Friday, October 08, 2004

I'm Back II... On Iraq & the Media...

The big story is supposed to be the Duelfer Report, which admits there were no WMD in Iraq. However, we knew that already - from Hussein Kamel's 1995 testimony (released weeks before the war), from a critical assessment of the work of UNSCOM and UNMOVIC, from the collapse of US and British claims thanks to the work of UNMOVIC and mostly British journalists even before the war, and also from an 1995 document the CIA team then led by David Kay found (and leaked to the Washington Post), which was clear about the unilateral WMD destruction when it summed up what Hussein Kamel could possibly talk about.

On this issue, the New York Times's dissembling of the aluminium tubes story is more important - a really thorough article that not only exposes how well the real use of the tubes was known in 2001 already and how unserious the centrifuge interpretation was, and the politicians' role in pushing it, but also the NYT's omission on several ocassions to expose this earlier. (Now if only they had put this on the front page - and would be more critical of current claims and spin.)

One should view the Duelfer Report in the light that it is not a report by the independent UNMOVIC but the CIA, and not the report by the ISG's first leader - David Kay - who was already a zealous partisan out to find anything to support a foregone conclusion but had to be replaced when he would admit defeat - it is a report by its second leader, chosen for partisanship. So the admission of a lack of both WMD stocks and WMD programmes is the DUH! part, and the spurious inferences about Saddam's post-sanctions intentions (that is, Saddam's daydreams as inferred by the CIA from claimed Saddam remarks in part claimed to be what onetime underlings claimed and interpreted, with all claims obtained in custody under questionable and unverifiable circumstances - heh) plus the regurgitated claims about beneficiaries of the Oil-For-Foods programme's corruption (without bothering to ask the accused about the charges) is what deserves to be considered with the credibility of a second-order partisan.

(BTW, the unusually strong Guardian editorial put it this way: "The basis for this claim - garnered from interviews with captured scientists and the former Iraqi leader himself - is as incomplete as it is tantalising. But it is founded on inference and supposition not on fact - though it has been emphasised by US and British officials desperately spinning the meaning of the report.", read the rest too.)

(UPDATE 13/10: Even better quote from CNN, via Left I:

SCOTT RITTER, FMR. U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I absolutely agree that the facts can only lead you in one direction, that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction capability, that the United Nations had, indeed, succeeded in disarming Iraq in 1991. The programs were dismantled by 1995. And Charles Duelfer's report clearly underscores this.

Where I disagree is the notion of intent. I don't think we can afford to take at face value anything the Bush administration or Bush administration appointees say regarding weapons of mass destruction that paint the Bush administration's decision to go to war in a favorable light. There is no substantive factually based data that sustains the notion of intent. We have Charles Duelfer providing speculation, innuendo, hearsay and rumor. But we don't have a confession from Saddam Hussein or his senior leadership. And void of that, I think, we need to question this assertion.

Ritter also wrote on the issue in the Independent, so did Hans Blix.

L. Paul Bremer's little fallout with the neocons isn't that important either - it would be amusing to listen to them exposing how both the planning and the progress of the occupation was botched, wouln't mainstream US commenters be fast to fall in line on either side of the dualism, rather than see that both sides happen to be right in their criticism...

As for more important issues.

Some US and right-wing Anglo-Saxon editors gathered some courage to publish articles truly critical of current claims of US military propaganda. Regarding Zarqawi, an article that appeared in the British Telegraph and the Australian The Age details why "American intelligence obtained through bribery may have seriously overstated the insurgency role of the most wanted fugitive in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi" - and relates this to the daily bombing of Fallujah. Excerpts:

We were basically paying up to $US10,000 ($A13,700) a time to opportunists, criminals and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq," one agent said.

"Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable for the public to latch on to, and we got one."

...the insurgency is led not by foreign-born Arabs but by members of Iraq's Sunni minority.

"The overwhelming sense from the information we are now getting is that the number of foreign fighters does not exceed several hundred and is perhaps as low as 200," one agent said.

"From the information we have gathered, we have to conclude Zarqawi is more myth than man. At some stage, and perhaps even now, he was almost certainly behind some of the kidnappings. But if there is a main leader of the insurgency, he would be an Iraqi. But the insurgency is not nearly so centralised to talk of a structured leadership."

Military intelligence officials complain that their reports to Washington are largely being ignored and accuse the Pentagon of over-reliance on electronic surveillance and aerial and satellite reconnaissance by the CIA.

In recent weeks America has claimed a series of precision air strikes on targets in Fallujah identified by the CIA as housing known Zarqawi associates. [As I suspected, they are shooting into suspicious crowds, any crowd is suspicious - including yet another wedding party...]

It has denied that there were any civilian casualties, despite television pictures showing dead and wounded women and children being pulled from the rubble of flattened homes.

From the last part, you can see why I think this is more important: the US air force is killing dozens every day based on just as phony an intelligence as the WMD one, while in their minds fighting a just as cartoonishly overblown single man (Zarqawi) as then Saddam. If a combination of execution without trial ("there's a suspected terrorist, let's kill him"), collective punishment ("there's a suspected terrorist in da house, let's kill everyone"), racism ("'they' attacked us") and bad intel is bad enough, what to make of all of this done while fighting a phantom, like some drug addict shooting his girfriend while fighting a hallucination? Western values, what are they...

(Oh, and as Raed points out, it is the height of hypocrisy to speak much about the children killed by the resistance's bomb - a bomb aimed at US troops, who got those children into danger by handing out candy; and then lose no word about the children killed in another Fallujah bombing or Gaza raid.)

Meanwhile, another article that appeared in Newsday and the Boston Globe references an Arab intelligence service (from the text, my bet is on Jordan) report that Zarqawi is most likely in Mosul, not Fallujah. The article is the best so far not in a European source, dismantling four of the five main spins about Zarqawi - i.e., that 1) he is an al-Qaida operative (rather than head of a rival organisation), that 2) he was harbored by Saddam, that 3) he oversaw a poison factory and network, 4) his would be the strongest Resistance sub-group (rather than media-savvy, but inferior even to the Kurdish fundies of Ansar-e-Islam), that 5) he is Fallujah based (rather than in the Northern regions):

...according to an Arab intelligence assessment, Zarqawi is not capable of carrying out the level of attacks in Iraq that he has claimed and that American officials have blamed on him.

Zarqawi's own militant group has fewer than 100 members inside Iraq, although Zarqawi has close ties to a Kurdish Islamist group with at least several hundred members...

...Al-Zarqawi has spent considerable time in Mosul, and he might be hiding there rather than in Fallujah, where U.S. forces have launched numerous air strikes since June on what they describe as al-Zarqawi safe houses. Al-Zarqawi is drawn to Mosul because of the concentration of Ansar members there, and because the city of 2 million people is easier to hide in than Fallujah.

Al-Zarqawi's ties to al-Qaida are unclear, and he is more likely an independent operator than a lieutenant of bin Laden's. (That has been the view of Arab and European intelligence officials for several years.) Al-Zarqawi is also likely to see his own group, Tawhid and Jihad (Arabic for "Unity and Holy War"), as being in competition for recruits with al-Qaida.

...Since Powell's speech, some U.S. officials backed away from the story of al-Zarqawi's Baghdad hospital visit, saying the militant still has both his legs.

..."A year ago, hardly anyone had heard of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Today, he is a superman who is responsible for bringing chaos to Iraq," said Diaa Rashwan, a leading expert on Islamic militants at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "The Americans overestimated him for political reasons. It is easier to put all the blame on one man than to deal with an insurgency that includes Iraqi nationalists, former Baathists and Islamists."

I was also almost incredulous reading this article exposing the truth behind the Allawi government's 'sovereignity' - one in the Telegraph, on the ocassion of the aborted release of female detainees at Abu Ghraib - but with lots of other examples. Meanwhile, lesser elements of the bureaucracy try to establish sovereignity (or maybe a credibility with the population) in provocative ways: indicting a Chalabi associate for calling for talks with Israel or demanding the US to give back the Green Zone!


At 10:58 PM, Blogger Levi9909 said...

Speaking of the Telegraph, did you see their article suggesting that Ken Bigley was being well treated by his captors and that the cage business was a charade for the cameras? It's here:;sessionid=EDWAF04I33ORHQFIQMFSM5OAVCBQ0JVC?xml=/news/2004/10/02/wbig02.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/10/02/ixportaltop.html&secureRefresh=true&_requestid=51318

At 1:55 AM, Blogger DoDo said...

Thanks for the link. Was Bigley really only executed because he fled? But I doubt that version.

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Levi9909 said...

It seems that some are saying that Bigley may have been killed because there was an upsurge in American bombing of the area where he was being held. I don't know how you recognise an upsurge. What concerned me with the Telegraph article was that, taken together, the raid on his anti-Blair brother's home and the article suggesting he was being well-treated amounted to a kind of whispering campaign against Ken Bigley in case he was released and embarrassed Blair over the war. Looks a bit like the Dr Kelly affair to me. Look at this blog where Bigley is all but openly accused of collusion.

At 4:09 PM, Blogger DoDo said...

Oh, I get your point!

As the article is based on kind of anecdotic evidence from a single, biased-towards-the-captors source (I don't think making it up would be necessary or the Torygraph's way of doing propaganda[*]), it could well be.

On the other hand, the media-consciousness of the video-makers of hostage-takers was apparent to me from all the released hostage's accounts I read, that's why I wasn't thinking of a deeper motive - as I usually do with the Torygraph.

BTW, what do you think, what could be the motive behind their sovereignity-myth-busting article?

[*] Selective reporting, fact-checking, and adding a narrative framework to otherwise high-quality material is their method; let's not forget Gilligan left for the BBC from there.


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