The Truth Will Emerge

by U.S. Senator Robert Byrd

Following is the text of a speech delivered by Senator Robert Byrd on the floor of the Senate, May 21, 2003. Senator Byrd has represented West Virginia in the United States Congress for more than half a century. After three terms in the House, he was first elected to the Senate in 1958 and has served there continuously ever since.

"Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again, ...
The eternal years of God are hers;
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers."

Truth has a way of asserting itself despite all attempts to obscure it. Distortion only serves to derail it for a time. No matter to what lengths we humans may go to obfuscate facts or delude our fellows, truth has a way of squeezing out through the cracks, eventually.

But the danger is that at some point it may no longer matter. The danger is that damage is done before the truth is widely realized. The reality is that, sometimes, it is easier to ignore uncomfortable facts and go along with whatever distortion is currently in vogue. We see a lot of this today in politics. I see a lot of it — more than I would ever have believed — right on this Senate Floor.

Regarding the situation in Iraq, it appears to this Senator that the American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing International law, under false premises. There is ample evidence that the horrific events of September 11 have been carefully manipulated to switch public focus from Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda, who masterminded the September 11th attacks, to Saddam Hussein, who did not.

The run up to our invasion of Iraq featured the President and members of his cabinet invoking every frightening image they could conjure, from mushroom clouds, to buried caches of germ warfare, to drones poised to deliver germ laden death in our major cities. We were treated to a heavy dose of overstatement concerning Saddam Hussein's direct threat to our freedoms. The tactic was guaranteed to provoke a sure reaction from a nation still suffering from a combination of post traumatic stress and justifiable anger after the attacks of 9-11. It was the exploitation of fear. It was a placebo for the anger.

Since the war's end, every subsequent revelation which has seemed to refute the previous dire claims of the Bush Administration has been brushed aside. Instead of addressing the contradictory evidence, the White House deftly changes the subject. No weapons of mass destruction (WMD) have yet turned up, but we are told that they will in time. Perhaps they yet will. But, our costly and destructive bunker busting attack on Iraq seems to have proven, in the main, precisely the opposite of what we were told was the urgent reason to go in. It seems also to have, for the present, verified the assertions of Hans Blix and the inspection team he led, which President Bush and company so derided. As Blix always said, a lot of time will be needed to find such weapons, if they do, indeed, exist. Meanwhile Bin Laden is still on the loose and Saddam Hussein has come up missing.

The Administration assured the U.S. public and the world, over and over again, that an attack was necessary to protect our people and the world from terrorism. It assiduously worked to alarm the public and blur the faces of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden until they virtually became one.

What has become painfully clear in the aftermath of war is that Iraq was no immediate threat to the U.S. Ravaged by years of sanctions, Iraq did not even lift an airplane against us. Iraq's threatening death-dealing fleet of unmanned drones about which we heard so much morphed into one prototype made of plywood and string. Their missiles proved to be outdated and of limited range. Their army was quickly overwhelmed by our technology and our well trained troops.

Presently our loyal military personnel continue their mission of diligently searching for WMD. They have so far turned up only fertilizer, vacuum cleaners, conventional weapons, and the occasional buried swimming pool. They are misused on such a mission and they continue to be at grave risk. But, the Bush team's extensive hype of WMD in Iraq as justification for a preemptive invasion has become more than embarrassing. It has raised serious questions about prevarication and the reckless use of power. Were our troops needlessly put at risk? Were countless Iraqi civilians killed and maimed when war was not really necessary? Was the American public deliberately misled? Was the world?

What makes me cringe even more is the continued claim that we are "liberators." The facts don't seem to support the label we have so euphemistically attached to ourselves. True, we have unseated a brutal, despicable despot, but "liberation" implies the follow up of freedom, self-determination and a better life for the common people. In fact, if the situation in Iraq is the result of "liberation," we may have set the cause of freedom back 200 years.

Despite our high-blown claims of a better life for the Iraqi people, water is scarce, and often foul, electricity is a sometime thing, food is in short supply, hospitals are stacked with the wounded and maimed, historic treasures of the region and of the Iraqi people have been looted, and nuclear material may have been disseminated to heaven knows where, while U.S. troops, on orders, looked on and guarded the oil supply.

Meanwhile, lucrative contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure and refurbish its oil industry are awarded to Administration cronies, without benefit of competitive bidding, and the U.S. steadfastly resists offers of U.N. assistance to participate. Is there any wonder that the real motives of the U.S. government are the subject of worldwide speculation and mistrust?

And in what may be the most damaging development, the U.S. appears to be pushing off Iraq's clamor for self-government. Jay Garner has been summarily replaced, and it is becoming all too clear that the smiling face of the U.S. as liberator is quickly assuming the scowl of an occupier. The image of the boot on the throat has replaced the beckoning hand of freedom. Chaos and rioting only exacerbate that image, as U.S. soldiers try to sustain order in a land ravaged by poverty and disease. "Regime change" in Iraq has so far meant anarchy, curbed only by an occupying military force and a U.S. administrative presence that is evasive about if and when it intends to depart.

Democracy and Freedom cannot be force fed at the point of an occupier's gun. To think otherwise is folly. One has to stop and ponder. How could we have been so impossibly naive? How could we expect to easily plant a clone of U.S. culture, values, and government in a country so riven with religious, territorial, and tribal rivalries, so suspicious of U.S. motives, and so at odds with the galloping materialism which drives the western-style economies?

As so many warned this Administration before it launched its misguided war on Iraq, there is evidence that our crack down in Iraq is likely to convince 1,000 new Bin Ladens to plan other horrors of the type we have seen in the past several days. Instead of damaging the terrorists, we have given them new fuel for their fury. We did not complete our mission in Afghanistan because we were so eager to attack Iraq. Now it appears that Al Queda is back with a vengeance. We have returned to orange alert in the U.S., and we may well have destabilized the Mideast region, a region we have never fully understood. We have alienated friends around the globe with our dissembling and our haughty insistence on punishing former friends who may not see things quite our way.

The path of diplomacy and reason have gone out the window to be replaced by force, unilateralism, and punishment for transgressions. I read most recently with amazement our harsh castigation of Turkey, our longtime friend and strategic ally. It is astonishing that our government is berating the new Turkish government for conducting its affairs in accordance with its own Constitution and its democratic institutions.

Indeed, we may have sparked a new international arms race as countries move ahead to develop WMD as a last ditch attempt to ward off a possible preemptive strike from a newly belligerent U.S., which claims the right to hit where it wants. In fact, there is little to constrain this President. Congress, in what will go down in history as its most unfortunate act, handed away its power to declare war for the foreseeable future and empowered this President to wage war at will.

As if that were not bad enough, members of Congress are reluctant to ask questions which are begging to be asked. How long will we occupy Iraq? We have already heard disputes on the numbers of troops which will be needed to retain order. What is the truth? How costly will the occupation and rebuilding be? No one has given a straight answer. How will we afford this long-term massive commitment, fight terrorism at home, address a serious crisis in domestic healthcare, afford behemoth military spending and give away billions in tax cuts amidst a deficit which has climbed to over $340 billion for this year alone? If the President's tax cut passes it will be $400 billion. We cower in the shadows while false statements proliferate. We accept soft answers and shaky explanations because to demand the truth is hard, or unpopular, or may be politically costly.

But, I contend that, through it all, the people know. The American people unfortunately are used to political shading, spin, and the usual chicanery they hear from public officials. They patiently tolerate it up to a point. But there is a line. It may seem to be drawn in invisible ink for a time, but eventually it will appear in dark colors, tinged with anger. When it comes to shedding American blood — when it comes to wreaking havoc on civilians, on innocent men, women, and children, callous dissembling is not acceptable. Nothing is worth that kind of lie — not oil, not revenge, not reelection, not somebody's grand pipedream of a democratic domino theory.

And mark my words, the calculated intimidation which we see so often of late by the "powers that be" will only keep the loyal opposition quiet for just so long. Because eventually, like it always does, the truth will emerge. And when it does, this house of cards, built of deceit, will fall.

- PeaceMeal, May/June 2003

Saving Private Lynch: Take 2

by Robert Scheer, Los Angeles Times

In the 1998 film "Wag the Dog," political operatives employ special editing techniques to create phony footage that will engender public sympathy for a manufactured war. Now we find that in 2003 the real-life Pentagon's ability and willingness to manipulate the facts make Hollywood's story lines look tame.

After a thorough investigation, the British Broadcasting Corp. has presented a shocking dissection of the "heroic" rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch, as reported by the U.S. military and a breathless American press. "Her story is one of the most stunning pieces of news management ever conceived," the BBC concluded — the polite British way of saying "liar, liar, pants on fire."

Though the Bush administration's shamelessly trumped-up claims about Iraq's alleged ties to Al Qaeda and 9/11 and its weapons of mass destruction take the cake for deceitful propaganda — grand strategic lies that allow the United States' seizure of Iraq's oil to appear to be an act of liberation — the sad case of Lynch's exploitation at the hands of military spinners illustrates that the truth once again was a casualty of war.

Lynch, who says she has no memory of the events in question, has suffered enough in the line of duty without being reduced to a propaganda pawn. Sadly, almost nothing fed to reporters about either Lynch's original capture by Iraqi forces or her "rescue" by U.S. forces turns out to be true.

Consider the April 3 Washington Post story on her capture headlined "She Was Fighting to the Death," which reported, based on unnamed military sources, that Lynch "continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds," adding that she was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in. It has since emerged that Lynch was neither shot nor stabbed, but rather suffered accident injuries when her vehicle overturned. A medical checkup by U.S. doctors confirmed the account of the Iraqi doctors, who said they had carefully tended her injuries, a broken arm and thigh and a dislocated ankle, in contrast to U.S. media reports that doctors had ignored Lynch.

Another report spread by news organizations nationwide claimed Lynch was slapped by an Iraqi security guard, and the U.S. military later insisted that an Iraqi lawyer witnessed this incident and informed them of Lynch's whereabouts. His credibility as a source, however, is difficult to verify because he and his family were whisked to the U.S., where he was immediately granted political asylum and has refused all interview requests. His future was assured, with a job with a lobbying firm run by former Republican Rep. Bob Livingstone that represents the defense industry, and a $500,000 book contract with HarperCollins, a company owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox network did much to hype Lynch's story, as it did the rest of the war.

But where the manipulation of this saga really gets ugly is in the premeditated manufacture of the rescue itself, which stains those who have performed real acts of bravery, whether in war or peacetime.

Eight days after her capture, American media trumpeted the military's story that Lynch was saved by Special Forces that stormed the hospital and, in the face of heavy hostile fire, managed to scoop her up and helicopter her out. However, according to the BBC, which interviewed the hospital's staff, the truth appears to be that not only had Iraqi forces abandoned the area before the rescue effort but that the hospital's staff had informed the U.S. of this and made arrangements two days before the raid to turn Lynch over to the Americans. "But as the ambulance, with Pvt. Lynch inside, approached the checkpoint, American troops opened fire, forcing it to flee back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch," the BBC reported.

"We were surprised," Dr. Anmar Uday told the BBC about the supposed rescue. "There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital. It was like a Hollywood film. [The U.S. forces] cried 'Go, go, go,' with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions," Uday said. "They made a show for the American attack on the hospital — [like] action movies [starring] Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan."

The footage from the raid, shot not by journalists but by soldiers with night-vision cameras, was fed in real time to the central command in Qatar. The video was artfully edited by the Pentagon and released as proof that a battle to free Lynch had occurred when it had not.

This fabrication has already been celebrated by an A&E special and will soon be an NBC movie. The Lynch rescue story — a made-for-TV bit of official propaganda — will probably survive as the war's most heroic moment, despite proving as fictitious as the stated rationales for the invasion itself. If the movies, books, and other renditions of "saving Private Lynch" were to be honestly presented, it would expose this caper as merely one in a series of egregious lies marketed to us by the Bush administration.

- PeaceMeal, May/June 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Mass graves legacy of Hussein's terror

The killing ground of Hillah, an Iraqi town 60 miles south of Baghdad, lies between pockmarked fields, stands of date palms, and tufted pastures where sheep and cattle graze. Even today, after the bullet-shattered remains of more than 3,000 people have been pulled from its soil, there is nothing much to distinguish it on the pastoral landscape. What is remarkable is that the site is just one of many anonymous mass graves scattered across Iraq.

"They are everywhere. Literally every neighborhood and town is reporting possible grave sites, and from all different periods of time," said Sandra Hodgkinson, a State Department official who has been documenting some of the sites for the American occupation forces.

Human Rights Watch said the United States had known about the Hillah site since early May when the mayor of the city asked for help in guarding the graves, and U.S. forces refused.

"The U.S. government has not acted on important information about mass graves in Iraq," said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch in Baghdad. "The result is desperate families trying to dig up the site themselves — disturbing the evidence for forensic experts who could professionally establish the identities of the victims." Mothers and fathers tried to identify their children by ID cards and the clothing they were last seen in.

British Broadcasting Corp. television footage of Hillah showed a tractor excavating decomposed remains of men, women and children. Large crowds of Iraqi men and women, many of them crying, picked through the mud by hand, pulling out skulls and body parts of decayed corpses and putting them in plastic bags. Many victims appeared to have been executed by gunshot, the BBC reported.

No one knows how many people were slaughtered over the past 35 years. The Iraqi government apparently killed its citizens — entire families — on a huge scale, both systematically and indiscriminately. The government killed in purges aimed at specific political opposition groups, like the Communists, and it killed to suppress the political ambitions of the Shiite Muslim majority. It killed the relatives of dissidents, Muslim clerics, and Christians whose loyalty was suspect. It killed Kurds in a wholesale campaign meant to subdue an entire ethnic group.

Human rights groups, which have tried to document the carnage for years, estimate that nearly 300,000 Iraqis are missing and were probably executed. Tens of thousands more, according to Iraqi opposition groups, may have been imprisoned and tortured, their lives warped forever by what they saw and experienced.

The torture and executions took place through the late 1970's and 1980's, when Iraq's Arab neighbors and most Western governments considered Saddam Hussein an ally against the threat of Islamic militancy in Iran. They occurred, survivors and witnesses said, while American troops were still occupying much of southern Iraq, sometimes just on the outskirts of the killing fields, in the weeks after the Persian Gulf war in 1991. The killing continued through that decade and beyond, when much of the world tolerated Hussein.

Every day, young men from the nearby village of Husseini come to the Hillah burial ground and carefully wrap the unclaimed bones in strips of white muslin, tying up the brittle little bundles at each end. Sometimes, in a simulation of the Muslim tradition of washing the dead, they tenderly stroke the exposed skulls. If they were thankful for the American invasion that toppled the Iraqi government, their gratitude has soured a bit with every pile of bones they exhume. American troops were in Iraq at the time of these killings, they said, but they stood by.

Fadel al-Shaati, a "good soldier" in the Iraqi army, and other young men were rounded up by Republican Guard units that arrived in the largely Shiite city of Hillah in 1991 following the unsupported revolt against Saddam Hussein urged by the first President Bush. Blindfolded, bound, and forced into a freshly dug trench in the darkness of night, he could not get it straight in his mind. The men firing at him were his former comrades in arms.

Mr. Shaati cannot remember if the women and children beside him screamed as the bullets hit, or whether the men in the hole moaned as they died. He does recall the rumble of a backhoe and the thud of wet earth dropping on bodies. After the grave was covered, Mr. Shaati, alive but choking on dirt, wormed his way out of the trench. He pushed through the earthen blanket with his head, and worked himself free of the cloth strips that bound him.

Suriya Abdel Khader's most disturbing memory is of the time she felt nothing but her own pain. She was imprisoned, she believes, because her four brothers had been arrested in Saddam Hussein's blanket crackdown on Shiites suspected of supporting Iran or the Islamic Dawa Party. She spent a year being moved back and forth between prison and torture center. After the torture came the sham trial, then a sentence to spend her life at Rashad women's prison, a maze of unheated cells where the sewage would float from the one toilet down the corridors and seep onto the women's rough mattresses.

Her tormenters would hang her from a hook in the ceiling by her arms, which were bound behind her back. Sometimes they added electric shocks. Sometimes they beat her on the soles of her feet until they were engorged with blood and her toenails fell off. She was 25.

After the beatings and electric shocks, she would find herself once again in a cell so crowded that most prisoners could only stand. The women died upright, then slumped to the floor, but Ms. Abdel Khader remembers registering only a dull flash of annoyance whenever that happened. "Get this body out of the way," she would think to herself. "It's taking up room." sentences were kept in the same compound where she stayed. The executions followed a schedule, like trains. "We knew that on Sundays and Wednesdays, they came and took the Shiite prisoners. There were other days for the Kurds and the Christians and everybody else."

Gulping the cold air that night he escaped being buried alive, Fadel al-Shaati knew that all his soldierly ideas about honor and country counted for nothing. "That's the worst thing," he said. "To fight for them and then be slaughtered."

That is why, in his view, American forces could conquer Iraq so quickly 12 years later. "We didn't fight," he said. "It's not that we were afraid of them. But we sold our country in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein."

- compiled from The New York Times and Associated Press
PeaceMeal, May/June 2003

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Gulf War II and Nuremberg

After more than two centuries of history as a nation of law, our beloved United States of America has now become the biggest rogue nation in the world. Our war of aggression against a country that did not attack us violates international law — both the Nuremberg Principles and the United Nations Charter.

The Nuremberg tribunal that tried Nazi war criminals following World War II declared: “to initiate a war of aggression ... is the supreme international crime.”

 The United Nations Charter also prohibits a war of aggression without specific authorization of the Security Council. As an international treaty, according to the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, the U.N. Charter is part of “the supreme law of the land.”

The “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive military strikes is itself a direct violation of Nuremberg Principle VI, which states that “Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression” is punishable as a crime under international law.

The administration’s threatened use of nuclear weapons is a further violation of international law. The White House provoked an uproar in December when it released an unclassified version of National Security Presidential Directive 17, which states that the U.S. will “respond with overwhelming force,” including “all options” (that is, nuclear weapons), to the use of non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction against the United States.” A 1996 opinion of the International Court of Justice on the illegality of nuclear weapons asserts that not only the use of nuclear weapons but even the threat of use is a violation of international law.

These violations take on special consequence with the formal opening of the new, permanent International Criminal Court for trying war crimes. Eighteen judges 7 women and 11 men from around the world were sworn in March 11 at The Hague. The ICC was established by a treaty President Clinton signed, the Senate has not ratified, and the Bush administration fiercely opposed. The court will try individuals, not nations or armies.

The Bush administration is not oblivious to the significance of its actions. In October, President Bush sent envoys to governments around the world to negotiate agreements that would exempt him and members of his administration from prosecution for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. Although hoping to obtain such immunity agreements from 190 countries, deals were reached with only 21 mainly poor countries dependent on U.S. aid.

– Jim Stoffels, chairman and editor
PeaceMeal, March/April 2003

Global voices

"Even before the dust cleared from the bloody scenes at a Baghdad market where at least 14 people were killed ... in a U.S.-led air-strike, it was apparent that the Iraq war had taken a deeply disturbing turn. ... The gloves are coming off; cities that just days ago were to be 'liberated' are suddenly 'military objectives', raising the prospect of artillery strikes and street fighting ... It raises questions of how large the death toll can get before the British and U.S. publics cannot stomach any more."

– Editorial, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, March 27

“Osama bin Laden, in his wildest dreams, could hardly have hoped for this. A mere 18 months after he boosted the US to a peak of worldwide sympathy unprecedented since Pearl Harbor, that international goodwill has been squandered to near zero. Bin Laden must be beside himself with glee. ...

“Saddam Hussein has been a catastrophe for Iraq, but he never posed a threat outside his immediate neighborhood. George Bush is a catastrophe for the world.”

– Richard Dawkins in The Guardian (U.K.), March 22
Dawkins is a professor at Oxford University.

“Unlike a bomb, the hawks in the Bush Administration will never be any closer to the battlefield than the television or a stack of briefings and newspaper clippings can bring them. They do not hear the explosions and the screams. They do not smell the corpses rotting in the desert sun. They go home each night to their loved ones, their kitchen tables and their beds. And they probably sleep.

“Meanwhile, millions of Iraqis and hundreds of thousands of soldiers thrust deep inside a complex and far away land cannot walk away from the war each night at dinner time.”

– Jeff Guntzel, Voices in the Wilderness

“I can’t really believe that the President of the United States gets his rocks off by having people killed. That’s more like Saddam Hussein. And yet it worries me that Mr. Bush says that one of the reasons he wants to kill a lot of Iraqis is because Saddam Hussein has also been killing them. Is there some sort of rivalry here?”

– Terry Jones in The Observer (London)

“Any actions that show less respect for the lives of Iraqi civilians than the U.S. military would show for the lives of Americans would not be ethically defensible.”

– Peter Singer, Los Angeles Times, March 27

Do you support the troops?

by Ben Chitty, U.S. Navy 1965-69, Vietnam 1966-67, Vietnam Veterans Against War since1968

I'm 55 now, and it's been almost 35 years since I left Danang. I sure would like to sit down, shut up, and support the troops. I don't think I can, and I'm sure I should not. ...

You ask me if I support the troops?

The men and women in uniform took an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and to obey the orders of the President. Now the President issues unconstitutional orders.

You ask me if I support the troops?

Under "don't ask, don't tell" men and women in the Armed Forces can be good at their jobs and honorable in their profession, then harassed, discharged, imprisoned, and sometimes murdered if they tell the truth about who they love.

You ask me if I support the troops?

For nearly a quarter century at the Air Force Academy, women students were abused and raped and silenced for the good of the service, while their rapists became officers (and gentlemen) and the men who told the women to keep quiet have since retired full of honor and pay.

You ask me if I support the troops?

The Pentagon uses weapons so toxic they sicken everyone exposed to them, for years afterwards.

You ask me if I support the troops?

Again and again, the Corps sent Marines to their deaths test flying an airplane (the Osprey) which the service did not need and cannot use.

You ask me if I support the troops?

The President's advisors give him intelligence briefings custom- fitted to their imperial political agendas, and the President orders soldiers into action based on this faulty intelligence.

You ask me if I support the troops?

One out of every three veterans of Desert Shield and Desert Storm is rated disabled by the Veterans Administration. The V.A. says it doesn't know what happened to them, and the Pentagon just doesn't say — period. But the President does propose to cut the V.A.'s budget. And the Senate Majority Leader says veterans will have to make sacrifices to help pay for this war.

You ask me if I support the troops?

I spent years of my youth in Vietnam learning hard and brutal lessons about war, and about my country. In his own youth the President joined the National Guard to keep from going to Vietnam, then went A.W.O.L. from the Guard. Now he turns my lessons upside down, and sends the children of my friends and neighbors into the wrong war at the wrong place at the wrong time.

You ask me if I support the troops?

You might say, in a way, I reckon I do.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Halabja poison gas not Iraq's
Ex-CIA analyst sets the story straight

by Stephen C. Pelletiere

The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its citizens is a familiar part of the ongoing debate. The piece of hard evidence most frequently brought up concerns the gassing of Iraqi Kurds at the town of Halabja in March 1988, near the end of the Iran-Iraq war. President Bush himself has cited Iraq's "gassing its own people" at Halabja as a reason to topple Saddam Hussein. But the truth is, we cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story.

I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair.

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange, but they were not Iraq's main target. And the story gets murkier.

Immediately after the battle, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report that asserted it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds — not Iraqi gas!

The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed by a blood agent — that is, a cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

These facts have long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned. On the rare occasions the DIA report is brought up, there is usually unfounded speculation that it was skewed out of American political favoritism toward Iraq in its war against Iran.

I am not trying to rehabilitate the character of Saddam Hussein. He has much to answer for in the area of human rights abuses. But accusing him of gassing his own people at Halabja as an act of genocide is not correct, because as far as the information we have goes, all of the cases where gas was used involved battles. The civilian deaths were tragedies of war — “collateral damage.”

Stephen C. Pelletiere is author of "Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Persian Gulf." His article is condensed from The New York Times, January 31, 2003.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

Evil and good

Following is WCP chairman Jim Stoffels' opening statement at a public forum on Iraq held at Columbia Basin College, February 27, 2003.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, when I arrived at the classroom where I work, the TV was on. A co-worker told me that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, and the scene was replaying on the news. I thought it was a terrible accident. When she said there were two planes, I knew it was no accident. And my immediate thought was: "The chickens are coming home to roost."

The innocents slaughtered on 9-11 were not the first. Other innocents were slaughtered before them in other countries, with our government as accomplice.

A great many Americans have an attitude of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil," when it comes to our own country. Our president is certainly among them.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush made very effective use of patriotic platitudes to hide the reality of our own evildoing. It is not so much that he wrapped everything in red, white and blue, as that he portrayed everything in stark black and white, with Saddam Hussein and parts of the world as totally black — "the axis of evil" — and the United States as pure white.

Anyone who sees the world in such absolute terms of black and white, evil and good, is not in touch with reality. Reality is: there is good and evil in every human person. As a consequence, there is good and evil in every human institution.

There is evil in my church. And there is evil in my government.

From the many cases of official evil done by our government, I will cite only one: Iran.

For many years, our man in Iran was Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlevi, who was restored to power in 1953 through a military coup engineered by our Central Intelligence Agency and British intelligence. Like Saddam Hussein, the shah was a tyrant who oppressed his people and tortured and killed his critics. A massive uprising of the people caused the shah to flee for his life in 1979, and Iran came under the rule of radical, fundamentalist Islamic clerics — the ayatollahs — who saw the United States as "the great Satan."

What is it that radicalizes a person, that fills a person with anger and hatred?

A person becomes radicalized when he is oppressed, when he is tortured, and when his loved ones are tortured and murdered. And he becomes radicalized against the United States when the power behind the throne is our government.

When the shah fell in 1979, it was said there was no one left in Iran who had not lost someone to the shah's brutal secret police, the SAVAK. The SAVAK was set up and trained by our CIA.

So what if we do become a criminal aggressor — for the first time in our history — and start a war against Iraq?

According to a U.N. assessment just released in January, another war in Iraq could produce hundreds of thousands of casualties in its early stages. Urban warfare in Baghdad, a city the size of Los Angeles, would give rise to millions of refugees. And, according to a study by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, if nuclear weapons were used as threatened by our president, the death toll could rise into the millions.

If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he might say: Let him who is without sin fire the first shot.

What he did say is: "The greatest purveyor of violence in the world is my own government."

War and peace

Following is WCP chairman Jim Stoffels' concluding statement at a public forum on Iraq held at Columbia Basin College, February 27, 2003.

"Preserve the peace by constantly preparing for war."

That was the policy of the pagan Roman Empire. And that is our policy in the United States. We spend a billion dollars a day on our preparations for war.

War is never "inevitable." It is a choice we make.

If we want war, the militarists in our government — those who believe that political problems can be solved by domination through force — are ready to lead us into it. But if we want peace, then we need to pay attention to what the great peacemakers have tried to teach us.

We can never achieve peace through violence. As the American pacifist A.J. Muste said:

"There is no way to peace. Peace itself [is] the way."

Another quote:

"We often say how impressive power is. But I do not find it impressive at all.

"A dam built across a great river is impressive. ... A rich harvest in a hungry land is impressive. The sight of healthy children in a classroom is impressive.

"These, not mighty arms, are the achievements the American nation believes to be impressive."

"The guns and the bombs and the rockets and warships are all symbols of human failure."

Those words were spoken on April 7, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson as he announced the deployment of another 50,000 American soldiers to Vietnam.

President Bush's plan for Iraq reminds me ever so much of an infamous statement made by one of our armed forces in Vietnam:

"To save the village, we had to destroy it."

Bush Sr. rejected regime change in Iraq

George Bush Sr. and his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, rejected trying to remove Saddam Hussein from Iraq at the end of the Gulf War. In their co-authored book A World Transformed (1998), they give (ch. 19, p. 489) as reasons the same dire consequences cited today by those who oppose a Bush Jr. attack on Iraq:

“Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have . . . incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We had been unable to find Noriega in Panama, which we knew intimately. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, there was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles.

“Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”

- PeaceMeal, Jan/February 2003