Friday, November 2, 2018

Retroblogging the Iraq War: February 24, 2003

A Festival of Gulf War-Related Links (February 24, 2003)

This blog post lived for many years on a Blosxom-generated page here, and still does. Blosxom is a great tool, but my workflow has changed; I now write everything in Markdown and generate HTML and other formats from that source. So to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the start of the war, I have converted the old text to Markdown and generated fresh HTML using pandoc, the Swiss Army knife of file formats. I found, however, that many of the original links have suffered from “link rot.”

Fortunately, I was able to find alternate sources for all of the links, as many of the original pages were preserved by the Internet Archive and could be found using the Wayback Machine. If you find that a link has “decayed,” please leave a comment and I will do my best to fix it.

Here’s a small plethora of interesting links on the topic of Iraq.

¶ 2 Right after Colin Powell’s speech before the U.N. Security Council, I found two links: this one, from Slate, called “Smoking Gun - Colin Powell delivers the goods on Saddam,” and this one, from The Nation, entitled “Powell Fails to Make the Case.” I listened to Powell’s speech live, and felt that he failed to announce anything truly damning; most of what he said was highly speculative (the nature of the truck on the grounds of a former chemical facility; drawings based on an eyewitness account of a mobile bio-weapons lab; arguments regarding the exact nature and purpose of those aluminum tubes). His rhetoric was strong but his “smoking gun” — clear evidence that Iraq has undisclosed weapons of mass destruction ready to throw at us or a regional target — was, as Powell himself acknowledged before his talk, not there.

¶ 3 For some alternate takes on Powell’s evidence, check out The Democratic Underground which discusses how the alleged mobile bioweapons labs are not backed up by much in the way of compelling evidence, along with other cases of Bush himself presenting lies regarding Iraq. In a page from the Traprock Peace Center Glen Rangwala dissects many of Powell’s claims and states convincingly that “In general, Powell makes some plausible claims that Iraq has not stood by the letter of the law in all respects. However, he does not show that Iraq has developed weapons on any scale, or that it has the potential to threaten Iraq’s own people or its neighbors, much less the U.S. Nor does he show that Iraq may be able to develop its non-conventional capacity if weapons inspectors continue their work in Iraq.” And if you can’t sleep out of concern that Iraq may have nukes, this article from Alternet may help to calm you.

¶ 4 It should be obvious that Iraq can only prove that it has destroyed particular weapons or provided access to particular sites; Iraq cannot prove that it has no banned weapons. Can you prove there is no anthrax stockpiled in Texas? Geov Parrish writes in this essay that “The onus is not on Iraq to prove a negative… it is instead Washington’s responsibility to prove a positive: not only does a threat exist, but it is so grave and so immediate that it endangers the security of the United States, and that no other options exist but to invade.” In his discussion on The Connection (see my previous weblog entries) Noam Chomsky argued that the case against war should, of course, be automatic; the case for war must be strong enough to overwhelm the normal moral objections that should automatically arise when contemplating the use of force. We seem to have that backwards, at least in our president’s rhetoric: he wants what can’t be given, and when he doesn’t get it, he’ll start bombing.

¶ 5 Indeed, Iraq has improved its level of cooperation and is now allowing flyovers and other improved intelligence-gathering, but you wouldn’t necessarily know about the extent of Iraq’s cooperation, if you got your news from This article shows how CNN removed 750 words from the transcript of Hans Blix’s speech before the U.N. Fortunately, I also listened to that talk live, and so heard the entire thing, and so realized that CNN’s transcript was incomplete; this illustrates the importance of using primary sources wherever possible!

¶ 6 For some background material on the Iraqui regime and how to counter some of the persistent misconceptions out there, see “Counterspin: Pro-war mythology” here and for a pair of articles about the war from Alternet, see what Nobel laureate Jimmy Carter has to say about the necessity of a war in Iraq, and what Wendell Berry has to say about the New New World Order (the White House’s National Security Strategy, published, as they say, “in the wake of September 11th.”)

I’m proud to say that I have exposed myself to exactly ZERO minutes of network or cable television news coverage about this issue, and I think everyone could benefit from doing the same. Do a little independent reading and thinking and you will quickly conclude that there is far from a consensus for a repeat of Gulf War I or the need for such an action. And don’t forget to remember to take a look at what your government is busy doing while your attention is directed from national events to this international “crisis.”

¶ 8 Meanwhile, if you’ve found yourself receiving an e-mail petition to forward to the United Nations, please don’t forward it; it’s a hoax. A well-meaning hoax no doubt, but the U.N. has no means of validating, receiving, and processing an enormous number of “e-petitions,” and nothing in particular to do with them once they are received. See

¶ 9 For a reminder of why all this matters, read Sen. Robert Byrd’s speech “War: The Most Horrible Human Experience.”

I have provided additional information about the links, such as title, author, and source, when I could find it, in the hope that if a link breaks again in the future, it might be possible to hunt down alternate online sources. If you can help track down broken links to sources, please leave a comment.

¶ 2 “Right after Colin Powell’s speech…”

¶ 3 “For some alternate takes…”

¶ 4 “It should be obvious…”

¶ 5 “Indeed, Iraq has improved…”

¶ 6 “For some background material…”

¶ 8 “Meanwhile…”

¶ 9 “For a reminder…”

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