[Last update: 14 July 2003]
20 Lies About the War
by Glen Rangwala and Raymond Whitaker
[13 July 2003 ]
Falsehoods ranging from exaggeration to
plain untruth were used to make the case
for war. More lies are being used in the
1 Iraq was responsible for the 11 September attacks
A supposed meeting in Prague between Mohammed Atta, leader of the
11 September hijackers, and an Iraqi intelligence official was the main
basis for this claim, but Czech intelligence later conceded that the Iraqi's
contact could not have been Atta. This did not stop the constant stream of
assertions that Iraq was involved in 9/11, which was so successful that at
one stage opinion polls showed that two-thirds of Americans believed the
hand of Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks. Almost as many
believed Iraqi hijackers were aboard the crashed airliners; in fact there
2 Iraq and al-Qa'ida were working together
Persistent claims by US and British leaders that Saddam and Osama bin
Laden were in league with each other were contradicted by a leaked
British Defence Intelligence Staff report, which said there were no current
links between them. Mr Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with
present-day Iraq", it added.
Another strand to the claims was that al-Qa'ida members were being
sheltered in Iraq, and had set up a poisons training camp. When US
troops reached the camp, they found no chemical or biological traces.
3 Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa for a "reconstituted"
nuclear weapons programme
The head of the CIA has now admitted that documents purporting to
show that Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger in west Africa were
forged, and that the claim should never have been in President Bush's
State of the Union address. Britain sticks by the claim, insisting it has
"separate intelligence". The Foreign Office conceded last week that this
information is now "under review".
4 Iraq was trying to import aluminium tubes to develop nuclear
The US persistently alleged that Baghdad tried to buy high-strength
aluminum tubes whose only use could be in gas centrifuges, needed to
enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Equally persistently, the International
Atomic Energy Agency said the tubes were being used for artillery
rockets. The head of the IAEA, Mohamed El Baradei, told the UN
Security Council in January that the tubes were not even suitable for
5 Iraq still had vast stocks of chemical and biological weapons from
the first Gulf War
Iraq possessed enough dangerous substances to kill the whole world, it
was alleged more than once. It had pilotless aircraft which could be
smuggled into the US and used to spray chemical and biological toxins.
Experts pointed out that apart from mustard gas, Iraq never had the
technology to produce materials with a shelf-life of 12 years, the time
between the two wars. All such agents would have deteriorated to the
point of uselessness years ago.
6 Iraq retained up to 20 missiles which could carry chemical or
biological warheads, with a range which would threaten British
forces in Cyprus
Apart from the fact that there has been no sign of these missiles since the
invasion, Britain downplayed the risk of there being any such weapons in
Iraq once the fighting began. It was also revealed that chemical protection
equipment was removed from British bases in Cyprus last year, indicating
that the Government did not take its own claims seriously.
7 Saddam Hussein had the wherewithal to develop smallpox
This allegation was made by the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, in his
address to the UN Security Council in February. The following month the
UN said there was nothing to support it.
8 US and British claims were supported by the inspectors
According to Jack Straw, chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix
"pointed out" that Iraq had 10,000 litres of anthrax. Tony Blair said Iraq's
chemical, biological and "indeed the nuclear weapons programme" had
been well documented by the UN. Mr Blix's reply? "This is not the same
as saying there are weapons of mass destruction," he said last September.
"If I had solid evidence that Iraq retained weapons of mass destruction or
were constructing such weapons, I would take it to the Security Council."
In May this year he added: "I am obviously very interested in the question
of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction, and I am
beginning to suspect there possibly were not."
9 Previous weapons inspections had failed
Tony Blair told this newspaper in March that the UN had "tried
unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully". But in
1999 a Security Council panel concluded: "Although important elements
still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons
programmes has been eliminated." Mr Blair also claimed UN inspectors
"found no trace at all of Saddam's offensive biological weapons
programme" until his son-in-law defected. In fact the UN got the regime
to admit to its biological weapons programme more than a month before
10 Iraq was obstructing the inspectors
Britain's February "dodgy dossier" claimed inspectors' escorts were
"trained to start long arguments" with other Iraqi officials while evidence
was being hidden, and inspectors' journeys were monitored and notified
ahead to remove surprise. Dr Blix said in February that the UN had
conducted more than 400 inspections, all without notice, covering more
than 300 sites. "We note that access to sites has so far been without
problems," he said. : "In no case have we seen convincing evidence that
the Iraqi side knew that the inspectors were coming."
11 Iraq could deploy its weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes
This now-notorious claim was based on a single source, said to be a
serving Iraqi military officer. This individual has not been produced since
the war, but in any case Tony Blair contradicted the claim in April. He
said Iraq had begun to conceal its weapons in May 2002, which meant
that they could not have been used within 45 minutes.
12 The "dodgy dossier"
Mr Blair told the Commons in February, when the dossier was issued:
"We issued further intelligence over the weekend about the infrastructure
of concealment. It is obviously difficult when we publish intelligence
reports." It soon emerged that most of it was cribbed without attribution
from three articles on the internet. Last month Alastair Campbell took
responsibility for the plagiarism committed by his staff, but stood by the
dossier's accuracy, even though it confused two Iraqi intelligence
organisations, and said one moved to new headquarters in 1990, two
years before it was created.
13 War would be easy
Public fears of war in the US and Britain were assuaged by assurances
that oppressed Iraqis would welcome the invading forces; that
"demolishing Saddam Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would
be a cakewalk", in the words of Kenneth Adelman, a senior Pentagon
official in two previous Republican administrations. Resistance was
patchy, but stiffer than expected, mainly from irregular forces fighting in
civilian clothes. "This wasn't the enemy we war-gamed against," one
14 Umm Qasr
The fall of Iraq's southernmost city and only port was announced several
times before Anglo-American forces gained full control - by Defence
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, among others, and by Admiral Michael
Boyce, chief of Britain's defence staff. "Umm Qasr has been overwhelmed
by the US Marines and is now in coalition hands," the Admiral
announced, somewhat prematurely.
15 Basra rebellion
Claims that the Shia Muslim population of Basra, Iraq's second city, had
risen against their oppressors were repeated for days, long after it became
clear to those there that this was little more than wishful thinking. The
defeat of a supposed breakout by Iraqi armour was also announced by
military spokesman in no position to know the truth.
16 The "rescue" of Private Jessica Lynch
Private Jessica Lynch's "rescue" from a hospital in Nasiriya by American
special forces was presented as the major "feel-good" story of the war.
She was said to have fired back at Iraqi troops until her ammunition ran
out, and was taken to hospital suffering bullet and stab wounds. It has
since emerged that all her injuries were sustained in a vehicle crash, which
left her incapable of firing any shot. Local medical staff had tried to return
her to the Americans after Iraqi forces pulled out of the hospital, but the
doctors had to turn back when US troops opened fire on them. The
special forces encountered no resistance, but made sure the whole
episode was filmed.
17 Troops would face chemical and biological weapons
As US forces approached Baghdad, there was a rash of reports that they
would cross a "red line", within which Republican Guard units were
authorised to use chemical weapons. But Lieutenant General James
Conway, the leading US marine general in Iraq, conceded afterwards that
intelligence reports that chemical weapons had been deployed around
Baghdad before the war were wrong.
"It was a surprise to me ... that we have not uncovered weapons ... in
some of the forward dispersal sites," he said. "We've been to virtually
every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad,
but they're simply not there. We were simply wrong. Whether or not
we're wrong at the national level, I think still very much remains to be
18 Interrogation of scientists would yield the location of WMD
"I have got absolutely no doubt that those weapons are there ... once we
have the co-operation of the scientists and the experts, I have got no
doubt that we will find them," Tony Blair said in April. Numerous similar
assurances were issued by other leading figures, who said interrogations
would provide the WMD discoveries that searches had failed to supply.
But almost all Iraq's leading scientists are in custody, and claims that
lingering fears of Saddam Hussein are stilling their tongues are beginning to
19 Iraq's oil money would go to Iraqis
Tony Blair complained in Parliament that "people falsely claim that we
want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues, adding that they should be put in a trust
fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN. Britain should
seek a Security Council resolution that would affirm "the use of all oil
revenues for the benefit of the Iraqi people".
Instead Britain co-sponsored a Security Council resolution that gave the
US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues. There is no
UN-administered trust fund.
Far from "all oil revenues" being used for the Iraqi people, the resolution
continues to make deductions from Iraq's oil earnings to pay in
compensation for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
20 WMD were found
After repeated false sightings, both Tony Blair and George Bush
proclaimed on 30 May that two trailers found in Iraq were mobile
biological laboratories. "We have already found two trailers, both of
which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons,"
said Mr Blair. Mr Bush went further: "Those who say we haven't found
the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons - they're wrong.
We found them." It is now almost certain that the vehicles were for the
production of hydrogen for weather balloons, just as the Iraqis claimed -
and that they were exported by Britain.
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