Monday, January 28, 2008

Why does the SOTU have to come on my birthday?


Five years ago today, on what was then my 37th birthday, George Bush told lie after lie during the SOTU address in order to justify his war against Iraq. A reminder:

Let's take a look back at George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.
Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.
Actually, he totally and completely disarmed. He did so all the way back at the very beginning of the sanctions regime. There is no evidence that he pursued chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at any point between the two wars. None.

Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.
Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons to lay on the table, and he told us as much.
The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
Actually, the UN concluded that Iraq could have created this anthrax back in 1991, and then failed to account for it. It was not asserted that Saddam currently had the ability to create this anthrax. Moreover, Iraq did provide some evidence that they destroyed all their anthrax, and no anthrax was ever found.
The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.
The United Nations did not conclude this. Their conlusion? "It seems unlikely that significant undeclared quantities of botulinum toxin could have been produced, based on the quantity of media unaccounted for."
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
These are again accounts of what Saddam could have produced before the 1991 war. But as for the lethality of these weapons?
The assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is as follows:
"The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown, but it seems likely that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents Iraq retained after the Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any."
"Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities" (1998), p.13, at: link .pdf.
U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
This is also highly misleading:
"A Commission of Inquiry has been set up by Iraq to investigate why these warheads were stored at these sites or whether any more such warheads or other proscribed munitions are stored at other locations in Iraq. According to a document from the Commission, which was handed over to UNMOVIC in February 2003, the 12 warheads were part of a batch of less than 20 warheads received by Al Muthana in 1989 for training and reverse engineering purposes."
UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.54.
From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
This evidence was supplied by the notorious drunkard and liar, codenamed: Curveball. German intelligence had issued a burn notice on Curveball's reliability.
The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.
We know about the aluminum tubes and the Niger forgeries.
The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.
This appears to be false and misleading. They did not have any weapons to sanitize or hide.
Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.
To my knowledge, no evidence to support this has been forthcoming.
Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.
He didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. So this whole paragraph is meaningless.
With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.
The intelligence community told Bush that Saddam would not share these weapons with al-Qaeda because he could not control al-Qaeda. They also told the administration that an al-Qaeda defector who had claimed Iraq was assisting them was probably lying.
Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)
Once again, the intelligence community put zero credence in this scenario, unless we invaded Iraq and Saddam wanted to punish us in the only way left to him.
Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)
It appears that trusting Bush's sanity and restraint was not a strategy.
The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)
We have now catelogued Americans torturing detainees (in over two dozen case, to death), filming rapes, and using chemical weapons on civilian populations. Fortunately we have no evidence of American forces using drills or cutting out tongues.
And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)
The liberation of Iraq was justified by nothing but lies, distortions, and exaggerations. In actual practice, the lives of most Iraqis has not improved. Bush and Cheney should be impeached.
I'm sure that this year's will be used to cheerlead for the so-called stimulus package that will miraculously prevent (or end) a recession, spew plenty of happy-talk about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and probably to demonize the Iranian government as a pretext for the next war. I don't plan to be watching - I'm sure I'll get enough of an idea from the usual news and blog sources later tonight.

My one hope is that this day is a bit less damning than the one of five years ago. Peace.

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