Bush warhawks maneuver to justify war

Despite growing world and domestic opposition, the Bush administration is mounting a new high-pressure campaign to force UN support for its drive to war against Iraq.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and weapons inspectors say the inspection process must be allowed to continue and that several months are needed to reach any conclusion about Iraq’s Dec. 7 weapons declaration. Iraq has been cooperating fully with the inspectors, who have thus far reported no sign that Iraq has or is developing weapons of mass destruction.

Nevertheless Bush is expected to declare Iraq in violation of UN Resolution 1441 requiring it to accept the inspectors and to declare that it does not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Although the administration either cannot or will not provide evidence that Iraq has or is developing weapons of mass destruction, Bush and his advisers are proclaiming that the declaration 'has nothing new,' and is missing important information. Many observers suggest this is a 'Catch-22' maneuver that puts Iraq into an impossible situation of having to prove a negative.

Weapons inspectors say it’s not surprising that Iraq resubmitted previous reports since it says it has not been working on weapons of mass destruction since the 1991 Gulf War. If Iraq had submitted new information, it would have put itself in the position of contradicting its own declaration.

Edward Peck, former chief of mission to Iraq and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terror in the Reagan administration, told the World, 'You cannot prove a negative.' If we are looking for five-pound bags of anthrax virus, for example, no one in the world is capable of certifying that such things do or don’t exist, he said. 'It seems reasonably clear this administration has been out to get Saddam Hussein since it came into office and Sept. 11 provided an opportunity.' Peck said the administration has offered no proof of any of its charges against Saddam Hussein, but will do 'whatever needs to be done' to justify a war, even though Iraq is both 'economically destroyed and militarily incapacitated.'

Bill Christison, former director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis, told the World, 'A high-level group in the government desperately wants this war to take place.' They will hide behind security claims to conceal intelligence that doesn’t fit their plans, he added.

Christison, who worked for the CIA from 1950 to 1979, wrote in Counterpunch recently, 'It is beyond belief that the U.S. would ever have intelligence good enough to make launching a preemptive war morally acceptable. There is always an element of guesswork with respect to a potential enemy’s intentions.

'Even if you have a 90 percent degree of confidence in your judgment of what another country … truly intends to do, initiating a preemptive war and killing innocent people is still a prohibitively immoral action,' Christison said. 'Any way you slice it, you are killing people on the basis of a guess.' He said for a nation to believe that its intelligence services can provide a 100 percent degree of confidence is just one more form of arrogance.

Although chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has said he is not in the 'abduction business,' the Bush administration is ramping up its insistence that inspectors interview Iraqi scientists outside of Iraq, hoping that some of these scientists will furnish information that administration hawks can use to justify war.

The White House expects this ploy to give the U.S. an excuse to say Iraq is in 'material breach' of UN requirements. If inspectors refuse to comply with U.S. demands, Bush can try to use that to discredit the inspection process. If Iraq resists handing over scientists, Bush can claim that is a violation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) denounced the Bush administration’s drumbeat for war and advocacy of political assassination, saying, 'I believe we have lost the moral high ground with the talk of war, assassination and first strikes coming out of Washington.' War must be a last resort, Boxer said. 'I don’t care what scenario you set, two days, 10 days or 30 days. It’s brutal, it’s harsh and innocent people will die,' she said.

Actor and director Sean Penn, on a visit to Baghdad, said Dec. 15, 'If there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands.' In October, Penn took out a $56,000 ad in The Washington Post opposing the sacrifice of 'American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented pre-emptive attack on a separate sovereign nation.'

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org