Tuesday, 23 September 2003

The Big Lie

JOHN PILGER REVEALS WMDs WERE JUST A PRETEXT FOR PLANNED WAR ON IRAQ

Exactly one year ago, Tony Blair told Parliament: "Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing.

"The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction programme is not shut down. It is up and running now."

Not only was every word of this false, it was part of a big lie invented in Washington within hours of the attacks of September 11 2001 and used to hoodwink the American public and distract the media from the real reason for attacking Iraq. "It was 95 per cent charade," a former senior CIA analyst told me.

An investigation of files and archive film for my TV documentary Breaking The Silence, together with interviews with former intelligence officers and senior Bush officials have revealed that Bush and Blair knew all along that Saddam Hussein was effectively disarmed.

Both Colin Powell, US Secretary of State, and Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's closest adviser, made clear before September 11 2001 that Saddam Hussein was no threat - to America, Europe or the Middle East.

In Cairo, on February 24 2001, Powell said: "He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours."

This is the very opposite of what Bush and Blair said in public.

Powell even boasted that it was the US policy of "containment" that had effectively disarmed the Iraqi dictator - again the very opposite of what Blair said time and again. On May 15 2001, Powell went further and said that Saddam Hussein had not been able to "build his military back up or to develop weapons of mass destruction" for "the last 10 years". America, he said, had been successful in keeping him "in a box".

Two months later, Condoleezza Rice also described a weak, divided and militarily defenceless Iraq. "Saddam does not control the northern part of the country," she said. "We are able to keep his arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt."

So here were two of Bush's most important officials putting the lie to their own propaganda, and the Blair government's propaganda that subsequently provided the justification for an unprovoked, illegal attack on Iraq. The result was the deaths of what reliable studies now put at 50,000 people, civilians and mostly conscript Iraqi soldiers, as well as British and American troops. There is no estimate of the countless thousands of wounded.

In a torrent of propaganda seeking to justify this violence before and during the invasion, there were occasional truths that never made headlines. In April last year, Condoleezza Rice described September 11 2001 as an "enormous opportunity" and said America "must move to take advantage of these new opportunities."

Taking over Iraq, the world's second biggest oil producer, was the first such opportunity.

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