The Last Round: Fighting for Survival

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Many observers believe now that the Iraqi regime is likely the next target of the US war machine. It is just a question of timing. Those among the Arabs who are feigning amazement while contemplating that perspective are either oblivious of some facts or living in a fanciful world. Just one day before September 11 attacks, the very official CRS Report for Congress quoted Iraq as one of the Middle East sponsors of terrorism. Has anything changed since then? Has the American policy towards Iraq shifted as it is said now it is the case concerning the Palestinian State, for instance? Let’s have a look at this report.

On page 29, it read: ” US-Iraq differences over Iraq’s regional ambitions and its record of compliance with post-Gulf war cease-fire requirements will probably keep Iraq on the terrorism list as long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.”

In other words, the problem seems really between America and Saddam personally. Some observers would go to the extent that the question has to be settled between ruling families, both in Iraq (the Takriti) and in America (Bush)! Which is due to varied reasons, whereof they mention for instance the failed assassination plot against former President Bush during his April 1993 visit to Kuwait, allegedly masterminded by Baghdad. At the time, the US retaliated on June 26 with missile strike on Iraqi intelligence headquarters.

One must keep in mind that it was in February of that year that the World Trade Center bombing exposed for the first time the vulnerability of the United States homeland to ” Middle Eastern-inspired terrorism”. According to the aforementioned report, the bombing ” sparked stepped up law enforcement investigation into the activities of Islamic networks in the United States and alleged fundraising in the United States for Middle East terrorism.” For the report, the additional law enforcement powers and efforts in recent years ” might have accounted for the foiling of the alleged plot by bin Laden supporters to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles airport on the eve of the millennium”. So it is inexact to pretend that the Sept.11 attacks surprised completely the American intelligence society. An important part of the same report has been dedicated to analyzing the activities of bin Laden and his al-Qaeda. But nothing leaked about their intentions, and we find nowhere in these pages the slight allusion to a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

However, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld warned since Sept. 30 that he expected the enemies of the United States would eventually help terrorist groups obtain chemical, biological and possibly even nuclear weapons technology. Asked whether the United States was worried that military conflict in South Asia might destabilize Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons, Mr. Rumsfeld said yes. And asked if the United States would soon turn its attention to nations other than Afghanistan, like Iraq, Mr. Rumsfeld replied, ” I think we’re already turning our attention to other states.”

That is why it was not a surprise when American investigators probing anthrax outbreaks in Florida and New York named Iraq as prime suspect. Reports were therefore aired about a meeting last autumn in Prague between Mohamed Atta – one of the hijackers – and Ahmed Samir al -Ani, a former Iraqi consul expelled by the Czechs, as it seems, ” for activities not compatible with his diplomatic mission”! (The Observer – Oct.14). Other rumors circulated. Thus, in the past four months prior to September 2001, at least three high-ranking Iraqi intelligence officials – among them Hassan Ezba Thalaj- have allegedly visited Pakistan to meet representatives of al-Qaeda. According to the same sources, previous visitors have taken large sums of money with them, including Ahmad al Jafari, a senior Iraqi intelligence officer who took é 420,000 about 18 months ago! Other funds have been forwarded via banks in Lebanon.

Indeed, it is hard for any observer to check up the credibility of such assumptions. For some people, all is simple and clear. ” Growing your own anthrax isn’t difficult but turning it into a useful weapon is”, writes The Wall Street Journal (Oct.15), before adding: ” the leading supplier suspect has to be Iraq.” Why? The answer is ready: ” Saddam has stockpiled thousands of pounds of biological agents, including anthrax”! What about the Russians and their mafia ready to sell anything to anyone?

Nonetheless, this is not exactly what Mr. Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, thinks. In an article published by the Los Angeles Times (Oct.12), he says: ” It has become all too convenient to automatically link Iraq with biological weapons. While there is a legitimate concern about the status of the United Nations’ efforts to account for all of Iraq’s weapons programs, this concern must be tempered by the reality that most of Iraqi’s biological agents, along with its production facilities, have been destroyed.” Furthermore, Ritter thinks ” Hussein and bin Laden are complete opposites in terms of ideology and motivation, making them natural enemies as opposed to secret allies”. The conclusion he reached is: ” With its military poorly trained and equipped, its economy in tatters and once-vaunted weapons of mass destruction largely dismantled by UN weapons inspectors, Iraq today represents a threat to no one.”

Yet, bad reputations have apparently a long life. Some people would not forget such a dossier so easily. Even if it is void, with some smart black and white allusions it may be still interesting to exhibiting. A good hook for anxious readers! An ideal witch-hunt where nothing can be proved totally true or absolutely false! Some files confine with the mysterious night of intelligence secrets or pseudo-secrets. They are always open to endless investigation. And if they shock us, or go against or beyond our beliefs, this is also part of the game.

Maybe the most ” interesting” hypothesis consists in assuming that the Iraqi regime had been also behind the bombing of Oklahoma perpetrated by McVeigh in April 1995! And that the whole affair had been manipulated by the CIA and the FBI from the start!

The Skolnick’s report (6-15-01) says that McVeigh was actually under video and audio scrutiny since at least thirty days prior to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. According to Skolnick, the terrorist was seen in Kansas and Oklahoma in the company of two Middle-Eastern men, who were Iraqi military officers, from intelligence units, brought into the United States at the end of the Gulf war, 1991.

They were ” part of more than four thousand of the same, supposed defectors, arranged by then President Bush”, who for the decade of the 1980s, ” was the private business partner of Saddam Hussein.”

Skolnick is actually talking of an affair that had been partly analyzed by Alan Friedman in his book: ” Spider’s Web: The secret history of how the White House illegally armed Iraq”. But he adds his own interpretation. Thus he says “a little known Chicago federal lawsuit was brought, in October 1990, during the lead-up to the shooting war, to keep concealed the related bank records showing the clandestine partnership.” But as part of the cover-up, Chief Judge Posner ordered the Bush-Saddam BNL (i.e. Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro) case removed from the courthouse!

In fact, the partnership between Iraq and many Western powers – among them the US- during the war period (against Iran) is an open secret. But Skolnick makes of that partnership something particular: it was not between states, but rather between persons. Among those persons we find not only the Bush family( father and sons), but also Bill and Hillary Clinton!

The connection is complicated: you ought to find links between all those people – Hillary included! – and a French firm, American Lafarge, which reportedly has been making the ingredients for poison gas supplied to Saddam Hussein!

For Skolnick, McVeigh was seen by the CIA and the FBI in the company of his Iraqi handlers carrying around several suitcases some of them containing highly effective C-4 explosives. One suitcase even contained a lower level sub-atomic device, known as “Red Mercury”.

Thus, after the bombing “nuclear-type radiation residue, from tritium, was found and secretly measured by government operatives in the bombsite”! Mind you! ” Saddam Hussein has been developing 220 pounds of Lithium 6, which can be converted to Tritium”!

I acknowledge I do not know a lot about Tritium and Red Mercury and alike matters, but one does not need to be Einstein to understand that if there was really the least doubt about a nuclear radiation, nobody would have been able to hide it. Seemingly, Skolnick foresaw that objection, and he said: ” The top honchos of the news networks in America knew about the FBI/CIA surveillance of McVeigh prior to the bombings and were aware of the FBI/CIA audio/video taped surveillance. But the data was censored at the highest level of the US government and the monopoly press. Further, the discussions showed that the FBI/CIA have closed circuit video showing an Iraqi military officer supervising the one purporting to be McVeigh near the bombsite “! Then the confusion reaches a top when Skolnick wonders: ” Was the real Timothy McVeigh put to death?”

A masterly issue, whose basis is much resembling to all those reports about secret meetings and connections between the September 11 terrorists and the Iraqi diplomats or agents. With however something particular to the Skolnick reports: Here the people at the top are not only concerned, but also suspects. And they are not only suspects but also possible accomplices with the terrorists! That’s why they keep total silence about the whole story, although they were since the start aware of the terrorist plan!

This is not to mean that those who run America are clean and innocent. Of course they are not. But the idea that both CIA and FBI knew about a terrorist conspiracy and not only shut their eyes on it but also organized a real censorship on the media in order to protect a corrupted American President, is not easy to swallow up. Admittedly Mr. Bush – or Mr. Clinton- or both have business links with Saddam, how would they manage to cover their interests when we know that all the important media and intelligence networks in the USA are open not only to people who are on their side, but also to their opponents? Thus, if there was really audio/video taped surveillance of McVeigh with his alleged Iraqi manipulators, how many people in the FBI and the CIA would have known about it? And if all of them were definitely corrupted how did Skolnick himself know about the subject?

However, Skolnick’s thesis though difficult to admit, corroborates the idea that between Iraqi and US governments maybe there is more than what has been publicly acknowledged, which with hindsight may explain the obstinacy both governments have put into fighting each other, as if upon the issue of such a struggle depends the survival of each party.

Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.

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