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A Rebuttal to Powell's Speech to the U.N.

Rahul Mahajan was the Green Party's 2002 candidate for Governor in Texas and is a member of the Nowar Collective, the National Board of Peace Action, and the National Committee of the National Network to End the War against Iraq. He earned a doctorate in Physics from the University of Texas at Austin and is author of The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism (Apr. 2002, Monthly Review Press) and the forthcoming The U.S. War on Iraq: Myths, Facts, and Lies.

Outlook, Feb. 6, 2003

"If one believes everything Colin Powell said to the Security Council yesterday, one's first response ought to be that there's no reason to fight a war, since U.S. surveillance capabilities are so awesome that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.) can easily be found. And one's first question should be why has the United States for over two months withheld this apparently so damaging evidence from those weapons inspectors, who could have verified conjectures and destroyed W.M.D. stocks and production facilities. If indeed the evidence presented is of the character claimed by Powell, then the United States has chosen to sabotage U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, clause 10 of which 'Requests all Member States to give full support to U.N.M.O.V.I.C. and the I.A.E.A. in the discharge of their mandates, including by providing any information related to prohibited programmes.' "
"Given the history of U.S. government use of disinformation to drum up support for war, from relatively subtle measures like doctoring satellite photos to convince the Saudi government that Iraq was massing troops for an invasion of Saudi Arabia in 1990 to incredibly crude ones like the continuing claims by officials from George W. Bush on down that Iraq 'expelled' weapons inspectors in 1998 (as covered in the press at the time, the inspectors were withdrawn at the behest of the United States), a skeptic need not actually accept any of the evidence as presented."
"[M]issing from the entire presentation was any serious talk about a threat posed by Iraq, either to the United States or even to any country in the region. Mere possession of W.M.D., even if established, is not exactly evidence of aggressive intent. And in fact Iraq has been the recipient of aggression frequently since the Gulf War (bombings by the U.S. and U.K., periodic invasions in the north by Turkey, virtual Kuwaiti annexation of Iraqi land in the south), but has not itself seriously threatened any. The evidence about Iraq's intent to attack seems to run something like this - Saddam 'gassed his own people' in 1988, therefore there is an imminent threat that he will attack us in 2003. The imminent threat is not, however, so severe as to keep us from having a full year of warmongering and bellicose rhetoric before we actually attack."
"This conveniently ignores the central fact about Hussein's record of aggression. Without exception, his worse crimes were committed with full U.S. support, both material and diplomatic. The war on Iran, the massacre of Kurds in the Anfal campaign of the late 1980's, even the bloody suppression in 1991 of the 'Iraqi intifada' all involved explicit measures of support from the United States - providing military intelligence, approving export of chemical and biological agents, providing 'agricultural' credits, disarming rebels, and much more. The invasion of Kuwait was done in the deliberately fostered belief that the United States would not mind. Without U.S. support, Hussein knows well that he can only be a threat to his internal political enemies."
"Powell did not deal with these facts, but essentially admitted the lack of any evidence of a real Iraqi threat when he fell back on the 'pre-emption' argument - 'should we take the risk that he will not someday use these weapons at a time and a place and in a manner of his choosing, at a time when the world is in a much weaker position to respond?' Of course, in the absence of concrete evidence, any country can make this argument against any other, which is why 'pre-emption' is clearly not consistent with international law. If Iraq is not cooperating fully with inspections right now, it's important to understand why. The first round of weapons inspections started to fall apart in 1998 for one reason - the United States refused to commit to lifting the sanctions once Iraq was disarmed. This refusal was an abrogation of its own commitment under U.N.S.C.R. 687."
"So Iraq is in the bizarre position of being called on to disarm while being attacked by another country, and then being reviled by the 'international community' for partial compliance."