Vol. 4 Num 293 Wed. March 24, 2004  

The Iraq war a year later and George Bush's tangled web of deception

It seems like yesterday that I was in Bangladesh watching the Iraq War unfold. I shared with my Bangladeshi friends the feeling of outrage at the Bush administration's reckless actions in the region, its violation of international law and its disregard -- and even contempt -- for those countries, including its closest allies, brave enough to defy its will.

But it's now a year later, and the world community is trying to make sense of what has happened and is happening in Iraq. Every day this week, the White House will be putting its best spin on the Iraq War, which began on March 19, and try to tie the conflict to the broader War on Terrorism. The spin campaign actually began last week, when Rumsfeld proclaimed with a straight face that "after all peaceful options had been exhausted" did the president and the coalition order the liberation of Iraq.

Given what's happened in the past year and given the ton of evidence that contradicts Rumsfeld's contention, I marvel how our secretary of defence can say such a thing without blushing in embarrassment. It appears he and other Bush administration officials believe that, if they tell a big lie long enough, the public will start believing it.

The fact is the Bush administration did not "exhaust every peaceful option" before liberating Iraq. It certainly didn't allow UN weapons inspectors to do their job and find the evidence to prove Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and posed an "imminent threat" to the civilized world.

We can recall Secretary of State Colin Powell presentation in early February 2003 to the United Nations Security Counsel, arguing that Saddam had violated UN resolutions, agreed to after the 1991 Gulf War, requiring Iraq to disarm. As I wrote early in The Daily Star, even Colin Powell didn't really believe in the horse manure the neo-conservative clique running the White House was trying to feed the world community.

We all, it has turned out, were right. Since the Iraq War's end, it has come to light that the Bush administration based its charges upon evidence that didn't really prove Iraq had WMD.

So this raises an important question to which we need an answer: did the Bush administration exaggerate the Iraq threat or pressure intelligence analysts to tailor their assessments of Iraq's weapons programme to bolster its case for war?

The White House and Republican leaders in Congress have tried to protect the Bush administration by confining the US Senate's Iraq probe to the performance of the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Fortunately, however, the US Senate Intelligence Committee has said it plans to investigate "whether public statements and reports and testimony regarding Iraq were substantiated by intelligence information."

In a clumsy attempt to justify its actions, the Bush administration now is claiming it never used the word "imminent" to describe the Iraq threat. But the American media, to its credit, has been digging up the administration's statements of a year ago that shows otherwise. The Los Angeles Times, for instance, noted that "Bush described Hussein's regime as a 'grave and growing' danger and warned that the United States 'could not wait for definitive proof' that Hussein had weapons stockpiles."

So much for Rumsfeld's "exhausting every peaceful option" contention. Do these guys ever talk with each other to get their story straight before going public?

Meanwhile other Bush administration officials are working hard to keep alive the bogus arguments for the war. In a radio interview last January, Vice President Dick Cheney once again made the long but discredited claim that the military trailers found in Iraq were Saddam's so called mobile bio weapons labs.

"That in my mind, is a serious danger in the hands of a man like Saddam Hussein, and I would deem that conclusive evidence, if you will, that he did, in fact, have weapons of mass destruction," Cheney said.

The truth is the evidence has been anything but conclusive. The New York Times, for instance, reported that a US State Department memo had cast doubts on the CIA's claim the trailers were being used to manufacture biological weapons. Meanwhile, a Observer newspaper report has also concluded that the two trailers were "not mobile germ warfare labs, as was claimed by Tony and President George Bush."

The alleged connection between al-Qaida and Saddam was the other major justification for the war, but this odd couple relationship has also been discredited. Yet once again the Bush administration keeps grasping at straws.

In that radio interview last January, Cheney said there was "overwhelming evidence" of an al-Qaida-Saddam relationship. One of the pieces of "evidence" that Cheney cited was Iraq's harbouring of Abdul RahmanYasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. What Cheney didn't say was that Iraq had offered to turn over Yasin to the US in 1998 in return for a US statement acknowledging Iraq had no role in the attack, but the Clinton administration refused.

Some US government officials have risked their careers by going public to provide the truth about the al-Qaida-Saddam connection. "We could find no provable connection between Saddam and al-Qaida," one US official told a major US news service earlier this month.

So here we are one year later and the Bush administration continues to lie to justify the illegal Iraq War. Meanwhile, its credibility on the world stage keeps eroding, Iraq has become a "disaster" as the new Spanish Prime Minister aptly pointed out, and the real War on Terrorism sputters along, thanks to Bush's reckless foreign policy.

Once again we are reminded how important this year's US presidential election is for the US and the world community. I, like many other Americans, hope to wave bye bye to George W. Bush, Jr. next January as he hops a plane for the long ride to retirement at his ranch in Texas.

Ron Chepesiuk, a US based journalist, is a former Fulbright Scholar to Bangladesh, a Visiting Professor of Journalism at Chittagong University, and a Research Associate with the National Defence College.