Heading Off to War

David Corn, online March 7 for The Nation:

At the moment, what Bush has to say matters little. He has no new evidence to reveal. He has no better case to make. He's got what he's got. Moreover, there's no jury or judge he has to convince. It's his decision, and it appears it has already been rendered. The only answer to this threat (real or potential) is a disarmed Saddam. The only disarmed Saddam is a dethroned Saddam. That requires war. What happens in the UN over the next days seems to have no bearing on what will transpire in Iraq. The question is merely whether Bush has to run a red-light on his way to Baghdad. His foot is already heavy on the gas. Emboldened by his own half-truths and lies, he is heading off to war.

A Citizen in the Kingdom of Fear

Adam Bulger interviews Hunter S. Thompson, "early March 2003," at freezerbox.com:

[HST] I talk about this all the time to a lot of people: Are you more optimistic about the next ten years than about the last, when you started?

[AB] Who, me?

[HST] Yeah.

[AB] No! I . . . man, to rip you off, I'm full of fear and loathing. I am a citizen in the Kingdom of Fear. I'm scared every waking moment man.

[HST] Well, uh, Jesus, that's horrible! That's a kind of, uh, prevailing sentiment.

[AB] Yeah.

[HST] And you know, you look at fear and people, a population that's uh, just riddled with fear and confusion and, uh, loathing, goddamn. Never did it occur to me when I came up with those words that I would be using them to describe the state of the nation 30 years later or whatever.

How It’s Going

Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, 3/7/03:

So let's take stock of how our invasion of Iraq is going. The Western alliance is ferociously strained, NATO is paralyzed, America is resented by millions, the United Nations is in crisis, U.S. pals like Tony Blair are being skewered at home, North Korea has exploited our distraction to crank up plutonium production, oil prices have surged, and the world financial markets have sagged.

And the war hasn't even begun yet.

The Very Notion . . .

George Packer in the New York Times Magazine (3/3/2003):

More than anything, the president hasn't readied Americans psychologically to commit themselves to a project of such magnitude, nor has he made them understand why they should. He has maintained his spirit of hostility to nation-building while reversing his policy against it. Bush is a man who has never shown much curiosity about the world. When he met with [Iraqi dissident Kanan] Makiya and two other Iraqis in January, I was told by someone not present, the exiles spent a good portion of the time explaining to the president that there are two kinds of Arabs in Iraq, Sunnis and Shiites. The very notion of an Iraqi opposition appeared to be new to him. War has turned Bush into a foreign-policy president, but democratizing an Arab country will require a subtlety and sophistication that have been less in evidence than the resolve to fight.

Who Armed Iraq?

Paul Rockwell, " Who Armed Iraq?" (San Francisco Chronicle, 3/2/03)

Iraq's Weapons Declaration underscores a tragic irony: The United States, the world's leading arms supplier, is taking the world to war to stop arms proliferation in the very country to which it shipped chemicals, biological seed stock and weapons for more than 10 years.

According to the December declaration, treated with much derision from the Bush administration, U.S. and Western companies played a key role in building Hussein's war machine. The 1,200-page document contains a list of Western corporations and countries -- as well as individuals -- that exported chemical and biological materials to Iraq in the past two decades.

Embarrassed, no doubt, by revelations of their own complicity in Mideast arms proliferation, the U.S.-led Security Council censored the entire dossier, deleting more than 100 names of companies and groups that profited from Iraq's crimes and aggression. The censorship came too late, however. The long list -- including names of large U.S. corporations -- Dupont, Hewlett-Packard, and Honeywell -- was leaked to a German daily, Die Tageszeitung. Despite the Security Council coverup, the truth came out.

NSC’s UN Strategy: Memo

The Observer's March 2 story of a National Security Council memo dated January 31, 2003 laying out plans to surveil UN Security Council delegations to support US efforts to win approval of a resolution authorizing war; and its transcript of the memo.

Kamel Testimony on Banned Weapons

Newsweek (3/3/03) on Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel's 1995 testimony to UNSCOM that Iraq had already destroyed its weapons of mass destruction (2/27/03):

Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them. . . .

Kamel's revelations about the destruction of Iraq's WMD stocks were hushed up by the U.N. inspectors, sources say, for two reasons. Saddam did not know how much Kamel had revealed, and the inspectors hoped to bluff Saddam into disclosing still more. And Iraq has never shown the documentation to support Kamel's story. Still, the defector's tale raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.

See also FAIR's 2/27/03 presentation of this story:

Kamel is no obscure defector. A son-in-law of Saddam Hussein, his departure from Iraq carrying crates of secret documents on Iraq's past weapons programs was a major turning point in the inspections saga. In 1999, in a letter to the U.N. Security Council (1/25/99), UNSCOM reported that its entire eight years of disarmament work "must be divided into two parts, separated by the events following the departure from Iraq, in August 1995, of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel."

Kamel's defection has been cited repeatedly by George W. Bush and leading administration officials as evidence that 1) Iraq has not disarmed; 2) inspections cannot disarm it; and 3) defectors such as Kamel are the most reliable source of information on Iraq's weapons. . . .

But according to Kamel's transcript, Iraq destroyed all of these weapons in 1991.

According to Newsweek, Kamel told the same story to CIA analysts in August 1995. If that is true, all of these U.S. officials have had access to Kamel's statements that the weapons were destroyed. Their repeated citations of his testimony-- without revealing that he also said the weapons no longer exist-- suggests that the administration might be withholding critical evidence. In particular, it casts doubt on the credibility of Powell's February 5 presentation to the U.N., which was widely hailed at the time for its persuasiveness. To clear up the issue, journalists might ask the CIA to release the transcripts of its own conversations with Kamel.

Kamel's disclosures have also been crucial to the arguments made by hawkish commentators on Iraq. The defector has been cited four times on the New York Times op-ed page in the last four months in support of claims about Iraq's weapons programs-- never noting his assertions about the elimination of these weapons. In a major Times op-ed calling for war against Iraq (2/21/03), Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution wrote that Kamel and other defectors "reported that outside pressure had not only failed to eradicate the nuclear program, it was bigger and more cleverly spread out and concealed than anyone had imagined it to be." The release of Kamel's transcript makes this claim appear grossly at odds with the defector's actual testimony.

The Kamel story is a bombshell that necessitates a thorough reevaluation of U.S. media reporting on Iraq, much of which has taken for granted that the nation retains supplies of prohibited weapons.

Kiesling Resignation Letter

Diplomat John Brady Kiesling's 2/27/03 letter of resignation to Colin Powell (Truthout.org):

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something back to my country. Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians, scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal. . . .

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability. You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration. I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

Conservative Newspapers on 2/15 Protests

(As noted on the afternoon of February 16)

Canada's National Post: "Millions say 'No' to war. Cities around the world overrun in biggest protest in history"

Barricade, antiwar demonstration, New York City, 2/15/03

Orlando Sentinel: "Millions Protest War" (mainly a summary of wire services)

Cleveland Plain Dealer: No coverage on home page. AP story, "Demonstrators around the World March against War with Iraq," runs below headlines about the weather and a Bloodmobile.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: No coverage on home page

Las Vegas Review Journal: No coverage on home page, but you can read about a stock car race being delayed by twenty minutes due to weather.

Indianapolis Star: "Weather Fails to Dampen Spirits at Rally" linked from home page. The lede, "Hearty Hoosiers, about 450 of them, braved snow, sleet and horizontal hail Saturday to join in spirit with millions of people around the world protesting an impending war with Iraq," is the only mention of protests outside Indianapolis.

Oklahoma City Daily Oklahoman links to an AP story, "Iraq Hails Rallies; U.S. Works in Turkey." Lede: "Iraq on Sunday took heart from the global outpouring of opposition to the U.S. threat of attack, saying anti-war demonstrations in dozens of countries signaled an Iraqi victory and "the defeat and isolation of America." No other coverage.

Manchester Union Leader: An A.P. story, "Anti-war protesters gather near United Nations in NYC," is linked near top of home page. The story also summarizes protests elsewhere.

New York Post: "When Doves Cry: Dozens Busted in Anti-War Protests" linked at top of home page. Despite the headline, the article is actually a fairly balanced account of the New York protest. Beyond its mention that "It was one of many rallies around the world yesterday. More than a million people came out in Rome and London to protest the impending war in Iraq," no coverage of demonstrations elsewhere is offered.

Washington Times: Link to "Protests for Peace" near top of home page. The long article has a brief summary of demonstrations in the United States, but no mention of protests elsewhere apart from a single sentence noting that "Anti-war protests yesterday occurred in 300 cities worldwide, including 78 cities in Europe." Longer coverage of how protests were organized, and about the participation of "anti-war conservatives."

Orange County Register: Home page links to AP story, "Europe's Cities Send a Message," summarizing European protests (and featuring high-end participation figures for the most part). A "Related Stories" link from this article points to "O.C.'s biggest anti-war protest draws 2,000," which also covers other U.S. protests briefly -- and with much attention to counterprotests ("about 1,000 in Manhattan and a handful in Orange," as well as "some 200 war supporters" in Wausau, Wisconsin). Antiwar attendance estimates for New York appear later in the article, not at all for Wausau.