All Spin All The Time
Published: Jul 09 2003
|New York-based Russ Baker is an award-winning
journalist who covers politics and
Viva Nihilism! It must be great working in the Bush
White House. Zero accountability. It's All Spin, All the Time.
Nothing matters but politics, hence no unfounded claim requires
correction or apology. Unless, of course, they are pushed to the end
of the plank, as they were recently with the tale about Niger and
Take those elusive Weapons of Mass Destruction. Despite the
failure of the concentrated might of the U.S. military-intelligence
complex to find anything that might qualify in the remotest possible
way, the administration labels critics "revisionist historians" and
imperturbedly moves on. The initial assertions and touted
"discoveries" usually get more attention than does the sound of a
balloon deflating. That's why polls find a sizable chunk of the
American public still under the impression that WMD have been found.
Whatever Saddam's interest in WMD, the administration didn't know
what he had and didn't have solid evidence to make the claims it did
-- much less to launch a war over them. For those amateur
"revisionist historians" out there, here is a partial, unscientific
reconstruction of the claims that fizzled.
"Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bombmaking
and poisons and deadly gases... [which] could allow the Iraqi regime
to attack America without leaving any fingerprints." - President
Bush, Oct. 7, 2002.
The alleged Al Qaeda training camp, which Colin
Powell described to the United Nations in February, is later
revealed to be outside Iraq's control and patrolled by Allied
warplanes. By late June, Michael Chandler, the head of the U.N. team
monitoring global efforts to counter Al Qaeda tells Agence France
Press: "We have never had information presented to us -- even
though we've asked questions -- which would indicate that there is a
State Dept. spokesman Richard Boucher responds:
"Secretary Powell provided clear and convincing evidence of the
links between Iraq and Al Qaeda."
"The British government has learned that Saddam
Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from
Africa," Bush declares in the State of the Union address.
In March, Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), tells the U.N.
Security Council that the documents substantiating the claim of
alleged Iraqi efforts to buy uranium in Niger were fakes (and bad
ones at that) and that "these specific allegations are unfounded."
The unnamed ex-ambassador whom the CIA sent to check out the story
tells The New Republic: "They knew the Niger story was a
Pass the buck, finally 'fessing up in a White House
statement delivered on July 7 that Bush should not have used the
uranium allegations in his address.
U.S. officials present evidence suggesting that
Iraq tried to buy aluminum tubes for use in centrifuges for the
uranium enrichment process.
IAEA's ElBaradei later reports that extensive
investigation "failed to uncover any evidence" that Iraq intended to
use the tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of
Powell releases a contradictory interpretation of
the tubes, then the matter disappears.
In early April, the Pentagon "confirms" discovery
of a biological and chemical weapons storage site near the town of
Hindiyah, complete with suspected sarin and tabun nerve agents.
Fourteen barrels of liquids are reassessed to be
In early April, a white powder found at a site near
Najaf is described as possible chemical agents, and presented as a
likely "smoking gun."
The powder is an explosive.
"Biological laboratories described by our Secretary
of State to the whole world that were not supposed to be there, that
are a direct violation of the U.N. resolutions, have been
discovered," Bush tells reporters, on May 29, referring to trailers
the administration says are mobile labs.
For weeks, numerous independent experts express
serious doubts about the trailers' purposes; a classified State
Department intelligence memo cited by The New York Times also
cautions about premature conclusions.
"The experts have spoken and the judgment of the
experts is very clear on this matter," says Fleischer. Colin Powell
splits hairs in backing the White House: State experts "weren't
saying it was not a mobile lab, they just were not quite up in that
curve of confidence that the rest of the intelligence community was
"We believe [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted
nuclear weapons." - Vice President Cheney, March 16, 2003 on Meet
After the fighting, an Iraqi nuclear scientist cuts
a deal for refuge with the United States. Buried in his garden are
documents and parts of a gas centrifuge, which could be used to
enrich uranium for bomb-making. But the process of enriching uranium
would require hundreds or thousands of precisely machined
centrifuges, working together perfectly.
The administration declares this evidence that Bush
and Cheney were correct in saying that Saddam had never given up
hope [italics added] of building nuclear weapons. From
"possession" to "hope" in one easy spin.
In his State of the Union address, Bush claimed
Iraq had the capacity to produce 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin,
25,000 liters of anthrax and 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX
nerve agent. He said Iraq also had 30,000 munitions capable of
delivering chemical weapons, plus several mobile biological weapons
laboratories and an active nuclear weapons development program.
Despite coalition troops combing the country, and
vast reward monies offered, none of this arsenal has been uncovered.
The administration "remains confident" that
something substantial will be found.