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The lies that led us into war ... - Independent, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    The lies that led us into war ... Glen Rangwala shows how the UK and the US manipulated UN reports - and conjured an anthrax dump from thin air 01 June 2003
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2003
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      The lies that led us into war ...
      Glen Rangwala shows how the UK and the US manipulated
      UN reports - and conjured an anthrax dump from thin
      01 June 2003


      One key tactic of the British and United States
      governments in their campaign on Iraq's alleged
      weapons of mass destruction was to talk up suspicions
      and to portray possibility as fact. The clearest
      example was the quotation and misquotation of the
      reports of United Nations weapons inspectors.

      Iraq claimed it had destroyed all its prohibited
      weapons, either unilaterally or in co-operation with
      the inspectors, between 1991 and 1994. Although the
      inspectors were able to verify that unilateral
      destruction took place on a large scale, they were not
      able to quantify the amounts destroyed.

      For example, they were able to detect that anthrax
      growth media had been burnt and buried in bulk at a
      site next to the production facility at al-Hakam.
      There was no way - and there never will be - to tell
      from the soil samples the amount destroyed. As a
      result, UN inspectors recorded this material as
      unaccounted for: neither verified destroyed nor
      believed to still exist.

      Translated into statements by the British and US
      governments, it became part of "stockpiles" that they
      claimed Iraq was hiding from the inspectors. Both
      governments knew UN inspectors had not found any
      nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq since
      at least 1994, aside from a dozen abandoned mustard
      shells, and that the vast majority of any weapons
      produced before 1991 would have degraded to the point
      of uselessness within 10 years.

      Even the most high-profile defector from Iraq -
      Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law and
      director of Iraq's weapons programmes - told UN
      inspectors and British intelligence agencies in 1995
      that Iraq had no more prohibited weapons. And yet
      Britain's dossier last September repeated the false
      claim that information "in the public domain from UN
      reports ... points clearly to Iraq's continuing
      possession, after 1991, of chemical and biological
      agents and weapons produced before the Gulf War".

      There is no UN report after 1994 that claims that Iraq
      continued to possess weapons of mass destruction. This
      was well known in intelligence circles. That such a
      claim could appear in a purported intelligence
      document is a clear sign that the information was
      "pumped up" for political purposes, to support the
      case for an invasion.

      The Government began to resort to more direct
      misquotation in the immediate prelude to war, with UN
      chief inspector Hans Blix reporting on 7 March that
      Iraq was taking "numerous initiatives ... with a view
      to resolving long-standing open disarmament issues",
      and that this "can be seen as 'active', or even
      'proactive' co-operation".

      In response, Mr Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign
      Secretary, seized on the Unmovic working document of 6
      March entitled "Unresolved Disarmament Issues",about
      matters that are still unclear. Although Mr Blix
      acknowledged Iraqi efforts to resolve these questions,
      the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary repeatedly
      claimed that the document showed Iraq still had
      prohibited weapons, a claim the report never made.
      They relied on the presumption - probably accurate -
      that few MPs would have time to go through its 173
      pages, and would accept the Government's misleading

      Mr Blair quoted from the report in his speech to the
      Commons two days before the war began, to the effect
      that Iraq "had had far-reaching plans to weaponise"
      the deadly nerve agent VX. Note the tense: that
      quotation was from a "background" section of the
      report, on Iraq's policy before 1991.

      US and British leaders repeatedly referred to the UN
      inspectors' estimate that Iraq produced 1.5 tonnes of
      VX before 1990. But in March Unmovic reported that
      Iraq's production method created nerve agent that
      lasted only six to eight weeks. Mr Blair's "evidence"
      was about a substance the inspectors consider to have
      been no threat since early 1991. The Prime Minister
      didn't mention that.

      Glen Rangwala is a lecturer in politics at Newnham
      College, Cambridge

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