John Pilger: IRAQ, the lying game

IRAQ: THE LYING GAME John Pilger on the deceit used to

justify a war against Saddam Hussein


By John Pilger


THE Blair government was told in January by the

Americans that there was no justification for

attacking Iraq in the "war on terrorism" and that

their main aim was getting rid of Saddam Hussein who

stood in the way of the West's control of Middle

Eastern oil wealth.


This partly explains why Blair abandoned presenting to

Parliament a famous "dossier" in which "the evidence

of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction is

simply vast".

The dossier is no more than a stream of warmed-over

assertions and deceptions, supplied by Washington.

According to reliable intelligence sources in another

Western country, who were privy to the same

communications, the Central Intelligence Agency has

made clear that there is "no credible evidence"

justifying an attack in Iraq.

While Blair has continued to repeat propaganda that

Iraq is a threat to the region and to what he calls

"civilisation", the truth has long been an open

secret. On February 5 last, the New York Times

reported: "The Central Intelligence Agency has no

evidence that Iraq has engaged in terrorist operations

against the United States in nearly a decade, and the

agency is also convinced that President Saddam Hussein

has not provided chemical or biological weapons to


While Blair has claimed that Iraq has rebuilt its

arsenal of "weapons of mass destruction", those who

advise him know full well this is nonsense. And if

Blair himself is not aware of this, this begs the

question: what kind of prime minister is he?

They have read the evidence of Scott Ritter, who as

senior United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq for

seven years, is uniquely placed to assess how much of

a danger the Iraqi regime represents.

RITTER, an American and international authority on

weapons disarmament, personally led the inspections,

investigations and destruction of Iraq's chemical and

biological weapons programmes.

On July 23, he said: "There is no case for war. I say

that, not as a pacifist, or someone who is afraid of

war. I've been to war with the US Marine Corps.

Moreover, I'm a card-carrying Republican, who voted

for George W. Bush for president. More important, I

believe in truth.

"The UN weapons inspectors enjoyed tremendous success

in Iraq. By the end of our job, we ascertained a 90-95

per cent level of disarmament. Not because we took at

face value what the Iraqis said. We went to Europe and

scoured the countries that sold technology to Iraq

until we found the company that had an invoice signed

by an Iraqi official. We cross-checked every piece of

equipment with serial numbers. That's why I can say

that Iraq was 90-95 per cent disarmed. We confirmed

that 96 per cent of Iraq's 98 missiles were destroyed.

"As for chemical weapons, even if Iraq had succeeded

in hiding stocks of sarin and tabun nerve agents,

these chemicals have a shelf life of five years; after

that they deteriorate and become useless gunk."

Ritter does not deny that Iraq could have begun to

reconstitute its weapons programmes. "But they would

have to start from scratch because they don't have the

factories any more, because we destroyed them

(including the research and development plant). If

they tried that, the evidence is readily detectable.

The technology is available; if Iraq was producing

chemical weapons today on any meaningful scale, we

would have definitive proof to show, plain and simple;

and there is none."

Blair must also be aware of the fact that the

international Atomic Energy Agency reported that it

had eliminated Iraq's nuclear weapons programme

"efficiently and effectively". When he and Bush

"demand" the return of the UN inspectors to Iraq, what

they they omit to say is that the inspectors were

never thrown out by Iraq, but ordered out by the UN

after it was discovered they were being used as a

cover for American spying.

Absurdity is never far away in Bush's world. His

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argues that the

absence of evidence simply confirms that the nefarious

Saddam has cleverly hidden his arsenal in caves and on

the backs of lorries. "The absence of evidence," says

Rumsfeld, "is not evidence of absence."

The second biggest lie is Iraq's "threat to the

region". Blair and Bush repeatedly claim this as if

they are echoing the fears of regional leaders. The

opposite is true.

In March, the Beirut summit of the Arab League sent a

clear message that all 22 governments wanted to see an

end to the conflict with Iraq, which they no longer

regarded as a threat. Saudi Arabia and Iraq have since

re-opened their common border. Iraq has agreed to

return Kuwait's national archives and to discuss the

issue of missing people. Syria and Lebanon have

re-established full relations with Iraq. Jordan's

national airline flies five times a week between Amman

and Baghdad."

THE unmentionable truth is that the entire Gulf and

Middle East is being turned upside down, not by any

perceived threat from Iraq, but by American obsessions

with replacing Saddam Hussein.

He was their man, a thug whose Ba'athist Party was

brought to power by the CIA in what the CIA official

responsible described as "our favourite coup".

Moreover, he was sustained in power during the 1980s

by Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior and Margaret

Thatcher, who gave him all the weapons he wanted,

often clandestinely and illegally; in Washington, the

relationship was known as "the love affair".

When I was in Iraq in 1999, I met an assistant hotel

manager whose sardonic sense of western double

standards was a treat.

"Ah, a journalist from Britain!" he said. "Would you

like to see where Mr Douglas Hurd stayed, and Mr David

Melon - (he meant Mellor) - and Mr Tony Newton, and

all the other members of Mrs Thatcher's government...

These gentleman were our friends, our benefactors."

This man has a collection of the Iraqi

English-language newspaper, the Baghdad Observer, from

the "good old days". Saddam Hussein is on the front

page, where he always is. The only change in each

photograph is that he is sitting on his white

presidential couch with a different British government

minister, who is smiling a smile uncannily similar to

that of his murderous host.

There, in yellowing print, is Douglas Hurd twice - on

the couch and on page two, bowing before the tyrant.

And there is the corpulent David Mellor, also a

Foreign Minister, on the same white couch in 1988.

While Mellor, or "Mr Melon" as the assistant manager

preferred, was being entertained by Saddam Hussein,

his host ordered the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in the

town of Halabja. News of this atrocity the Foreign

Office tried to suppress and the US State Department

tried to blame on Iran. "Please give Mr Melon my

greetings," said the assistant manager.

The 1994 Scott Inquiry into Britain's illegal supply

of arms to Saddam Hussein found that deception was

widespread among senior British officials and

diplomats. One of those commended by Sir Richard Scott

for the honesty of his evidence was the former head of

the Iraq Desk in Whitehall, Mark Higson, who described

"a culture of lying" in the Foreign Office.

Nothing has changed under Tony Blair. The Foreign

Office has consistently lied about the inhuman effects

of the American-driven embargo on the Iraqi civilian

population. It has lied about the rise in the number

of cancers in southern Iraq, the "Hiroshima effect" of

depleted uranium, a weapon of mass destruction used by

British and American forces during the Gulf War. It

has lied about the vast amounts of humanitarian goods

denied to Iraq, even though the UN Security Council

has approved them. These include cancer assessment and

treatment, medical equipment, and equipment that would

allow Iraq to clean up its contaminated battlefields.

ON the issue of Iraq, the likeness between Thatcher's

Tories and Blair's New Labour is remarkable. In 2000,

Peter Hain, a Foreign Office minister and a zealous

supporter of the embargo on the civilian population,

blocked a parliamentary request to publish the full

list of the British companies that had helped to

sustain Saddam Hussein in power.

Just as the Foreign Office under the Tories tried to

hinder reports of Saddam Hussein's gassing of the

Kurds from getting into the media (Foreign Office

officials even questioned the "authenticity" of news

photos), their successors under New Labour have

questioned the veracity of United Nations studies

reporting the death of children as a result of the

American-driven embargo; and they play down the

prospect of the new humanitarian disaster awaiting the

Iraqi people when the Americans invade. Four years

ago, the Pentagon told President Clinton that, if he

invaded Iraq, he should expect "collateral damage"

(civilian deaths) of up to 10,000 innocent people.

These days, various Saddam Hussein look-alikes are to

be seen being greeted at the Foreign Office. Several

are generals who served under the tyrant and would, if

there was international justice for the West's friends

as well as its enemies, be convicted of war crimes. A

new, obedient thug is being groomed to rule Iraq, the

world's second greatest source of oil - the "prize" on

which the insatiable economies of the developed world,

especially the United Sates, rely.

Why is there an urgency about this attack? Is it true

that the Bush administration needs something to go

right with its rampage against "terror". There is

another reason, which is seldom reported. This is the

dire state of the world's number one source of oil,

Iraq's neighbour, Saudi Arabia. This medieval

throwback is America's most important client in the

region, almost as important Israel; and Washington is

losing control.

SAUDI Arabia is also the home of al-Qaeda, most of the

September 11 hijackers and Osama bin Laden. Its

importance to the US is demonstrated in the close ties

of many in the Bush administration with "big oil" and

the Saudi sheikhs. George Bush Senior, a consultant

for the giant oil industry Carlyle Group, has met the

bin Laden family on several occasions.

Not surprisingly, no American bombs fell on Saudi

Arabia; impoverished Afghanistan was the easy option

that America prefers.

Because of the American connection with Saudi Arabia,

the reaction and opposition within the deeply

fundamentalist kingdom has been growing. Al-Qaeda

probably enjoys support or influence among a majority

of the ruling families. The Americans are desperately

urging the caretaker ruler, Prince Abdullah, to

"modernise" - at present, women are not allowed to

drive and you can lose your head for apostasy. But the

American pressure is having the opposite effect;

popular support for al-Qaeda is unabated.

George W Bush and his own unelected, Christian

fundamentalist regime face a dilemma. An attack on

Iraq and conflict in the Middle East would provide a

timely boost for American's military-industry-complex,

for which the Senate has voted an historic increase in

expenditure of 24billion. It would also divert

attention from a sick economy and the corporate

corruption scandals in which Bush and his

vice-president are immersed up to their necks.

However, an attack on neighbouring Iraq could also

give al-Qaeda the moment they have been waiting for

and allow it to take over Saudi Arabia through proxies

and control the most important oil fields on Earth. It

goes almost without saying that Bush's dilemma does

not include consideration for the thousands of Iraqis

who will die under the American cluster bombs and

depleted uranium tipped explosives.

It is naive to expect Tony Blair to say anything about

this: to tell us the truth. However, people all over

the world are stirring. A clear majority of the

British people oppose the latest proposed homicidal

adventure by the United States, and the complicity of

their own government. Silence is no longer an option.

"Our lives begin to end," said Martin Luther King,

"the day we become silent about things that matter."

John Pilger's new documentary about the Middle East,

Palestine Is Still The Issue, will be shown on ITV on

September 16.


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