Iraq: myths versus reality
- "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
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
from the C.I.A. assessment. The two major American newspapers had been
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
ended the State Department abruptly, and in what many viewed as a
manner, condemned Iraq for allegedly using chemicals against its
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
Baghdad and in the process teamed up with Tehran. As soon as the war
ended, Iraq announced its determination to crush the Kurdish
insurrection. It sent
Republican Guards to the Kurdish area, and in the course of the
to the U.S. State Department gas was used, with the result that
civilians were killed. The Iraqi government denied that any such
gassing had occurred.
Nonetheless, Secretary of State Schultz stood by U.S. accusations, and
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
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
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 9095 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.