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Iraq analysis: Unmasking Clinton's latest moves


What the Scott Ritter Revelations Mean: An analysis of the most recent developments in the U.S./Iraq confrontation

September 14, 2000 By Brian Becker and Sarah Sloan for the International Action Center

With great fanfare, Madeleine Albright announced on September 12 that the United States would not use "military force" to try to force Iraq to allow a new weapons inspection operation (UNMOVIC) into Iraq.

The backdrop to this is the political bombshell dropped by the former lead U.S. weapons inspector, who has now confirmed that Washington has been lying about the status of Iraq's "disarmament."

The former inspector is none other than Scott Ritter, who had worked as a U.S. intelligence official and functioned throughout the 1990s as a key member of the UN weapons inspection team.

Ritter has broken with the administration and revealed that "Iraq had been disarmed" of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons capabilities and that this was known by the administration since early 1997.

Ritter's statement blows away the public position that the U.S. insists on economic sanctions as a condition for eliminating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Let's leave aside for the moment the obvious problem that it is the U.S. that has the greatest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction of any country. That it is the United States and it alone which has ever used a nuclear weapon (and on a civilian population as well). And that it is the United States, which is the aggressor that bombs Iraq and not the other way around.

Let's leave aside the fact that the sanctions themselves are the greatest weapon of mass destruction. That 8,000 civilians will die this month from sanctions as they do every month and that 5,000 of those people will be children under the age of 5.

And leave aside the question as to whether Iraq has the right to possess weapons needed to defend its country and people from outside aggression.

Ritter's revelations confirm what anti-sanctions activists have asserted, that this rationale for sanctions was simply a pretext.

What does Ritter say specifically?

"Iraq had been disarmed, [it] no longer possessed any meaningful quantities of chemical or biological agent, if it possessed any at all, and the industrial means to produce these agents had either been eliminated or were subject to stringent monitoring [since as early as 1997]. The same was true of Iraq's nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities," Ritter reports in an article published in Arms Control Today (June 2000).

Ritter writes that "from 1994 to 1998, Iraq was subjected to a strenuous program of ongoing monitoring of industrial and research facilities … [which] provided weapons inspectors with detailed insight into the capabilities, both present and future, of Iraq's industrial infrastructure. It allowed UNSCOM to ascertain, with a high level of confidence, that Iraq was not rebuilding its prohibited weapons programs…."

Ritter's admissions are remarkable. From the horse's mouth, so to speak, we have verification that the assertions of the International Action Center and other anti-sanctions crusaders have been accurate. While the anti-sanctions movement has been accused of "being naïve" for "believing Iraqi propaganda," it turns out that the only naïve people are those who actually believed the U.S. government's propaganda that its main goal was "disarmament" in Iraq.

Latest turn in US propaganda

The anti-sanctions movement is now the majority sentiment throughout the world, and it is only U.S. military and economic power that prevents the sanctions from being lifted.

Pushed on the defensive by the incontrovertible evidence that the U.S. has been lying, the Clinton Administration has taken a new tack. It is now attempting to launch a political counterattack using diplomatic subterfuge to maintain its position while embarking on an intensified propaganda campaign aimed at discrediting the chorus of anti- sanctions voices.

Albright's announcement that the U.S. will foreswear a major military attack if Iraq does not allow in a new weapons inspection team is only an attempt to quiet the situation so that the U.S. can regain the initiative in isolating Iraq.

Does this indicate a new "peaceful" orientation towards Iraq? A sign that there will be a lessening of tension?

On the contrary, the United States government is perfectly happy with the status quo. The U.S. wants the current situation to stay frozen. Clinton would like to avoid a big military campaign that would bring thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of people into the streets around the world in opposition both to U.S. aggression and the genocidal sanctions that have been in place now for more than a decade.

So, rather than creating another major incident or internationally riveting drama--such as happens during a full scale aerial bombing--the U.S. wants to change the political climate. They want to make it appear that Iraq isn't really suffering that much from sanctions and, if it is, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of the Iraqi government.

The U.S. plan includes the following elements:

The creation of a new UN weapons inspection commission under the leadership of Swedish official Hans Blix. The U.S. expects that Iraq will predictably not allow the UN to return with weapons inspection teams. Thus, the U.S. will be able to blame Iraq for its "refusal to comply" with the UN.

A major propaganda campaign to prove that Iraqis are really doing "pretty well" and that the anti-sanctions movement is simply a manipulated force by the Iraqi government. Clinton stated in a recent address that Iraq is actually selling more oil than before 1991. And a rash of well-placed media stories have appeared showing that Saddam Hussein is really happy about sanctions because his "family can profit" from the export and sale of scarce commodities in an underground economy.

This is not the first time in history that the victim has been made to appear as the criminal. It is a time tested propaganda technique employed by those who commit aggression.

In 1942, for instance, the Hitler regime held a war crimes tribunal against the French socialist president Leon Blum, and found Blum guilty of war crimes and held him responsible for the start of World War II. Blum was then sent to a concentration camp.

The New York Times and the Big Lie

Even school children are taught today that Hitler's crimes against humanity were accompanied by a sophisticated propaganda campaign designed to turn the truth on its head. Goebbles, the Nazi propaganda chief, made famous the strategy of the "Big Lie": The bigger the lie and the more frequently it is repeated, the more acceptable it becomes.

Few in the U.S. press corps conceive of themselves as the moral equivalent of Nazi propagandists. They think of themselves as urbane, sophisticated, democrats--not as apologists for genocide.

But self-deception aside, a large number of U.S. journalists play exactly that role. Barbara Crossette, the New York Times reporter at the United Nations, for instance, routinely writes articles that function as pure State Department propaganda regarding Iraq.

On September 11, the New York Times carried a front-page piece by Crossette signal the start of the latest U.S. diplomatic offensive against Iraq. The theme: It is Iraq's continued non-compliance that is responsible for the maintaining of sanctions, and that the Iraqi government is the main cause of misery for the people. How do we know this?

Crossette cites unnamed "European diplomats [who] said there were 'pretty solid reports' that Iraq had been exporting medical supplies, some of which appear to have found their way to Lebanon, and has sold food from the oil-sales program to Syria and Jordan."

Again without identifying her sources, Crossette says "diplomats say several large aid organizations have been turned away when they responded to Iraqi needs." She complains that the UN Security Council, responding to persistent reports of undue suffering because of the embargo, was denied access to the country by Iraqi authorities after they requested to send an inspection team to review the plight of individuals.

How dare the Iraqis turn down a "humanitarian mission" from the Security Council, the same agency that is under the thumb of the United States and has been directly responsible for the strangulation of the country.

The New York Times and the other major corporate media have a symbiotic relationship with the U.S. government and a shared world outlook regarding U.S. domination of the Middle East. The New York Times fully supports the efforts by the U.S., CIA and Pentagon to crush the current Iraqi government and replace it with a pro-U.S. client regime, akin to those that rule Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Interesting, isn't it, that while Barbara Crossette is reporting on State Department related stories, she is--along with Madeleine Albright--the honored guest on Monday, September 18, 2000, at a luncheon in New York City, sponsored by the New York Times and the "White House Project."

Time to review the facts

We reiterate, the U.S. is happy with the current status quo. They have constructed a new weapons inspection team, not with the goal of eliminating Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons do not exist and the U.S. knows it. What is involved now is a multi-layered campaign to dissipate the growing worldwide pressure against the sanctions, to keep Iraq in a box, and to continue to demonize the "enemy" as a justification for U.S. crimes against humanity.

In the next few months, thousands of people will participate in taking the anti-sanctions movement in the United States to an even higher level of mass mobilization.

In January 2001, the largest delegation ever, led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, will travel to Iraq carrying a huge shipment of donated medicine in violation of the sanctions. This international act of defiance--the Iraq Sanctions Challenge IV--will bring together 100 activists from around the country who represent the burgeoning anti-sanctions movement.

It will include those who have been working for the past ten years to show that sanctions are war. And it will include those who are just learning about t his example of what U.S. imperialism is doing all over the world, such as the hundreds who demonstrated against the sanctions as part of the protests against the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles this summer.

Below are some points of review in the U.S./Iraq conflict, especially for the last two years:

1) Iraq has been subject to the tightest trade embargo or sanctions in human history for ten years. The sanctions were to be in place, according to the UN resolutions, "until it was verified that all of Iraq's 'weapons of mass destruction' were eliminated." Inspection teams have received access to inspect nearly every inch of the country to discover any nuclear, chemical or biological weapons program.

2) More than 9,000 inspections by the UN inspectors (UNSCOM) have taken place. At each and every stage, in spite of Iraqi cooperation, the weapons inspectors always insisted that they "weren't sure" if they had discovered all of Iraq's weapons capabilities. Thus, the weapons inspections turned out to be an endless pretext for the economic strangulation of the Iraqi people.

3) In 1998, Iraq asserted that the weapons inspectors were not a neutral arms reduction organization, but in fact an intelligence operation by the CIA and Pentagon, designed to collect data on Iraq's more sensitive military, political and industrial installations and facilities. And that the data collected by the weapons inspectors were actually used to target cruise missiles and other high tech weapons that later rained down on the country.

U.S. officials later admitted that Iraq's accusations about CIA/Pentagon intelligence infiltration of the weapons inspection teams was accurate.

4) In December 1998, the U.S. and UN abruptly pulled the inspection teams out of Iraq after Iraq was accused of not "fully cooperating." Immediately, the Pentagon began a four-day terror bombing campaign of Iraq between December 16 and 19. More than 1,000 bombs and missiles crashed into the country during Operation Desert Fox, the Pentagon code name for those four days. Hundreds of people were killed. It was then that Iraq announced that it would not allow the UN weapons inspection team to return.

5) Since the end of Operation Desert Fox, U.S. and British war planes have regularly bombed Iraq. In fact, the bombing takes place several times a week. More than 20,000 bombs and missiles have landed on Iraq since December 1998.

U.S. and British warplanes have no legal justification from the UN or elsewhere for over-flying Iraqi airspace in "no fly zones" created exclusively by the United States and Britain.

6) The U.S. government and CIA are engaged in an covert and overt attempt to overthrow the Iraqi government and replace it with a client regime that will do the bidding of U.S. oil companies, such as exists in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Between speeches against Iraq at the UN Millenium Summit, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with several members of the "Iraqi opposition," who are openly engaged in an attempt to overthrow the Iraqi government. The Clinton Administration has promised to provide them with $4 million in aid--on top of $97 million granted in 1998 when President Clinton signed into law the "Iraq Liberation Act." This includes schooling by the U.S. Defense Department and funding for "a newspaper, radio transmitters and other media operations," as well as for administration. (AP, 9/15/00, "U.S. plans to give $4 million to Iraqi opposition")

Beneath imperialist strategy - the real goal of the US

If the U.S./UN sanctions are not to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, what is their purpose? They want to weaken Iraq, to stop its forward progress, to delay its economic development. Why? Because the United States officials are so "shocked" at the human rights record of the Iraqi government? Because the United States officials have a tender concern for the people of the region?

Simply put, the United States wants to weaken and degrade Iraq for about the same reason that it wanted to weaken Iran after the revolution in 1979 ousted the U.S. puppet, the Shah.

Iraq, like Iran, has the oil resources, water resources, population and geographic size to develop as a regional power. The region in question, the Persian/Arab Gulf, contains two-thirds of the worlds known oil reserves. The strategy of U.S. imperialism for many decades has been to seek and maintain U.S. domination and hegemony if possible over this oil-rich region.

Prior to the Iraqi and Iranian Revolutions (1958 and 1979 respectively), United States and Britain maintained colonial and near colonial control over these two important countries. U.S. oil profits from the region forty years ago accounted for fifty percent of all U.S. corporate profits from overseas investments.

This is the historic and political context for the Reagan Administration's decision to support Iraq initially in the Iran/Iraq War. U.S. government officials encouraged Iraq, and the U.S. sent Iraq weapons and shared intelligence during that bloody eight-year-long war. The U.S., however, also sent high tech weapons to the Iranian side, as was revealed in the Iran Contra Scandal (1986-88). The U.S. cynically manipulated longstanding territorial disputes between Iran and Iraq so that both sides would become weakened. "We wanted them to kill each other," stated Henry Kissinger, former U.S. secretary of state during the Nixon Administration.

The dual role of oil in workl politics

Oil is not only a source of spectacular profits, it is considered a strategic resource. Those who control the oil, control the world economy, or at least its central arteries. Japan and Germany, for instance, do not possess oil. Although they are the central economic competitors to U.S. capitalism, control over oil reserves becomes a critical issue, especially during times of crisis and conflict.

Thus, the real goal of the United States is to weaken Iraq and any other country that can stand as an impediment to the undiluted control of this region. The U.S. would like to replace Saddam Hussein with a puppet government, but short of accomplishing that objective, the U.S. prefers to strangle, subvert and starve the country.

People in the United States have a political responsibility to challenge the genocide that is carried out in their name by the U.S. government. The Iraqi people are not our enemies. They are the victims of the greatest weapon of mass destruction.

Join the Iraq sanctions Challenge IV

If you are interested in joining the fourth Iraq Sanctions Challenge led by Ramsey Clark that will travel to Iraq in January 2001 (on the tenth anniversary of the start of the Gulf War), contact the International Action Center at, or call 212-633-6646.

International Action Center,


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