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2003-02-06

Powell Addresses the UN Security Council to Argue for a First-Strike Attack On Iraq; Most of His Claims Can’t Be Verified

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Secretary of State General Colin Powell spoke before the United Nations Security Council yesterday. He made the case for a first-strike attack on Iraq, by presenting satellite photographs, tapes of intercepted conversations between Iraqi military officers, and information from Iraqi defectors and people seized in Afghanistan and elsewhere since September 11.

Powell’s 70-plus minute presentation can be boiled down to a few main points. Powell says Iraq possesses extremely dangerous weapons of mass destruction; Iraq is systematically trying to deceive UN inspectors and hide prohibited weapons; and Iraq is harboring terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

But much of Powell’s presentation is impossible to verify. Powell’s speech was peppered with assertions like: "Our sources tell us," or "we know that...." Defectors and detainees were not named. An article on the front page of The New York Times reads: "Powell’s Trademark: Overwhelm Them," referring to the infamous Powell doctrine of using overwhelming force. Britain’s Financial Times dubs Powell’s presentation on Iraq an "effective performance".

Powell also resorted to drama at times. At one point, he held up a vial filled with white power and said less than a teaspoon of dry anthrax shut down the US Senate in the fall of 2001. He referenced the 2001 anthrax attacks despite the fact there is no evidence Iraq anything to do with it.

France and Russia said the evidence only strengthened the case for further inspections. France and Germany proposed doubling or tripling the UN presence in the country. Iraq rejected the presentation as a fraud.

But Britain pronounced Iraq in grave new breach of Security Council resolutions. Spain’s Prime Minister urged the Spanish Parliament to back Spain’s uncompromising support for the US­ even before Powell spoke. But some Members of Parliament stood with posters reading "War, No." Ten Eastern European countries put out a statement backing the U.S. They are all aspiring to NATO membership. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Turkey said he will ask Parliament to open the country’s bases to thousands of American troops.

Well today we’re going to take an in-depth look at Powell’s speech. We’ll hear some excerpts from Powell. We’ll hear the response the Special advisor to Saddam Hussein gave late last night in Baghdad. We’ll be joined in our studio by United Nations expert Phyllis Bennis and others.

We thought we’d start with the first piece of evidence Powell presented, audio clips he played just minutes into his presentation. Powell says the clips are communications between Iraqi military officers that were intercepted by the US government. In the first conversation, two officers speak on the day before UN weapons inspections resumed. One says they still have a modified vehicle. The other appears surprised and says QUOTE "I’m worried. You all have something left." The other replies. "We evacuated everything, we don’t have anything left."

To give us a taste of these conversations, we’ll play a few seconds from the second audio piece Powell played. Then Powell will explain it.

Tape:

  • Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell addressing the U.N. Security Council, 2-5-03.

Guests:

  • Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, specializing in Middle East and United Nations issues She is the author of the book ??Before and After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis.
  • James Paul, Executive Director of the Global Policy Forum. He has also worked as a writer and consultant with projects for Human Rights Watch, Oxford University Press, Physicians for Human Rights, and many others. He was awarded the World Hunger Media Award in 1987 and he received a "Peacemaker" award from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in 1996. He is an editor of the ??Oxford Companion to Politics of the World and his most recent book is ??Humanity Comes of Age.
  • As`ad AbuKhalil, author of ??Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New 'War on Terrorism' and the forthcoming ??The House of Bush and the House of Saud. He is a professor of political science at California State University at Stanislaus.

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