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October 20, 2004

"You Can't Keep Your Job In The US Government By Saying What You Think Is True"

Okay, no weapons of mass destruction. No meaningful connections with Al Qaeda. And now no love for us anywhere in Iraq, or indeed, on Earth. But goddamn it, at least we know Saddam Hussein tried to kill George H.W. Bush in Kuwait in April, 1993. That definitely happened.

Except... no. Jim Lobe at Inter Press Service asks here a question I've been wondering about too: now that we've captured Saddam's entire regime, has anyone bothered to find out whether they really tried to kill Bush #1?

The answer seems to be: no, no one's bothered. And I doubt anyone will, because we wouldn't like the answer. The assassination attempt was probably just as real as the WMD. Here's why:

As Lobe points out, the idea makes little sense on the face of it. From the final WMD report we know Saddam was eager to forge ties with the incoming Clinton administration, so it would be quite strange for him to lead things off with an assassination attempt.

True, the government and US media have always acted 100% sure it happened. But of course, they were 100% sure about WMD, too, and that turned out to be a little off.

In light of that, it's well worth reading this article by Seymour Hersh, which details the shakiness of the case for Iraq trying to kill Bush. It was written in November, 1993, yet parts seem oddly familiar. Like:

In interviews over the summer, many past and present American intelligence officials expressed little surprise that the Clinton Administration had predicated the bombing of Baghdad on such conflicting and dubious evidence. One C.I.A. analyst explained, "Of course nobody wants to say, 'There's nothing to it, Mr. President,' especially when other guys are pushing it. The President asks the intelligence analysts for the bottom line: Is this for real or not? You can't really lose by saying yes." That hard-line attitude—"hanging tough" in a crisis—has marked many of America's intelligence failures since the beginning of the Cold War.

And you know what else seems familiar? The dramatic case, complete with pictures, made by America to the UN Security Council. This is from the New York Times on July 28, 1993, just after we bombed Iraq:

Showing pictures of bomb components, [Madeleine Albright] presented detailed evidence today to support the Clinton Administration's case that it was legally justified in carrying out a missile attack on an Iraqi intelligence site in Baghdad.

The Iraqi denial sounds familiar too:

In response, the Iraqi delegate, Nizar Hamdoon, called the American attack "an unprecedented act of blackmail...Certain organs in the American Government found pretexts in that in order to commit further acts of aggression against Iraq."

But most familiar of all is the facts twisted and distorted to reach a predetermined conclusion. One of Albright's main points at the UN was that the FBI had determined the explosives found in Kuwait matched other known bombs made by Iraq.

Too bad it wasn't true. In fact, Frederic Whitehurst, the FBI chemist who tested the explosives, found exactly the opposite. As the Baltimore Sun reported in 2003:

Whitehurst, now practicing law in Bethel, N.C., says his analysis showed clearly that the material from the car bomb in Kuwait did not match other Iraqi explosive samples.

When he heard reports after the missile attack that Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright had said the explosives matched, "I thought, 'The news has got this wrong.' I said specifically it wasn't a match." When he later saw an official FBI document misstating his findings, he filed an official protest.

The inspector general's report eventually confirmed that Whitehurst's findings had been distorted, but government officials assured investigators that they had other evidence linking the plot to Iraq.

Ah, yes -- "other evidence." Just like, as each part of the government's WMD case crumbled, we were always assured they had "other evidence."

The last word should go to Whitehurst, who said this in a recent interview (scroll down):

I noted that my reports were altered... And I objected to it... I said, "I'm sorry, but I will not be part of placing people in harm's way like that."

These guys who are doing this have never been in combat. They've never seen the blood and gore of what it means to put American soldiers in combat. You better do it based on the truth, not a lie...

You can't keep your job too often in the United States government by saying what you think is true.

Posted at October 20, 2004 12:00 PM | TrackBack

The "assassination attempt" had to have been the lamest thing in the world -- and why would Saddam go after an "ex" president?

Answer: he wouldn't - but if you ask why an ex-President and the Kuwaitis would want to feign an attempt on Bush's life, well - that vein is rich with possibility.

At the time Clinton was making noises about lifting some of Iraq's sanctions and normalizing relations.

The "assassination attempt" killed all possiblity of that happening, and of course, it was imperative to the Bushies that they preserve the status quo until they got back into power and could get at Iraqi oil reserves once again, tearing up its third-party production contracts and rewriting them in their own favor.

Control Iraqi outflow and you are the OPEC swing producer - capable of ruining or lifting world economies at will.

As to the poor "assassins", their confessions were tortured and recanted later.

"I'm no assassin! I'm a smuggler!" said one. And indeed he was - a liquor smuggler.

Posted by: Maezeppa at October 21, 2004 02:30 PM


Your take on the political considerations surrounding what happened is exactly right. It wouldn't be at all surprising if the assassination story was the creation of the Kuwaiti government.

Speaking of which, the Hersh story points out that the Kuwaiti minister of information who briefed the western press on the story was their former ambassador to the US... and the father of the women who testified about the Great Iraqi Incubator Heist of 1990.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at October 22, 2004 11:21 PM

Well, thanks for your comment back, that I've gotten 'round to reading four months later. That the Kuwaiti M. of Info. was the father of the 'poor dead incubator babies cruelly thrown on the cold, cold, floor to die' testifier is interesting. Yet more evidence of the strong nexus between these myth-makers.

Remember how hours into "Shock and Awe" how the first thing the British did was secure the Ramallah oil field?

That got me real suspicioius. I heard that on TV and went "HUH"? Wow. It really got me thinking because I was pretty sure that was the name of the field the Kuwaitis had taken and that Saddam tried to get back. It was, too.

***If Saddam lost in Desert Storm, how did the stolen Ramallah oil field go back to being an Iraqi asset? ***

The last time I looked, the vanquished don't usually get consolation prizes like that.

I think there was a resolution on the diplomatic back-channels - leave Kuwait and we'll make sure Kuwait gives back the Ramallah prospect.

So the Iraqi soldiers on that highway, the ones that were the turkeys in the turkey shoot, were they on a triumphal return to Baghdad, having "won" back their prize?

Call me cynical but I think yes. More stuff I know but cannot prove. After all, it would be hard to take it later on from our friends the Kuwaitis, but easy to take it from our enemy Iraq. I mean Saddam. Hmmm... have you noticed how NOBODY talks about 'preserving the wealth of the Iraqy people" anymore?

Posted by: Maezeppa at February 12, 2005 09:29 PM