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[casi] Responding to Colin Powell / We Will March!

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> ZNet Commentary
> Responding to Colin Powell
> by Rahul Mahajan
> If one believes everything Colin Powell said to the Security Council
yesterday, one's first response ought to be that there's no reason to fight
a war, since U.S. surveillance capabilities are so awesome that Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction (WMD) can easily be found. And one's first
question should be why has the United States for over two months withheld
this apparently so damaging evidence from those weapons inspectors, who
could have verified conjectures and destroyed WMD stocks and production
> If indeed the evidence presented is of the character claimed by Powell,
then the United States has chosen to sabotage UN Security Council Resolution
1441, clause 10 of which "Requests all Member States to give full support to
UNMOVIC and the IAEA in the discharge of their mandates, including by
providing any information related to prohibited programmes."
> The actual evidence may not even warrant that conclusion. What Powell
served up to the Council was a sorry mess of fuzzy aerial photographs of
buildings, a cute "organizational chart" of supposed al-Qaeda operations in
Iraq, a couple of tape recordings that are capable of multiple
interpretations and, as before, a large number of undated reports by unnamed
Iraqi defectors.
> Given the history of U.S. government use of disinformation to drum up
support for war, from relatively subtle measures like doctoring satellite
photos to convince the Saudi government that Iraq was massing troops for an
invasion of Saudi Arabia in 1990 to incredibly crude ones like the
continuing claims by officials from George W. Bush on down that Iraq
"expelled" weapons inspectors in 1998 (as covered in the press at the time,
the inspectors were withdrawn at the behest of the United States), a skeptic
need not actually accept any of the evidence as presented. Even so, it's
useful to go through it.
> Evidence about Iraq and al-Qaeda
> The weakest part of the whole presentation, and the most important, was
the claims trying to link Iraq with al-Qaeda operations. In the past, the
link depended on the claims about one man, Mohammed Atta, meeting with Iraqi
intelligence in Prague (we've since found out that he was almost certainly
in the United States at the time of the alleged meeting); now it depends on
one man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
> Al-Zarqawi is apparently a high-level operative of an Islamist group
called Ansar al-Islam, which is operating in northern Iraq (currently an
autonomous region with a provisional Kurdish government that is aligned with
the United States). Although there is no evident link between this
organization and the Government of Iraq (GOI), Powell claims that the GOI
has a high-level agent in Ansar, who "offered al-Qaida safe haven" -
although apparently few if any accepted the offer, since the supposed
presence is in the part of Iraq not controlled by the GOI.
> The full extent of the connection between al-Zarqawi himself and the GOI
is apparently that he got medical care in a hospital in Baghdad, hardly an
indication of high-level Iraqi complicity in terrorist attacks against
American targets.
> There is no attempt to link Ansar itself to the 9/11 attacks. In fact,
while apparently the mere presence of al-Zarqawi, a subordinate in Ansar, in
Iraq is sufficient reason for war, the head of Ansar, known as Mullah
Krekar, is living unmolested in Norway, and the United States has not even
made an extradition request. Krekar denies any connection of Ansar with
> Powell also claims that one al-Qaeda detainee has told them that Iraq
provided information about biological and chemical weapons to al-Qaeda
members. Given the condition al-Qaeda detainees are being held in and the
obvious incentives for them to tell a story the U.S. government wants to
hear, this is very far from being actual evidence.
> The claim also flies in the face of common sense. Saddam Hussein has
always been seen by al-Qaeda as an enemy and has himself seen Islamists as
the biggest internal threat to his rule. To give them the ability to make
chemical or biological weapons, weapons he sees as essential to the survival
of his regime (many analysts think the primary reason the United States
didn't implement "regime change" in 1991 was the threat that the GOI would
use its stocks of chemical weapons in self-defense), potentially
destabilizes his own rule.
> Evidence about Iraq's WMD
> The heart of the presentation, however, was claims about Iraq's violation
of UNSCR 1441 and about its attempts to acquire WMD. This included evidence
like a photograph of a shed and a truck next to a bunker, followed by a
claim that such a configuration of truck and shed (the truck is apparently a
"decontamination" truck) is an infallible indicator that the bunker has
chemical weapons in it, and even a photograph of what an Iraqi UAV (unmanned
aerial vehicle) "would look like."
> Powell claimed that Iraq was reviving attempts to acquire a nuclear
weapon, telling us that two out of three elements were in hand. The third
element, fissile material, is and has always been the stumbling block.
According to Powell, "we have more than a decade of proof that he [Hussein]
remains determined to acquire nuclear weapons," but no acknowledgment that
in more than a decade he has been entirely unable to do so.
> Nor was there acknowledgment of the assessment that Mohammed el-Baradei,
chief of the IAEA team charged with Iraq's nuclear disarmament, delivered to
the Council:
> "No evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities S
has been detected to dateS Nor have the inspections thus far revealed signs
of new nuclear facilities or direct support to any nuclear activity. The
IAEA expects to be able, within the next few months, barring exceptional
circumstances and provided there is sustained proactive cooperation by Iraq,
to provide credible assurance that Iraq has no nuclear weapons programme."
> He also resurrected claims that Iraq's attempts to acquire certain
aluminum tubes show that it is trying to make centrifuges for production of
fissile material, disputing the IAEA's conclusion that those tubes are
better suited to conventional artillery.
> Most of the other "evidence" was unsourced or from one of the legion of
defectors that has always conveniently cropped up when the United States has
needed them.
> The most compelling evidence was audio recordings of two conversations
apparently showing Iraqi attempts to conceal evidence from inspectors. It's
not possible to know whether the tapes are real, whether they are recent or
from the previous inspection regime, or what exactly they are referring to.
> Forgetting all of these caveats, it's quite likely that the Iraqis are
trying to hide not actual WMD but minor things that didn't make it into the
December 7 declaration (for example, the empty chemical munitions that were
recently discovered) and are trying to eliminate those discrepancies
surreptitiously instead of letting the inspectors find them.
> In the whole presentation, there was no acknowledgment of the true state
of affairs regarding chemical and biological weapons, as concluded by the
UNSCOM inspectors in 1998 and confirmed by UNMOVIC more recently. That is
simply this:
> There are records of how much in the way of chemical agents, biological
growth medium, and other components Iraq imported from Western firms
(particularly American and German ones). There is evidence of how much
inspectors destroyed. There are Iraqi claims about how much was used in the
war with Iran and how much was unilaterally destroyed by them.
> Iraq is unable to produce sufficient evidence for the inspectors to match
up those different numbers. So there is some discrepancy in terms of
chemical munitions - for example, Iraq claims 550 mustard-filled shells were
lost after the Gulf War, but it can't prove this.
> There is discrepancy in terms of biological growth medium and if you take
this discrepancy and make the entirely unrealistic stipulation that Iraq's
fermenters were constantly and continually used for all these past years,
you can get high numbers for the amounts of biological agents like anthrax
that Iraq theoretically might have.
> These discrepancies are enough that inspectors could not close the book on
chemical or biological weapons (although they essentially did on nuclear
weapons). They presumably owe at least in part to the fact that Iraq, after
undergoing eight years of war with Iran, the most devastating air
bombardment in history in the Gulf War, and twelve years of crippling
sanctions, doesn't have all of its records nicely intact.
> Is there an Iraqi threat?
> It is undoubtedly true that in the past Iraq went to considerable lengths
to avoid cooperating with inspections. It's possible that that is happening
again - some of Powell's evidence might be real.
> But missing from the entire presentation was any serious talk about a
threat posed by Iraq, either to the United States or even to any country in
the region. Mere possession of WMD, even if established, is not exactly
evidence of aggressive intent. And in fact Iraq has been the recipient of
aggression frequently since the Gulf War (bombings by the U.S. and U.K.,
periodic invasions in the north by Turkey, virtual Kuwaiti annexation of
Iraqi land in the south), but has not itself seriously threatened any.
> The evidence about Iraq's intent to attack seems to run something like
this - Saddam "gassed his own people" in 1988, therefore there is an
imminent threat that he will attack us in 2003. The imminent threat is not,
however, so severe as to keep us from having a full year of warmongering and
bellicose rhetoric before we actually attack.
> This conveniently ignores the central fact about Hussein's record of
aggression. Without exception, his worse crimes were committed with full
U.S. support, both material and diplomatic. The war on Iran, the massacre of
Kurds in the Anfal campaign of the late 1980's, even the bloody suppression
in 1991 of the "Iraqi intifada" all involved explicit measures of support
from the United States -
>  providing military intelligence, approving export of chemical and
biological agents, providing "agricultural" credits, disarming rebels, and
much more. The invasion of Kuwait was done in the deliberately fostered
belief that the United States would not mind. Without U.S. support, Hussein
knows well that he can only be a threat to his internal political enemies.
> Powell did not deal with these facts, but essentially admitted the lack of
any evidence of a real Iraqi threat when he fell back on the "pre-emption"
argument - "should we take the risk that he will not someday use these
weapons at a time and a place and in a manner of his choosing, at a time
when the world is in a much weaker position to respond?" Of course, in the
absence of concrete evidence, any country can make this argument against any
other, which is why "pre-emption" is clearly not consistent with
international law.
> What if Iraq isn't cooperating?
> If Iraq is not cooperating fully with inspections right now, it's
important to understand why. The first round of weapons inspections started
to fall apart in 1998 for one reason - the United States refused to commit
to lifting the sanctions once Iraq was disarmed. This refusal was an
abrogation of its own commitment under UNSCR 687.
> This time, it's even worse. The United States is steadily bombing Iraq, in
an escalating pattern that is no longer even vaguely linked to enforcement
of the illegal "no-fly zones" but is clearly part of the suppression of air
defense with which U.S. wars begin. It is building a massive military
presence in the Gulf. And it is declaring openly, to all with the ears to
hear it, that it will go to war with Iraq no matter what Iraq does, whether
the Security Council is with it or against it.
> In fact, at least one columnist, Bill Keller ("What to Expect when you're
Inspecting," New York Times, November 16, 2002) has pointed out that
inspections are a wonderful prelude to war because they "can significantly
diminish Saddam's arsenal," thus making it easier for the United States to
fight without fear of retaliation and because "inspections immobilize Iraq
while we deploy."
> So Iraq is in the bizarre position of being called on to disarm while
being attacked by another country, and then being reviled by the
"international community" for partial compliance.
> It is becoming increasingly likely that the United States will obtain a
Security Council resolution authorizing war. And if it does, its main
argument will be that it must go to war with Iraq to uphold international
law. It's important to understand ahead of time just how obscene that
argument is.
> It's not just because the United States has systematically undermined
international law with regard to Iraq, by refusing to acknowledge the basis
(disarmament) for lifting the sanctions, by committing repeated acts of
illegal aggression against Iraq (like the Desert Fox bombing), and by
deliberately making the sanctions bite Iraqi society as hard as possible for
purely political reasons (see "Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass
destruction," Joy Gordon, Harper's, November 2002).
> It's not just because the United States enforces a double standard, in
which itself and favored allies are exempt from legal requirements while
states it decided to target are not.
> It's because this war is a violation of the ultimate international law. It
is a "crime against peace," a war of aggression. It was decided on long ago
in the White House, and the only reason other countries may vote in support
of it is the repeated statements that the war will happen whether they want
it or not. It is the United States holding not just Iraq but the entire
world hostage.
> Rahul Mahajan is a member of the Nowar Collective
( He is author of "The New Crusade: America's War
on Terrorism" (April 2002, Monthly Review Press) and the forthcoming "The
U.S. War on Iraq: Myths, Facts, and Lies." He can be reached at
> ZNet Commentary
> We Will March!
> by Brian Dominick
> Today I called the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I left
a short message for him, stating that I will be marching on the streets of
his town next Saturday, February 15, in protest of a renewed war on Iraq. I
added that I will do so whether a permit is granted for the demonstration or
not. I also mentioned that I intend to bring two or three hundred of my
neighbors with me on buses fellow organizers and I are have chartered. I
made it quite clear that, permit or no permit, we will march.
> As a US invasion force builds in the Middle East, the largest, most
diverse movement ever to challenge a war expands in scope and intensity
throughout the world. This latest clash between the streets and the elites
is at this phase neither cataclysmic nor revolutionary, but it is certainly
momentous. The coordinated, global actions of February 15th will almost
certainly constitute the largest grassroots mobilization in history.
> Citing a concern that people's "everyday lives" would be disrupted by a
massive demonstration in Manhattan, police and city officials have refused
to provide protest organizers a permit to march outside the United Nations
headquarters. Somehow the preposterousness of that statement seems to be
lost on authorities and most reporters: It is the destruction and cessation
of peoples' lives we will be marching to prevent. Disruption of lives the
world over is guaranteed by the policies being aggressively pursued by the
US government. To oppose the elimination of lives, we will march.
> Bloomberg's attempt to deflate demonstration sizes by denying a permit is
remarkably transparent. It has been tried before, in New York and many other
cities throughout the United States. There's a significant likelihood that,
as is typical, a permit will be granted at the eleventh hour, once officials
are satisfied that a substantial number of would-be demonstrators have
cancelled their plans to participate.
> Ironically, if a permit is not handed down, officials will be partly
responsible for transforming what would otherwise be a legally sanctioned
expression of dissent, into a truly massive act of civil disobedience. The
remainder of that responsibility rests on the shoulders of those of us who
can participate. If the state wishes to offer us a choice between silence
and civil disobedience, they leave us no choice at all. If we number in the
tens of thousands, they will have no capacity to stop us, and any attempt to
do so would be massively detrimental to the City's image. We will look
around at ourselves, at the sheer mass of protesters, and we will march.
> We are motivated, at this point, by something no politician can so easily
manipulate or stifle. We are repulsed by the anti-democratic process by
which our leaders have settled on the course of war. We are disgusted by the
disdain their carelessness demonstrates toward the security of the Middle
East and the world. We are terrified of what missiles, bombs and bullets
will do to the people of a country already tortured by more than a decade of
vicious sanctions. These motivations have compelled us to pour out into the
streets of countless cities large and small, in unprecedented numbers. And
as the buildup of invasion forces in the Middle East continues, a comparable
escalation in the size and intensity of antiwar forces is approaches a
boiling point throughout the world.
> Now that the government has revealed its objective is to use crude
repression to quell our dissent, those of us who live in the Northeastern US
have even more reason to turn out in New York City. Instead of letting them
frighten off a movement they have no practical ability to restrict, we will
demonstrate their efforts to quiet us can only backfire by inspiring still
more action. We will march!
> Brian is an antiwar organizer in Syracuse, NY. He and other local
activists have organized 5 charter buses and numerous carpools to NYC for
February 15.
> For more information on the demonstrations in New York and San Francisco,
check out
> To tell New York City officials you intend to march on New York streets
come February 15:
> NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: 212-788-9600, 212-788-3010, 212-788-3040
> NYC Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly: 646-610-8526
> NYPD Chief of Department Joseph Esposito: 646-610-6710

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