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Another update from ZNet. This time two replies from ZNet commentators to Powell's 
Presentation. There are more on ZNet... www.zmag.org/weluser.htm -- and other new 
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Powell's Presentation
It was like something out of Beckett
By Robert Fisk

Sources, foreign intelligence sources, "our sources," defectors, sources, sources, 
sources. Colin Powell's terror talk to the United Nations Security Council yesterday 
sounded like one of those government-inspired reports on the front page of The New 
York Times - where it will most certainly be treated with due reverence in this 
morning's edition. It was a bit like heating up old soup. Haven't we heard most of 
this stuff before? Should one trust the man? General Powell, I mean, not Saddam.

Certainly we don't trust Saddam but Secretary of State Powell's presentation was a 
mixture of awesomely funny recordings of Iraqi Republican Guard telephone intercepts  
la Samuel Beckett that just might have been some terrifying little proof that Saddam 
really is conning the UN inspectors again, and some ancient material on the Monster of 
Baghdad's all too well known record of beastliness. I am still waiting to hear the 
Arabic for the State Department's translation of "Okay Buddy" - "Consider it done, 
Sir" - this from the Republican Guard's "Captain Ibrahim", for heaven's sake - and 
some dinky illustrations of mobile bio-labs whose lorries and railway trucks were in 
such perfect condition that they suggested the Pentagon didn't have much idea of the 
dilapidated state of Saddam's army.

It was when we went back to Halabja and human rights abuses and all Saddam's old sins, 
as recorded by the discredited Unscom team, that we started eating the old soup again. 
Jack Straw may have thought all this "the most powerful and authoritative case" but 
when we were forced to listen to Iraq's officer corps communicating by phone - "yeah", 
"yeah", "yeah?", "yeah..." - it was impossible not to ask oneself if Colin Powell had 
really considered the effect this would have on the outside world.

>From time to time, the words "Iraq: Failing To Disarm - Denial and Deception" 
>appeared on the giant video screen behind General Powell. Was this a CNN logo, some 
>of us wondered? But no, it was CNN's sister channel, the US Department of State.

Because Colin Powell is supposed to be the good cop to the Bush-Rumsfeld bad cop 
routine, one wanted to believe him. The Iraqi officer's telephoned order to his 
subordinate - "remove 'nerve agents' whenever it comes up in the wireless 
instructions" - looked as if the Americans had indeed spotted a nasty new little line 
in Iraqi deception. But a dramatic picture of a pilotless Iraqi aircraft capable of 
spraying poison chemicals turned out to be the imaginative work of a Pentagon artist.

And when General Powell started blathering on about "decades'' of contact between 
Saddam and al-Qa'ida, things went wrong for the Secretary of State. Al-Qa'ida only 
came into existence five years ago, since Bin Laden - "decades" ago - was working 
against the Russians for the CIA, whose present day director was sitting grave-faced 
behind General Powell. And Colin Powell's new version of his President's State of the 
Union lie - that the "scientists" interviewed by UN inspectors had been Iraqi 
intelligence agents in disguise - was singularly unimpressive. The UN talked to 
scientists, the new version went, but they were posing for the real nuclear and bio 
boys whom the UN wanted to talk to. General Powell said America was sharing its 
information with the UN inspectors but it was clear yesterday that much of what he had 
to say about alleged new weapons development - the decontamination truck at the Taji 
chemical munitions factory, for example, the "cleaning" of the Ibn al-Haythem 
ballistic missile factory on 25 November - had not been given to the UN at the time. 
Why wasn't this intelligence information given to the inspectors months ago? Didn't 
General Powell's beloved UN resolution 1441 demand that all such intelligence 
information should be given to Hans Blix and his lads immediately? Were the Americans, 
perhaps, not being "pro-active" enough?

The worst moment came when General Powell started talking about anthrax and the 2001 
anthrax attacks in Washington and New York, pathetically holding up a teaspoon of the 
imaginary spores and - while not precisely saying so - fraudulently suggesting a 
connection between Saddam Hussein and the 2001 anthrax scare.

When the Secretary of State held up Iraq's support for the Palestinian Hamas 
organisation, which has an office in Baghdad, as proof of Saddam's support for 
"terror'' - there was, of course, no mention of America's support for Israel and its 
occupation of Palestinian land - the whole theatre began to collapse. There are Hamas 
offices in Beirut, Damascus and Iran. Is the 82nd Airborne supposed to grind on to 
Lebanon, Syria and Iran?

There was an almost macabre opening to the play when General Powell arrived at the 
Security Council, cheek-kissing the delegates and winding his great arms around them. 
Jack Straw fairly bounded up for his big American hug.

Indeed, there were moments when you might have thought that the whole chamber, with 
its toothy smiles and constant handshakes, contained a room full of men celebrating 
peace rather than war. Alas, not so. These elegantly dressed statesmen were 
constructing the framework that would allow them to kill quite a lot of people, the 
monstrous Saddam perhaps, with his cronies, but a considerable number of innocents as 
well. One recalled, of course, the same room four decades ago when General Powell's 
predecessor Adlai Stevenson showed photos of the ships carrying Soviet missiles to 
Cuba.

Alas, today's pictures carried no such authority. And Colin Powell is no Adlai 
Stevenson. 

World reaction 

Iraq 

A "typical American show complete with stunts and special effects" was Iraq's scathing 
dismissal of General Powell's presentation. Mohammed al-Douri, above, Iraq's UN 
ambassador, accused the US of manufacturing evidence and said the charges were 
"utterly unrelated to the truth. 

"No new information was provided, merely sound recordings that cannot be ascertained 
as genuine," he said. "There are incorrect allegations, unnamed sources, unknown 
sources." 

Lt-Gen Amir al-Saadi, an adviser to Saddam Hussein, said the satellite pictures 
"proved nothing". On the allegation that Iraq had faked the death certificate of a 
scientist to shield them from UN inspectors, he added: "If [General Powell] thinks any 
of those scientists marked as deceased is still in existence, let him come up with 
it." 

Britain 

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, left, praised General Powell for his "powerful and 
authoritative case". He said the presentation "laid bare the deceit practised by the 
regime of Saddam Hussein, and worse, the very great danger it represents. 

"Secretary Powell has set out deeply worrying reports about the presence in Iraq of 
one of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants, al-Zarqawi, and other members of al-Qaida, and 
their efforts to develop poisons. 

"The recent discovery of the poison ricin in London has underlined again that this is 
a threat which all of us face. 

"Saddam is defying every one of us ... He questions our resolve and is gambling that 
we will lose our nerve rather than enforce our will." 

France 

France called for the number of inspectors to be tripled and the process beefed up. 
Dominique de Villepin, the Foreign Minister, above, said inspections should continue 
but under "an enhanced regime of inspections monitoring". Iraq must also do more to 
co-operate  including allowing flights from U-2 spy planes. "The use of force can 
only be a final recourse," he said. 

China 

China said the work of the inspectors should continue. Tang Jiaxuan, the Foreign 
Minister, said immediately after General Powell's presentation: "As long as there is 
still the slightest hope for political settlement, we should exert our utmost effort 
to achieve that." 

Russia 

Inspections should continue, Igor Ivanov, the Foreign Minister, above, said. More 
study was needed of the evidence presented by General Powell, he added. Meanwhile, 
inspections "must be continued". 

Germany 

The Powell presentation and the findings of the weapons inspectors "have to be 
examined carefully", said Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister. "We must continue to 
seek a peaceful solution." 

Israel 

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Foreign Minister, left, said: "We've known this a long time. 
We've shared intelligence with the US, and I think the US has shared some of that 
today." General Powell "laid bare the true nature of Saddam Hussein's regime, and I 
think he also exposed the great dangers ... to the region and the world". 


Powell's Case
By Phylliss Bennis

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN Security Council on 
February 5 wasn't likely to win over anyone not already on his side. He ignored the 
crucial fact that in the past several days (in Sunday's New York Times and in his 
February 4th briefing of UN journalists) Hans Blix denied key components of Powell's 
claims.

Blix, who directs the UN inspection team in Iraq, said the UNMOVIC inspectors have 
seen "no evidence" of mobile biological weapons labs, has "no persuasive indications" 
of Iraq-al Qaeda links, and no evidence of Iraq hiding and moving material used for 
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) either outside or inside Iraq. Dr. Blix also said 
there was no evidence of Iraq sending scientists out of the country, of Iraqi 
intelligence agents posing as scientists, of UNMOVIC conversations being monitored, or 
of UNMOVIC being penetrated.

Further, CIA and FBI officials still believe the Bush administration is "exaggerating" 
information to make their political case for war. Regarding the alleged Iraqi link 
with al Qaeda, U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times, "we just don't 
think it's there."

The most compelling part of Powell's presentation was his brief ending section on the 
purported al Qaeda link with Iraq and on the dangers posed by the al Zarqawi network. 
However, he segued disingenuously from the accurate and frightening information about 
what the al Zarqawi network could actually do with biochemical materials to the 
not-so-accurate claim about its link with Iraq--which is tenuous and unproven at best.

A key component of the alleged Iraq-al Qaeda link is based on what Powell said 
"detainees tell us...". That claim must be rejected. On December 27 the Washington 
Post reported that U.S. officials had acknowledged detainees being beaten, roughed up, 
threatened with torture by being turned over to officials of countries known to 
practice even more severe torture. In such circumstances, nothing "a detainee" says 
can be taken as evidence of truth given that people being beaten or tortured will say 
anything to stop the pain. Similarly, the stories of defectors cannot be relied on 
alone, as they have a self-interest in exaggerating their stories and their own 
involvement to guarantee access to protection and asylum.

In his conclusion, Powell said, "We wrote 1441 not in order to go to war, we wrote 
1441 to try to preserve the peace." It is certainly at least partially true that the 
UN resolution was an effort to "preserve the peace," although it is certainly not true 
that the U.S. wrote 1441 to preempt war. Rather, the Bush administration intended that 
the resolution would serve as a first step toward war.

Finally, the "even if" rule applies. "Even if" everything Powell said was true, there 
is simply not enough evidence for war. There is no evidence of Iraq posing an imminent 
threat, no evidence of containment not working. Powell is asking us to go to 
war--risking the lives of 100,000 Iraqis in the first weeks, hundreds or thousands of 
U.S. and other troops, and political and economic chaos--because he thinks MAYBE in 
the future Iraq might rebuild its weapons systems and MIGHT decide to deploy weapons 
or MIGHT give those weapons to someone else who MIGHT use them against someone we like 
or give them to someone else who we don't like, and other such speculation. Nothing 
that Powell said should alter the position that we should reject a war on spec.

 

(Phyllis Bennis <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> is a Middle East analyst for Foreign Policy 
In Focus (online at www.fpif.org) and a senior analyst at the Institute for Policy 
Studies.)



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