TWA Flight 800
Courtesy of Cashill Newsletter
October 14, 2005
by Jack Cashill
Recently, I appeared on an NPR station—a rare concession on the part of public radio--to promote my new book on cultural and intellectual fraud called Hoodwinked. Before the show, I wrote on a piece of paper the first question I would be asked by the audience when we moved to Q & A.
"If you are talking about current hoodwinkers," said the caller with undisguised sarcasm, "I am surprised that you didn't mention one of the best known, FOX NEWS."
When I asked innocently what hoodwinking FOX had done, the caller informed me that FOX had helped Bush deceive the nation into thinking that Saddam had had weapons of mass destruction, which he, like everyone on the left, knew to be a "lie." I had to smile. This was the question I had written down.
Still playing innocent, I explained that my book dealt with literary and intellectual fraud that has a major and long lasting impact on the culture. I specifically excluded daily and weekly news as it is often wrong.
"You're just saying they [FOX] haven't had enough time and that playing a role in a political election is not significant," the caller continued, walking blindly into my trap.
No, I told him. I deal primarily only with long forms like books and movies that give their producers ample opportunity to tell the truth if they choose to. "Speaking of books," I said, "I wonder if you know who Richard Butler is." To his credit, he sort of half knew. For two critical years, in fact, Butler had overseen UNSCOM, the unlovely acronym for the United Nation Special Commission on disarming Iraq. The caller even knew something about UNSCOM. Most such provocateurs know neither Butler nor UNSCOM.
I informed the caller that in the year 2000, before September 11 would color all retrospection and well before the publishing world insisted on slander to feed the voracious anger of America's left, Butler wrote a book called The Greatest Threat. I then asked the caller if he knew what the "greatest threat" was. He did not choose to answer. The subtitle of Butler's book answers for him, Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security.
As I explained to the caller, the Australian arms-control expert Butler knew more about Saddam's WMD program than any outsider and that as a leftist and as an internationalist he had little reason to stack the deck in Bush's favor.
After being booted from Iraq in late 1998, Butler considered Iraq's ongoing plea of innocence "the blackest lie." He does not mince words. "It would be foolish in the extreme," he writes of Saddam, "not to assume that he is developing long-range missile capabilities, at work again on building nuclear weapons, and adding to the chemical and biological warfare weapons he concealed during the UNSCOM inspection period."
As an author of an influential book, I explained to the caller, Butler would surely deserve inclusion in my study if he had merely cooked his data the way, say, an Alfred Kinsey or a Rachel Carson had. "Is Butler a fraud?" I asked. "Has Richard Butler hoodwinked the nation?" Again, the caller could not answer, as there was no good answer to give.
Had the caller been more persistent, I would next have asked if he knew Khidir Hamza. In that same innocent year of 2000, Hamza wrote a book called Saddam's Bombmaker. When first published, it was subtitled The Terrifying Inside Story of the Iraqi Nuclear and Biological Weapons Agenda. In later paperback editions, after the publishing world yielded to the "Bush lied" mania, the subtitle was tellingly changed to "The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon."
For more than twenty years, the MIT-educated Hamza worked on Saddam's program to build a nuclear bomb, eventually heading up that effort. If Butler had the keenest perspective of any outsider, Hamza had the keenest of any insider. The story they tell is the same.
In 1987, Hamza warily accepted a position in the "inner circle" of Iraq's WMD program. "Soon enough," writes Hamza, "I would learn firsthand about a vast, clandestine apparatus for the creation of weapons of mass destruction, far beyond our bomb." More specifically, he talks in knowing and sometimes gruesome detail of an "underground empire of missiles, rockets, gas, and germ warfare."
These weapons were not mere plans on paper. Most were developed, tested on human victims, and even implemented in war. Hamza cites the use of nerve gas against the Iranians in a 1988 battle as the defining act that led to a truce. As to the nuclear program, he observes, "Saddam had been within a few months of completing the bomb when he invaded Kuwait." Saddam had been pushing for a "Doomsday" option if Baghdad were invaded, specifically a single, annihilating nuclear shot at Israel.
The CIA had no idea that Iraq was this close. Nor was the agency prepared to believe that most of the program's technology survived the Gulf War. In fact, Hamza is continually surprised by how little the CIA knew. Indeed, its agents rebuffed his overture when he first tried to defect in 1994. "It sounded to me," he writes, "as if they'd been lulled by Saddam's phony documents, or blinded by his concealment schemes, or numbed by a stream of low-level defectors."
Butler picks up where Hamza leaves off. In the way of background, UNSCOM served as the enforcement arm of the 1991 U.N. resolution 687. Its goal was to verify that all Iraqi WMDs were "destroyed, removed, or rendered harmless" and, through monitoring, to make sure these programs were not revived. As soon as disarmament was accomplished, the economic sanctions on Iraq were to be lifted. As Libya has since shown, Iraq could have disarmed itself immediately and publicly. It did not.
Iraq instead forced a reluctant UNSCOM into the detective business. For the first several years of inspections, UNSCOM did make some progress, but as Butler notes, "Every step . . . was achieved in the face of Iraqi concealment, deception, lying, and threats."
By 1995, foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, was claiming that Iraq had met its responsibilities and the international left was clamoring for the end of sanctions. Then the unthinkable happened. Saddam's son-in-law General Hussein Kamel—"the idiot" as Aziz called him--defected with a cache of utterly damning documents.
Among other revelations, Kamel's information proved that Iraq had developed and sustained a sophisticated bio-weapons program. For years Aziz had denied that Iraq had any such program at all. When caught in this lie he casually justified it. "The existence of this well-armed Zionist entity," he told Butler, "had forced Iraq to develop biological weapons."
Bio-weapons programs particularly alarmed Butler because they were so easy to start up, move, and conceal. It was in the bio area, too, that the Iraqis offered the stiffest resistance and the most consistent evasion. As late as October 1998, after seven years of "foot-dragging," Butler had to admit that "the biological weapons declarations still weren't worth the paper they were written on."
"From the beginning," agrees Hamza, "of course, the inspections were an elaborate cat-and-mouse game, the kind at which Saddam excelled."
Information in the chemical area was not much better. "We declared that we filled weapons with anthrax," Aziz petulantly reminded Butler in 1998, so why, he asked, would Iraq also deny that it had weaponized VX. For Butler, this was a no-brainer. Aziz lied about everything. Given its astonishingly lethal capabilities—a single drop of VX on the skin could kill a man, a well detonated VX warhead could eliminate Tel Aviv—VX deserved its own set of lies, and Aziz provided them.
For years, Aziz claimed that Iraq had no VX at all, that is until UNSCOM found proof of the opposite, again in 1995. Then Aziz claimed that Iraq had produced only 200 liters of the chemical, that is until UNSCOM proved that Iraq had produced 20 times that amount.
It was in the hope of destroying the Iraqi's ability to produce and proliferate VX that President Clinton authorized a strike on Sudan's Al Shifa chemical plant in August 1998. Back before such sentiments became unfashionable, Richard Clarke confidently defended the strike. He cited the intelligence "linking bin Laden to Al Shifa's current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan." Al Shifa may or may not have been guilty as charged, but Clarke and the administration had every reason to believe Saddam and Osama were cooperating on WMDs, specifically VX.
Also in 1998, on Butler's watch, UNSCOM found missile fragments with traces of VX. Of course, Aziz would deny that too. In his two years with UNSCOM, Butler endured one lie after another from the Iraqi leadership, which even his tolerant Swedish predecessor considered a "gang of despicable liars and cheats."
Butler endured such lies not only from the Iraqis but also from the French, the Russians, the Chinese, the United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan and his well-stuffed minions, and increasingly from the world's more left-leaning media. Butler did not back down. "Is Iraq as dangerous as it was a decade ago?" he notes in the year 2000. "Elementally, yes."
In 2000, Butler's highly detailed book might have been thought a bit of a bore. Although he warns of a potential deadly attack on New York by Iraq through the use of suicidal proxies, his concerns then likely seemed distant and theoretical.
"The only solution," writes Butler in near despair, was "that the world act now to prevent any attack." And by "act" Butler did not mean sending in a soft, septuagenarian like Hans Blix to revive a "process" that would again be thwarted at every turn by Iraqi deception, French and Russian subversion, and United Nations meddling and pocket-stuffing.
Hamza also worried about attack by proxies. "Saddam's alliances sometimes surprised outsiders," he observes, "but they conformed to the peculiar logic of the Middle East. For Saddam, self-interest always came before religious or other considerations." Hamza himself stumbled across a PLO training camp in Iraq at which Palestinians were being trained to plant devices of Iraqi origin so that Saddam would have "some measure of deniability."
After September 11, Iraq changed from being a distant worry to an immediate one. Iraq still remains very high on any sensible list of suspects for the anthrax attacks of fall 2001. "There are several experts," Hamza told CNN at the time, "not just me, who have detailed knowledge, who are pointing fingers toward Iraq, too."
"Saddam has a whole range of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical," Hamza informed CNN in that same interview. German intelligence, which Hamza trusted more than the CIA, predicted that Saddam would have three nuclear weapons by 2005. "We expect him then to be a lot more aggressive with his neighbors and encouraging terrorism, and using biological weapons," Hamza continued. "Now he's using them through surrogates like al Qaeda, but we expect he'll use them more aggressively then."
As late as October 2002, Hillary Clinton agreed with Hamza on the link between Osama and Saddam. "He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members," she said of Saddam. ". . . if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
The evidence that Saddam had WMDs was overwhelming and almost assuredly accurate. "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction," said a convinced Ted Kennedy in September 2002. "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to completely deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power," agreed Al Gore that same year.
"(W)e need to disarm Saddam Hussein," added John Kerry in January 2003. "The threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War." Kerry should know. He served many of those years on the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence.
Yet today, Kerry and his colleagues allow the lie to persist that "Bush lied." Many of them repeat it themselves even though they all know better. They know too that the dissension caused by such dishonesty motivates the enemy and demoralizes our troops.
To paraphrase the bumperstickers, "When the left lies, our soldiers do die."
Webmaster's Note: On July 5, 2008 the Associated Press quietly confirmed the presence of massive amounts of yellowcake uranium in Iraq:
Secret U.S. mission hauls uranium from Iraq: Last major stockpile from Saddam's nuclear efforts arrives in Canada
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