Dr Bretton-Gordon said cities in Iraq and Moscow were “extremely vulnerable”, but Britain is more secure because of the “high quality” of its intelligence services.
Bush-41 Finally Speaks on Iraq War
November 8, 2015
Exclusive: A dozen years too late, President George H.W. Bush has given voice to his doubts about the wisdom of rushing into the Iraq War, putting much of the blame on President George W. Bush’s “iron-ass” advisers, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, as ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains.
By Ray McGovern
Media reports on Jon Meacham’s biography of George H. W. Bush, the 41st President, have brought me a painful flashback to the deceptive, destructive – yet at the same time highly instructive – years 2002 and 2003, when his son George W. Bush, the 43rd President, attacked Iraq.
Reality should trump rhetoric regarding that godforsaken war – in my view the most unprincipled and consequential foreign policy blunder in U.S. history. This may be reason enough to renew focus on those years because, for many Americans, those events remain cloaked in mystery and misunderstanding.
With his candor about his eldest son, the 91-year-old Bush patriarch also has sounded what may be the death knell for the moribund campaign of his younger son Jeb to be president #45. I do not suggest that #41 did that consciously. His unusually unguarded remarks, though, will lead voters to be chary of yet another Bush, if only on the “fool me once … fool me twice” aphorism that Jeb’s big brother had trouble remembering.
Meacham’s Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush will not be available to the hoi polloi until next week. Details already reported on the critical years of 2002 and 2003, however, permit – I think, rather, dictate – some preliminary analysis, before the Karl Roves of this world create still more “new history.”
The clear and present danger of getting sucked into yet another quagmire or quicksand pool on false pretenses persists. Thus, it seems fitting and proper to review the lead-up to the unprovoked “shock and awe” on Iraq proudly launched in March 2003 by #43, egged on by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other white-collar thugs.
Despite the propaganda and more tangible signs of incipient war in Iraq, my former intelligence analyst colleagues and I – with considerable professional experience watching other countries prepare for aggression against others – were finding it difficult to believe that the United States of America would be doing precisely that.
Still harder was it to digest the notion that Washington would do so, absent credible evidence of any immediate threat and would “fix” intelligence to “justify” it. But that, sadly, is what happened. On March 19, 2003, U.S. “shock and awe” lit the sky over Baghdad.
A Dozen Years Later
That was more than 12 ½ years ago. That not one of the white-collar crooks responsible for the war and ensuing chaos has been held accountable is an indelible blot not only on our country, but also on international law and custom. After all, the U.S./U.K. attack on Iraq fits snugly the definition given to a “war of aggression” as defined by the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal. Nuremberg labeled such a war “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
And the evil continued to accumulate: torture, kidnapping, black prisons, extrajudicial killing, massive invasions of privacy, and even the annulment of such basic human rights as the great writ of habeas corpus that was wrested from England’s King John 800 years ago. And, in the wake of this criminality, bedlam now reigns across large swaths of the Middle East driving millions of refugees into neighboring countries and Europe.
That the U.S. and U.K. leaders who launched the Iraq war have so far escaped apprehension and prosecution might be seen as a sad example of “victor’s justice.” But there are no victors, only victims. The reality that President George W. Bush and his co-conspirators remain unpunished makes a mockery of the commitment to the transcendent importance of evenhanded justice as expressed on Aug. 12, 1945, by Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. representative at Nuremberg:
“We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it.”
Maybe it is partly because I know the elder Bush personally, but it does strike me that, since we are all human, some degree of empathy might be in order. I simply cannot imagine what it must be like to be a former President with a son, also a former President, undeniably responsible for such trespass on law – for such widespread killing, injury and abject misery.
It is something of a stretch, but I have tried to put myself into the shoes of the elder Bush. In them I find myself insecure and struggling – like Jacob – before his dream about wrestling with God. The story in Genesis shows Jacob full of anxiety, despite God’s promise that God would bless his dynasty. He cannot overcome his fear and is powerless to control his fate.
Jacob is aware that he is at a pivotal juncture but he is physically spent. Alone in the wilderness facing death, he collapses into a deep sleep, only to find himself wrestling all night with God. At daybreak he awakes with an injured hip; he is disabled but his life is spared. He had come to grips with God and, in the end, receives God’s blessing of peace.
What author Meacham has written suggests to me the possibility that the sins of the son are being visited on the father, to reverse one familiar Biblical expression.
In these circumstances, the tendency to require that thugs like Cheney and Rumsfeld bear their share of the blame seems quite human. And, to his credit, Bush-41 concedes “the buck stops” at the President. But I sense him thinking – correctly, in my view – that without those two “iron-ass” advisers, things would have been quite different. The son might even have paid more heed to the experienced cautions of the father and his associates.
Sins of Omission
As the senior Bush knows, sins of omission can be as consequential as those of commission. Judging from what he is quoted as saying in Meacham’s book, it appears he decided to make a (sort-of) clean breast of things – okay, call it a Watergate-style “modified, limited hangout,” if you will. But, clearly, Bush has to be painfully aware that he was one of only a handful of people who might have been able to stop the chaos and carnage, had he spoken out publicly in real time.
He does hedge, saying for example that he still believes the attack on Iraq was the right thing to do. But this is a position he staked out years ago and, especially at 91, it may be too much to expect of him that he acknowledge the full implications of what he says elsewhere in the book about the misguided advice of “hardline” Cheney and “arrogant” Rumsfeld together with where, after all, the buck does stop.
My take is that Bush-41 has not completed his wrestle with the truth and with the guilt he may feel for failing to warn the rest of us what to expect from George, Cheney and Rumsfeld as he watched it happen. The elder Bush did use surrogates – including two of his closest and most prominent friends, James Baker, his secretary of state, and Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, to speak out against the war.
But here the mainstream media was of no help. Instead of weighing the merits of the strong arguments of Baker, Scowcroft and other experienced foreign policy professionals made against attacking Iraq, the media gave inordinate attention to incessant debates as to whether the seeming surrogates were actually speaking for the elder Bush.
In effect, the media was demanding what they knew Bush senior would almost certainly not do, “Speak for yourself, George H. W. Bush.” He refused to do it; he would not even comment on the critical views expressed by Baker and Scowcroft on Bush-43’s plan to attack Iraq.
Sure, it would have been hard, but at the time Bush senior was only in his late 70s, as he watched his son fall in with bad companions the dishonesty and foolishness leading up to the attack on Iraq.
With his current modified, limited hangout – especially (his richly deserved) criticism of Cheney and Rumsfeld – Bush the elder may be able to live more comfortably with himself and to get past what I believe must be his regret now over having made no public effort to stop the madness back then.
The chronology below includes some of the more important events and may help inform those who have not had the time or inclination to follow the play-by-play as Cheney and Rumsfeld played on the younger Bush’s unabashed preening as “the first war president of the 21st century.”
Keeping a Watching Brief
The elder Bush knew all too well what was happening. He also knew what his son George was capable of – not to mention the inclinations of Cheney, Rumsfeld and other white-collar criminals. To be brutally candid, it is a little late for the family patriarch to be telling us all this – while blaming the Iraq debacle mostly on Cheney and Rumsfeld, quintessentially blameworthy though they are.
Worst still, if Bush-43 is to be believed, Bush senior had guilty foreknowledge of the war-crime attack on Iraq. George W. Bush divulges this in his 2014 Virgil-style paean to his father, “41: A Portrait of My Father,” in which he arrogates to himself Aeneas-like filial devotion. (Friends more cynical than me suggest that 43’s panegyric should be construed as a benign pre-emptive move to prevent the father from blabbing to his biographer.)
In any event, Bush-43 includes the following sentences about informing his father about plans to attack Iraq: ”We both knew that this was a decision that only the president can make. We did talk about the issue, however. Over Christmas 2002, at Camp David, I did give Dad an update on our strategy.”
By that time, the die had been cast. Frankly, it is as painful as it is instructive to review the flow of key events in the summer and early fall of 2002. But I believe it may be necessary, not only to outline what Bush senior was watching, but also to pre-empt the creation of false history. Here are some selected benchmarks:
July 23, 2002: Tony Blair and his principal national security advisers are briefed at 10 Downing Street by MI-6 chief Richard Dearlove, CIA Director George Tenet’s British counterpart, three days after Dearlove met with Tenet at CIA Headquarters. A participant in the July 23 briefing prepares minutes of the meeting that same day. They are eventually leaked and published in the London Times on May 1, 2005.
The minutes quote Dearlove, Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and Attorney-General Peter Goldsmith. First Dearlove: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” [Translation: Saddam Hussein will be accused of having weapons of mass destruction that he could give to terrorists.]
“But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. … The Foreign Secretary said the case [for war] was thin. … The Attorney-General said that the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action.”
August 2002: President George W. Bush spends from August 6 to 31 clearing brush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card sets up a White House Iraq Group (WHIG) to “educate the public” on the alleged threat from Iraq. The group includes heavy hitters like political adviser Karl Rove, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s communications director Karen Hughes, and two officials from Dick Cheney’s entourage – Irving Lewis “Scooter” Libby, and Mary Matalin. In his memoir, Cheney notes that both Matalin and Libby “wore two hats” – serving as assistants to both Cheney and the President.
August 2002: With Bush in Crawford, there is trouble brewing for Cheney, Rumsfeld and others pushing for war on Iraq. Close associates of the elder Bush and other senior foreign policy mavens begin to speak out strongly against an attack on Iraq.
Brent Scowcroft leads off the campaign on Aug. 4 at CBS’s Face the Nation. Next up is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger with an Aug. 12 Washington Post op-ed titled “Unilateral Attack Will Set Dangerous Precedent.” On Aug. 15, Scowcroft publishes an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal with the non-subtle title: “Don’t Attack Saddam.”
Also on Aug. 15, Lawrence Eagleburger, who served the elder Bush briefly as secretary of state, tells ABC News that unless Saddam Hussein “has his hand on a trigger that is for a weapon of mass destruction, and our intelligence is clear, I don’t know why we have to do it [attack Iraq] now.”
Then on Aug. 25, in a New York Times op-ed, Bush-41’s Secretary of State James Baker adduces, in a lawyerly but compelling way, virtually all the reasons that what Bush-43, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al. had already decided on regarding Iraq would bring disaster.
Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, also says openly in August that Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage had earlier advised President George W. Bush of their concerns about the risks and complexities of a military strike on Iraq.
More trouble for hawks like Cheney was brewing in the House. Republican Majority Leader Dick Armey publicly warned that an “unprovoked attack” on Iraq would be illegal, adding, “It would not be consistent with what we have been as a nation or what we should be as a nation.”
(Armey later told Michael Isikoff, during an on-the-record interview for Isikoff’s book Hubris, that he had warned President George W. Bush that war on Iraq might result in a “quagmire.” He added that, while he found questionable the intelligence presented to him in support of such a war, he would give Bush the benefit of the doubt. According to Barton Gellman, author of Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency, Cheney told Armey that Saddam Hussein’s family had direct ties to Al Qaeda and that Saddam was developing miniature nuclear weapons. Armey then voted for the war, but bitterly complained later that he had been “bullshitted” by Cheney.)
Stopping the Peace Juggernaut
With the President clearing brush and Andrew Card proceeding at what must have seemed to Cheney a dilatory pace, given the mounting opposition to war on Iraq, Cheney seized the bull by the horns, so to speak. Without a word to Secretary of State Powell or CIA Director Tenet, and not wanting to interrupt the President’s vacation, Cheney set the parameters for using “fixed” intelligence to reverse the alarming efforts toward peace.
With the apparent endorsement of Bush junior, when the President got back in town on Sept. 1, the juggernaut was redirected toward war. (One stands in awe of the unchallenged power Cheney was able to exert – even if it was, technically speaking, ad referendum the President.)
Cheney chose to include in an Aug. 26 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville extreme, unsubstantiated charges about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that set the terms of reference for virtually all that was to follow, including, I regret to say, the National Intelligence Estimate that my former colleagues were suborned into “fixing” around the policy.
In his Aug. 26, 2002 speech, Cheney broadly warned that Saddam Hussein intends to “subject the United States to nuclear blackmail.” He continued:
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction [and] is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. … What he wants is … more time to husband his resources to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons program, and to gain possession of nuclear weapons.…
“Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action. … The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago.
“Against that background, a person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of shoot and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with UN resolutions.”
Colin Powell, George Tenet and others had five days, before Bush got back in town, to regain their composure after being blindsided by Cheney – time enough, apparently, to remind themselves about who it was that really had the President’s ear. There is no sign that either Powell or Tenet chose to make a federal case out of it, so to speak. Also choosing to remain silent was former the CENTCOM commander, Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was right there at the VFW convention.
Hear No Evil — Speak No Truth
Zinni later said he was shocked to hear Cheney’s depiction of intelligence (Iraq has WMD and is amassing them to use against us) that did not square with what he knew. Although Zinni had retired two years before, his role as consultant had enabled him to stay up to date on key intelligence findings.
“There was no solid proof that Saddam had WMD. … I heard a case being made to go to war,” Zinni told “Meet the Press” 3 ½ years later.
The question lingers: why did Zinni not go public when he first heard Cheney lie? After all, he was one of the very few credible senior officials who might have prevented a war he knew was unnecessary. A tough, widely respected Marine intimidated by a Vice President with five draft deferments? It happens. It happened.
Secretary of State Powell was also blindsided, but there is no sign he summoned the courage to voice any objections directly to the President about Cheney’s version of the threat from Iraq and what had to be done about it.
CIA Director Tenet has written that he, too, was taken completely by surprise by what Cheney said. In his memoir, Tenet added, “I had the impression that the president wasn’t any more aware than we were of what his number-two was going to say to the VFW until he said it.” But Tenet, as noted above, knew only too well that the intelligence was being “fixed,” because he was in charge of fixing it.
So for Tenet the surprise was simply one of timing – that Cheney would go out on so long a limb before Bush got back from vacation.
From Cheney’s perspective the timing was perfect. With Bush out of town, it was even easier to avoid messy fights with what Cheney considered a troublesome, unnecessary bureaucracy (he had built up his own). And with UK Prime Minister Blair coming to Camp David six days after Bush got back, it would be cumbersome enough to fine-tune and coordinate the appropriate talking points for Bush to use with Blair on Sept. 7.
And so, with the month of August seeing a phalanx of senior Bush foreign policy advisers and other experts, as well as key Congressional leaders, speaking out in a troubling way against the war, an ever decisive Cheney decided he could not abide by the proverbial maxim that Andrew Card actually let drop publicly in early September: ”From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” Just to be clear, the White House chief of staff was talking about marketing war.
By the time George W. Bush got back to the Oval Office, the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) had gotten its instructions from Cheney on the strategy with which to approach Tony Blair to keep him harnessed onto the commander’s Jeep for war – with particular attention to the joint U.S.-U.K. “marketing” campaign to be launched, big time, the day after the Bush and Blair met at Camp David.
The media did a little warm-up, with the BBC reporting that President Bush had shared with Prime Minister Blair satellite photographs released by a UN agency that allegedly showed clear evidence that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction. “I don’t know what more evidence we need,” said Mr. Bush. (There were no such photos.)
On Sunday, Sept. 8, came the opening salvo of the marketing campaign – a major propaganda blitz with all hands on deck. The WHIG had been doing its homework and was working with very accommodating media. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Meyers fanned out to the talk shows right after Bush gave Blair the word at Camp David.
The hot topic was new information, apparently made available by the administration to the New York Times a day or two before, concerning “aluminum tubes,” sought by Iraq, supposedly for use in refining uranium for a nuclear weapon.
Rice claimed that the tubes were “really are only suited to — high-quality aluminum tools that are only really suited for nuclear weapons programs, centrifuge programs.” Rice acknowledged that “there will always be some uncertainty” in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but warned, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” (It turned out the tubes were actually for artillery known to be in Iraq’s inventory.)
Upon her return to the White House from CNN, she must have been awarded WHIG’s first Oscar. Cheney should have been runner-up for his Meet the Press performance accusing Saddam Hussein of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons to add to his stockpile of chemical and biological arms. The Vice President actually let slip the White House strategy, expressing hope that Congress would vote for war before it recessed in October (mid-term elections coming the following month).
With members fearing accusations of “softness” if they resisted President Bush’s authorization to use force, Congress voted for war. The war was on.
Also, on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2002, Rumsfeld on Face the Nation warned that inspections in Iraq would have to be intrusive enough to ensure that Saddam Hussein is disarmed. Powell told Fox News that the Bush administration believes that the best way to disarm Iraq “is with a regime change.” And Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Myers on ABC’s This Week added, “We have the forces, we have the readiness. U.S. armed forces will prevail, if called upon to strike Iraq.”
Six Months Later
A half-year later on Feb. 15, 2003, as the elder Bush watched 30 million demonstrators in 800 cities around the world marching against the war for which Bush-43 was so keen, I suspect there may have been a tinge of regret at having pulled strings to ensure young George would not have to experience war by serving in Vietnam.
Unlike his father, George W. had not the foggiest notion of what war is like, and Bush-41 can be thought to have been painfully aware of that. It may have occurred to him to belatedly apply some tough-love to 43 or to even go public in a last-ditch effort to prevent the coming catastrophe. He probably knew that it was unrealistic to expect that the likes of Scowcroft and Baker could influence 43 to change course.
But George H. W. Bush continued to say and do nothing, waiting until now – more than a dozen years after the catastrophic Iraq War was launched – to voice his objections. An unhappy ending for the patriarch of a would-be dynasty.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He worked for George H. W. Bush when he was director of the CIA and again during the first Reagan administration when he briefed him mornings, one-on-one, with the President’s Daily Brief.
No one should forget the media’s role in the march to the Iraq War
By ANDREW FOWLER
Journalists caught up in a disinformation war failed to question and even championed the case for the bloody conflict in Iraq.
George W. Bush wore a suitably sombre grey suit to deliver his “axis of evil” speech, which began laying out the case for the US invasion of Iraq. Few could have faulted his performance on that day in January 2002, just four months after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He told the applauding joint sitting of the US House of Representatives and Senate that Iraq was allied with terrorists, and posed “a grave and growing danger” to US interests through possession of “weapons of mass destruction”.
What we now know is that Bush’s performance was just that – an act. There was nothing to link Iraq to terrorism.
Yet more than 10 years later the leaders who took us to war are still in denial. Just this week former British prime minister Tony Blair issued what amounted to a non-apology as he tried to spin his way out of the trouble he expects from the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War. But what has been forgotten is the role of many journalists who led the charge to war.
Eight months after Bush’s address with the drumbeat of war growing ever louder, The New York Times reporter Judith Miller – who often boasted the Pentagon had given her clearance to see secret information – crossed the line from journalist to pro-war activist. On September 8, 2002, Miller wrote about “Mr Hussein’s dogged insistence on pursuing his nuclear ambitions”. It was a bald statement of fact without any attribution.
The story, “US says Hussein intensified quest for A-bomb parts”, quoted not a single person by name, and relied entirely on US government sources.
Miller and The New York Times, with its uncorroborated, unquestioning reporting, had provided the perfect vehicle for the White House. Over the following 24 hours they saturated the airwaves stirring fear of a nuclear Armageddon. On NBC’s Meet the Press, vice-president Dick Cheney cited The New York Times article and accused Saddam of moving aggressively to develop nuclear weapons.
On CNN, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that “there will always be some uncertainty” in determining how close Iraq may be to obtaining a nuclear weapon but, in a phrase as polished as it was hollow, added: “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” On CBS, Bush cited satellite photos that showed “unexplained construction” at Iraqi sites that weapons inspectors had previously searched for indications Saddam was trying to develop nuclear arms. “I don’t know what more evidence we need,” Bush said. The news flashed around the world that the White House had “confirmed a report in The New York Times” that Saddam Hussein had been attempting to get equipment to produce nuclear weapons.
Australian prime minister John Howard added to the misleading game, saying the intelligence that had come out of the United States “if accurate confirms the intelligence that we have been given”. The fact is it was the same intelligence that the United States had already given to Australia.
Howard made great play of the possibility that “Iraq has not abandoned her aspiration for nuclear capacity”. By suggesting The New York Times story added yet another layer of confirmation, Howard was taking part in the Australian version of the style of journalism that Miller and the White House specialised in: the story leaked to Miller and published in The New York Times had been confirmed by the very people who leaked it in the first place. Iraq’s nuclear ambitions were now accepted as fact. Even the BBC’s prestigious Panorama program, “The Case Against Saddam”, broadcast on September 23, 2002, embraced this “evidence”, suggesting Saddam was trying to get systems to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons production.
The program acted as a reinforcement of Blair’s claim that Saddam’s missiles could hit British territory in Cyprus with only 45 minutes warning.
The Panorama report formed the basis of a Four Corners broadcast two weeks later but the bald assertions of “fact” were balanced by other interviews in the ABC version, bringing a swift letter of rebuke to the program. Panorama was not happy that Four Corners had not accepted its editorial line.
While Miller had given the White House exactly what it wanted on the nuclear story, she now shared the spoils of a second report. It involved Iraqi defector Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri who told CIA interrogators that he had personally visited 20 weapons of mass destruction sites in Iraq. The fact that a CIA lie detector test showed the whole story was fabricated had little impact on what the White House wanted. Miller’s story quoting al-Haideri ran in The New York Times, while the exclusive TV rights went to a little-known Australian journalist Paul Moran who was working for the Australian ABC.
Moran was well placed to get the story. He had been employed by a CIA-funded organisation, the Washington-based Rendon Group, whose main role was to manipulate the media to support the war. The Rendon Group had even created the Iraqi National Congress, the anti-Saddam organisation which had delivered up al-Haideri to Miller. Now Moran’s al-Haideri interview, packed with disinformation and fabrication, went around the world, picked up by dozens of TV stations.
When US troops reached Baghdad, The Australian published an editorial, “Coalition of the Whining Got it Wrong”, which ended with words that gave perfect meaning to irony: “Never underestimate the power of ideology and myth – in this case anti-Americanism – to trump reality. But at least we know for sure it is not love, but being a left-wing intellectual, that means never having to say you’re sorry.”
The disinformation war claimed the reputations of many journalists who either failed to question their governments, or worse still deliberately championed the case for the invasion which led to the deaths of an estimated half a million Iraqis. There was at least one other casualty of this war created by fabricated news: Moran died in a car-bomb attack in northern Iraq.
This article contains excerpts from Andrew Fowler’s book The War on Journalism: Media Moguls, Whistleblowers and the Price of Freedom (Penguin Random House, 2015).
“They run a sophisticated and successful psychological warfare campaign and are now basing that on CBRN weaponry – the ultimate weapon in the terrorist arsenal.”
Dr Bretton-Gordon said cities in Iraq and Moscow were “extremely vulnerable”, but Britain is more secure because of the “high quality” of its intelligence services.
The FBI has already foiled four attempts by Russian organised crime gangs to supply radioactive material to jihadist extremists.Russia racheted up tensions recently when it pledged jets to support Syrian government ground troops fighting opposition groups and IS.Dr Bretton-Gordon added: “The problem is that, for all Vladimir Putin’s bluster, Russia is not very effective militarily.“Not only is Moscow a target to extremists but its poor performance by its own intelligence agencies, as shown by the fact that it’s the FBI breaking up these attempts in eastern Europe, means the chances of Russian organised crime succeeding are much greater.”
EXCLUSIVE: ISIS will ‘inevitably’ get WMDs, warns former head of British Army nuclear team
By MARCO GIANNANGELI
03:01, Mon, Oct 19, 2015 | UPDATED: 08:56, Mon, Oct 19, 2015
Dr Hamish de Bretton-Gordon said the extremist jihadist group already had chemical weapons such as mustard gas and it is “only a matter of time” before it managed to launch an attack capable of destroying a substantial part of a city.
Bretton-Gordon, who formerly commanded the British Army’s Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) regiment, gave the stark warning as he addressed the Global Resilience conference in London on Thursday.
“They run a sophisticated and successful psychological warfare campaign and are now basing that on CBRN weaponry – the ultimate weapon in the terrorist arsenal.”
IS already has control of unenriched uranium from stocks captured from Iraq’s University of Mosul.
“The uranium they have is not weaponised but we know Isis have recruited scientists to develop chemical and nuclear weapons,” he said.
It costs £26million to buy a single kilo of highly enriched uranium, but IS “had the funds”
Dr Bretton-Gordon said that, while cities in Iraq and Moscow were “extremely vulnerable”, Britain was more secure because of the “high quality” of its intelligence services.
Isis have made it known they want to acquire weapons of mass destruction
Russia racked up tensions recently when it pledged jets to support Syrian government ground troops fighting opposition groups and IS.
Dr Bretton-Gordon added: “The problem is that, for all Vladimir Putin’s bluster, Russia is not very effective militarily.
“Not only is Moscow a target to extremists but its poor performance by its own intelligence agencies, as shown by the fact that it’s the FBI breaking up these attempts in eastern Europe, means the chances of Russian organised crime succeeding are much greater.”
Vladimir Putin’s bluster does not cover up the fact that Russia “is not very effective militarily”
His warnings come as Prime Minister David Cameron announced £5million for the Government’s new Counter Extremism Strategy to tackle extremist ideology and address “the segregation and feelings of alienation that can help provide fertile ground for extremist messages to take root”.
Colin Powell has no credibility to judge Iran accord: Analyst
Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has no credibility to judge Iran’s nuclear program since he supported the decision to invade Iraq under a false pretext during the administration of George W. Bush, a political commentator in New York City says.
“Colin Powell now is standing on the side of people who say that the Iran [nuclear] deal with the P5+1 has very strong and more than sufficient verification procedures and that’s exactly the point that he has no credibility on,” said Don DeBar, an anti-war activist and radio show host.
“Powell is a man who spoke of hallucinatory weapons of mass destruction [in Iraq] 13 years ago, [he] now speaks about the adequacy of the protections against another hallucinatory nuclear weapons program,” DeBar told Press TV on Monday.
Powell, who is also a retired four-star general, has repeatedly emphasized his continued support for US involvement in the Iraq war since his departure from the State Department.
On Sunday, Powell expressed support for the nuclear accord with Iran and dismissed critics’ concerns over its implementation.
“It’s a pretty good deal,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “I think a very vigorous verification regime has been put into place.”
On his Twitter account, US President Barack Obama thanked Powell on Sunday for his support.
“It’s bewildering to me to figure out exactly how to comment on this because there’s so many nested contradictions on almost every aspect of it,” DeBar said.
Iran and the P5+1 group of countries – the US, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany – announced the conclusion of nuclear negotiations in the Austrian capital, Vienna, on July 14.
George W. Bush’s CIA briefer admits Iraq WMD “intelligence” was a lie
A flurry of politicians quickly declaring their candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination has meant that the Bush administration’s Iraq War is back in the national conversation. Jeb Bush has been forced to answer for his brother’s mistakes, while others like Marco Rubio have toed the party line — knowing the information that the administration knew at the time, they too would have invaded Iraq.
The thing is, the Iraq War was not the result of an intelligence goof — rather, the country’s top office systematically misled the public about Iraq’s nonexistent WMD program, as well as Saddam Hussein’s link to Al Qaeda.
On Tuesday night, former CIA Deputy Director and Bush’s intelligence briefer Michael Morell appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” where he, under an amount of good cable news duress, admitted that the administration intentionally misrepresented intelligence.
The show played a clip of Cheney saying, “We know [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”
“Was that true or not,” host Chris Matthews asked.
“We were saying–”
“Can you answer that question? Was that true?”
President Bush speaks at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on Monday, July 12, 2004. Bush defended his decision to invade Iraq even as he conceded that investigators had not found the weapons of mass destruction that he had warned the country possessed. “Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq,” Bush said after inspecting a display of nuclear weapons parts and equipment from Libya, which were sent to Oak Ridge as part of an agreement with Moammar Gadhafi to end his country’s nuclear weapons program. Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP
RABAT, Malta — The weapons of mass destruction (WMD) premise has proven useful throughout the United States’ continued imperialist infiltration of the Middle East. Indeed, former President George W. Bush’s address to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001 can be read as a prelude to more recent intervention galvanized under the banner of democracy.
In his address, Bush remarked: “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars – but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil … Americans have known surprise attacks – but never before on thousands of civilians.”
He blamed al-Qaida for 9/11, and as his speech continued, he invoked the NATO Charter, Article 5 of which states, “The parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.” Armed with this justification, Bush declared the “war on terror.”
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” Bush said. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
But it didn’t stop there. The process that facilitated imperialist violence in Iraq was repeated, albeit under different circumstances, during the Arab Spring — especially in Libya. Apart from the U.S., active participants include NATO and the United Nations, whose input ensured the destruction of countries and, consequently, their subjugation.
A 2007 interview with U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark offers insight into the events unfolding around the Arab Spring. Clark said that a U.S. general, whose name is not disclosed, had told him, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”
A history of subjugation and pretexts for war
The Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 represents the first step taken by the British and the French toward limiting Arab independence as they carved out new states from the Ottoman Empire. It established the strategy of dividing the Middle East along ethnic, sectarian and tribal lines.
In 1917, British imperialism set the foundations for a stronger, hostile presence in the Middle East with the Balfour Declaration, which approved a national home for Jews in Palestine. The inception of Israel in 1948 provided a solid settler-colonial presence in the Middle East — a presence hostile to Arabs and one which serves as a stronghold for the U.S.
Then, in 1945, the U.N. Charter established a hegemonic interpretation of intervention and domination. Chapter VII of the Charter legitimizes foreign intervention in the case of “threats to peace, breaches of the peace and acts of aggression.” U.S. aggression in Iraq is an example of violence being sanctioned under the auspices of the U.N. Charter. In this case, an ambiguous WMD premise was leveraged by the U.S. to facilitate regime change, install a U.S.-aligned government, and provide the foundations for mutating violence – the most recent such mutation to emerge has been the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
On Nov. 8, 2002, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1441, which was meant to serve as a warning that would compel Saddam Hussein to comply with previous resolutions. It specifically asserted that Iraq constituted a threat to the international community due to its “non-compliance with Council resolutions and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles.”
Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, declared Resolution 1441 to be a mere pretext for the intended war in Iraq: “No government that talked to President Bush or his advisers since Resolution 1441 was passed in November 2002 could have any doubt that within a few months the Americans would announce a breach of this resolution as well as retaliatory measures.”
Meanwhile, from August 2002 to March 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Bush publicly reiterated the chemical weapons propaganda to the U.S. public as a pretext for the invasion.
The U.S. also set out to dismantle resistant nations’ means of maintaining their economic independence, thus allowing the U.S. to control oil wealth — a strategy that requires constant turmoil in the region. Bush signed Executive Order 13303 in 2003, giving immunity to oil companies controlling Iraq’s vast oil reserves. Purportedly enacted to protect the Development Fund for Iraq — a project affiliated with the World Bank, it exempts U.S. companies from being investigated for a wide range of violations, including those pertaining to human rights.
Recent reports in U.S. media indicate that troops in Iraq — both American troops and American-trained Iraqi troops — encountered chemical weapons from 2004 to 2011, including remnants of nerve and mustard gases. These weapons had mostly been left behind by Saddam’s regime, and were built with heavy cooperation with the West. However, this discovery was not made public at the time, as it would have rendered Bush’s WMD premise false and distorted the prevailing narrative.
U.N. weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD manufacturing or possession of banned weapons throughout their investigation in Iraq. Given that the invasion and subsequent military occupation of Iraq was based on allegations that Saddam constituted a major threat through an alleged WMD program, a declaration on behalf of the U.S. government regarding the discovery of old, abandoned weapons would have been in glaring contrast to the propaganda disseminated by the Bush administration.
The truth was kept secret and manipulated to such an extent that affected troops were prevented from receiving medical care. Thus, holding onto that false premise was prioritized over dealing with the reality — troops injured by decades-old weapons.
A New York Times report in October states that the bulk of the material “could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin.” Manufactured between 1979 and 1981 in an attempt to counter the Iranian Revolution under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s rule, Germany and the U.S. are two countries mentioned as responsible for aiding Iraq’s production of chemical weapons during that period.
Yet the U.S. forces’ use of white phosphorus in Fallujah in 2004 – a toxic and incendiary weapon which is restricted under the 1980 Protocol on Incendiary Weapons and prohibited under the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention — was manipulated to fall beyond the parameters of WMD and accountability. The U.S. State Department attempted to counter reports on the use of chemical weapons during the war in Fallujah by stating that white phosphorus was used “to illuminate enemy positions at night.” However, graphic images are testimony to the fact that white phosphorus was used during the attack in a manner that constituted a massacre.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization remains reluctant to link the high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq to the depleted uranium used by the U.S. In the FAQ section pertaining to the congenital birth defect study that started in Iraq in 2012, the WHO explicitly states that the study, carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Iraq, will not delve into the link between birth defects and use of depleted uranium.
Either way, destruction and death
In 2011, prior to NATO’s invasion of Libya under the pretense of aiding the Arab Spring, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Galil claimed that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was in possession of biological and chemical weapons.
“At the end, when he’s really pressured, he can do anything,” Galil told Al-Jazeera. “I think Gaddafi would burn everything left behind him.”
The destruction which leaders like Saddam and Gaddafi were expected to bring upon their countries was averted, of course. Yet toppling these leaders required a cycle of bombings, massacres and mass graves — all in the name of democracy.
Other than sensationalism to further instability in the Middle East and thus cement imperialist domination, the pretext of WMDs has proven irrelevant as a reason for foreign intervention. While no longer needed as justification for pre-emptive war, imperialist forces are still utilizing a variation of the narrative to divert attention away from the violence wrought by U.S. and NATO bombings. This, in turn, renders “liberated” countries subservient to contemporary forms of colonization.
No, this isn’t a blog about the NRA! It’s a wake-up call on the proliferation of blowback weapon systems, tools of war seized by jihadists determined to create a Sunni Islamist state dedicated to opposing (destroying?) Shiites, Israel and, of course, The Great Satan itself, the United States and its Western cronies. As ISIS attacks, as Gaza Hamas militants and Israel exchange artillery and missile strikes, as death and destruction mount and further escalations accelerate – perhaps even a ground invasion of Gaza moves closer to reality – and as Taliban warriors dig in against Pakistani forces finally determined to strike back… it’s time to realize how well-armed these crazies really are!
We’ve seen how even our purported ally – Pakistan – fostered high level nuclear weapons development in North Korea and Iran, a motivation for other regional powers to find their own nuclear path. The movement of dangerous technology and hard weapons is just too big to be ignored. As we watch ISIS moving across Syria and Iraq, we need to be aware of their new inventory of recently-acquired military hardware. The fall of Mosul was a windfall for ISIS.
While most of the weapons seized were small arms, some artillery (e.g., Howitzers), trucks and a pile of Humvees, there were some older Russian T-55 tanks in the mix. Rumors abound that a few helicopters may have been part of the booty, not major attack helicopters but rotary-winged aircraft that can be outfitted with enough weapons to make them lethal. Oh, and there was the seizure of $425 million in currency from Mosul’s biggest bank that now makes ISIS one of the richest terrorist groups on earth! But then there are a few additional “weapon systems” (including dangerous material that can be used as a weapon) that appear to me to be even more frightening.
For example, taken from the Iraqi town of Muthanna: “The Islamic State extremist group (Isis) has taken control of a vast former chemical weapons facility north-west of Baghdad, where 2,500 degraded chemical rockets filled decades ago with deadly nerve agent sarin or their remnants were stored along with other chemical warfare agents, Iraq has said in a letter circulated at the United Nations… The US played down the threat from the takeover, saying there were no intact chemical weapons and it would be very difficult to use the material for military purposes.” TheGuardian.com, July 9th. The disclaimer aside, this doesn’t make me feel any more comfortable about the situation, but if that is bad news, what ISIS also seized from Mosul is even more troubling.
According to Reuters (July 9th): “Insurgents in Iraq have seized nuclear materials used for scientific research at a university in the country’s north, Iraq told the United Nations in a letter appealing for help to ‘stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad.’… Nearly 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of uranium compounds were kept at Mosul University, Iraq’s U.N. Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the July 8 letter obtained by Reuters on [July 9th].
“‘Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state,’ Alhakim wrote, adding that such materials ‘can be used in manufacturing weapons of mass destruction… These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separate or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts.”… He warned that they could also be smuggled out of Iraq.
“A U.S. government source familiar with the matter said the materials were not believed to be enriched uranium and therefore would be difficult to use to manufacture into a weapon. Another U.S. official familiar with security matters said he was unaware of this development raising any alarm among U.S. authorities.” The United Nations also responded that the nuclear materials taken were “low grade” and cannot be used to make a fissionable warhead or bomb. True, perhaps, but a dirty bomb, one that uses an explosion to spread nuclear waste that can contaminate one or more critical sites, possibly for a very long time.
So what are the real risks of dirty bombs? “A dirty bomb is a type of radiological dispersal device (RDD), and RDDs are, as the name implies, devices that disperse a radiological isotope. Depending on the motives of those planning the attack, an RDD could be a low-key weapon that surreptitiously releases aerosolized radioactive material, dumps out a finely powdered radioactive material or dissolves a radioactive material in water. Such surreptitious dispersal methods would be intended to slowly expose as many people as possible to the radiation and to prolong their exposure…
“[Or the more anticipated use, an explosive device] A dirty bomb is quite simply an RDD that uses explosives as the means to disperse a radioactive isotope, and the only blast effect will be from the explosives used to disperse the radioisotope. In a dirty bomb attack, radioactive material not only is dispersed, but the dispersal is accomplished in an obvious manner, and the explosion immediately alerts the victims and authorities that an attack has taken place. The attackers hope that notice of their attack will cause mass panic — in other words, the RDD is a weapon of fear and terror…
“Significantly, while the radiological effects of a dirty bomb may not be instantly lethal, the radiological impact of an RDD will in all likelihood affect an area larger than the killing radius of the IED itself, and will persist for far longer. The explosion from a conventional IED is over in an instant, but radiation released by a RDD can persist for decades unless the area is decontaminated. While the radiation level may not be strong enough to affect people exposed briefly in the initial explosion, the radiation will persist in the contaminated area, and the cumulative effects of such radiation could prove very hazardous. (Here again, the area contaminated and the ease of decontamination will depend on the type and quantity of the radioactive material used. Materials in a fine powdered form are easier to disperse and harder to clean up than solid blocks of material.) In either case, it will be necessary to evacuate people from the contaminated area, and people will need to stay out of the area until it can be decontaminated, a process that could prove lengthy and expensive.” Stratfor Global Intelligence, April 22, 2010.
In the end, we need to realize that when we leave masses of weapons behind in unstable regional conflicts, we can pretty much expect that such killing instruments could easily be turned against us someday. We basically gave Iran its air force when the Shah was deposed in 1979, armed the Taliban and similar jihadists as Mujahedeen pushed the Soviets out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and clearly have provided ISIS with some juicy weapons. We are creating recruitment posters for more terrorists, our weapons and know-how are falling into their hands, and these realities have been with us for long enough so that we should finally know better.
I’m Peter Dekom, and we should all be concerned as to how much American technology, how many US-supplied weapons and how many American-inspired terrorists are now squarely deployed against us.