7 October 2003

White House's Cynical Iraq Ploy

It's hard to believe that it was just a slip of the tongue rather than a calculated lie when Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz sullied the memory of those who died on 9/11 by exploiting their deaths for propaganda purposes. The brainwashing of Americans, two-thirds of whom believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks, is too effective a political ploy for the Bush regime to suddenly let the truth get in the way.

'We know [Iraq] had a great deal to do with terrorism in general and with Al Qaeda in particular and we know a great many of [Osama] bin Laden's key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime ' Wolfowitz told ABC on this year's 9/11 anniversary.

We know nothing of the sort, of course, and the next day Wolfowitz was forced to admit it. He told Associated Press that his remarks referred not to a 'great many' of Bin Laden's lieutenants but rather to a single Jordanian, Abu Musab Zarqawi. '[I] should have been more precise,' Wolfowitz admitted.

Even if the leaders of the Bush team were half as smart as they think they are, it would be amazing that they 'misspoke' as often as they have. As happened Sunday when Tim Russert challenged Vice President Dick Cheney to defend his claim, made on 'Meet the Press' before the war, that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons. 'Yeah, I did misspeak,' Cheney admitted. 'We never had any evidence that [Hussein] had acquired a nuclear weapon.'

The pattern is clear: Say what you want people to believe for the front page and on TV, then whisper a halfhearted correction or apology that slips under the radar. It is really quite ingenious in its cynical effectiveness, and Wolfowitz's latest performance is a classic example - even his correction needs correcting.

The Zarqawi connection has been a red herring since Colin Powell emphasized it in his prewar presentation to the United Nations Security Council, telling the world how Zarqawi was running a chemical weapons lab. Problem was, the site was not in Iraqi control but was in the U.S.-patrolled no-fly zone, and when reporters visited it in the days immediately after Powell's speech they found nothing that indicated anything like a chemical weapons lab.

The fundamentalist militia known as Ansar al Islam that controlled the area, meanwhile, was supported by Hussein's enemies in Iran.

Nor has any evidence of connections between Ansar al Islam and Hussein's regime surfaced since the U.S invasion, as Wolfowitz conceded in congressional testimony last Tuesday.

The most egregious example of this tactic since this article first appeared in the Los Angeles Times on 16 September is the vial of mass destruction whose precise contents seem to change at will. The British government has called it a WMD, as has President Bush, although even the ISG's David Kay later admitted that was not the case.

Powell's original claims about the 'massive terrorist facility' in Iraqi Kurdistan were twice repeated during the war by high CENTCOM officials and then disavowed later by more junior officers.

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