Today we bring you a complicated story about President Bush, Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, top-level Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel, and the US media.
It is a story that reveals how the Bush and Blair administrations are manipulating evidence in every way possible to drum up support for a war on Iraq. And it is a story that reveals how the US media is failing to do its job.
Last week, Newsweek reported that the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein’s government told the CIA, British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in 1995 that Iraq destroyed its chemical and biological weapons after the Gulf War.
Hussein Kamel was Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law. For ten years, he ran Iraq’s nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programs.
He is one of the Bush and Blair administration’s top sources on Iraq’s weapons programs in the early 1990s. In debriefings with UN and intelligence officials, Kamel laid out the personnel, sites and progress of each WMD program.
Most recently, British Prime Minister Tony Blair cited Kamel in his statement to the House of Commons one day before the largest backbench rebellion in over a century.
Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell used information obtained from Kamel to try to drum up Security Council support for war in his presentation on Feb. 5th.
- Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, addressing the U.N. Security Council on February 5th, 2003.
And, President Bush dragged out Hussein Kamel’s name in his first primetime television address on Iraq on October 7th. It was the week Congress was poised to vote on a resolution authorizing war, and it appeared at that time that the U.N. Security Council was nearing the end of its struggle on the issue. And, the public wanted an explanation for why the US should invade.
- President Bush, addressing the nation on October 7th, 2002 in Cincinnati.
But then, Newsweek reporter John Barry obtained a transcript of the debriefing of Kamel by U.N. officials in 1995.
According to the transcript, Hussein Kamel claimed Iraq destroyed all its biological and chemical weapons after the Gulf War. He said they had been destroyed in order to hide the programs from U.N. inspectors, but Iraq had retained the engineering details on the weapons.
Newsweek also reported U.N. inspectors hushed up Kamel’s revelations to bluff Saddam Hussein into disclosing more.
The CIA immediately denied _Newsweek_’s report. Last Monday, the day the report appeared, CIA spokesperson Bill Harlow told Reuters: "It is incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue."
For the most part, the US media has ignored the story.
Well, we thought we’d go right to the source. We’re joined right now on the telephone by Rolf Ekeus. He was the executive chair of UNSCOM from 1991-1997. He was one of the three U.N. inspectors who debriefed Kamel, and is named in the transcript.
- Rolf Ekeus, former executive chair of UNSCOM and current chairman of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
- Scott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector.
- Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of the nationally syndicated column "Media Beat."