by John Pilger / The London Daily Mirror –
LONDON (September 22, 2003) — Exactly one year ago, Tony Blair told Parliament: “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction program is not shut down. It is up and running now.”
Not only was every word of this false, it was part of a big lie invented in Washington within hours of the attacks of September 11 2001 and used to hoodwink the American public and distract the media from the real reason for attacking Iraq. “It was 95 percent charade,” a former senior CIA analyst told me.
An investigation of files and archive film for my TV documentary Breaking The Silence, together with interviews with former intelligence officers and senior Bush officials have revealed that Bush and Blair knew all along that Saddam Hussein was effectively disarmed.
Both US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s closest adviser, made clear before September 11 2001 that Saddam Hussein was no threat — to America, Europe or the Middle East.
In Cairo, on February 24, 2001, Powell said: “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.”
This is the very opposite of what Bush and Blair said in public.
Powell even boasted that it was the US policy of “containment” that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi dictator — again the very opposite of what Blair said time and again. On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to “build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction” for “the last 10 years.” America, he said, had been successful in keeping him “in a box”.
Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenseless Iraq. “Saddam does not control the northern part of the country,” she said. “We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”
So here were two of Bush’s most important officials putting the lie to their own propaganda, and the Blair government’s propaganda that subsequently provided the justification for an unprovoked, illegal attack on Iraq. The result was the deaths of what reliable studies now put at 50,000 people, civilians and mostly conscript Iraqi soldiers, as well as British and American troops. There is no estimate of the countless thousands of wounded.
In a torrent of propaganda seeking to justify this violence before and during the invasion, there were occasional truths that never made headlines. In April last year, Condoleezza Rice described September 11, 2001 as an “enormous opportunity” and said America “must move to take advantage of these new opportunities.”
Taking over Iraq, the world’s second biggest oil producer, was the first such opportunity.
At 2.40 PM on September 11, according to confidential notes taken by his aides, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wanted to “hit” Iraq — even though not a shred of evidence existed that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on New York and Washington. “Go massive,” the notes quote Rumsfeld as saying. “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
Iraq was given a brief reprieve when it was decided instead to attack Afghanistan. This was the “softest option” and easiest to explain to the American people — even though not a single September 11 hijacker came from Afghanistan. In the meantime, securing the “big prize”, Iraq, became an obsession in both Washington and London.
An Office of Special Plans was hurriedly set up in the Pentagon for the sole purpose of converting “loose” or unsubstantiated intelligence into US policy. This was a source from which Downing Street received much of the “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction we now know to be phony.
Contrary to Blair’s denials at the time, the decision to attack Iraq was set in motion on September 17, 2001, just six days after the attacks on New York and Washington.
On that day, Bush signed a top-secret directive ordering the Pentagon to begin planning “military options” for an invasion of Iraq. In July 2002, Condoleezza Rice told another Bush official who had voiced doubts about invading Iraq: “A decision has been made. Don’t waste your breath.”
The ultimate cynicism of this cover-up was expressed by Rumsfeld himself only last week. When asked why he thought most Americans still believed Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of September 11, he replied: “I’ve not seen any indication that would lead me to believe I could say that.”
It is this that makes the Hutton inquiry in London virtually a sham. By setting up an inquiry solely into the death of the weapons expert David Kelly, Blair has ensured there will be no official public investigation into the real reasons he and Bush attacked Iraq and into when exactly they made that decision. He has ensured there will be no headlines about disclosures in email traffic between Downing Street and the White House, only secretive tittle-tattle from Whitehall and the smearing of the messenger of Blair’s misdeeds.
The sheer scale of this cover-up makes almost laughable the forensic cross-examination of the BBC reporter Andrew Gilligan about “anomalies” in the notes of his interview with David Kelly — when the story Gilligan told of government hypocrisy and deception was basically true.
Those pontificating about Gilligan failed to ask one vital question — why has Lord Hutton not recalled Tony Blair for cross-examination? Why is Blair not being asked why British sovereignty has been handed over to a gang in Washington whose extremism is no longer doubted by even the most conservative observers?
No one knows the Bush extremists better than Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA officer and personal friend of George Bush senior, the President’s father. In Breaking the Silence, he tells me: “They were referred to in the circles in which I moved when I was briefing at the top policy levels as ‘the crazies’.”
“Who referred to them as ‘the crazies’?” I asked.
“All of us… in policy circles as well as intelligence circles… There is plenty of documented evidence that they have been planning these attacks for a long time and that 9/11 accelerated their plan. (The weapons of mass destruction issue) was all contrived, so was the connection of Iraq with al Qaeda. It was all PR… Josef Goebbels had this dictum: If you say something often enough, the people will believe it.” He added: “I think we ought to be all worried about fascism (in the United States).”
The “crazies” include Under Secretary of State John Bolton, who has made a personal mission of tearing up missile treaties with the Russians and threatening North Korea, and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, who ran a secret propaganda unit “reworking” intelligence about Iraq’s weapons. I interviewed them both in Washington.
Bolton boasted to me that the killing of as many as 10,000 Iraqi civilians in the invasion was “quite low if you look at the size of the military operation.” For raising the question of civilian casualties and asking which country America might attack next, I was told: “You must be a member of the Communist Party.”
Over at the Pentagon, Feith spoke about the “precision” of American weapons and denied that many civilians had been killed. When I pressed him, an army colonel ordered my cameraman: “Stop the tape!” In Washington, the wholesale deaths of Iraqis is unmentionable. They are non-people; the more they resist the Anglo-American occupation, the more they are dismissed as “terrorists”.
It is this slaughter in Iraq, a crime by any interpretation of an international law, that makes the Hutton inquiry absurd. While his lordship and the barristers play their semantic games, the spectre of thousands of dead human beings is never mentioned and witnesses to this great crime are not called.
Jo Wilding, a young law graduate, is one such witness. She was one of a group of human rights observers in Baghdad during the bombing. She and the others lived with Iraqi families as the missiles and cluster bombs exploded around them. Where possible, they would follow the explosions to scenes of civilian casualties and trace the victims to hospitals and mortuaries, interviewing the eyewitnesses and doctors. She kept meticulous notes.
She saw children cut to pieces by shrapnel and screaming because there were no anaesthetics or painkillers. She saw Fatima, a mother stained with the blood of her eight children. She saw streets, mosques and farmhouses bombed by marauding aircraft. “Nothing could explain them,” she told me, “other than that it was a deliberate attack on civilians.”
As these atrocities were carried out in our name, why are we not hearing such crucial evidence? And why is Blair allowed to make yet more self-serving speeches, and none of them from the dock?
Journo Claims Proof of WMD Lies
Paul Mulvey in London
LONDON (September 23, 2003) — Australian investigative journalist John Pilger says he has evidence the war against Iraq was based on a lie that could cost George W. Bush and Tony Blair their jobs and bring Prime Minister John Howard down with them.
A television report by Pilger aired on British screens overnight said US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice confirmed in early 2001 that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had been disarmed and was no threat.
But after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11 that year, Pilger claimed Rice said the US “must move to take advantage of these new opportunities” to attack Iraq and claim control of its oil.
Pilger uncovered video footage of Powell in Cairo on February 24, 2001 saying, “He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.”
Two months later, Rice reportedly said, “We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”
Powell boasted this was because America’s policy of containment and its sanctions had effectively disarmed Saddam.
Pilger claims this confirms that the decision of US President George W Bush – with the full support of British Prime Minister Blair and Howard — to wage war on Saddam because he had weapons of mass destruction was a huge deception.
Pilger interviewed several leading US government figures in Washington but said he did not ask Powell or Rice to respond to his claims. I think it’s very serious for Howard. Howard has followed the Americans and to a lesser degree Blair almost word for word,” Pilger told AAP before his program was screened on ITV tonight. “All Howard does is say `well it’s not true’ and never explains himself.
“I just don’t believe you can be seen to be party to such a big lie, such a big deception and endure that politically. It simply can’t be shrugged off and that’s Howard’s response. Blair has shrugged it off but Blair is deeply damaged. It’s far from over here, there’s a lot that is going to happen and much of it could wash onto Howard. And it’s unravelling in America and Bush could lose the election next year. I’ve not seen political leaders survive when they’ve been complicit in such an open deception for so long.”
Howard last week dismissed an accusation from Opposition Leader Simon Crean that he hid a warning from British intelligence that war against Iraq would heighten the terrorist threat to Australia.
In his report, Pilger interviews Ray McGovern, a former senior CIA officer and friend of Bush’s father and ex-president, George Bush senior. McGovern told Pilger that going to war because of weapons of mass destruction “was 95 percent charade.”
Pilger also claims that six hours after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wanted to “hit” Iraq and allegedly said “Go Massive … Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
He was allegedly talked down by Powell who said the American people would not accept an attack on Iraq without any evidence, so they opted to invade Afghanistan where Osama bin Laden had bases. Pilger claimed war was set in train on September 17, 2001 when Bush signed a paper directing the Pentagon to explore the military options for an attack on Iraq.