- In a lobby at the U.N. building where diplomats meet
with the press, there hangs a large replica of Picasso's "Guernica."
The painting is one of the most piercing anti-war statements ever executed
in any medium -- depicting men, women and children crying to heaven as
Hitler's Luftwaffe bombed the city during the Spanish Civil War.
- But such an emotional and compelling outrage against
war would hardly have been a good backdrop for Colin Powell's Feb. 5 agitprop
performance at the Security Council.
- Imagine if you will, an errant TV camera panning past
"Guernica" and reminding Americans what their government planned
to inflict on another city, Baghdad. Bush lusts to hit Baghdad with force
the German air marshals could only envy -- first-strike tactical nukes,
800 cruise missiles in the opening 48 hours.
- For the Bushies, bad imagery can't be permitted. So,
prior to Powell's arrival, "Guernica" was draped with a blue
- As I watched Powell's speech, I, like most Americans,
felt drawn to his projection of sincerity and substance. That's not surprising.
Polls show that about twice as many Americans trust Powell compared to
his boss, George Bush. Thus, what we have is a convincing con man fronting
for someone we know deep down is a liar.
- Still, Powell is no different than his would-be Caesar
in Washington. Powell got one of his first big boosts in the military by
attempting to whitewash the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. He participated
in the attempted cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal.
- I started thinking of the similarities between the fall
of 1990 and the winter of 2003. The lineup 12 years ago was Poppa Bush,
Dick Cheney (then secretary of defense) and Powell (the top general). The
roster today is Bush II, Cheney (veep) and Powell (secretary of state).
- And what do we know about what happened in 1990? Well,
the Bush 41 administration told a lot of lies. Here are a few, in case
you've forgotten -- or, as is more likely the case, the neutered, pandering
media never exposed them.
- Prior to the launch of Desert Storm, it was widely agreed
that an invasion of Kuwait wasn't sufficient provocation for the United
States to go to war. Indeed, Bush's envoy, April Glaspie, had green-lighted
the Iraqis, telling them that the United States had "no opinion"
on the dispute with Kuwait.
- What would have justified war -- according to Norman
Schwarzkopf in his book, It Doesn't Take a Hero -- was an invasion of Saudi
Arabia. So the administration in September 1990 conjured up "classified"
satellite photos -- the very same sort of "evidence" touted by
Powell last week -- showing 265,000 Iraqi soldiers massed on the Saudi
- At the St. Petersburg Times, one of the nation's best
newspapers (its excellence secured because it is owned by a foundation,
not a corporation), reporter Jean Heller embraced that most prized of journalistic
qualities, skepticism. She spent about $3,000 to purchase her own satellite
photographs. Guess what they showed? No Iraqi military buildup on the Saudi
border. Zip, none at all.
- The Bushies had deceived the world. A bold and murderous
mendacity. It took Powell more than a year to admit the lie (but his bogus
photos are still classified) -- and by then the war had been fought and
somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Iraqis had been killed. Many more,
including tens of thousands of children, would die later due to our destruction
of the country's infrastructure and the cruel sanctions we imposed (and
that only strengthened Saddam Hussein's iron grip on his people).
- "It was a very big deception," Times reporter
Heller told me. "It brings into question how convincing Powell's evidence
- There were, of course, many other deceptions, such as
the much-repeated myth that Iraqi soldiers had yanked newborn infants from
incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital. That turned out to be a total fabrication
by a giant American public relations company, Hill & Knowlton.
- The ultimate con has to do with Saddam's "evil"
nature (which I don't dispute). There's no doubt Saddam -- with U.S. blessing
and support -- used poisons against Iran. And, in March 1988, he gassed
and killed 5,000 Kurdish Iraqis at the city of Halabja. If that's evil,
then why did we provide him with those weapons and the intelligence needed
to execute his slaughters -- and continue to do so for 18 months after
Halabja? Why did we grab Iraq's 12,000-page declaration of its weapons
program, and strip from it the names of the U.S., European and Japanese
companies that had aided Saddam's nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
programs? Where does the "evil" stop?
- Powell promised the Security Council that "every
statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are
not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on
- The very heart of Powell's "proof" is a fraud.
He claimed to the Security Council that one compound was a poison factor.
The British press rushed to the compound, and according to The Guardian,
- "The terrorist factory was nothing of the kind -
more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a
grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with
broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery.
There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere - only the smell of paraffin
and vegetable ghee used for cooking."
- One of the linchpins among Powell's "solid sources"
was a British assessment of Iraqi titled: "Iraq -- Its Infrastructure
of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation."
- Oops, a British TV network -- not the American press
-- exposed the report as being largely plagiarized, and much of that cribbing
from a paper by a university graduate student.
- What amazed me after Powell's speech was that the media
bought it. There are few, if any, Jean Heller-caliber reporters covering
the war today. Certainly not at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The AJC
gushed all over the "case against Iraq," and never suggested
that Powell might -- once again -- be lying. Or, at best, spinning.
- "There's a difference between journalism and stenography,"
says Danny Schechter, executive editor of Mediachannel.org and one of the
nation's foremost critics of Big Media. "What you had with the coverage
of Powell was stenography."
- The tone was set on the AJC's op-ed page, where William
Safire declared Powell's evidence was "irrefutable" and "undeniable."
Those who might not be convinced, Safire said, must be "defenders
of Saddam Hussein." Play the patriotism card -- the ultimate refuge
of the Jingoist.
- So, I asked someone who I know isn't a defender of Saddam,
the former chief of counter-terrorism operations for the CIA, Vince Cannistraro.
- "They're going to war," he said of the Bush
neocons. "This was public relations. Did Powell make the case to go
to war? No, he didn't make the case. But that's irrelevant. The decision
was made a long time ago."
- Cannistraro defended the "technical stuff"
as "pretty good." He doesn't think the photos and intercepts
are concoctions. But he noted that if Saddam is playing a shell game now,
it's no different than in previous years. "The last time we had inspections,
we found a lot" of chemical and biological weapons, he said. "This
time, we have inspections and we're not finding anything, and Iraq's ability
to conceal things is considerably weakened. That doesn't mean they're not
there. But if he does have weapons, they're not in great quantities."
- The bottom line, Cannistraro said, is that Iraq "can't
be a threat to us or its neighbors. All Powell did is make the case for
more rigorous inspections."
- If there is a real threat to America right now, it's
from North Korea, according to the ex-spymaster. "It's scary. The
administration is betting North Korea is just upping the ante. But we're
betting on a government that isn't rational and that has a much greater
capacity for weapons of mass destruction. Our own soldiers and our allies
are what we're gambling."
- Joe Parko is one of the "Atlanta 5," average
citizens who staged a sit-in at the offices of the bellicose Sen. Zell
Miller. "The anti-war movement is not just the lefties," says
the retired Georgia State professor. "It's the old, the middle class,
it's Vietnam vets, it's conservatives and Libertarians, the mainstream,
and many, many church groups who are moved by the moral issues."
- Despite the unprecedented growth in the anti-war sentiment,
the American media refuse to provide a balanced perspective. There was
no debate on Powell's speech in the AJC. In Europe, by comparison, the
dialogue was heated. Britain's Guardian had eight pages of intense analysis.
Israel's Ha'aretz reported that much of Powell's "intelligence"
came from Ariel Sharon's government -- meaning it is almost certainly politically
- The war is only hours away. We'll destroy an enemy, kill
hundreds of thousands of innocents, and maybe Saddam. As Pat Buchanan,
a true conservative, has written, "This is not a limited operation.
It marks the advent of empire, and once our republic crosses that threshold,
we enter territory where the only guideposts are imperial failures gone
- Senior Editor John Sugg -- who says, "I'm still
waiting for deserters and chickenhawks like George Bush and Neil Boortz
to volunteer for frontline duty" -- can be reached at 404-614-1241
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.