iraq's WMD programmes, the history of the inspection process, an account of current capabilities and an account of the nature of the regime to include its record of severe human rights abuse. The purpose was to present a more detailed account of Iraqi capabilities to be placed in a wider context. Unlike the previous drafts, it would refer specifically to intelligence material. It was agreed that since this would now be an intelligence-based document I , as JIC Chairman, rather than OD Secretariat would be in charge of the process.

With responsibility shifted from the defense secretariat to British intelligence, a revised document was drafted. Representatives from the intelligence agencies consulted with relevant experts in two meetings of two to three hours each. Scarlett notes that "representatives from the No 10 (Danny Pruce) and FCO Press Offices (John Williams, Paul Hamill and James Paver) were involved." However, regarding the "45-minute claim," Scarlett insists that it "was not suggested by No 10," but "came from a line of reporting judged to be reliable and was consistent with standing JIC judgements."

In short, British intelligence claimed full responsibility for the assessment of Iraqi weapons capabilities. The historical and human rights chapters of the dossier, which were not intelligence-based, were drafted separately by the Foreign Office. The foreword was drafted by Prime Minister Blair. Part 1, which pertained to weapons intelligence, was submitted to the Joint Intelligence Commission for their approval on 19 September. The final draft was then sent to Alastair Campbell on 20 September. Scarlett and his staff remained in charge of the final publication, "including signing off the printer's proof on 23 September."

Assuming Scarlett's account is accurate, Kelly's account of Alastair Campbell's meddling may be explained by the supposition that Mr. Campbell did not add the 45-minute claim, but merely opposed Dr. Kelly's attempt to have it removed. Frustrated by this opposition, Dr. Kelly inferred an exaggerated sense of Mr. Campbell's influence over the dossier.

Why was the intelligence on Iraq so inaccurate? Though the Hutton inquiry effectively closed the door on any scrutiny of British prewar intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet would become quite outspoken on how American intelligence was acquired and presented to the government. After the war, Tenet would be heavily criticized as prewar estimates of Iraqi capabilities proved to be completely false. In public interviews, Tenet defended his prewar assessments even as others in the Bush administration attempted to discredit him.

Tenet clearly believed in the prewar assessments of Iraqi capabilities, as he tried to defend them even as late as 2004. By then, his chief adviser on Iraq, David Kay, had resigned, and was giving public interviews declaring that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles prior to the invasion. Tenet, defending prewar intelligence, admitted that after the end of UNSCOM inspections, he had to rely in part on dubious informants. In particular, two high-level informants in Iraq had claimed that production of biological and chemical weapons was ongoing. ("CIA Chief Defends Iraq Intelligence," Associated Press, 5 February 2004) Evidently, these sources had misinformed him, possibly intentionally.

David Kay, in public interviews, confirmed that the CIA had relied heavily on information from Iraqi defectors. This erroneous intelligence, coupled with the false inference that materials unaccounted for by UNSCOM remained extant stockpiles, led to a highly exaggerated estimation of Iraqi capability. This assessment confirmed what the administration already tended to believe.

As postwar inspections proved that Iraq had no WMD, the Bush administration attempted to blame Tenet, a Clinton appointee, for misleading them into war. They leaked to the journalist Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) a conversation where Tenet told the president that the case for WMDs in Iraq was a "slam dunk." When Woodward's book "Plan of Attack" was published in the summer of 2004, Tenet became the scapegoat for the war. As we have seen, the Bush administration was long committed to regime change regardless of the WMD issue, a fact that would be proven when, contrary to all expectations, Saddam Hussein readmitted inspectors to Iraq.

Saddam's No-Win Scenario: Iraq Admits Inspectors

It is understandable that Western intelligence on Iraq would be highly inaccurate in mid-2002, since Iraq had been closed to weapons inspections for more than three years. However, the tensions created by Anglo-American sabre-rattling in September prompted the international community to seek a diplomatic solution to avert war, and pressure increased on Saddam Hussein to re-admit weapons inspectors.

In 1999, shortly after the UNSCOM spying scandal, the UN Security Council established a new weapons inspection commission called UNMOVIC, as mentioned previously. At first, former UNSCOM chief Rolf Ekeus was nominated to head the commission. However, the Russians and the French objected to this selection, so ultimately the Swedish diplomat and former head of the IAEA Hans Blix was chosen.

UNMOVIC at first was a weapons inspections commission without any actual inspections to conduct. The first three years of its existence was spent analyzing the data collected by UNSCOM and planning inspection methods for when it would return to Iraq. By February 2002, UNMOVIC had 180 trained experts ready to serve in Iraq on its behalf.

The first real duties of UNMOVIC came in May 2002, when Security Council Resolution 1409 was passed. This resolution authorized the sale to Iraq of any goods not proscribed by Resolution 687, subject to the review of UNMOVIC and IAEA experts. Although military goods were still strictly prohibited, this resolution represented a broad consensus by the international community that the sanctions ought to be relaxed in order to make civilian goods available to Iraqis and alleviate the humanitarian crisis. It is no accident that this softening of the sanctions regime was followed by increased belligerence by the U.S. and U.K., designed to provoke an Iraqi military response.

As discussed previously, the Anglo-American alliance had resolved that the Iraqi regime should be toppled, regardless of its cooperation with weapons inspections. The military strikes were designed to force the Baathists into a no-win scenario: either they refuse to admit inspectors, in violation of the Security Council, or they admit inspectors, in which case violations would also be found. Either way, a justification for continued sanctions would be maintained.

What no one seriously expected is that the Iraqi regime would fully cooperate with weapons inspections. This was due to the uncritically held belief in the West that Iraq had revived its chemical and biological weapons programs. Cooperation came grudgingly, but it did come, and in the process, the entire WMD myth justifying the war would fall apart.

In August 2002, after President Bush had already made up his mind on military action, Secretary of State Colin Powell persuaded him to push for inspections, in order to garner international support for U.S. policy. This was over the objections of National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, who did not wish to bother with the U.N. at all, according to the Downing Street memo. Nevertheless, the Bush administration would hypocritically claim to be defending UN resolutions when in fact it was only concerned with pursuing its own unilateral policy. This would become increasingly clear in the months that followed.

In early September, the Bush administration began a media blitz making the case for strong action against Iraq. On the 7th, Bush met with Tony Blair and falsely claimed in public that the IAEA had said in 1998 that Iraq was six months away from a nuclear weapon. No such report was issued then or any other year. On the 8th, Condoleeza Rice claimed that Iraq had tried to buy high-strength aluminum tubes that were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs." There was in fact no evidence that these tubes, which the Iraqis claimed to be for missiles, had dimensions suitable for use in centrifuges. Despite the lack of any real evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, Rice infamously warned: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

Others in the Bush administration fear-mongered just as recklessly. Dick Cheney claimed that Iraq had been aggressively developing nuclear weapons over the last fourteen months. "Increasingly, we believe that the United States may well become the target of those activities." He also referred to the infamous aluminum tubes. Donald Rumsfeld claimed that Iraq was two to six years away from possessing nuclear capabilities. Colin Powell found that weapons inspections were of limited usefulness, because "once defectors came out, they told us more information than the inspectors ever had found." Of course, this additional information turned out to be completely wrong.

The Bush administration had little use or respect for weapons inspectors, so it is unsurprising that they paid little heed to Scott Ritter, who conservatively estimated that 90% to 95% of Iraq's chemical stockpiles were destroyed under UNSCOM. This meant that virtually all of Iraq's WMD capability, if any, would had to have been developed since 1998, in the last five years. There was nothing but dubious testimony in evidence of this. The manufacture of chemical or biological weapons, he noted, releases gases that could be detected by satellite, and any advanced nuclear weapons program would emit detectable gamma radiation.

Former UN under-secretary-general Count Hans von Sponeck told Scotland's Sunday Herald (8 September 2002) that he believed the West was lying about Iraq's weapons programs. He recalled that the Al-Dora and Fallujah factories, suspected of having been chemical weapons plants, were "comprehensively trashed" by order of UNSCOM. He visited the wrecked site in 1999 and again in July 2002, belying claims that they had resumed chemical and biological weapons production. It should be emphasized that the intelligence claims about Iraq's weapons programs were repeatedly contradicted by weapons inspectors before the invasion.

On the 12th of September, President Bush addressed the U.N., recapitulating Iraqi violations of Security Council resolutions. He made the following demands of the Iraqi government:

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans and others — again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues as required by the Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

The most serious grievance was the first, as only this could suffice to justify the pre-emptive invasion that Bush sought. The other grievances, though serious, did not have any SC Resolution support as a basis for military action. Iraqi support of terrorism was hardly greater than that of Syria and other Arab regimes. The Al-Qaeda connection had already been discredited by then, though Rumsfeld's advisor Richard Perle was still claiming that Saddam Hussein had met with Mohammed Atta before the September 11 attacks. Even so, Perle maintained, "The main objective of the American administration is to avoid weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong hands." (Times of India, 8 September 2002)

The Iraqis correctly perceived that the WMD issue was the greatest concern of the international community, so foreign minister Naji Sabri promptly sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 16 September. Stunningly, the Iraqi government agreed "to allow the return of the United Nations weapons inspectors to Iraq without conditions." The Americans responded coolly, stating in a White House press release:

This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions. This is a tactical step by Iraq in hopes of avoiding strong UN Security Council action. As such, it is a tactic that will fail. It is time for the Security Council to act.

In other words, the U.S. did not believe the Iraqis would really cooperate with inspectors, and even if they did, the U.S. would seek military action regardless. At that time, the Americans were pushing for a Security Council resolution that would provide a pretext for invasion that was lacking in Resolution 687. Russia, by contrast, welcomed the Iraqi decision and saw it as an important step toward ending the sanctions.

Faced with the real danger of losing international support for authorization of military force, the U.K. published its dossier on Iraq on 24 September 2002. This intelligence report contained some alarming claims, particularly regarding Iraq's supposed nuclear weapons program. It said that Iraq was one to two years away from building a nuclear weapon if it could obtain weapons-grade material, and that indeed the Iraqis had tried to acquire "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa. They had also "tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons."

We now know that these claims were utterly false, but even at that time it was known that the British had stretched the truth considerably. The claim of a one to two year period to build a nuclear weapon was utterly implausible. Iraq's nuclear program had been disbanded by 1994, and their nuclear scientists and engineers now lived in poverty. (Imad Khadduri, "Iraq's nuclear non-capability," 21 November, 2002) Even with an active nuclear program and physical plant, such a timetable would have exceeded the performance of other countries that had developed atomic bombs. The allegation that Niger considered selling yellowcake uranium to Iraq was based on a single report, found by the U.S. State Department in early 2002 to have been a dubious and unsubstantiated claim, not to mention physically impracticable. This did not prevent both the British and the Americans from continuing to use the Niger claim as late as March 2003.

The British dossier also distorted the assessments of the Joint Intelligence Commission in order to strengthen the case for war. The JIC assessment repeatedly emphasized that intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs since 1998 was "limited" and that much of the report was "based on judgment and assessment." The dossier, by contrast, spoke with certitude of "what we know" and characterized the intelligence as "extensive, detailed, and authoritative." Where the JIC assessment judged it "possible" that Saddam would use WMDs against the Shi'ites, the dossier said that he had "plans" to use them. The full extent of this distortion would not become clear until Lord Butler's report in 2004, but even in 2002 some of the dossier's characterization of intelligence was challenged.

Most of the dossier simply rehashed what the Americans and British had already alleged in the weeks and months previous. Thus it changed relatively few opinions about the war, at least among political figures and journalists. The BBC and the Washington Post, among others, published the views of dissenters who challenged the evidence and demanded that assessments of weapons capabilities be made by inspectors, not the U.S. and British governments. This opportunity would come soon, as weapons inspectors finally obtained full access to Iraq.

On 30 September and 1 October, UNMOVIC chief Hans Blix and Mohamed El-Baradei, Director of the IAEA, met with an Iraqi delegation led by General Amer Al-Sa'adi in Vienna. They discussed the practical arrangements necessary to resume weapons inspections. The Iraqis provided a backlog of declarations of dual-use equipment as required by Security Council Resolution 715 (1991). Blix and El-Baradei reported to the Security Council on the outcome of these talks. On 8 October, the two chiefs sent a letter to Al-Sa'adi listing their understanding of the requirements, and Iraq confirmed its acceptance on 10 October and 12 October.

The terms of the 8 October letter were made binding on Iraq in Security Council Resolution 1441 on 8 November. The resolution censured Iraq's past and current failure to comply with weapons inspectors, and recalled that... ...its Resolution 678 (1990) authorized Member States to use all necessary means to uphold and implement its resolution 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990 and all relevant resolutions subsequent to resolution 660 (1990) and to restore international peace and security in the area.

The resolution further stated that Resolution 687 "imposed obligations on Iraq as a necessary step for achievement of its stated objective of restoring international peace and security in the area." This language, which was adopted from a US/UK draft, would give the Anglo-American allies a pretext for the use of military force without obtaining a new Security Council authorization. Resolution 660, which authorized the first Gulf War, would also authorize any peacekeeping operation made necessary by Iraq's failure to comply with Resolution 687. The terms by which Iraq was to comply with that resolution was set out in the appended letter from Blix and El-Baradei. Iraq would provide full cooperation to weapons inspectors from UNMOVIC and the IAEA, even at presidential sites, and inspections were to resume within forty-five days. If Iraq failed to comply, the UK and US would have their pretext for war.

Against all expectations, Iraq would comply with Resolution 1441 to the general satisfaction of UNMOVIC and the IAEA. On 13 November, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Saberi Ahmed confirmed Iraq's intention to comply. Dismissing American and British claims of Iraq WMDs as "baseless" fabrications, he noted that Iraq had already agreed to inspections on 16 September (before the British dossier was published). Although the letter protests at some of Resolution 1441's language deploring Iraq's non-compliance, it continues...

We hereby ask you to inform the Security Council that we are prepared to receive the inspectors within the assigned timetable. ...

We are eager to see them perform their duties in accordance with the international law as soon as possible. ...

It will then become the lawful duty of the Security Council to lift the blockade and all the other unjust sanctions on Iraq. ...

The SC will be compelled before the public opinion and the law to activate paragraph 14 of its resolution No. 687, by applying it to the Zionist entity [Israel], and then, to all the Middle East region, to make it a region void of mass destruction weapons. ...

Therefore, through you, we reiterate the same words to the Security Council: Send your inspectors to Iraq to make sure of this, and everyone will be sure, if their way of conduct is supervised so that it becomes legal and professional, that Iraq has not developed weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, chemical, or biological, as claimed by evil people. The lies and manipulations of the American administration and British government will be exposed, while the world will see how truthful and adequate are the Iraqis in what they say and do. ...

The fieldwork and the implementation will be the decisive factors that will reveal whether the intentions were really for the Security Council to make sure that Iraq is void of those alleged weapons, or whether the whole thing was nothing but an evil cover by those who were behind the resolution who have no scruples to utter debased slander and to tell lies to the public opinion including to their own peoples. ...

The final word and reference will still be resolution No.687 with its obligations on both the Secretary general and Iraq, along will the code of conduct agreed upon in the agreement signed by the Secretary-General in New York on 16th September, 2002, and the press statement of Hans Blix and ElBaradei in Vienna in 30/9- 1/10/2002.

Some of the Iraqi bluster would turn out to be justified, as there indeed would prove to be no WMDs in Iraq, while the American and British allegations would be utterly discredited. The foreign minister noted that the binding documents were Resolution 687 and the agreement with Blix and El-Baradei. As long as Iraq complied with these, there would be no more pretext for sustaining the sanctions, much less invading Iraq. The letter pokes at American and British hypocrisy with its oblique reference to the nuclear weapons possessed by Israel, a country that has done much to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East. Naturally, if the British and Americans were more concerned with the well-being of the Middle East than with dominating it, they would subject Israel to the same nuclear non-proliferation standards.

On 18 November, Blix and El-Baradei arrived in Baghdad with an advance team of about thirty people. Technical personnel restored the former base of operations for UNSCOM and IAEA, which was now to be known as the Baghdad Ongoing Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre (BOMVIC). The two directors met with Iraqi officials to discuss implementation of inspections, and stressed the importance of a full declaration of materials possessed. This was to be submitted by 8 December to UNMOVIC and IAEA. They also requested responses to questions and comments on the backlog of declarations submitted in October.

On 25 November, Dr. Blix briefed members of the Security Council on his Baghdad visit. That same day, the first team of UNMOVIC inspectors arrived in Iraq. The first inspection was scheduled for 27 November, well in advance of the forty-five-day deadline. On 7 December, Iraq submitted its declaration, which was essentially the same in content as what been submitted in 1996, but with some explanation of previously unaccounted precursors for chemical warfare agents.

The Case for War Weakens

The Iraqis proved to be far more cooperative with UNMOVIC than they had been with previous inspection teams. Inspectors were granted immediate access to any site, including presidential sites, at any time, and the Iraqis offered their own resources to facilitate the inspection process. Dr. Blix reported to the Security Council on 9 January 2003:

Evidently if we had found any ‘smoking gun’ we would have reported it to the Council. Similarly, if we had met a denial of access or other impediment to our inspections we would have reported it to the Council. We have not submitted any such reports.
The absence of ‘smoking guns’ and the prompt access which we have had so far and which is most welcome, is no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites, whether above ground, underground or in mobile units.

On the other hand, the absence of dramatic finds is no indication that the inspections have been futile. After four years without international inspections a steadily increasing number of industrial, administrative, military, scientific and research sites are again being opened for inspections under the authority of the Security Council. The transparency is increasing – but does not exclude dark corners or caves.

Let me conclude: the prompt access/open doors policy that has been pursued so far by Iraq vis-à-vis the inspectors is an indispensable element of transparency in a process that aims at securing disarmament by peaceful means. However, prompt access is by no means sufficient to give confidence that nothing is hidden in a large country with an earlier record of avoiding disclosures.

Although the Iraqis had been fully cooperative in providing the inspectors prompt and complete access to all sites, this did not suffice to prove that there was nothing hidden. Iraq's December declaration asserted that there were no more prohibited weapons in the country, but Blix insisted that it was not enough for Iraq to rely on the absence of incriminating evidence.

A person accused of the illegal possession of weapons may, indeed, be acquitted for lack of evidence, but if a state, which has used such weapons, is to create confidence that it has no longer any prohibited weapons, it will need to present solid evidence or present remaining items for elimination under supervision. Evidence can be of the most varied kind: budgets, letters of credit, production records, destruction records, transportation notes, or interviews by knowledgeable persons, who are not subjected to intimidation.

I have not asserted on behalf of UNMOVIC that proscribed items or activities exist in Iraq, but if they do, Iraq should present them and then eliminate them in our presence. There is still time for it.

If evidence is not presented, which gives a high degree of assurance, there is no way the inspectors can close a file by simply invoking a precept that Iraq cannot prove the negative. In such cases, regrettably, they must conclude, as they have done in the past, that the absence of the particular item is not assured.

Blix suggests some possible means by which Iraq might prove its innocence, and argues that a state seeking international confidence should not be held to the standard of an individual defending himself from a crime. Blix does not claim that the Iraqis are hiding prohibited weapons or activities, but simply demands that they present any exonerating evidence promptly and proactively, or he cannot close their case.

In his press briefing on the same day (9 January 2003), Dr. Blix took a position of cautious neutrality, neither accusing Iraq of non-compliance nor declaring cooperation to be complete. He did not try to influence the debate on whether to give Iraq more time, simply saying, "I think that it is for the Council to decide what patience they have." Still, he declared his belief that, "Inspections can be undertaken with full Iraqi cooperation. We can finish (our work) under 1284 within a year. I believe that is still the case. If not, we cannot."

The inspectors had difficulty getting Iraqis to agree to be interviewed in private or outside of Iraq. Still, Blix believed that interviews were fruitful:

We do carry out a lot of interviews as we go into installations, whether military or civilian, whatever, we carry out a lot of interviews and we get a lot of information. And frequently minders are present. Interviews with minders present are not useless, they were not in the past, and they are not useless now.
We are ready to use the options we can, and at the same time we cannot force any individual to speak if he doesn't accept that. We cannot force anybody to go abroad or force them to defect.

Although the Bush administration would seize upon the lack of private interviews outside Iraq as evidence of non-compliance, Dr. Blix understood that the UN had no right to coerce an individual to speak on those terms. In this as in other areas, the Bush administration had a weak grasp of human rights.

On 27 January, Dr. Blix delivered his 60-day report to the Security Council, as required by Resolution 1441. In this report, he would state that "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament, which was demanded of it," a quote that was seized upon by war advocates as evidence of non-compliance. Let us examine what Dr. Blix said in its full context.

Dr. Blix began his report by recapitulating the history of Security Council resolutions on Iraq. In particular, he noted that Resolution 687 called for declarations of WMD and long range missiles, followed by verification of these declarations by UNSCOM and the IAEA. These organizations would then supervise the destruction of the prohibited weapons programs.

Resolution 687 (1991), like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to, required cooperation by Iraq but such was often withheld or given grudgingly. Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace. [Emphasis added]

Viewing the emphasized quote in its full context, we see that Blix is not accusing Iraq of non-compliance, but observes that Iraq is submitting to inspections only grudgingly, under international pressure. In contrast with South Africa, which voluntarily renounced WMDs and welcomed inspections, the Iraqis relinquished their WMD programs only under duress. Their failure to genuinely accept disarmament means only that they would prefer to be permitted to develop WMDs, not that they are actually hiding such programs.

Blix then recounted the hide-and-seek game in the early nineties when the Iraqis tried to hide the extent of their past weapons programs, causing the verification process to take much longer than expected. Still, much disarmament was accomplished in that period:

The implementation of resolution 687 (1991) nevertheless brought about considerable disarmament results. It has been recognized that more weapons of mass destruction were destroyed under this resolution than were destroyed during the Gulf War: large quantities of chemical weapons were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision before 1994. While Iraq claims - with little evidence - that it destroyed all biological weapons unilaterally in 1991, it is certain that UNSCOM destroyed large biological weapons production facilities in 1996. The large nuclear infrastructure was destroyed and the fissionable material was removed from Iraq by the IAEA.

As discussed previously, chemical weapons and their precursors were destroyed in the early nineties without protest by the Iraqis. With the biological weapons facilities, however, there was some resistance, as these had been converted to civilian use. The Iraqis tried to hide the former use of these facilities in order to spare them from destruction. In no case were stockpiles of biological agents found. At any rate, by 1996, Iraq's WMD capability was eliminated. Still, to Blix, three questions remained: 1) "how much might remain undeclared and intact from before 1991, and possibly thereafter;" 2) "what, if anything, was illegally produced or procured after 1998, when the inspectors left;" and 3) "how it can be prevented that any weapons of mass destruction be produced or procured in the future."

Blix correctly remarked that the inspectors were "withdrawn" in 1998, for Iraq did not expel them, but UNSCOM withdrew in anticipation of the US bombing campaign, and they were not permitted to return because of the spying scandal. Resolution 1284, recognizing that much disarmament was accomplished, yet there still were "key remaining disarmament tasks," offered suspension of sanctions in return for Iraqi cooperation. Still, when a new organization, UNMOVIC, ostensibly more independent of the U.S., was created, the Iraqis did not permit them to enter for three years.

Resolution 1441 (2002) was adopted on 8 November last year and emphatically reaffirmed the demand on Iraq to cooperate. It required this cooperation to be immediate, unconditional and active. The resolution contained many provisions, which we welcome as enhancing and strengthening the inspection regime. The unanimity by which it was adopted sent a powerful signal that the Council was of one mind in creating a last opportunity for peaceful disarmament in Iraq through inspection.

Recognizing the urgency of UNMOVIC's mission, Blix gave his assessment of Iraq's cooperativeness. In this regard, he made an explicit distinction between cooperation on process and cooperation on substance. The Iraqis were highly cooperative in matters of process:

Iraq has on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field. The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt. We have further had great help in building up the infrastructure of our office in Baghdad and the field office in Mosul. Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good. The environment has been workable. Our inspections have included universities, military bases, presidential sites and private residences. Inspections have also taken place on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest, on Christmas day and New Years day.

Although his assessment of Iraqi cooperation on process was generally positive, Blix did encounter some problems. The Iraqis suspected that UNMOVIC inspectors would commit acts of espionage similar to those of UNSCOM. For this reason, Iraq attempted to impose conditions on the use of U-2 surveillance, until finally relenting in February. The Iraqis claimed that the inspectors were asking questions not related to WMD, essentially accusing them of spying, to which Blix took offense. There also were public demonstrations against the inspectors, accusing them of spying. Blix suspected these protests were actively supported by the government.

Dr. Blix explained what he meant by cooperation on "substance":

The substantive cooperation required relates above all to the obligation of Iraq to declare all programmes of weapons of mass destruction and either to present items and activities for elimination or else to provide evidence supporting the conclusion that nothing proscribed remains. Paragraph 9 of resolution 1441 (2002) states that this cooperation shall be "active". It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of "catch as catch can". Rather, as I noted, it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy or credible evidence about the absence of any such items.

A deficiency in substantive cooperation meant failure to declare all WMD programs or to provide evidence that nothing proscribed remained. Blix believed that the Iraqis had not fully accounted for their past weapons programs, and had not adequately demonstrated that nothing remained. It is not the job of inspectors to try to find this evidence; the Iraqis are supposed to voluntarily produce it. As we now know from hindsight, they simply had no further evidence to offer. Unfortunately, due to the secretive nature of the programs, much had been destroyed without adequate documentation.

Blix maintained that Iraq's December 2002 declaration did not address the "key remaining disarmament tasks" in the final UNSCOM report of January 1999 and the Amarim report of March 1999.

These reports do not contend that weapons of mass destruction remain in Iraq, but nor do they exclude that possibility. They point to lack of evidence and inconsistencies, which raise question marks, which must be straightened out, if weapons dossiers are to be closed and confidence is to arise. They deserve to be taken seriously by Iraq rather than being brushed aside as evil machinations of UNSCOM.

As a concrete example of an unresolved issue, Blix noted that the VX Iraq formerly possessed may have been of higher purity than previously declared, or may have even been weaponized at one point. Not all of the VX precursor chemicals were adequately accounted.

Further, there was an apparent discrepancy in Iraqi claims about chemical munitions consumption. An Iraqi Air Force document indicated...

...that 13,000 chemical bombs were dropped by the Iraqi Air Force between 1983 and 1988, while Iraq has declared that 19,500 bombs were consumed during this period. Thus, there is a discrepancy of 6,500 bombs. The amount of chemical agent in these bombs would be in the order of about 1,000 tonnes. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we must assume that these quantities are now unaccounted for.

War apologists made much of the discovery of a small number of 122 mm chemical rocket warheads in a storage depot 170 km southwest of Baghdad. Most neglected to mention that these were empty warheads. Iraq claimed that these were overlooked among a batch of 2,000 stored during the Gulf War. Due to this discovery of empty warheads, Iraq made proactive efforts to find other unaccounted rockets.

During my recent discussions in Baghdad, Iraq declared that it would make new efforts in this regard and had set up a committee of investigation. Since then it has reported that it has found a further 4 chemical rockets at a storage depot in Al Taji. I might further mention that inspectors have found at another site a laboratory quantity of thiodiglycol, a mustard gas precursor.

Again, there is no evidence that Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction. All that was found was a few empty warheads and a small quantity (one liter) of chemical precursor, and this with the help of the Iraqis themselves.

The Iraqis claimed to have unilaterally destroyed 8,500 liters of anthrax in the summer of 1991. They were unable to provide evidence of the quantity produced or destroyed. Blix demanded convincing evidence that this destruction took place. This presents an epistemic problem: if no records of the destruction were made in 1991, how could the Iraqis produce evidence now? There would be no way to physically prove what quantity was destroyed.

Further, Iraq's December 2002 declaration did not include some 650 kg of bacterial growth media which it had reported to the Amorim panel in February 1999. For some reason, the Iraqis deliberately omitted these media, renumbering the other pages. Blix noted that this amount of media could, in principle, be used to produce 5,000 liters of anthrax, a point seized upon by Powell. However, this would also require amounts of anthrax for the media to act upon. Bacterial growth media admits of diverse uses, including legitimate medical and scientific use.

Blix professed neutrality on the question of whether Iraq possessed weapons until the outstanding questions were resolved.

Our Iraqi counterparts are fond of saying that there are no proscribed items and if no evidence is presented to the contrary they should have the benefit of the doubt, be presumed innocent. UNMOVIC, for its part, is not presuming that there are proscribed items and activities in Iraq, but nor is it - or I think anyone else after the inspections between 1991 and 1998 - presuming the opposite, that no such items and activities exist in Iraq. Presumptions do not solve the problem. Evidence and full transparency may help.

As mentioned earlier, Iraq agreed to proactively search for empty chemical munitions. Yet Blix asked: "Why not extend the search to other items? Declare what may be found and destroy it under our supervision?" The answer, as we now know, is that the Iraqis knew that they never had anything besides chemical weapons in the first place. Biological weapons would degrade if not maintained, and nuclear facilities are too large and complex to be hidden. Still, Blix proposed this remedy:

Find documents. When we have urged our Iraqi counterparts to present more evidence, we have all too often met the response that there are no more documents. All existing relevant documents have been presented, we are told. All documents relating to the biological weapons programme were destroyed together with the weapons. However, Iraq has all the archives of the Government and its various departments, institutions and mechanisms. It should have budgetary documents, requests for funds and reports on how they have been used. It should also have letters of credit and bills of lading, reports on production and losses of material.

Blix considered the possibility that Iraqis were hiding documents in private homes. One inspection found "in the private home of a scientist, a box of 3,000 pages of documents, much of it relating to the laser enrichment of uranium". The Iraqis claimed that this was an isolated incident, but Blix warned, "Any further sign of the concealment of documents would be serious."

If the Iraqis were unable to produce documents, Blix suggested that Iraq ought to find individuals who could testify about the extent of the weapons programs and their dismantlement. Iraq provided a list of merely 400 names of people who had worked in the prohibited weapons programs, in contrast with the over 3,500 names known to UNSCOM from various sources. "At my recent meeting in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to supplementing the list and some 80 additional names have been provided." UNMOVIC asked for interviews in Baghdad with 11 of these 480 individuals.

The replies have invariably been that the individual will only speak at Iraq's monitoring directorate or, at any rate, in the presence of an Iraqi official. This could be due to a wish on the part of the invited to have evidence that they have not said anything that the authorities did not wish them to say. At our recent talks in Baghdad, the Iraqi side committed itself to encourage persons to accept interviews "in private," that is to say alone with us. Despite this, the pattern has not changed. However, we hope that with further encouragement from the authorities, knowledgeable individuals will accept private interviews, in Baghdad or abroad.

Notwithstanding these concerns, Blix spoke confidently about the achievements of UNMOVIC so far.

In the past two months, UNMOVIC has built-up its capabilities in Iraq from nothing to 260 staff members from 60 countries. This includes approximately 100 UNMOVIC inspectors, 60 air operations staff, as well as security personnel, communications, translation and interpretation staff, medical support, and other services at our Baghdad office and Mosul field office. All serve the United Nations and report to no one else.

Furthermore, our roster of inspectors will continue to grow as our training programme continues - even at this moment we have a training course in session in Vienna. At the end of that course, we shall have a roster of about 350 qualified experts from which to draw inspectors. A team supplied by the Swiss Government is refurbishing our offices in Baghdad, which had been empty for four years. The Government of New Zealand has contributed both a medical team and a communications team. The German Government will contribute unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance and a group of specialists to operate them for us within Iraq. The Government of Cyprus has kindly allowed us to set up a Field Office in Larnaca.

All these contributions have been of assistance in quickly starting up our inspections and enhancing our capabilities. So has help from the UN in New York and from sister organizations in Baghdad. In the past two months during which we have built-up our presence in Iraq, we have conducted about 300 inspections to more than 230 different sites. Of these, more than 20 were sites that had not been inspected before. By the end of December, UNMOVIC began using helicopters both for the transport of inspectors and for actual inspection work. We now have eight helicopters. They have already proved invaluable in helping to "freeze" large sites by observing the movement of traffic in and around the area. Setting up a field office in Mosul has facilitated rapid inspections of sites in northern Iraq. We plan to establish soon a second field office in the Basra area, where we have already inspected a number of sites.

Mr. President, we have now an inspection apparatus that permits us to send multiple inspection teams every day all over Iraq, by road or by air. Let me end by simply noting that that capability which has been built-up in a short time and which is now operating, is at the disposal of the Security Council.

These are the words of a man who is confident in UNMOVIC's increasing capabilities, and in what they have accomplished in a short time. Though frustrated at times with a lack of Iraqi proactiveness in providing substantive evidence, Blix was encouraged by developments following his recent meeting in Baghdad. In order to resolve remaining disarmament issues, Iraq would have to provide documentation, or encourage individuals to fill documentary gaps with their testimony. The Iraqis had already established commissions of inquiry to locate missing materials. Blix did not claim to know if Iraq had stockpiles or not, or if they simply lacked documentation of their destruction. He knew the Iraqis took "an innocent until proven guilty" attitude, but he demanded positive evidence that the weapons had been destroyed in the amounts declared. Still, as of late January, despite extensive surprise inspections, UNMOVIC yielded no evidence that Iraq had re-armed itself with WMD since 1998.

The Inevitable War: Powell's Hard Sell

In spite of Iraq's unprecedented level of cooperation with weapons inspections, the Bush administration sought to make the specious argument that Iraq was in violation of Resolution 1441, so member states would be authorized to use any means necessary to restore peace to the region. It was disingenuous, to say the least, to argue that Iraq's degree of compliance with UNMOVIC was jeopardizing regional security. The only threat of war was that caused by military buildup by the United States and Britain; Iraq was not threatening her neighbors in any way. Apparently disconnected from the reality of Iraq's cooperation with UNMOVIC, President Bush declared, "The game is up," as if Saddam were playing the same cat-and-mouse games of the 1990s. Bush needed to promote this falsehood in order to justify the invasion, for Iraq's cooperation with inspectors would strip the U.S. of its fig-leaf casus belli. To make the case that Iraq was not compliant with Resolution 1441, he sent Colin Powell to give a public presentation before the UN in February. This presentation would become infamous for its alarmism and mendacity.

Many commentators critical of the war have given Gen. Powell a free pass, characterizing him as a dutiful soldier forced to give a case he did not know was full of false evidence. In fact, we have seen that long before February 2003, Powell was an active promoter of an Iraqi invasion, not a reluctant warrior by any means. His press interviews, a matter of public record, repeatedly downplayed the effectiveness of weapons inspections, while reiterating the obviously false party line that war was sought only as a last resort. When Iraq made overtures to the UN in August 2002 regarding the resumption of inspections, Powell responded:

There is no need for further clarification or discussion of a comprehensive approach. The approach is clear and spelled out in appropriate UN Security Council resolutions. Inspections aren’t the issue; disarmament is the issue. Making sure that they have no weapons of mass destruction and they did what they said they were supposed to do, but we know that they haven’t, at the end of the Gulf War. (Press Briefing in Manila, 3 August 2002)

This Iran-Contra veteran was no stranger to double-dealing. He knew the administration was set on a regime change policy at least since early 2002, and that the UN route, pursued over the objections of Condoleeza Rice, was designed to grant legitimacy to the invasion. Gen. Powell never articulated a scenario where Iraq could satisfy the U.S. In fact, his comments above set an impossible criterion: Iraq must not merely submit to inspections, but it must destroy weapons it does not have.

This theme of disarmament would dominate the last month before the war, as the Bush administration would categorically insist that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, the results of the inspections notwithstanding. The public would be asked to trust secret U.S. "intelligence" over the firsthand testimony of the inspectors. This intelligence would be presented at the now infamous briefing Gen. Powell gave before the UN on 5 February 2003.

Herein lies the fault of the U.S. position: it is not that the intelligence was faulty; it is that the Bush administration refused to allow even for the possibility that the intelligence might be mistaken. This is inexcusable because (1) the intelligence agencies themselves acknowledged this possibility, and (2) denying this possibility enabled Bush to issue an impossible ultimatum: Iraq must destroy weapons it does not have. This is a blatantly unjust cause for war; one might as well demand that the Iraqis should square the circle or build a perpetual motion machine. Since the ultimatum is impossible to meet, it effectively amounts to a declaration that the United States will invade no matter what. Thus the war is utterly without cause, legitimate or otherwise.

This uncritical assumption that Iraq must be concealing weapons underlies practically all of Powell's testimony. A corollary of this assumption is that the inspections are ineffective, as they have failed to locate a substantial cache of weapons after more than two months. Throughout his testimony, Powell sought to show that the Iraqis had been successfully deceiving the inspectors. To this end, he cynically falsified evidence and exaggerated his own certitude, knowing that after the war, the rationales would all become moot and he could fall back on the bromide that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

Powell relied on intercepted Iraqi communications to show that Iraq had been hiding prohibited items from the inspectors. A conversation recorded on 26 November 2002 between an Iraqi colonel and a general indicates they knew Mohamed El Baradei was arriving the next day. Powell uses this as evidence that Iraqi espionage knew when and where inspections would occur, but it was a matter of public record that inspections would begin on 27 November. The conversation continues:

COL: We have this modified vehicle.
GEN: Yeah.
COL: What do we say if one of them sees it?
GEN: You didn't get a modified... You don't have a modified...
COL: By God, I have one.
GEN: Which? From the workshop...?
COL: From the al-Kindi Company
GEN: What?
COL: From al-Kindi.
GEN: Yeah, yeah. I'll come to you in the morning. I have some comments. I'm worried you all have something left.
COL: We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left.

As translated, the conversation seems incriminating. However, as Bob Woodward reports a meeting between Powell and his chief aide Richard Armitage, context was lacking.

It was suggestive, and potentially incriminating, but what he was talking about was not clear. No one could tell from this intercept or any other intelligence. An alternative explanation was that the colonel and the general just wanted to make sure they had complied. Powell decided to use it because it involved senior officials and the “evacuated” quote seemed strong. (Woodward, Plan of Attack (2004), p. 299.)

The Arabic word translated as "evacuated" can also mean "vacated." The conversation could alternatively be interpreted as meaning that the colonel had emptied out everything in his facilities, but could not find any prohibited items. There is nothing nefarious in searching for prohibited items in advance; in fact, the Iraqis were expected to proactively search for such items rather than passively let the inspectors do all the work. The dual use vehicle, apparently unknown to the general before this conversation, would require explanation as to its actual use. There is enough here to arouse suspicion, but nothing overtly incriminating.

Another conversation cited by Powell, dating to mid-January 2003, seems much more incriminating: "And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there." Here the transcript has been falsified for Powell's presentation. The original transcript of the recording states simply: "And we sent you a message to inspect the scrap areas and the abandoned areas." The expressions "clean out" and "Make sure there is nothing there" were complete fabrications.

In another tape recorded conversation from early 2003, two Republican Guard officers have a brief exchange where the superior officer tells a Captain Ibrahim to "Write this down."

COL: Remove.
CAPT: Remove. [Repeats instructions]
COL: The expression.
CAPT: The expression.
COL: "Nerve agents."
CAPT: "Nerve agents."
COL: Wherever it comes up.
CAPT: Wherever it comes up.
COL: In the wireless instructions.
CAPT: In the instructions.
COL: Wireless.
CAPT: Wireless.

Powell claimed this conversation proved the Iraqis possessed nerve agents, but this is not a necessary conclusion. Nonetheless, it seems at the least that the Iraqis were suppressing information. The expression "nerve agents" appeared in some "wireless instructions." Powell found it curious that the Colonel should insist on the "correction" that they are wireless instructions, but in Arabic, the adjective comes after the noun, so the Captain did not omit anything, but had not gotten the last word. Still, the gist is that the Iraqis are not to even use the expression "nerve agents" in their wireless transmissions. This is not the same as falsifying documents, though it suggests that they would have reason to talk about nerve agents. Again, this is serious grounds for suspicion, but nothing incriminating.

Powell makes the argument that inspections will never work, because the Iraqis are not acting in good faith. He says documents have been hidden in scientists' homes, and hard drives have been hidden. "Tell me, answer me, are the inspectors to search the house of every government official, every Baath Party member and every scientist in the country to find the truth, to get the information they need, to satisfy the demands of our council?" Powell is essentially arguing that every individual Iraqi scientist and manager must fully volunteer all information in order for inspections to work. Of course, if such a fantastic level of cooperation and good will could be expected, inspections would be superfluous. Either way, inspections are useless.

Satellite images, according to Powell, could be used to identify illicit weapons programs. Among his fanciful assertions: "Here, you see 15 munitions bunkers in yellow and red outlines. The four that are in red squares represent active chemical munitions bunkers." "The truck you also see is a signature item. It's a decontamination vehicle in case something goes wrong." Contrary to what these confident assertions would indicate, satellite evidence as interpreted by the Americans was notoriously unreliable. Steve Allinson, a UN inspector during the months before the war, said decontamination vehicles turned out to be fire trucks. Supposed biological weapons trucks turned out to have no traces of any illicit substance.

Although hundreds of UNMOVIC inspections had not yielded any chemical weapons cache, Powell confidently claimed, “Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent.” This estimate, as we now know, was overstated by about 100 to 500 tons. There were no stockpiles at all.

While faulty intelligence is certainly forgivable, Powell's claim of certitude can hardly be characterized as anything but a lie. He told the UN: “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." In reality, his own intelligence staff had advised him that many of the claims in his presentation were highly dubious. State Department intelligence memos from late January and early February flagged the following evidence as "weak" or "highly questionable": Qusay Hussein had ordered items removed from presidential palaces. Files were being driven around in cars. A missile brigade was disbursing rocket launchers and warheads with biological weapons to various locations. Decontamination vehicles were often dual use water trucks. Weapons experts were kept under house arrest. Unmanned aerial vehicles fitted with spray tanks are an ideal method for biological weapons attack. All of these dubious claims were included in Powell's presentation as if they were established facts. Powell's chief of staff Larry Wilkerson recalled that shortly after the speech, "He had walked into my office musing and he said words to the effect of, I wonder how we'll all feel if we put half a million troops in Iraq and march from one end of the country to the other and find nothing." (CNN, 21 August 2005) Powell knew the evidence was far from certain, but he lied to the world anyway.

Some of the most blatant deceptions were in Powell's testimony regarding Iraq's supposed nuclear program. "We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program." In fact, the physical remnants of the program, which had ended by 1991, was destroyed under international supervision, and the IAEA verified that there was no program as late as 1998. The former head of the Iraqi WMD program, Hussein Kemal, defected in 1995 and testified that Iraq disbanded its illicit weapons programs. Since returning to Iraq in 2002, the IAEA conducted further inspections without finding any evidence of a resumed program. Powell does not mention these facts, but instead proceeds to exaggerate the capabilities of the Iraqi nuclear program, past and present.

Once again, Powell portrays weapons inspections as ineffective. In 1991, he says, inspectors examined Iraq's "primary nuclear weapons facilities" and found nothing. However, defector information later revealed that there had been a substantial nuclear weapons program there. This is a weak argument against inspections, which naturally could only prove that a program no longer existed, not that it had never existed in the past. Powell further speculates: "If Saddam had not been stopped; Iraq could have produced a nuclear bomb by 1993." This claim was made by a minority of experts in 1992, based on the supposition that Iraq could obtain foreign weapons-grade uranium and focus its efforts on a crash program to produce a device in the shortest amount of time. In reality, the odds of acquiring weapons-grade uranium from a foreign power were remote, and Iraq in any case sought to enrich uranium domestically. It had only succeeded in making a few grams of highly enriched uranium by 1991. Further, Iraq's nuclear program was multifaceted, so resources were spread across different projects. Under this strategy, a device could not be completed before at least three years had passed, according to the majority of experts. According to the latest Iraqi design, the device would have been about a ton. It would have taken considerably longer, at least another two years, for Iraq to develop a sufficient arsenal to make testing feasible.

Having exaggerated the capacity of the original Iraqi nuclear program, Powell could now claim, "He [Saddam] has a cadre of nuclear scientists with the expertise, and he has a bomb design." Powell neglects to mention that this bomb design was far from fully developed, and the abandoned project was far from complete. Thus it is incorrect for him to claim that Saddam only lacked fissile material to complete a weapon. His scientists had never completed development of a device, and had been years away from that goal when production was stopped.

In order to produce enriched uranium, Saddam would need centrifuges. This led to the most outrageous claim of all: “Saddam Hussein is determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. He is so determined that he has made repeated covert attempts to acquire high-specification aluminum tubes from 11 different countries even after inspections resumed.” In fact, experts at Oak Ridge National Laboratory advised that these tubes could not be used for uranium enrichment. They were thick, heavy, and guaranteed to leak, so they would have failed as part of a centrifuge. Houston Wood, one of the consultants at Oak Ridge, reached this conclusion as early as 2001. Yet now, two years later, Powell says, “There is controversy about what these tubes are for. Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium.” This claim is patently false, for as Wood later commented, "Most experts are located at Oak Ridge and that was not the position there." In fact, he did not know anyone in academia or foreign government who would think otherwise. "I don't know a single one anywhere." (Rebecca Leung, "The Man Who Knew," 60 Minutes, CBS, 4 Feb. 2004)

Powell further claimed that the tubes were too strong to be used as rockets, but this was in direct contradiction with what he had been advised in a State Department memo on 3 February:

Our key remaining concern is the claim that the tubes are manufactured to a tolerance that "far exceeds US requirements for comparable rockets." In fact, the most comparable US system is a tactical rocket-- the US Mark 66 air-launched 70mm rocket-- that uses the same, high-grade (7075-T6) aluminum, and that has specifications with similar tolerances. Note that the Mk 66 specifications are unclassified, and the Department is planning to share them with the IAEA.

It is clear that Powell was not merely a dutiful soldier reporting what he was told to say. He went out of his way to falsify evidence, knowing that once the invasion of Iraq was authorized, arguments over its justification would become academic.

The aluminum tubes, in fact, were most likely intended for artillery, as State Department analysts had told Powell months earlier. This use would account for their extra smooth interior and exterior surfaces, which Powell claimed to find so suspicious. He also noted that the Iraqis sought to produce magnets weighing 20 to 30 grams, and to buy machines that could balance gas centrifuge rotors. Naturally, he neglected to mention other possible uses, so we were left to assume that medium-sized magnets are evidence of a nuclear program.

Powell also discussed Iraq's long-range missile capabilities. The Al-Samoud II's had the potential to exceed the 150 km limit, but still had a range much less than 200 km. If the Iraqis intended to violate the limit, they could have easily done so by a much greater amount, given their technological know-how; after all, Scud missiles had ranges up to 700 km. Indeed, Powell claimed that "numerous intelligence reports" indicated Iraq still had "a few dozen Scud variant ballistic missiles... with a range of 650 to 900 kilometers." When the well regarded State Department analyst Greg Thielmann heard the Scud claim, he recalled, "I didn't know what he was talking about." Thielmann had the highest security clearance, and could see all the intelligence from the CIA and Department of Defense, yet he knew nothing of any evidence of Scud missiles. (Rebecca Leung, "The Man Who Knew," 60 Minutes, CBS, 4 Feb. 2004)

Powell's slide showing supposed Iraqi missile ranges Not satisfied with the threat of this secret cache of Scuds, Powell further speculated that the Iraqis were developing rockets with a range well over 1000 km. He offered no solid evidence, other than the size of an "engine test stand" identified on a satellite photo from April 2002. He added, "And you can see from this map, as well as I can, who will be in danger of these missiles." The map in question (see figure) showed Israel, Turkey, Egypt, the Caucasus, Saudi Arabia and several Gulf states in missile range. Powell avoided mentioning Israel by name, though that is the primary strategic ally of the U.S. in that region. Perhaps he hoped to win the sympathy of other nations in the area if they realized their countries were in danger. As a telling sign of how weak the intelligence was recognized to be at the time, most of the supposedly endangered nations either opposed the war outright or distanced themselves from it.

Powell tried to conjure a further menace of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being used as surrogate long-range missiles. According to Iraq's declaration, these UAVs had a range of 80 kilometers. However, on 27 June 2002, the U.S. detected one that went 500 kilometers non-stop on autopilot in a race track around in a circle. This made possible this fine piece of scaremongering by Powell: "Iraq could use these small UAVs which have a wingspan of only a few meters to deliver biological agents to its neighbors or if transported, to other countries, including the United States." In fact, most weapons experts found UAVs a far from optimal method of delivering biological agents. Even so, Powell invites us to imagine the ridiculous picture of Iraqis somehow managing to secretly transport a plane across the Atlantic, and then flying it over the U.S. to wage germ warfare. Certainly, "if transported," a pea shooter has the range of an ICBM, and, "if transported," a UAV could deliver biological agents to the moon, but if you have that capability, why bother with a small plane?

Having concocted a vast arsenal of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, Powell proceeded to stoke fears that they might pass these weapons on to terrorists. To this end, he cited every contact between the Iraqi government and groups using terrorist tactics. Most of these contacts were with Palestinian terrorists who opposed Israel. As was typical for a U.S. government official, Powell turned a blind eye to Israeli war crimes while harshly condemning Palestinian guerrillas as terrorists. The U.S. at one time or another has listed every Palestinian guerrilla group as a terrorist organization, while Israel is given a free hand to bomb civilian areas, beat protesters, and confiscate land without a word of American criticism. The idea that an enemy of Israel is necessarily an enemy of the U.S. was uncritically held by many neoconservatives in the Bush administration, and Powell now made use of this confusion to equate support of Palestinian groups with support for a terrorist attack on American or European soil.

Apparently, we were to believe that Saddam would sponsor a terrorist attack in the U.S. or Europe simply because he supported Palestinian guerrillas and gave money to the families of suicide bombers. If this justifies the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. ought to turn its sights on the entire Middle East, for the Palestinian movement, vicious tactics and all, enjoys immense popular and official support throughout the Arab world. It is incongruent to single out Iraq for supporting Palestinian guerrillas, though it is true that Saddam could do this more flamboyantly than most other Arab leaders, as he no longer depended on American aid.

Strangely, Powell held the Iraqi regime responsible for the actions of the radical organization Ansar al-Islam, though he acknowledged it operated "in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq." No matter, Powell claimed, for this organization had only the appearance of independence. In fact, "Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organization, Ansar al-Islam, that controls this corner of Iraq. In 2000 this agent offered al Qaeda safe haven in the region. After we swept al Qaeda from Afghanistan, some of its members accepted this safe haven. They remain there today." The logic here is difficult to follow. First, Powell acknowledges that the northern Kurdish areas are outside of Saddam Hussein's control. Then he avers that the Iraqi government effectively runs Ansar al-Islam, the organization that controls that region. So does Iraq control that region or not? If it is capable of dictating terms to Ansar al-Islam, should it not be able to bring the region under overt government control? Again, we are asked to accept "intelligence" that does not even make basic sense.

In fact, Iraq gave safe haven not to Al-Qaeda in general, but only to Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Palestinian terrorist who was in Afghanistan in 2000. As Zarqawi had a high profile in the Palestinian movement, it is only natural that Iraq would protect him. Again, Powell deliberately conflates support for the ruthless tactics of the Palestinian movement with indiscriminate support of terrorist groups in general, including Al-Qaeda. Since Al-Qaeda is an inchoate umbrella organization, virtually all major Arab terrorist groups, including those from Palestine, will be at least nominally affiliated with it. On this tenuous basis, an Iraqi link to Al-Qaeda is based. We should not be surprised, for at this time, Arab Americans were persecuted for donating to Palestinian charities that had any ties to Hamas or other "terrorist" groups, while the U.S. gave billions of dollars of aid for Israel to wage war against civilians. It is in this context that an assassin trained by Zarqawi murdered a U.S. diplomat, Lawrence Foley, in Amman, Jordan.

The ethics of Iraqi support for Palestinian terrorism is hardly defensible, but the issue at hand is whether such support posed an existential threat to the United States and the world. Powell does not make a credible case that Iraq would give weapons of mass destruction to organizations such as Al-Qaeda. The best evidence he can give is from a senior Al-Qaeda detainee at Guantanamo Bay, who spoke of...

...Iraq offering chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000. He says that a militant known as Abu Abdullah Al-Iraqi had been sent to Iraq several times between 1997 and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and gases. Abdullah Al-Iraqi characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.

The detainee's testimony is problematic not only because it was likely obtained under torture at Guantanamo, but also because it fails to establish a direct link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, it would seem that an Iraqi militant was at least able to establish a "successful" relationship with Iraqi officials, though we do not know that the Iraqis actually helped them acquire chemical weapons. Powell's attempt to establish a relationship between the Iraqi government and Al-Qaeda was undercut by the leak of a UK Department of Defence document on 5 February 2003. It said, "Any fledgling relationship [between Baghdad and Al-Qaeda] foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideologies."

If there was dishonesty and disingenuity in Powell's presentation so far, at least it could hide behind secret government intelligence. More breathtaking was his chutzpah in condemning Saddam's war crimes in the 1980s, when the Reagan administration's support of his regime was long a matter of public record. Powell said:

Saddam Hussein's use of mustard and nerve gas against the Kurds in 1988 was one of the 20th century's most horrible atrocities; 5,000 men, women and children died.

His campaign against the Kurds from 1987 to '89 included mass summary executions, disappearances, arbitrary jailing, ethnic cleansing and the destruction of some 2,000 villages. He has also conducted ethnic cleansing against the Shiite Iraqis and the Marsh Arabs whose culture has flourished for more than a millennium. Saddam Hussein's police state ruthlessly eliminates anyone who dares to dissent. Iraq has more forced disappearance cases than any other country, tens of thousands of people reported missing in the past decade.

This feigned outrage is utterly shameless. If Powell was truly concerned about the gassing of the Kurds, perhaps he might have said something when he was in the Reagan administration, which continued to support the Iraqi regime in this period. Only fifteen years later does he see fit to invoke this atrocity as a justification for war, rather than at the time when he could have made a difference. Was he then unaware of the Reagan administration's support of Iraq, yet trusted with knowledge of the Iran arms-for-hostages deals? At least he refrained from mentioning Iraqi war crimes against the Iranians; the irony would have been unbearable.

To conclude his presentation, Powell returned to the central myth that Iraq still failed to cooperate with inspections, even as the inspectors were in fact making notable progress. The U.S. wanted war immediately, so it was necessary to deny the inconvenient reality of Iraqi cooperation.

Indeed, by its failure to seize on its one last opportunity to come clean and disarm, Iraq has put itself in deeper material breach and closer to the day when it will face serious consequences for its continued defiance of this council.

The reality was quite the opposite, as Iraq had given unprecedented levels of cooperation, and was now allowing U-2 surveillance. The inspections were not yielding any weapons of mass destruction, though hundreds of random inspections had already been conducted. Since the Bush administration was not willing to consider even the possibility that they could be mistaken, they assumed that the weapons must exist. Therefore the failure to find weapons meant Iraq was hiding them and being uncooperative. Iraq would be invaded unless it could present weapons it did not have. This manifest injustice is the result of the thoroughly uncritical thinking of the Bush administration.

The Inspectors Speak and Are Not Heard

The Bush administration lied, and lied boldly. The deception was not in presenting erroneous intelligence, but in pretending to a certitude that they knew did not exist. They twisted facts to their assumptions, and would not allow the latter to yield before any new facts. Hans Blix captured this attitude best when he told the Guardian a year later that "there was a lack of critical thinking." As the inspectors examined sites chosen by British and US intelligence, they found no WMD. "Gradually [the British and US governments] ought to have realised there was nothing. Gradually they would have found that the defectors' information was not reliable." (Guardian, 6 March 2004)

After the war, the administration would change its lies, and maintain that no one could have known that there were no Iraqi WMDs. This position is belied by members of the intelligence community and by the weapons inspectors. Greg Thielmann, who had been in charge of analyzing evidence for Powell, told CBS in February 2004 that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat to the U.S., according to the evidence then known. “I think it didn't even constitute an imminent threat to its neighbors at the time we went to war.” French President Jacques Chirac believed that there were no Iraqi WMDs, and that the Western intelligence agencies, including his own, had contaminated each other with their assumptions.

On 14 February, Dr. Blix reported to the Security Council, painting a much more positive assessment of the progress of inspections then did Powell a week earlier.

Through the inspections conducted so far, we have obtained a good knowledge of the industrial and scientific landscape of Iraq, as well as of its missile capability but, as before, we do not know every cave and corner. Inspections are effectively helping to bridge the gap in knowledge that arose due to the absence of inspections between December 1998 and November 2002.

Blix further observed that no WMDs whatsoever had been discovered. Further, he cautioned against the American tendency to assume that any "unaccounted" materials must still exist.

How much, if any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which should have been declared and destroyed. Another matter - and one of great significance - is that many proscribed weapons and items are not accounted for. To take an example, a document, which Iraq provided, suggested to us that some 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent were "unaccounted for". One must not jump to the conclusion that they exist. However, that possibility is also not excluded. If they exist, they should be presented for destruction. If they do not exist, credible evidence to that effect should be presented.

To resolve the remaining discrepancies, Blix demanded that Iraq take a more proactive role in producing evidence. He warns the Iraqi regime against repeating its mistake of the early nineties.

If Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the phase of disarmament - under resolution 687 (1991) - could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been avoided. Today, three months after the adoption of resolution 1441 (2002), the period of disarmament through inspection could still be short, if "immediate, active and unconditional cooperation" with UNMOVIC and the IAEA were to be forthcoming.

Blix was hopeful that disarmament through inspection could be swift if Iraq took more active steps to produce evidence resolving remaining questions. He gave further assessment of progress in this regard in his final quarterly report before the war, on 28 February.

From 27 November 2002 through the end of February 2003, UNMOVIC conducted over 550 inspections at 350 sites, including 44 new sites. By Dr. Blix's account, "All inspections were performed without notice, and access was in virtually all cases provided promptly. In no case have the inspectors seen convincing evidence that the Iraqi side knew in advance of their impending arrival." The inspected sites included "industrial sites, ammunition depots, research centres, universities, presidential sites, mobile laboratories, private house, missile production facilities, military camps and agricultural sites." Previously inspected sites were re-evaluated. In some places, ground-penetrating radar was used.

During this period, more than 200 chemical and 100 biological samples were collected at inspection sites. Three-quarters of these were screened by UNMOVIC. Blix reported at the end of February: "The results to date have been consistent with Iraq's declarations." Iraq was so far fully cooperative with UNMOVIC, and its declaration had not been falsified.

For all the British and American fearmongering, the only "weapons of mass destruction" found in Iraq after extensive inspections was fifty liters of mustard, which had already been declared by Iraq and put under UNSCOM supervision in 1998. UNSCOM's tamper-proof seal was still on the chemical. Additionally, one liter of thiodiglycol, a mustard precursor, was found and destroyed.

By the end of February 2003, UNMOVIC had over 200 staff from 60 countries in Iraq, including 84 inspectors. Their Baghdad base of operations (BOMVIC) was also staffed with UN translators, logistics personnel and security officers. Air operations were conducted by 8 helicopters and an L-100 airplane. In February, the Iraqi government agreed to allow UNMOVIC to use a U-2 spy plane. A French Mirage IV aircraft flew its first UNMOVIC mission on 26 February. An additional field office was opened in Mosul in early January, and there were plans to open a third office in Basra in March. The Iraqi government was fully compliant when it came to permitting inspections and surveillance.

As mentioned, there was some difficulty in getting individual Iraqis to agree to interviews. 28 Iraqi officials and other individuals refused to be interviewed by UNMOVIC without an Iraqi observer present. After discussion in January, the Iraqi government agreed to "encourage" these people to accept interviews "in private." Three of the candidates then agreed to be interviewed without observers.

The sole material breach of weapons sanctions did not involve WMDs, but missiles and missile engines that could exceed the range of 150 kilometers. These items were all declared by Iraq on 7 December. The Al-Samoud II was a surface-to-air missile under development since 2001, and was not ready for deployment. The lightest version of it would have had a range of 193 kilometers, and the heaviest would have a range of 162 kilometers. These missiles were only barely in violation of the strict 150-kilometer limit, which was imposed on Iraq with doubtful legality, as there was no non-proliferation agreement against such weapons. Nonetheless, Iraq agreed to dismantle these missiles, and UNMOVIC had destroyed 72 of about 130 missiles until the Iraq war. Ironically, by cutting short the inspections, the U.S.-U.K. invasion made it possible for the Iraqis to fire Al-Samoud IIs at coalition aircraft. Only five were fired before they were recalled due to failures. So much for the dreaded Iraqi missile threat.

In his assessment of Iraqi compliance, Dr. Blix again distinguished between "process" and "substance." On matters of process, the Iraqis were fully compliant, even helpful, as they allowed inspections at any place and time, as well as aerial surveillance. They established a commission to search for and present proscribed items, such as empty chemical munitions and components for aerial bombs. The government encouraged scientists to accept private interviews, but in practice, interviewees demanded a tape recorder or Iraqi witness present.

On matters of substance, Dr. Blix lamented that little new materials were identified in Iraq's declaration. This, it turns out, was not because Iraq was non-compliant, but because there was nothing further to declare. Blix also said that the Iraqis could have initiated the destruction of the Al-Samoud II's in December, but Iraq at the time did not consider these weapons to exceed the 150 km range. Such a determination was made only later by UN inspectors. If Iraq had taken more initiative, all the missiles would have been destroyed by now. In summary:

Under resolution 1284 (1999), Iraq is to provide “cooperation in all respects” to UNMOVIC and the IAEA. While the objective of the cooperation under this resolution, as under resolution 1441 (2002), is evidently the attainment, without delay, of verified disarmament, it is the cooperation that must be immediate, unconditional and active. Without the required cooperation, disarmament and its verification will be problematic. However, even with the requisite cooperation it will inevitably require some time.

During the period of time covered by the present report [1 Dec 2002 - 28 Feb 2003], Iraq could have made greater efforts to find any remaining proscribed items or provide credible evidence showing the absence of such items. The results in terms of disarmament have been very limited so far. The destruction of missiles, which is an important operation, has not yet begun. Iraq could have made full use of the declaration, which was submitted on 7 December. It is hard to understand why a number of the measures, which are now being taken, could not have been initiated earlier. If they had been taken earlier, they might have borne fruit by now. It is only by the middle of January and thereafter that Iraq has taken a number of steps, which have the potential of resulting either in the presentation for destruction of stocks or items that are proscribed or the presentation of relevant evidence solving long-standing unresolved disarmament issues.

Apart from his lament that the Iraqis did not implement in early December their initiatives of mid-January, Blix does not mention any substantive failure to comply on the part of Iraq. He seems frustrated that not as much disarmament has happened as he expected, but this is because there was not much to disarm. Still, Iraq had submitted to an unprecedented scale of surveillance, giving inspectors free rein over any site in the country, and offering logistic, administrative, and legislative support for their activities. As Blix noted, even with full cooperation the inspections would require time, in order for Iraq to produce unaccounted materials or to account for their absence. There is no indication in his report that Iraq is in material violation of Resolution 1441, though he does hint that Iraq has not always been as actively cooperative as it could be.

While Dr. Blix scrupulously avoided drawing any definitive conclusions, the work of UNMOVIC during this period indicates that there were at best trace remnants of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons, hardly the threat to the world that the U.S. and Britain sought to depict. The nuclear threat was similarly elusive. On 24 February 2003, Mohamed El Baradei told Der Spiegel:

Let me state clearly that we can determine within a few months whether or not Saddam has reactivated his nuclear weapons programme - a crucial issue, since nuclear weapons are still the worst danger worldwide. Verification in this area is comparatively easy, since we destroyed all his facilities during the last inspections from 1991 to 1998.

El Baradei knew that Iraq's facilities pertaining to nuclear weapons research were all destroyed, so that any reconstituted program would be quite crude. Since nuclear facilities have a large footprint, it would not take long to verify that no new facility had been built. The Bush administration's warnings of mushroom clouds were pure fantasy, as was the notion that a terrorist could obtain and deploy an atomic bomb.

The inspections clearly had not gone the way the U.S. had wanted, as Iraq was generally compliant, and extensive inspections had not revealed Iraq to be much of a threat. It must be emphasized that this was all publicly available information before the invasion, so revisionist excuses about the intelligence being wrong do not hold water. In fact, even after the postbellum facts on the ground came in, the Bush administration continued to insist on its false accusations. The British government also tried to deflect attention away from Iraqi cooperation with inspections. In December, they sought to change the subject by releasing a second dossier detailing Saddam's human rights violations. Resolution 1441, which was supposed to provide the excuse for war, instead was producing embarrassment for the British and Americans, who were hard pressed to prove Iraq was an immediate threat to the world, even as nuclear-armed North Korea was dealt with diplomatically.

On 7 March, El Baradei summarized the IAEA's work as follows:

In the past three months they have conducted over 200 inspections at more than 140 locations, entering without prior notice into Iraqi industrial facilities, munitions factories, military establishments, private residences, and presidential palaces...

The IAEA's inspectors have systematically examined the contents and operations of all Iraqi buildings and facilities that were identified, through satellite surveillance, as having been modified or newly constructed since December 1998, when inspections were brought to a halt.

Like Blix, El Baradei emphasized Iraq's extraordinary cooperativeness with the inspectors.

A key facet of these inspections has been the degree of co-operation on the part of Iraq. Throughout the past three months, Iraqi authorities have provided access to all facilities, without conditions and without delay, and have made documents available in response to inspectors' requests.

It is unsurprising that Iraq should be so cooperative, as Saddam was taking every possible step to avoid war with the U.S. and Britain, having no desire to repeat the Gulf War. Iraq sought to avoid war at all cost, while the U.S. and Britain actively sought pretexts for war.

El Baradei also noted that Iraq cooperation was at first "passive," not proactive, but this had changed recently.

In recent weeks, Iraq has: agreed to the use of overhead surveillance flights by American, French, Russian, and German aircraft in support of the inspecting organizations; committed to encouraging its citizens to accept interviews in private in Iraq, as requested; and provided lists of additional Iraqi personnel who might be relevant to verification issues.

These are hardly the actions of a nation that is looking to flout Resolution 1441 and drive the world to war. Much less are they the actions of a nation that poses an immediate threat to its neighbors, much less to the mighty United States. On the contrary, El Baradei found:

Nuclear weapons inspections in Iraq are making marked progress. To date, we have found no substantiated evidence of the revival in Iraq of a nuclear weapons programme - the most lethal of the weapons of mass destruction.

These reports by Blix and El Baradei were all a matter of public record, so it is inexcusable for war apologists to pretend that no one could have known that the WMD threat was insubstantial, or at least highly dubious. The primary means of garnering support for the war was to regard the inspectors as dupes and insist that prior Anglo-American "intelligence" was correct, regardless of what facts in the last three months would indicate.

Blix harshly criticized the Anglo-American propensity to deform facts to their assumptions in his book Disarming Iraq, published in early 2004. In the book, he makes clear that he did not find Iraq to be non-cooperative:

I felt the armed action taken was not in line with what the Security Council had decided five months earlier. Had there been any denials of access, any cat-and-mouse play? No. Had the inspections been going well? Yes. True, they had not resolved any of the open disarmament issues, but in my view, they had gone much too well to be abandoned to justify war.

Discussing his book on 21 March 2004 with CNN, Dr. Blix said that the case for war was falling apart.

Well, I think it's clear that in March when the invasion took place the evidence that had been brought forward was rapidly falling apart. And we had called attention to a number of the points.

One was that there was a tendency on the U.S. administration to say that anything that was unaccounted for existed, whether it was sarin, or mustard gas or anthrax.

Another one related to the case that Colin Powell presented to the Security Council about a site in which they held that there had been chemical weapons and that they had seen decontamination trucks. Our inspectors had been there and they had taken a lot of samples, and there was no trace of any chemicals or biological things. And the trucks that we had seen were water trucks.

And, of course, the more spectacular of all was what my friend Mohamed revealed in the Security Council, namely that the alleged contract by Iraq with Niger to import yellow cake, that is uranium oxide, that this was a forgery, and the document had been sitting with the CIA and their U.K. counterparts for a long while, and they had not discovered it. And I think it took the IAEA a day to discover that it was a forgery.

In sum, Blix said, "the evidence was rapidly falling apart for them" in March. Rather than accept that they were wrong about Iraqi WMD, the U.S. and the U.K. pressed for immediate invasion, before inspectors could thoroughly discredit their case. The behavior of the British and American governments was that of people who wanted war far more than they cared to learn the truth. We can hardly avoid the conclusion that the WMD threat was more of an excuse for war than a real reason. Otherwise, it would be absurd to press for war more urgently precisely when the WMD threat is turning out to be much weaker than envisioned.

In his book, Blix writes that "Colin Powell had been charged with the thankless task of hauling out the smoking guns that in January were said to be irrelevant, and that after March turned out to be non-existent." By this he means that in January the U.S. was claiming that failure to find weapons meant only that Iraq was hiding them, yet in February they deemed it necessary that they did in fact have positive evidence of Iraqi WMDs. The evidence for Powell's presentation was dubious, and in some cases fabricated, so it is hardly surprising that their should be no WMD. In fact, the entire experience of the last three months strongly suggested it.

Blix told CNN in 2004 that the Bush administration was dismissive of the inspectors' warnings that the WMD evidence was weak. "I called attention to the fact that the evidence was shaky. We had - I told that to Condoleeza Rice, as well, so I think they were aware of it, but I think they chose to ignore us."

Blix admits that he did not say before the war that Iraq had no WMD, but this was only because there was not definitive evidence for or against this hypothesis.

But we could not say definitively that there aren't any weapons of mass destruction. As Mohamed El Baradei said a moment ago, there were things unaccounted for. It meant they could either exist or not exist. So we could not affirm that they weren't there, but we - at least we didn't fall into the trap that the U.S. and the U.K. did in asserting that they existed.

Mohamed El Baradei, in the same CNN interview, said:

With regard to the nuclear file, we were pretty convinced that we haven't seen really any evidence that Iraq resumed its nuclear weapon program, because we knew we dismantled that program in 1997, and our focus was to see whether anything has been resuscitated between '98 and 2002.

We didn't see that. As Hans has mentioned, there was a question of the uranium importation, there was a question of that tubes but these two stories we clearly realized that they did not support the conclusion that Iraq was restarting its nuclear weapon program.

For a war that supposedly was about WMDs and submitting to disarmament inspections, the advocates of war gave precious little credence to the actual inspectors who were most competent to judge whether Iraq possessed WMDs. By their own testimony, the inspectors were routinely disregarded by the Bush and Blair administrations whenever their findings did not comport with prior assumptions. The war must happen, no matter what.

Coalition of the Bribed: Last Gasp at Consensus

The last gasp at a pretext for war under Resolution 1441 was attempted by the U.S. and Britain in early March. The U.S., U.K., and Spain drafted a resolution on 7 March that would have found Iraq not yet in compliance with Resolution 1441, and further:

Decides that Iraq will have failed to take the final opportunity afforded by resolution 1441 (2002) unless, on or before 17 March 2003, the Council concludes that Iraq has demonstrated full, unconditional, immediate and active cooperation in accordance with its disarmament obligations under resolution 1441 (2002) and previous relevant resolutions, and is yielding possession to UNMOVIC and the IAEA of all weapons, weapon delivery and support systems and structures, prohibited by resolution 687 (1991) and all subsequent relevant resolutions, and all information regarding prior destruction of such items;

This would effectively give the U.S. and Britain license to wage war on Iraq after 17 March, unless a very high standard of cooperation was met. The language of the draft includes the apparent presumption that Iraq has prohibited weapons, so that failure to yield such weapons would be evidence of a material breach.

In their declaration (5 March) opposing the use of force, Russia, Germany and France agreed with the objective of "the full and effective disarmament of Iraq," but insisted that progress was being made, so any disruption of the inspections by war would be unacceptable. They acknowledged that "inspections cannot continue indefinitely," and demanded that the Iraqis "co-operate more actively with the inspectors to fully disarm their country." To this end, they proposed accelerating the inspections, and that the inspectors present "detailed timelines" for all outstanding tasks.

Since Russia and France held veto power in the Security Council, they could obstruct the U.S./U.K. resolution. However, the Anglo-American axis hoped to win a majority of Security Council votes so that, even if vetoed, they would have a more credible international mandate for their war. To this end, the U.S. actively campaigned to sway the votes of Security Council members, often resorting to completely amoral means.

Since the war was resoundingly unpopular in most countries on the Security Council, the U.S. had to bribe the governments of these countries to oppose their constituencies. Economic extortion has long been a staple of great power politics, but now the U.S. was much more overt in its demands of quid pro quo than it had been in previous decades. Some threats, like the proposal to impose trade penalties on French wine and water, or call French fries "freedom fries," were comically innocuous, but in other cases, the well-being of impoverished nations was held in the balance over how they voted on Iraq.

The "Middle Six" fence-sitters on the Security Council were Mexico, Chile, Angola, Guinea, Cameroon, and Pakistan, all of which were economically vulnerable to the United States. Mexico, where 80% opposed the war (EFE News Services, 14 Feb 2003), was most dependent on the U.S., which constituted 80% of its export market. The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico warned that Congress might block legislation relating to Mexico if it voted "no." Chile, where 76% opposed the war (El Mercurio, 25 Feb 2003), was counting on joining a free trade agreement with the NAFTA countries, so it was also pressured to at least abstain from voting. Guinea, which relied on U.S. military training to defend itself from Liberia, was offered $21.4 million dollars in aid in exchange for a "yes" vote. Cameroon stood to lose an Exxon/Chevron oil pipeline from Chad if it did not vote in favor. (Laura McClure, "Coalition of the billing -- or unwilling?" Salon, 12 March 2003) The Bush administration apparently saw nothing wrong with linking the invasion of an oil-rich nation to a pipeline concession. Angola, another oil-rich country, was heavily dependent on U.S. investment, and knew that its vote could jeopardize this relationship. In Pakistan, the entire population (near 100%) opposed the war, yet the military government relied on the U.S. for economic aid.

Going beyond the usual strong-arm tactics, the U.S. resorted to espionage. The home and office telephones and e-mails of UN delegates in New York were intercepted, as part of a bugging operation against Security Council members ordered by Condoleeza Rice. An NSA memo (31 Jan 2003) was leaked to The Observer (published 2 March) and verified by experts as authentic. It reads in full:

To: [Recipients withheld]
From: FRANK KOZA, Def Chief of Staff (Regional Targets) CIV/NSA
Sent on Jan 31 2003 0:16
Subject: Reflections of Iraq Debate/Votes at UN-RT Actions + Potential for Related Contributions
Importance: HIGH
Top Secret//COMINT//X1


As you've likely heard by now, the Agency is mounting a surge particularly directed at the UN Security Council (UNSC) members (minus US and GBR of course) for insights as to how to membership is reacting to the on-going debate RE: Iraq, plans to vote on any related resolutions, what related policies/ negotiating positions they may be considering, alliances/ dependencies, etc - the whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to US goals or to head off surprises. In RT, that means a QRC surge effort to revive/ create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan UN matters.

We've also asked ALL RT topi's to emphasize and make sure they pay attention to existing non-UNSC member UN-related and domestic comms for anything useful related to the UNSC deliberations/ debates/ votes. We have a lot of special UN-related diplomatic coverage (various UN delegations) from countries not sitting on the UNSC right now that could contribute related perspectives/ insights/ whatever. We recognize that we can't afford to ignore this possible source.

We'd appreciate your support in getting the word to your analysts who might have similar, more in-direct access to valuable information from accesses in your product lines. I suspect that you'll be hearing more along these lines in formal channels - especially as this effort will probably peak (at least for this specific focus) in the middle of next week, following the SecState's presentation to the UNSC.

As the memo indicates, the purpose of the espionage was to determine where the undecided Security Council members stood, as well as those positions or issues that might sway them into the U.S. camp. The targets to be spied also included non-Security Council members. The operation was expected to peak shortly after Gen. Powell's presentation to the UN.

The United States, the self-appointed enforcer of international law, committed a blatantly illegal act by spying on UN delegates, in violation of an agreement protecting the UN building and its personnel from espionage. A year later, it would emerge that Anglo-American espionage crimes were more extensive. British MP Clare Short declared in February 2004 that she had seen transcripts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's telephone conversations. The Blair government denounced Short for her "irresponsible" statements that "damage the interests of the United Kingdom," without denying the truth of her statements. Apparently, the responsible course of action would be to allow Britain to continue to act illegally.

The UN inspectors were also extensively bugged by the U.S. and its allies. An Australian journalist learned that Hans Blix's phone conversations in Iraq were secretly recorded, and transcripts were provided to the U.S., the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Blix had long suspected that he was bugged, and repeatedly had his headquarters swept for surveillance devices. He was well aware of U.S. efforts to undermine his activities, of which they evidently had a low opinion. When asked if the bugging was morally questionable, he said: "Well, I don't know what morals they have. Questionable, yes."

Blix's predecessor Richard Butler, who had previously denied that the U.S. spied through UNSCOM, declared in 2004 that he had been spied upon by several countries, including the U.S.

Those who did it would come to me and show me the recordings that they'd made on others to try to help me do my job in disarming Iraq. They would say 'we're just here to help you' and they'd never show me any recordings that they'd made of me.

I knew it from other sources. I was utterly confident that I was bugged by at least four permanent members of the Security Council. I don't know what the Chinese were doing.

I was utterly confident that in my attempts to have private diplomatic conversations trying to solve the problem of the disarmament of Iraq that I was being listened to by the Americans, the British, the French and the Russians.

They also had people on my staff who were reporting what I was trying to do privately. ("Blix, Butler 'bugged'" Australian Broadcasting Corp., 27 Feb 2004)

The advocates of war were not the only ones committing illegal espionage, and it is doubtful whether the U.S. gained much advantage from all its efforts. At the end of the day, its campaign to bribe and spy its way to a Security Council victory failed completely.

None of the undecided "Middle Six" countries was willing to commit to a vote in favor of the U.S./U.K. resolution authorizing force. Realizing that they had no chance of obtaining a nine-vote majority, the Americans withdrew their resolution, so it was never subjected to a vote. Only four of the fifteen Security Council members - the U.S., the U.K., Spain, and Bulgaria - ever openly declared their support of the war. The "Middle Six" remained silent, for fear of invoking American economic retribution, with the exception of Mexico, which declared it would have voted "no". This resistance to unusually overt coercion by the U.S. was a credit to the individual nations and the independence of the UN.

To make a show of international support, the leaders of the U.S., U.K., Spain, and Bulgaria met in the Azores on 15 March. Even among these stalwart four, support for unilateral action was highly limited. In Bulgaria, nearly 60% of the public opposed the war, and scarcely 5% favored unilateral action (Gallup poll), yet the government realized it depended on the U.S. for admission to NATO, which Bulgarians strongly supported. Spanish premier José Maria Aznar was at even greater odds with his constituency, as about 70% were opposed to the war even with UN sanction (El Pais, Gallup polls), and the U.S. had relatively little to offer in return. Aznar nevertheless tied his political fortunes to those of George W. Bush, which proved to be highly imprudent. His government was ousted from office a year later, not only because of the unpopular war, but because of the 11 March 2004 terrorist attacks in Madrid that were linked to Spain's involvement in that war. As soon as the Spanish people had the opportunity to make their will known, Spanish forces were withdrawn from Iraq.

Among Security Council members, only the U.S. and U.K. had majorities in favor of the war, but support for unilateral action was limited. In the U.S., about 33% endorsed unilateral action, while in Britain, only 10% favored acting without UN authorization. For Blair to win over British opinion, it was especially important to give at least the appearance of broad international support. To this end, it was necessary to reveal the "coalition of the willing."

The U.S. State Department named the members of the "coalition of the willing" as follows on 18 March:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

As was the case with the UN Security Council vote, the U.S. resorted to economically coercive measures to extract promises of at least nominal support from many of these nations. Since the purpose of the coalition was to give the appearance of broad support, it was not necessary for most of these countries to contribute troops or substantial resources to the war. The major military contributors were the U.S., the U.K., Australia, and Poland, but some other members of the coalition are also worth mentioning.

Turkey was offered $6 billion in direct aid, and $20 billion more in loans, if it would vote to allow the U.S. to base soldiers there for a northern front. Despite this pressure, the Turkish parliament barely voted down this measure, in the face of a near-unanimous public opposition. Still, it was striking that a nominally democratic country where 95% of the population was opposed to the war would count itself among the "coalition of the willing."

Indeed, for a war that would be later rationalized as spreading democracy in the Middle East, the Americans went to great lengths to attempt to bribe or otherwise subvert democracy. Many of the nations in the coalition had strong constituent opposition to the war. The coalition nations represented only about 10% of the world's population, and well over 70% of their constituency opposed the war. A typical example was Italy, where 72.7% opposed the U.S.-led war, with only 18.8% supporting such action. (Swg poll, 29 January)

Gallup International Poll on Support for Iraq War

In what Rumsfeld liked to call "new Europe," there was also widespread opposition to the invasion of Iraq. In Hungary, for example, 82% opposed military action under any circumstances. (Gallup, 27 January) In the Czech Republic 67% were opposed to war with only 24% in favor. Only 13% supported action without UN authorization. (CVVM poll, 30 January). Even stalwart Poland had 63% opposed to sending troops, though there at least was a majority for political support of the war. Poland sent troops anyway, after being promised $3.8 billion in loans for military aircraft. Further east, the Estonian government ignored its population, 65% of which opposed war under any circumstances, and less than 10% of which approved unilateral action. So did the government of Georgia, seduced by the prospect of NATO membership. Nearly 70% of Georgians opposed the war even with UN authorization. (Gallup) It would seem that Rumsfeld's "new Europe" was motivated not by the people's recognition of a threat in Saddam Hussein, but by U.S. support for entry into NATO, and in the case of countries such as Bulgaria, lucrative deals for hosting a U.S. military base.

The U.S. was remarkably unsuccessful in extracting support from Latin American countries. Only El Salvador, Nicaragua and Colombia - perennial CIA stomping-grounds, agreed to be named, as the war faced strong opposition throughout Latin America. Only Ethiopia and Eritrea, both of whom sought U.S. support in their border dispute, represented Africa in the coalition.

Eventually, other nations would be added to the coalitions, including the likes of Tonga, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. These would only amplify the already farcical nature of the coalition, as it was clear that, militarily, this was essentially a U.S.-U.K. operation. The others were present only to give a veneer of legitimacy, for which they would be rewarded.

Some countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, did have majority support for military action, but here only small minorities advocated war without UN sanction. The U.S. understood how important it was for its allies to have the sanction of international law. Having failed to obtain such sanction through legitimate channels, the U.S. tried to create a surrogate international consensus in its "coalition of the willing." This, like much else about the U.S. case for war, was a sham.

Bush's Ultimatum

Bush had already secured Congressional authorization to use military force back in October 2002. The authorization, which passed the House by a vote of 296-133 (10 October) and the Senate by a 77-23 margin (11 October), used the following operative language:

(a) Authorization.--The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

  1. defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and
  2. enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.
(b) Presidential Determination.--In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon thereafter as may be feasible, but no later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that--

  1. reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and
  2. acting pursuant to this joint resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorist and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

This authorization was not exactly a blank check, for the President was required to submit his determination that reliance on diplomacy would not adequately protect U.S. national security or was not likely to lead to enforcement of UN Security Council resolutions. Bush could not credibly make the latter claim, as most of the Security Council still believed its resolutions could be enforced by peaceful means. However, he needed no appeal to international authority to determine that the national security of the U.S. was in danger.

In his public address on 18 March, which was effectively a declaration of war, Bush emphasized the danger that the Iraqi regime posed to the United States. He began his speech by outlining Iraq's history of non-compliance with weapons inspections: "Over the years, U.N. weapons inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged and systematically deceived. Peaceful efforts to disarm the Iraq regime have failed again and again because we are not dealing with peaceful men." Bush left the impression that this sort of non-compliance was still characteristic of Iraq's behavior, when in fact the inspectors had been permitted to make extraordinary progress in the last four months. Poignantly ironic is Bush's accusation that the Iraqis bugged the inspectors.

To support his argument that inspections could not work because the Iraqis were still acting in bad faith, Bush cited secret intelligence on Iraqi WMD.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised. This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction against Iraq's neighbors and against Iraq's people.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends and it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of Al Qaeda. The danger is clear: Using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country or any other.

As discussed previously at length, the Bush administration uncritically accepted any intelligence, however faulty, that suggested the existence of Iraqi WMDs, and was not above massaging the data to yield the desired result. It was well known in the intelligence community that much of this testimony was dubious, yet Bush continued to insist there was "no doubt," perhaps failing to distinguish between his personal certitude and the objective disposition of the facts.

The WMD threat is clearly central to Bush's case for war, although he also throws in the long-debunked Al-Qaeda connection for good measure. He even includes the preposterous possibility that Iraq would develop nuclear weapons and hand them to terrorists for deployment. Still, the heart of the threat is the WMD that he assumes must exist.

Bush, in his typical simplistic fashion, refers to Iraq's "deep hatred for America," apparently neglecting Saddam's long history of cooperation with the U.S. That cozy relationship occurred precisely when Saddam committed the war crimes Bush now condemns. Even long after the Gulf War and the sanctions regime devastated Iraq's economy, Saddam entertained hopes of normalizing relations with the United States. This complex Saddam did not suit Bush's purpose, which was to paint the picture of a monstrous and implacable threat.

Bush's justification for the use of force, in the absence of international authorization, is as simple as it is ancient: "The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security." While there is certainly little question that such authority exists, it is hardly credible that a nation as weak as Iraq could threaten the security of the United States. At most it might threaten the Americans' self-declared right to hegemony over the Persian Gulf via the Carter Doctrine, but the United States likes to pretend it is not an empire. Therefore, it will not suffice to say that Iraq threatens some corner of the American imperium, but we must pretend it threatens the American homeland itself.

Despite his failure in the Security Council, Bush pretends to act on its behalf to force Iraq to disarm.

Today, no nation can possibly claim that Iraq has disarmed. And it will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power.

For the last four and a half months, the United States and our allies have worked within the Security Council to enforce that council's longstanding demands. Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced that they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it.

Many nations, however, do have the resolve and fortitude to act against this threat to peace, and a broad coalition is now gathering to enforce the just demands of the world.

The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

It is true that no one could definitively claim that Iraq had disarmed, but that was only because, as Hans Blix repeatedly stated, it was unclear whether or not Iraq still possessed WMD, and this was a doubt the U.S. would not admit. Bush posits a necessary link between disarmament and regime change, saying Iraq "will not disarm so long as Saddam Hussein holds power." This canard, carried over from the Clinton administration, renders inspections worthless. Regime change, not inspections, is the only way to effect disarmament.

Bush deceptively insinuates that the Security Council vote would have failed only because of the vetos of France and Russia. He knows this is not true, and that a strong majority of the Security Council opposed the authorization of force, even after some strong-arm tactics by the U.S. Bush also mischaracterizes his opponents (France and Russia) by saying they opposed compelling Iraq to disarm. On the contrary, France, Germany, and Russia explicitly demanded in their declaration (previously discussed) that Iraq fully account for its disarmament in a timely fashion. Those opposing the use of force believed that disarmament could be achieved by inspections. American threats to topple Saddam no matter what only served to destroy any incentive for the Iraqis to cooperate, undermining the inspection process.

A declaration of war, in classical just war theory, must state the reasons why war is the only way to obtain satisfaction of grievances. Historically, this has often come in the form of an ultimatum that states what remedies remain available. In Bush's declaration, the only remedy offered has nothing to do with WMD.

Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict commenced at a time of our choosing.

This is regime change, pure and simple. Normally, a warring sovereign will demand of the opposing sovereign that a certain grievance should be satisfied. In this vein, Bush might have demanded complete proof of disarmament or relinquishing of WMDs within a specified time frame. Instead, his sole demand is that Saddam and his sons leave Iraq. Basically, he tells the Iraqi sovereign that the only way to avert war is to surrender. This is only a parody of a just declaration of grievance, as the only alternative to war is to surrender without a fight. Still, this choice of ultimatum is very telling, for the real grievance of the United States is the mere presence of Saddam Hussein. This obsession with the person of Saddam now shines forth, to the exclusion of the WMD issue. As if to emphasize his strange fixation on Saddam, Bush even made overtures to the brutal Iraqi military:

It is not too late for the Iraq military to act with honor and protect your country, by permitting the peaceful entry of coalition forces to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. Our forces will give Iraqi military units clear instructions on actions they can take to avoid being attacked and destroyed.

Apparently, Bush was willing to allow the Iraqi military to remain intact if they would only surrender Saddam. In his view, Saddam himself was an insuperable obstacle to disarmament. With his removal, disarmament would become possible, even with the Iraqi military apparatus remaining in power.

Bush warned the Iraqi military: "In any conflict, your fate will depend on your actions. Do not destroy oil wells, a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people. Do not obey any command to use weapons of mass destruction against anyone, including the Iraqi people." One may be forgiven for thinking that Bush was more concerned with the oil wells than with civilian casualties, as reflected in the bizarre ordering of this statement. In fact, upon invading Baghdad, American forces took care to protect the Oil Ministry, while permitting many basic public services and government functions to lapse into anarchy.

Having raised the possibility that Iraqis might use WMDs during the invasion, Bush decided to scare Americans further with the possibility that they might somehow collaborate with terrorists to orchestrate attacks abroad.

If Saddam Hussein attempts to cling to power, he will remain a deadly foe until the end.

In desperation, he and terrorist groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends. These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible.

And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail. The terrorist threat to America and the world will be diminished the moment that Saddam Hussein is disarmed.

Of course, Iraq in fact never attacked nor threatened to attack the U.S. It never used nor threatened to use WMD against the U.S., even when it was invaded twice. The United States, by contrast, bombed much of Iraq into pre-industrial conditions, and now threatened to do so again. The United States imposed no-fly zones and tried to incite insurrection in northern and southern Iraq. The United States callously ignored the humanitarian crisis caused by the sanctions, in the face of widespread international opposition. The United States constantly rattled its saber, even as Iraq was finally cooperative with weapons inspectors, and pushed for invading Iraq, against the international consensus. Yet somehow Iraq was blackmailing the United States, and even the world, on the basis of some dubious speculation connecting the Iraqi regime with terrorists. Cicero spoke truly when he said it is human nature to despise whom you have wronged.

Feeling perhaps that it was not enough for Saddam to be a threat to the U.S., Bush depicted him as a threat to the whole world, and obliquely compared him to Hitler.

In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war.

In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth. Terrorists and terrorist states do not reveal these threats with fair notice in formal declarations.

And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self defense. It is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.

This argument is premised on a reading of history where Hitler's military success was made possible by the policy of appeasement. This old canard, a perennial favorite among warmongers, is ill-considered. Hitler could have taken the Sudetenland even without diplomatic sanction, as proved by the fact that when war finally was declared over Poland, the allies were still powerless to do anything about the eastern front, resulting in the months-long "Phony War" stalemate. The occupation of these eastern territories did not improve Germany's military position with respect to the western allies. If anything, the commitment of forces in the east made the campaign against France and Britain more difficult.

Apart from his simplistic reading of history, Bush is correct in stating that certain types of dangers necessitate a pre-emptive strike rather than waiting for the other to strike first. However, Saddam Hussein was a long way from being that kind of threat. His nuclear program was completely dismantled, and even if he managed to hide some small cache of chemical and biological weapons, he never threatened to use them against the U.S. Indeed, the only foreign power he ever used chemical weapons against was Iran, fifteen years ago. This is hardly characteristic of an imminent threat, much less the apocalyptic danger that Bush depicted. If he were correct, most of the world was too cowardly or foolish to defend itself from the coming cataclysm. In reality, the threat of Saddam Hussein was that he might possess a power that was beyond the influence of the United States. For an empire with designs of global hegemony, this was unacceptable.

The Conquest of Iraq

On 19 March, Bush announced that the war against Iraq had begun.

My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger...

Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure. The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.

Even now, WMD remained the centerpiece of Bush's rationale for the war, which he euphemistically calls "military operations to disarm Iraq". He also mentions freeing the Iraqi people as a secondary objective, one enshrined in the name "Operation Iraqi Freedom," in keeping with the Pentagon's propensity for Orwellian naming of its military campaigns.

As should be abundantly evident by now, Bush's claim that the U.S. "enters this conflict reluctantly" was a brazen lie. The Bush administration had constantly pushed for war since it began its provocative bombing campaign in 2002. They disregarded any negative evidence that resulted from actual inspections, preferring their shaky intelligence. They even went as far as to distort or falsify evidence to make their case. Their goal had always been regime change, regardless of Iraq's level of cooperation with inspections. They may deceive themselves that they did not seek war, but they did not deceive the inspectors. As Blix would document at length a year later in his book, the U.S. and Britain put extensive pressure on the inspectors to find secret stockpiles of WMD, without seriously considering the possibility their intelligence was wrong. Having failed to manipulate the inspectors, they instead manipulated reality as they made their case for war.

The invasion of Iraq was not a defensive war, as neither the U.S. nor any ally was immediately threatened by Iraq. The mere prospect of Iraq some day waging war does not suffice to constitute an immediate threat. Otherwise, any country could pre-emptively attack any country it did not like. Of course, the history of U.S. foreign policy, replete with orchestrated coups, assassinations, and acts designed to provoke war, suggests that American governments do in fact claim such a right. In the past, however, the U.S. would take care to provoke the enemy to attack first. The Bush administration did not bother with this fig leaf, but launched an overtly pre-emptive war. An offensive war may be justified if it is to inflict retribution for some wrong or to prevent some wrong that would certainly follow. Iraq had not injured the United States, nor was it likely to do so. The U.S. waged war on Iraq on the basis that Iraq might possibly some day threaten it. By this standard, any nation the U.S. does not like may be attacked.

When a just war is declared, a country must declare the grievance to be satisfied in order to avert war. In this case, Bush effectively declared himself master of Iraq, presuming to have the authority to demand that Iraq should remove its head of state. Things came to this impasse in part because the U.S. insisted that Iraq was hiding WMD from the inspectors. It is a weak defense to appeal to the faulty intelligence. For months, hundreds of UN inspections indicated with increasing certitude that the intelligence was at least partially mistaken, but the Bush administration denied this evidence, and portrayed the inspectors as dupes. There was no moral necessity for the Bush government to insist on this version of reality. Their demand for Iraq to disclose weapons it did not have was impossible to satisfy, and therefore unjust. The behavior of the administration throughout the pre-war period makes clear that this was a war of choice, which did not exhaust peaceful means of remedy, and indeed sought to forestall these. The war was manifestly not "just" in the classical sense.

As the conduct of the war itself would demonstrate, Iraq posed no more threat to the U.S. than an ant to an elephant. The comparisons to Nazi Germany were ridiculous. Iraq had only a modest air force, no navy, no long range missiles, and no nuclear capability. Even when it possessed chemical weapons, it did not dare use them against the U.S. in the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq in 2003 was far weaker militarily and economically than it was in 1990, so it was hardly credible that it was now a greater threat. On the contrary, if Iraq really was a danger to the U.S., the casualty-averse Americans would not have dared to attack. Since the debacle of Vietnam, the U.S. has only dared to engage armies that it could easily overwhelm, leaving nothing to chance. This is why we will not see a war with North Korea or Iran, much less a nuclear power. Aggressors are bold only when the enemy is weak.

The conquest of Iraq was swift, being completed in only three weeks. When Baghdad was taken, some U.S. soldiers apparently forgot the script about "liberating" Iraq, and tied a U.S. flag around a statue of Saddam Hussein. They quickly corrected their mistake, but the U.S. would effectively be running Iraq for months to come, at least to the extent that anyone was running Iraq. The toppling of the statue was carefully stage managed, as the Marines sealed off the plaza and allowed members of Ahmed Chalabi's pro-American militia, flown in by the U.S. military, to act as jubilant Iraqis greeting their liberators. This propaganda piece would not be repeated when real Iraqis had the opportunity to express themselves.

Notwithstanding Bush's previous offer of clemency to the Iraqi military, the Americans ordered the dissolution of the Iraqi army and the Baathist government. This ill-considered political move had a devastating impact on Iraq's socialistic economy and its internal security. Riots and looting ensued throughout the country, which would remain on the brink of civil war for years afterward. Between the bombing campaign and ensuing acts of anarchic violence, at least 100,000 Iraqis would die violent deaths over the next five years.

Stuff Happens: The Plunder of Iraq

As American forces entered Baghdad in early April, businesses and public buildings were trashed and looted. U.S. forces swiftly occupied Saddam's main palace, the Oil Ministry building, and the Defense Ministry. Meanwhile, museums, banks, hotels, and libraries were burned and vandalized, often within mere blocks of U.S. soldiers. City hall, the agriculture ministry, the transportation ministry, and the agriculture ministry buildings were all ravaged. Iraq would lack basic services provided by these ministries for months, even years.

The Americans made no effort to stop the early looting except at the Oil Ministry, which was occupied in the early afternoon of 9 April. The vast complex was soon fortified with a heavy military presence, including a fleet of tanks, by 12 April. At that point only the main palace and the Oil Ministry were guarded by Americans, who stood idly as the irrigation ministry next door was torched.

The worst losses from looting and arson were to Iraq's cultural patrimony. On 10 April, the Americans found time for another propaganda set-piece, destroying a Saddam statue in front of the National Library and Archives building, and then leaving the building unguarded. Minutes later it was in flames. Still, the Americans did not post a guard. Two days later, another fire did further damage. The National Library of Iraq, which contained 500,000 books and serials, including 5,000 rare books, lost 60% of its archival collections, 95% of its rare books, and 25% of all books. Though the custodians beseeched the Americans for a guard, the troops responded that they were only authorized to offer such protection for factories. Between the National Library and the National Archives (which contained documents from the Ottoman period), hundreds of thousands of archival documents were lost forever.

American troops also stood by as the Al-Awqaf Library, a semi-private institution housing a collection of Islamic manuscripts, was looted and burned. On 13 or 14 April, arsonists destroyed the library with some 45,000 books, some dating to the Ottoman period. 5,250 of the Islamic manuscripts were saved beforehand. Another 1,744 manuscripts had also been removed before the fire, and placed under armed guard at the Qadiryya Mosque complex. Unfortunately, U.S. rules of engagement at that time demanded that armed Iraqis be shot on sight, so U.S. soldiers killed the guard on 13 April. The manuscripts were now unguarded and returned to the library, where they were looted or burned.

Some U.S. soldiers later explained their indifference to looting, saying they were still in "war mode" the first few days, expecting Republican Guards to pop out of basements or have snipers shoot at them. Only after the rules of engagement changed did they concern themselves with restoring civic order.

Much of the arson was done by Iraqis loyal to Saddam. Most of these acts were spontaneous, except for the destruction of Republican Archive, which was planned well in advance, undoubtedly to remove damaging Baathist documents. The looters were a politically diverse lot. Many were evidently not Saddam loyalists, but seemed jubilant that his government had ended.

The custodians of the Baghdad Museum, which held thousands of priceless archaeological artifacts, were fortunately able to move most of the exhibits to vaults before the war. Contrary to early reports that the museum had been looted clean, only about 3% of its artifacts had been stolen or destroyed, including some of the pieces too large to be moved to the vaults. The local U.S. tank commander had been specifically instructed not to protect the museum for a full two weeks after the invasion. Before the war, museum personnel had warned the Pentagon of the likelihood of looting, yet no action was taken to protect some of the most valuable artifacts in the world. As some journalists wryly noted, even the Nazis had protected the Louvre.

The callousness and philistinism of the Bush administration was on full display in Rumsfeld's dismissive comments about the looting.

The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it's the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it twenty times, and you think, "My goodness, were there that many vases?" Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?
Stuff happens! But in terms of what's going on in that country, it is a fundamental misunderstanding to see those images over, and over, and over again of some boy walking out with a vase and say, "Oh, my goodness, you didn't have a plan." That's nonsense. They know what they're doing, and they're doing a terrific job. And it's untidy, and freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things.

The Pentagon later argued that demands of combat made it impossible to defend the museum and other cultural buildings. This excuse was undoubtedly calculated to guard against accusations of violating international law. The relevant norm may be found in the 1954 Hague Convention, which demands of those occupying other countries to "undertake to prohibit, prevent and, if necessary, put a stop to any form of theft, pillage or misappropriation of, and any acts of vandalism directed against, cultural property". (Art. 4[3])

Even without the sanction of international law, anyone but a complete vulgarian would have made every effort to preserve the museum and libraries, realizing that they preserve the heritage of the world's earliest civilizations. In fact, Iraqi scholars had petitioned the Americans in advance of the war to protect these institutions. The Americans saw far more value in protecting documentation of oil wealth. A more scathing indictment of the worthlessness and crassness of the American imperial project can scarcely be imagined.

Fittingly, under the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority that governed Iraq for a year, cultural matters were given the lowest priority. Four years later, there was still looting at Iraq's archaeological sites. Ancient castles, ziggurats, cities, minarets and mosques were stripped of their bricks, sometimes damaged beyond recognition. All foreign archaeologists were kept out of the country, leaving no means to preserve these sites.

While the Bush administration was content to leave the heritage of the world's oldest civilizations to chance, extensive planning was made in advance to distribute Iraq's oil contracts among American companies. The U.S. State Department's Future of Iraq Project had an Oil and Energy Working Group that met four times between December 2002 and April 2003. The group found that Iraq "should be opened to international oil companies as quickly as possible after the war" and this should be done through Production Sharing Agreements. No other Middle East nation uses these agreements, as they excessively favor foreign companies, effectively allowing them to profit share. In a similar vein, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Treasury Department drafted a plan in February that called for mass privatization, liquidation of some industries, and a year-long propaganda campaign to make Iraqis amenable to the plan. (Wall Street Journal, 1 May 2003)

In order to clear the way for new oil contracts, the U.S. announced in May 2003 that most of Iraq's contracts with foreign governments (e.g., France, Russia) made during the Baathist regime would not be honored. Regime change was quite profitable for the U.S. and its allies, as it enabled them to assume the lion's share of a market that had been closed to them.

Prior to the war, the Iraqi oil industry was completely nationalized, and non-Arab foreigners could not own businesses in Iraq. Immediately after the invasion, one of the first directives issued by the Bush administration was to allow privatization of all state-owned businesses, and to admit up to 100% foreign ownership. No sovereign country in the world allows full foreign ownership of all its businesses, and the Americans took care to leave an exception for the extraction and early processing of oil. This was not much of a concession, as all other Arab countries enjoyed their own extraction rights as well. Now, however, U.S. companies could have lucrative development deals with the Iraqis. As anyone paying attention should know by now, when the U.S. fights for "democracy," it often means capitalism.

Naturally, most reconstruction contracts were awarded to major American companies, including KBR, a Halliburton subsidiary that received a $2.4 billion no-bid Army contract. This was scandalous because of Vice President Cheney's past connections with the company, as well as later evidence that KBR grossly overcharged the government for fuel. Halliburton, Bechtel, and other companies would get no-bid contracts to rebuild utilities and schools, do a sub-standard or even non-existent job, and pocket the money. $20 billion was spent in this way with no accountability or transparency, while the Iraqis floundered without basic utilities and public buildings. The money came from oil revenues, which the U.S. repeatedly insisted belonged to the Iraqi people, though the Bush administration acted as the banker.

In the first year of occupation, Iraq was run by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), headed by U.S. diplomat L. Paul Bremer. Having effective legislative authority over Iraq, Bremer's priorities were to protect property rights, lower trade barriers, and basically turn a socialist economy into a neoliberal paradise. In typical economic imperialist fashion, he insisted that Iraq must compete in a "free market," which effectively meant that rich multinational companies must be allowed to rape the country. Duty-free products flooded into Iraq, overwhelming domestic businesses, already at a disadvantage because of the war-ravaged infrastructure. Free-market fundamentalists fail to note that there is nothing free about competition between an ant and an elephant.

Perhaps even more devastating than his laissez faire economic policies was Bremer's decision, backed by the Bush administration, to ban 30,000 Baathist civil servants from their positions, making government almost completely non-functional. Since Iraq was a one-party state, this had the effect of eliminating the entire class of qualified administrators from government. In a quasi-socialist economy, this was a disastrous measure. Eventually, the foolish de-Baathification policy would be partially reversed, but the damage was already done in the first year of occupation.

Another foolish policy was the dissolution of the Iraqi army, which added 400,000 men to the ranks of the unemployed, many of whom formed an insurgency to fight against the occupation. In the absence of a professional domestic army, Iraq fell into violent chaos, and teetered on the brink of civil war for more than two years, while thousands were killed in acts of terrorism and sectarian strife.

The CPA also pushed for the privatization of public services, such as telecommunications and sanitation. Again, laissez faire ideology took precedent over the will of the Iraqi people, enabling foreign companies to profit from public necessity. The idea that a private company should reap profits from a necessary utility, having a captive clientele, was a foreign concept to Iraqis. In the U.S., such extortion regularly receives the sanction of the state, which awards de facto regional monopolies to private companies for public services. These companies are allowed to reap a profit without any risk or real competition. In classical political philosophy, the definition of corrupt government was the use of public resources for private benefit. In the U.S. this is considered by many to be a principal objective of government. This state-sanctioned theft, accepted as a matter of course in the U.S., was now exported to Iraq.

The U.S. did not forget its partners in the "coalition of the willing." On 9 December 2003, a Pentagon memo dated 5 December was released to the public. In the memo, Paul Wolfowitz determined that $18.6 billion in U.S.-funded contracts to rebuild Iraq's utilities and hospitals would be made available only to companies from the U.S., Iraq, and coalition partners. Wolfowitz wrote that this was "necessary for the protection of the essential security interests of the United States", in order to give himself legal cover with the World Trade Organization. The security rationale was a laughable falsehood, necessary only as a legal fiction. The rank pettiness of this measure was unbelievable, as even longtime ally Canada was excluded, to punish its refusal to join the coalition, while coalition members Turkey and Saudi Arabia were allowed to participate, though they made no military contributions. The memo put on full display the crassness of the administration, with its tit-for-tat compensation for endorsement of its Iraq adventure, and further discredited the voluntary nature of the "coalition of the willing".

The United States had fought wars for money previously, but the Bush administration was exceptionally brazen in displaying its intent to dominate Iraq economically. Postwar reconstruction contracts went to American businessmen, not Iraqis. No-bid contracts were awarded to Halliburton and several major oil companies, and little attempt was made to disguise the rampant profiteering. Finally, in 2008, Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Total, BP, Chevron and other companies received no-bid contracts from Iraq. No auction was held, even though the demand for oil was exceptionally high at the time. The companies effectively received contracts at bargain prices, and though the Iraqi government, once in power, decided to limit these contracts to one year, these companies will be in a position of advantage over competitors when it is time for re-negotiation. The Bush administration repeatedly insisted that the Iraq war was not about oil, and that the oil belonged to the Iraqi people, but their actions suggest that these words are as empty as all the others they have spoken regarding Iraq.

The Inspectors' Final Verdict

As we have seen from examining the pre-war propaganda, the central rationale for invading Iraq was the threat of WMD. Without this threat, the U.S. and U.K. would not have been able to muster what support they did have for their campaign. It is only germane, then, that we should examine what was the reality regarding this threat.

Having full access to all of Iraq's archives and former officials, the weapons inspectors were able to determine the extent of Iraq's WMD programs. Their conclusions, detailed in the UNMOVIC compendium on Iraq, laid waste to the American case for war.

Much of the U.S. intelligence on Iraq relied on the testimony of defectors, such as General Hussein Kamel. UNMOVIC found that Gen. Kamel's testimony was limited in its quality.

General Hussein Kamel had enormous influence on MIC’s activities and weapons programmes. In a political system where individuals can be very powerful, General Hussein Kamel quickly realized the wide range of opportunities available in the area of military industrialization. He actively engaged in absorbing and expanding industries under his control and promoted Iraq’s weapons capabilities. However, he had few technical qualifications and was ill-placed often to accurately judge the progress of a particular project. As an illustration, he conveyed to the President that some specific programmes, such as production of the CW agent VX, were well advanced, when actually the work was far from being finalized. He was probably influenced by reports from project managers who were afraid to admit that their programmes had not yet achieved expected results. It seems likely that General Hussein Kamel had often exaggerated achievements of military industrialization to gain more influence and power.

UNMOVIC made the following findings of fact regarding Iraq's chemical weapons.

Tabun production on an industrial scale was cancelled in 1986, and in 1987 it was halted even on an experimental scale, due to poor quality. However, in 1994, some tabun was identified with 44% purity, contradicting declared data on degradation rates.

Sarin, used in the Iran-Iraq war was of a low quality, and did not have a long shelf life. Its production was stopped in January 1988.

In the late eighties, the Iraqis did lab tests on VX, but never reached the field test stage. There is a lack of evidence on the production levels and purities of Iraqi VX.

The Iraqis had good knowledge of CS, normally used for riot-control. The Iraqis weaponized CS in mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and aerial bombs in the Iran-Iraq war. CS was not a banned weapon.

The raw materials for mustard are all locally available in Iraq. Iraqi mustard was mostly good quality. As late as 2003, confiscated shells still had 90% purity, even after twelve years of storage. Production of mustard was stopped after 1990.

Iraq possessed the raw materials necessary for phosphor, yet was never able to produce it domestically.

Iraqi chemical weapon production up to 1988 was pragmatic, based on the need to produce large quantities for use in the Iran-Iraq war, even if it was of low quality. After the war (1988-1990), Iraq looked into more sophisticated chemical weapons. All of Iraq's chemical weapons were produced at a time when it was an ally of the U.S. They were intended for use against regional enemies such as Iran, not the U.S. In late 1989 and early 1990, production was resumed in response to threats of preemptive strikes against Iraq.

Artillery and bombs using chemical warheads were produced between 1982 and 1986. All chemical munitions were produced during the time of Reagan. Iraqis destroyed these weapons under UNSCOM supervision, using Iraqi personnel and equipment.

The only other chemical weapons ever found in Iraq were 14 mustard shells found in 1997. In January 2003, a little more than a half-liter of thiodiglycol, a mustard precursor, was found. This is a dual-use chemical, admitting of legitimate civilian use.

As of January 1991, 127,941 filled and unfilled chemical munitions existed in Iraq. 56,281 munitions (22,263 filled) remained after the Gulf War. Of these 40,048 (21,825 filled) were destroyed under UNSCOM. 15,616 unfilled munitions were converted to conventional weapons use in 1993-94. Another 438 filled munitions were destroyed in a fire accident.

41,998 munitions (5,498 filled) were destroyed during the Gulf War. UNSCOM confirmed destruction of about 34,000 of these from physical evidence. However, the destruction of the facilities makes an exact count impossible. The final disposition of 2,000 unfilled munitions and 550 filled munitions remain uncertain.

29,662 munitions (854 filled) were destroyed unilaterally by Iraq. UNSCOM verified the destruction of 13,660 destroyed. They could not account for 15,900 unfilled munitions.

In the end, it was mainly unfilled munitions that Iraq could not fully account. These were probably converted to conventional use or abandoned. Even with free rein over the country, the inspectors were not able to resolve some questions. They found for themselves that there simply was not any evidence for the Iraqis to provide.

Gen. Hussein Kamel claimed ebola was produced at Al Dora, but subsequent investigation turned up empty. UNMOVIC determined that ebola was an unlikely candidate for Iraqi development, as it requires maximum containment.

In July 1991, all Iraqi biological agents were destroyed by order of Hussein Kamel. UN inspectors confirmed that 25 biological weapons warheads had been destroyed. In the final days before the 2003 war, inspectors were digging up R-400 warhead fragments to determine how many had been destroyed. They accounted for 151 (not counting hundreds of fragments), but it was not clear whether the original total was 157 or closer to 200. UNMOVIC reported, "Iraq appeared to be making genuine efforts to recover and account for the 157 R-400 bombs that it claims were filled with biological agent and unilaterally destroyed in 1991."

The Al Hakam factory was used in the late eighties for biological weapons development, with single cell protein production as its cover story. It continued to be used for civilian purposes after 1991, but Iraq kept secret its former use until 1995, for fear that it would be destroyed if its past use were known.

In sum, all Iraqi WMD production had halted by January 1991. All biological weapons were destroyed at that time, and Iraq began unilaterally destroying its chemical arsenal. This disarmament was completed under UNSCOM in the early nineties. The remaining "disarmament tasks" did not involve disarmament at all, but verifying that Iraq had indeed fully disarmed. Iraq at first was uncooperative, because it wished to hide the former use of some of its factories, and probably had designs of someday restoring its programs. Cooperation was further inhibited by the UNSCOM spying scandal. Ultimately, the Iraqi regime realized that the renunciation of these weapons was necessary to its survival, which is why it granted full access to the inspectors in late 2002, and was extraordinarily proactive in helping to find evidence in the months before the war.

Iraq had no WMD for over a decade. Even at the peak of its WMD program, its chief weapon had been mustard, a World War I-era munition. Iraq never threatened to use WMD against the U.S. or any other Western power. Bush arrogantly demanded that Iraq must disarm, but it had already disarmed. As of February 2003, Iraq was complying as best as it could to avoid war, yet Bush insisted on war anyway. To command the impossible is intrinsically unjust, so the war was objectively unjust, however we may regard the subjective disposition of the Bush administration, be they ignorant or malicious.

The U.S. is the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons to kill people. President Truman ordered the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing 200,000 people, after Japan had already offered surrender, its air force and navy having been destroyed, along with 40% of its industrial centers. The sole reason for this heinous act, which deliberately targeted non-industrial civilian population centers, was the Allies' insistence on unconditional surrender, contrary to all established norms of warfare. The U.S. has never renounced the right to first use of a nuclear weapon, nor has it depleted its nuclear arsenal in accordance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and it has actually built new warheads as recently as 2007. In 1999, it rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The U.S. signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997. The treaty calls for complete destruction of all chemical weapons by 2012, but the U.S. does not expect to accomplish this until 2023. About 15,000 of 31,000 metric tons were destroyed by 2007. Most U.S. chemical weapons are the highly lethal VX and sarin.

In 2001, the Bush administration scuttled negotiations to establish a legally binding verification protocol for the Biological Weapons Convention. The U.S. claims it no longer produces biological weapons, but refuses to submit to a verification process, such as it would impose on other countries. In 2001, five people were killed by anthrax attacks. The anthrax was of the Ames strain, studied by the U.S. military.

Given the less than stellar performance of the U.S. regarding compliance with international law and ethical norms on WMD, the campaign against Iraq seems especially hypocritical. The U.S. does not have a principled position against WMD, but only objects to those who would threaten its hegemony with these weapons. By contrast, those neighboring nations that would be most threatened by potential Iraqi WMDs generally opposed the invasion, realizing that it would result in an American power grab in the region.

Though Iraq had never committed any aggression against the United States, the Americans had a long history of crimes against Iraq. In the 1970s, they supported the Iranians and the Kurds against Iraq. They played both sides of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. They baited Hussein into taking Kuwait, rejected his peace offer, and delivered a punishing bombing campaign in the 1991 Gulf War. They followed this with a decade of sanctions, inspections tainted by espionage, and controlling much of Iraqi air space with illegal "no-fly zones". They even attempted to provoke insurrection in Iraq, only to abandon the would-be revolutionaries. Finally, they insisted on war with Iraq in the face of widespread international opposition, conducting a provocative bombing campaign in 2002. The U.S., not Iraq, had behaved like an aggressor and threatened the security of the other nation.

Iraq's crime was being a potentially powerful nation that was not in alignment with the U.S. The U.S. insists, as all empires do, that all its enemies must be weak. In the case of Iraq, this principle was carried to a paranoid extreme, as the mere possibility of Iraq becoming powerful, rather than actually being powerful, sufficed as a casus belli. In this deed, the U.S. acted in a nakedly imperialistic manner. Fortunately, the aftermath was such a disaster that Americans are likely to be discouraged from any empire-building projects in the near future.

Damage Control

As the inspectors found no evidence of WMD after the war, the apostles of war found themselves shifting ground. At first, they insisted that more time was needed to find the weapons. Then they suggested that the weapons might have been smuggled to Syria or other countries. Failing that, they supposed the dastardly Baathists had destroyed the weapons during the war, just to make the Americans look bad. As months passed, all of these excuses evaporated, so the WMD rationale was replaced with the cause of democracy.

The democracy rationale was not new. Years earlier, the neoconservatives signing onto the Project for the New American Century had explicitly called for a democratization of the Middle East, triggered by regime change in Iraq. Bush had mentioned freeing the Iraqi people as one of the reasons for the war, which was accordingly named Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nonetheless, the current emphasis on democratization was disingenuous. There are plenty of non-democratic nations in the world, yet the U.S. does not wage war on them, much less pre-emptively. The entire reason for the pre-emptive war was the imminent threat that Iraq's WMD presented. This was why inspections could wait no longer, and this was the basis upon which domestic and international support was marshalled. Rightly or wrongly, few would have fought a war simply to make Iraq democratic.

Consequently, the U.S. promoted every similitude of Western-style democracy in Iraq, with propaganda photos of women voting, and ceremonial transitions of power to Iraqis, while Washington still called the shots and American businesses reaped the profits. American troops and private mercenaries lorded over the Iraqis, breaking into houses at will, and all too often shooting first and asking questions later. Soldiers make terrible policemen, but this situation was made a practical necessity by the foolish policy of de-Baathification. The Iraqis knew they were not free, but under occupation, and their fledgling government was in a state of vassalage. This subordinate state was made vividly clear by the Abu Ghraib scandal, where Saddam's former prison was used by Americans to subject Iraqis to gross indignities. The liberation of Iraq increasingly smelled like conquest.

The Bush administration was not altogether successful in redirecting everyone's attention. Officials found themselves having to defend their pre-war assessment of the intelligence. Their most common defense was that supposedly everyone else thought Iraq had WMD. As late as 2004, Condoleeza Rice said, "It's not as if anybody believes that Saddam Hussein was without weapons of mass destruction." (18 March) As we have seen, many people before the war questioned or even positively disbelieved in the existence of WMD stockpiles in Iraq. Most importantly, the inspectors most qualified to make this assessment found only negative evidence regarding Iraqi WMD before the war.

After the war, an inspection team headed by David Kay was instructed by the Bush administration to survey Iraq for WMD. Rice and other officials cited Kay's work as proving that Iraq had been hiding weapons from the inspectors. In fact, Kay believed nothing of the sort, and said as much after he resigned in January 2004. In his view, there were no WMD stockpiles before the invasion, and he said the administration should "come clean" about misleading the nation about the threat.

The democracy rationale and what was left of the WMD argument ultimately merged into the demonization of Saddam Hussein. After all, the real reason for the invasion was regime change, so it is only fitting that all other rationales should be subordinated to the person of Saddam Hussein. In this line of thinking, "Saddam was the weapon of mass destruction," for as long as he was in power, Iraq would always pursue such weapons and ultimately threaten to use them. This was a strange rationale coming from Reaganites who supported Saddam when he was actually gassing people as opposed to merely hypothetically or potentially re-developing WMD. Further, if this were a valid argument, it would be justifiable to pre-emptively attack any country that is ruled by a bad man, since all countries have the potential for technological development.

Personalizing the enemy meshed nicely with the democratization rationale. Saddam Hussein was indeed a primary obstacle to democracy in Iraq. The U.S. changed the measure of its success from "disarming Iraq" - as there was nothing to disarm - to whether Iraq was "better off without Saddam Hussein." The truism that Iraq was indeed "better off" would justify the war, following the ends-justify-the-means mentality that pervaded neoconservative thinking about war. It is probably lost on the neoconservatives that this same ruthless pragmatism is what creates men like Saddam Hussein in the first place.

Rogues' Gallery

A cynical aphorism holds that only small criminals get punished, while the big criminals wield power in government. We might alternatively say that big criminals are only punished by even bigger ones, as the outcome of war is determined by strength or power. Nonetheless, let us suppose we could summon even the biggest criminals to court, and give an overview of their crimes.

Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein, being a weaker power, is the only one among the major criminals to have been prosecuted for his crimes, since only the law of force prevails among scoundrels. His crimes include the purge of the Ba'ath party, use of chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurds, as well as the execution and torture of thousands of political dissidents.

Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger provided arms to the Shah of Iran and to the Kurds to wage war against Iraq. Ultimately, they cut off supply lines to the Kurds, creating a humanitarian crisis involving 250,000 refugees.

Jimmy Carter protected the brutal Shah of Iran from prosecution, and established the doctrine that the U.S. reserves the right to use force to protect its interests in the Persian Gulf. By some accounts, he green-lighted the invasion of Iran by Iraq.

Ronald Reagan approved the sale of arms to Iran after the fact. The direct sale of arms to Iran was also approved by George H.W. Bush, Ed Meese, Don Regan, and John Poindexter, among others. Illicit deals with Iran were discussed by Bud McFarlane, Caspar Weinberger and Colin Powell. Al Haig had also allowed arms to be shipped to Iran from Israel.

Reagan's CIA Director Bill Casey had probably negotiated with the Iranians illicitly over the hostages. He also supplied Iraq with intelligence for use in its war with Iran.

Reagan's Secretary of State George Shultz knew of Iraq's near daily use of chemical weapons in 1983, yet he permitted the sale of dual use trucks to Iraq. He prevented the shipment of phosphorus fluoride to Iraq, yet opposed the condemnation of Iraq for chemical weapons use at the UN.

Donald Rumsfeld acted as a special emissary to re-establish cordial business relations with Saddam's regime.

George H.W. Bush George H.W. Bush reversed his Iraq policy to a hostile stance, baiting Saddam to take Kuwait and deliberately sabotaging any effort to make peace. His bombardment of Iraq was designed purely to weaken the nation, and resulted in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands. He established a harsh sanctions regime and enforced illegal "no-fly zones".

Madeleine Albright Bill Clinton Bill Clinton established the policy of regime change, and launched air strikes against Iraq to deflect attention from his domestic problems. Under his government, the U.S. used UNSCOM for espionage. His Secretary of State Madeleine Albright openly stated that the human cost of the sanctions was a price the U.S. willing to pay. This effectively meant it was legitimate to create a humanitarian crisis, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, in order to pursue a strategic policy of regime change.

George W. Bush George W. Bush was fixated on Saddam Hussein, and ignored all evidence that contradicted his assumption that Saddam was connected to terrorism and still possessed WMD. In his public speeches, he deliberately distorted evidence and falsely claimed to pursue war only as a last resort. By pursuing war as a first and only resort, he waged war unjustly.

Donald Rumsfeld Donald Rumsfeld shared the Saddam fixation, and ordered unprovoked attacks in the no-fly zone. He misrepresented evidence and stoked groundless fears about WMD. After the war, he demonstrated a callous disregard for the cultural and human toll of the occupation of Iraq. He is responsible for the loss of thousands cultural artifacts, as well as much of the chaos that ensued after the war.

Paul Wolfowitz had long pushed for war, and insisted on an Al-Qaeda connection long after the evidence had evaporated. He tried to have reconstruction contracts restricted to those who supported the war.

Tony Blair Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell released the final draft of the infamous dossier on Iraq that was full of distortions and misrepresentations.

Condoleeza Rice Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice was one of the most ardent hawks in the administration. She did not wish to even bother with the charade of going to the UN. She repeatedly lied about the state of the evidence and shamelessly fear-mongered.

Dick Cheney Vice President Dick Cheney also repeatedly lied and fear-mongered, insisting on the existence of Iraqi WMDs and an Al-Qaeda connection long after other war supporters had abandoned these positions.

Colin Powell Colin Powell gave the infamous presentation to the UN that was full of false information. He acted not out of ignorance, but willfully misrepresented the evidence that was presented to him.

L. Paul Bremer, acting on orders from the Bush administration, put Iraq up for sale, exposing its entire economy to foreign ownership.

Whether they are maligned or praised, most of these offenders will be spared any real penalty, since they have the good fortune of being in countries with superior military force. For imperialists, might truly does make right. It is our lowly task to point out how the propaganda of these imperialists has constantly shifted, so that we may not mistake their acts of nationalist aggrandizement for principled behavior.

© 2009 Daniel J. Castellano. All rights reserved. http://www.arcaneknowledge.org

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