The campaign against Iraq
by Larry Everest
Z magazine, April 2002
In the aftermath of September 11, powerful forces within the
U.S. establishment have been engaged in a campaign of disinformation
to pin blame for the World Trade Center attacks and the anthrax
mailings on Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Over the past decade, more
than a million Iraqis have died as a result of U.S. bombs and
sanctions. Now, the allegations against Iraq are being used as
justification for calls to target this already devastated country
in "phase two" of "America's New War."
On November 26, the U.S. president delivered a threat against
Iraq. Declaring that "Afghanistan is still just the beginning,"
Bush demanded that Saddam Hussein submit to new UN weapons inspections-"to
show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction."
Asked what the U.S. would do if Hussein refused, Bush said, "He'll
find out." Bush seemed to expand his definition of "terrorist
states" to those producing "weapons of mass destruction,"
and later that day, Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN that
Hussein should consider Bush's words "a very sober, chilling
While there's a growing clamor within the U.S. power structure
to topple the Hussein regime, there are also, reportedly, intense
debates, including among Bush administration officials, over how
and when, and what the next stage of their worldwide "war
on terrorism" should be.
Long before September 11 , U. S. accusations against Iraq
and calls to overthrow or assassinate Saddam Hussein had been
growing louder. The New York Times reported that U.S. officials
had been trying to link Iraq to Osama bin Laden for eight years-since
the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center-but had found no such
In 1998, former government officials proposed a nine-point
strategy for "bringing down Saddam and his regime."
Ten of the endorsers of this strategy are now senior members of
the Bush administration-including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. The Republican Party platform
for last year's election called for "a comprehensive plan
for the removal of Saddam Hussein."
These rumblings against Iraq grew louder as international
support for the sanctions on Iraq (under a UN cover) have weakened.
This July the Wall Street Journal called for the U.S. to stop
"exploring variations of an obviously failed approach and
instead take swift and serious measures to remove Saddam Hussein
from power." The Journal also reported, "Senior officials
have held almost weekly meetings on the issue to discuss whether
to push for the [Hussein- government's ouster." In August,
the U.S. Iaunched its most savage air attack on Iraq in six months.
With the U.S. war in Afghanistan, the calls for war on Iraq
have grown louder. As Kabul fell, the Wall Street Journal editorial,
titled "Keep Rolling," said that the combination of
B-52's and proxies armies "is a lesson worth recalling as
the war moves into its next logical phase, especially into Iraq."
On November 18, Condoleeza Rice, Bush's national security
adviser, said in a TV interview, "We do not need the events
of September 11 to tell us that (Saddam Hussein) is a very dangerous
man who is a threat to his own people, a threat to the region
and a threat to us." The next day, the lead U.S. official
at the Geneva conference on biological weapons targeted Iraq as
As Bush delivered his threat against Hussein on November 26,
3,000 U.S. soldiers staged provocative maneuvers along Iraq's
southern border and U.S. planes bombed the southern Iraqi province
Creating New Pretexts
Even before the dust and smoke had cleared from September
11, high-level officials and advisors of the Defense Policy Board
were meeting behind closed doors, plotting to expand the war to
Iraq. The New York Times reported that on September 19-20, a "tight-knit
group of Pentagon officials and defense experts outside government.
. . met for 19 hours to discuss the ramifications of the attacks
of Sept. 11." The group, known as the "Wolfowitz cabal"
agreed "on the need to turn on Iraq as soon as the initial
phase of the war against Afghanistan was over." According
to the Times, their strategy "envisions the use of air support
and the occupation of southern Iraq with American ground troops
to install an Iraqi opposition group based in London at the helm
of a new government.... American troops would also seize the oil
fields around Basra, in southeastern Iraq, and sell the oil to
finance the Iraqi opposition in the south and the Kurds in the
There was yet no evidence of Iraq involvement in the September
11 attacks. Iraqi intelligence may have met with bin Laden allies
several times since the late 1990s. But the Wall Street Journal
noted that "few U.S. officials believe that any real alliance
between Iraq and Al-Qaeda ever emerged.... The two groups share
few aims and have very different motivations...." According
to the NY Times, intelligence officials from Jordan, Israel and
Saudi Arabia also said there was no serious Hussein-bin Laden
For the last decade, the Iraqi government has focused efforts
on lifting U.S. sanctions and in recent years had make headway
in winning support for its efforts. The Wall Street Journal acknowledged,
"Being held responsible for such a terrorist act would endanger
the years of effort Iraq has made to restore foreign commerce,
air routes, investment in oil production, relations with its neighbors,
its much damaged infrastructure and its military capacity."
The lack of evidence for Iraqi involvement didn't deter the
Wolfowitz cabal. Former CIA chief James Woolsey was dispatched
to London "on a mission," according to the New York
Times, "to gather evidence linking Mr. Hussein to the September
11 attacks." Meanwhile, members of the Pentagon cabal drafted
an open letter to Bush arguing that a refusal to expand the current
war to Iraq would constitute "an early and perhaps decisive
surrender in the war on international terrorism."
Woolsey began raising various charges against Iraq: that Iraqi
agents met with Mohammed Atta, one of the alleged hijackers and
the "ringleader" in the September 11 attacks; that Iraq
provided fake passports for all 19 hijackers; that an Al Qaeda
member traveled to Baghdad in 1998 to celebrate Saddam Hussein's
birthday; that Iraq trained Al Qaeda members; and that Iraq was
linked to anthrax. There was no solid proof for any of these charges,
but the media ran with some of them anyway.
Unleashing the Anthrax Spin Doctors
After Senator Tom Daschle announced on October 15 that his
office had received a letter laced with "weapons grade"
anthrax, the "attack Iraq" cabal and much of the media
went into a full disinformation offensive. They speculated that
such "high-grade" anthrax must have been produced by
a state, rather than an individual or a small group. And, they
said, the only states capable of doing so were the U.S., Russia,
In a New York Times op-ed piece, Richard Butler-the former
head of the UN weapons inspections program in Iraq who collaborated
with U.S. covert operations there-pointed the finger at Iraq:
"Biological weapons are closest to President Hussein's heart."
That same day the Wall Street Journal featured three articles
blaming Iraq: a front-page article accused Iraq of being "at
the top of [the] suspect list"; the lead editorial said that
"by far the likeliest supplier [of the anthrax in the letter
to Daschle] is Saddam Hussein"; and an opinion piece by Woolsey,
titled "The Iraq Connection," claimed, "There are
substantial and growing indications that a state may, behind the
scene, be involved in the attacks." Meanwhile, Washington
Post columnist Richard Cohen screamed, "Saddam and his bloody
bugs have to go." Two days later, two top senators, McCain
and Lieberman, advocated attacking Iraq.
Most of these attempts to pin anthrax on Iraq consisted of
"experts" engaging in war- agenda-driven speculation-without
evidence. Typical was the October 18 Wall Street Journal coverage
which claimed, "The UN believes it destroyed these [biological
weapons] materials, but inspectors suspect there may be more."
Richard Butler raised the specter of Iraqi "involvement"
and then added, "I'm talking about the possibilities. "
Meanwhile, the U. S. media ignored Iraqi denials of any connection
to September 11 or anthrax.
But when the anthrax spores in the Daschle letter and other
samples were analyzed, they turned out to be the "Ames"
strain-the strain of anthrax bacteria developed in the U.S., which
the U.S. military tried to "weaponize" in the 1960s.
It is not the vollum strain that Iraq had been working with (after
buying it from American Type Culture Collection, a Maryland company
that sells biological material like anthrax worldwide).
Researchers also discovered silica in the anthrax in the Daschle
letter. Silica is the agent that U.S. weapons makers mixed with
anthrax so that it could more easily disperse through the air.
Iraq reportedly used bentonite, which was not found.
A U.S. government official admitted that the "evidence
at hand-involving not just the coatings, but also genetic analysis
of the bacteria and other intelligence-suggested that it was unlikely
that the spores were originally produced in the former Soviet
Union or Iraq" (International Herald Tribune, 10/26).
In other words, the anthrax mailed to Senator Daschle was
most likely made in the U.S. A scientist from the Federation of
American Scientists told the Geneva bio-weapons conference that
the anthrax used in letters mailed to Florida, New York, and Washington,
DC, " was derived, almost certainly, from a U.S. defense
laboratory" (WSJ 11/21).
On October 18, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that
Saddam Hussein was the "likeliest supplier" of the anthrax
on the Daschle letter because "refining anthrax is a complex
and time-consuming process requiring relatively sophisticated
equipment." The Journal claimed that someone like Ted Kaczynski
(known as the "unabomber") "couldn't do it in his
Less than a month later-without a word of self-criticism-the
Journal reported that the evidence points not to Iraq but to a
"unabomber" type: "Mounting evidence has made the
lone domestic terrorist the leading theory. The evidence ranges
from exacting handwriting and linguistic analyses to test results
on how the anthrax was prepared-plus the fact that no suspected
al Qaeda operatives have shown anthrax symptoms."
As it turns out, the anthrax found on the Daschle letter is
fairly easy to get: "The FBI thinks a person could get the
equipment needed to refine anthrax to the degree found in the
Daschle letter for as little as $2,500.... Indeed, the FBI now
says that it has found 22,000 individuals or labs with access
to anthrax, though it doesn't say how many had access to the Ames
strain" (WSJ 11/12). Newsweek reported that "thousands
of scientists around the world have learned how to turn anthrax
into a weapon" and that the equipment to do so is "not
hard to acquire."
While much speculation has been thrown out about Iraq, there
has been little media focus and few official statements on the
possible involvement of U.S. right-wing organizations-which have
a long track record of anthrax threats. The Feminist Majority
Foundation has reported that since September 11, hundreds of abortion
clinics and organizations have received letters signed by "the
Army of God" claiming to contain anthrax.
On November 29, the FBI announced, without fanfare, that an
escaped fugitive named Clayton Lee Waagner had claimed responsibility
for sending more than 280 anthrax threat letters to clinics. Before
his escape, Waagner had testified in court that he had staked
out women's clinics because he had been asked by god to "be
my warrior" and kill abortion doctors. No one in government
called for rounding up and interrogating suspected anti-abortion
A Meeting in Prague
The other main prop of the effort to pin September 11 and/or
anthrax on Iraq is a purported meeting in Prague, the capital
of the Czech Republic, between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence
agent last April. The suspicious evolution and broad promotion
of this story has earmarks of ClA-type disinformation.
This allegation was first floated by Woolsey in London, and
the U.S. government has also tried to find an Iraq-Atta connection.
According to the New York Times, soon after September 11, Czech
officials were "asked by Washington to comb their records
to determine whether Mr. Atta met with an Iraqi diplomat or agent
here." The Times reported that Czech officials "said
they had told the United States they found no evidence of any
such meeting. They know only that Mr. Atta was in Prague once
in 2000.... Firm documentary evidence existed only that Mr. Atta
had passed through the Prague airport from Germany to take a flight
Just one week later, Czech officials reversed themselves and
claimed that Atta did indeed meet with an Iraqi agent in Prague
in April 2001. This new Czech claim was reported on the Times'
front page-while the prior week's denials of a meeting were buried
in an inside page. The front-page Times story noted in passing,
" It was unclear what prompted [Czech officials] to revise
their conclusions. "
On the basis of these reports of a meeting that may never
have taken place, elite talking heads immediately began spinning
out various hypotheses blaming Iraq. In his New York Times piece,
Butler alleged that the Prague meeting "may have been an
occasion on which anthrax was provided" to Atta by Iraq.
To this speculation, the Czech Republic's Interior Minister responded,
"The unequivocal answer to that is, no way." Laurie
Mylroie, a right-wing "expert" who has made a career
of demonizing the Hussein regime, was quoted as "believing"-with
no proof cited-that Iraq gave Atta "instructions" for
the September 11 operation.
Leading spokespersons in the "get Iraq" campaign
also argue that it really doesn't matter whether the Hussein regime
was involved in September 11 or the anthrax mailings. They charge
that Iraq has-or may have -"weapons of mass destruction."
Therefore Iraq is a "threat," and the U.S. should attack.
Senator Lieberman, for example, declared, "Whether or not
Saddam is implicated directly in the anthrax attacks or the horrors
of September 11, he is, by any common definition, a terrorist
who must be removed."
From 1991 to 1998, UNSCOM-the UN weapons monitoring agency-had
regular access to Iraqi factories and laboratories, used video
cameras to monitor Iraqi industrial and military sites 24 hours
a day, placed chemical sampling devices around Iraqi labs, monitored
the movement of Iraq's industrial equipment, pored over Iraqi
documents, and questioned many Iraqi scientists and technicians
associated with Iraq's weapons programs.
Iraq mostly cooperated with this effort in order to get sanctions
lifted. In February 1998, former weapons inspector Raymond Zilinskas
stated that "95 percent of [UNSCOM's] work proceeds unhindered."
Gregory Gause (Foreign Affairs May/June 1999) notes: "Since
1991, UNSCOM has demolished 48 Scud missiles, 30 chemical and
biological missile warheads, 60 missile launch pads, nearly 40,000
chemical bombs and shells in various stages of production, 690
tons of chemical weapons agent, 3 million tons of chemical weapons
precursor materials, and the entire al-Hakam biological weapons
The U.S. media endlessly repeats the lie that Iraq "threw
out" UN weapons inspectors in 1998. In fact, UN inspectors
left Iraq in December 1998 when President Clinton told them to
get out because he was about to order a new round of U.S. bombing.
International support for the UN weapons inspection program has
shrunk after it was widely exposed as a front for U.S. intelligence
gathering, assassination attempts, and coup plotting.
U.S. agencies have floated reports from time to time that
Iraq is re-arming, but former chief UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter
said his team was satisfied as early as 1995 that Iraq had destroyed
98 percent of its weapons. William Cohen, Clinton's Defense Secretary,
told the incoming Bush administration, "Iraq no longer poses
a military threat to its neighbors" (Guardian, 11/29). Earlier
this year, Hans von Sponeck, the UN's humanitarian coordinator
for Iraq from 1998-2000, wrote, "Iraq today is no longer
a military threat to anyone. Intelligence agencies know this.
All the conjectures about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
Biological Weapons Hypocrisy
Despite evidence to the contrary, the U.S. has continued to
accuse Iraq of having significant "weapons of mass destruction."
Since September 11, U.S. charges have focused on Iraq's alleged
biological weapons capabilities. At the Geneva biological weapons
conference, the U. S. claimed, "Iraq has taken advantage
of three years of no UN inspections to improve all phases of its
offensive biological weapons program.... The existence of Iraq's
program is beyond dispute."
Let's leave aside for a moment the enormous hypocrisy of the
U.S. government's demanding that Iraq allow intrusive weapons
inspections-while the U. S. refuses on-site inspection of its
biological weapons facilities, secretly develops more deadly strains
of anthrax, and works to gut the 1972 treaty banning the development,
production, or use of biological weapons.
All evidence suggests that Iraq's biological weapons capability
has been minimized, if not effectively destroyed. One Israeli
military analyst said allegations about Iraqi biological weapons
program was "over-hyped." In 1999, Ritter told the Fellowship
of Reconciliation: "When you ask the question, 'Does Iraq
possess militarily viable biological or chemical weapons?' the
answer is a resounding no. 'Can Iraq produce today chemical weapons
on a meaningful scale?? No. It is 'no' across the board. So from
a qualitative standpoint, Iraq has been disarmed. Iraq today possesses
no meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability."
In a more recent article in the Guardian, Ritter wrote: "Under
the most stringent on-site inspection regime in the history of
arms control, Iraq's biological weapons programmes were dismantled,
destroyed or rendered harmless during the course of hundreds of
no-notice inspections. The major biological weapons production
facility-al Hakum, which was responsible for producing Iraq's
anthrax-was blown up by high explosive charges and all its equipment
destroyed. Other biological facilities met the same fate if it
was found that they had, at any time, been used for research and
development of biological weapons....
"No evidence of anthrax or any other biological agent
was discovered. While it was impossible to verify that all of
Iraq's biological capability had been destroyed, the UN never
once found evidence that Iraq had either retained biological weapons
or associated production equipment, or was continuing work in
At this writing, the U. S. and Russian governments have agreed
to extend the current sanctions regime against Iraq for another
six months, with new restrictions supposedly to follow. And the
Iraqi government has rejected renewed UN weapons inspections,
stating: "Anyone who thinks Iraq can accept an arrogant and
unilateral will of this party or that, is mistaken."
It is unclear exactly where the U.S. rulers are heading in
their new war. All agree on the need to strangle Iraq, and some
argue for an all-out attack now, while "momentum" from
9-11 is high. Others in the power structure fear that such a move
now would hurt U.S. interests by destroying its current coalition,
and they advocate other options or targets. A former Jordanian
official warned, "If America moves to Iraq, people would
not accept it is [against] terrorism. People would start to question
the motivation even for striking Afghanistan. People will begin
to suspect that terrorism is just a pretext."
But much is clear. First, no actual proof of Iraqi involvement
in either September 11 or the current anthrax scare has surfaced-and
there's lots of evidence to the contrary. Second, evidence indicates
that Iraq probably does not have "weapons of mass destruction"
in any significant quantities. Third, this disinformation campaign
shows-that the U.S. "free press" is just another cog
in the system's machinery of oppression and war, functioning by
systematic deception. Fourth, the threats against Iraq show that
there's a hidden agenda in "America's New War," which
has nothing to do with protecting people from "terror"-here
or around the world. That agenda is empire-maintaining U.S. domination
of the Middle East and asserting its position as the world's number
one imperialist superpower.
Finally, the U.S. is preparing more deadly assaults-of one
sort or another-against a country already losing 5,000 children
a month due to U.S. air attacks and sanctions-a horror on the
scale of September 11 every 30 days.
Larry Everest is a correspondent for the Revolutionary Worker
newspaper and producer of the video Iraq: War Against the People.