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[casi] Critique of Guardian Piece on Gen. Kamel Interview

        From inti, in the US
        Dear List,

        [The piece by the Guardian below is positively one of the more
botched spins I have come across. It         is rather surprising to find it
in a publication that often provides useful information. Whether the
Guardian is a willing or an unwitting tool of spin remains to be seen.]

        [My introductory comments: General Hussein Kamel, former head of
Iraq's weapons program,                 defected in 1995. He gave many
critical documents to UNSCOM that became the turning point for         the
inspections. The defection forced Iraq into admitting to a failed nuclear
arms program.

        Kamel is referenced in Bush, Blair, and Powell claims that Iraq has
not disarmed. These claims are         usually made in the context of
declaring inspections as a waste of time that allows Saddam to play
his favorite game of hide and seek.

        For over seven years General Kamel's actual statements were not
known outside UNSCOM, CIA,         MI6, and high government levels. On
February 24th, 2003 this all changed. That is the day on which
Newsweek reported that Kamel told UN inspectors of the destruction of Iraq's
stockpile of                     chemical, biological and proscribed missile

        He said that it was done secretly to keep UN inspectors from finding
out about them. Saddam                 apparently hoped to recreate the
weapons after inspectors gave Iraq a clean bill of health. Kamel's
letting the cat out of the bag destroyed these hopes. UNSCOM was now able to
effectively disarm         Iraq, just as Scott Richter said it had done.

        UNSCOM hushed up the revelations in order to trick Saddam into more
disclosures. CIA and MI6         subsequently made Kamel's statements
disappear permanently. This is why Bush, Blair, and Powell         were able
to use Kamel's defection to prove their case, when in fact it does the

        The CIA immediately accused Newsweek of fabrication. Iraq analyst
Glen Rangwala, who had                 exposed Blair's "intelligence
dossier," has an internal UNSCOM/IAEA document containing the
original transcript of the Kamel interview in Jordan. Below is the link to
the scanned document, along         with the one to Rangwala's briefing.   (The Transcript)   (Glen's Briefing)

        Once again the warmongers have been caught redhanded. What will
become now of the mantra             "weapons of mass destruction?" Kamel's
1995 statements confirm Iraq's persistent claims that it
destroyed the items cited in the January Blix report as being in question.
Will Bush now say that                 Kamel means nothing, after repeatedly
pronouncing him a reliable source of critical importance?]

        [Now to the Guardian piece.  My comments are indented and bracketet.
Note: Space breaks in th         piece are mine, interpolated for easier

The Guardian:
Iraqi defector's testimony confuses case against Iraq

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday March 1, 2003
The Guardian

The Guardian:
Hussein Kamel, the former head of Iraq's weapons programmes
whose 1995 defection has been portrayed by the US and Britain
as evidence of Iraqi deceit and the futility of inspections,
was a "consummate liar",
according to the last weapons inspector to interrogate him.

The transcript of the interrogation,
leaked this week to Newsweek magazine
and seen by the Guardian,
makes it clear that the defector's testimony
on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction
was inconclusive and often misleading.

        [My comment: It would be helpful if "Mr. Julian Borger in
Washington" could provide sources for his         information. I would also
appreciate learning just what parts of Kamel's testimony "makes it clear"
that it "was inconclusive and often misleading?"]

The Guardian:
The emergence of the classified statements
weakens the case the US and Britain
has tried to build against Saddam Hussein,
in which Kamel's defection has been used
to bolster claims that Iraq still has
thousands of tonnes of chemical and biological weapons
for which it has not accounted.

        [My comment: Again, I have to ask "Mr. Julian Borger in Washington"
just how exactly things are             made "clear" that Kamel's testimony
"was inconclusive and often misleading? Isn't it customary in
good journalism to demonstrate at least in a rudimentary way the process by
which a sweeping                 conclusion is crafted?"

        In this particular case the critique is quite strange in light of
the simultaneous assertions that:
        They are "classified statements."
        They "weaken the case" of the US and Britain.
        That "Kamel's defection has been used to bolster claims" by US/UK.
        Claims that "Iraq still has thousands of tonnes of chemical and
biological weapons."

        As those of us who have seen the transcript can tell, nothing in
Kamel's statements supports these             "claims by the US and
Britain." Is that why now, after seven and a half years of presenting him as
a         credible bolsterer of US claims while keeping his actual testimony
under wraps, General Kamel gets         to be unmasked as a "comsummate

        And by whom? A past chief weapons inspector. By the way, in who's
present employ is Mr. Ekeus,         "the last weapons inspector to
interrogate him?" I should also like to point out that the interview in
Jordan was not an interrogation but a voluntary disclosure made to Mr. Ekeus
as well as several             others present.]

The Guardian:
They reveal that Kamel,
who was President Saddam's son-in-law,
told UN inspectors that Iraq had destroyed
all its chemical and biological weapons
and abandoned its nuclear programme after the Gulf war.
But he said blueprints, documents, computer files
and moulds for missile parts had been hidden.

        [My comment: Which parts of this does "Mr. Julian Borger in
Washington" find particularly                     "inconclusive and often
misleading?" And then, one would think that a revelation "that Iraq had
destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons and abandoned its nuclear
programme after the             Gulf war" merits just a tad more than a
passing remark.]

The Guardian:
Rolf Ekeus, the former chief UN weapons inspector who oversaw the
interrogation in August 1995, said much of the chemical arsenal had been
destroyed by the inspectors, not Baghdad.

        [My comment: That's a bit of a nonsequitur, isn't it? First, it has
been repeated over and over by             officials from UNSCOM to Bush,
Blair and Powell, that the inspectors and the world didn't even
Iraq had a nuclear program, nor the extent or nature of its chemical and
biological weapons                     program.

        All of the named credited General Kamel with bringing this knowledge
out into the open. Now one         of the former chief UN weapon inspectors,
Rolf Ekeus, is made to say, well, but it was the
inspectors who destroyed "much of the chemical arsenal." First of all, how
much is "much" in                     proportion to the amounts Kamel
mentions? Quite little, it would seem.

        Second, Mr. Ekeus seems unable to credit the inspectors with also
destroying "much of" Iraq's                 biological and nuclear arsenal.
Again, who is Mr. Ekeus working for these days? Any juicy contracts
on the table, one wonders? Oh, but then Ari Fleischer, much to the amusement
of the assembled             press, recently asserted that the Bush
Administration would never think of bribing any government.         So, we
can presumably stop suspecting that it might stoop to bribing or
blackmailing an individual]

The Guardian:
Mr. Ekeus agreed
that the Iraqi government had probably eliminated
its biological arsenal
but said he remained convinced
that "seed stocks" of bacteria had been retained
as well as growth media and fermenters
so it could quickly reconstitute its arsenal.

        [My comment: Well, it is certainly very good of Mr. Ekeus to share
this with us. Bush, Blair, Powell,         Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, et al
have not come to the Mr. Ekeus' healthy agreement that "the
Iraqi government had probably eliminated its biological arsenal."

        But Mr. Ekeus' agreement with General Kamel's testimony then doesn't
really contradict it, does it?         Nor does it deny the fact that it was
Kamel who told the inspectors about the stockpiles and that             they
had been secretly destroyed to keep the inspectors from finding out about

        Kamel also acknowledged Iraq's hope of resurrecting the weapons
programs after the inspectors             were satisfied that Iraq didn't
have any. It isn't far-fetched to guess that perhaps some "seed stocks"
of bacteria and some cultivation equipment were being kept hidden toward
that end.

        But, apart from the fact that Mr. Ekeus doesn't give us any
        for why "he  remained  convinced," this opinion of his makes
absolutely no contribution to the real             issue. Remember, the fuel
for the past months' weapons of mass destruction hysteria came from
Hans Blix' report to the UN in January, that substantial numbers of pre-1991
weapons are                     unaccounted for in Iraq's comprehensive
weapons declaration.

        It is these weapons that Kamel said were destroyed. It is these
weapons that Iraq claims it no longer         has. It is these weapons whose
remains are currently being dug up in the presence of UN inspectors.
At no time have "seed stocks" of bacteria been an issue, whether or not Mr.
Ekeus "remains                     convinced" of them.

        Did I ask this already, who does Mr. Ekeus work for currently? And
while we're at it, who set up             the contact with Mr. Borger?]

The Guardian:
Kamel, who had been the director
of Iraq's military industrial establishment,
was assassinated soon after his mysterious decision
to return to Iraq just weeks after his high-profile defection.

        [My comment: Perhaps Kamel's return isn't all that mysterious,
although his assassination is. The             General said that he made the
revelations to UNSCOM out of a desire to serve his country. He
wanted Iraq to be able to move on.

        It is not inconceivable that the "defection" had actually been
sanctioned by Saddam who perhaps             shared Kamel's desire for Iraq
to be able to move on. It is possible that this was meant to be a face-
saving device for Saddam so that nobody would be able to say he had buckled
under to US                     demands and gave away Iraq's weapons

        Perhaps it was hoped that learning about the destruction of the
stockpiles from a high-ranking                 defector would be proof to
the US that Iraq really no longer had the bilogical and chemical weapons
they received previously from their erstwhile friends in England and

        Admitting to Iraq's failed crash program for a nuclear bomb might
also have been too embarrassing         for Saddam, soiling his Arab sense
of honor. A theory as good as any other is that Kamel thought he         had
done his duty, and that the sacrifice of making himself a defector would be
honored back home.         Who knows.]

The Guardian:
The US and British governments
have pointed to the defection
to emphasise the extent
of Iraq's weapons programmes
and the inherent weakness of inspections.

        [My comment: Ah, Mr. "Julian Borger in Washington," when will your
"story" begin to tell us                     anything new? Could you at
least have pretended to reconcile Kamel's statements with the attempt
by "the US and British governments" to make them "emphasize" "the inherent
weakness of                         inspections?" It is the precise opposite
of what the General said, and what rudimentary intelligence
concludes from his revelations.

        In this connection I need to express my astonishment at the
Guardian's apparent being asleep at the         wheel. Not only does it
print a non-story by someone "in Washington" bereft of any mark of having
done his homework, but it impotently admits to having seen the transcript of
the Kamel interview.             This makes the printing of Borger's vacant
text even worse.

        Why does the Guardian cheat it's readers by not printing the
transcript or at least pertinent portions         from it? Does it consider
the Borger typing exercise a suitable substitute for real news? Has the
Guardian now joined the bulk of the media that spouts idiocies filtered down
from above while                 condemning vital information to shrivelling
unattended in the harsh sun of politics?]

The Guardian:
But Mr Ekeus pointed out that Unscom, the UN special commission on Iraq, had
already  discovered a lot about the Iraqi pre-war biological programme
earlier that year, forcing Baghdad's    admission in July, a month before
Kamel's defection, that it had pursued germ warfare.

        [My comment: I keep getting the impression that Mr. Ekeus' main
objective is to counter some                 imagined threat to the
inspectors' record of having done hard work. Is this a game of who gets to
take credit for what? Baghdad's admission to having pursued germ warfare
goes back to years                 earlier.

        The US had, after all, the invoices and shipping records for all the
germs and equipment it supplied         to Saddam during the Reagan
Administration. I hate to bring this up again, but what do Borger and
the Guardian think of their readership. Judging from the piece at hand it
can't be a lot.]

The Guardian:
The transcript of Kamel's interrogation reveals a far more ambiguous picture
than the one portrayed in Washington and London.

"Kamel was a consummate liar," Mr Ekeus said.

While the transcript of the interrogation makes it clear that the defection
was less than a breakthrough, it had a psychological impact on Baghdad. The
Iraqi government, unsure what he was going to tell the inspectors, became
much more forthcoming.

        [My comment: These three paragraphs should be nominated for
inclusion into a hall of shame for             sloppy journalism. The key
elements strung together in a pathetically inept way are:

        transcript reveals***
        more ambiguous than Washington and London portray***
        Kamel a consummate liar***
        transcript makes clear***
        defection less than breakthrough***
        psychological impact***
        Iraq unsure what was told ***
        became more forthcoming***

        Let's see if any intended meaning can be extracted from this mess:

        Kamel, a consummate liar, exaggerated Iraq's weapons program. His
information was no                         breakthrough, but the defection
made Iraq unsure and caused it to be more truthful?

        If Kamel's exaggeration makes him a consummate liar, then what are
we to think of UNSCOM and         government officials who have been
overheard speaking of "three to four times" greater magnitude?         And
if Kamel's defection made Iraq unsure about what he told the inspectors,
then Iraq, at least,             must have thought of Kamel as a potent
source of information the inspectors could not get without             his
passing it on to them. Right?

        Dear Guardian, don't you think it is time to quit displaying
Borger's clumsy stepdance through                 Elkeus' infantile
utterances as journalism?]

The Guardian:
Before Mr Ekeus arrived in Amman to interrogate Kamel, the Iraqis invited
him to Baghdad to hand over documents and then took him to Kamel's chicken
farm where several metal containers full of documents had been buried.

"They wanted to blame it all on Kamel," Mr Ekeus said. "But Kamel was just
carrying out the government's policy."

        [A fitting climax to the story.

        General Hussein Kamel, son in law of Saddam Hussein, and head of
Iraq's weapons program, was         really a chicken farmer who engaged in a
pastime of burying metal containers with documents behind         the farm.

        The law abiding Iraqis promptly turned these metal containers over
to chief weapons inspector                 Ekeus, who, undeterred by this
windfall of information, still took the arduous journey to Amman to
"interrogate" the defected General.

        As expected, he learned nothing of value from Kamel.

        Strangely though, Mr. Ekeus still thought that the General's
defection put psychological pressure on         Iraq to reveal more
information because Iraq didn't know what Kamel told the inspector.

        Looking at it from the Iraqi point of view one would have to assume
that General Kamel had much         more critical information to give than
what was handed to Mr. Ekeus in the metal containers from the
chicken farm.

        From Mr. Ekeus' more enlightened point of view any departure by
General Kamel from the                     container information was to be
looked at as an exaggeration attributable to Kamel's being a
consummate liar.

        You know, I do enjoy a good spin on occasion, but this one elicits
only one response from me:                 Puhleeeeeze!]

        Keep well all, inti.
it seems we've met before

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