Source: Middle East Online
By Stuart Littlewood
Last week there was a debate on Gaza in the UK Parliament. Very few people turned up.
MP Jeremy Corbyn reminded everyone that 36 of the 39 Hamas Palestinian Legislative Council members the Israelis abducted in 2006 were still detained and some hadn't even been charged.
“We cannot stand by and allow elected members of a fellow parliament to be arrested and held without charge or trial in Israeli prisons… More Palestinian legislators are in prison than legislators from all the other parliaments in the rest of the
He also raised questions on settlements, the blockade of Gaza and the West's refusal to talk to Hamas. The minister with responsibility for the Middle East, Dr Kim Howells (a former chairman of Labour Friends of Israel), replied: "The government recognizes the impact and scale of the problems and the need to address all of them." He then dismissed Hamas as "a rejectionist Palestinian group" and tried to equate Gaza's home-made rocket launchings with Israel's crippling siege and high-tech military onslaughts that have killed 169 (at the time of writing) people and maimed hundreds more since the Annapolis “peace” meeting.
"The United Kingdom urges restraint on all parties," was as firm as the minister got.
As for Hamas, a political dialogue was impossible as long as one party was dedicated to violence and the destruction of the other. "The bedrock of our approach is to give every support to those who are committed to peaceful progress."
What of the 90 chronically sick hospital patients who have died in agony for lack of drugs, equipment spares and proper nutrition, and over 300 more who face a similar fate unless the blockade is lifted? Well, desperate Gazans will be relieved to know that, according to Howells, "the United Kingdom remains committed to supporting Palestinians in Gaza".
Douglas Alexander, Secretary of state for International Development, also fielded questions. Asked what assistance his department was providing to the people of Gaza, he said: "I and the foreign secretary have made repeated pleas to the Israeli government to recognize their obligations and ensure that the crossings are open for humanitarian supplies."
Sir Gerald Kaufman asked:
“Is it not a fact that only international action can bring to an end the humanitarian disaster caused by collective punishment imposed by the gang of amoral thugs who comprise the Israeli government and violate not only international law but the historic Jewish conscience?”
Sir Gerald is one of many well-regarded Jews who are dismayed and disgusted with the Israeli government.
"The British Government have been unequivocal in stating that Israel should abide by its commitment under the Fourth Geneva Convention," came the reply.
Another MP, Michael Moore, said:
“We are appalled by the scale of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, but does the secretary of state agree that we have reached an extraordinary state of affairs when a UN representative can say: “Gaza is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be intentionally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the acquiescence of the international community? Does the secretary of state think that the scale of the Israeli response is disproportionate?”
Alexander twittered about "active diplomatic efforts". In December he had discussed the Israeli government's "defence posture and humanitarian obligations" with Ehud Barak. Foreign Secretary David Miliband had raised those matters directly with minister Livni.
Then David Winnick asked:
“Cannot the Western powers certainly this country, and I would hope the U.S. be much firmer with Israel and say that its actions cause dismay throughout the civilized world? How would Israeli citizens like to be subject to what the citizens of Gaza are subjected to by Israeli occupation?”
This had Alexander ducking and weaving. It was time to play the Israel lobby's trump card Qassams! "Ultimately, both the Palestinians and the people of Israel have legitimate security concerns, but that is no reason why humanitarian supplies should not reach Gaza, nor why rockets should be fired on the Israeli population," he said. "It is imperative that all sides recognize their responsibilities."
Miliband and Alexander later made a joint statement:
“We continue to be deeply concerned by the growing humanitarian impact of restrictions by the government of Israel on industrial diesel supplies to Gaza. We welcome Israel's recent decision to increase the supply of industrial diesel and continue to urge them to lift all restrictions on fuel with immediate effect.
“We utterly condemn the rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. We support all efforts to stop these attacks consistent with obligations under international law.”
Commitments to Geneva Conventions, obligations under international law none of them amount to a row of beans. It's time the grey suits in London and the rest of the west understood that, if they want the law to mean anything, they must enforce it.
Righteous condemnation of the rockets is “de rigueur” of course, though only a smokescreen. Many in the occupied territories see that Annapolis was nothing more than an international fascade behind which a new phase of fiercer U.S.-backed Israeli aggression could be ushered in. Gaza's Qassams are a wonderful excuse for stepping up military action in pursuit of Israel's unlawful ambitions. In addition to the mounting atrocities in Gaza, Israel has been conducting 20-30 incursions a week into the West Bank, rounding up and killing members of assorted Palestinians groups with impunity. It might spoil the Israeli occupation forces’ fun if the home-made rockets were to stop. They'd have to invent another excuse for their depravity.
Sir Gerald's "gang of amoral thugs" are not the only villains. Israel's Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger advocates ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and says Muslims should recognize that "our land is the Holy Land and Jerusalem belongs to us". Metzger, reports Haaretz, wants Britain, the European Union and the United States to help construct a Palestinian state in Egypt's Sinai Desert. "They will have a nice country, and we, the Jews, shall have our country and we shall live in peace."
However, Neturei Karta, an international group of non-Zionist Orthodox Jews, have issued a strongly worded press release that brands Metzger a Zionist stooge. "Any moral person would much prefer to see the Zionist warmongers, including Metzger, removed from the Holy Land."
Neturei Karta argues that the state of “Israel” is illegitimate according to Torah teachings, and the establishment of a Jewish state is forbidden until Jews are released from exile by God Himself, without any human intervention, at which time all nations of the world will live together in peace. "Therefore, to oppress the Palestinian people, harm them, steal their land, expel them, etc. is totally forbidden according to our Holy Torah."
It is a mistake, they say, to believe that you have to support Zionism in order to show friendship to the Jewish people. "True friendship can be demonstrated by saving all the peoples of the Middle East, including Jews, from the bloodthirsty machinations of the dangerous state of “Israel” and by dismantling the Zionist regime entirely."
When Torah experts say the regime's conduct is incompatible with the moral teachings and ideals of Judaism, I'm not surprised. It doesn't sit well with Christianity either.
How can pro-Israel MPs and ministers possibly ignore the fact that the Israeli government is waging war against the Holy Land's Christian communities, whom it terrorizes along with their Muslim neighbours, and is using pernicious administrative controls to disrupt the life and work of the church? Many Christians here are deeply angered by such criminality, and it's very odd that our elected representatives, who are mostly Christian themselves, don't feel similarly outraged on behalf of members of the church family who are so cruelly abused under Israeli occupation.
Why there should be any support at all for Israel at the heart of British government is one of the greatest political mysteries of our time. We share no beliefs or values and we shouldn't even think about sharing foreign policy. Can it be that supposedly bright people with vast sources of information at their fingertips are still ignorant of Israel's apartheid practices, its wholesale land thefts, its careless slaughter of children and the slow genocide it inflicts on defenceless civilians, the break-your-door-down-in-the-middle-of-the-night snatch squads, the house demolitions, the torture and assassinations? Were those same bright people also unaware of the lies that persuaded them to commit our country to fight Israel's war with Iraq?
I don't think so, which leaves only one other explanation.
Of course, it's not just a Western weakness. Arab governments have “taken the dollar”. It's a cosy money-go-round that oils the wheels of the self-serving political élite and their puppet-masters as they trample the millions they have condemned to a life of misery.
-- Stuart Littlewood is a businessman-turned-writer from Norfolk, England. He recently published a book entitled Radio Free Palestine about the plight of the Palestinians under occupation (see details on RadioFreePalestine.co.uk). This article appeared in Redress Information & Analysis.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Mon, 11 Feb 2008 20:42:31
The following is the full text of Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei's speech at the 44th Munich Conference on Security Policy:
I usually look at security from a wide angle zoom. You look here from a European transatlantic zoom; I look at it not from a European zoom but from the Indian perspective, the Chinese, the Burkina Faso, and South African. I would like to spend a few minutes on this.
I saw it on the wall that the question is "Is the world in disarray?" and unfortunately my answer is "yes".
The world is in disarray. The world is going through a period of insecurity both at the individual level and at the state level. I think we all agree on that. You just look at the security we have to go at the airport. It's an awful kind of life we have to go through.
I look at insecurity from the very beginning, from poverty and I'll tell you how it ends up with weapons of mass destruction. I look also how weapons of mass destruction in fact exacerbate our insecurity. It doesn't solve any of our problems.
I'll just give you a few figures. We still live in a world where we have two billion people who live under $2 a day; one third of our fellow human beings. We have 850 million people who go to bed hungry every day.
James Morris used to run the World Food Program, told me that if he would get one percent on what we spent on our armaments a years nobody would go to bed hungry.
We have 20 thousand people who die every day because they are too poor to live. Sanctity of human life; are we serious about the sanctity of human life?
What did we do in 1994 when we lost 6 hundred thousand people, Tutsis in Rwanda? Are many of you aware that 3.8 million people died through the so-called second Congo War? Most of you don't even know that there was a so called second Congo War.
What are we doing right now in Darfur other than bringing our hand? I heard a lot of talk today about Afghanistan and your contribution. Right now we have 2 hundred thousand people who have lost their life in Darfur, over 2 million people who have been displaced.
I was told today that the UN could no even get 24 helicopters. The Secretary General also made a commitment for four from Ethiopia and Bangladesh. That is the offer he got.
You talk and we talk. We have chronic conflicts that have been going on for decades. Whether you are right or wrong the Palestinian issue has been there for 40 years. People have been under occupation for 40 years. Kashmir has been there for 50 years. The Korean issue has been there for 50 years.
These are conflicts that, no we cannot resolve, but we have no really invested in resolving.
We have the energy problem. We have the drug problem, organized crime and then extremism. We all talk about "the war on terror".
But we have to see where that is coming from. These are people who have lost hope, who are humiliated, who are repressed by their own governments; feel badly treated by the outside world. I always say that people are not born Mother Teresa or suicide bombers. It's the environment within which they grow up. And unless we change that environment, we will continue to see more extremism.
I come originally from this region (I've just been back) and I see the sense of anger, emotion, and humiliation that are there.
None of that stuff is going to be solved by hard power. I am always frankly stunned by that we are going to pour another 15 billion dollars into the Middle East. At the time the Middle East need the most education, governance, civil society. That's if you really want o reach out. It is not the hardware. It's a soft power.
I come to my area which is arms control. What is the environment? The environment that we still have 37 years after the NPT has been concluded. After a commitment by the weapon states to move towards a nuclear disarmament, we still have 27 thousand warheads. 27 thousand warheads in existence.
We still have weapons deployed at the so-called Cold War status alert. Sam Nunn will tell you who is the expert on that it is insane. That we need to redeploy so at least establish a physical barrier between the warhead and the delivery system. So at least move from half an hour when the president needs to order a retaliatory attack to a week. Why do we still maintain a Cold War status alert?
The nuclear technology is out of the tube. Completely out of the tube. We have seen that any country with an average infrastructure can develop the know-how to develop a nuclear warhead. And we have seen as witnessed by Iran a new phenomenon in addition to the nine weapon states you can be a nuclear weapon capable, while continue to be kosher within the NPT treaty. That is a new phenomenon, which you really have to address.
A lot of people including Iran, which I will come to, are really moving into that direction. You don't really need to have a nuclear weapon. It's enough to buy yourself an insurance policy, as I call it, by developing the capability and sit on it. You can come with an economic justification for it. But let us no kid ourselves, 90 percent of it is insurance. Is a deterrence? why do I have a deterrence? Because the big boys continue to rely on nuclear weapons.
The big boys continue to say we need nuclear weapons, we need to develop more modern nuclear weapons, we need mini-nukes, we need bunker busters, but it is bad for you to have nuclear weapons.
Simply if you go anywhere people will tell you this is called double standard. It is not sustainable. And I try as much obviously in my job to make sure that we do as much to avoid proliferation but we are working against the tide. Unless as Frank Walter mentioned weapon states have to lead an example. They have to show the way that we are making our way to move towards nuclear disarmament.
That is no now a fantasy. When I see people like George Schultz or Henry Kissinger or Sam Nunn talking about abolition, these are not people who are naive or no aware of security deterrents. These are people who through their maturity have come to the conclusion that nuclear weapons as they call it is increasingly hazardous, decreasingly effective and if you really want to protect ourselves, you need to move towards nuclear abolition.
The one issue which is also the most threatening to me is illicit trafficking: the possibility that extremist groups will get their hands on nuclear weapons or nuclear material. To me this is the biggest danger we are facing today.
Because any country-- even if they have nuclear weapons-- will continue to have a rational approach where the nuclear deterrents will apply. They knew if they use nuclear weapons they will be pulverized.
For an extremist group the concept of deterrents is irrelevant. If they have it they will use it.
We still have around 150 cases per year of illicit trafficking of nuclear material. That is a scary number. Thank God it is not the number that they can use to build a weapon but there is quite an obvious interest in that. The difficulty is that a lot of material stolen has never been recovered and a lot of the material recovered has never been reported stolen. The physical protection of this system needs a lot to be desired.
Whether these are individuals, whether there is organized crime behind them, whether worse here are terrorists, this is still a question mark. We need to know this is the number one security threat we are facing.
What should we do? We need to slash the number of nuclear weapons; we need to change the deployment status. We need to develop what I call a multinational approach to the fuel cycle. No country alone should have the capability to enrich or process. Germany is taking the lead in proposing a multinational enrichment facility.
In my view at the end of the day, every country should not have an enrichment facility or a reprocessing facility. We need to move on the multilateral disarmament, CTBT was considered the jewel in the crown of the Non-proliferation Treaty. It is lying somewhere I think in the cellar in the US. The treaty banning production of nuclear material for weapon purposes has been stalled for ten years.
So these are all doable things, which can send a very powerful message that the world is no moving towards more reliance on nuclear weapons but is moving towards abolition of nuclear weapons. In that environment you will have a much stronger moral authority to go after any new proliferate and as Kissinger has said we obviously need a system to deter and respond to possible cheaters.
I mean we are not just going to abolish, we need a system to do that.
Finally I think what we really need to do is we need to have a new global security structure that does not depend on nuclear weapons. I heard a lot here about transatlantic security and I ask you to also consider the security of others. You are one third of them, this global village that we have.
You need to consider the question, shield versus abolition. That is the question you should legitimately ask. You should ask yourself is it hardware versus software. Is it hardware that is going to protect us or the software, or the soft power if you like.
You need a global institution. We all talk about NATO but we haven't really talked about the UN. You need the UN. This is the global institution; you need to empower the Security Council. You need to empower the UN to be able. NATO could be the military arm authorized by the UN, as it has been done in Afghanistan.
Not in Kosovo. Kosovo was legitimate but not legal in my view. However I was needed. But you need to get the authorization by the Security Council and by the UN. Because that is the global system you need to have.
Finally on the elephant in the room which is Iran. Here is a lot I can say but I can basically say a few words.
There is three phases of Iran. There is the past, the present and the future.
The past as mentioned they have not been very transparent in telling us what they have being doing in term of experiments I should say. We have in terms of experiments in terms of procurement. Their argument that they were not able to get anything is also true. They could not get a nuclear power reactor; they had to go underground.
However, it created a confidence deficit, because they did not report to us. They were in violation of their treaty obligations. We have to reconstruct that past.
We are making good progress and I am going to report at the end of the month. We are making good progress in clarifying the past. The only remaining issue in fact raised in the NIE whether hey had any weaponization activity is the most difficult, is the most tricky.
But we are working on it in fact this week to try to see whether in fact they had a program in the past and if they did, they have to come clean.
On the present, I think although they are not implementing de jure the Additional Protocol, de facto they are allowing us to have a good understanding of what is happening today.
Then we come to the most complex issue which is the future. Basically the suspension is a statement by the Security Council, we do no trust you to have that technology and therefore you should suspend and obviously they have been urging the Iranians to suspend in order to build confidence.
I should make this clear this is an issue which is not verifiable. I cannot verify future intentions; I cannot verify a regime behavior in the future. That is clearly a question of confidence building.
Confidence could only be built through direct negotiations, you can have sanctions, you can have pressure, but at the end of the day it's a question of we don't trust this regime because of its behavior we don' trust this regime because it has certain ideology.
Or the regime will tell you, as they will tell you, they also have their own insecurities, whether you agree with them or not.
That's why I keep always saying that you need to get in direct negotiations. The earlier we get into direct negotiations which would clearly cover the regional security, because the Iranian issue is the tip of the iceberg of regional security in the Middle East.
The earlier we can do that I think the better secure all of us will be.
You can listen to the speech at www.securityconference.de, the official website of the Munich Security Conference.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
The oil giant Exxon Mobil Corporation
ExxonMobil spokeswoman Margaret Ross said the freezing order hampers Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA from disposing of its assets worldwide up to a value of $12 billion while underlining that all court orders are subject to appeal.
Exxon's efforts reduce Venezuela's ability to transfer money through London and New York City, the world's largest financial centers.
The dispute has roots in the past summer when Venezuelan president managed to take control of four major oil projects in the Orinoco Basin. Exxon, which had a significant stake in one of the projects, refused a minority stake and Venezuela seized the heavy-oil production facility.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Fri, 25 Jan 2008 06:03:35
A new study from the Center for Public Integrity has revealed President Bush and top administration officials made a total of 935 false public statements about Iraq's alleged national security threat in the two years following the 9/11 attacks.
President Bush made the most false statements-260. Colin Powell, his then-secretary of state, made 254 false statements. We speak with the founder of the Center for Public Integrity, Charles Lewis.
Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. He created and directed the “Iraq War Card” project. He is the president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism in Washington, a distinguished journalist in residence at American University, and the coauthor of five books.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a new study from the Center for Public Integrity that's revealed President Bush and top administration officials made a total of 935 false statements about Iraq's alleged national security threat in the two years following the 9/11 attacks. President Bush made the most false statements-260. Colin Powell, his then-Secretary of State, made 254 false statements.
The authors of the study conclude, “The cumulative effect of these false statements-amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts-was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war.” On October 7, 2002, for example, Bush repeatedly lied about the threat posed by Iraq in a primetime speech in Cincinnati Ohio.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism and practices terror against its own people. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today-and we do-does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons? We know that Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network share a common enemy: the United States of America. We know that Iraq and al-Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush, speaking October 7, 2002. Well, Charles Lewis joins us now from Washington, founder of the Center for Public Integrity. He created and directed the study called “Iraq: The War Card.” He is the president of the Fund for Independence in Journalism in Washington.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Chuck Lewis.
CHARLES LEWIS: Thanks. Nice to be here.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about these findings.
CHARLES LEWIS: Well, we wanted to just look, now that we know-really since at least 2005, there have been a number of government reports, obviously, that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that were no meaningful links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Now that that's been firmly established, we wanted to see how often this was-this message was put out there and who said it the most and also when was it said and where was it said, how many venues. In other words, how did we get from this not being true to it being a war and what happened there?
So we systematically-and I do mean systematically-we took a two-year period, from September 11th forward, and we tracked eight officials, the folks you mentioned. And altogether, including two White House press secretaries, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and the President and the Vice President and Colin Powell, we looked at all their statements, and we wanted to-we also interlaced various fine and wonderful journalistic accounts, like Bob Drogin's and others. We looked at government reports, Senate Intelligence Committee reports, the Duelfer Report, the-you name it, we have all those reports in there. We have whistleblower accounts, the most credible ones, Richard Clarke, of course, and many others. And we wove that into the chronology, so you know what they're saying at the time, and you know what privately they are actually discussing and hearing and thinking behind the scenes. And it's very useful, because then you get to put it all in context.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain that.
CHARLES LEWIS: This is basically a historic record.
AMY GOODMAN: Chuck, explain that-
CHARLES LEWIS: Well, basically-
AMY GOODMAN: -what they knew behind-the-scenes and what they were saying publicly, because in that case, aren't you talking about lies?
CHARLES LEWIS: I am talking about them choosing certain information over other information. We know that within twenty-four hours of 9/11, of course, from Richard Clarke's account, that the President wanted to go into Iraq. And then, within a few days, the government begins the war-planning process for Iraq, and they also acknowledge they don't have the evidence, and so they decide to focus attention on Afghanistan. I know all this is known to many of your listeners and viewers, but the public has never really seen all this woven together. Most people don't read this. We felt it was useful for the public to know.
What is unclear is the process inside the White House, where this campaign-how this campaign was orchestrated. As you know, millions of emails from the White House may now apparently have been destroyed. And there's not been any hearings so far about the process in the White House, about what they knew and when they knew it and what they thought and what they were saying. I mean, this is not-this is a beginning step, in my view at least, to creating a historic record for posterity that will be a working document, and every new thing that comes out like, Scott McClellan's book in a couple months, where he apparently says he was lied to by the President and the Vice President on the Valerie Plame matter, as these things start to tumble out, we're going to start to understand better what occurred in the White House. Maybe the Senate Intelligence Committee can shed light on that in a few months, when they have hearings about their long-awaited report.
But, you know, we just laid out what we called false information. It was simply not-there was no basis in fact; it was erroneous. We did not interview any of these people, and we don't have access to internal communications that they had. And as you know, Karl Rove-they also had a separate email system through the Republican Party, which is not accessible. So until those things emerge…
You know, I'm a records guy, and right now the record, to make a blunt, you know, assertion, it certainly does-when you make 935 false statements, obviously that's strange credulity, to put it charitably. Yes, it does. But did some people actually believe this? In other words, ethicists, who are experts on lying, do make a distinction between-it doesn't mean it's any less morally offensive or tragic. What it means is, did they consciously say today, “I'm going to go out and lie some more today,” or do they believe it down to their toes, and if you gave them a polygraph they would pass? What we don't know is, which of the eight-where did this come from exactly? I mean, I think we all have some ideas what that might be, but we actually don't know.
AMY GOODMAN: Chuck Lewis, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked about your study on Wednesday.
REPORTER: Any reaction to that study out from the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism, where they did what they called a count of hundreds of false statements made by the President and top administration officials regarding the threat posed by Iraq-and they counted during the two years after 9/11?
DANA PERINO: I hardly think that the study is worth spending any time on. It is so flawed in terms of taking anything into context or including-they only looked at members of the administration, rather than looking at members of Congress or people around the world, because, as you'll remember, we were part of a broad coalition of countries that deposed a dictator based on a collective understanding of the intelligence.
AMY GOODMAN: Chuck Lewis, your response?
CHARLES LEWIS: Well, you know, just to make an observation, this is the press secretary who didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis until a few months ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
CHARLES LEWIS: Well, she made a reference that she had-actually didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis back in the '60s. For a White House press secretary to say that is astonishing to me.
So, anyway, her comment is, of course, predictable. At least she didn't call this a third-rate burglary. If my administration, that I'm the flack for, made 935 false statements, I would want to say, “Go do another study and take ten years and look at the world and Congress.” The fact is, the world was rallied, as was the compliant Congress, into doing exactly what the administration wanted. And the bottom line is, she didn't say that they were not false statements. Basically, they acknowledged they were false statements without her saying it. They have essentially said, “Gosh, I guess there weren't any WMDs in Iraq,” in other statements they've made, “it's all bad intelligence.”
Well, the fact is, we did provide context, 400,000 words of context, weaving in all of this material, not just what they said at the time, but what has transpired and what has tumbled out factually in the subsequent six years. So we actually have as much context so far as anyone has provided in one place. It's searchable for all citizens in the world and for Congress and others that want to deal with this from here on.
But her comment is slightly laughable. I mean that she didn't really address it, of course, and she's going to really have an interesting time in a couple months.
AMY GOODMAN: Chuck Lewis, I want to keep you with us-
CHARLES LEWIS: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: -as we continue to talk about the lies that led up to the Iraq war. We're joined by Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin, who's author of the new book Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War. The book examines how a former Iraqi taxi driver helped build the Bush administration's case for war by making false claims about Saddam Hussein's alleged biological and chemical weapons programs.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Bob Drogin.
BOB DROGIN: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you back. You make this case, how the CIA leveraged and the Bush administration used this guy Curveball's false allegations to provide a pretext for war. Explain who he was and how the administration used him.
BOB DROGIN: Sure. Yeah, I think this is sort of the defining case of how we got led down the rabbit hole in Iraq. Curveball is the codename of an Iraqi-Rafiq Alwan is his name-who was a chemical engineer who defected to Germany, fled to Germany in 1999 and told the German intelligence authorities that Saddam-that he had helped mastermind a scheme to build biological weapons for Saddam Hussein. That information was never confirmed. It was never vetted. It was just sort of put out there and handed over to the Americans.
And after 9/11, the CIA literally just pulled it out of a safe, and within three weeks, the classified documents showed that all of the caveats that had existed before that period, where the questions of Saddam's WMD was viewed as possible, probable, could be, may be, someday, suddenly were viewed in a totally different light. And his information-that is, the information from this one individual-rose higher and higher until the fall of 2002, when President Bush is citing it.
It appears in a document known as the National Intelligence Estimate, which is the gold standard of US Intelligence, it forms the strongest part of that. The President cites his information in the State of the Union speech in 2003. Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, makes it the absolute highlight of his speech, when he goes up to the UN Security Council in February before the war. He shows pictures or drawings of trucks.
What they don't say at that point is that US authorities had never interviewed this man, had never confirmed his information, had never vetted his background, didn't even know his name before the war. They had ignored warnings from the German intelligence authorities, who repeatedly had sent warnings over saying he was a single source, they couldn't confirm his information, he was-he had had a nervous breakdown, they didn't know what to make of him, he might be a fabricator. There had been a bitter fight inside of the CIA between the clandestine service-that is, the operatives who go out and steal secrets but who deal with informants and defectors like this-and the analysts. The analysts were utterly championing-sorry, they were pushing his story.
And three days after Powell went to the United Nations, the UN weapons inspectors went to all of the sites, every single one of the sites that Curveball had told them about, where these weapons supposedly were being produced. And they not only didn't find the evidence, they proved that it couldn't be true. They found a variety of things that showed his story was wrong. All of that was ignored, was overruled, was pushed aside. And obviously we went to war on false pretenses.
So I find his story-and those people who tried to bring that truth to power, who tried to stop this train wreck from happening, were not only pushed aside-one guy I write about is-came back and, you know, discovered that his desk, you know, had been boxed up, and this was at CIA, and he was being sent off to the visitors' center. And then someone else, you know, put at the end of a hallway filled with construction material and no access to classified computers. The CIA was very vindictive.
So I found this case fascinating as I tried to sort of drill down and peel back the layers of what had happened here, this idea of these bureaucracies made up of people who are trained to lie, cheat and steal, that at every possible juncture there was rival-bureaucratic rivalries and really tawdry ambitions get in the way and, frankly, spineless leadership that just absolutely refused to stand up.
What you had, in the end, this man was a con man. He was trying to get a visa to Germany to get political asylum. But the CIA heard what it wanted to hear. It conned itself. It saw what it wanted to see, and it gave the White House totally what it wanted to hear.
AMY GOODMAN: And Cheney's role in this?
BOB DROGIN: Dick Cheney's role is not as large. I mean, to me, you know, the idea-there were two things happening, as you know, before the war. There was the WMD question, and then there was the role of-the question of Saddam's alleged support for terrorism. And on the WMD side, the CIA was not whispering this, you know, to Dick Cheney or something; it was coming in through the front door. George Tenet and the rest of the CIA, you know, was briefing the President, was briefing the Vice President, was briefing senior members of Congress.
They were putting out these reports, all of which, you know, proved to be totally wrong.
So, to me, the great-in my view, the greater scandal is not that there were three or four guys over at the Pentagon sort of whispering in the Vice President's ear and, you know, feeding him false information about one thing or another; it's that the entire intelligence community got this so devastatingly wrong. When you go back and you look at Colin Powell's speech-we're coming up to the fifth anniversary of it next month-and you go back and you read it now, and it's entirely based on this document that the CIA put out a couple months earlier, this National Intelligence Estimate, it's wrong on almost every single level. And that's based on what the CIA gave him. So, you know, I don't think it-to me, it's not the issue of a couple of guys, it's that this system was so utterly corrupt.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to put this question to you and then to Chuck Lewis, and that's the issue of the media. Many people would have believed President Bush if he had simply said it, but not that many. It took the media repeating this over and over again. And even to this day, the concern about saying the word “lie,” do you think the President lied? I mean, this study says more than 900 times this false allegation was repeated, the quote “false statements.” What do you think, Bob Drogin?
BOB DROGIN: Well, I think, on the issue of Saddam's alleged ties to 9/11 or the claims that Saddam was tied to 9/11 and al-Qaeda, they clearly ignored warnings from the CIA and others that that evidence was sketchy at best. So there was a deliberate attempt or a political decision made that they were going to make that case. Now, if you want to-you know, however you want to describe that is-whatever. They made that their political decision.
On the WMD side, it's a lot harder to find, I think, you know, a difference between what they were saying and what the CIA was telling them.
This issue of lying, I have to say, Amy, I've never quite understood it. I mean, it's sort of like asking, to me, whether they, you know, forgot to put their turn signal on before they drove off a bridge. I mean, they took us into the midst of a-you know, a terrible, a horrific, tragic war, and they did it on the basis of ponied-up false intelligence. And sort of where they pushed the evidence here or there is sort of-to me, is sort of secondary. The fact is, they got it absolutely wrong on every single quarter.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Chuck Lewis, finally, we only have about thirty seconds, but if you could respond to that issue, the media's role in this, amplifying the charges?
CHARLES LEWIS: Well, I mean, you know, the media, particularly in Washington, listens to officialdom, and if all these officials are all saying these things across the board-and we only looked at eight. Just imagine it was twenty-five to fifty on Capitol Hill and throughout the administration. That goes into millions and millions and millions of words in the airwaves, on the web, in newspapers. And so, it was very hard-as I call it, an “impenetrable din”-to break through that.
But the other thing-and the intelligence is really interesting. It was mixed. At every level, there were people saying “Don't do this.” And at every level, the politicization of the intelligence community, they would put it in as “Bob is saying…”-and these folks were making speeches, the President and the Vice President, before they-
AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
CHARLES LEWIS: -had a National Intelligence Estimate. So, anyway, this story is going to keep rolling out. It's incredibly interesting. It's horrendous, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Chuck Lewis, thanks very much for joining us, founder of Center for Public Integrity. We will link to the study
http://www.publicintegrity.org/WarCard/Default.aspx?src=home&context=overview&id=945>. And Bob Drogin, author of Curveball.