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Fisk: Powell's Presentation

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  • World View <ummyakoub@yahoo.com>
    Powell s Presentation It was like something out of Beckett By Robert Fisk Sources, foreign intelligence sources, our sources, defectors, sources, sources,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 9, 2003
      Powell's Presentation
      It was like something out of Beckett
      By Robert Fisk

      Sources, foreign intelligence sources, "our sources,"
      defectors, sources, sources, sources. Colin Powell's
      terror talk to the United Nations Security Council
      yesterday sounded like one of those government-inspired
      reports on the front page of The New York Times -
      where it will most certainly be treated with due reverence
      in this morning's edition. It was a bit like heating
      up old soup. Haven't we heard most of this stuff before?
      Should one trust the man? General Powell, I mean, not

      Certainly we don't trust Saddam but Secretary of State
      Powell's presentation was a mixture of awesomely funny
      recordings of Iraqi Republican Guard telephone
      intercepts à la Samuel Beckett that just might have
      been some terrifying little proof that Saddam really is conning
      the UN inspectors again, and some ancient material on
      the Monster of Baghdad's all too well known record of
      beastliness. I am still waiting to hear the Arabic for
      the State Department's translation of "Okay Buddy" -
      "Consider it done, Sir" - this from the Republican
      Guard's "Captain Ibrahim", for heaven's sake - and
      some dinky illustrations of mobile bio-labs whose lorries
      and railway trucks were in such perfect condition that
      they suggested the Pentagon didn't have much idea of
      the dilapidated state of Saddam's army.

      It was when we went back to Halabja and human rights
      abuses and all Saddam's old sins, as recorded by the
      discredited Unscom team, that we started eating the
      old soup again. Jack Straw may have thought all this "the
      most powerful and authoritative case" but when we were
      forced to listen to Iraq's officer corps communicating
      by phone - "yeah", "yeah", "yeah?", "yeah..." - it was
      impossible not to ask oneself if Colin Powell had
      really considered the effect this would have on the
      outside world.

      From time to time, the words "Iraq: Failing To Disarm
      - Denial and Deception" appeared on the giant video
      screen behind General Powell. Was this a CNN logo,
      some of us wondered? But no, it was CNN's sister channel,
      the US Department of State.

      Because Colin Powell is supposed to be the good cop to
      the Bush-Rumsfeld bad cop routine, one wanted to
      believe him. The Iraqi officer's telephoned order to
      his subordinate - "remove 'nerve agents' whenever it comes
      up in the wireless instructions" - looked as if the
      Americans had indeed spotted a nasty new little line
      in Iraqi deception. But a dramatic picture of a pilotless

      Iraqi aircraft capable of spraying poison chemicals
      turned out to be the imaginative work of a Pentagon

      And when General Powell started blathering on about
      "decades'' of contact between Saddam and al-Qa'ida,
      things went wrong for the Secretary of State.
      Al-Qa'ida only came into existence five years ago, since Bin
      Laden - "decades" ago - was working against the Russians for
      the CIA, whose present day director was sitting
      grave-faced behind General Powell. And Colin Powell's
      new version of his President's State of the Union lie -
      that the "scientists" interviewed by UN inspectors had been

      Iraqi intelligence agents in disguise - was singularly
      unimpressive. The UN talked to scientists, the new
      version went, but they were posing for the real
      nuclear and bio boys whom the UN wanted to talk to. General
      Powell said America was sharing its information with
      the UN inspectors but it was clear yesterday that much of
      what he had to say about alleged new weapons
      development - the decontamination truck at the Taji
      chemical munitions factory, for example, the "cleaning" of the
      Ibn al-Haythem ballistic missile factory on 25
      November - had not been given to the UN at the time. Why wasn't
      this intelligence information given to the inspectors
      months ago? Didn't General Powell's beloved UN
      resolution 1441 demand that all such intelligence
      information should be given to Hans Blix and his lads immediately?

      Were the Americans, perhaps, not being "pro-active"

      The worst moment came when General Powell started
      talking about anthrax and the 2001 anthrax attacks in
      Washington and New York, pathetically holding up a
      teaspoon of the imaginary spores and - while not
      precisely saying so - fraudulently suggesting a connection
      between Saddam Hussein and the 2001 anthrax scare.

      When the Secretary of State held up Iraq's support for
      the Palestinian Hamas organisation, which has an
      office in Baghdad, as proof of Saddam's support for
      "terror'' - there was, of course, no mention of
      America's support for Israel and its occupation of Palestinian
      land - the whole theatre began to collapse. There are Hamas

      offices in Beirut, Damascus and Iran. Is the 82nd
      Airborne supposed to grind on to Lebanon, Syria and

      There was an almost macabre opening to the play when
      General Powell arrived at the Security Council,
      cheek-kissing the delegates and winding his great arms
      around them. Jack Straw fairly bounded up for his big
      American hug.

      Indeed, there were moments when you might have thought
      that the whole chamber, with its toothy smiles and
      constant handshakes, contained a room full of men
      celebrating peace rather than war. Alas, not so. These
      elegantly dressed statesmen were constructing the
      framework that would allow them to kill quite a lot of people,
      the monstrous Saddam perhaps, with his cronies, but a
      considerable number of innocents as well. One
      recalled, of course, the same room four decades ago when General

      Powell's predecessor Adlai Stevenson showed photos of
      the ships carrying Soviet missiles to Cuba.

      Alas, today's pictures carried no such authority. And
      Colin Powell is no Adlai Stevenson.

      World reaction


      A "typical American show complete with stunts and
      special effects" was Iraq's scathing dismissal of
      General Powell's presentation. Mohammed al-Douri, above,
      Iraq's UN ambassador, accused the US of manufacturing
      evidence and said the charges were "utterly unrelated
      to the truth.

      "No new information was provided, merely sound
      recordings that cannot be ascertained as genuine," he
      said. "There are incorrect allegations, unnamed sources,
      unknown sources."

      Lt-Gen Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to Saddam Hussein,
      said the satellite pictures "proved nothing". On the
      allegation that Iraq had faked the death certificate
      of a scientist to shield them from UN inspectors, he added:

      "If [General Powell] thinks any of those scientists
      marked as deceased is still in existence, let him come
      up with it."

      Powell's Case
      By Phylliss Bennis

      U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to
      the UN Security Council on February 5 wasn't likely to
      win over anyone not already on his side. He ignored
      the crucial fact that in the past several days (in
      Sunday's New York Times and in his February 4th
      briefing of UN journalists) Hans Blix denied key components of
      Powell's claims.

      Blix, who directs the UN inspection team in Iraq, said

      the UNMOVIC inspectors have seen "no evidence" of
      mobile biological weapons labs, has "no persuasive
      indications" of Iraq-al Qaeda links, and no evidence
      of Iraq hiding and moving material used for Weapons of Mass
      Destruction (WMD) either outside or inside Iraq. Dr.
      Blix also said there was no evidence of Iraq sending
      scientists out of the country, of Iraqi intelligence
      agents posing as scientists, of UNMOVIC conversations
      being monitored, or of UNMOVIC being penetrated.

      Further, CIA and FBI officials still believe the Bush
      administration is "exaggerating" information to make
      their political case for war. Regarding the alleged
      Iraqi link with al Qaeda, U.S. intelligence officials
      told the New York Times, "we just don't think it's

      The most compelling part of Powell's presentation was
      his brief ending section on the purported al Qaeda
      link with Iraq and on the dangers posed by the al
      Zarqawi network. However, he segued disingenuously from the
      accurate and frightening information about what the al

      Zarqawi network could actually do with biochemical
      materials to the not-so-accurate claim about its link
      with Iraq--which is tenuous and unproven at best.

      A key component of the alleged Iraq-al Qaeda link is
      based on what Powell said "detainees tell us...". That

      claim must be rejected. On December 27 the Washington
      Post reported that U.S. officials had acknowledged
      detainees being beaten, roughed up, threatened with
      torture by being turned over to officials of countries

      known to practice even more severe torture. In such
      circumstances, nothing "a detainee" says can be taken
      as evidence of truth given that people being beaten or
      tortured will say anything to stop the pain.
      Similarly, the stories of defectors cannot be relied on alone, as
      they have a self-interest in exaggerating their
      stories and their own involvement to guarantee access to
      protection and asylum.

      In his conclusion, Powell said, "We wrote 1441 not in
      order to go to war, we wrote 1441 to try to preserve
      the peace." It is certainly at least partially true
      that the UN resolution was an effort to "preserve the
      peace," although it is certainly not true that the
      U.S. wrote 1441 to preempt war. Rather, the Bush
      administration intended that the resolution would
      serve as a first step toward war.

      Finally, the "even if" rule applies. "Even if"
      everything Powell said was true, there is simply not
      enough evidence for war. There is no evidence of Iraq posing
      an imminent threat, no evidence of containment not
      working. Powell is asking us to go to war--risking the
      lives of 100,000 Iraqis in the first weeks, hundreds
      or thousands of U.S. and other troops, and political and
      economic chaos--because he thinks MAYBE in the future
      Iraq might rebuild its weapons systems and MIGHT
      decide to deploy weapons or MIGHT give those weapons to
      someone else who MIGHT use them against someone we
      like or give them to someone else who we don't like, and other
      such speculation. Nothing that Powell said should
      alter the position that we should reject a war on

      (Phyllis Bennis <pbennis@...> is a Middle
      East analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at
      www.fpif.org) and a senior analyst at the Institute
      for Policy Studies.)



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