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[casi] News, 05-12/02/03 (1)

News, 05-12/02/03 (1)


*  Only by Swallowing Big Lies Can Powell Justify a War
*  US claim dismissed by Blix
*  US recycles human test claims
*  Highlights of Powell's Presentation
*  Kurds Puzzled by Report of Terror Camp
*  Ritter dismisses Powell report
*  Inspectors: Powell case is circumstantial 
*  U.S. inaction on camp questioned
*  Vatican: Powell evidence unconvincing     
*  Responding to Colin Powell
*  Media Tour Alleged 'Poison Site' in Iraq
*  Reporters on Ground Get Iraqi Rebuttal to Satellite Photos


NO URL (sent through list)

by Robert Scheer
Los Angeles Times, 3rd February

We know in advance that Colin Powell's performance will be flawless. His
military career has prepared him well to execute the orders of his commander
in chief, no matter what his doubts as to their morality, efficacy or logic.
Making a seamless case for preemptive war on Iraq to the United Nations, the
secretary of State can draw on his decade of wartime experience in which he
publicly justified the deaths of more than a million Vietnamese, tens of
thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Laotians and Cambodians.

It took two decades for Powell, in his autobiography "My American Journey,"
to acknowledge that all the destruction brought down upon Indochina by the
U.S. was based on an uneducated, unfocused and enormously costly policy that
he and other military leaders had known to be "bankrupt."

But duty, apparently, required they not tell the public the truth.

"War should be the politics of last resort. And when we go to war, we should
have a purpose that our people understand and support," he wrote,
summarizing Vietnam's lessons.

Does anybody outside of the extremist claque of think-tank warriors bending
the president's ear really think we are at the point of "last resort" with
Iraq, a poor country half a world away that is already divvied up into
"no-fly" zones, crawling with U.N. inspectors and still shattered
economically and militarily from two previous wars? Or that the American
people, so divided and apathetic in polls on the subject, "understand and
support" why we would start a firestorm in Baghdad and then send our young
men and women to fight in its streets?

Regardless of Saddam Hussein's record of cruelty and regional power
ambitions, as a military man Powell should be employing a straightforward
equation: Does the target pose a direct threat to U.S. security? In the case
of Iraq in 2003, the answer can be yes only if Powell is prepared to swallow
a trio of Big Lies, the first of which is that Iraq possesses weapons of
mass destruction that pose a real threat to the U.S. or our allies.

"There is no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear program since the
elimination of the program in the 1990s," said the U.N.'s chief nuclear
weapons inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Less clear is whether Iraq has made at least token efforts to replenish
stocks of biological and chemical weapons. In any case, Iraq can deliver
payloads only to regional enemies, and the most likely target, Israel, is
armed with nuclear weapons.

However, Powell has gone way beyond these facts, claiming U.N. inspectors
found that Iraq was concealing and moving illicit material. The U.N.'s chief
weapons inspector, Hans Blix, categorically denied this in an interview last
week with the New York Times, part of a comprehensive rebuke to White House
exploitation and media misinterpretation of his balanced, dispassionate

Similarly, Powell and the president have employed an irresponsible pattern
of exaggeration and innuendo in an attempt to link Iraq to Al Qaeda. This
shameful canard molds a few extremely fuzzy and circumstantial bits of
proto-evidence into an absurdly convenient "proof" that taking over Iraq
will help prevent anti-American terrorism.

In a New York Times report Sunday, sources inside U.S. intelligence agencies
"said they were baffled by the Bush administration's insistence on a solid
link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden's network," they were upset that "the
intelligence is obviously being politicized" and that "we've been looking at
this hard for more than a year and you know what, we just don't think it's
there." Blix also said there was no evidence Iraq had or planned to supply
weapons to Al Qaeda.

All of which brings us to the most outrageous Big Lie of the Bush
administration: that delaying an invasion to wait for the U.N. to complete
inspections would endanger the U.S. The fact is that for more than a decade
the military containment of Iraq has effectively neutered Hussein, and there
is no reason to believe that can't continue.

Of course, there is a case to be made for keeping up pressure on Iraq to
cooperate further with the U.N. It is, however, counterproductive to
transparently lie to a skeptical world and immoral to denigrate the
inspection process because we are afraid it will undermine our
cobbled-together rationale for going to war.

As Powell knows from his Vietnam experience, lies have a way of catching up
with you. Years from now, if the U.S. is still spending billions trying to
micromanage the Middle East and reaping its rewards in blood, Bush will be
marked indelibly, like Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon before him, as a
leader who went to war on a lie.,3604,889133,00.html

by Dan Plesch in New York
The Guardian, 5th February

The chief UN weapons inspector yesterday dismissed what has been billed as a
central claim of the speech the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, will
make today to the UN security council.

Hans Blix said there was no evidence of mobile biological weapons
laboratories or of Iraq trying to foil inspectors by moving equipment before
his teams arrived.

In a series of leaks or previews, the state department has said Mr Powell
will allege that Iraq moved mobile biological weapons laboratories ahead of
an inspection. Dr Blix said he had already inspected two alleged mobile labs
and found nothing: "Two food-testing trucks have been inspected and nothing
has been found."

Dr Blix said that the problem of bio-weapons laboratories on trucks had been
around for a while and that he had received tips from the US that led him to
inspect trucks in Iraq. The Iraqis claimed that the trucks were used to
inspect the quality of food production.

He also contested the theory that the Iraqis knew in advance what sites were
to be inspected. He added that they expected to be bugged "by several
nations" and took great care not to say anything Iraqis could overhear.

He said he assumed the US secretary of state would not be indicating sites
that the inspectors should visit that he had not told them about. "It is
more likely to be based upon satellite imagery and upon intercepts of
telephone conversations or knowledge about Iraqi procurement of technical
material or chemicals," he said.

Dr Blix is travelling to Baghdad for further meetings with Iraqi officials
before reporting to the security council on February 14 and March 1.

He said the choice for the UN was between continued containment and
invasion. Both strategies had problems, but an invasion required 250,000
troops and over $100bn while for containment the numbers were 250 inspectors
and $80m.,3604,889812,00.html

by Audrey Gillan
The Guardian, 6th February

Colin Powell highlighted the claim that Saddam Hussein had used 1,600
prisoners on death row as guinea pigs for his biological and chemical
weapons programme as an indication of how the Iraqi dictator's "inhumanity"
had no limits.

But last night, it emerged that this part of Mr Powell's testimony to the
security council was old news. The controversial claim had resulted in a
serious dispute between Iraq and UN weapons inspectors in 1998.

Mr Powell told the UN how sources had told US agencies that the regime
experimented on humans to perfect its biological and chemical weapons. He
said an informant told how 1,600 death row prisoners were transferred in
1995 to a special unit for such experiments.

Mr Powell told the assembly: "An eyewitness saw prisoners tied down to beds,
experiments conducted on them, blood oozing around the victims' mouths, and
autopsies performed to confirm the effects on the prisoners. Saddam
Hussein's humanity - inhumanity has no limits."

In early 1998, one of three UN weapons inspectors' teams was searching for
evidence that Iraqi prisoners were deliberately exposed to chemical and
biological agents.

Iraq gave documents to the UN admitting it had experimented on animals in
1995 but it denied using humans. Iraq then accused some of the British and
American members of the team of espionage and refused the team access to
installations where files on suspected experiments were stored. The
inspectors were prevented from visiting Abu Gharib jail, near Baghdad, to
investigate evidence that prisoners had been sent away for experimentation.

The Unscom team, led by American expert Scott Ritter, left Iraq because it
had been blocked in its attempts to complete its mission. The obstruction
led to the aircraft carrier Invincible being ordered to the Gulf in 1998 in
an unsuccessful attempt to put pressure on Iraq, and the inspectors did not

Five years ago, a scientist who had worked at the Atomic Energy Organisation
in Baghdad reported that weaponised chemicals and germs had been tested on
Iraqi prisoners, mostly Kurds and Shias in Radwania jail in Baghdad.

It was also reported that scientists at Salman Pak, a military complex 50
miles southwest of Baghdad, conducted experiments on Iranian prisoners of
war. The claims were always denied by Iraq.

Last night, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International said it had no recent
reports of such experiments: "We are aware that that did happen, but it
happened in the 1980s. Prisoners were being experimented on, but as far as
we know it's not something that is actually happening currently. We do know
of political prisoners who are being subjected to systematic torture but as
far as we know there are no transfers of prisoners for experiments."

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said it had no records of such
experiments on its file of Iraqi human rights abuses.

Las Vegas Sun (from AP), 6th February

Highlights of Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation of evidence
Wednesday at the U.N. Security Council:


A telephone call Powell said was between two Iraqi military officers was
intercepted last Nov. 26, one day before the resumption of U.N. inspections.
"We evacuated everything," one of the officers said. In another call, on
Jan. 30, an officer was overheard saying, "We sent you a message yesterday
to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make
sure there is nothing there."

In another call, one Iraqi commander instructs another to remove any
reference to "nerve agents wherever it comes up."

Intercepted communications from mid-2000 through last summer show
Iraqi-front companies tried to buy machines that can be used to enrich
uranium for nuclear weapons, Powell said.


Powell quoted intelligence sources as saying that shortly before the U.N.
agreed to send weapons inspectors to Iraq, a missile brigade was hiding
rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agents in
western Iraq. Most of the launchers and warheads were hidden in large groves
of palm trees and were to be moved every one to four weeks to escape

The sources have said weapons inspectors are under constant surveillance by
an army of Iraqi intelligence operatives, with Iraq trying to tap all voice
and electronic communications.

According to Powell, sources also said Saddam Hussein has tried to prevent
interviews with Iraqi scientists and in early December Saddam warned all
Iraqi scientists that they and their families would face serious
consequences if they revealed any sensitive information to the inspectors.
They were forced to sign documents acknowledging that divulging information
is punishable by death.

Other Iraqi informants, including a former major, a former chemical engineer
and a civil engineer, said the country has at least seven mobile biological
weapons laboratories mounted on at least 18 road trailers and railroad cars,
Powell said. These facilities can produce enough dry biological agent in one
month - including anthrax and botulinum toxin - to kill thousands.

According to Powell's presentation, another source said Saddam's regime has
been experimenting on human beings, including 1,600 death row prisoners, to
perfect its biological and chemical weapons.

Defectors also told U.S. officials, according to the presentation:

-Saddam spent billions of dollars in the 1990s on a clandestine nuclear
weapons program that tried to develop techniques to enrich uranium.

-In 1995, Saddam embarked on a "crash program" to build a crude nuclear

-Iraq retains a covert force of a few dozen Scud missiles with a range of
650 to 900 kilometers, in violation of U.N restrictions.


Satellite images show a facility that housed four active chemical weapons
munitions bunkers until just before U.N. weapons inspectors arrive on Dec.
22, Powell said. In one photo he showed, the bunkers are surrounded by
security forces, decontamination vehicles and special equipment to monitor
leakage. A second photo of the same facility, taken later, shows the bunkers
cleaned out and "sanitized" with the decontamination vehicles and supporting
equipment gone.

Satellite photos also show Iraq trying to conceal missile stocks, Powell
said. One image, identified as a ballistic missile facility, shows five
large cargo trucks and a truck-mounted crane moving missiles two days before
inspections began. Powell said satellite images show the same routine at
nearly 30 sites.

Other satellite pictures show a training camp in northeast Iraq established
by Abu Musab Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden who was granted safe
haven in Iraq. Powell said the camp - established in a Kurdish area of Iraq,
but with the approval of Baghdad officials - teaches trainees how to use
deadly poisons like ricin.

Powell said the captured assassin who carried out the murder of American
Lawrence Foley in Amman, Jordan last October received money and weapons for
that attack from Zarqawi.

by C. J. Chivers
New York Times, 6th February

ERBIL, Iraq, Feb. 5 ‹ Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's assertion today
that Islamic extremists were operating a poisons training camp and factory
in  northern Iraq appeared to surprise Kurdish officials, who greeted the
claim  with a mix of satisfaction and confusion.

The officials were pleased to hear an American effort to discredit their
Islamist enemies, and to sense momentum toward war to unseat Saddam Hussein.
But some also wondered if the intelligence Mr. Powell presented to the
United  Nations Security Council was imprecise.

As part of his presentation to the Security Council, Mr. Powell said a
terrorist network run by Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, an operative of Al Qaeda,
had  "helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp,
and this  camp is located in northeastern Iraq."

As he spoke, a monitor displayed a photograph with the caption: "Terrorist
Poison and Explosives Factory, Khurmal."

The network that Mr. Powell referred to appeared to be Ansar al-Islam, an
extremist group controlling a small area of northern Iraq. Ansar has been
accused of dispatching assassins and suicide bombers, of harboring Qaeda
fighters from Afghanistan and of training several hundred local fighters.

The secular Kurdish government has been battling the group since 2001, and,
since December, there have been indications that Mr. Zarqawi may have spent
time in Ansar's territory last year.

But no Western officials had gone as far with claims of Ansar's danger as
Mr.  Powell did when he showed a photograph of the Khurmal factory. Mr.
Powell  also said that Baghdad has a senior official in the "most senior
levels" of  Ansar, a claim apparently intended to build a case that Baghdad
is  collaborating with Al Qaeda and, by extension, in a chemical factory.

Some here quickly seconded Mr. Powell's opinion. "We have some information
about this lab from agents and from prisoners," Kamal Fuad, the Parliament
speaker, said.

But Mr. Powell's assertion also produced confusion tonight. One senior
Kurdish official, a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who is
familiar with the intelligence on Ansar, said he had not heard of the
laboratory Mr. Powell displayed.

"I don't know anything about this compound," he said.

Kurds also questioned whether Mr. Powell was mistaken, or had mislabeled the
photograph. Khurmal, the village named on the photo, is controlled not by
Ansar al-Islam but by Komala Islami Kurdistan, a more moderate Islamic

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is allied with Washington and has
been hosting an American intelligence team in northern Iraq for several
months, maintains relations with Komala. It has been paying $200,000 to
$300,000 in aid to the party each month, in an effort to lure Komala's
leaders away from Ansar.

So Mr. Powell's photograph raised a question: Is the laboratory in Komala's
area, meaning the Kurdish opposition might have inadvertently helped pay for
it, or has the United States made a mistake?

"My sources say it is in Beyara," one Kurdish official said. "Not in
Khurmal." Ansar has a headquarters in Beyara, a village several miles from

Abu Bari Syan, an administrator for Komal Islami Kurdistan, the party that
controls Khurmal, took an even stronger stand about Mr. Powell's claim. "All
of it is not true," he said.

Japan Today, 6th February

TOKYO ‹ Former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter on Thursday dismissed
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's allegation before the U.N. Security
Council that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction as "unsubstantiated"
and based only on "circumstantial evidence."

"There's nothing here that's conclusive proof that Iraq has weapons of mass
destruction," Ritter, a former U.S. Marine and outspoken critic of
Washington's policy on Iraq who participated in U.N. weapons inspections
there from 1991 to 1998, told Kyodo News in an interview.

"Everything in here is circumstantial, everything in here mirrors the kind
of allegations the U.S. has made in the past in regard to Iraq's weapons
program," he said.

Powell on Wednesday presented what he described as "irrefutable and
undeniable" evidence that Iraq has been deceiving U.N. arms inspectors and
hiding banned weapons. He played intercepted telephone conversations between
Iraqi officials and showed satellite photos as part of the U.S. drive to
convince the world of the need to disarm Iraq, by military force if

"He just hits you, hits you, hits you with circumstantial evidence, and he
confuses people ‹ and he lied, he lied to people, he misled people," Ritter
said of Powell.

Ritter argued that the United States is giving weapons inspectors too little
time to do their job.

He said many things in Powell's presentation should be properly
investigated, such as a Nov 26 communications intercept in which two senior
Iraqi military officers were overheard talking about the need to hide from
U.N. weapons inspectors a "modified vehicle" made by an Iraqi company that
Powell said is "well known to have been involved in prohibited weapons
systems activity."

"What vehicle? I mean, obviously Colin Powell's concerned, he presented it,
so let's find out what the vehicle is ‹ but let's not bomb Iraq based upon
that," Ritter said.

Ritter also questioned the veracity of Powell's allegation that Iraq still
possesses vast amounts of anthrax and described as irrelevant his repeated
references to dry powder anthrax contained in envelopes and sent through the
U.S. postal system in the fall of 2001, which killed two people and created
a national panic.

"What anthrax is he talking about?" he said, adding that Iraq is only known
to have produced liquid bulk anthrax, which has a shelf life of only three

He said the last known batch of liquid bulk anthrax was produced in 1991 at
a state-owned factory blown up in 1996.

"Colin Powell holds up a vial of dry powder anthrax and he makes allusions
to the attack in the United States through the letters. That was U.S.
government anthrax! It had nothing to do with Iraq," Ritter said.

Ritter accused Powell of engaging in "classic bait-and-switch" in his U.N.
presentation, catching his listeners' attention with one piece of
information and then putting up an irrelevant photograph "to make them think
the two are the same when they're not."

"I mean, the photographs are real but what do the photographs show," he
said. "The Powell presentation is not evidence...It's a very confusing
presentation. What does it mean? What does it represent? How does it all
link up? It doesn't link up."

"Iraq, anthrax, vial, dry powder ‹ what connection do they have? None," he

Ritter termed a "fabrication" Powell's assertion that Iraq may have 18
trucks from which it can produce biological agents such as anthrax or
botulinum toxin, and noted that U.N. inspectors who followed up on such U.S.
intelligence based on defectors' testimony were only able to find two trucks
used for testing food.

"They had nothing to do with biological laboratories. That's what (U.N.
chief inspector) Hans Blix says. He says, 'There's no mobile lab."'

"You know who came up with the idea of mobile trucks? The inspectors...We
sat back one day and said, 'If we were the Iraqis, how would we hide
biological production? We'd put them on trucks,"' Ritter said.

"So we designed it and we went out looking for them. But the problem is, you
look for something that you have no evidence exists, but by postulating the
existence you create the perception of existence. Now we look for
trucks...and we don't find them," he said.

In his presentation, Powell spoke of the futility of trying to find the
trucks in question among the thousands that travel Iraqi roads daily without
Baghdad voluntarily surrendering the information.

Ritter, however, said Powell was merely trying to create an impression that
U.N. inspections could never work.

"You can never expect the inspectors to find these 18 trucks," he said,
because "these trucks don't exist."

Defectors' reports, he said, could be misleading, especially those coming
from people associated with the opposition Iraqi National Congress, who he
said could have been "pre briefed in advance to tell lies."

"Are these legitimate defectors or are they deliberately out there
falsifying testimony? I don't know. What I do know is I'm not willing to put
American lives on the line based on the testimony from an Iraqi defector. I
want something a little bit more solid than that," Ritter said.

But he stressed he is not arguing that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass
destruction ‹ merely that the U.N. inspectors should be given sufficient
time to do their job in Iraq and make a final determination based on solid
evidence. (Kyodo News);

by Naveed Raja
Daily Mirror, 6th February

Senior weapons inspectors today branded Colin Powell's evidence for war
against Iraq "circumstantial" and said America had failed to provide a
clear-cut case for military action.

But they warned Saddam Hussein of dire consequences if there is not a
"drastic change" in co-operation from Iraq.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said of Secretary of State Powell's
presentation to the UN: "I don't think there was clear-cut evidence that
they  have weapons of mass destruction. Very much of it was circumstantial.

"We do not contend that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. But we cannot
exclude that possibility."

Dr Blix and Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, spoke out after meeting Tony Blair and Jack Straw in Downing Street.

Dr El Baradei said: "I think the message coming from the Security Council is
very clear: that Iraq is not co-operating fully, that they need to show
drastic change in terms of co operation."

He added: "The message also coming from the Security Council is that time is
very critical, and that we need to show progress in our report due on the
14th of this month.

"So our mission, I think, in Baghdad this weekend is crucial and we hope we
will secure full 100 per cent co-operation on the part of Iraq."

Dr Blix put more pressure on Saddam, accusing Iraqi officials of not
cooperating fully with inspectors.

"We hope at this late hour they will come to a positive response. If they do
not, our reports next Friday will not be what we would like them to be," he

"We both search for disarmament through inspection. That is the method we
stand for and we would like to obtain that."

But Dr Blix said Iraq had provided quick access to facilities when
inspectors  had asked to see them.

by Greg Miller
San Francisco Chronicle, from Los Angeles Times, 7th February

Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell spent a significant part of
his presentation to the United Nations this week describing a terrorist camp
in northern Iraq where al Qaeda affiliates are said to be training to carry
out attacks with explosives and poisons.

But neither Powell nor other administration officials answered the question:

What is the United States doing about it?

Lawmakers who have attended classified briefings on the camp say they have
been stymied for months in their efforts to get an explanation for why the
United States has not begun a military strike on the compound near the
village of Khurmal. Powell cited its operation as one of the key reasons for
suspecting ties between Baghdad and al Qaeda.

The lawmakers put new pressure on the Bush administration Thursday to
explain its decision to leave the site unharmed.

"Why have we not taken it out?" Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., asked Powell
during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "Why have we let it sit
there if it's such a dangerous plant producing these toxins?"

Powell declined to answer, saying he could not discuss the matter in open

"I can assure you that it is a place that has been very much in our minds,
and we have been tracing individuals who have gone in there and come out of
there," Powell said.

Absent an explanation from the White House, some officials suggested the
administration had refrained from striking the compound in part to preserve
a key piece of its case against Iraq.

"This is it. This is their compelling evidence for use of force," said one
intelligence official, who asked not to be identified. "If you take it out,
you can't use it as justification for war."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a member of the intelligence panel, said
she and other members had been frustrated in their attempts to get an
explanation from administration officials in closed-door briefings.

"We've been asking this question and have not been given an answer,"
Feinstein said. Officials have replied that "they'll have to get back to

Asked whether the White House might have rejected hitting the site to avoid
complicating its efforts to build support for war against Iraq, she said:
"That's an obvious thought. I hope not."

A White House spokesman said Thursday he had no immediate comment on the

Failing to intervene appears to be at odds with President Bush's stated
policy of pre empting terrorist threats, and the Khurmal facility is in an
area where the United States already has a considerable presence.

U.S. intelligence agents are said to be operating among the Kurdish
population nearby, and U.S. and British warplanes already patrol much of
northern Iraq as part of their enforcement of a no-fly zone.

Several lawmakers and intelligence experts expressed concern that Powell's
presentation Wednesday might have cost the United States an opportunity to
prevent the spread of toxins.

"By revealing the existence of the camp, it's predictable whatever activity
is there will probably go underground," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Rancho
Palos Verdes (Los Angeles County), the ranking Democrat on the House
Intelligence Committee. "That may make it harder to track this link of
people and poison throughout Europe."

Bob Baer, a former CIA officer who worked extensively in northern Iraq,
said: "I don't understand why we don't hit it. We shouldn't wait for a war
to take these things out."

U.S. officials said that the Pentagon and the CIA had considered plans last
summer for a covert raid on the compound, but that administration officials
decided against it for unspecified reasons.

A satellite photo showed by Powell depicted a collection of elongated
buildings on relatively bare terrain, a seemingly easy target for U.S.
warplanes or missiles fired from a Predator drone.

The camp is outside the no-fly zone, but lawmakers said that based on
Powell's remarks, the United States would seem to have ample justification
for an attack under international law.

"It's clear to me there is existing authority," Feinstein said.

Several lawmakers cited November's U.S. strike in Yemen, where a CIA
Predator fired a Hellfire missile at a carful of al Qaeda operatives,
killing six, including a U.S. citizen.

In his U.N. presentation, Powell portrayed the Khurmal camp as an
international menace, a site where terrorists learn how to work with
explosives and the deadly toxin ricin.

The camp is in a corner of Iraq controlled by an Islamic extremist group
known as Ansar al Islam, which is believed to have al Qaeda ties.

But Powell said the camp was actually run by lieutenants of terrorist
suspect Abu Musab Zarqawi, a 36-year-old Palestinian linked to a series of
terrorist plots in Europe, and the killing of a U.S. Embassy worker in
Jordan last year.

Senior administration officials said Thursday that while Zarqawi has some
ties to Osama bin Laden's group, he is not under al Qaeda's control or
direction. "They have common goals," one intelligence analyst said, "but
(Zarqawi) is outside bin Laden's circle. He is not sworn al Qaeda."

Jordan Times, 7th February
VATICAN CITY (R) ‹ Pope John Paul's point man for peace said on Thursday an
attack on Iraq would unleash terrorism and kill civilians and called the
latest evidence by US Secretary of State Colin Powell unconvincing and

In an interview with Reuters, Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the
Vatican's justice and peace department, said the Pope was deeply saddened by
the recent turn of events.

He also stressed the Vatican's stand that it could not consider any US-led
action against Iraq a "just war" and that there were perhaps economic reaons
behind the conflict.

"I wonder why those who want to make war do not take into account the
serious consequences," Martino said.

"The reaction in the Muslim world will be enormous. Acts of terrorism will
increase dramatically," said Martino, who served as Vatican representative
to the United Nations for 16 years.

"Even if it is a two, three-day strike, what about later? What about the
consequences inside and outside Iraq?

"I'm afraid that a war would completely affect the whole area of the Middle
East...and will increase refugees, terrorism and endanger the environment,"
he said.

Martino had a lukewarm reaction to evidence against Iraq, including
satellite photographs, Powell presented to the UN.

"My first impression is that this (Powell's new evidence) is vague," he
said. He also described it as "unconvincing."

by Rahul Mahajan
Z-Magazine,6th February


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

by Borzou Daragahi
Las Vegas Sun, 8th February

SARGAT, Iraq (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell called the camp in
northern Iraq a terrorist poison and explosives training center, a deadly
link in a "sinister nexus" binding Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida.

But journalists who visited the site depicted in Powell's satellite photo
found a half-built cinderblock compound filled with heavily armed Kurdish
men, video equipment and children - but no obvious sign of chemical weapons

"You can search as you like," said Mohammad Hassan, a spokesman for the
Islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam, which controls the camp and the
surrounding village. "There are no chemical weapons here."

Ansar al-Islam, believed to have ties to al-Qaida, says the camp serves as
its administrative office for Sargat village, living quarters and a
propaganda video studio.

A half-dozen children and some teenagers watched with curiosity as Western
journalists arrived in a convoy of white SUVs. A couple of dozen bearded men
in black turbans, heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and grenades, watched

During his appearance before the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Powell
displayed a satellite photo of this camp, which was identified as "Terrorist
Poison and Explosive Factory, Khurmal."

Powell said the camp was run by al-Qaida fugitives from Afghanistan who were
under the protection of Ansar al-Islam here in the autonomous Kurdish area
of Iraq in a region beyond Saddam Hussein's control.

But Powell maintained that a senior member of Ansar al-Islam was a Saddam
agent, implying a tenuous link between Baghdad and the terrorists who
carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Western journalists were brought to this camp, with its distinctive
polygon-shaped fencing and nearby hills, by the Islamic Group of Kurdistan,
a moderate Muslim organization which maintains good relations with Ansar

The compound, accessible by a long dirt road, is in a village of several
hundred people at the base of the massive Zagros mountains separating Iraq
from Iran.

Security appeared lax at the compound, whose jagged barbed-wire perimeter
matched a satellite photograph Powell displayed in his Security Council

As evidence that the camp serves as a housing area, child-sized plastic
slippers could be seen in the doorways. A refrigerator had been turned into
a closet and filled with colorful women's clothes. The most sophisticated
equipment seen at the site was the video gear and makeshift television
studio Ansar says it uses to make its propaganda films.

Ansar officials speculated that Powell was misled in his accusations of a
poison factory by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of two parties
governing the autonomous northern Kurdish section of Iraq. Ansar has been at
war for two years with the PUK.

"Everything Powell said about us is untrue," said a man calling himself
Ayoub Hawleri. Other Kurds referred to him as Ayoub Afghani, who
manufactures explosives for suicide bombers.

"He was just repeating the PUK's lies," Ayoub said.

The Patriotic Union said Powell's allegations about the poison laboratory
were correct and it was in the Sargat compound in an area accessible only to
those who had come from Afghanistan and had "ties to al-Qaida." A PUK
spokeswoman said Saturday that Ansar could have moved the facility before
the journalists got there.

Though Ansar officials allowed the journalists access to the site, they did
not permit reporters to talk to anyone except two designated Ansar

Hawleri said he was shocked and surprised after watching Powell's speech,
which said Ansar harbored Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, a suspected al-Qaida
operative and alleged assassin of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in Jordan
last year.

"The first time I even heard of al-Zarqawi was on television," he said.

The name on the photo Powell showed to the world was Khurmal, a nearby town
that is under the control of Islamic Group of Kurdistan.

Islamic Group denies there is such a camp at Khurmal and believes Powell's
satellite photo evidence misidentified the site's location.

An official at the equivalent of the local social security office said the
Sargat compound is in the district of Biyare, near the town of Biyare where
Ansar has its headquarters.

Before taking journalists to Sargat, Islamic Group took them to Khurmal to
show them the camp was not there.

Group official Fazel Qaradari said he welcomed the large contingent of
Western media to "see for themselves" that there is no such factory in

The road to Sargat passes the ruins of numerous villages destroyed by Saddam
Hussein in his late 1980s campaign against Iraq's Kurds. Though less
well-known than nearby Halabja - a city about 19 miles away where 5,000
Kurds were killed by chemical weapons in 1988, the Sargat area also was
subjected to chemical weapons bombardment.

In the village of Ahmad Awa, headquarters of the Islamic Group's leader, Ali
Bapir, residents said they frequently visit Sargat, and although they have
been denied access to the compound, they do not believe there are any
chemical weapons or al-Qaida operatives in the village.

"We're certain that's wrong," said Azad Muhedil, head of the village
council. "We have been victims of war and upheaval in the past. The people
here are still recovering from chemical weapons."

by Ian Fisher
New York Times, 8th February

AL MUSAYYIB, Iraq, Feb. 7 ‹ "No smoking ‹ please!" the Iraqi official said,
and he meant it.

In front of him were actual missiles ‹ five of them, with a scattering of
steel cases for the warheads ‹ in a lot at a factory near here. Not just any
factory, but one that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell showed the world
this week in his presentation to the United Nations Security Council,
charging that satellite photos had caught the Iraqis hiding things they did
not want weapons inspectors to see.

"At this ballistic missile site on Nov. 10," Mr. Powell said at the United
Nations on Wednesday, "we saw a cargo truck preparing to move ballistic
missile components."

To which, Kareem Jabbar Yusuf, the manager of the plant near here, said,
"It's all lies."

Thus was crystallized, under the sun in the steadily warming desert, the
dynamic in the debate over whether to attack Iraq: American accusations,
Iraqi denials and pretty much no way for anyone else to know where the truth

But what is clear is that Iraq is working vigorously to present its version
of events, the day before the two chief United Nations weapons inspectors'
scheduled treturn to Baghdad for another round of last-minute talks. After
devoting two news conferences this week to rebutting Mr. Powell's
accusations that Iraq still possesses weapons of mass destruction, officials
here escorted dozens of journalists to two sites that he singled out before
the Security Council.

These were not the precise, scientific visits that the inspectors, who have
gone to both sites several times since November, presumably enjoy. Rather,
the scene was one of chaos, with journalists armed with little more
knowledge than the transcript of Mr. Powell's speech jostling one another
for scraps of Arabic translated on the fly.

Officials took reporters to Al Rafah plant, near Faluja, roughly 50 miles
west of Baghdad, to view a new testing stand for Iraqi rockets. Under United
Nations resolutions, Iraq is permitted to make rockets with a range of no
more than 150 kilometers, or about 93 miles. But Mr. Powell alleged that
this new testing stand was designed "for long-range missiles that can fly
1,200 kilometers," or about 745 miles.

"These are missiles that Iraq wants in order to project power, to threaten,
and to deliver chemical, biological and, if we let him, nuclear warheads,"
Mr. Powell charged.

The new and unfinished stand, which rises in steel and concrete roughly 50
feet, is in fact, as Mr. Powell alleged, much larger than the old stand a
few hundred yards away, which Iraq has used to test its rockets for more
than a decade. The vent for the exhaust, a concrete channel embedded in the
desert, is bigger, too, about 36 yards long, according to the plant's
director, Ali Jassim.

But, Mr. Jassim said, the explanation is simple. Unlike the old stand, in
which rockets are mounted and fired off in a vertical position, the new
stand is designed to test the same permitted rockets lying horizontally, and
thus the vent must be longer. This design, he said, was safer.

"By constructing this facility, we are taking precautions to keep people
from getting burnt," he said.

As to whether this new stand could be used for rockets that go farther than
150 kilometers, he said that the inspectors visited here five times and made
no complaints. Also, an aluminum roof, which Mr. Powell said was meant to
conceal activities from satellites, is actually meant to protect the stand,
Mr. Jassim said, "from rain and dust."

Here at Al Rashid company, the second stop on the tour, about 50 miles south
of Baghdad, things look much as they did in the satellite photo taken in
November. In front of a building full of the unfinished tail pieces of Fatah
missile, surrounded by large earthen bunkers, sat a truck similar to the one
in the photo ‹ which Mr. Powell said was used to move components that Iraq
wanted to conceal from the inspectors.

But the director of this plant, Mr. Yusuf, who showed off the empty inside
of the truck, said it was used only to move "mechanical parts" allowed under
United Nations regulations. Nothing unusual was happening in November, he

"Any day they would see constant activity here," he said. "Colin Powell
could say any day that there is activity."

He said the plant had never been used for any prohibited weapons, including
biological or chemical ones.

On the eve of a war that seems ever closer, one firm fact, at least, stands
out: Both these plants were bombed extensively, either in the 1991 Persian
Gulf war or in American-led missile strikes in 1998, after the last weapons
inspections were called off.

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