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SCOTT RITTER: Powell & Iraq—Regime Change, Not Disarmament: The Fundamental Lie

SCOTT RITTER: Powell & Iraq—Regime Change, Not Disarmament: The Fundamental Lie

Regime change, not disarmament, was always the driving factor behind U.S. policy towards Saddam Hussein. Powell knew this because he helped craft the original policy.

The New York Times Magazine has published a puff piece soft-peddling former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s role in selling a war on Iraq to the UN Security Council using what turned out to be bad intelligence. “Colin Powell Still Wants Answers” is the title of the article, written by Robert Draper. “The analysts who provided the intelligence,” a sub-header to the article declares, “now say it was doubted inside the CIA at the time.”

Draper’s article is an extract from a book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, scheduled for publication later this month. In the interest of full disclosure, I was approached by Draper in 2018 about his interest in writing this book, and I agreed to be interviewed as part of his research. I have not yet read the book, but can note that, based upon the tone and content of his New York Times Magazine article, my words apparently carried little weight.

Regime Change, Not WMD

I spent some time articulating to Draper my contention that the issue with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was never about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), but rather regime change, and that everything had to be viewed in the light of this reality—including Powell’s Feb. 5, 2003 presentation before the UN Security Council. Based upon the content of his article, I might as well have been talking to a brick wall.

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How George W. Bush Corrupted America’s ‘News’-Reporting

How George W. Bush Corrupted America’s ‘News’-Reporting

How George W. Bush Corrupted America’s ‘News’-Reporting

In order to understand today’s demonization of Vladimir Putin, one must go back to US President George W. Bush’s propaganda for “regime-change in Iraq” and demonization of Saddam Hussein at that time. The US regime now has come to recognize that with Putin’s high approval-ratings from the Russian public, the US aristocracy’s dream of fomenting Putin’s ouster by Russia’s voters will not work; and, so, all foreign leaders who cooperated with Russia, such as Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Viktor Yanukovych, and Bashar al-Assad, were first targeted by the US regime for “regime-change,” so as to isolate Russia and soften it up for the demanded US-takeover (‘democracy’, ‘free market’, etc., which Russia actually now already has, at least as much as America does); and, then, since that hasn’t yet worked, came the US aristocracy’s campaign to ‘protect The West’ by NATO troops and weapons surrounding Russia and forcing regime-change in Russia. It has escalated now to the point where World War III is more likely than ever it was during the Cold War.

Regime-change in Russia will thus either occur by the democratic vote of the Russian public at some distant time and produce a Russian Government that’s likely to be against the US regime in every possible way (which the current Russian Government is not), or else it will require a US-and-allied invasion of Russia, and that would destroy the world (but the US aristocracy want it anyway).

However, America’s aristocracy (or as they call it when referring to the same thing in low-income countries, “oligarchs”) — basically just its billionaires — are very impatient; they want to control the entire planet during their own lifetimes, and care little (if at all) about what will happen to the planet after they’re gone.

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Russia ‘Novichok’ Hysteria Proves Politicians and Media Haven’t Learned the Lessons of Iraq

Russia ‘Novichok’ Hysteria Proves Politicians and Media Haven’t Learned the Lessons of Iraq

The current state of anti-Russia hysteria is reminiscent of earlier dark chapters of American history, including the rush to war in Iraq of the early 2000s and McCarthyism of the 1950s, Patrick Henningsen observes.


If there’s one thing to be gleaned from the current atmosphere of anti-Russian hysteria in the West, it’s that the US-led sustained propaganda campaign is starting to pay dividends. It’s not only the hopeless political classes and media miscreants who believe that Russia is hacking, meddling and poisoning our progressive democratic utopia – with many pinning their political careers to this by now that’s it’s too late for them to turn back.

Donald Trump and Theresa May during a NATO summit in Brussels. Photo Reuters

As it was with Iraq in 2003, these dubious public figures require a degree of public support for their policies, and unfortunately many people do believe in the grand Russian conspiracy, having been sufficiently brow-beaten into submission by around-the-clock fear mongering and official fake news disseminated by government and the mainstream media.

What makes this latest carnival of warmongering more frightening is that it proves that the political and media classes never actually learned or internalized the basic lessons of Iraq, namely that the cessation of diplomacy and the declarations of sanctions (a prelude to war) against another sovereign state should not be based on half-baked intelligence and mainstream fake news. But that’s exactly what is happening with this latest Russian ‘Novichok’ plot.

Admittedly, the stakes are much higher this time around. The worst case scenario is unthinkable, whereby the bad graces of men like John Bolton and other military zealots, there may just be a thin enough mandate to short-sell another military conflagration or proxy war – this time against another nuclear power and UN Security Council member.

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“Uncontroversial” Mass Destruction

“Uncontroversial” Mass Destruction

“There are two sets of scenarios in which a US president might order a nuclear strike. The first is relatively straightforward and uncontroversial: launching a retaliatory attack after or during an enemy nuclear attack.”

Richard Betts and Matthew Waxman, who wrote this sentence in Foreign Policy magazine, ignore military, scientific and humanitarian exposés, reports and confessions that have unified most of the world against any and all use of nuclear weapons. After decades of well-documented analysis of their effects, the bland assertion that war with nuclear weapons would be “uncontroversial” betrays ignorance of the literature or the deliberate use of disinformation, or both.

International stigmatization of the Bomb (outside nuclear weapons states) reached an extraordinary milestone last July 7 when the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons—the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading to their total elimination. With painstakingly research, the International Committee of the Red Cross was instrumental in informing the Ban Treaty negotiators that no state or international body could ever adequately address the inevitable, irreversible and catastrophic health effects of even a limited nuclear attack.

Betts and Waxman today sound much like presidential advisor and Cold War hawk Paul Nitze, whose 1956 article “Atoms, Strategy & Policy” in the same magazine considered “massive retaliation” versus “graduated deterrence.” Dr. Nitze wrote then: “The main point at issue between the two concepts is the reliance which should be placed upon the capacity to bomb centers of population and industry with nuclear weapons.”

Dr. Nitze, a life-long proponent of nuclear weapons, stunningly reversed himself in 1999 by completely rejecting US nuclear war policy. In a New York Times op/ed titled “A Threat Mostly to Ourselves” Nitze wrote, “I see no compelling reason why we should not unilaterally get rid of our nuclear weapons. To maintain them … adds nothing to our security. I can think of no circumstances under which it would be wise for the United States to use nuclear weapons, even in retaliation for their prior use against us.”

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How They Sold the Iraq War

How They Sold the Iraq War

Photo by Taymaz Valley | CC BY 2.0

The war on Iraq won’t be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.

To understand the Iraq war you don’t need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.

Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair’s plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student’s website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister’s bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair’s speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?

Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.

Facts were never important to the Bush team. They were disposable nuggets that could be discarded at will and replaced by whatever new rationale that played favorably with their polls and focus groups. The war was about weapons of mass destruction one week, al-Qaeda the next. When neither allegation could be substantiated on the ground, the fall back position became the mass graves (many from the Iran/Iraq war where the U.S.A. backed Iraq) proving that Saddam was an evil thug who deserved to be toppled. The motto of the Bush PR machine was: Move on. Don’t explain. Say anything to conceal the perfidy behind the real motives for war. Never look back. Accuse the questioners of harboring unpatriotic sensibilities. Eventually, even the cagey Wolfowitz admitted that the official case for war was made mainly to make the invasion palatable, not to justify it.

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Racing Towards a Low-Yield Armageddon

Racing Towards a Low-Yield Armageddon

Photo by James Stencilowsky | CC BY 2.0

On February 3 the Washington Post observed that “the United States can deliver a [nuclear] strike anywhere in the world in 30 minutes with astounding accuracy” and questioned the need for “a new generation of low-yield nuclear weapons,” quoting the commander of the strategic force, General John Hyten, as saying “I’m very comfortable today with the flexibility of our response options.”  But it appears that no matter the quantity and world-destroying capability of the US nuclear arsenal, there is always room for more — and more devastating — weapons of mass annihilation.

General James Mattis, the US Secretary of Defence, discussed Washington’s recently composed Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) with the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives on February 6.  He was attempting to justify the upgrading and huge expansion of the US nuclear arsenal which the Congressional Budget Office has estimated  will cost some 1.2 trillion dollars over the next 30 years, and described in detail some of the projects that have been planned. The entire exercise does not fit well with the international Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in which it is agreed by almost every country in the world that the nuclear arms race should be halted and that all possible measures should be taken towards achievement of nuclear disarmament.

But Washington’s notions of global nuclear disarmament are curiously ambivalent, as there is unconditional support for Israel’s highly developed nuclear weapons’ capabilities, yet obsessive criticism of North Korea’s program to arm itself with nuclear missiles.  Nobody can defend or approve of North Korea’s wild nuclear fandangos which are beggaring an already downtrodden and poverty-stricken population on the verge of starvation, but Pyongyang’s rationale is that its policy “is the best way to respond with powerful nuclear deterrent to the US imperialists who are violent toward the weak and subservient to the strong.”

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US Army Prepares Troops Deployed In South Korea For WMD Attack

US Army Prepares Troops Deployed In South Korea For WMD Attack

On Thursday, amid de-escalation chatter, President Trump once again insisted that US military action in North Korea remains a possibility should the North continue its threatening behavior against the US and its allies. If the US were to strike, it would be a “sad day” for the isolated North, Trump promised, adding that while “it would be great” if the issue of containing the North’s nuclear program could be resolved without military action, “nothing is inevitable.” Not peace, not war.

Meanwhile, instead of remorse, Kim Jong Un has only expressed what appears to be frustration that global financial markets aren’t taking his threats more seriously, and has vowed to continue. With its neighbor and client state threatening to upset the global apple cart, China on Thursday hinted that it could support tighter UN economic sanctions, but also pushed the two sides to begin a dialogue. Meanwhile, Russia Today reports that the US military is continuing to prepare for another ground war on the continent. A recent procurement posting suggests that the US Army is seeking a contractor to train its forces in South Korea to respond to potential attacks involving a weapon of mass destruction.

According to a contract proposal posted by the Army on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Army’s 718th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company (EOD) in South Korea should be taught to identify hazardous materials, “know how to perform basic control, containment and/or confinement operations,” and implement decontamination procedures.

The contractor would be expected to provide a two-week training course, taught on-site at the US Camp Humphreys base in South Korea. The US has 25,000 troops deployed at some 80 sites across the country. In August, the Pentagon posted another proposal that hinted at heightened anxieties about an attack: Contractors were needed to build walls around four US bases, according to Russia Today.

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The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

Special Report: An existential question facing humankind is whom can be trusted to describe the world and its conflicts, especially since mainstream experts have surrendered to careerism, writes Robert Parry.


The looming threat of World War III, a potential extermination event for the human species, is made more likely because the world’s public can’t count on supposedly objective experts to ascertain and evaluate facts. Instead, careerism is the order of the day among journalists, intelligence analysts and international monitors – meaning that almost no one who might normally be relied on to tell the truth can be trusted.

Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations on Feb. 5. 2003, citing satellite photos which supposedly proved that Iraq had WMD, but the evidence proved bogus. CIA Director George Tenet is behind Powell to the left.

The dangerous reality is that this careerism, which often is expressed by a smug certainty about whatever the prevailing groupthink is, pervades not just the political world, where lies seem to be the common currency, but also the worlds of journalism, intelligence and international oversight, including United Nations agencies that are often granted greater credibility because they are perceived as less beholden to specific governments but in reality have become deeply corrupted, too.

In other words, many professionals who are counted on for digging out the facts and speaking truth to power have sold themselves to those same powerful interests in order to keep high-paying jobs and to not get tossed out onto the street. Many of these self-aggrandizing professionals – caught up in the many accouterments of success – don’t even seem to recognize how far they’ve drifted from principled professionalism.

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America’s Debt to Bradley Manning

America’s Debt to Bradley Manning


One criticism about the value of the information that Pvt. Bradley Manning gave to WikiLeaks is that most of it was known in some form and thus didn’t justify the risks to sources who might be identified from the diplomatic and military cables. However, that complaint misses the importance of detailed “ground truth” in assessing issues of war and peace.

For instance, the prospects of war with Iran escalated in November 2011 because of a toughly worded report by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency, which compiled some old and new evidence to argue that Iran continues to make progress toward a nuclear bomb. Immediately, the U.S. news media accepted the IAEA’s report as the unquestioned truth – and as further repudiation of the 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate that Iran had ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

U.S. Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.

One might note the irony in this flip on Iran. In the run-up to war with Iraq, the U.S. media embraced CIA reports of secret Iraqi WMD programs while mocking the IAEA’s doubts. Regarding Iran, the CIA and IAEA have traded places, with U.S. intelligence analysts – chagrined over swallowing the bogus Iraq-WMD evidence – being more skeptical of the Iran-nuke allegations, while the IAEA has taken the role as chief WMD exaggerator.

So, it was useful to examine the WikiLeaks documents regarding the election of the new IAEA leader in 2009 to understand why this flip may have occurred. What those classified State Department cables show is that the IAEA’s new director general, Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano, credited his victory largely to U.S. government support and promptly stuck his hand out for U.S. money.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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