Weapons of Mass Delusion?
February 28, 2003 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Maybe there are no weapons, after all... "On February 24, Newsweek broke what may be the biggest story of the Iraq crisis. In a revelation that "raises questions about whether the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist," the magazine's issue dated March 3 reported that the Iraqi weapons chief who defected from the regime in 1995 told U.N. inspectors that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, as Iraq claims...." This is the same defector cited by the Bush administration numerous times as a reliable informant on the scope of Saddam's long-term WMD plans.
posted by Artifice_Eternity (49 comments total)

 
WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 Iraq said today that it would comply with a United Nations demand to destroy an entire class of ballistic missiles. And Russia's foreign minister, Igor S. Ivanov, asserted that progress on disarmament in Iraq had stiffened Moscow's opposition to war to the point that it might veto any resolution that would hasten the onset of military action.
posted by the fire you left me at 2:47 PM on February 28, 2003


There's some war-thingy going on with Iraq?
posted by signal at 2:49 PM on February 28, 2003


i don't think there is, signal. after all, the only proof I've got that a war is going on is electrons on a television screen / computer monitor. Just ignore the media and be happy.
posted by Jimbob at 2:51 PM on February 28, 2003


No, No, No, No ... too late! Bombs away! We've lost patience and we're annoyed. That damn Saddam is hiding something (just not his disdain for a certain American President). This isn't about WMDs, this is about ties to terrorism, or oil, or regime change, or disrespect for UN resolutions or something.
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:55 PM on February 28, 2003


Nofundy, did you hijack Wulfgar!'s login again? Tsk tsk.
posted by dhoyt at 3:08 PM on February 28, 2003


sweet god almighty i don't care about iraq any more.
posted by xmutex at 3:08 PM on February 28, 2003


...Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles...

Obviously, this reflects Khamel's 1995 testimony. We don't know that they haven't built more weapons since then (and the rockets they are now obligated to destroy would appear to be of recent origin).

But most of the Bush/Powell/Cheney/Rumsfeld case for war is based on old evidence -- in some cases, dating to 1991 or earlier.

They are so clearly distorting and exaggerating the evidence, and this is one example of how.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 3:10 PM on February 28, 2003


sweet god almighty i don't care about iraq any more.
posted by xmutex at 3:08 PM PST on February 28


It's working! It's working! [/Bush]
posted by dash_slot- at 3:18 PM on February 28, 2003


dhoyt, I'm flattered.

xmutex...then don't fluster yourself further by commenting.

Artifice_Eternity ... Bullseye!
posted by Wulfgar! at 3:21 PM on February 28, 2003


don't fluster yourself further by commenting.

It's working! It's working! [/MeFi liberals]
posted by Karl at 3:25 PM on February 28, 2003


Artifice, you must be a total moron. Haven't you listened to the NEWS lately? Bush has credible evidence, man!

Remember when he said our economy was just fine, and you leftist idiots tried to bash him? Well? Proved you wrong there, huh?

And how about when he told us he'd kill Osama Bin Laden? Yeah, what's up now?!

Pretty soon you'll be trying to tell me that we're negotiating with North Korea, when it's totally obvious that Bush's clever strategy of ignoring them is working great!

It's conspiracy freaks like you that make our country weak. I mean, Saddam has a fucking Stalin mustache for God's sake, of COURSE he's got WMDs.

P.S. Does it disturb anyone else that the original Iraqi weapons report was censored by the United States, and has never been seen or spoken of since?
posted by zekinskia at 3:28 PM on February 28, 2003


At this point of media uber-saturation, I'm almost sure that the WMD® term is little more than a complete invention of the press. Not to say that Iraq doesn't have weapons of any kind, but reality, all variables considered (poverty, economic embargo,etc), might indeed be far from what the overhyped media has made out of it.
posted by betobeto at 3:41 PM on February 28, 2003


Until now, Gen. Hussein Kamel, who was killed shortly after returning to Iraq in 1996, was best known for his role in exposing Iraq's deceptions about how far its pre-Gulf War biological weapons programs had advanced.

Slightly off topic, but I've been wondering about this for months now: Why the fuck did Kamel go back to Iraq or, for that matter, who let him go back? That has to be the dumbest move I've ever heard anyone make. Does anyone have any information on this? It just seems weird to defect from one's country, spill the beans and then go back. What was he expecting? Parades? Chocolate cake? Slow and painful torture?
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:46 PM on February 28, 2003


Newsweek reported actual news? Are you sure this wasn't one of their true crime novel cum political thriller feature stories, à la "Colin Powell is in the West Wing. Thinking. He's been doing a lot of that these days, what with the pressures of opposing the other members of his employer's staff weighing on his mind. Suddenly, Condoleeza Rice bursts through the door. 'Colin, you have to stop this,' the normally quiet Security Advisor barks, banging her hand against the heavy oak doors of the Secretary of State's office. 'This ... thinking.'"
posted by grrarrgh00 at 3:55 PM on February 28, 2003


A true conspiracy theorist might hazard that Gen. Kamel was sent to the U.S. to feed them bogus information, do some whatever recon of his own he could to gauge our intelligence capabilities, then come back to Iraq and have his murder faked to provide convincing evidence of his veracity. I don't believe this. But this is spycraft, anything is possible.

Also, regardless of Saddam's WMDs, Forbes is now reporting that he's personally worth about $2 billion. I don't care how high U.S. security is; if you have two billion and you want to retaliate against the United States, you can find ways to kill a lot of people.
posted by gsteff at 3:59 PM on February 28, 2003


What I heard about Kamel's return is that he was married to one of Sadaam's daughters. He fled the country because he was afraid that Sadaam was going to kill him, and subsequently told all to the CIA. A few years later, Sadaam told him that if he returned to Iraq with his wife, all would be forgiven. Kamel stupidly believed him, and after they crossed the Iraqi border, Kamel and his wife were separated, and Kamel was tortured and killed.
posted by cameldrv at 4:00 PM on February 28, 2003


Gulf War redux:

Iraq: We surrender!
George Bush: Not good enough.
Iraq: We run away!
George Bush: Too little, too late!
posted by riviera at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2003


At this point of media uber-saturation, I'm almost sure that the WMD® term is little more than a complete invention of the press.

Actually, I'm adverse to the concept that Bush is the one promoting the categorizing. If Saddam has chemical weapons, calling them "WMD" means Bush can say there's nothing wrong with countering their use with other "WMD..." even though the counter could likely be nuclear weapons- which are unfathomably more deadly that chemical missiles. "Using WMD only if attacked with them first" is much more agreeable in a PR sense than "launching a thermonuclear warhead in response to a gas attack."

It's not that unbelivable a spin job... after all, Fox "suddenly" decided that they're all "homicide bombers" now. (In contrast to, of course, suicide bombers that don't want to murder people)
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:19 PM on February 28, 2003


I found further evidence to verify this story. Apparently, Scott Ritter said the same thing in an interview with NPR, but was largely ignored at the time.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:31 PM on February 28, 2003


My problem with the "homicide bombers" term is that it makes no distinction between one who sets up a bomb and runs away and one who blows himself up. I think that's a meaningful distinction.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:04 PM on February 28, 2003


My problem with the "homicide bombers" term is that it makes no distinction between one who sets up a bomb and runs away and one who blows himself up. I think that's a meaningful distinction.

I don't see why. These people that blows themselves up and take out other innocent people in the process think that they're going to paradise. Add to the money that their families receive and it's still a cowardly act.
posted by gyc at 5:11 PM on February 28, 2003


Does any mind if, when ever I see the term "WMD" I subconsicously think "Winged Monkeys of Doom"? "WMD" seems like a meaningless phrase. A shotgun is a WMD if you reload it.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:17 PM on February 28, 2003


I thought WMD was invented so our president didn't have to stumble over the word nuclear.
posted by birdherder at 5:49 PM on February 28, 2003


RE:grrarrgh00's comment. Funny. I hate when the press gets out the frustation at not being able to write their secret spy thrillers and use current events as an outlet. Worst offender? Bob Woodward.
posted by owillis at 6:14 PM on February 28, 2003


I don't see why.

So you don't see any reason to use the term Kami-Kazi either?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:25 PM on February 28, 2003


Paul Wolfowitz called them "weapons of mass terrorism" in an interview on the news tonight. The gall of the man is incredible. Had it been to Jeremy Paxman, he'd have been left in a heap on the carpet after that atrocious bit of Orwellian wordsmithery.
posted by riviera at 6:35 PM on February 28, 2003


gsteff, two billion dollars is not a lot of money. (At the scale of nations, anyway. Bognose it'd buy a whole hell of a lot of Happy Meals.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:47 PM on February 28, 2003


gyc: So the reason that you're not suicide bombing Iraq is because you are so brave? Do you think the people who say they'd die for our country are cowards?

These people are fighting and dying for what they believe. They are doing what they believe is patriotic, it doesn't make them cowards. I know it's easy to want to believe that people from other countries are not the same as you or I, but that's ridiculous. It's that exact same idea that's started every war humans have ever fought, and it must be reinforced to keep people fighting.

It's sad to think that there's a part of the world that's been so repressed and so abused that such a large portion of people feel that their only redress is to blow up themselves and try to take as many as they can with them.

That's the part I can't quite get my head around. Why strike back? I know you've heard all the sayings before, "Violence begets violence", "Turn the other cheek", "Love thy enemy". What's incredible is that, we know this strategy works. The more we break down the barriers that are stopping our people from getting along, the more peace we'll have.

Compare China and Cuba. We used trade as our major weapon against China and everyday we hear more progress being made there, in fact I'm hopeful that in my lifetime we'll see real democratic elections in China. However, we used force and embargoes to deal with Cuba, and what progress have we made? None, because the people are powerless, and the government has the only power.

Do you think the people of Iraq wouldn't rather have a lifestyle like yours? Do you think they enjoy a dictatorship? I would venture not. However we as Americans have robbed them of the very opportunity to build their economy, to become more educated, and take controll of their own government.

That's the beauty of our system, most people actually like it better than any alternatives we've got.
posted by betaray at 6:52 PM on February 28, 2003


The thing I've learned most from this administration is how the media can be controlled, and how the media controls public opinion. We've been given the opportunity to see how to successfully turn the public's fear of a terrorist into anger at an unrelated state. We've seen how allegations can become fact via loud, public repetition.

I find the whole process simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.
posted by mosch at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2003


Where are all the MeFi hawks when the Bush administration could really use someone to rush to their defense against these slanderous, unamerican, and entirely-too-well documented charges of lying to the American people?

Oh, that's right. The O'Reilly Factor is on right now...
posted by insomnia_lj at 7:33 PM on February 28, 2003


Ummm, can anyone tell me if I have a problem, because amidst all this, I burst out laughing after reading some of the comments here. :-D
posted by shepd at 7:53 PM on February 28, 2003


"The thing I've learned most from this administration is how the media can be controlled, and how the media controls public opinion. We've been given the opportunity to see how to successfully turn the public's fear of a terrorist into anger at an unrelated state. We've seen how allegations can become fact via loud, public repetition.

I find the whole process simultaneously fascinating and terrifying." (Mosch) - Well, there's my quotable quote of the month (year?).

shepd - It could be stress, a sign of an immanent mental breakdown, or a measure of your excellent and unusually robust mental health. Maybe you're especially worried about the world or......Laughter tends to correlate with robust, happy sanity - except when it correlates with insanity, of course.
posted by troutfishing at 8:18 PM on February 28, 2003


shepd: No, it's a common response. It also explains insomnia's question "Where are all the MeFi hawks..." Laughing. Just laughing.

Are there any sites with intelligent discussion about Iraq and the current situation? Not left-wing, right-wing, pro- or anti- but just discussion that isn't hopelessly politicized and ignorant? I can't find any. And I'm way sick of the stupidity that's all over this site, my site, and seemingly everywhere else in the vaunted "blogosphere."
posted by rusty at 8:19 PM on February 28, 2003


Mosch - Ed Bernays wrote the book on this sort of thing. (Look up the name). Hitler's Nazis borrowed heavily on Bernays' work on the manipulation/shaping of public sentiment and then many in US government learned tricks from Nazis brought into the US post WW2 (legally and not) for various purposes. There are many, many covert methods which can both shape events and, also, mold the cultural substrate. The GW Bush adminstration uses them all.
posted by troutfishing at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2003


betaray, did the US rob the people of the opportunities you write of, or did Saddam?
posted by alumshubby at 8:24 PM on February 28, 2003


Are there any sites with intelligent discussion about Iraq and the current situation?

Yes, they're called Universities.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 8:27 PM on February 28, 2003


betaray, did the US rob the people of the opportunities you write of, or did Saddam?

He had help.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:07 PM on February 28, 2003


Yes, they're called Universities.
I'm anti-war, but that's just laughable.
posted by owillis at 9:33 PM on February 28, 2003


And Iraq will use these nonexistent weapons to gas the Kurds when the first US bomb falls...

If war comes to Iraq, the Kurds of iris will be right in the line of fire. Iraqi officials have threatened that the moment the first American bomb lands, they will reply with a chemical assault on the town.

But of course, we KNOW there are no WMDs in Iraq...right?
posted by Plunge at 9:47 PM on February 28, 2003


"Yes, they're called Universities."

You are kidding right? I've never found a campus to be a forum for anything like a reasoned discussion.

"But of course, we KNOW there are no WMDs in Iraq...right?"

Right! They'll just sort of spontaneously appear over the Kurds as a sign of God's support of Saddam ... or something. It wont matter what the story is.

The apologists will believe whatever they need to to try and keep from believing that a great, good and peaceful many like Saddam might have a horrible weapon.
posted by soulhuntre at 10:44 PM on February 28, 2003


I like how we SHOULDN'T trust the Iraqi officials when they say all thier WMD's are gone but we SHOULD trust them when they make threats to use WMD's on the Kurds. Frankly I wouldn't trust anything Iraqi officals say one way or the other. Isn't that why we have the inspectors there in the first place?
posted by whirlwind29 at 10:51 PM on February 28, 2003


Yes, they're called Universities.

I wish I lived in your ivory tower, The Jesse Helms, among those free to conjecture on a war they'll never have to fight. Please tell me you were kidding about universities. Please. tell. me.

(On preview: Oops, soulhuntre beat me to it)
posted by Karl at 10:54 PM on February 28, 2003


insomnia_lj> To be honest, regardless of whether Iraq has poison gas or not, Scott Ritter is not the man to ask about it. He received $400,000 from an Iraqi businessman with close links to the Iraqi regime to produce a documentary in 1999 claiming Iraq did not have these weapons. Prior to that, he was widely believed to've been a CIA dupe. His testimony is therefore rather suspect on either count.

Rusty> Sorry, but so far as I know, there aren't. If it's any comfort, contra most of the posters on this thread, I've managed to have a number of reasonable discussions with my fellow university students both pro- and anti-war, so long as you don't catch them in the middle of a protest. Your best bet is to just start reading up on North Korea before the same thing happens with the information on them.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:02 PM on February 28, 2003


Pseudoephedrine: What is the source for your allegations?

I googled to try to confirm/deny your claim and was able only to confirm that there's a Scott Ritter conspiracy theory to fit every viewpoint. My four favorite Scott Ritter related conspiracy theories: 1) he was coerced into lying to congress in 1998 when he intimated that it was possible for Iraq to have WMD. 2) he was coerced into lying to the press in 2002 when he intimated that it was possible for Iraq to not have WMD. 3) He was bribed by Iraq. 4) He was framed by Bush.

It seems the only sure thing about Scott Ritter is that if somebody wanted to discredit him, they succeeded with aplomb.
posted by mosch at 11:27 PM on February 28, 2003


Just because Scott Ritter received money from an investor to fund a documentary doesn't mean the documentary was untrue. Why would he make a documentary that was knowingly untrue, especially if he was part of the CIA.

Really, there aren't any serious ties that can be made to tie Ritter to the CIA, other than the fact that Ritter claimed to work with other inspectors who also reported to the CIA.

Sorry, but the issue is whether the document in question is accurate, and everything seems to indicate that it is. In order to verify the document is accurate, Newsweek would have had to run it by several different sources. The fact that Scott Ritter, an independent source, verified the story just goes that much further to verify the document.

"NEWSWEEK has obtained the notes of Kamel’s U.N. debrief, and verified that the document is authentic. NEWSWEEK has also learned that Kamel told the same story to the CIA and M.I.6. (The CIA did not respond to a request for comment.)"
posted by insomnia_lj at 12:03 AM on March 1, 2003


alumshubby: Let me be clear, of course Saddam is actually oppressing the Iraqi people, but the only reason he remains in power is because the sanctions imposed Iraq. People aren't going to worry about establishing new governments when food and safety are scarce. It's as simple as Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Hindsight is 20-20, but just imagine the possibilities of Iraq after the Gulf War with Saddam pretty weakened. Imagine if instead of sanctions we encouraged free trade, encouraged privately owned business, encouraged development of Iraqi infrastructure. Imagine in 12 years, especially the way the economy was, what Iraq could have become. I'm not saying they'd be a poster child for democracy and peace, but I have no doubt that they could have become at least as stable of an ally as Turkey.

Seriously, how do we expect countries to become part of the world community when we ostracize them?

I know this is getting off topic, but this I believe this whole WMD is a red herring. He may have them, he may not. Even if he doesn't have them at this very moment, then there's nothing stopping him from getting them tomorrow. If we overthrow Saddam, there's nothing stopping the next guy in line from getting his hand on them.

The real issue is that we need to get Iraq to a point where it wouldn't want to use these weapons. I don't think this change will happen over night, and I don't believe we can force this change. We can use the strategies listed above to encourage it, but this change must come from within. If we strive to bring Iraq into the world community, then I'm sure our problems will go away. You don't gas/nuke/infect your friends. Right now they have nothing to lose, and that's always a dangerous situation.

I wish we had some words/post stat, I bet I'd destroy you all!
posted by betaray at 2:10 AM on March 1, 2003


Mosch> Here's an article off of Slate dealing with that. All I googled for was "scott ritter documentary funding" and got all that.

Insomnia> Scott Ritter claims that the CIA twisted his original reports claiming that Iraq did not have weapons of mass-destruction (interestingly, these claims began only after he received the money from the Iraqis). That makes him a "CIA pawn" by his own admission. He is now embittered against them (obviously) and has taken money from the Iraqi government in order to advance the opposite viewpoint. If his reports are capable of being "twisted" that easily and he has received a great deal of money from a member of one side in the dispute, his credibility is under challenge. He has shown that he is capable of having pressure laid upon him to advance a particular agenda, whether for good or ill, and that ought to cast the rest of his work under suspicion.

I'm not impugning the Newsweek article, but I'm merely advising you that Scott Ritter has lost all credibility. One shouldn't taint other articles by associating him with them. I'll let others debate the merits of the Newsweek article.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:12 AM on March 1, 2003


Today's Washington Post has an article on this. They spoke to former a former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Rolf Ekeus, who doesn't buy it; he told them:
"[Kamel] was a consummate liar. He wanted to return [to Iraq] at some stage and make a political comeback when Saddam Hussein moved to the side. All the more reason to preserve some of the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] secrets."
posted by mattpfeff at 1:06 PM on March 1, 2003


former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark offers his viewpoint on GWB and the war in iraq .... scathing might be a word to describe it.
posted by specialk420 at 4:13 PM on March 1, 2003


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