Monday, June 23, 2008

Nuclear Hypocrisy

One of the things that continues to stagger me is how the media routinely follows the United States’ party line in treating the issue of Nuclear proliferation. A recent report I heard on National Public Radio, for instance, addressed the “explosive” situation in the Middle East, with experts on Iran, Pakistan and India commenting on the danger as if all three nations were equally culpable, irrational and essentially out of control where nukes are concerned. Reference was of course made to the United States’ alarmist warnings about Iran, and the Bush administration’s constant reassertion of its threat that Iran will not, under any circumstances, be allowed to continue with its alleged quest to obtain nuclear weapons. Underlining this was commentary on the fact that Israel not only supports (or demands) this U.S. stance, but multiplies it, as evidenced by the revelation that it has recently conducted military exercises said to have been a dress rehearsal for a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s “nuclear weapons facilities.”

All of which left out two crucial facts.

First, India and Pakistan are two of the states on the planet who have NOT signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran, by contrast, HAS signed it.

Second, India and Pakistan are KNOWN to have nuclear weapons, and have tested them in recent years. Furthermore, India has just been gifted with a proposed treaty whereby the Bush Administration would give India even more nuclear technology—despite the fact that it has NOT signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, much less abided by it.

Then, of course, there is the real elephant in this geopolitical room. I mean Israel. Israel is the third (fourth if we count Korea) nation on the planet which has refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has not signed because, according to almost all objective observers including Israeli nuclear scientist Mordecai Vanunu, Israel has had its own nuclear weapons program for years, and is now estimated to possess at least 200 nuclear weapons along with the sophisticated rocketry to launch them. Further, Israel’s leaders, such as Golda Meir, are known to have considered firing those weapons at the beginning of the 1973 war. That they did not does not mean they would not. As neocon godfather Norman Podhoretz wrote in Commentary Magazine in 1976: “The Israelis would fight with conventional weapons for as long as they could, and if the tide were turning against them…it is safe to predict that they would fight with nuclear weapons in the end.”

So we have the following nuclear situation. Iran has joined the NPT. That treaty, in particular Article IV, guarantees unequivocally and in several places “the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.” Iran has stated that its nuclear program is in fact peaceful, thereby putting it in compliance with NPT. The recent National Intelligence Estimate of the United States has also concluded that Iran, in fact, gave up all attempts to pursue nuclear weapons in 2003, and has not revived them.

And yet, we are assaulted almost daily with inflammatory rhetoric from George Bush and Israeli officials of every stripe screaming about the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear weapons, and the right of states like Israel and the U.S. to take action against this alleged “illegal” threat because the economic sanctions are not working.

“Iran must not be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” we are told.
“All options are on the table,” we are told.
‘Both Israel and the United States are preparing to attack,’ we are told. Because this imperial “we”—Israel and the United States, we are told—these two peaceful and innocent and holy states are simply outraged that Iran would dare to secretly violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But WAIT. Israel is one of only four states which refused to sign this ultimate peace treaty! Where does it get off accusing Iran for violations? Even if Iran had violated it, which all evidence says it has not, where does Israel get the right?

And WAIT, again. The United States is criticizing Iran? The United States—the only nation in the history of the world to ever use a nuclear weapon against another nation, wiping out 200,000 Japanese civilians in an instant—the United States is accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons?

And WAIT yet again. For aren’t we obliged to remember that the Non-Proliferation Treaty specifically states that the nuclear-weapon states (the U.S., France, England, the Soviet Union, & China—Israel, of course, not agreeing because it has never confirmed it has nukes nor signed the NPT) declare “their intention to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament” and “the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles”? Aren’t we obliged to recall that that’s what the treaty says? And that the United States has not only NOT done that, but under the Bush administration has made clear it intends just the opposite—i.e. that it is seeking to upgrade its nuclear arsenal and outfit it for the space age so it can win unchallenged nuclear dominance in space? Isn’t this the most egregious NPT violation of all?

And this is the nation that is threatening Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program?

In spite of its own intelligence estimate that Iran has no weapons program?

Aided and abetted and egged on (one cannot tell if it is Israel which is egging on the U.S. here, or the other way round) by Israel, the secret possessor of over 200 nuclear weapons and one of the four refusers of the NPT?

Are you kidding me?

And yet. And yet we have the idiot American media propagandizing us daily, without a touch of irony, with never a mention of Israel—except to refer to poor little Israel which feels so threatened by the possibility that Iran might some day get nuclear weapons. Poor little Israel with only 200 measly nukes, as well as rockets and submarines capable of launching them, of its own.

It is the height of hypocrisy. Though actually, the word hypocrisy doesn’t even begin to address the colossal gall, the provocative, calamitous, imperial arrogance of this stuff.

Not to mention the fact that this kind of threat is precisely what is prohibited in the United Nations rules and by-laws. So that what we have here, on the part of the United States and its chief enforcer Israel, is something more akin to the threats and blackmail Nazi Germany began to toss around in the years leading up to World War II.

That is what we have here. And it is time the media and the American people and the U.S.Congress began to wake up to it, and do something about it before it is too late.

Lawrence DiStasi

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Torture Conspiracy

The McClatchy newspapers—the only major media group that has even pretended to employ investigative reporters to question Bush administration policies—has done it again. This time, in a June 18 article by Tom Lasseter, it has pointed out that the “framework under which detainees were imprisoned for years without charges at Guantanamo and in many cases abused in Afghanistan,” was an organized attempt to circumvent U.S. laws and treaties “to prevent anyone…from being held accountable.” Five White House lawyers, all of them familiar to anyone who has been following this, are identified as part of the so-called “War Council:” David Addington, now chief of staff to VP Cheney; Alberto Gonzalez, one-time Attorney General; John Yoo, one-time counsel in the Justice Department; William J. Haynes II, former Pentagon general counsel; and Timothy E. Flanigan, former deputy to Gonzalez. This “War Council” met every few weeks in the office of Gonzalez or Haynes to plot their nefarious policies—policies that resulted directly in depriving arrested suspects of all legal rights, and in torture. The members of this council were, in every sense of the word, a torture conspiracy, and worse, one that “created an environment in which it was nearly impossible to prosecute soldiers or officials for alleged crimes committed in U.S. detention facilities.”

Lasseter’s article lists the memos, the direct result of the conspiracy, that did the dirty work:

Jan. 9, 2002: Yoo sent a memo to Haynes, saying that the Geneva Convention’s Common Article Three prohibiting “humiliating and degrading treatment and torture of prisoners” did not cover al Quaeda or Taliban suspects.
Jan. 25, 2002: Gonzalez sent a follow-up memo to President Bush, asserting that eliminating prisoner rights under Geneva (the Yoo memo) set up a “solid defense against prosecutors or independent counsels” who might some day want to pursue war-crimes charges.
Feb. 7, 2002: Bush then followed up these memos with a memo of his own, asserting that al-Quaeda or Taliban suspects were not considered prisoners of war, and wouldn’t be given Common Article Three protections. (i.e., the memos resulted in almost immediate action.)
Aug. 1, 2002: Gonzalez requests a memo from the Justice Department, which Yoo writes, defining torture so narrowly—injury such as death, or organ failure deriving from “extreme acts”—that it could excuse almost any abuse.
March 14, 2003: Yoo writes a memo for Haynes (who was getting heat from his military lawyers about the abuses going on) asserting that even if some interrogation amounted to war crimes, the perpetrators still couldn’t be prosecuted because they were operating under Bush’s constitutional authority to wage war. “In wartime,” Yoo wrote, “it is for the president alone to decide what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.”

The conspiracy, in short, provided the legal bases for Americans to use torture, and the legal structure whereby they could escape prosecution for their crimes. These legal opinions resulted in direct and foreseeable and planned actions—first the President’s memo declaring captured detainees beyond the reach of U.S. and international laws, and then the license to interrogators to use techniques normally considered to be war crimes because the President, in his role as commander during a war, had given them sanction. A mass of evidence exists confirming that U.S. interrogators did, in fact, use the once-forbidden techniques, i.e. torture.

Of course, what we now know is that the Justice Department itself, under new head of Office of Legal Counsel Jack Goldsmith, found John Yoo’s Aug. 2002 and March 2003 opinions so legally abhorrent, that it reversed them. We also know that the Supreme Court first, in 2006, rebuked the Bush lawyers by ruling that Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions DID apply to Guantanamo prisoners; and it also recently reversed the Bush administration’s contention that so-called enemy combatants do not have habeas corpus rights (the right to challenge the reason for their detention), by ruling that, in fact, they DO. We also now know that even within the administration—especially in the Judge Advocate General’s office at the Pentagon—military lawyers and officials were horrified at what they saw being perpetrated in their names, and tried to protest. But, as Lasseter makes clear, the War Council simply shut out these protesting voices.

Now those voices are coming back to haunt them. In a Boston Globe article on June 18, Bryan Bender writes that the group “Physicians for Human Rights” has now found medical evidence corroborating the stories of eleven former Guantanamo prisoners that they were tortured. The evidence includes scars such as cheek wounds on a prisoner who says he was stabbed with a screwdriver, and burns and other scars which tend to support allegations of electrical shock and forced sodomy.

This evidence was convincing enough to General Antonio Taguba (who wrote the first report on Abu Ghraib) to induce him to write in the report’s preface: “This report tells the largely untold human story of what happened to detainees in our custody when the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture.” General Taguba, now retired, then added an even harsher judgment:

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”

Does this not complete the circle? White House lawyers engaged in a conspiracy to circumvent the laws against torture, and to provide cover for those who employed torture. The President put that conspiracy into action by asserting that those captured had no rights and so could be held indefinitely without charges and treated in any way their interrogators could devise, short of murdering them (although there are up to one hundred torture deaths alleged by researchers like Alfred McCoy.) The members of the United States armed forces and other official and non-official organizations then implemented those executive orders by treating all captives as if they were guilty, subhuman, and deserving of torture. And their actions were hidden, for as long as possible, from neutral watchdog authorities like the International Red Cross.

What more is needed to begin pursuing those responsible for war crimes?

What could possibly prevent the impeachment of this President, indeed, as Vincent Bugliosi has written in a recent book, from PROSECUTING this President and all his henchmen for nothing less than a sustained and heinous conspiracy to commit war crimes?

Lawrence DiStasi

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Iran Again...

In case you haven’t noticed, the war drums to attack Iran have started again. First, we heard from Israel’s former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, that an Israeli attack on Iran’s alleged nuclear sites looked “inevitable.” He said: “The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable.” (quoted in Robert Naiman, “Israel Threatens War on Gaza and Iran,” The Telegraph, June 7, 2008.) Prime Minister Olmert, in deep political trouble over a bribery scandal, underlined this vow in his comments after visiting Washington, by saying that “Israel and America are of one mind over the possibility of military intervention against Tehran’s nuclear programme..” In the same vein, we heard from Gareth Porter that, despite the powerful opposition from the American military to Vice-President Cheney’s push to attack Iran last summer, the situation has changed sufficiently in recent months to begin worrying again. This is because Admiral Fallon, then head of Centcom, and the main obstacle to a strike against Iran (because Iran might well do more damage to the United States in retaliation than the U.S. could do to Iran), was forced to resign. In his place is the ever-pliant General David Petraeus. This gives Cheney and the Bushies yet another opportunity to strike at Iran before they must leave office.

Now this is almost stupefying to anyone who has been following the Iran situation. To begin with, only months ago, a National Intelligence Estimate was released stating that, in the opinion of every U.S. Intelligence agency, not only was Iran NOT working on a nuclear weapon, but it had ended its nuclear weapons efforts in 2003! Well, you may say, it’s not only the nukes; the Iranians are supplying the Iraqi “bad guys” with powerful weapons to attack Americans in Iraq. But a report on May 15, 2008 detailed not one but two refutations of this claim (“Bogus Claim, al-Maliki Stall US Plan on Iran Arms,” Common Dreams, May 15, 2008). First, our ally (some would say puppet) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “refused to endorse charges of Iranian involvement in arms smuggling to the Mahdi Army.” In other words, the man closest to the situation refuted the U.S. claims, repeated endlessly, that Iran is supplying the arms to our enemies. They are not, he said. More important, the same report tells us that the entire American plan to stage a huge public-relations campaign convincing the American public that Iran is really the enemy in our war in Iraq, has fallen apart. Prime Minister al-Maliki first said that actual proof of Iran’s involvement was needed. Second, on May 3 a huge cache of Iranian arms said to have been captured in Karbala turned out to be a dud, as far from the “smoking gun” as it could be. According to Porter, American munitions experts hastening to Karbala to see the longed-for Iranian weapons “found nothing they could credibly link to Iran.” The cache was a bust, and U.S. commanders had to tell reporters that the big event they were expecting had to be cancelled due to a “misunderstanding.” Misunderstanding indeed. The Mahdi army has made Karbala a center of its fight for years, thus making the weapons there of supreme importance. Nonetheless, of 4 anti-aircraft missiles, 45 RPGs, 800 RPG missiles, and 570 roadside explosive devices, not a single item of Iranian origin could be identified. The whole charge against Iran as arms supplier and trainer of our enemies turned to ashes.

You might think that would do it. No Iranian nuclear weapons program. No Iranian arms dealing. But that would be the conclusion in a rational world. This is Bush/Cheney land. This is an America that has long since swallowed the Zionist cool-aid to take Israel’s so-called ‘security’ as its own. And so we get Scott McClellan, onetime press secretary in the Bush White House, telling Keith Olbermann that yes, we should expect the Bush administration to misrepresent what it knows to justify an attack on Iran. For if Dana Perino started making noises similar to those made prior to the invasion of Iraq, McClellan said, “I would be (suspicious). I think that you would need to take those comments very seriously, and be skeptical.”

It is precisely those noises that are reaching a crescendo again. And the additional factor we must now consider is whether, in fact, even Barack Obama has been made a pawn in this game—this time by AIPAC, the America Israel Public Action Committee, one of the most powerful lobbies for Israel in all of Washington. For what Obama was induced (AIPAC and American Jews in general are said to constitute as much as 60% of the contributions to the Democratic Party) into saying when he spoke to AIPAC recently, is that he holds Iran responsible for the rockets Hezbollah launched on Israel in the recent war—“Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon only to have Iran supply Hezbollah with thousands of rockets”—adding that “we must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing to work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs…(to) help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza.” In short, Obama bought into the entire AIPAC propaganda line: that poor innocent little Israel is threatened by its evil Arab neighbors seeking nuclear weapons, only wants to live in peace, and needs military and financial help from the United States in order to do so. The truth—that Israel is the ONLY nuclear power in the Middle East, that its status as the 5th largest military in the entire world ensures that no combination of its neighbors could threaten it, and that it has been engaged in a policy of ethnic cleansing of the indigenous peoples of Palestine for more than 60 years—could make no appearance in this speech. The nonsense about Iran and its supposed nuclear threat had to be given primacy.

What this could mean is that the Bush administration, now chomping at the bit for one final gotterdammerung (an attack on muslim Iran either by itself or by a well-supported Israel), could find itself in an unassailable position. In a presidential election year, with Senator McCain sounding off daily about how na├»ve his rival is about war matters, Obama would have little choice but to agree with a strike, or to approve of one after the fact. This would please his masters at AIPAC, but it also could have the disastrous effect of ensuring McCain’s victory. In other words, an October surprise consisting of an air strike on Iran—Middle East intelligence analyst Wayne White has seen plans for such a strike, including “clearing a path of targets against the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles and even ballistic missile capability that could target commerce and US warships in the gulf”—could frighten the electorate into, once again, voting for the “war” party, the Republicans.

Then those who support AIPAC and Israeli interests regardless of the crimes being committed against Palestinians could well claim to have goaded the world into yet another war, the consequences of which are fearsome to contemplate, consequences which were so feared even by the macho American military last summer that the generals torpedoed the administration’s attack plans. Indeed, it is to head off such a dire eventuality that a coalition of groups in Washington is promoting a write-in to Congress campaign on June 10. An ad will soon appear to this effect in the major media outlets, calling on Congress not to get dragged into another war, but rather to insist on direct talks with Iran without preconditions.

That used to be the position taken by Barack Obama. It must be forced upon him, and upon all the war mongers, again. Call your congressional rep on or before June 10. The Bush/Cheney madness must not be allowed to hoodwink the American people yet again.

Lawrence DiStasi

Addendum: these are the actual remarks made by Obama to AIPAC, not the prepared remarks I used. You will notice that his actual remarks kowtow even more obsequiously to Israel, including the acceptance of the Bush administration’s discredited assertions:

“Now, there's no greater threat to Israel or to the peace and stability of the region than Iran….The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.”

Friday, June 6, 2008

Plastics, etc.

Recently I wrote a blog about the dire consequences for humans lurking in plastic bottles because of a substance called Bisphenol A. Essentially, the problem with this polymer—of which we produce upwards of 6 billion pounds each year—is that it mimics estrogen in the human body. This means that, as an endocrine disruptor, Bisphenol A can affect reproductive organs and lead to such things as male fish and seagulls sprouting female sex organs, declining fertility rates, and cancers.

Sadly, the side effects of our addiction to plastic has another effect that is being increasingly noticed these days: the Plastic Ocean. This is a term given to a huge area—now larger than the continental United States—that is accumulating garbage in the north Pacific Ocean. The accumulating effect is due to a mountain of air, heated at the equator, which produces circular ocean currents. These currents, in turn, act like a vortex or gyre, spiraling towards a center of down-welling. The gyre is like a huge magnet for the garbage that humans discard, and the most nightmarish quality of this particular magnet is its capacity to attract and concentrate plastic.

Captain Charles Moore was one of the first to notice, and sail through this 10 million square mile garbage dump on his return from a sailing race on his sloop, the Alguita. He was so transformed by the experience that he thereafter devoted his life to studying and publicizing it, forming the Algalita Marin Research Foundation to do so. His conclusions are stunning and awful to contemplate. Essentially, he writes, “Anything that floats, no matter where it comes from on the north Pacific Rim or ocean, ends up here.” He points out that historically, the matter accumulating here, being made of organic compounds, would be broken down by microorganisms. In the last 150 years or so (plastic was discovered around 1865 by John W. Hyatt, seeing to make a synthetic replacement for billiard balls. He first created celluloid, then rayon in 1891, Teflon in 1938, and polypropylene in 1954), the accumulating matter has been dominated by plastic, a substance that does not break down, ever. What plastic does do, according to Moore, is “photo-degrade—a process in which it is broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic, still too tough for anything to digest.” (see “Plastic is Drastic: World's Largest 'Landfill' is in the Middle of the Ocean” by Charles Moore.

Moore has recently found, based on measurements of ocean water, that there exist 6 pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton! Six to one, and the proportion is growing.

Unfortunately for fish and sea birds, evolution has not equipped them with the sensory equipment to distinguish between bits of plastic and the foods, especially plankton, they need to survive. So when fish see tiny balls of plastic known as “nurdles,” they take them for fish eggs, and eat them. When birds like the Black Footed albatross see plastic caps or other delectable items, they not only eat them, but return to their nests to feed them to their young. No biological system can digest plastic. Thus, Moore has seen stomach contents that “look like the cigarette lighter shelf at a convenience store,” containing bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and tampon applicators. One dissected animal contained 1.603 pieces of plastic. Susan Casey, in an article called “Plastic Ocean: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” ( refers to the “moral horror” in contemplating life compromised in this way: sea turtles strangled, humpback whales towing plastic nets, and more than 1 million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and no one knows how many fish perishing each year from consuming our plastic discards.

The worst part may be the effect of these bits of plastic in our food chain. The smallest creatures are now feeding on the plastic “nurdles” that infest not just the Pacific but all our oceans: there are five other high-pressure zones (read ‘garbage dumps’) in the South Pacific, the North and South Atlantic, and the Indian Oceans. More than that, every bit of seawater, within the gyre or not, that Moore has collected in recent years contains these eternal, infernal plastic bits. As Moore has put it, “25 percent of our planet is a toilet that never flushes.” And all the fish that feed on the small fish now ingesting plastic regularly also ingest the plastic with them. The result is that biologists are finding huge numbers of all kinds of fish polluted with plastic. And the pollution is not simply due to the indigestibility of plastic itself. It turns out that “nurdles”—a kind of pre-production plastic pellet that plastic manufacturers ship to companies, who in turn make plastic products from it—tend to be wonderfully efficient carriers of waste chemicals, including DDT and PCBs. They become “supersaturated poison pills,” light enough to blow around like dust, wash into harbors, storm drains, and creeks. From here they enter the fish food chain and end up in your salmon and tuna. Worse, so light and transportable are these devilish end products of human ingenuity that, according to Moore, “the whole biosphere is becoming mixed with (them)…We’re breathing them, the fish are eating them, they’re in our hair, they’re in our skin.”

The prospects for the future seem to promise only more plastic garbage and more plastically polluted life forms at every level of our biosphere. The worst part is that regardless of what any of us do to discard our plastics into our self-congratulatory plastic recycling bins, not much is really recycled—only 3 to 5 percent. Nor can plastic be incinerated, because the burning of plastic releases vapors that are even more deadly to ingest. Most goes into landfills, and eventually, our indispensable oceans.

What is to be done? Sadly, according to Moore, there is no way to rid the oceans of this stuff. We can only wait, hoping that somehow the natural organic environment can find a way to clean itself. What we can do, what each of must do, is demand that greater controls are placed on the plastics we do use, and that such things as biodegradable plastics—I have seen plastic bags in my little market which, made from corn and other products, actually biodegrade—be used everywhere they can. Each one of us can also vow to resist the use of plastic (on average, each of us uses 185 pounds of plastic per year), insofar as that is possible. Twenty-three countries have already begun, banning or restricting the use of plastic bags, with even Wal-Mart agreeing to begin using biodegradable plastics. We must also insist on a standard that green architect William McDonough calls “cradle to cradle,” wherein all our manufactured products become reusable, and poison-free.

Then, we can only pray.

Lawrence DiStasi

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bush's War

Last night, as part of its pledge drive, KQED public television repeated the Frontline documentary, “Bush’s War.” What struck me, aside from the devastating impact of seeing closeup once again the behavior and machinations of the criminal cabal that ruled this administration, was the lack of any analysis of the actual rationale for war. If you remember, Bush was persuaded by Colin Powell to go to the United Nations in order to provide some legitimacy for his plan to invade Iraq. Accordingly, the United States was able to browbeat the Security Council into passing Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002. This resolution gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.”

Iraq did comply, allowing Hans Blix of UNMOVIC and his inspectors to come into the country and inspect numerous facilities, and providing 12,000 pages of documents testifying to the destruction of its weapons (These documents were later borne out by the inability of the United States inspectors to find any WMD anywhere in Iraq). The inspectors found nothing except, on January 16, 2003, 11 empty 122mm chemical warheads previously undeclared. Iraq said they were old and forgotten; be that as it may, there were no chemicals detected to prove noncompliance.

Lack of evidence notwithstanding, the United States insisted that Iraq was lying. The US “cemented” this position when U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his infamous presentation to the United Nations on February 5, with its mockup of so-called mobile chemical and biological weapons labs, its allegation that Iraq’s aluminum tubes were being used in a nuclear weapons program, and its allegation that Iraq had ties with al-Quaeda. It maintained these charges even after February 14, when Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei presented a detailed update on the situation in Iraq to the Security Council—in which Blix stated not only that “the Iraqis were now more proactive in their cooperation,” but also that the arguments presented by Colin Powell were not credible: the satellite images were not convincing, and Iraqis never received early warning of inspector visits (it was not known, at the time, that the mobile lab mockups were fabrications invented by the informant known as “Curveball”). El Baradei added that it was his conclusion that Iraqis did not have a nuclear weapons program (this, too, turned out to be correct.)

Undeterred by these setbacks, the United States then tried to pass a new resolution in the Security Council. Supported by Great Britain and Spain, the draft resolution on February 24, 2003, declared that “Iraq has failed to take the final opportunity afforded to it by resolution 1441.” Therefore, it could be invaded in accordance with the “serious consequences” provision. Unfortunately for the U.S. position, most of the member states (save for the aforementioned England, Spain, and Bulgaria) in the Security Council refused to back this resolution. France and Germany stated their intention to veto the resolution. It was therefore withdrawn without a vote.

This left the United States with NO United Nations authority to invade Iraq. Resolution 1441 had not authorized an invasion, but merely urged Iraq to comply or face unstated “consequences”. The US’s proposed resolution, finding Iraq in “material breach” of its obligations and therefore subject to invasion, had been dropped for lack of support.

At this point, the United States, unwilling to abandon invasion plans already underway, resorted to a 13-year-old UN resolution—# 678. Resolution 678, issued on November 29, 1990, was directed against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It authorized the use of force against Iraq to “uphold and implement resolution 660 and all subsequent resolutions to restore international peace and security.” Resolution 660 of Aug. 2, 1990, in turn, had condemned the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and demanded a withdrawal of Iraq’s troops. So 678 authorized force ONLY to get Iraqi troops out of Kuwait—something that had been accomplished 13 years ago. This did not deter the Bushies. Another old resolution, # 687, was dusted off, and combined with 678 to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, i.e. to give what was essentially an unprovoked invasion additional cover. Resolution 687 of April 3, 1991, had issued the formal ceasefire ending the Gulf War, adding several conditions: 1) Iraq destroys all its chemical and biological weapons and all ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 km; 2) Iraq agrees not to develop nuclear weapons; 3) Iraq submits a declaration of its weapons programs and voluntarily agrees to on-site inspections. UN inspectors, including Scott Ritter, had testified to the fact that Iraq had complied with virtually all of these conditions. Hans Blix and Mohammed El Baradei had added their confirmations that Iraq was in near total compliance in February/March of 2003. Furthermore, in Great Britain, as George Monbiot makes clear, senior legal counsels to Tony Blair had advised the Prime Minister that such resolutions could NOT be used to justify a new war with Iraq. Neither could Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives States a right to defend themselves “if an armed attack occurs against them,” and even then only until the Security Council can intervene. Since Iraq had not attacked anyone in 2003, there was no legal justification for war. Period.

None of this mattered to the Bush administration. Announcing that it had authority to invade via Article 51 of the UN Charter, and via Resolution 678, for the reasons (shortly to be proven totally bogus and manufactured out of whole cloth) that Iraq was in violation of 687, it invaded anyway. In the years since, despite not finding the alleged WMD, Bush and his henchmen have continued to insist that the United Nations authorized the invasion.

Again, “Bush’s War” is riveting television, if for nothing else than to see the faces and hear once again the laughable justifications of those who promoted this costly, devastating war. But this leaves the viewer thinking only that this group resembled the “gang who couldn’t shoot straight.” The problem lies far deeper than that. This gang was made up of liars, propagandists, and war criminals. Their invasion of Iraq constituted an international crime—especially against Iraq and the Iraqi people who have suffered the destruction of their country, their lives, their families, their most elementary hopes. As such, it deserves not only the condemnation, but the prosecution of those responsible—beginning with the President and the Vice President, and including the Secretary of Defense, the head of the CIA, and countless other lawyers and enablers like John Yoo who did the dirty work. Until they are brought to account, this nation will continue to live in shame and infamy.

Lawrence DiStasi