NYT's Iraq War History, Still Misleading By Peter Hart

16 October 2013 — FAIR Blog

nyt-oustedThe New York Times had an interesting piece on October 14 telling the story of José Bustani, the former director general of the intergovernmental Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, who was ousted by the United States as part of the run up to the Iraq War.

As the story goes (and was reported at the time), Bustani had been working on getting Iraq  to agree to join the Chemical Weapons Convention. This was an unwelcome development for the Bush administration, since it could complicate efforts to invade Iraq based in part on its chemical weapons stockpile.

The administration’s point man was John Bolton, who was the undersecretary of State at the time.

The Times’ Marlise Simons wrote:

Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war.

“Everybody knew there weren’t any,” he said. “An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.”

Mr. Bolton disputed that account. “He made that argument after we invaded,” he said. Twice during the interview, Mr. Bolton said, “The kind of person who believes that argument is the kind who puts tin foil on his ears to ward off cosmic waves.”

Bolton’s twice-repeated allusion to conspiracy theories is really interesting. The way I read it,  he would seem to be saying that only a nut would have claimed that Iraq had destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles before the US-led war.  It’s a key talking point for the Iraq War’s architects and supporters: We only said what every other sensible person was saying. The Times lets it pass, which is unfortunate, because if that’s indeed what Bolton was referring to, it’s false.

If you look at FAIR’s Iraq and the Media timeline, for instance, and you’ll see that former weapons inspector Scott Ritter had written a column for the Baltimore Sun (9/1/02) where he argued:

From 1991 to 1998, UN weapons inspectors, among whom I played an integral part, were able to verifiably ascertain a 90 percent to 95 percent level of disarmament inside Iraq. This included all of the production facilities involved with WMD, together with their associated production equipment and the great majority of what was produced by these facilities.

 A few days later, Jonathan Landay of Knight-Ridder (9/6/02) reported that

there is no new intelligence that indicates the Iraqis have made significant advances in their nuclear, biological or chemical weapons programs, said a US intelligence official who argues that Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s focus on Iraq is hurting the hunt for Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

And one of the most explosive revelations was Newsweek’s scoop (2/24/03) that the star witness in the case against Saddam Hussein actually told the inspectors that the weapons had been destroyed. Hussein Kamel, a son-in-law of Hussein’s, had been debriefed in 1995, and claimed that “all weapons–biological, chemical, missile, nuclear, were destroyed.”
 
This was the state of the evidence before the US invaded Iraq.  It’d be more helpful if the Newspaper of Record, given its shameful performance assisting the Bush White House in making the case for war, could shed a little more light on these matters.

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