Gray Flannel Dwarf

3/14/2003

From The New Republic: Why

From The New Republic:

Why does so much of the world think the Bush administration has hidden, nefarious motives for its war in Iraq…The responsibility for these misguided, toxic analyses lies mostly with other societies and other governments. But there’s a third reason for the world’s radical distrust of America’s war effort, and, for this, the Bush administration has only itself to blame: It keeps saying things about Iraq that turn out not to be true.

Of course, quoting and linking this article will cause some parties to immediately cast The New Republic aside as a liberal rag, when, in fact, it’s pretty centrist. In fact, it might be argued that, historically, it has been fairly conservative with regards to foreign policy. Regardless – for people who make such rash assumptions, I need not trifle with trying to change minds.

Article below…

TRB FROM WASHINGTON
Truth Be Told
by Peter Beinart

Post date: 03.13.03
Issue date: 03.24.03

Why does so much of the world think the Bush administration has hidden, nefarious motives for its war in Iraq? Partly, it’s because Marxism isn’t entirely dead–and many people still assume that U.S. foreign policy is governed by a rapacious, imperialistic desire for profit or, in this case, oil. Partly, it’s because anti-Semitism isn’t dead–and many people still assume that Jews run the United States for Israel’s benefit. The responsibility for these misguided, toxic analyses lies mostly with other societies and other governments. But there’s a third reason for the world’s radical distrust of America’s war effort, and, for this, the Bush administration has only itself to blame: It keeps saying things about Iraq that turn out not to be true.

On December 7 of last year, Iraq, as demanded by U.N. Resolution 1441, gave the Security Council a report on its weapons programs. The Bush administration quickly accused Baghdad of leaving out key information. In particular, noted the State Department, “The declaration ignores [Iraq's] efforts to procure uranium from Niger.” In his January 28 State of the Union address, the president cited the uranium deal as evidence of Saddam Hussein’s continuing nuclear aspirations. To prove their case, Britain and the United States handed over documents detailing Iraq’s attempted uranium purchase to U.N. inspectors.

The inspectors reviewed the documents –hiring independent authentication experts to evaluate the handwriting and signatures. And then, last Friday, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told the Security Council something startling: The documents were crude forgeries. The Iraqi officials who had allegedly tried to buy the uranium were not even in their jobs at the time the documents were supposedly written. Confronted with ElBaradei’s findings last Sunday on CNN’s “Late Edition,” Colin Powell changed the subject, “If that issue is resolved, that issue is resolved. But we don’t believe that all issues with respect to development of a nuclear weapon have been resolved.”

Unfortunately for the administration, its claims about other nuclear “issues” haven’t held up much better. In his September 12, 2002, speech to the Security Council, President Bush claimed that Baghdad had made “several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.” In early January, the IAEA contradicted Bush once again, arguing that the 81-millimeter aluminum tubes were “not directly suitable” for enriching uranium and were more likely meant for conventional artillery rockets. As David Albright, a physicist and former U.N. weapons inspector currently at the Institute for Science and International Security has explained, the 81-millimeter tubes, with their small diameter and thick walls, were poorly designed to enrich uranium. Indeed, he notes, “No one has ever … produced significant amounts of uranium in a cascade of such machines.” In fact, when Iraq was enriching uranium in the late ’80s, it used tubes of an entirely different kind.

Experts inside the Bush administration itself agreed. While analysts at the CIA peddled the tubes-for-enriched-uranium theory, gas-centrifuge specialists at the Department of Energy (DOE) were skeptical. “I would just say there is not much support for that [nuclear] theory around here,” one DOE expert told The Guardian on October 9, 2002. But, undaunted, the president cited the aluminum tubes in his State of the Union speech. And, on February 5, Powell repeated the claim once again. In particular, he noted that the tubes Iraq tried to buy were “anodized”–they contained a thin, anti-corrosive film supposedly necessary for use in nuclear centrifuges.

But the anodization actually undermines Powell’s case. Since “bare aluminum without any coating is resistant to corrosion by uranium hexafluoride, the process gas in a centrifuge,” Albright wrote in a March 10 report, “a well-known unclassified fact is that anodization is not necessary for a centrifuge.” By contrast, the conventional rockets Iraq purchased from Italy in the ’80s had corroded in storage, which helps explain why Baghdad wanted to purchase anodized tubes when it tried to build more such rockets in 2000.

Last Friday, ElBaradei delivered the final blow. The IAEA had discovered blueprints, invoices, and notes showing that, in its quest to build better artillery rockets, Iraq had for 14 years sought noncorrosive tubes of exactly the type Powell cited. Asked to respond on “Late Edition,” Powell replied, “We still have an open question with respect to that,” hardly a ringing endorsement of a claim showcased by the president of the United States in two nationally televised speeches.

The apparent disproval of two key pieces of evidence does not mean the Bush administration is wrong to suspect that Saddam is still pursuing nuclear weapons. Indeed, everything we know about the man makes it highly implausible that he shelved his nuclear ambitions between 1998 and 2002, when he was free to pursue them absent international inspections. But, for most opponents of the Iraq war, Saddam’s trustworthiness isn’t the issue; President Bush’s is.

This is the same president, after all, who famously claimed in an October 7, 2002, speech that “Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] for missions targeting the United States”– although American officials later admitted that the UAVs had a maximum range of several hundred miles. It’s hard to believe such a whopping error made it into President Bush’s speech by accident. It equally strains credulity that America’s intelligence services were so incompetent that they missed the obvious uranium-document forgeries the iaea discovered so easily. And it is even harder to believe that the Bush administration was unaware of the flimsiness of its aluminum-tubes evidence–given that experts at the DOE made exactly this point behind closed doors. Absent some convincing explanation by the White House, the most plausible theory is that key officials in the Bush administration knew–or at least suspected–they were making false claims. And they made them anyway.

By the time you read this column, the Bush administration may well have lost its bid for U.N. authorization for the war. If so, American officials and commentators will no doubt chalk up the defeat to anti-American suspicion among countries motivated by timidity, resentment, and pique. And they’ll be partly correct. But it’s worth noting that the suspicion isn’t entirely irrational, given what Security Council members have witnessed over the past several months. If the Bush administration wanted to win the world’s trust, it should have started by telling the truth.


Tags: , , , , — cswiii @ 1:12 pm

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