War: May 2003 Archives

I had dinner with a friend a few nights ago who shocked me by saying the U.S. had the most diverse media in the world. He is someone I respect as an AIDS/queer activist, who was arrested at the Matthew Shepard march in 1998 plus a number of other times, but who seems to have bought into what our government and the mainstream press are selling. He was also untroubled by the stifling of dissent, even to the point of arresting legal protesters standing on a sidewalk or questioning them about their political beliefs, feeling that it was mostly "foreigners" who should be worried.

It's one of the main reasons I stopped posting for over a week. If people like him feel that way, I'm not sure I see much of a point in doing anything or even writing about what's going on. I'm feeling that maybe I should devote my energies to trying to make more of a difference locally: spending my money and time on helping NYC and the most physically or economically vulnerable people here and elsewhere in the U.S. (but mostly in NYC). Probably my biggest concern outside of NYC is for gay kids, like the kid in Arkansas who was outed by school officials and forced to read the Bible.

After that complaint, to illustrate my point about the media, the British press is all over the story of "hyped" intelligence -- or lies if you prefer -- as the reason to go to war with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction. The Independent also has a story about the illegal use of cluster bombs. A selection:

The Independent

  • Government blames spies over war
    A senior minister warned yesterday that the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would constitute "Britain's biggest ever intelligence failure" and would trigger an overhaul of the security services.

    The minister told The Independent that the security services were responsible for Downing Street's uncompromising stance on Saddam Hussein's weapons. He spoke after a row erupted between politicians and the intelligence community over the Government's justification for going to war.

    A senior intelligence official also told the BBC that Downing Street had wanted the Government dossier outlining Saddam's capability "sexed up" and that Downing Street included information against security service advice.

    Meanwhile, Washington dealt another devastating blow to Tony Blair, who was visiting troops in Iraq. Paul Wolfowitz, the US Deputy Defence Secretary, said that disarming Saddam of illegal weapons was nothing more than a "bureaucratic reason" for war.

    He told Vanity Fair magazine that members of the divided White House cabinet pushed the issue because it was the only way they could present a united front.

  • Allied use of cluster bombs illegal, minister admits
    The Government admitted during the war on Iraq that the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets would "not be legal", a letter obtained by The Independent has revealed.

    Anti-landmine charities claimed last night that the letter by Adam Ingram, the Armed Forces minister, proved that the Ministry of Defence had broken international law by using the munitions in towns and cities.


    Mr Ingram stressed that the British armed forces strove to act in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. "It is clear that when we apply these principles there will be occasions when the use of cluster bombs against certain targets would not be legal," he wrote. "There will be occasions when the use of other munitions would be legal but the use of cluster bombs would not."

    Richard Lloyd, director of the charity Landmine Action, said the letter, with yesterday's admission, proved the Geneva Conventions were knowingly breached. "Mr Ingram has admitted the Government acted outside the law," he said.

The Times

  • Britain and US urged to show arms evidence
    PRESSURE was growing on Tony Blair and President Bush last night to publish the evidence on weapons of mass destruction that they used to justify going to war in Iraq.

    Scores of MPs are backing an early day motion demanding that the Government spell out its case after a minister admitted that an important claim about Saddam Hussein’s weapons was based on uncorroborated information.

The Mirror

    EVIDENCE against Saddam Hussein was "sexed up" on Downing Street orders because it was not damning enough to justify war on Iraq, it was claimed yesterday.

    An intelligence source said No10 spin doctors ordered them to distort the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. It was "transformed" before publication to make it "sexier" - including a claim that WMDs could be ready for use in 45 minutes.

The Guardian

  • Blair: WMD dossier claims 'absurd'
    Tony Blair today made an angry but opaque denial of accusations that Downing Street asked for a dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction to be "sexed up".

    Speaking in Poland ahead of a speech on the extension of the EU, Mr Blair said it was "completely absurd" to suggest that MI6 was made to "invent some piece of evidence".

    However, the actual allegation, made to the BBC yesterday by a senior security official, was that the government had asked for the document to be "sexed up".

    Explaining why it had taken 24 hours for the prime minister to answer the allegations, Mr Blair said he had "only caught up overnight" with the claims, although he spent yesterday in Iraq, with a mobile office.


  • Iraq's 'weapons' doubts
    So is the Bush administration backing away from its insistence that Iraq did indeed have weapons of mass destruction on the eve of the war?

    The public justification for the British and American decision to go to war to oust Saddam Hussein was the clear and imminent threat said to have been posed by his regime's weapons of mass destruction.


    While the Americans and British have insisted that significant resources are being deployed in the hunt, the fact remains that many sensitive sites - including Iraqi nuclear facilities - may well have been looted and potential evidence destroyed.

If I search on Google News for the Wolfowitz story about WMD being "just a bureaucratic reason" for war, at the moment I don't get too much U.S. media. The NY Times is a Krugman column (worth reading), and The Boston Globe story that shows up is from Reuters:

'For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on,'' Wolfowitz was quoted as saying in Vanity Fair magazine's July issue.


Wolfowitz said another reason for the invasion had been ''almost unnoticed but huge'' -- namely that the ousting of Hussein would allow the United States to remove its troops from Saudi Arabia, where their presence had long been a major Al Qaeda grievance.

''Just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door'' to a more peaceful Middle East, Wolfowitz was quoted as saying.

The magazine said he made the remarks days before suicide bombings, attributed to Al Qaeda, against Western targets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Casablanca, Morocco, two weeks ago that killed 75 people.

I think Israel should be worried. It sounds like we found a new "aircraft carrier" in the Middle East.

I keep seeing bloggers and other people complaining about how the smoking ban is the worst thing that has happened to New York, that it's a symptom of what's wrong with New York. Witness Liz Smith's column today:

THE NIGHT BEFORE, I had attended an atypical dinner party on Park Avenue. (Atypical in that the food was simply great!) Here's what people talked about, first and foremost: the mayor's anti-smoking law, and how even people who don't smoke are deploring it and saying it has hurt him politically more than anything else he has done or ever will do. (Nobody mentioned the city economy, the war or the Middle East. It was as if that was too troubling to touch. But one network biggie did drop a few hints after dinner about the chaos now in Iraq.)

This city endured Giuliani, with the rabid enforcement of no-dancing regulations in bars, the random targeting of clubs for raids and searches, the passage of anti-stripper bar laws that wouldn't happen in Iowa, without these people getting too upset. But unless you allow them to expose others to second-hand smoke, then -- and only then -- has fascism begun to arrive.

As I write this, NYC is watching its police force behave as badly under Bloomberg as it did under Giuliani, and I can't imagine that he isn't involved. The city continues to lose lawsuits over its treatment of political demonstrators, but chooses to continue to violate their rights and pay out settlements. We're laying off people because of a budget crunch, but the city has budgeted $5 million for such cases next year. Go read James for a good post on this subject.

This weekend the papers have articles about a 57-year-old woman in Harlem dying of a heart attack after the police broke down her door, threw in a stun grenade, and handcuffed her in a drug raid that was at the wrong address. I don't need to mention that she was not white, because we all know the NYPD would never behave in this manner in a predominantly white neighborhood. You can go read James's post on it, and then read Jimmy Breslin, which includes this:

She has lived there for 23 years. The police might have asked neighbors about the occupant of the apartment next door. They did not. Instead, with wanton, criminal disregard they recklessly violated the civil rights of Ms. Spruill and this is a matter that should land them as defendants in federal criminal court.

This morning, while Ms. Spruill will not be in church, George Bush and his prayer book will be in his church.

George Bush is a Jesus freak and a television tough guy.

He wants Americans to replace the saliva in their mouths with blood. He creates the national atmosphere of hate and fear and crackdown and violence.

His creed of scathing contempt and preventive detention and pre-emptive bombing strikes at the smallest country he can find has turned this country's life into dreadful fear and hate everywhere.

And in Harlem on Friday, it helped cause the death of Alberta Spruill, who worked every day of her life and went to church every Sunday.

NY Newsday has good coverage of this story today, including the fact that the police conducted the raid without doing any verification of their informant's report.

I can't finish without one last item from Newsday. They have a big story about city parks. Increasingly, the nicest ones like Central Park and Bryant Park are being privatized, and guards are there to make sure the "wrong kind of people" don't patronize them. The small story on Bryant Park ends with this:

Unlike most public parks, however, Bryant Park is not entirely egalitarian. Stand out from the BlackBerryed corporate crowd, and you may be asked to state your business.

So it was when a large security guard interrupted a reporter's interview with a parkgoer to demand credentials. "We like to know what's going on," he said.

The dramatic rescue of Private Jessica Lynch was just that -- a staged drama. We're not likely to see this story in the American media except for certain outlets like Salon -- see their coverage.

I'm getting my information from a story in the Guardian. Note the paragraph I put in bold. They used blanks while staging the rescue for their cameras.

Her rescue will go down as one of the most stunning pieces of news management yet conceived. It provides a remarkable insight into the real influence of Hollywood producers on the Pentagon's media managers, and has produced a template from which America hopes to present its future wars.

But the American media tactics, culminating in the Lynch episode, infuriated the British, who were supposed to be working alongside them in Doha, Qatar. This Sunday, the BBC's Correspondent programme reveals the inside story of the rescue that may not have been as heroic as portrayed, and of divisions at the heart of the allies' media operation.

"In reality we had two different styles of news media management," says Group Captain Al Lockwood, the British army spokesman at central command. "I feel fortunate to have been part of the UK one."


The doctors in Nassiriya say they provided the best treatment they could for Lynch in the midst of war. She was assigned the only specialist bed in the hospital, and one of only two nurses on the floor. "I was like a mother to her and she was like a daughter,"says Khalida Shinah.

"We gave her three bottles of blood, two of them from the medical staff because there was no blood at this time,"said Dr Harith al-Houssona, who looked after her throughout her ordeal. "I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle. Then I did another examination. There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound - only RTA, road traffic accident," he recalled. "They want to distort the picture. I don't know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury."

The doctors told us that the day before the special forces swooped on the hospital the Iraqi military had fled. Hassam Hamoud, a waiter at a local restaurant, said he saw the American advance party land in the town. He said the team's Arabic interpreter asked him where the hospital was. "He asked: 'Are there any Fedayeen over there?' and I said, 'No'." All the same, the next day "America's finest warriors" descended on the building.

"We heard the noise of helicopters," says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. "We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital.

"It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, 'Go, go, go', with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show - an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors." All the time with the camera rolling. The Americans took no chances, restraining doctors and a patient who was handcuffed to a bed frame.

There was one more twist. Two days before the snatch squad arrived, Al-Houssona had arranged to deliver Jessica to the Americans in an ambulance. "I told her I will try and help you escape to the American Army but I will do this very secretly because I could lose my life." He put her in an ambulance and instructed the driver to go to the American checkpoint. When he was approaching it, the Americans opened fire. They fled just in time back to the hospital. The Americans had almost killed their prize catch.

Doesn't anyone care what it feels like to people in Manhattan when a commercial jet flies low over lower Manhattan? We're becoming so militarized that we'll do anything for the benefit of the troops without thinking about how it affects anyone else.

A commercial plane carrying returning military personnel flew near the Statue of Liberty and low over midtown Manhattan, prompting emergency calls from some concerned onlookers.

The Continental Airlines plane, a Boeing 777, was given permission to change its flight plan as it approached its destination of Newark Liberty International Airport at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The flight pattern was intended ''to provide a special homecoming for members of our armed forces,'' the FAA said in a statement.

As James has said -- see here for example -- our regime needs the threat of war and terrorism to keep it in power. Last week in a NY Times column, Paul Krugman said:

Let me be frank. Why is the failure to find any evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program, or vast quantities of chemical and biological weapons (a few drums don't qualify -- though we haven't found even that) a big deal? Mainly because it feeds suspicions that the war wasn't waged to eliminate real threats. This suspicion is further fed by the administration's lackadaisical attitude toward those supposed threats once Baghdad fell. For example, Iraq's main nuclear waste dump wasn't secured until a few days ago, by which time it had been thoroughly looted. So was it all about the photo ops?

It's in the paid archives of the Times now, so go here for an excerpt.

That is the only mention of this fact in the U.S. media that I have been able to find via Google News. The News 24 (South Africa) web site has this:

On April 11, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the facility and nearby Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center urgently required protection from looters. US Central Command sent soldiers from the Army's Third Infantry Division.

But inspectors visiting the site on Saturday [May 3] found that the soldiers had not been able to keep looters out, and had moreover been allowing Iraqis who said they were employees of the facility to go inside.

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from May 2003.

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