the lies of the War Party come unraveled, we find that, like
a sweater with a loose thread, if we pull on one lie the whole
thing comes apart.
disinformation from forged documents purporting to show Iraq's
efforts to procure uranium in the African country of Niger
somehow found expression in the President's state of the union
address, CIA director George
Tenet agreed to fall on his sword. But the bloodshed won't
effort to rope the American people into war was contingent
on galvanizing the anger generated by 9/11 – and the key to
making that connection was to implicate Saddam as being in
cahoots with Al Qaeda. (Go here for an extensive record
of the administration's efforts to conflate the two.)
in fact, as Vice President Dick Cheney said, Saddam Hussein
nuclear weapons," then the specter of an Iraqi-Al Qaeda
alliance would loom larger and more ominously. Even if the
Iraqis had, somehow, overcome the tight sanctions, evaded
UN inspectors, and become the second Middle Eastern nation
to join the nuclear club, Saddam still could have been deterred
the same way his idol, Stalin, had been contained: with the
threat of massive retaliation. But Al Qaeda, without any geographical
center or civilian population to defend, would not be so constrained.
wasn't just the possession of WMD that would single Iraq out
as the target of our post-9/11 rage: it was the possibility
– indeed, given the tone of the administration's rhetoric,
the inevitability – that Osama bin Laden would get
his hands on them that impelled us to act. Or so the White
House led us to believe.
we learn there never was any connection. The administration's
efforts to link these two competitors for power in the Middle
East were just as clumsy, in their way, as the outright
forgeries of the Niger uranium fiasco.
first such effort was the much-touted
meeting alleged to have taken place between an Iraqi intelligence
officer, Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, and 9/11 plotter
Mohammed Atta, in Prague. This story has gone through
several transmutations, with both the Czechs
and U.S. government officials
changing their stories at least once. Newsweek reported
that this tall tale was based on the "uncorroborated claim"
of a Czech informant who says he saw the two men together
on April 9, 2001. But, as Kate Taylor put it last year in Slate:
needs evidence? According to Newsweek, when
an FBI agent recently told Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz
that the meeting was 'unlikely,' Wolfowitz grilled him until
he agreed it was technically possible, since the FBI can't
cite Atta's whereabouts on April 9."
Havel definitively debunked the myth of the Prague meeting
by categorically but discreetly denying it ever took place,
effectively settling the matter to everyone's satisfaction
government officials are chipping away at the flimsy foundations
of our most pervasive urban myth, which at one point had
66 percent of the American people pinning the 9/11 attacks
on Saddam rather than Osama bin Laden. This sentiment is largely unchanged,
at present, but may be about to undergo a major revision.
5 presentation to the United Nations, at the time widely
praised as "masterful," Secretary of State Colin Powell said:
today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Mussab
al-Zarqawi, a collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda
went on to claim "when our coalition ousted the Taliban, the
Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive
training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern
William O. Beeman observes, however, the entire case for
identifying Zarqawi as the focal point of Iraq's support for
Bin Laden's cause is based on an "argument by proximity."
Zarqawi, no doubt a low-level Al Qaeda operative, did visit
Baghdad for medical treatment, but there is no evidence of
any cooperative effort or even meetings with Iraqi officials.
On the other hand, Beeman writes,
"Washington officials also acknowledge that al-Zarqawi
had support from a member of the Qatari Royal family, Abdul Karim al-Thani,
who hosted him in Qatar. However, Washington officials do
not claim that, as with Iraq, these facts show that the Qatari
court is also connected to al Qaeda particularly since
the United States depends on Qatar to provide staging support
for the U.S. Central Command."
own favorite among the War Party's lies is this canard about
the "terrorist camp" – ensconced in the midst of northern
Iraq, where Saddam's forces had absolutely no presence and
which was surrounded by territory completely under the control
of pro-U.S. Kurds. No need, here, to google endlessly for
obscure bits of information. One has only to understand the
basic political geography of pre-war Iraq to see that the
"terrorist camp" story is completely bogus.
an attempt to resuscitate the rapidly fading Al Qaeda/Iraqi
connection, the War Party is circulating a report by Judge
Gilbert S. Merritt, of Nashville, Tennessee, in Iraq as part
of the effort to rebuild the judicial infrastructure. Judge
an unusual set of circumstances, I have been given documentary
evidence of the names and positions of the 600 closest people
in Iraq to Saddam Hussein, as well as his ongoing relationship
with Osama bin Laden.
am looking at the document as I write this story from my hotel
room overlooking the Tigris River in Baghdad."
is this amazing document? It turns out to be an issue of what
Merritt refers to as the "Babylon Daily Political Newspaper,"
published by Saddam's son, Uday. No
doubt he means the now-defunct Babil, formerly an Iraqi daily.
In any case, according to the judge, the back page of the
November 14, 2002 edition contains a story headlined as a
"List of Honor," identified as "a list of men we publish for
the public," purportedly a compendium of ''regime persons''
with their names and positions listed. This is touted by the
Judge as "the 600 people closest to Saddam Hussein," and we
list has 600 names and titles in three columns. It contains,
for example, the names of the important officials who are
members of Saddam's family, such as Uday, and then other high
officials, including the 55 American ''deck
of cards'' Iraqi officials, some of whom have been apprehended.
Halfway down the middle column is written: 'Abid Al-Karim
Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination
of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi
embassy in Pakistan.'"
judge goes on to bloviate about how he had once been "skeptical"
of the Bin Laden connection, but he has seen the light on
account of this "strong proof that the two were in contact
and conspiring to perform terrorist acts."
sure as heck wouldn't want Judge Merritt to sit in judgement
on any case in which I had an interest: he seems far too easily
persuaded by dubious arguments. The judge ends his peroration
with a rousing bit of rhetoric about how the "worldwide" conspiracy
of Saddam bin Laden (or is that Osama bin Hussein?) remains
a "threat," but somehow fails to mention a key fact that is
inserted parenthetically by the newspaper in which his screed
more about the list, see accompanying article on this page.)"
accompanying article, "Puzzling
passage precedes list of top Iraqi officials," reports
a strange anomaly in this alleged smoking gun:
newspaper list of top Iraqi officials that Judge Merritt describes
in the accompanying article was also the subject of a mid-May
report in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine.
The list, published in an Iraqi newspaper before the U.S.
invasion, has received little public attention elsewhere.
magazine noted, as did Merritt, that one person on the list
was characterized as being in charge of relations with Osama
bin Laden at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan. The magazine also
mentioned that the list was prefaced by this puzzling passage:
is a list of the henchmen of the regime. Our hands will reach
them sooner or later. Woe unto them.'
the list was published in a newspaper run by Saddam Hussein's
son, it was not clear why this passage would have been allowed
Weekly Standard account
differs from Judge Merrit's in that author Stephen F. Hayes
claims it is the November 16 edition of Babil that
published this startling admission – all the more startling
because Saddam Hussein was at that very moment vehemently
denying any connection with or sympathy for Bin Laden. Hayes
refers to the "woe unto them" remark as "a cryptic addendum included
by accident?" – but what kind of an "accident" would that
be? Surely the open hostility of this interpolation – had
Uday suddenly decided to betray his own father? – is more
than a bit mysterious.
hands will reach them sooner or later" begs the question:
theory that all this was an "accident," and that, somehow,
the Ba'athist regime inadvertently gave the U.S. a good reason
to come after them through sheer incompetence, or perhaps
a suicidal tendency, is supported by Judge Merrit's contention
that "Saddam had all the papers confiscated, and he ordered
that publication of the paper be stopped for 10 days." But
the idea that the Ba'athists would try to confiscate each
and every copy of the offending newspaper seems somewhat fanciful,
and, besides that, the
suspension of Babil has another more credible explanation,
as reported by South Africa's Sunday Times:
April 2001 Sahaf survived a run-in with the murderous Uday,
which resulted in a change in his portfolio, from foreign
to information minister. According to news reports at the
time, publication of Uday's newspaper, Babylon, was
suspended for weeks after Sahaf took up his new job. "
Saheed al-Sahaf, known as "Comical Ali" for his fanciful
accounts of Iraqi military "success" as the regime went down
to defeat, appears to have shut down Babil in his capacity as
information minister, on account of his known antipathy
Comical, by the way, appears to have done quite well for himself,
these days: unlike the other Iraqi leaders, he was not included
among the "most wanted" deck of cards, and turned himself
in to the American military authorities, who questioned
him – and then released him. Comical has
now turned up in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab
Emirates, where he will no doubt find a way to cash in on
what the South Africa Times refers to as his "immense"
popularity with Arab audiences:
Sahaf can somehow be co-opted to work with the forthcoming
Interim Iraqi Authority, its credibility in the Arab world
will be hugely enhanced in spite (or perhaps because) of his
refusal to recognize an Abrams tank at a distance of 500m."
he was co-opted before the war ever began. I know of no other
reason why such a man who might be described as the Goebbels
of a regime that has often been equated with the Nazis
might be allowed to go free. Is Comical Ali receiving his
just reward for services rendered? If so, it is not too fantastic
to consider whether those services might have included the
otherwise mysterious insertion of a death threat to the regime
in a Ba'athist newspaper.
a couple of guys, described as Iraqi "lawyers," first names
only, approach Judge Merritt and proffer "proof"
of a joint Iraqi-Ladenite conspiracy at the very moment
when the administration's case for war is being mercilessly
debunked. The whole thing screams "phony" so loudly that one
can only wonder: can't the War Party do any better than this?
usual, everything government touches – including disinformation
and "black propaganda" – is executed with supreme incompetence.
I'm not sure which government we're talking about,
here, but I'll just note that the very "evidence" cited by
Judge Merritt is the best proof we're being manipulated by
obsessive liars who will stop at nothing to retroactively
justify the rush to war.
IN THE MARGIN
neocons are after Ann
Coulter's blonde mane because she praises Senator Joseph
McCarthy in her latest best-selling book, Treason:
the unanimity of the outcry from the Establishment Right is
truly a phenomenon to behold. Dorothy Rabinowitz, (in the
War Street Journal) David Horowitz,
old enemies at National Review, all have expressed
some variation of the verdict
enunciated by Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times of
"One of the most reputable scholars who has studied the
McCarthy era in great detail, Ron
Radosh, is appalled at the damage Coulter has done
to the work he and many others have painstakingly done over
the years. 'I am furious and upset about her book,' he told
me last week. 'I am reading it she uses my stuff, Harvey Klehr and
etc. to distort what we actually say and to make ludicrous
and historically incorrect arguments. You might recall my
lengthy and negative review in The New Republic a few
years ago of [Arthur]
Herman's book on McCarthy; well, she is ten times
worse than Herman. At least he tried to use bona fide historical
methods of research and argument.' Now Radosh has endured
ostracism and abuse for insisting that many of McCarthy's
victims were indeed Communist spies or agents. But he draws
the line at Coulter's crude and inflammatory defense of McCarthy.
'I think it is important that those who are considered critics
of left/liberalism don't stop using our critical faculties
when self-proclaimed conservatives start producing crap.'"
haven't read Coulter's book, because I don't need to be convinced
was right. I would only note that among the most passionate
defenders of Radosh against "ostracism and abuse" has been
none other than … Ms. Coulter:
Radosh is one of the nation's pre-eminent historians, but
he is blacklisted from American universities because he wrote
a book concluding that the Rosenbergs were guilty – a few
years before decrypted Soviet cables were released proving
they were guilty.
as Radosh had once been a 'progressive' himself, a fatwa was
inevitable. Radosh marched for the Rosenbergs. He attended
candlelight vigils for the Rosenbergs. He was even personally
acquainted with Pete
Seeger! But after setting out to write a book proving
the Rosenbergs innocent, his research led him to conclude
otherwise. He was a liberal who rejected the faith. Under
strict fatwa procedures, Radosh had to be banned from
"As has been copiously detailed by John Judis in
the liberal New Republic magazine, whenever Radosh
is on the verge of being hired by a major university, the
liberal wolf pack bays and suddenly the position disappears.
Anonymous critics were quoted 'question[ing] his credentials.'
One historian told Judis: 'I wouldn't hire a red-baiter like
Ron.' Another said Radosh was 'not a historian at all.'"
has gone to the barricades in defense of Radosh, and this
is how Radosh repays her – with smears. But smearing is his
forte, in his new incarnation as a neoconservative. His
latest pamphlet for the Foundation for the Defense of
Democracies states that I am "in league with the most extremist
anti-Semites in the Arab world" for merely reporting what Carl Cameron of Fox News reported
back in December 2001, and I quote:
is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11
attacks, but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have
gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not
are the neocons so exercised by Coulter's book? Sullivan cattily
disdains her as a "babe," indicating, in his case, a toxic
mix of professional envy and sheer misanthropy. But the deeper
reason for this all-out assault is ideological: the
neocons hated McCarthy, and still do, because he pointed
to the internal danger posed by Communist sympathizers, rather
than the "real" enemy abroad. He was also a populist, and
despise the masses, who need to be guided by "public intellectuals"
such as themselves. The McCarthyites were, after all, aiming
their main fire at their own government – in the neocons'
view, an impermissible
act of lese
majeste. The legitimacy of government must never be questioned.
I have no sympathy for Ms. Coulter's post-9/11 ranting, as my longtime readers know,
one can only feel sympathy for her in her present situation,
as she endures a public stoning by her former "friends." Spirited,
beautiful, and totally right about "Tail-Gunner
Joe," Ann Coulter is the latest victim of the neocons'
vituperative campaign to cleanse the conservative movement
of any elements that might challenge them.
for Ronald Radosh, "reformed" ex-Communist and professional
turncoat, his own character as a back-stabbing cretin is now
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