24November2014

You are here: Home ALERTS Alert Archive 2003 Outrageous Omissions - How The Press Has Buried The Truth Of Iraqi Disarmament

2003

Outrageous Omissions - How The Press Has Buried The Truth Of Iraqi Disarmament

The Bush and Blair governments are dragging the public kicking and screaming into a war that threatens to plunge the world into chaos and which almost nobody wants. Like an occupying force, British politicians representing elite interests from both leading political parties are blatantly defying the will of the British public, just as their counterparts are defying the public in Turkey where 90% of the population is opposed to war in all circumstances, in Spain where 79% is opposed to war in all circumstances, and in Italy where 80% is opposed.

This would be outrageous enough, but there is more. A massive assault is being planned against a crushed Third World country that was demolished by the US/UK in the original Gulf War, by continuous (and now all but daily) bombing raids since, and by murderous sanctions that have been described as "genocidal" by senior United Nations diplomats who resigned in protest.

But even this is not the whole story. The British and US governments, with the near 100% complicity of the mainstream media, are basing their arguments for war on two key deceptions:

1) Iraq has large quantities of deadly weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which it is not prepared to disclose or surrender.

2) Iraq has had 12 years to disarm but has never done so - a further 120 days of weapons inspections (as proposed by the Franco-German initiative) are therefore pointless.

Desperate to stick to their early to mid-March timetable for war, the British and US governments have declared the futility of further inspections. Tony Blair has dismissed the Franco-German plan for peaceful disarmament, saying it was "absurd" to think UN inspectors could find lethal weapons without Baghdad's full cooperation:

"The idea that inspectors could conceivably sniff out the weapons... without the help of Iraqi authorities is absurd," the prime minister told parliament. "They are not a detective agency and even if they were Iraq is a country with a land mass roughly the size of France." (Mike Peacock, 'Britain's Blair Slams Franco-German Iraq Plan', Reuters, February 25, 2003)

In reality, Blair's key claims are flatly contradicted by the UNSCOM inspectors who sought to disarm Iraq between 1991-98.

Fundamentally Eliminated - The View From UNSCOM And Elsewhere

In 'Concerning Disarmament and Current and Future Ongoing Monitoring and Verification Issues, 27 March 1999, a United Nations Panel reported:

"[I]n spite of well-known difficult circumstances, UNSCOM and IAEA have been effective in uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council. It is the panel's understanding that IAEA has been able to devise a technically coherent picture of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme. UNSCOM has achieved considerable progress in establishing material balances of Iraq's proscribed weapons. Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated." ( http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/documents/Amorim%20Report.htm)

Corroborating this, an article in Newsweek (February 24) "raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist". Newsweek reports that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was killed after returning to Iraq in 1996, told UN inspectors that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, as Iraq claims.

In its latest Media Advisory, the US media watch group FAIR reports how Gen. Kamel was previously best known for his role in exposing Iraq's deceptions concerning its pre-Gulf War development of biological weapons. But Newsweek's John Barry has obtained the transcript of Kamel's 1995 debriefing by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and UNSCOM. This transcript reveals how the US and UK have kept the public from the truth.

Inspectors were told "that after the Gulf War, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them," Barry writes. All that remained were "hidden blueprints, computer disks, microfiches" and production moulds. The weapons were destroyed secretly, in order to hide their existence from inspectors, in the hopes of resuming production after inspections had finished.

The CIA and MI6 were told the same story, Barry reports, and "a military aide who defected with Kamel... backed Kamel's assertions about the destruction of WMD stocks". These statements were "hushed up by the U.N. inspectors" in order to "bluff Saddam into disclosing still more". (FAIR, Media Advisory: 'Star Witness on Iraq Said Weapons Were Destroyed - Bombshell revelation from a defector cited by White House and press', February 27, 2003, http://www.fair.org/press-releases/kamel.html)

In the transcript, Kamel says categorically:

"I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed." (See Glen Rangwala's analysis of the Kamel transcript: http://middleeastreference.org.uk/kamel.html)

Kamel was an extremely high-profile defector who has been repeatedly cited as a credible source by George Bush, Tony Blair and leading administration officials. Kamel was, for example, mentioned in Secretary of State Colin Powell's infamous February 5 presentation to the UN Security Council:

"It took years for Iraq to finally admit that it had produced four tons of the deadly nerve agent, VX... The admission only came out after inspectors collected documentation as a result of the defection of Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's late son-in-law."

In an earlier Media Advisory, FAIR reported that some of the current UNMOVIC inspectors believe that Iraq may indeed be free of all banned weapons:

"We haven't found an iota of concealed material yet," one unnamed UNMOVIC official told Los Angeles Times Baghdad correspondent Sergei Loiko (December 31, 2002), who added:

"The inspector said his colleagues think it possible that Iraq really has eliminated its banned materials." (Fair, Media Advisory: 'Iraq's Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact', February 4, 2003 http://www.fair.org/press-releases/iraq-weapons.html)

In an April 2002 briefing, 'A Threat to the World? The facts about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction', Cambridge analyst Glen Rangwala writes:

"UNSCOM recorded how there was compliance with most of its work for over seven years of intrusive inspections. As a result, UNSCOM's executive chairman Rolf Ekeus reported to the Security Council on 11 April 1997 that ' not much is unknown about Iraq's retained proscribed weapons capabilities'."

Many of the weapons inspectors have candidly recorded the extensive disarmament of Iraq. Reviewing the 9 years of Iraqi disarmament, Rolf Ekeus stated in a presentation at Harvard University on 23 May 2000 that "in all areas we have eliminated Iraq's [WMD] capabilities fundamentally". (http://www.arabmediawatch.com/iraq/reading/artgr6.htm)

As we have reported, chief UNSCOM weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, has described how Iraq was "fundamentally disarmed", with 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction eliminated between 1991-98. Of nuclear weapons capability, for example, Ritter says:

"When I left Iraq in 1998... the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% 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." (Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p.26)

Ritter explains how UN arms inspectors roamed the country monitoring Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear facilities, installing sensitive sniffers and cameras and performing no-notice inspections:

"We blanketed Iraq - every research and development facility, every university, every school, every hospital, every beer factory..." (p.38)

Two Notes On The Media

1) All of the above - crucial information relating to the current crisis - has been almost completely excluded from the media. People simply do not know that there are good reasons for thinking that Iraq has no WMD, and that arms inspections of the kind taking place now have been enormously successful in disarming Iraq in the past. Incredibly, there has been almost no discussion on the success of the 1991-98 UNSCOM inspections - an obviously key issue for understanding the worth of the current inspection process - and almost no mention of the opinions of previous inspectors describing "fundamental disarmament".

As a result of this media silence, politicians have been free to talk endlessly of the threat from Iraq's WMD, and of its lamentable failure to cooperate and disarm peacefully. In a recent BBC Question Time programme, UK environment minister Michael Meacher said that "no one would argue that Saddam Hussein doesn't have weapons of mass destruction" (February 27) - the entire panel appeared to be in agreement.

2) John Pilger aside, no mainstream journalist has sought to draw attention to this deep complicity of the media in suppressing the most important facts contradicting the US/UK case for war. Even radical journalists like Robert Fisk, Greg Palast and George Monbiot have failed to discuss the role of the liberal media - The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent, the Independent on Sunday, and the BBC and ITN news - in burying these facts and in thereby making war possible.

Although the performance of the media has been appalling throughout this crisis, as we have documented, there remains a 'gentleman's agreement' among journalists whereby it is understood that media hosting a journalist's work should not be criticised (just as all corporate employees understand they are not to criticise their company's product in front of customers). This means that radical journalists - who all work for liberal media companies - are silent on the complicity of the media publishing them, such that these media are protected from all honest public criticism. This has long been unacceptable in a 'free press', but it is a genuine disaster for democracy now when these same liberal media are playing a key role in denying the public access to the most important facts that completely undermine the case for an unnecessary and grossly immoral war. As the ancient sage, Nagarjuna, warns:

"Not doing harm to others,
Not bowing down to the ignoble,
Not abandoning the path of virtue -
These are small points, but of great
Importance."

Now is the time for honesty, truth, dissent, protest and resignations - we must +not+ subordinate the welfare of others to our own self-interest. We must not bow down to the ignoble.

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear Sir

Why have you ignored the authoritative claims of UNSCOM inspectors and others to the effect that Iraq was "fundamentally disarmed" by December 1998? In 1999, a United Nations Panel reported:

"[I]n spite of well-known difficult circumstances, UNSCOM and IAEA have been effective in uncovering and destroying many elements of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes in accordance with the mandate provided by the Security Council... UNSCOM has achieved considerable progress in establishing material balances of Iraq's proscribed weapons. Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated." (Report of the First Panel, Established pursuant to the Note by the President of the Security Council on 30 January 1999 (S/1999/100), http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/documents/Amorim%20Report.htm)

Reviewing the 9 years of Iraqi disarmament, UNSCOM's executive chairman Rolf Ekeus stated in a presentation at Harvard University on 23 May 2000 that "in all areas we have eliminated Iraq's [WMD] capabilities fundamentally".' ( http://www.arabmediawatch.com/iraq/reading/artgr6.htm)

Chief UNSCOM weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, has described how Iraq was "fundamentally disarmed", with 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction eliminated between 1991-98. Of nuclear weapons capability, for example, Ritter says:

"When I left Iraq in 1998... the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% 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." (Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p.26)

Why have you not reported and urgently highlighted these vital facts undermining the US/UK case for dismissing further inspections?

Write to the heads of BBC news and ITN expressing your views:

Richard Sambrook, BBC director of news.

Email: richard.sambrook@bbc.co.uk

Jonathan Munro, head of ITN newsgathering.

Email: jonathan.munro@itn.co.uk

Write to the editors of The Guardian and The Observer:

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor

Email: alan.rusbridger@guardian.co.uk

Roger Alton, Observer editor

Email: roger.alton@observer.co.uk

Simon Kelner, Independent editor

Email: s.kelner@independent.co.uk

Leonard Doyle, Independent foreign editor

Email: l.doyle@independent.co.uk

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