Archive for March, 2004

"This is the one that's damning"

Wednesday, March 31st, 2004

Just when you thought that the Bush administration case for invading Iraq could not be discredited any further, another bombshell drops.

Perhaps the most over-hyped unconventional threat used to justify the invasion of Iraq involved alleged mobile bioweapons labs in trucks and trailers that Saddam Hussein was said to be hiding from UNMOVIC inspectors. This bombshell vaporizes any remnant shards of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s propaganda effort before the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003 because the “defector” who delivered the “intelligence” on this supposed threat was “an out-and-out fabricator”.

Curveball
The Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday March 28 that the administration’s handpicked weapons seeker, David Kay, now says that reliance on this source, codenamed “Curveball”, for a crucial piece of the case against Iraq was a troubling failure.

“This is the one that’s damning”, Kay said.

(See this summary of the story or this full wire service version if you do not wish to register at the LA Times.)

Deep Blade’s interpretation of this story says that it is silliness to think that the administration and US intelligence services somehow were duped into relying on someone named Curveball for weapons-threat information to back the most consequential foreign policy decision a nation can make. No one was duped–but senior officials knowingly used the false information in order to obtain political consent to take Iraq. And the loss of lives, treasure, and apparently permanent feeding of lives and treasure to the project certainly are the major consequences.

In fact, an amazing aspect of the Curveball story is how questions about credibility were raised all along. German intelligence apparently waved red flags sometime between Powell’s February presentation and early spring of last year. Beyond that, the three persons Powell said corroborated Curveball’s intelligence all had been debriefed some time ago and found to have no firsthand knowledge. In one of the cases Defense Intelligence had concluded the defector probably was coached by Ahmed Chalabi’s exile group, earning him in 2002 a “fabrication notice” on a classified computer network run by US intelligence. And Curveball himself turns out to be the brother of one of Chalabi’s top aides!

So Curveball is a sick joke. The danger Saddam posed to America was zero and Deep Blade believes the most important policymakers, including Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rice, and Powell knew it–from the very beginning. Curveball simply performed the fabrication of the data that the Pentagon lie factory known as the Office of Special Plans required in order to drag the coalition of the willing into the colonial adventure in Iraq while scaring the US public into consent.

Pre-invasion lying about the mobile bioweapons labs
So why are the Curveball revelations so damning? We must try to recall how media cooperated with Powell and others in disseminating the scary hype from the lie factory. Suggestions that Iraq was building, using, and hiding mobile bioweapons labs went back more than ten years to the initial inspection process that following the first Gulf War. The LA Times story explains how Curveball appeared through German intelligence after the Pentagon’s favorite Iraqi, Ahmed Chalabi, was asked to participate in examining a theoretical question about mobile weapons labs.

Fast forward to November 2002. UNSCR 1441 had passed and the new UN inspection regime was about to engage Iraq. Media stories began to appear about “Hell on Wheels” and “Winnebagos of Death”. ABC News was typical when it reported that “Saddam Hussein may still have the means to kill thousands of people hidden among the fleets of motor vehicles across his country”.

Powell’s UN testimony was the culmination:

“One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.

“Let me take you inside that intelligence file and share with you what we know from eyewitness accounts. We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails.

“The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.

“Although Iraq’s mobile production program began in the mid-1990s, UN inspectors at the time only had vague hints of such programs. Confirmation came later, in the year 2000. The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs….

Emphasis was added above to show how Powell communicated the certainty of his information. There just was not any doubt about the scary amount of “biological poison” Powell assured us that Iraq could produce.

Conscious pre-invasion cherry picking means recent statements are disingenuous
But even at the time, Powell must have at least suspected what he was saying was shaky. On this matter, the March 28 LA Times story reinforces what The Guardian reported in May 2003–Powell expressed “serious doubts about the reliability of intelligence on Iraq’s banned weapons programme”.

And what is now called “cherry picking” must have been happening, because, as the LA Times story reports, “‘CIA files showed that another Iraqi defector, an engineer who had worked with Curveball, specifically denied that they had worked on such facilities’, [David] Kay said. Powell did not cite that defector“.

This cherry picking–separating and using only that intelligence that seemed to support a major Iraqi threat, no matter how shaky it was known to be–suggests conscious choices were made by Powell and other pro-attack spokespeople to use worthless intelligence only because it advanced the case for an attack.

The sincerity of statements that Powell has been making since the beginning of 2004 about the pre-war case and subsequent failure to find unconventional weapons therefore must be called into question.

For example, Powell said in an interview on ABC’s Nightline with Ted Kopple (Jan.07.2004), “…the intelligence community, to this day, stands behind the judgments that were made and that were presented to the world, presented to the Congress and presented to the American people through the national intelligence estimate, and that I presented before the Security Council”.

Or more recently in an interview on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos (Mar.14.2004), “And so we may not find the stockpiles. They may not exist any longer. But let’s not suggest that somehow we knew this. We went to the United Nations, we went to the world with the best information we had, nothing that was cooked. I spent a great deal of time out at the CIA with Director Tenet and Deputy Director John McLaughlin and all of their experts going over that presentation, and it reflected the view of the intelligence community, the United Kingdom’s intelligence community, the intelligence community of many other nations, and it was consistent with reporting from the United Nations over time.

“And so we had a solid basis for the information we presented to the President, the intelligence community presented to the President and for the decisions that the President made”.

The Curveball story says that these statements by Colin Powell are wholly disingenuous. There was no solid basis, but Powell could not reveal any doubts. In another quote from the LA Times story, David Kay clearly explains the consequences for the rush to war if Powell had told the truth. Kay said, “If Powell had said to the Security Council: ‘It’s one source, we never actually talked to him, and we don’t know his name,’ as he’s describing this, I think people would have laughed us out of court.”

Post-invasion lying about the mobile bioweapons labs
If the truthfulness of the justifications for taking Iraq were highly dubious before the invasion, the unconventional weapons story continued to unfold afterward in an environment where an astonishing program of official propaganda received vigorous media cooperation in its dissemination.

By the time of the chaos immediately following the invasion of Iraq in early April 2003, German intelligence had behind the scenes informed US officials that it had “various problems” with Curveball. At the same time, the reactionary media created a whole program of tantalizing confirmations that the invasion was properly justified because mobile bioweapons trucks were being found. Here, a Fox News story from April 11, 2003 pants that “seven to 15 vehicles are being tested for possibly containing biological or chemical weapons and for serving as mobile weapons labs”.

A report called “Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants” was released to the public on May 28, 2003 following the discovery of two semi-trailers that seemed to fit the description Powell gave earlier on February 5. The graphics in the report are Powell’s from February 5, along with photos claiming to show how the discovered trailers match up.

Then on May 29, 2003 President Bush closed the case in an interview on TVP, Poland:

“We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They’re illegal. They’re against the United Nations resolutions, and we’ve so far discovered two. And we’ll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they’re wrong, we found them”.

Right at this time, allegations about “sexing up” of Iraq weapons intelligence exploded in the UK.

But here is how US media was reporting the mobile bioweapons lab story. This CNN item from June 7, 2003 lays out the proper framework for the uncritical American viewer:

“The CIA official, who has access to classified materials related to Iraq’s alleged biological weapons program, said a key Iraqi intelligence source who had worked on the design of the mobile labs and provided intelligence about the program to the CIA before the war was asked to identify the vehicles from a series of photographs. The Iraqi source identified the correct trucks as the mobile biological weapons laboratories that he had described to U.S. intelligence.

“Intelligence provided by that man was cited by Secretary of State Colin Powell in his presentation of the U.S. case to the United Nations before the invasion of Iraq.

“‘The guy who designed it identified it’ for the CIA, the official said.

“‘They are designed to look like something else,’ he said, so Iraq could deny their function as biological weapons laboratories if they had been uncovered by U.N. inspectors. He said they were built on truck beds so they could be moved from locations likely to be inspected by the United Nations.

“Kay said he was aware of a number of theories that the vehicles might have had other uses, ‘none of which make any logical sense’.

“Kay saw one of the vehicles on a recent trip to Iraq and received reports on the second.

“Kay said most of the alternative uses that have been suggested ‘didn’t pass the laugh test’.

“‘The silliest one’, Kay said, was the suggestion that they had been designed to generate hydrogen for meteorological balloons”.

In a complete turnaround from what he rejected in June 2003, Kay now explains that the trailers “were actually designed to produce hydrogen for weather balloons, or perhaps to produce rocket fuel”.

The Observer had reported on Sunday June 15, 2003 that “Iraqi mobile labs nothing to do with germ warfare, report finds… The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the Iraqi army’s original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi Command & Control”.

(Another complete debunking of the mobile bioweapons lab theory was published June 5, 2003 by Traprock Peace Center. But, as author Mark F. McCarty laments, “Once again, the American media are acting as a servile conduit for the Bush administration’s propaganda. Even if subsequent reports completely annihilate the bioweapons lab theory, you can be sure that a sizeable portion of the American public will be left with the impression that these trailers constitute definitive proof that pre-invasion Iraq had an ongoing bioweapons program”.)

None of this stopped Powell from maintaining, with only a slight hedge, the fiction of the deadly bioweapons trucks. In this June 27, 2003 interview on NPR’s All Things Considered, Powell still shows little doubt about the purpose of the trucks, though by now the whole case of Curveball’s prevarications must have been well known to him:

“Will we continue to look for more information to reinforce our opinion? Sure, we will. But I am confident with the judgment made by the CIA, and the reason I’m confident of that judgment is, we got this information through defectors and others. And when I presented it to the UN on the 5th of February, all I could show was a cartoon picture of what we thought it looked like based on what people said to us. And guess what? We found something that looked just like that. And nobody has been able to come up with an alternative use for this. But we’re still looking at it, but I’m fairly confident of the Director of Central Intelligence’s judgment.”

By October 2003, Powell is still peddling Curveball, though now the hedges are a little stronger after the null preliminary report given by David Kay. In an oped entitled What Kay Found, Powell on October 7, 2003 introduced the now-famous substitute for real weapons:

WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002….

“The Kay Report also addresses the issue of suspected mobile biological agent laboratories: ‘Investigation into the origin of and intended use for the two trailers found in northern Iraq in April has yielded a number of explanations, including hydrogen, missile propellant and BW [biological warfare] production, but technical limitations would prevent any of these processes from being ideally suited to these trailers. That said, nothing . . . rules out their potential use in BW production.’ Here Kay’s findings are inconclusive. He is continuing to work this issue.”

In mid-January 2004, the only official still wanting to talk specifically about bioweapons trailers was Dick Cheney. Cheney said on January 22, 2004 that semi-trailers found in Iraq constitute “conclusive evidence” that Saddam Hussein “did in fact have programs for weapons of mass destruction”.

They took a country and no one will do a thing about it
Oh sure, the inquiries in the US and UK about misuse of the Iraq intelligence are ongoing. But the only punishment Bush, Blair, and their minions that would mean a damn thing–removal of the occupying troops and return of Iraq to its people–seems highly unlikely at this point.

The much ballyhooed “return of sovereignty” to the Iraqi people scheduled for July 1, 2004 appears to be nothing more than a sham process to create a “legalized” puppet government.

It saddens me deeply that I see no immediate way Bush and his band of international criminals can be held accountable for using lies about weapons to take colonial control of Iraq.

Sympathy for Powell

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Deep Blade is rarely in the business of saying a kind word about US Secretary of State Colin Powell. In fact the very next posting will excoriate him for about the sixth time over the nakedly spurious charges concerning Iraq’s unconventional weapons he delivered to the United Nations Security Council on February 5, 2003.

But this article by Michael Steinberger in The American Prospect (for the April 1, 2004 issue) gave me a small moment of sympathy through its description of the difficult portfolio Powell has been dealt. And I’m not referring to US relations with foreign countries.

Here is a small excerpt illustrating the point:

“…The caution flags, however, were ignored. When the secretary of state addressed the Security Council, he not only included the aluminum-tubes claim but made several other assertions that have since proven to be inaccurate. A performance that looked to be the high point of Powell’s illustrious career has now been thoroughly discredited and sits as an indelible stain on his record.

“Powell’s reward for doing the soldierly thing was a slap in the face to his department. On January 20 [,2003], just after Powell met with Bush and agreed to go before the United Nations, Bush signed National Security Directive No. 24, which gave the Pentagon responsibility for administering postwar Iraq. In retrospect, it was a tragic decision, one that needlessly complicated efforts to stabilize Iraq and that has undoubtedly cost many American soldiers their lives”.

The whole article is well worth reading.

Powell is an impressive, well-spoken presence–a moderate force in an administration of radical reactionaries run amok below a president with little respect for Powell himself and with little grasp of international issues. But Powell has lost every policy struggle and has no discernible power.

So Powell is a tragic figure. As a “doer” rather than a “thinker”, he is a functionary hobbled by his own liabilities and lack of “strong and specific” vision of what America’s role in the world should be.

“The neocons, for better or worse, had such a vision, and something usually trumps nothing”.

911 diversions

Tuesday, March 30th, 2004

Even including the Clarke testimony, the mostly meager public 911 hearings last Tuesday and Wednesday leave me feeling that there is a big, empty hole that the Commission has no intention of filling in. Families who lost loved ones on 911, and the general public have little hope of having our substantive questions answered fully.

For the most part, including in the approach described by former counter-terrorism chief Richard A. Clarke, the 911 Commission chose to shine its bright light on unused chances to attack and kill Osama bin Laden. In this pursuit, commissioners have chummed around with a parade of both Clinton and Bush administration officials, while occasionally jabbing at their failure to act.

So there is a cover-your-ass veneer that shrouds most of the remarks of the Clinton and Bush officials who have chosen to testify. Mainly, the officials are ad nauseum repeating, “We took bin Laden seriously”; “We would’ve killed bin Laden”; “It was hard to find bin Laden, but we would’ve killed him if we had”; “We were on top of things and did everything we could, but we couldn’t stop 911”; “We couldn’t get the authority/support we needed to attack Afghanistan and kill bin Laden before 911 in the manner we could after”; “There was no mistaking, we wanted to kill bin Laden”; blah, blah, blah, blah.

Clarke is very different, though. I will save additional comments on the Clarke phenomenon for another posting. I have not fully worked out what I think about this obviously dedicated public servant and warmonger. He has certainly shaken things up and new reaction is flowing constantly as administration “attack dogs” saturate all networks in a frontal assault against him. But his expressed regrets for the failure of government that 911 represents are sinking in in a way that might just sink Bush.

The upshot is Bush is indirectly responsible for 911 for several interrelated reasons. He is dead wrong when he protests that “there was nothing he could do”. His family and business relationships in fact formed an indirect backdrop behind which the 911 hijackers operated–mostly through the tight nexus of the dynastic Bush family and the Royal House of Saud in Saudi Arabia–running right through the Reagan years and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

In no way do I suggest that there is any evidence Bush knew exactly what would happen on 911 before 911. That is the territory of conspiracy theory. But I will say this–there is more evidence that close Saudi associates of President Bush were close to the hijackers, and Osama bin Laden himself, than any of them were to Saddam Hussein. In fact, some of the president’s former business partners are bin Ladens.

Several books discuss this last point, including American Dynasty by Kevin Phillips; and House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the World’s Two Most Powerful Dynasties by Craig Unger. Mr. Unger gave an illuminating interview on Democracy Now! for March 18.

One last tip for the curious… The CBC documentary program Fifth Estate had an excellent one-hour installment last fall on fictitious 911 conspiracy theories versus the very real Bush-Saudi connections. It’s definitely worth the time to examine the website for this program.

I’m waiting for the day that the public begins to demand answers from Bush on his relationship with the Saudis. That’ll be the day we begin to learn what 911 was really about.

Meanwhile, I’ll just mention one of the most interesting thing I heard on the first day of hearings. It was in the testimony of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage discussed the considerations behind the post-911 decision in 2001 that led the U.S. military to join with the Northern Alliance–our new Afghan allies who slaughtered 50,000 people in Kabul between 1992 and 1996.

Here is some of his testimony on Tuesday March 23.

ARMITAGE: “… Now, the question of the Northern Alliance has come up several times, and people wonder why it was so hard to come to a decision. Well, beyond the drug dealing that they did, well, that caused us some trouble. Beyond the human rights tragedy that they inflicted in the 1996 time period, that took us a little time to get over.

“It’s not sufficient to be the enemy of our enemy to be our friend. To be our friend you have to share or be willing to at least embrace to some extent our values, and that’s why the question of the Northern Alliance wasn’t an easy one. It was a tough one”.

Image versus reality in the Bushian struggle between good and evil
Now let’s contrast these Northern Alliance considerations with the child-like protestations delivered by President Bush before a group of coalition-of-the-willing diplomats on Friday March 19.

“There is no neutral ground–no neutral ground–in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death….

“And we who stand on the other side of the line must be equally clear and certain of our convictions. We do love live, the life given to us and to all. We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life, tolerance, and freedom, and the right of conscience. And we know that this way of life is worth defending….there is a dividing line in our world, not between nations, and not between religions or cultures, but a dividing line separating two visions of justice and the value of life.

“The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an inescapable calling of our generation”.

Obviously, as Richard Armitage points out, the whole matter is hardly so black and white as the president suggests. The United States has routinely partnered with killers, including Saddam Hussein and the murderous, drug producers called the Northern Alliance.

Bush gives a heartfelt, yet naive speech. But let’s not mistake his performance for anything other than puppetry controlled by Bush-family-connected corporate/national security elites who have seized upon the failure of 911 and turned it into a political tool in the quest to gather wealth and power.

Maine demonstrates against the Iraq occupation in March for Truth

Monday, March 22nd, 2004

The people of Maine mounted an excellent peace march in Augusta on Saturday March 20, 2004. The event started at the state Capitol grounds, looped through town, and returned to the Capitol grounds. In Bangor, a short morning send-off rally began the travel of a large contingent from our area on the 85-mile journey to Augusta.

Here are pages with photos:

Deep Blade’s photos from Augusta (10 images; about 700 kb)
marchfortruth.org website [update: taken down].

Compared with the October 26, 2002 Augusta peace march against the then impending Iraq invasion, this was a smaller event. But it was still large enough to fill the streets.

Media happened, but only one outlet receives special commendation for excellent coverage, our local newspaper, the Bangor Daily News (BDN). Now, the BDN usually is a conservative paper. But take a look at these great stories and opeds they have published in the March 20-21 edition and the March 22 edition:

Peaceful Protest (published March 22, 2004)

Mainers’ views on conflict in Iraq run gamut (published March 22, 2004, please see several other stories also available from this page)

Profiting from the war by Jim Vallette, now of Southwest Harbor, ME. He is the research director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, and lead author of “Crude Vision: How Oil Interests Obscured U.S. Government Focus on Chemical Weapons Use by Saddam Hussein” (2003). (Oped published March 20, 2004)

Wolfowitz argues reasons for going to war were valid despite not being "accurate"

Friday, March 19th, 2004

In a March 18, 2004 interview with Jim Lehrer of the PBS Newshour, Pentagon deputy Paul Wolfowitz stuck to the “mistakes were made” line concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Jim Lehrer showed why his tough interviewing style strikes fear into the hearts of squirming public officials. In fairness, Lehrer did press Wolfowitz a little on remarks by President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland about “misleading” pre-war Iraq weapons claims, and the damage failure to find these weapons has done to US credibility.

Wolfowitz prevaricates on Iraq nuclear history
There was enough depth in this interview for an airing of past intelligence “mistakes” with respect to Iraq. Wolfowitz is known to despise former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. Here is how Wolfowitz turned the failures of the administration he serves around to land on top of Blix:

WOLFOWITZ: “…let’s take an example from I guess it’s 15 years ago before the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Iraq was supposed to have no nuclear weapons. They signed a nonproliferation treaty. The U.N. inspection agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that Iraq has no nuclear weapons program. They were wrong. They weren’t misleading the world. They just were wrong….

“Well, you know, the IAEA which Hans Blix headed at one period of time was an organization that gave a clean bill of health to Saddam Hussein when he was building nuclear weapons. I don’t think it’s very useful to go throwing around charges about credibility. I think what people need to help folks understand is that intelligence is not a science. Just because we can read license plates from space doesn’t mean that we can penetrate the minds of people”.

Then later, when Lehrer asked his most pointed question of the interview about reports that Wolfowitz ordered an investigation of Blix, Wolfowitz continues to disparage the IAEA of the early 1990s.

WOLFOWITZ: “…I asked the CIA a perfectly reasonable question which is: what should we infer from Hans Blix’s leadership of the IAEA when they failed to detect that Iraq had nuclear weapons and was in violation of the nonproliferation treaty? I think it’s a perfectly reasonable — it was a factual question. It wasn’t an investigation. I wasn’t interested in his background or anything that would discredit him personally. I was interested in knowing his competence as a nuclear weapons inspector. It was a perfectly normal, natural question. It was a question”.

Lehrer was ill-equipped to challenge the notions inherent in these remarks. Wolfowitz refers to a period in 1991 when the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) discovered extensive unreported nuclear activities undertaken in Iraq from the latter part of the 1980s right up to the US bombing and ground assault during the Gulf War in January and February of 1991.

Here is how the IAEA itself assessed this period for the United Nations Security Council in report S/1997/779 dated 8 October 1997 (Introduction paragraph 59):

“Despite Iraq’s prevarication, the IAEA carried out a comprehensive campaign of destruction, removal and rendering harmless of the practical assets of Iraq’s clandestine nuclear programme. This campaign involved the extensive destruction of buildings and equipment at the EMIS sites at Tuwaitha, Al Tarmiya and Al Sharqat, and at the nuclear weapons development and production sites at Al Atheer and Al Qa Qaa; of the laboratory-scale reprocessing facilities at Tuwaitha; and of gas centrifuge related materials, components and equipment. In total, more than 50,000 square metres of facility floor space were destroyed by explosives and more than 1,900 individual items and 600 tons of sensitive alloys, useful in a nuclear weapons programme or in uranium enrichment activities, were destroyed or rendered harmless”.

If you read through this whole report, and also the other periodic reports of Iraq weapons inspectors from 1991 through 1997, a story of extensive disarmament of Iraq emerges, even of its most closely guarded secret programs. So the IAEA had some catching up to do and then admirably performed a massive job in Iraq after the 1st Gulf War, starting with close to zero resources. Contrary to the Wolfowitz line, the IAEA was highly credible during this period.

The United States under Clinton, especially after 1997, and G. W. Bush, especially after 9/11, never wanted to recognize these accomplishments, preferring instead to construct a cartoon caricature Saddam with ambition for evil–a handy scare crow for a public wary of military adventure.

Gore gave pre-1991 Iraq nuclear details in 1992
But there is a big part of the pre-1991 Iraq nuclear story that is missing from the Wolfowitz recitation of current administration propaganda. He told Lehrer, “…before the Gulf War in 1991, our intelligence was wrong the other way. We didn’t know how big a nuclear program it turned out — we later found that he had”.

In fact, officials in the US government did know about the Iraqi nuclear program during the time international authorities were in the dark.

Let’s let Al Gore tell us all about it. In a campaign speech at The Center for National Policy on September 29, 1992, Gore explained how the G. H. W. Bush administration held detailed knowledge of and participated in supplying Iraq’s nuclear program.

GORE: “In April 1989, a nuclear proliferation expert from the Department of Energy reported intelligence indicators that Iraq had a crash program underway to build an atomic bomb. In June, the Defense Intelligence Agency reported that Iraq was running a major European network to procure military goods that were not supposed to be sold. In August, the FBI raided the Atlanta Branch of the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) and seized evidence of over $4 billion in illegal loans to Iraq, as well as use of about $2 billion of those funds to buy nuclear and other military technologies. And on September 22nd, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly wrote a memo acknowledging that money coming to Iraq through the Atlanta branch of the BNL did “appear to have been used” to finance acquisition of sensitive military technology. Also in September, the USDA reported kickbacks and possible diversions of US-supplied agricultural funds for military purposes.

“Most significant of all, in the same month, the CIA reported to Secretary of State James Baker and other top Bush administration officials that Iraq was clandestinely procuring nuclear weapons technology through a global network of front companies.

“Now, in the midst of this flood of highly alarming information, on October 2, 1989, President Bush signed a document known as NSD-26, which established policy toward Iraq under his Administration. This document is the benchmark for judging George Bush’s record for the direction of American policy toward Iraq in the period that would ultimately lead to war. We have only a partial idea of what is in that document, since the version that was finally released to Congress has been heavily censored. But the core statement of purpose and the fundamental assumptions behind it are clear. And so is the incredibly poor judgment of George Bush.

“NSD-26 mandated the pursuit of improved economic and political ties with Iraq on the assumption that Iraqi behavior could be modified by means of new favors to be granted”.

Wolfowitz depends on public delusion to ply his trade
The solid propaganda front in which Wolfowitz now participates depends on public ignorance and willingness to be deluded into continuing to accept the completely discredited administration story on weapons in Iraq from last year.

All of the “violations” Wolfowitz cites are moot if, as it appears, Iraq possessed no proscribed weapons at the time of the invasion:

“Iraq was in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. It was the 17th and supposed to be last resolution after 12 years of Iraq defying the United Nations. They did not comply with that. They lied in their declarations. They obstructed the inspectors….

“…Saddam Hussein was given a chance to come clean, he was given a chance to tell the world the truth and get rid of what he had, and he did not do that….

“…I know what I was told and it was the best judgments of our intelligence community at the time. Were they all accurate, no, they weren’t all accurate, but nobody was misleading anybody….

“The reason for going to war was because Iraq was in violation of the U.N. Security Council resolution….It is their support for terrorism, and it’s the oppression of their people and we had agreed in fact with Resolution 1441 to limit it to weapons of mass destruction and give them one last and final chance to come clean and he did not come clean”.

If Iraq had no weapons then the December 2002 declaration issued by Iraq was not a lie. They said they didn’t have the weapons! Wolfowitz admits this when he says intelligence judgments were not accurate. It was up to the UNMOVIC inspectors to determine the truth or untruth of those judgments. The right of the United States to decide and enforce consequences was not conveyed by UNSCR 1441. As explained in a previous post, war was not to be automatic.

It was the United States that grossly violated UNSCR 1441, and trashed international law while wearing its shredded tatters.

US accountability?
How will the world hold Wolfowitz and the rest of the Bush administration accountable for what clearly is aggression against Iraq? No amount of purported benevolence, imposition of American-style political organization, or market economic transformation in this colonial project can reverse the crime against peace that ushered in this occupation. Given the trumping power the US seems to hold over any meaningful international process, no immediate accounting will occur. However, the future portends realignment with impetus that will be traceable to this episode. Meaning will return to international relations, as it must. Drunken delusion of unlimited power within the United States will face a reckoning of a scope and nature we cannot now predict.

Accounting for Iraq's weapons materials

Monday, March 15th, 2004

Accounting for Iraq’s weapons materials
Today Deep Blade Journal offers a guest posting from the UK. Correspondent Geoffrey Holland has been for many months campaigning for Parliament in the UK to report the international law breach by the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s that led to arming of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein with unconventional weapons. Please see the original February 13, 2004 posting on this matter.

Deep Blade Journal thanks Geoffrey Holland for his efforts and the contribution that follows.

Both Houses of Parliament–One Question
by Geoffrey Holland
There is now a call in both British Houses of Parliament to report the United States to the United Nations Security Council for breaching the Geneva Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention by supplying Saddam Hussein with the very biological materials which were the basis for war in Iraq.

On March 17 last year, The Right Honorable Robin Cook, MP, former Leader of the House of Commons, revealed in his principled resignation speech that “US Companies sold Saddam anthrax agents”. The following day, a vote in the Commons committed Britain to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the US in the invasion of Iraq–an invasion largely predicated upon Iraq’s possession of such biological materials.

For the past year, whilst the attention of most of the world has been focused upon finding those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, British MPs have been examining the evidence upon which Robin Cook made his claim. Finding that the evidence exists, of all places, in the US Congressional Record, placed there by Senator Robert C. Byrd on September 20, 2002, there can be little doubt as to its veracity.

Consequently, Early Day Motion 300 has been tabled in the House of Commons, which calls upon the British Government to formally report the US breach of the Geneva Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention to the Security Council of the United Nations. This Commons Motion, entitled ‘Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention and Iraq’ has now been signed by 105 MPs from six political Parties.

The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention is a vitally important international law, which forbids the transfer to any recipient of biological agents “that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes”. As Sir Teddy Taylor MP stated to the House of Commons the day following Robin Cook’s original statement, “It is difficult to prove that one wants to use a material such as anthrax to help in the improvement of animals, or to achieve better forms of production”.

Today, Monday 15 March 2004 at 2.30pm, The Lord Bishop of Oxford Richard Harries brings the issue into the House of Lords, where the following question is the first item of business on the agenda:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in accordance with the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, they will report to the Security Council of the United Nations the reported sale of biological weapons to Iraq by the United States”.

As Sir Teddy Taylor stated to the House of Commons one year ago: “It is abundantly clear that the US Department of Commerce approved every single thing that went from the United States to Iraq. It was not a question of secret firms doing nasty things; this was approved by Government”.

So, now there is a call in both Houses Parliament for the British Government to act responsibly and make this unpalatable truth public.

This is not a case of United-States-bashing. Far from it. The American people have simply been duped, as has much of the rest of the world. It is now our collective duty to ensure that the wise words to the US Senate of the eighty-five-year-old Father of the Senate, Robert C. Byrd, on September 20 2002 are at last heeded: “We do not need obfuscation and denial. The American People need the truth”.

May the combined efforts of both Houses of the British Parliament finally bring the truth about weapons of mass destruction not just to the American people, but to the entire world. And may we thus ensure that those at every level responsible for any breach of international law relating to the use of such weapons will be held personally accountable.

To see what transpires in the House of Lords on Monday 15 March when the Bishop of Oxford challenges the British Government, please go the following day to:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199900/ldhansrd/pdvn/home.htm

To read the text of EDM 300 in the House of Commons, and to view the current list of signatories, please see: http://edm.ais.co.uk/weblink/html/motion.html/ref=300

Sears Island, Maine: Liquefied natural gas terminal?

Thursday, March 11th, 2004

The coast of Maine has been no stranger to energy development proposals over the years. With the exception of the now-defunct Maine Yankee nuclear power plant, fierce opposition has prevented these mostly unwise projects from being built. The latest idea running around is to build ports that would allow liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be off-loaded from ships into land-based pipeline systems. The cooled gas would come to Maine chiefly from the West African nations of Liberia and Nigeria.

Now, after rejection last Tuesday of such an LNG terminal in the small coastal town of Harpswell, Maine, developers are eying a 940-acre gem called Sears Island for this environmental disaster.

Beautiful, undeveloped Sears Island in Searsport, Maine on Penobscot Bay has a very long history of energy and port proposals that have only been set aside by vigorous citizen opposition. Beginning in 1977, Central Maine Power wanted the site for a nuclear power plant, then a coal-fired power plant.

Later, the proposal transformed into a short-sited, ill-considered plan for a cargo port. When developers couldn’t figure out what “cargo” actually would be shipped there, they came up with a crazy plan to send wood chips around the world. Friends of Sears Island, a citizen group organized to protect the island, has lots of maps, documents, and history posted.

An issue that Deep Blade Journal will continue to investigate is why build these LNG ports? Why has it become so important to import gas? Clues come from Matthew Simmons. (See Article 254, “Behind the Blackout”, ASPO Newsletter #34). Domestic and Canadian gas supply is showing severe signs of depletion. This is happening directly after a decade-long program of expansion of electrical generating capacity through just one fuel–gas.

Less than one mile from the offices of Deep Blade Journal lies a pretty new gas-fired electric generating plant. Most of the energy that comes out of it heads south toward Massachusetts. The gas for this “Maine Independence Station” run by Duke Energy and connected to Bangor Hydro travels through a recently-built pipeline from Canada. What does the future hold for this gas supply? Will Duke be able to charge enough for its electricity in order to pay for its fuel into this future?

Gasoline prices spike as heavy vehicle drivers grumble

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

The CBS Evening News carried a story [Real video link] Thursday March 4 featuring a parade of puzzled gas station customers. As they fill their large sedans, SUVs, and minivans, they are heard to say things like, “The price of gas is horrible,” and “What’s going on”?

Hmmm… Take a look at what you’re driving! If world unrest, crude speculators and a squeeze on “refining capacity” are to blame, as the report suggested, the 2-3% growth in heavy vehicle fuel requirements on the demand side, also reported, must have something to do with that. Of course, the Bush approach will be to take the regs. off of refineries and build some more capacity, quick and dirty.

Another March 4 story from the Dow Jones/AP wire, “High gasoline prices: Supply worries boost oil prices”, fills in more details:

Supply worries returned to the New York Mercantile Exchange’s petroleum complex Thursday following signs of growing unrest in Venezuela and renewed U.S. government concern about high gasoline prices…

The vulnerability of the U.S. to supply shocks, such as a disruption to Venezuela’s production of crude oil and refined products, has left traders “tense”, said James Steel, director of New York research for brokerage firm Refco.

Is there a portent for the future? The stories say, “oil supply is not the issue”. This is probably true, in the short run. But limit to capacity at any point along the entire system from wellhead to gas station pump limits the overall capacity (per day rate) of fuel delivery to the end user. When (in one? two? three? several? decades) geological limits are approached, nothing will be able to be done to increase that overall capacity.

So this may be a taste of times to come. We should think now about ways to achieve fuel demand reduction in order to alleviate strain in system capacity, ie we should in America be driving smaller cars. But that message would be at odds with the heavy vehicle marketing campaign now saturating our small screens 24 hours per day on all channels.

First US Viceroy in Iraq confirms a Deep Blade thesis

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

Deep Blade has learned through a February 20 Inter Press Service news release that Jay Garner, the first US Viceroy appointed to head post-invasion Iraq, has verified long-term basing and strategic military fuel supply clearly figured into the calculus of the invasion. Pentagon favorite and intelligence fabricator Ahmed Chalabi had some choice remarks as well.

IRAQ: Chalabi, Garner Provide New Clues to War
Analysis – By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON, Feb 20 (IPS)
“For those still puzzling over the whys and wherefores of Washington’s invasion of Iraq 11 months ago, major new, but curiously unnoticed, clues were offered this week by two central players in the events leading up to the war….

“Asked how long U.S. troops might remain in Iraq, Garner replied, ‘I hope they’re there a long time’, and then compared U.S. goals in Iraq to U.S. military bases in the Philippines between 1898 and 1992.

“‘One of the most important things we can do right now is start getting basing rights with (the Iraqi authorities)’, he said. ‘And I think we’ll have basing rights in the north and basing rights in the south … we’d want to keep at least a brigade.

“‘Look back on the Philippines around the turn of the 20th century: they were a coaling station for the navy, and that allowed us to keep a great presence in the Pacific. That’s what Iraq is for the next few decades: our coaling station that gives us great presence in the Middle East’, Garner added.”

This confirms a central Deep Blade thesis given in a piece called Why War? from a year ago.

Oil depletion a myth?

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

There exists a strong camp of skeptics about resource depletion problems and environmental problems in general. They’ve been around as a counterpoint for at least as long as Paul Erlich and the Club of Rome. Their essential economics argument says that new resources will always be found as the market will continuously adjust to allow for expanded research, exploration, and recovery of previously inaccessible resources. Global climate change is another one of the issues ripe for this skeptical ridicule. The skeptics are unconvinced that there is any concrete evidence linking human activity with climate change in any direction.

I’ll grant this to the camp of skeptics on environmental problems: The horizon we choose to look or are able to see over has a strong influence on our ability to interpret the reality of the planetary situation. Certainly there are some examples of premature alarm over data or apparent conditions that turn out to be hoaky, potentially creating enormous unnecessary costs. Likewise, I believe there are innumerable errors of policy that have occurred over the decades because obvious need for environmental regulation could not be bothered with in the face of opportunity for enormous profits. Either way, the cost to society has been significant.

Debate over Saudi oil production
But let’s set aside the general situation and have a look at a recent minor eruption in the debate over world oil depletion. Deep Blade was quick to carry a posting about a New York Times Business Section article that supposedly “laid bare the fiction” of Saudi ability to double oil production.

Of course there are two sides to this debate. Deep Blade is not really in a position to say exactly what the truth is. I received commentary last week suggesting, “The NYT articles about the Saudi fields are extremely poor reporting and riddled with inaccuracies; they did not even talk to anyone who knows the Saudi fields.”

So given this debate, it is highly worthwhile to download and read every word in the 50-page transcript of the remarks of energy investment banker Matthew Simmons, President, Simmons and Company International; Mahmoud Abdul-Baqi, Vice President, Exploration, Saudi Aramco; and Nansen Saleri, Manager, Reservoir Management, Saudi Aramco at the February 24, 2004 conference called, Global Oil Supply: Are We Running Out?: Experts to Analyze Saudi Arabia’s Energy Future, hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, DC.

Suggestions that Saudi Arabia may not be able to invest enough and get the oil valve opened wide enough for the future planetary needs seems to be deeply offensive in certain quarters. The Lebanon-based Arab/Middle East news service Dar Al Hayat carried a story, “Campaign Against Saudi Oil”, on its English language website:

“Matthew Simmons claimed that Saudi Arabia is incapable of maintaining and developing its oil reserve on the long run, due to the decreasing capacity of its production fields.

“These claims triggered the suspicions of famous New York oil dealer linked to Zionists, Ed Morris [sic: the author means Ed Morse, an energy analyst also associated with CSIS], concerning the Saudi production power. It is known for all reliable oil markets, that in case Venezuelan oil is once again interrupted due to the political situation in the country, or Nigerian oil is interrupted, or something prevents the Basra ports from exporting, only Saudi Arabia would be capable of making up for the international oil shortage….

“With a clever strategy, Aramco officials uncovered information made public for the first time. During a conference in Washington, they affirmed that Aramco is capable of producing 51 [sic: 15] million barrels per day, based on the current Saudi reserve, and according to a production scenario covering 51 years. They assured that the company maintains its excessive power, currently between 1 and 1,5 million barrels per day, in order to use it in sustaining oil prices case of emergency. Aramco officials showed that the highest level in the Saudi fields flow does not exceed its average of 2%, while the average in American fields, North Sea, and others, varies between 2,4 and 6,9% from their production power.

“However, American neo-conservatives and the Zionist lobby wish to ignite a campaign against Saudi Arabia. Oil experts around the world know that Saudi Arabia was capable, thanks to the speed of its production, and its use of the Sheba mine, which provides light oil and has large revenues, of making the Saudi oil greatly available.”

Aside from the transposition of “1” and “5”, this is an accurate summary of the capability of Saudi Aramco to increase and sustain crude oil production, as stated by its own officials in the transcript cited above.

Is there some sober middle ground between the pessimistic and emphatically optimistic assessments (emphatic enough to invoke ethnic derision)?

The Daily Star, also Lebanon-based, carried today (March 6) this more reflective analysis by energy economist Herman Franssen, “Saudi Arabia’s spare capacity guarantees world petroleum security”:

“For the past quarter of a century Saudi Arabia has played an extraordinary role as guarantor of world oil security. Saudi Arabia has maintained spare capacity whenever there were supply disruptions….

“Rising oil prices have implications for growth and lifestyles. The countries of the OECD developed after World War II on an ocean of cheap Middle East oil. That era may be coming to an end. Most automotive transportation experts say alternatives to oil products for transportation are uncertain and at best decades away from large-scale commercialization. At stake is the ability of developing economies like China, India and others to develop their economies and a road transportation system at reasonable prices.

“In the OECD, higher oil prices will speed up the introduction of hybrid gasoline and hybrid diesel fueled cars, with savings of up to 30 percent. The search for alternatives to oil crude will gain momentum. In the Middle East, a new era of higher oil (and natural gas) income will help finance health and educational services. The extra money will buy time to implement economic diversification.

“For the first time since the 1970s, Matt Simmons has raised questions about Saudi Arabia’s future ability to meet a jump in oil demand from developing economies. Increasing transparency in the numbers is crucial to maintain oil prices at a reasonable level.”

Resources on world oil: balanced perspectives
The additional references below offer a range of perspectives on the outlook for world oil. Here are two conclusions I think may be reached from reading this material–(1) No serious person believes that the world is about to run out of oil right now, or that oil will ever run out completely; and (2) No serious person thinks that the world oil extraction rate can grow indefinitely.

Some of the economists don’t think that last point is very important. They think that by the time oil depletion causes a significant strain in the world’s ability to produce oil, the economics of alternative energy sources will be so attractive that oil smoothly will be replaced. I’m not ready to grant this point–I think a lot of very painful disruption could accompany total trust in a pure market economic approach to the oil future.

For now, I will not draw any conclusions about who is most correct about the oil situation. But I think that enough common threads emerge from even the most diametrically opposed viewpoints that the population of this planet better take notice of the debate and start planning those oil alternatives now, even if the significant strains are still decades away.

Here are the links to the articles, with my notes in italics:

This article is a sober analysis of the situation. It is not hysterical doomsaying. It addresses the important issue of why collapsing oil prices and oversupply, rather than shortage, have been the bigger problems during about the last two decades, and why that should not lead us to think glut is a permanent condition:

Oil: The illusion of plenty; by Alfred Cavallo
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; Jan/Feb 2004
http://www.thebulletin.org/issues/2004/jf04/jf04cavallo.html

“Predictions of the exhaustion of oil reserves seem to have lost all credibility…. pessimists have cried wolf too often. Forecasts of imminent shortages of oil, food, and other natural resources are confounded by the enormous display of material goods that envelops consumers in the West. For most people, the market price of any commodity is what signals shortage or plenty. Time and again, collapsing oil prices have succeeded rising oil prices, leading to the belief that oil will always become cheap again.”

This next piece is a reproduction of a classic on oil depletion by two of the most important scientists studying the issue on the “pessimistic” side of the spectrum:

The End of Cheap Oil: Global production of conventional oil will begin to decline sooner than most people think, probably within 10 years; by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherr¿re
Scientific American; March 1998
http://dieoff.com/page140.pdf

Here is a counterpoint from Campbell’s chief tormentor:

Crying Wolf: Warnings about oil supply; by Michael C. Lynch
http://sepwww.stanford.edu/sep/jon/world-oil.dir/lynch/worldoil.html

“…an examination of the history of forecasts performed by these gentlemen is in order. First, the company Petroconsultants, which both men have been associated with in the past and which published Campbell’s 1997 book, published a nearly identical forecast in 1986, which showed regional production to 1995, at $25/barrel (equal to about $35/bbl in 1997$). The forecast incorrectly put non-OPEC, non-Communist production at 20 mb/d in 1995 and dropping, when in reality it was 28 mb/d and rising.”

Lynch is a critic of logistic-function depletion models first developed by M. King Hubbert and used by Campbell, et al:

The New Pessimism about Petroleum Resources: Debunking the Hubbert Model (and Hubbert Modelers); by Michael C. Lynch
http://www.energyseer.com/NewPessimism.pdf

An interesting response to criticisms by Lynch appears in the October 2003 issue of the monthly newsletter of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), the group led by Colin Campbell:

Article 259: A Reply by John Attarian [to Michael Lynch]
ASPO Newsletter No. 34

“Michael Lynch’s article in the July 14 issue of the Oil & Gas Journal is a peevish exercise in intellectual dishonesty. He sneers at Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, et al. as erroneous, lacking in rigor, etc. His own performance strikingly demonstrates these flaws. The depletion school, Lynch says, notes that most estimates put ultimately recoverable resource (URR) at roughly 2 trillion bbl. True, but he defines URR as “the amount of oil thought to be recoverable, given existing technology and economics (price and cost). It includes estimates of undiscovered oil but is only a fraction of the total resource.” (note 1) But the qualifier ‘given existing technology and economics’ applies to reserves, not resources–and Campbell et al. are talking about resources, not reserves! So much for Lynch as watchdog of rigor.”

Here are two more interesting references from the optimistic camp:

Are We Out of Gas Yet?: The continuing “oil crisis” crisis; by Ronald Bailey
Reason Online; February 18, 2004
http://www.reason.com/rb/rb021804.shtml

Comments on Hubbert’s Peak, Letter to Editor, OGJ; Jul.22.2003
http://www.sepp.org/NewSEPP/DebatePeak-OilBoiling.html