Thirteen Myths About the Case for War in Iraq
By Rich Cowan and Paul Rosenberg and Abigail Caplovitz / AlterNet
March 14, 2003

Credit: Dan Piraro/King Features ( "I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war."
- Franklin. D. Roosevelt,Address at Chautauqua, NY, August 14, 1936
"Frankly, I looked on it as a problem to be managed. The information function was extraordinarily important. I did not have a lot of confidence that I could leave that to the press."

- Dick Cheney commenting on the government's manipulation of information
during the 1991 Gulf War.

(March 4, 2003). Recently, a group of online "mythbusters" posted a summary of key claims made by the proponents of war and then invited hundreds of people to offer suggestions on how to respond. The following excerpts reflect part of this exchange. The complete document, with more than 120 footnotes from mainstream and primary sources, is available online at []

MYTH #1: Removing Saddam Hussein would eliminate a key backer of the al-Qaeda terrorist network responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

RESPONSE: Just four days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Wall Street Journal doubted any Iraqi involvement in an article titled "US Officials Discount Any Role by Iraq in Terrorist Attacks: Secularist Saddam Hussein and Suspect bin Laden Have Divergent Goals." The CIA and the FBI remain skeptical of a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, despite continued political pressure to find one, according to a front page article in the NY Times on Feb. 2, 2003. None of the hijackers came from Iraq; 15 of the hijackers came from the same country as Osama bin Laden: Saudi Arabia.

MYTH #2: At a Feb. 6, 2003 press briefing, George Bush called Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the UN a "careful and powerful presentation of the facts."

RESPONSE: Many of Powell's assertions were quickly refuted. For example, Powell said, "By 1998, UN experts agreed that the Iraqis had perfected drying techniques for their biological weapons programs." Actually, the UN's 1/99 report on this matter said only that Iraq had performed drying experiments prior to the Gulf War, in 1989 - not that it had perfected them.

A journalist for The Observer toured Ansar al-Islam's alleged chemical weapons factory and found it to be a bakery with outhouses. Powell's claims that ricin found in Britain came from Iraq were rejected by European intelligence agencies, who said it was crude and "homemade" in Europe.

Even more appalling was the revelation in the British press about the one of the key documents Powell used in his UN speech, the "dossier" on terrorism prepared by the staff of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Powell praised the document as a "fine paper." However, much of it was plagiarized from source material written before the current round of inspections, primarily from a published article written by Ibrahim al-Marashi, a graduate student in California. The al-Marashi article, published nearly a year ago, focused largely on the evidence of Iraq's weapons programs as they existed in 1990, prior to the first Gulf War.

MYTH #3: Saddam Hussein cannot be contained. To prevent a repeat of the situation with Nazi Germany, we must act immediately and preemptively before he acquires weapons with which to threaten us.

RESPONSE: The comparison to Nazi Germany is a stretch. Germany, by 1938, was number one in military spending and had recovered from the Great Depression well before the other leading nations. It formed a real military alliance - the Axis - with two other powerful industrial nations, Italy and Japan.

By contrast, Iraq's military capability was largely destroyed in the 1991 Gulf War and the "Axis of Evil" that Iraq is supposedly part of (Iran-Iraq-N. Korea) does not really exist as an alliance. In fact, Iran and Iraq fought each other in a 9-year war from 1980-1989.

The $399 billion US military budget proposed at the end of January 2003 is almost 300 times the size of Iraq's.

MYTH #4: A discovery on Feb. 12 by UN weapons inspectors revealed, for the first time, that Iraq possessed missiles, the Al-Samoud and Al-Fatah.

RESPONSE: Though the Feb. 12 UN finding made the headlines, it was not really new; it was based on information volunteered by Iraq over a month earlier. According to the 2/13 NY Times and numerous other sources, "The inspectors learned of the range of the missiles from test results that were provided in the 12,000-page arms declaration Iraq delivered at the start of the inspections." The missiles in question are short range models that, all sides agree, can travel less than half of the distance from the western tip of Iraq to the eastern tip of Israel.

MYTH #5: Bin Laden's tape released on Feb. 11 proves that Bush's accusations of an Osama /Saddam collusion have been right all along.

RESPONSE: According to the transcript of the 16-min. Al Jazeera tape, bin Laden called Hussein a "Muslim apostate," i.e., a turncoat against Islam. Bin Laden has long called for the secular Baathist Party in Baghdad to be replaced with an Islamic fundamentalist, cleric-led government. The new words were intended to rally support for radical Islam in the Muslim world, including factions within Iraq that are more anti-US than Saddam Hussein.

A New York billboard carries a message from Yoko Ono. Credit: Robert Young ?Yoko Ono 2002.
According to Gen. Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan's spy agency InterServices Intelligence, bin Laden and Saddam cannot work closely together because "Bin Laden and his men considered Saddam the killer of hundreds of Islamic militants" within Iraq.

MYTH #6: "The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his 'nuclear mujahedeen' - his nuclear holy warriors."
- George Bush, Oct. 7, 2002

RESPONSE: Although it would make sense to also forbid nuclear energy programs in Iraq, the U.S. and the U.N. have not called for that. There is no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein's scientists are now working on nuclear weapons.

In his Jan. 27 report to the UN Security Council, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director Mohamed ElBaradei concluded, "we have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program since the elimination of the program in the 1990s."

MYTH #7: "If the United States marches 200,000 troops into the region and then marches them back out... the credibility of American power... will be gravely, perhaps irreparably impaired."
- Henry Kissinger, NY Times, Feb. 15, 2003.

RESPONSE: Top US officials have repeatedly stated they want to avoid war:

"The use of military troops is my last choice, not my first."
- President Bush, quoted in White House News Release, January 30, 2003.

"We still hope that force may not be necessary to disarm Saddam Hussein... Let me be clear: no one wants war."
- Donald Rumsfeld, Feb. 8, 2003.

The U.S. position is that "Force should always be a last resort."
- Colin Powell, February 14, 2003.

If the US can disarm Saddam without war - the administration's stated objective - how is our credibility hurt? Even French President Chirac, a critic of war, has credited the presence of U.S. troops with increasing Iraqi compliance.

MYTH #8: War in Iraq will involve 150,000-200,000 troops and only cost $50 billion.

RESPONSE: Bush's former economic advisor Laurence Lindsey estimated to the Wall Street Journal last summer that the war would cost $100-$200 billion. A veteran ABC News reporter revealed on 1/13/03 that the actual deployment planned was 350,000 troops.

One reason the proposed war would cost so much more than the Gulf War is that the administration plans to occupy Baghdad, a city of 5 million people. As Colin Powell wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1992, "The Gulf War was a limited-objective war. If it had not been, we would be ruling Baghdad today at unpardonable expense in terms of money, lives lost and ruined regional relationships."

Credible estimates of cost of a "short" Iraq war start at $120 billion. The military budget in 2003 is already $407 including homeland security and military construction. Adding the cost of the war, it could reach $527 billion or more. The cost of the increase from 2001-3 comes out to $2,000 for every family in the U.S.

The Bush administration's own budget projections two years ago anticipated a surplus of over $300 billion in 2004. Their projections now anticipate a 2004 deficit of over $350 billion - and that's before the costs of an Iraq war are factored in.

MYTH #9: Freedom of the press in the US exists even in times of war.

RESPONSE: The last 20 years have seen a trend toward "management" of the press by the government: restricted access press pools, fabricated stories, fake letters to the editor, and even violence against U.S. war reporters.

The most famous Gulf War media fiasco occurred right here at home. Employees of the large PR firm Hill & Knowlton arranged for a speech to be made by a 15-year-old girl, "Nayirah," to an unofficial "Congressional Human Rights" group in October 2000. Her so-called eyewitness story about Iraqi soldiers removing babies from hospital incubators was publicized by the entire news media. But Nayirah was actually the daughter of Kuwait's Ambassador to the United States; the other eyewitness recanted his story, and other eyewitnesses have said that the story was fabricated.

MYTH #10: "We can give the Iraqi people their chance to live in freedom and choose their own government."
- George W. Bush, Feb. 6, 2003

"Iraq's oil and other natural resources belong to all the Iraqi people - and the United States will respect this fact."
- Stephen Hadley, US Deputy National Security Advisor, Feb. 11, 2003.

RESPONSE: The US government has made statements elsewhere asserting that we will control both Iraq's government and its oil, for quite some time.

Excerpt from the Oil and Gas International, an industry trade publication, 1/27/03: "France and Russia have been warned they must support the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq if they want access to Iraqi oilfields in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." Excerpt from the Globe and Mail, quoting US Congressional Testimony on 2/12/03: "The United States intends to rule postwar Iraq through an American military governor, supported by an Iraqi consultative council appointed by Washington, Iraqi opposition leaders gathered in this northern Kurdish city said yesterday."

MYTH #11: War will reduce energy prices and make the US more independent by reducing the current U.S. dependence on Saudi Arabian oil.

RESPONSE: It is true if someone handed us unfettered control of all Iraq's oil, Saudi Arabia would have less influence than it does now as the lead oil exporter in the world. But acquiring that control through war has enormous costs.

The Rocky Mountain Institute, an independent research organization in Colorado, points out: "Since 1970, oil imports have been responsible for nearly 75 percent of the U.S. trade deficit and have resulted in a net outflow of $1 trillion to the OPEC nations... [In addition,] the peacetime readiness cost of U.S. military forces earmarked for Persian Gulf intervention is around $50 billion a year, raising the effective cost of Gulf oil to around $100 per barrel." (This was before the post-9/11 buildup.)

If the government charged the oil companies a larger portion of the taxpayer cost of obtaining the oil, and used this money to subsidize use of renewable energy, it would be possible within 5-10 years to completely eliminate the need for U.S. oil imports from the Persian Gulf.

RMI calculated that raising average automobile fuel economy from 20mpg to 33 mpg (or a smaller fuel economy increase, combined with other wind, solar, and energy efficiency initiatives) could accomplish this goal.

MYTH #12: "[UN Resolution] 1441 gives us the authority to move without any second resolution."
- George Bush, Jan. 31, 2003.

RESPONSE: In the wake of World War II, the US took a leading role in establishing the UN to prevent future world wars. The recent unilateral position of the Bush administration runs counters to decades of US policy, the language in resolution 1441, and international law. To ignore the usefulness of the UN at this time would strengthen the hand of those who want global war, including anti-US terrorist groups.

As President Bush himself said during one of the 2000 presidential debates, "If we are an arrogant nation, they will resent us, If we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us."

The text of 1441 concludes, "[The Security Council] decides to remain seized of the matter," meaning that it retains jurisdiction, and has not given anyone else the power to act. The US Senate ratified US agreement to the UN Charter by a vote 89 to 2 on July 28, 1945. Under Article 2 of the Charter, the use of military force is prohibited without explicit authorization (under Article 42).

MYTH #13: Because antiwar protesters "are giving, at the very least, comfort to Saddam Hussein," they can be accused of committing treason according to the Constitution.
- NY Sun Editorial, Feb. 7, 2003

RESPONSE: Since the American Revolution, democracies have steadily replaced dictatorships, in part because open debate produces a more responsive and accountable government. Punishing dissenters is the hallmark of totalitarianism.

After John McCain - the Senator from Arizona - was released from captivity as a POW in Vietnam, he was asked, "How did it feel when you heard Americans were protesting the war?" He said, "I thought that's what we were fighting for - the right to protest."

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