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2004-02-12

Author Dilip Hiro On Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Collapse of American Power in the Middle East

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We take a look at the U.S. occupation of Iraq with Dilip Hiro, a longtime journalist and the author of 25 books including the newly published "Secrets and Lies: Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Collapse of American Power in the Middle East." [includes transcript]

It has been nearly one year since the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq. In this time, U.S. forces have failed to produce any weapons of mass destruction in the country–the stated reason for going to war against Baghdad.

Former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq David Kay has resigned saying "it turns out we were all wrong, probably," about the perceived Iraqi threat. CIA Director George Tenet spoke out, saying Iraq never posed an imminent threat to the United States.

Meanwhile the bloody occupation of Iraq continues. According to the Pentagon’s own figures, some 530 U.S. troops have died in Iraq. Thousands have been wounded.

There are no solid estimates of the number of Iraqis who have been killed since the start of the invasion. The website Iraqbodycount.net estimates that up to 10,000 Iraqi civilians have died.

This week has seen one of the bloodiest 24-periods since the fall of Baghdad, with over 100 Iraqis being killed in a series of major suicide bombing attacks that targeted new Iraqi Army and police recruits.

  • Dilip Hiro, longtime journalist and the author of 25 books including the newly published Secrets and Lies: Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Collapse of American Power in the Middle East (Nation Books). Other books include "Iraq and Iran After the Gulf Wars" and "Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today we look at the U.S. occupation with Dilip Hiro, we welcome you to Democracy Now!.

DILIP HIRO: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play for you a statement George Bush made yesterday. He made a major address. This is what he had to say. He spoke about Iraq, and he spoke about Iran, but let’s take a listen.

GEORGE BUSH (tape): In the past, enemies of America required massed armies, great navies, powerful air forces to put our nation, our people, and our friends at risk. In the Cold War, Americans lived under the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but believe that deterrence made those weapons a last resort. What has changed in the 21st century is that in the hands of terrorists, weapons of mass destruction would be a first resort–the preferred means to further their ideology of suicide, and random murder. These terrible weapons are becoming easier to acquire, build, hide, and transport. Armed with a single vial of a biological agent…

AMY GOODMAN: That was President Bush speaking yesterday. The odd sounds that you heard with that broadcast were actually how it was broadcast all over the country. Dilip Hiro, your response?

DILIP HIRO: First of all, weapons of mass destruction, that particular phrase only applies to nuclear weapons, not to biological and chemical weapons. You know, already that has been distorted. Secondly, a very simple thing. You know, what happened to the Ricin? Ricin can be made from castor beans. You can buy castor beans on the corner. So, if you are a terrorist and you want to do something terrible, you don’t have to go and knock on the cave of Osama Bin Laden and say, please, Osama give me some WMDs so that I can do something bad. Or go to Saddam Hussein. You can buy them on the corner. So the whole idea — you see, the whole thesis is built on two suppositions, first, there is a rogue state which has these weapons of mass destruction, and secondly, that they gave them to these terrorists and groups. But if it was something major, it would become obvious and it would be known quite soon, and any rogue state that was doing that would be hit. But even a rogue state, it’s very simple Amy. Let’s make a software program: I have three criteria, which is: a leader who has killed his own people with human rights violations, a leader who has WMD, and a leader who has the means of delivery — very important. And let’s put the information on–I can assure you the number one leader that will come up will be Kim Jong Il of North Korea. His policies have resulted in the deaths of 2 million North Koreans. He has at least two, maybe five atom bombs. Plus he has the best missile technology and missiles, except U.S. and Russia. So, he would be number one. Number two, now, might be Musharraf. So, if we are going around getting the bad guys, start with Kim Jong Il and not the man who apparently has no weapons of mass destruction. And David Kay had to spend $900 million to come to this conclusion. He said almost all of us are wrong. I hope he’s not including me, because I was saying long ago — Scott Ritter was saying the same thing, that there are no weapons of mass destruction. I wish they would have picked up a copy of the book, "Iraq — In the Eye of the Storm."

AMY GOODMAN: How does Iran continue from Iraq, the U.S. policy?

DILIP HIRO: Sorry, how do you mean that?

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about Iran.

DILIP HIRO: Certainly. Yes. Iran is of course, been a part of the "Axis of Evil." Of course, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Right? Of course, we know what’s happened in Iraq. By the way, if I were Bush and kept mentioning Saddam as a madman, before December 13, I could get away with it, but now that Saddam Hussein is actually a captive at the Pentagon, why not send in a team of physicians and psychiatrists who are fluent in Arabic, because Saddam doesn’t speak English, and check him out. If he is a madman or not. If he was found to be a madman, he couldn’t be tried. So, logic and Mr. Bush are mutually exclusive. So, now about Iran. Okay. Iraq has been taken care of, now Iran. I’m sure you had a program on —- did you know there was an earthquake in the Iranian city of Bam. [I say this because it reminds me of the BBC–I live in London to comment.] President Bush had said "Laura and I were deeply distressed to see the people of Iran suffering in Bam, so I’m sending my relief to help these people." So I said to myself, only a few days earlier, President Bush had said publicly, I don’t read newspapers, I don’t watch TV news. So, I said to myself, how does he know this has happened? Now, see this point is -—

AMY GOODMAN: He does say he gets briefed by his aides.

DILIP HIRO: Are we sure that the aides are really looking for everything? Because his aides are basically Conde Rice and Andrew Card. And if they are political appointees, they know, it is said that Conde Rice is able to read the gut reactions of President Bush and put them in words, which people like — and can understand. So, how can we be sure the political appointees will give the information which may not be liked by the big chief. That itself is a very dangerous thing to do. Why can’t you read yourself, now? Coming to the main point about Iran, yes, why is Bush playing, and of course, playing softly, softly. I tell you why. Because of what’s happening in Iraq. There are three important Iraqi Ayatollahs. One of whom is Grand Ayatollah Sistani. He was born in near the city of Masshad. Of course, he lives in [??], but he is a partially speaking [mullah?] and he is the most powerful man today in Iraq. Secondly, Ayatollah Al Hakim. Abdul Aziz Al Hakim. He was in Iran — in Tehran for 23 years, and then he came in last April. And thirdly, there is that radical Moqtada Sadr. A 30-year-old guy. He’s not particularly high in the hierarchy, but whatever position he has, it has been given to him by a Grand Ayatollah who — he showed a statement on April 7 of last year and said that Moqtada is my deputy in Iraq. And therefore, his standing has gone up. Essentially, the Shiites, who are 60% of the population, their three major leaders, all of them are some ways connected with — or look to Iran. And that is why our gentleman at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is playing softly, softly with Iran and saying that we are going to send you the relief. You know that hospital that was sent by the Pentagon, nobody went there–maybe five people went there. In Bam.

AMY GOODMAN: Because?

DILIP HIRO: It was supercilious. The whole idea that we were sending, you know, what you call the — the mobile military hospital to help people — very few people actually used it. It was there more for a show rather than actuality.

AMY GOODMAN: The "Financial Times" are reporting that United Nations inspectors have found a new type of centrifuge design in Iran and other experiments that Tehran has failed to declare, despite its claim in November that it had fully disclosed the nuclear program. The new findings come at a time of heightened concern about nuclear proliferation after the discovery of the rogue procurement network headed by Abdul Qadir Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. President Bush last night called for tougher international action to control the spread of nuclear weapons by denying enrichment and reprocessing technology to any country that doesn’t already have full-scale plants. He said this would prevent new states from acquiring material for such weapons. What do you make of this in Iran?

DILIP HIRO: I think what’s happened in Iran — actually, one has to remember — in October of last year, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain went to Tehran and they had — they made a deal with the secretary general of Iran’s national security council, Hassan Ruhani. That is basically where the deal was made. Also, we must remember that no other prime minister — I mean, I live in Britain, our prime minister, Tony Blair is not questioning — unquestioningly [lying to?] President Bush. On Iran, he disagrees with him. On Iran, Britain is going along with its European partners. Basically, what they are saying, we should continue what they call constructive dialogue. Remember also for the past three years, Tehran has been negotiating the European Union to have a cooperative agreement and strengthen ties with Iran and–economic ties and technical ties between Iran and the European Union. And when they made that deal in October, Iran also got something in return. It’s what Iran said is, we will tell you everything on the condition that you European nations will share with us civilian nuclear technology from which we are barred. So there was the deal. Okay, they found something else, and they may find something more but I am just giving you the general outline.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, we just have 30 seconds. Do you see the United States attacking Iran?

DILIP HIRO: No, no. (laughter) I mean, there’s a limit to madness. No. Honestly, there are 70 million Iranians. Iran is three times larger than Iraq. I think Iraq will keep Mr. Bush busy until at least November 2, 2004. And then, if he gets re-elected, there is the possibility, not only in Iran, but Syria as well, but I’m afraid that — you know–Iran is a very different ballgame. Iran is a very homogeneous place. 90% of Iranians are Shiites. You know there are 63 million Shiites. And Iranians have a very strong sense of identity. They have been going for the past 3,000 years. Even to think of it now, for them I think there is [??] that will have to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that I was talking about earlier to be sent to look at Saddam Hussein.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Dilip Hiro, for being with us. Secrets and Lies is the name of his latest book Operation Iraqi Freedom and After — Prelude to the Fall of Power.

DILIP HIRO: Nation Books.

AMY GOODMAN: Nation Books here in the United States. Thank you.

DILIP HIRO: Thank you.

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