Sheehan has been subjected to an unwarranted backlash by right-wing
pundits because of her antiwar protests and some explosive statements
she made about President Bush. Perhaps Sheehan, while mourning the
death of her son, Casey, a U.S. soldier who died in the Iraq war,
lashed out at the president, and decided to take her antiwar message
to Crawford, Texas, after doing some fact checking on her emotional
state. If so, these are likely some of the circumstances that drove
While searching the 600 or so sites
identified by United States intelligence and Iraqi officials as
places where the country's biological weapons may have been hidden,
which was President Bush’s rationale for starting the war,
to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, not a single speck of
anthrax or other WMD has been uncovered since the war started more
than two years ago. Two skeletal trailers that may have been used
to develop anthrax or botulism, scrubbed from top to bottom when
it was found, leaving no biological weapons traces behind, according
to the Department of Defense, is the only evidence the U.S. has
found so far to justify its preemptive strike against Iraq. But
this is far from a "smoking gun" and the prospects for
finding any WMD in the months ahead are becoming grim. The media
who covered the war on the ground asked U.S. military officials
in Iraq why WMD haven't been found. The responses were short and
to the point.
"I honestly don't know," said Stephen Cambone, undersecretary
of defense for U.S. intelligence, during a briefing May 30, 2003.
Prior to the war, nearly every major media outlet warned, based
on reports from the Pentagon, that Iraq's cache of chemical and
biological weapons could be used on U.S. and British troops sent
into Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein's regime.
To back up these claims, President Bush and Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld said Saddam's history of using WMD on his own people
and in the war the country fought against Iran was evidence of the
viciousness of the dictatorship. So are we to believe that Saddam
suddenly got a dose of humanity, opting instead to let his regime
be torn apart rather than go out in a blaze of glory? Or could it
be that Iraq either destroyed its WMD or never had anything substantial
to begin with?
Looking back at the events that led up to the war, it's likely
the latter. The Bush administration never presented the proof to
the United Nations that its intelligence suggesting Iraq was developing
chemical and biological weapons was superior to that of the U.N.
weapons inspectors who actually combed through the country looking
for stockpiles of anthrax, botulism or VX. Now the military, which
has taken over inspections, are finding exactly what U.N. weapons
inspectors found – nothing. Even Al Capone's safe had a couple
of empty bottles of liquor in it when Geraldo Rivera opened it up
twenty years ago.
In October 2002, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati and
spoke about the imminent threat Iraq posed to the U.S. because of
the country's alleged ties with al-Qaeda and its endless supply
of chemical and biological weapons:
"Surveillance photos reveal that the (Iraqi) regime is rebuilding
facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons,"
"Iraq possesses ballistic missiles with a likely range of
hundreds of miles – far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel,
Turkey, and other nations – in a region where more than
135,000 American civilians and service members live and work.
We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing
fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used
to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.
We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs
for missions targeting the United States. And, of course, sophisticated
delivery systems aren't required for a chemical or biological
attack; all that might be required are a small container and one
terrorist or Iraqi intelligence operative to deliver it."
None of this intelligence information has ever panned out. Most
notably, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vice
President Dick Cheney erred when he said in 2002 that Iraq was six
months away from developing a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, the president's
claims that thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes sought by
Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program were also
Bush said in a September 2002 speech that attempts by Iraq to acquire
the tubes point to a clandestine program to make enriched uranium
for nuclear bombs. But experts contradicted Bush, saying that the
evidence is ambiguous.
The report, from the Institute for Science and International Security,
a copy of which was acquired by the Washington Post, "also
contends that the Bush administration is trying to quiet dissent
among its own analysts over how to interpret the evidence."
David Albright, a physicist who investigated Iraq's nuclear weapons
program following the 1991 Persian Gulf War as a member of the International
Atomic Energy Agency's inspection team, the Post
reported, authored the report.
The Institute, headquartered in Washington, is an independent group
that studies nuclear and other security issues."
"By themselves, these attempted procurements are not evidence
that Iraq is in possession of, or close topossessing, nuclear weapons,"
the report said, according to the Post story. "They do not
provide evidence that Iraq has an operating centrifuge plant or
when such a plant could be operational."
The lack of evidence and public blunders by other high-ranking
officials in the Bush administration are endless. Secretary of State
Colin Powell made it clear in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street
Journal on February 3, 2003, a day before his infamous meeting at
the U.N. where he presented "evidence" of an Iraqi weapons
program, which turned out to be the empty trailers the U.S. military
found shortly after the start of the war, that there was no "smoking
gun": "While there will be no 'smoking gun,' we will provide
evidence concerning the weapons programs that Iraq is working so
hard to hide," Powell said in his op-ed. "We will, in
sum, offer a straightforward, sober and compelling demonstration
that Saddam is concealing the evidence of his weapons of mass destruction,
while preserving the weapons themselves."
However, Powell did no such thing. Instead, Powell held up a small
vial of anthrax at the U.N. meeting to illustrate how deadly just
a small vial can be and then used that to couch his claims that
Iraq's alleged stockpile of anthrax would be much deadlier. The
same day, February 3, 2003 White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer
dodged a dozen or so questions about the intelligence information
from sources in Iraq and from the CIA that showed, without any doubt,
that Iraq possessed WMD."I think the reason that we know Saddam
Hussein possesses chemical and biological weapons is from a wide
variety of means. That's how we know," Fleischer said. In virtually
every press briefing (archived
on the White House's web site), and every speech by President
Bush between January 2003 and the days leading up to the war in
March, hundreds of questions were directed at Bush during stakeouts
and at Fleischer at his press briefings about what intelligence
information the U.S. had that could be declassified to support its
allegations that Iraq was either developing WMD or was hiding them.
However, not a single shred of proof was offered up by the White
House to back up its claims. Moreover, when the White House finally
seized on something tangible prior to the war, such as the existence
of long-range missiles, Iraq started destroying the weapons in the
presence of U.N. inspectors. But at that point war with Iraq was
inevitable. In an interview with "Meet the Press" on February
9, 2003, Tim Russert, the program's host, asked Powell about one
of the alleged WMD sites Powell spoke about at a U.N. meeting the
week before. Russert asked Powell if the U.S. knew where certain
weapons in Iraq were being stored why not just send the U.N. inspectors
in or destroy the facility rather than go to war.
"Well, the inspectors eventually did go there, and by the time
they got there, they were no longer active chemical bunkers."
Still trying to figure out what’s eating Cindy Sheehan?
Jason Leopold is
the author of the explosive memoir, News Junkie, to be released
in the spring of 2006 by Process/Feral House Books. Visit Leopold's
website at www.jasonleopold.com
for updates. Reporter’s note: I wrote a portion of this article
in 2003, shortly after the start of the war. I have changed some
elements of it in hopes of explaining why some people, such as Cindy
Sheehan, demand an end to the war.
The original version of this article appears for the Centre for
Research on Globalization at:
© Copyright Jason Leopold, GlobalResearch.ca, 2005