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Iraq: myths versus reality

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  • Robert Waldrop
    Ask not for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for the United States of America. Today the House of Representatives abrogated its constitutional duties and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 10, 2002
      "Ask not for whom the bells tolls, it tolls for the United States of
      America." Today the House of Representatives abrogated its
      constitutional duties and conceded to the executive branch the right
      to wage war. Here is the speech by Republican congressman Ron Paul of
      Texas in opposition to this horrendous legislative mistake. There is
      no lack of antiwar material these days, but the nice thing about this
      speech is that it details each of the Administration's claims and then
      rather thoroughly demolishes them. Robert Waldrop, OKC

      Iraq: Claim vs. Reality
      by Rep. Ron Paul, MD
      in the US House of Representatives, October 8, 2002

      Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this resolution, which regardless
      of what many have tried to claim will lead us into war with Iraq. This
      resolution is not a declaration of war, however, and that is an
      important point: this resolution transfers the
      Constitutionally-mandated Congressional authority to declare wars to
      the executive branch. This resolution tells the president that he
      alone has the authority to determine when, where, why, and how war
      will be declared. It merely asks the president to pay us a courtesy
      call a couple of days after the bombing starts to let us know what is
      going on. This is
      exactly what our Founding Fathers cautioned against when crafting our
      form of government: most had just left behind a monarchy where the
      power to declare war rested in one individual. It is this they most
      wished to avoid.

      As James Madison wrote in 1798, "The Constitution supposes what the
      history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the
      branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has,
      accordingly, with studied care, vested the question of war in the

      Some – even some in this body – have claimed that this Constitutional
      requirement is an anachronism, and that those who insist on following
      the founding legal document of this country are just being frivolous.
      I could not disagree more.

      Mr. Speaker, for the more than one dozen years I have spent as a
      federal legislator I have taken a particular interest in foreign
      affairs and especially the politics of the Middle East. From my seat
      on the international relations committee I have had the opportunity to
      review dozens of documents and to sit through numerous hearings and
      mark-up sessions regarding the issues of both Iraq and international

      Back in 1997 and 1998 I publicly spoke out against the actions of the
      Clinton Administration, which I believed was moving us once again
      toward war with Iraq. I believe the genesis of our current policy was
      unfortunately being set at that time. Indeed, many of the same voices
      who then demanded that the Clinton Administration attack Iraq are now
      demanding that the Bush Administration attack Iraq. It is unfortunate
      that these individuals are using the tragedy of September 11, 2001 as
      cover to force
      their long-standing desire to see an American invasion of Iraq.
      Despite all of the information to which I have access, I remain very
      skeptical that the nation of Iraq poses a serious and immanent
      terrorist threat to the United States. If I were convinced of such a
      threat I would support going to war, as I did when I supported
      President Bush by voting to give him both the authority and the
      necessary funding to fight the war on terror.

      Mr. Speaker, consider some of the following claims presented by
      supporters of this resolution, and contrast them with the following

      Claim: Iraq has consistently demonstrated its willingness to use force
      against the US through its firing on our planes patrolling the
      UN-established "no-fly zones."

      Reality: The "no-fly zones" were never authorized by the United
      Nations, nor was their 12 year patrol by American and British fighter
      planes sanctioned by the United Nations. Under UN Security Council
      Resolution 688 (April, 1991), Iraq's repression of the Kurds and
      Shi'ites was condemned, but there was no authorization for "no-fly
      zones," much less airstrikes. The resolution only calls for member
      states to "contribute to humanitarian relief" in the Kurd and Shi'ite
      areas. Yet the US and British have been bombing Iraq in the "no-fly
      zones" for 12 years. While one can only condemn any
      country firing on our pilots, isn't the real argument whether we
      should continue to bomb Iraq relentlessly? Just since 1998, some
      40,000 sorties have been flown over Iraq.

      Claim: Iraq is an international sponsor of terrorism.

      Reality: According to the latest edition of the State Department's
      Patterns of Global Terrorism, Iraq sponsors several minor Palestinian
      groups, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), and the Kurdistan Workers' Party
      (PKK). None of these carries out attacks against the United States. As
      a matter of fact, the MEK (an Iranian organization located in Iraq)
      has enjoyed broad Congressional support over the years. According to
      last year's Patterns of Global Terrorism, Iraq has not been involved
      in terrorist activity against the West since 1993 – the alleged
      attempt against former President Bush.

      Claim: Iraq tried to assassinate President Bush in 1993.

      Reality: It is far from certain that Iraq was behind the attack. News
      reports at the time were skeptical about Kuwaiti assertions that the
      attack was planned by Iraq against former President Bush. Following is
      an interesting quote from Seymore Hersh's article from Nov. 1993:

      "Three years ago, during Iraq's six-month occupation of Kuwait, there
      had been an outcry when a teen-age Kuwaiti girl testified eloquently
      and effectively before Congress
      about Iraqi atrocities involving newborn infants. The girl turned out
      to be the daughter of
      the Kuwaiti Ambassador to Washington, Sheikh Saud Nasir al-Sabah, and
      her account
      of Iraqi soldiers flinging babies out of incubators was challenged as
      exaggerated both by journalists and by human-rights groups. (Sheikh
      Saud was subsequently named Minister of Information in Kuwait, and he
      was the government official in charge of briefing the international
      press on the alleged assassination attempt against George Bush.)"

      "In a second incident, in August of 1991, Kuwait provoked a special
      session of the United Nations Security Council by claiming that twelve
      Iraqi vessels, including a speedboat, had been involved in an attempt
      to assault Bubiyan Island, long-disputed territory that was then under
      Kuwaiti control. The Security Council eventually concluded that, while
      the Iraqis had been provocative, there had been no Iraqi military
      raid, and that the Kuwaiti government knew there hadn't. What did take
      place was nothing more than a smuggler-versus-smuggler dispute over
      war booty in a nearby demilitarized zone that had emerged, after the
      Gulf War, as an illegal marketplace for alcohol, ammunition, and

      This establishes that on several occasions Kuwait has lied about the
      threat from Iraq. Hersh goes on to point out in the article numerous
      other times the Kuwaitis lied to the US and the UN about Iraq. Here is
      another good quote from Hersh:

      The President was not alone in his caution. Janet Reno, the Attorney
      General, also had
      her doubts. "The A.G. remains skeptical of certain aspects of the
      case," a senior Justice Department official told me in late July, a
      month after the bombs were dropped on Baghdad...Two weeks later, what
      amounted to open warfare broke out among various factions in the
      government on the issue of who had done what in Kuwait. Someone gave a
      Boston Globe reporter access to a classified C.I.A. study that was
      highly skeptical of the Kuwaiti claims of an Iraqi assassination
      attempt. The study, prepared by the C.I.A.'s Counter Terrorism Center,
      suggested that Kuwait might have "cooked the books" on the alleged
      plot in an effort to play up the "continuing Iraqi threat" to Western
      interests in the Persian Gulf. Neither the Times nor the Post made any
      significant mention of the Globe dispatch, which had been written by a
      correspondent named Paul Quinn-Judge, although the story cited
      specific paragraphs
      from the C.I.A. assessment. The two major American newspapers had been
      driven by
      their sources to the other side of the debate.

      At the very least, the case against Iraq for the alleged bomb threat
      is not conclusive.

      Claim: Saddam Hussein will use weapons of mass destruction against
      us – he has already used them against his own people (the Kurds in
      1988 in the village of Halabja).

      Reality: It is far from certain that Iraq used chemical weapons
      against the Kurds. It may be accepted as conventional wisdom in these
      times, but back when it was first claimed there was great skepticism.
      The evidence is far from conclusive. A 1990 study by the Strategic
      Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College cast great doubts on
      the claim that Iraq used chemical weapons on the Kurds. Following are
      the two gassing incidents as described in the report:

      "In September 1988, however – a month after the war (between Iran and
      Iraq) had
      ended – the State Department abruptly, and in what many viewed as a
      manner, condemned Iraq for allegedly using chemicals against its
      Kurdish population.
      The incident cannot be understood without some background of Iraq's
      relations with the
      Kurds...throughout the war Iraq effectively faced two enemies – Iran
      and elements of its
      own Kurdish minority. Significant numbers of the Kurds had launched a
      revolt against
      Baghdad and in the process teamed up with Tehran. As soon as the war
      with Iran
      ended, Iraq announced its determination to crush the Kurdish
      insurrection. It sent
      Republican Guards to the Kurdish area, and in the course of the
      operation – according
      to the U.S. State Department – gas was used, with the result that
      numerous Kurdish
      civilians were killed. The Iraqi government denied that any such
      gassing had occurred.
      Nonetheless, Secretary of State Schultz stood by U.S. accusations, and
      the U.S.
      Congress, acting on its own, sought to impose economic sanctions on
      Baghdad as a
      violator of the Kurds' human rights."

      "Having looked at all the evidence that was available to us, we find
      it impossible to
      confirm the State Department's claim that gas was used in this
      instance. To begin with,
      there were never any victims produced. International relief
      organizations who examined
      the Kurds – in Turkey where they had gone for asylum – failed to
      discover any. Nor
      were there ever any found inside Iraq. The claim rests solely on
      testimony of the Kurds
      who had crossed the border into Turkey, where they were interviewed by
      staffers of
      the Senate Foreign Relations Committee..."

      "It appears that in seeking to punish Iraq, the Congress was
      influenced by another
      incident that occurred five months earlier in another Iraqi-Kurdish
      city, Halabjah. In
      March 1988, the Kurds at Halabjah were bombarded with chemical
      producing many deaths. Photographs of the Kurdish victims were widely
      in the international media. Iraq was blamed for the Halabjah attack,
      even though it was
      subsequently brought out that Iran too had used chemicals in this
      operation and it
      seemed likely that it was the Iranian bombardment that had actually
      killed the Kurds."

      "Thus, in our view, the Congress acted more on the basis of
      emotionalism than factual
      information, and without sufficient thought for the adverse diplomatic
      effects of its

      Claim: Iraq must be attacked because it has ignored UN Security
      Council resolutions – these resolutions must be backed up by the use
      of force.

      Reality: Iraq is but one of the many countries that have not complied
      with UN Security Council resolutions. In addition to the dozen or so
      resolutions currently being violated by Iraq, a conservative estimate
      reveals that there are an additional 91 Security Council resolutions
      by countries other than Iraq that are also currently being violated.
      Adding in older resolutions that were violated would mean easily more
      than 200 UN Security Council resolutions have been violated with total
      impunity. Countries currently in violation include: Israel, Turkey,
      Morocco, Croatia, Armenia, Russia, Sudan,
      Turkey-controlled Cyprus, India, Pakistan, Indonesia. None of these
      countries have been threatened with force over their violations.

      Claim: Iraq has anthrax and other chemical and biological agents.

      Reality: That may be true. However, according to UNSCOM's chief
      weapons inspector 90–95 percent of Iraq's chemical and biological
      weapons and capabilities were destroyed by 1998; those that remained
      have likely degraded in the intervening four years and are likely
      useless. A 1994 Senate Banking Committee hearing revealed some 74
      shipments of deadly chemical and biological agents from the U.S. to
      Iraq in the 1980s. As one recent press report stated:

      "One 1986 shipment from the Virginia-based American Type Culture
      included three strains of anthrax, six strains of the bacteria that
      make botulinum toxin
      and three strains of the bacteria that cause gas gangrene. Iraq later
      admitted to the
      United Nations that it had made weapons out of all three..."

      The CDC, meanwhile, sent shipments of germs to the Iraqi Atomic Energy
      Commission and other agencies involved in Iraq's weapons of mass
      destruction programs. It sent samples in 1986 of botulinum toxin and
      botulinum toxoid – used to make vaccines against botulinum toxin –
      directly to the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons complex at
      al-Muthanna, the records show.

      These were sent while the United States was supporting Iraq covertly
      in its war against Iran. U.S. assistance to Iraq in that war also
      included covertly-delivered intelligence on Iranian troop movements
      and other assistance. This is just another example of our policy of
      interventionism in affairs that do not concern us – and how this
      interventionism nearly always ends up causing harm to the United

      Claim: The president claimed last night that: "Iraq possesses
      ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles; far
      enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey and other nations in a
      region where more than 135,000 American civilians and service members
      live and work."

      Reality: Then why is only Israel talking about the need for the U.S.
      to attack Iraq? None of the other countries seem concerned at all.
      Also, the fact that some 135,000 Americans in the area are under
      threat from these alleged missiles just makes the point that it is
      time to bring our troops home to defend our own country.

      Claim: Iraq harbors al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

      Reality: The administration has claimed that some Al-Qaeda elements
      have been present in Northern Iraq. This is territory controlled by
      the Kurds – who are our allies – and is patrolled by U.S. and British
      fighter aircraft. Moreover, dozens of countries – including Iran and
      the United States – are said to have al-Qaeda members on their
      territory. Of the other terrorists allegedly harbored by Iraq, all are
      affiliated with Palestinian causes and do not attack the United

      Claim: President Bush said in his speech on 7 October 2002: " Many
      people have asked how close Saddam Hussein is to developing a nuclear
      weapon. Well, we don't know exactly, and that's the problem..."

      Reality: An admission of a lack of information is justification for an

      Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.
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