Media Lies

Friday, July 30, 2004

A Convenient Myth

All intelligence services thought that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and was a threat, prior to the war. This is untrue. Here is some evidence:

1. Do you believe that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction; for instance, chemical or biological weapons?

President Chirac: Well, I don’t know. I have no evidence to support that… It seems that there are no nuclear weapons - no nuclear weapons program. That is something that the inspectors seem to be sure of. As for weapons of mass destruction, bacteriological, biological, chemical, we don’t know. And that is precisely what the inspectors’ mandate is all about. But rushing into war, rushing into battle today is clearly a disproportionate response.
Interview with CBS 16th March 2003

2. A British intelligence source said the best intelligence on Saddam was held by the French who had agents in Iraq. 'French intelligence was telling us that there was effectively no real evidence of a WMD program. That's why France wanted a longer extension on the weapons inspections. The French, the Germans and the Russians all knew there were no weapons there -- and so did Blair and Bush as that's what the French told them directly. Blair ignored what the French told us and instead listened to the Americans.'
Published on Sunday, June 1, 2003 by The Sunday Herald

3. French intelligence services did not come up with the same alarming assessment of Iraq and WMD as did the Britain and the United States. "According to secret agents at the DGSE, Saddam's Iraq does not represent any kind of nuclear threat at this time…It [the French assessment] contradicts the CIA's analysis…" French spies said that the Iraqi nuclear threat claimed by the United States was a "phony threat."
Institute for Science and International Security

4. Russia was not convinced by either the September 24, 2002 British dossier or the October 4, 2002 CIA report. Lacking sufficient evidence, Russia dismissed the claims as a part of a "propaganda furor." Specifically targeting the CIA report, Putin said, "Fears are one thing, hard facts are another." He goes on to say, "Russia does not have in its possession any trustworthy data that supports the existence of nuclear weapons or any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we have not received any such information from our partners yet. This fact has also been supported by the information sent by the CIA to the US Congress." However, Putin was apprehensive about the possibility that Iraq may have WMDs and he therefore supported inspections. The Russian ambassador to London thought that the dossier was a document of concern. "It is impressive, but not always…convincing."
Institute for Science and International Security

Watching the Democratic Convention

I was watching that the Democratic Convention  on cable, early in the morning.

Using any sort of serious analysis - it is utter banal drivel. But of course that's not the point. Its simply there to create images for television. I thought the Labour Party conference was bad - but it makes that gathering seem like a meeting of the great intellectuals of our time.

This is the scene I saw last night. A grand hall full of bunting, balloons, cheesy placards distributed by the party machine, cuddly toys, people milling around, cheering, waving, grinning inanely.

Okay, its a sports events, right? A rock concert? No, its something far more boring.

There's a huge wide screen, high above the throng, that occasionally springs into life to spew broadcasts of syrupy party propaganda (bit Orwellian, we won't dwell...)

A live band plays too, and people dance. Yes, all about the hall they dance, and wave their flags about. Its fun!

Then, an announcement. This is the serious part, apparently. A disembodied voice rumbles around the hall, a female presenter, with a nice soft radio voice announcing the next party apparatchik, or ex-great leader, to extoll the virtues (real or imagined) of John Kerry and John Edwards. The same cliches are recycled each time. As each speaker approaches the podium, the band plays a musical intro.

There's that great re-occuring theme of American politics too - Affordable Healthcare. This issue, ironically, is often debated exclusively by people who can easily afford it anyway. And like Restoring Hope to the American People, it crops up every four years. Nice to know it never goes away.

And don't miss the obligatory Hollywood Celebrity Limousine Liberal, last night in the shape of Glenn Close, resplendent in a sort of strange yellowy white colour, not dissimilar to the colour of dental plaque,  and about as attractive. She makes a short, suitably awful speech, and on troop all the female Democratic senators, in those neat telegenic one colour suits that women politicians often wear. Each gets a big cheer, like in football game, and Hillary comes on last, in a yellow suit, which kinda sticks out a bit. (Tip to the networks: Ditch the close ups - Senator Clinton's make-up is beginning to look rather too obvious.)

Then on, relentlessly, to a children's choir of kids all dressed in crisp white, singing some sentimental ditty (mercifully short) and all the senators grin and clap. Thankfully they didn't end up walking down to embrace the unfortunate kids, which presumably would have made even the most stauch of the party faithful throw up.

Mind you, I blame myself. I should have thrown up at least ten minutes before that and switched off the TV.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Clwyd in The Guardian

Ann Clwyd is manning the barricades on behalf of the occupation forces again today, puffing up the puppet government and its various quislings. Note first of all that Ann finds the use of the words "puppet" and "quisling" in relation to the new unelected, US-appointed regime of unrepresentative Iraqis offensive:

Having known and worked with the opposition to Saddam for over two decades, I find the description of brave individuals as "puppets" deeply offensive. Allawi was nearly killed in 1978 in the UK when he was attacked by a Ba'athist assassin with an axe. The deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, was imprisoned at the age of 16 for his political activities. The deputy foreign minister, Hamid al-Bayati, was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib and had five members of his family killed by Saddam's regime. Eight thousand members of foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari's family clan disappeared in 1983 and have never been seen since.

Every day, these individuals and others face the knowledge that they are targets for assassination. But they continue to work, just as the policemen return to their jobs every day, despite the suicide bombs targeted at them. As one told the Guardian at the beginning of the week: "Our job is to protect the Iraqi people ... There are bombings but we are not scared of these terrorists. These people are cowards who are damaging our country."

Allawi, the former Ba'athist and recent asset to 14 seperate intelligence outfits, including MI6 and the CIA? Salih, of the PUK, which allowed the Iranian military to enter their controlled section of Northern Iraq and kill Iranian Kurds? What bravery, what democrats! Still, brave or not, that hardly endows the government with any particular democratic legitimacy. Citing recent favourable opinion polls won't help either - as a regular visitor to the Tomb insists, the trouble with citing polls to buttress your argument is that you must also accept those which don't go your way. And previous polls have indicated that Allawi has very little support. But note also the attempted conflation between the resistance and those carrying out suicide bombings - for although Clwyd proffers her argument as a commentary on Seumus Milne's pro-resistance article last week, she forgets or deliberately ignores his distinction between the legitimate resistance and the followers of al-Zarqawi who only wish to create civil war in Iraq. That distinction could not have been more manifest as when Sadr and countless other resistance leaders denounced the wave of suicide attacks as death-dealing both to and to the resistance.

Clwyd tries again:

Those who champion the "resistance" as the real voice of Iraq do not offer an alternative political programme, merely an opposition to an existing strategy. They are silent about what they want for Iraq apart from getting the Americans out.

They are opposed by the emerging civil society of Iraq. On June 21, Abdullah Mushin, of the Iraqi Federation of Workers' Trade Unions (IFTU) addressed Unison's national conference. The IFTU had opposed the war. Last December its Baghdad offices were raided by coalition forces. Despite this, he was clear that what was required now was "solidarity" to defeat those who would deny Iraqis democracy.

"It is only a few days before the handover of power on June 30 and IFTU and Iraqis need your support and solidarity to make this happen and stop attempts by terrorists and Saddam's supporters to derail the transfer of power to Iraqis. This is a crucial step forward to end the occupation, regain full sovereignty and enable the Iraqi people to determine their own political future through democratic elections."

One can respect the IFTU's particular anti-occupation stance while noting that it is precisely the resistance - in Fallujah, in Najaf and elsewhere - which has forced American withdrawal. There is no sovereignty or independence in the new interim government - but there is in Fallujah. US troops still bust into houses and shoot up families in most of Iraq. But not in Fallujah. Incidentally, those forces which have wiped out the occupation in Fallujah cannot be conflated with "Saddam's supporters" - for it is they who have only recently prevented a rally by pro-Saddam loyalists, with a show of force. Clwyd does not bother mentioning that even as the IFTU opposes the resistance, they also oppose the occupation, and demand its end as the condition for achieving a real democracy in Iraq. They also opposed the war: "it might have been easy to support the war but I and the majority of Iraqis didn’t because we feared the bloodshed and the destruction of our country that would result". They believed that "Saddam’s dictatorship could have been overthrown, through reliance on the people and their patrioitic forces, and with effective international solidarity, to bring about democratic change." (See link). Ann suggests that those supporting the resistance do not have an alternative strategy for Iraq to the current one being imposed by the US. To which the obvious reply is that if there isn't genuine Iraqi sovereignty with full US troop withdrawal then no alternative strategy could even be considered. At any rate, it would be down to Iraqis to decide what kind of society they wanted to live in. The first condition for allowing that to happen is for US troops to be forced out. And, as Jeremy notes, the resistance does not require a common agenda - the French resistance united forces of various political shades who were united on one goal. Only a genuine apologist like Clwyd would attempt the assertion that those who support the anti-occupation resistance also oppose the emerging civil society in Iraq. It is because that civil society is being repressed by the occupation that we want to see the back of it.

And what kind of regime is it that Clwyd is seeking to defend? Well :

American military police yesterday raided a building belonging to the Iraqi ministry of the interior where prisoners were allegedly being physically abused by Iraqi interrogators.
The raid appeared to be a violation of the country's new sovereignty, leading to angry scenes inside the ministry between Iraqi policemen and US soldiers.

The military police, who had been told of abuse, seized an area known as the Guesthouse just outside the ministry's main building. They disarmed the Iraqi policemen and at one stage threatened to set free prisoners whose handcuffs they removed, according to Iraqi officials.

The arrival of a second group of US military police and a more senior officer led to an argument between the two groups of military policemen over who had command authority for the raid.

Iraqi ministry of interior officials admitted that around 150 prisoners taken during a raid four days before in the Betawain district of Baghdad had been physically abused during their arrest and subsequent questioning.

The men were captured in the first big Iraqi-led anti-crime and anti-terrorism operation, which took place a few days before the transfer of power, with US military police in support and using US satellite images.

Senior Iraqi officers described those captured as "first class murderers, kidnappers and terrorists with links to al-Ansar" - a militant group in the former Kurdish no-fly zone - who had all admitted to "at least 20 crimes while being questioned".

According to an al-Jazeera television crew, who had been filming the prisoners when the US military police conducted their raid, most of the detainees were blindfolded, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. One prisoner was so weak, from dehydration, that the US military policemen fitted an intravenous drip to rehydrate him.

Although none of the American officers involved in the raid would talk to the Guardian, one of the soldiers involved in the raid said that it had been launched after claims that prisoners were being abused.

US military spokesmen would not comment. "We can't confirm that this took place," a spokesman said.

One of the prisoners bared his back after his initial arrest to reveal open welts allegedly caused by baton and rubber hoses.

A bodyguard for the head of criminal intelligence, Hussein Kamal, admitted that the beatings had taken place.

Nashwan Ali - who said his nickname was Big Man - said: "A US MP asked me this morning what police division I was in. I said I was in criminal intelligence.

"The American asked me why we had beaten the prisoners. I said we beat the prisoners because they are all bad people. But I told him we didn't strip them naked, photograph them or fuck them like you did."

So, the interim government beats its prisoners but doesn't fuck them. This then, is approximately the new division of labour: the coalition fucks Iraq, the interim government beats the shit out of it. Unsurprisingly, the new administration has announced that it may introduce martial law, and they have the support of Bush and Blair . They have also reintroduced the death penalty , and a series of "emergency laws" .

Still, if Ann Clwyd must insist on puffing up the new administration, she could at least have the courtesy to note that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has admitted that resistance attacks on US troops were legitimate . Not that Sadr will reciprocate. He has just called the new interim government "illegitimate" , because as he rightly notes "the occupation has not ended" . Watch those opinion polls swing, baby.