Excerpts from Oil, Power, and Empire

War First, Evidence Later

by Larry Everest

Revolutionary Worker #1229, February 15, 2004, posted at rwor.org

February 2004 opened with the explosive statements of David Kay, the CIA agent in charge of finding weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. Kay resigned his post and went before TV microphones to say no WMDs have been found, and they almost certainly did not exist in Iraq for many years.

Various loyalists of the U.S. government immediately started saying two different things at once: First, they claimed that Iraq's government was a threat to the world, whether or not it had modern WMDs. And second, they claimed that the lack of such WMDs suggested there may have been a "massive failure of U.S. intelligence" before the war.

The one thing they do NOT want discussed is all the evidence that shows the White House, Defense Department and State Department simply LIED to the world about Iraq and about why they were launching an invasion.

In these excerpts from his book, Oil, Power & Empire, RW writer Larry Everest documents that the U.S. government almost certainly knew that its charges against Iraq were false--during the whole period when they were building up to attack Iraq.

And Everest shows that David Kay's conclusion, that there had not been WMDs for a long time in Iraq, was largely documented in Kay's earlier October 2003 report to the White House, but was treated as top secret and carefully kept out of the public's eye.

Even before the war, it was clear that U.S. claims concerning Iraq's military strength and its possession of weapons of mass destruction were wildly "sexed up," at the very least. For instance, a September 2002 assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's primary intelligence arm, concluded that there was "no definitive, reliable information" that Iraq either possessed or was manufacturing chemical or biological weapons.

When the U.S. failed to find any banned weapons following the war, several things became crystal clear:

First, that no matter what the U.S. finds or doesn't find in Iraq (and most arms experts now feel the U.S. will never find any WMD because they were destroyed by the Hussein regime in the early 1990s), the U.S. never had any valid intelligence showing that Iraq possessed chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons;

Second, that the Bush team knew full well that Iraq was not a grave and growing danger; and

Third, most, if not all, of the Bush administration's specific charges were deliberate exaggerations, distortions or outright fabrications.

In reality and all along, the administration saw a weakened Iraq--a country of 25 million the size of the State of California which had been and battered by 20 plus years of war and 12 years of sanctions--as a target of opportunity, not a growing threat. The New York Times reported (September 9, 2002) that the "Bush administration's decision to force a confrontation...reflects its low regard for Iraq's conventional armed forces... American officials are confident that United States forces would quickly prevail" in war.

Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials "argued that U.S. military forces would overwhelm Iraq's rusting army," USA Today reported. In fact, Iraq's military was held in such low regard that Rumsfeld explored attacking as early as August 2002. "The mission would be relatively easy to execute...Rumsfeld envisioned a surgical strike using relatively few troops, many of them from special operations forces." After much internal debate, military planners decided to deploy a more robust force. The Bush II war cabinet calculated that a quick and overwhelming victory over Iraq would give further momentum and legitimacy to their "war on terror."

Like Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts who screamed, "sentence first--verdict afterward...off with her head," Bush first decided to decapitate Iraq, then searched for "evidence" to justify it, perhaps even gambling that something would turn up after U.S. forces took Iraq that could then be used to validate the war ex post facto .

This was even acknowledged in some mainstream accounts: USA Today (Sept. 11, 2002) reported that the administration's internal debate over Iraq "left the impression with some that Bush was searching for a justification after deciding to target Saddam."

Evaporating Pretexts

The cakewalk isn't the only thing that's crumbled for the U.S. government; so have its pretexts for going to war: no banned weapons have been found, Iraq was shown to be weak, not dangerous, there was no Al Qaeda connection--except possibly the one created in the wake of the U.S. overthrow of Iraq's government--and no proof has emerged that Hussein was connected to Sept. 11.

On October 2, 2003, David Kay, a Bush loyalist and the head of the CIA's Iraq Survey Group, reported that after searching Iraq for over four months, his team had found neither chemical, biological, nor nuclear weapons. The New York Times called it an "astonishing admission," which demonstrated that Iraq's unconventional weapons programs "barely existed and posed no immediate threat to the global community."

Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace points out that Kay tried to bury these "bombshells" deep in his report to Congress:

In the middle of a paragraph halfway through his testimony, Kay presents what should have been his lead finding: "Information found to date suggests that Iraq's large-scale capability to develop, produce, and fill new CW munitions was reduced--if not entirely destroyed--during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Fox, 13 years of UN sanctions and UN inspections."

Similarly, three paragraphs into Kay's description of Saddam's intention to develop nuclear weapons, he says: "to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material.".

The White House spin-meisters have tried to shift attention away from these central and damning exposures, and onto Kay's as yet unsubstantiated and politically-motivated claims to have found bits and pieces of unconventional programs, including papers, materials and equipment. Kay emphasized, "We have discovered dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002."

Bush seized on these claims to argue that Kay's report validated his decision to wage war: "It states that Saddam Hussein's regime had a clandestine network of biological laboratories. They had a live strain of deadly agent called botulinum. And he had sophisticated concealment efforts. In other words, he's hiding his program."

The bulk of Kay's 200-page report remains classified--only a 13-page summary has so far been made public, and even UN weapons inspectors have been prevented from examining its entire contents.

One former weapons inspector told Britain's Guardian that Kay's team had been "under huge pressure to come up with whatever" to paint Iraq as a threat. So this secrecy is undoubtedly motivated by the Bush administration's fear that making the full report public would expose more gaping holes in the public case it presented for war.

Yet even the limited claims that Kay has so far trumpeted are extremely thin. The "live strain of deadly agent called botulinum" that Kay turned up and which Bush has pointed to, turned out to be a single vial that had been kept in one scientist's home refrigerator for 10 years - hardly the stuff of active and dangerous biological weapons program. Maureen Dowd of The New York Times sardonically noted, in reference to botulinum's different uses, "we know now that our first pre-emptive war was launched basically because Iraq had...a vial of Botox?"

Kay's failure to find an Iraqi "smoking gun" is so politically damaging that government officials have even concocted the convoluted "theory" that Saddam Hussein is to blame for deceiving U.S. and British intelligence for years by pretending to have banned weapons. In fact for over a decade, Iraq had been pleading to the UN and anyone else who would listen that it no longer had chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and therefore sanctions should be lifted..

The U.S. went to war on the claim that it had clear, compelling and specific evidence that Iraq possessed and was actively pursuing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and therefore posed a threat to the region and the world.

These charges were raised repeatedly by Bush officials including in Bush's September 12, 2002 speech to the UN, his October 7, 2002 speech in Cincinnati, his January 2003 State of the Union message, Colin Powell's February 5, 2003 UN presentation, and innumerable talks and media appearances by administration officials, as detailed in the appendix. This propaganda barrage included both very specific "evidence"--satellite photos, tape recordings, alleged documents--as to the exact nature and location of Iraqi weapons, as well as the most dire of warnings. For instance, on March 16, 2003, Vice President Cheney declared on NBC's "Meet the Press" that, "We believe he (Saddam) has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." On October 7, 2002, Bush warned that U.S. had to wage war and could not "wait for the final proof, the smoking gun, that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Months of searching and the [October 2003] Kay Report have now made clear that the U.S. had no such incontrovertible evidence--in fact mountains of evidence amassed during a decade of UN inspections and again when UN inspectors returned to Iraq in late 2002 showed that Iraq had been stripped of its unconventional weapons--and that U.S. officials were deliberately exaggerating and deliberately lying about Iraq's intentions and capabilities. It is worth repeating that these deceptions not only formed the core of the Bush administration's case for war in 2003, they were also the central rationalization for 12 murderous years of U.S. enforced sanctions and economic strangulation against Iraq.

There is a method to this surreal yet deadly madness. The Bush regime continues to repeat its lies for fear that admitting too much at once could collapse its entire propaganda house-of-cards. And there is a more sinister side to the Bush team's continued manipulation and deceit: it is a belligerent declaration that they're determined to press ahead with their unbounded war for greater empire, whether the world likes or believes their excuses--or not.