[For the first section of this article, we rely on Scott Ritter and William Pitt’s pamphlet, for the second on the imperialist media coverage]
“War on Iraq: What team Bush doesn’t want you to know” by Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt is a timely contribution to the exposure of the cynical lies and hypocritical assertions of the political and media representatives of US and British imperialism over the question of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. This short pamphlet, containing a brief outline of Iraq’s history and an analysis of the likely long-term consequences of an attack on Iraq (both written by Pitt), is mostly comprised of an interview by Pitt of Ritter, a former UN weapons’ inspector, in charge of the nuclear disarmament programme in Iraq. Ritter resigned in 1998 for, among other reasons, a signals intelligence programme constructed and run by him was “allowed to be taken over by the CIA for the sole purpose of spying on Saddam”.
Ritter is no friend of Iraq or of Saddam Hussein. In fact, he says that Iraq must not be given “the benefit of the doubt”, accusing Iraq of lying “to the international community”. Precisely for this reason, his evidence makes for such a compelling indictment of the nauseating deliberate lies emanating from the lips of Messrs Bush and Blair, as well as the torrent of half-truths from the monopoly capitalist media – the alleged guardians of free speech and truth alike.
Scott says that “… we have no evidence Iraq retains either the capability or material. In fact a considerable amount of evidence suggests Iraq doesn’t retain the necessary material”.
Ritter describes how and why Iraq has been “fundamentally disarmed”, with 90-95% of its WMD destroyed. With regard to Iraq’s nuclear capability, he asserts: “When I left Iraq in 1998 … the infrastructure and facilities had been 100 per cent eliminated. There’s no doubt about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor – both from vehicles and from the air – the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything” (p.26).
As to Iraq’s biological weapons research, Scott Ritter has this to say:
“Biological research and development was one of the things most heavily inspected by weapons inspectors. We blanketed Iraq – every research and development facility, every university, every school, every hospital, every beer factory: anything with a potential fermentation capability was inspected – and we never found any evidence of ongoing research and development or retention.
“Testing has at times been misused. One example has to do with Dick Spertzel, who headed up UN biological inspections in the latter part of UNSCOM’s time in Iraq. He’s a former biological warfare officer for the US Army, and played a role in US biological offensive weapons manufacturing. So he’s very knowledgeable. He stated that the UN would not do biological weapons sampling. One of the most egregious cases concerns the Iraqi presidential palaces. We went there in 1998, in the midst of very strong rhetoric by many in the administration, for example Secretary of Defence Cohen, who held up a bag of sugar and said if it was anthrax it could kill Washington DC. Many people were saying anthrax was being manufactured in Iraq’s palaces. The world almost went to war to get us into them. Once we got in, we looked for nuclear and chemical weapons, and never found anything. But the biologists were prevented from conducting any tests. When the Iraqis confronted Dick Spertzel about this, he said he’d never expected biological weapons to be there and hadn’t wanted to give them the benefit of a negative reading.”
Pitt then said to Ritter: “It sounds like police detectives who refuse to put a search for a murder weapon in the search warrant, for fear of not being able to find it and then have to admit that into evidence”.
To which Ritter replied: “That’s exactly what happened. It’s ironic that Dick Spertzel has since complained we have no information, and has also called Iraq’s potential for biological weapons a black hole. It’s absurd”.
In view of Ritter’s testimony concerning the very thorough, intrusive and effective inspections, resulting in the destruction of 90-95% of Iraqi WMD, it is impossible for anyone possessed of even a modicum of objectivity to conclude that a mere four years later Iraq has suddenly acquired the capacity to manufacture these weapons – particularly in the light of the fact that any such attempt on Iraq’s part would, as Ritter correctly remarks, be easily detected. Ritter is scathing in his exposure of the falsehoods perpetrated by the despicable Richard Butler (former head of UN inspections) to the effect that Iraq presents a danger to the security of the world.
Bush and Blair’s lies
Yet, relying on people’s short memory and of the public ignorance of the real extent of Iraq’s cooperation with the arms inspectors and the latter’s success in disarming Iraq of WMD, Bush and Blair continue to repeat the lie that Iraq is not coming out clean on its weapons programme. The US President uttered the following blatant lie in his State of the Union address:
“This is a regime that agreed to international inspection – then kicked out the inspectors” (George W.Bush, State of the Union address, 29 January 2002).
A few weeks later, taking his cue from his lying cousin across the Atlantic and not wishing to lag behind, British prime minister, Tony Blair, made this contribution to the perpetuation of this falsehood:
“Before he [Saddam Hussein] kicked out the UN weapons inspectors three years ago, they had discovered and destroyed thousands of chemical and biological weapons. … As they got closer, they were told to get out of Iraq” (‘The West’s Tough Strategy on Iraq is in Everyone’s Interests’, The Express, 6 March 2002).
The truth is that UNSCOM were not “kicked out” or “told to get out”; they were withdrawn, and it is no mere coincidence that their withdrawal happened just as the then US President, Clinton, faced impeachment over his escapades with one Monica Lewinsky. Clinton authorised Operation Desert Fox, in which American and British warplanes subjected Iraq to four days of massive bombing. The bombing commenced the day before the impeachment vote and was called off two hours after that vote. Ritter observes that just before the strikes: “Inspectors were sent in to carry out sensitive inspections that had nothing to do with disarmament but had everything to do with provoking the Iraqis” (p.52).
At the time, in a report which appeared on the second day of bombing, Ritter was quoted as saying: “What [head of UNSCOM] Richard Butler did last week with the inspections was a set-up. This was designed to generate a conflict that would justify a bombing”.
Ritter added that US official sources had informed him three weeks prior to the bombing that “two considerations on the horizon were Ramadan and impeachment”.
Continuing, Ritter stated: “If you dig around, you’ll find out why Richard Butler yesterday ran to the phone four times. He was talking to his [US] National Security Adviser. They were telling him to sharpen the language in his report to justify the bombing” (Quoted, New York Post, 17 December 1998).
About this time it transpired that CIA agents working along with the arms inspectors had used the information collected for the purposes of targeting Iraq during Desert Fox. This was one of the reasons why Ritter resigned in 1998. Thus, it is clear that while Iraq fully cooperated with UNSCOM, the US and Britain manufactured a conflict with the sole purpose of providing themselves with a pretext for striking against Iraq. This being the case, Butler withdrew the inspectors to protect them from the very bombing for which his own report had paved they way. It is perfectly understandable that the Iraqis subsequently barred the entry of the inspectors, whom they rightly characterised as “spies” who had taken an active part in the bombing of their country.
Media’s role in propagating the big lie
And yet, the above facts, which were so clear four years ago, and reported in the imperialist press organs, are today distorted and turned on their head. Recently, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) came up with a compilation entitled ‘What a difference 4 years makes: News coverage of why the inspectors left Iraq’ (www.fair.org). It comprises ten pairs of imperialist media quotations from 1998 and 2002, dealing with the question under discussion – whereas the quotations from the earlier period refer to the withdrawal of inspectors, those from 2002 talk about their expulsion. Here are some examples:
“Butler ordered his inspectors to evacuate Baghdad, in anticipation of a military attack, on Tuesday night – at a time when most members of the Security Council had yet to receive his report” (Washington Post, 18 December 1998)
“Since 1998, when UN inspectors were expelled, Iraq has almost certainly been working to build more chemical and biological weapons” (Washington Post editorial, 4 August 2002).
“American espionage in Iraq, under cover of United Nations weapons inspections, went far beyond the search for banned arms and was carried out without the knowledge of the UN leadership, it was reported yesterday. An investigation by the Washington Post found that CIA engineers working as UN technicians installed antennae in equipment belonging to the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) to eavesdrop on the Iraqi military” (Julian Borger, ‘UN “kept in dark” about US spying in Iraq’, The Guardian, 3 March 1999).
“The inspectors left Baghdad in December 1998, amid Iraqi allegations that some inspectors were spying for the United States and counter-charges that Iraq was not cooperating with the teams” (Mark Oliver, ‘UN split over Iraqi arms offer’, Guardian, 17 September 2002).
And “Unlike previous inspectors, who were seconded to the UN by governments, the UNMOVIC staff are employed directly by the UN – a move intended to address Iraqi complaints that the earlier inspections were used as a cover for spying” (Brian Whitaker and David Teacher, ‘Weapons checks face tough hurdles’, The Guardian, 18 September 2002).
Thus, while in 1999, The Guardian spoke unequivocally about the American espionage in Iraq, a mere three years later it contradicts itself by referring to US spying as mere “Iraqi allegations” and “complaints”. Far from being an Iraqi allegation, it had actually been made by the Washington Post, a leading US national daily. On 8 January 1999, The Guardian itself had reported the same allegation from another non-Iraqi quarter: “United Nations arms inspectors in Iraq had secret intelligence-sharing deals not only with the United States but with four other countries, a former inspector said yesterday. Britain is likely to have been one of the four.
“Scott Ritter, a former American member of the UNSCOM weapons inspection team, said the UN body agreed to provide the five countries with information it collected in return for intelligence from their sources. His claims will fuel the controversy surrounding UNSCOM’s activities, with US officials admitting it was infiltrated by American spies” (Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Arms inspectors “shared Iraq data with five states”‘, The Guardian, 8 January 1999).
The reports of the individual reporters fare no better than those of the newspapers they write for. A contrast of the quotations from their articles in 1998 -1999 with those in their pieces written subsequently, shows them to be contradictory, dishonest and cynical to the core, bent upon lining their pockets through mercenary service to imperialism.
“International disarray over Iraq deepened last night after United States officials acknowledged that American spies participated in the work of United Nations weapons inspectors tracking down Baghdad’s weapons of mass destruction. .. [T]he admission that US intelligence agencies provided information and technology to the UN Special Commission, UNSCOM, confirmed long-standing suspicions in Baghdad and appeared to knock another nail into UNSCOM’s coffin” (Mark Tran and Ian Black, ‘UN spies scandal grows, American officials admit Iraqi data aided air strikes’, The Guardian, 8 January 1999).
A mere five months later, Ian Black wrote that UNSCOM had been “discredited by allegations of US spying” (The Guardian, 17 June 1999). No mention here of UNSCOM having been discredited through official acknowledgement and admission of spying. Three years later they have been transformed into mere “Iraqi allegations”.
Black’s co-author, Mark Tran, did even better, asserting that “Iraq itself has stoked war fever. By rejecting the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq and calling them ‘western spies’ for extra measure, Baghdad seems to be almost daring Mr.Bush to attack” (Tran, ‘Greasing the wheels of warfare’, The Guardian, 12 March 2002).
Tran, who himself correctly described the inspectors as “spies”, in true bourgeois journalist and mercenary style, now turns round and accuses Iraq of provocation in characterising this UN gentry as spies.
The above few examples, although a mere tip of the iceberg of lies and distortions practised by our ‘freedom-loving’ and ‘truth-seeking’ press on the innocent, unsuspecting and gullible public, are enough to show that there is nothing fortuitous about these distortions; that the multi-billionaires who own these media empires are part and parcel of the same monopoly-capitalist (imperialist) system which is waging war against the oppressed people abroad, attacking the working class at home, and limbering up for an inter-imperialist confrontation of unprecedented proportions.
It is the bounden duty of the proletariat to expose, and oppose, this filthy system, which has, for so long drenched humanity in blood; to expose the lies perpetrated by its press and electronic agencies. It is the duty of the proletariat to give the maximum of fraternal support to the oppressed peoples in their just struggle against imperialist war and brigandage.