We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction
– Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard, March 17, 2003
Based on my experience with the administration in the months leading up to the war, I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.
- Joe Wilson, The New York Times, July 6, 2003
On October 12, 2002, one day after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to authorize the Bush Administration’s use of military force against Iraq, the Iraqi government sent a letter to officials overseeing the U.N. weapons inspection programs. The Iraqis reiterated their pledge to allow inspectors to operate in the country “as soon as possible,” as long as the inspectors abided by the United Nations’ own terms of agreement. The letter did not address specific demands that Iraq provide unrestricted access to weapons sites.
“This is more of the same games they have been playing for the past 10 years,” a senior White House official said. “They continue to play games of denial and deception.”
Mohammed ElBaradei and Hans Blix, then the respective heads of the IAEA and UNMOVIC – the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission – noted Iraq’s agreement to provide “immediate, unconditional and unrestricted access” to its safeguarded sites, including access to Iraqi officials and scientists.
The Iraqis had also given their approval for U.N. surveillance flights over the country. Iraqi officials made it clear, however, that they could not guarantee the safety of these flyovers unless the joint US/UK administered no-fly zones over Iraq were cancelled.
The United States immediately dismissed the request. “Obviously the Iraqis want to delay and deceive,” a U.S. official said.
Fast forward to March 6, 2013. U.S. envoy to the IAEA Joseph Macmanus accused Iran of a “commitment to deception, defiance, and delay” in response to Iranian attempts to address concerns about alleged past research and willingness to provide the IAEA with access to a military facility not legally accessible to the organization.
The parallels to Iraq 2003 are undeniable. Just days earlier, in a speech before the powerful pro-Israeli lobbying group AIPAC, Vice President Joe Biden insisted that “President Obama is not bluffing” in threatening military action against Iran. Meanwhile, U.S. Senators have recently put forward a bill pledging American “diplomatic, military, and economic support” for any potential Israeli attack on Iran. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is just as confident about Iran’s pursuit of atomic weapons now as he was about Iraq ten years ago.
With the tenth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq looming, a wealth of reflective analyses has emerged about the wisdom (or sheer madness and criminality) of that tragic act, sold to the American public through the constant repetition of lies and fear mongering.
Recalling the run up to the Iraq invasion, in late February 2013, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson wrote in The Guardian:
For nearly a year prior to the invasion, President Bush and his administration peppered the airwaves with serious accusations against Saddam Hussein, including claims of aluminum tubes that could be used in centrifuges to enrich uranium, and of Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa. The intelligence supporting the claims was either not believed or was highly disputed by the experts. But that did not stop senior government officials from repeating them incessantly; nor did it prevent the powerful neoconservative ideologues who were the war’s most fervent supporters from parroting them with menacingly jingoistic passion.
The tactics of collective punishment and threats of military action now leveled against Iran are the same as they were ten years ago against Iraq. Every week, the mainstream media peddles new stories of supposedly nefarious Iranian acts, only to be debunked and discredited after these narratives have irreversibly gained traction.
As former White House spokesman Scott McClellan wrote in his 2008 memoir, “In the fall of 2002, Bush and his White House were engaging in a carefully-orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval to our advantage.” He added that “deception” served to “cloud the public’s ability to see larger, underlying important truths that are critical to understand in order to avoid the same problems in the future.”
“Memories of the failure and tragic mistakes in Iraq are not taken sufficiently seriously,” Hans Blix recently told a group of reporters in Dubai. “In the case of Iraq, there was an attempt made by some states to eradicate weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, and today there is talk of going [to] Iran to eradicate intentions that may not exist. I hope that will not happen,” he said.
Blix, who was also a former Director General of the IAEA, further explained, “Iran has not violated NPT and there is no evidence right now that suggests that Iran is producing nuclear weapons.”
With the recent clamor of rattling sabers by the same cast of characters a decade after the illegal invasion of Iraq, it seems undeniable that those who enabled war crimes in Iraq are eager to repeat themselves.