Blair Witch Project


I couldn’t resist using this title although it would be more appropriate to name it “The Blair/Bush Witch Project”. The title is perfect, because in reality, there is no Witch. Witches exist only in films and the mass media.

The case for war, is pretty much the same with witch hunts: “witches” burnt on stakes as innocent Iraqis will burn on Cruise missiles and other devastating weapons – for no good reason.

That is why I decided to dismantle some of the main arguments, one by one.

The argument from Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD):

Argument 1:

Iraq has WMD.

Whoever has WMD should be disarmed. ——- Therefore, Iraq should be disarmed [1].

Surely, the above argument does not express the intentions of the US/UK administrations. For if the US/UK reason for disarming Iraq, was merely the presence of WMD, then the first candidate for disarmament, would be the US, which is the biggest possessor and producer of WMD. It would also follow, that all countries with WMD should be disarmed as well, that means Russia, Israel, France, UK, India, North Korea, Pakistan etc. Yet it seems that when the US/UK and their allies are concerned, they do NOT demand any such disarmament. So the above argument does not seem to capture what the US/UK administration has in mind. Let us try to revise it.

Argument 2:

Whoever has WMD, and has used them in the past knowing that their use would result in the direct or indirect murder of innocent civilians, has to disarm.

Iraq used WMD in the past, knowing that it would result in the murder of innocent civilians. ——— Therefore, Iraq should be disarmed.

If we accept the first premise, it has the direct consequence that one of the nations that should disarm, is the US. It was the first nation to use nuclear weapons, knowing that their use would result in the murder of innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has also used WMD in Vietnam (agent Orange) [2], it is using them in Colombia as we speak [3]. Although I don’t know whether depleted uranium actually qualifies as a WMD, it certainly has had the effect of Mass Destruction, by causing an increase to phenomenal levels the cancer percentage in Iraq, causing babies to be born with malignant tumours, others with no mouths, scrotums, no noses – children that eventually die [4].

Which means that if the US advocates this argument, it has as a logical consequence that both the US and Iraq (and any other country which fits in the first premise) should disarm (the US should have disarmed decades ago).

Except if the US administration wants to change the first premise to:

Whoever has WMD – except the US and its allies – and has used them in the past knowing that their use would result in the direct or indirect murder of innocent civilians, has to disarm.

Which will promptly result in universal –except for the US and its allies – laughter.

So that argument won’t work as well. Maybe the US/UK administration mean something different. Let’s try to revise the argument again.

Argument 3:

If a leader of a nation uses or produces WMD, as long as that nation is under this leader, it should be disarmed.

Saddam Hussein is a leader of Iraq, and has used and produced WMD. ———– Therefore, Iraq under Saddam Hussein should be disarmed.

Now that looks more promising. However, exactly because US is using WMD in Colombia as we speak and is the biggest producer of WMD, it also means that so long as the US or any other country that is under a leadership (that of George W. Bush included) that produces WMD, should also be disarmed.

A bad feature of this argument, is that it obviously leaves any other country that just has WMD and its leader has not used them outside the scope of the argument, therefore probably ignoring certain international treaties that forbid the possession of such weapons.

The US under Arguments 1, 2 or 3, has to disarm. But I’ve never heard the US administration mentioning any such scheme. Which means that it must support some other argument. However, here is a result of our above considerations: The US does not believe the following:

A nation or a nation having a leader, that has, produces or has used WMD knowing that it will result in the direct or indirect death of innocent civilians, does not serve as reason to disarm it.

For if it did believe the above, then the US would begin disarming and urge any other nation that falls under the above category to do so as well.

So let us try another argument that might express the US administration.

Argument from Threat:

Even though it doesn’t matter (as our above considerations shown) if a nation or leader has, produces or has used WMD, if a nation or leader threatens to use them, it justifies us disarming him, by peaceful means if possible.

Iraq is threatening to use them. ——- Therefore, Iraq should be disarmed by peaceful means if possible.

Nevertheless, premise two is false. Iraq has not threatened anyone. When it did use them, the US not only supplied them [5] the infrastructure to make them [6], but also was an ally during the worst atrocities:

“After the worst attack, on Halabja in 1988 near the end of the Iran-Iraq war, the Reagan team covered for Saddam by implicating Iran, then prevented Congress from imposing tough sanctions on Iraq. Joost R. Hiltermann, an official with Human Rights Watch, shows in a recent column for the International Herald Tribune (http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0117-01.htm) that Saddam was likely emboldened to use ever more lethal concoctions to polish off the Kurds because he knew from past gassing experience in 1983, 1984 and 1987 that he could always count on the support of Reagan, Powell and George H. W. Bush.” [7]

Let us also clarify what “threaten” actually means in this context. It cannot mean defensive threatening. For if it did, then both the US and UK should be disarmed as well. For they have threatened that they may use their WMD if they have to defend themselves.

Which takes us to an additional US argument:

The Argument from Belief

If there is a belief that a nation or leader – even though it is not stated by that nation or leader – is threatening another, then the other is justified in defending itself, either by demanding disarmament or by using military force.

The US believes that Iraq and Saddam Hussein is threatening the US. ————— Therefore, The US is justified in defending itself, either by demanding disarmament or by using military force.

The way to refute the argument, lays in a premise that is presupposed, yet not mentioned in the above argument:

Hidden Premise: A belief that a nation or leader – even though it is not stated by that nation or leader – is threatening another, is enough to justify either demanding disarmament or using military force.

Which no sane person will accept. A belief does not guarantee either truth or rightness. For any belief to be taken seriously, it has at least to be justified in some way. But to really carry any weight, it has to also be true. I may be justified in believing that John (who is sincere) will visit me at 10 o’clock because he said so yesterday, but if John had an accident and didn’t visit, my justified belief would simply be false.

So let us reformulate the argument:

If there is a justified true belief that a nation or leader – even though it is not stated by that nation or leader – is threatening another, then the other is justified in defending itself, either by demanding disarmament or by using military force.

The US has a justified and true belief that Iraq and Saddam Hussein is threatening the US. ————— Therefore, The US is justified in defending itself, either by demanding disarmament or by using military force.

Which means that what the US and its allies should do, is not only justify their belief that Iraq and Saddam Hussein poses a threat to them (and the world as they claim many times) but also show it to be true.


Now to avoid confusion, let’s be very clear and take the word threat in the above context to basically mean military threat.


But if that is the case, the argument just collapses. For even in the extremely unlikely possibility that the US will present a justified true belief that Saddam Hussein threatens the US and its allies, Saddam Hussein does not have the military might to threaten them with. For the previous UNSCOM inspections between 1991-1998 were almost a complete success, as David Edwards writes:


“Hans Blix has occasionally referred to the fact that previous inspections were “quite successful” but these mentions are never explored by the media.


In fact the remarkable truth is that the 1991-98 inspections ended in almost complete success. Scott Ritter, chief UN arms inspector at the time, insists that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed” by December 1998, with 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction eliminated. Of the missing 5-10%, Ritter says:


“It doesn’t even constitute a weapons programme. It constitutes bits and pieces of a weapons programme which in its totality doesn’t amount to much, but which is still prohibited.” (War On Iraq, Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, Profile Books, 2002, p.24)


Of nuclear weapons capability, Ritter says:


“When I left Iraq in 1998… the infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There’s no doubt about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facility had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor – both from vehicles and from the air – the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything.” (ibid, p.26) ”[8]


How can this “bits and pieces of a weapons programme” threaten the biggest military power in world history and its allies? It can’t. The claim is just absurd.


Even if Saddam did manage to hide some Chemical and Biological WMD, they would have now turned into useless sludge as David Edwards writes:


“It is entirely uncontroversial that Iraq is only known to have produced liquid bulk anthrax, which has a shelf-life of just three years. The last known batch of liquid anthrax was produced in 1991 at a state-owned factory. That factory was then blown up in 1996. Any remaining anthrax is therefore, by now, sludge. Blair, again, must surely be aware of this.”


Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) discounts the possibility that any Iraqi anthrax produced in bulk prior to 1991 could still be effectively weaponised:


“Anthrax spores are extremely hardy and can achieve 65% to 80% lethality against untreated patients for years. Fortunately, Iraq does not seem to have produced dry, storable agents and only seems to have deployed wet Anthrax agents, which have a relatively limited life.” (‘Iraq’s Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities’, 1998, p.13 http://www.csis.org/stratassessment/reports/iraq_bios.pdf)


Readers will recall that Colin Powell held up a vial of dry powder anthrax in his presentation to the United Nations, referring to the anthrax attacks on the United States. This is the anthrax that Iraq “does not seem to have produced”, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Powell is regularly described in the media as a ‘dove’.


Any botulinum toxin would now also be so much sludge. A CIA briefing in 1990 reviewed the threat from Iraq’s biological weapons facilities:


“Botulinum toxin is nonpersistent, degrading rapidly in the environment . . . . [It is] fairly stable for a year when stored at temperatures below 27c.” (‘Iraq’s Biological Warfare Program: Saddam’s Ace In The Hole’, August[?] 1990 http://www.fas.org/irp/gulf/cia/960702/73924_01.htm)


The strategic dossier of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) of 9 September 2002 assesses the likelihood of Iraq retaining a stockpile of biological weapons:


“Any botulinum toxin produced in 1989-90 would no longer be useful.” (p.40)


Ritter has explained how UN Unscom inspectors roamed the country monitoring Iraq’s biological facilities, installing sensitive sniffers and cameras and performing no-notice inspections. But is it possible that Iraq could somehow have reconstructed its capability since 1998? Ritter responds:


“For Iraq to have biological weapons today, they’d have to reconstitute a biological manufacturing base. And again, biological research and development was one of the things most heavily inspected by weapons inspectors. We blanketed Iraq – every research and development facility, every university, every school, every hospital, every beer factory: anything with a potential fermentation capability was inspected – and we never found any evidence of ongoing research and development or retention.” (op., cit, p.38) [9]


The same goes for VX, as the same article by Edwards points out clearly citing credible sources (Blix, Ritter, The International Institute for Strategic Studies’ strategic dossier of September 2002, Persian Gulf War Illnesses Task Force, April 2002).


To sum up: Even in the unlikely possibility that the US provides a justified true belief that Saddam Hussein is a military threat to the US and its allies, the claim collapses, because Saddam Hussein does not have any serious military might to threaten the US and its allies.


So if the word “threat” basically means “military threat” the argument collapses. How about if the word “threat” is meant in some other way than military threat?


For threat can be broadened to mean a lot of things. For example let’s take the idea that “Saddam is a threat to democracy”. In what way is that to be understood? What does democracy mean in that sentence? It cannot mean the “idea of democracy” for surely no one can threaten an idea, unless by some sort of intellectual criticism, and I don’t think that Saddam is known to have produced any. It cannot mean the democracy of other states since Saddam has not threatened any other democracies nor does he have any significant capability to do so (as it was shown above). It could only mean one thing, that Saddam is a threat to the democracy of Iraq. But he is not exactly a threat, he has actually passed that point, and is something more than that – namely a tyrant and dictator.


Which means that even if the concept of threat is broadened, it can only justify the intervention of another country or countries (namely the US and its allies) if that country or countries believe in the following argument:


Argument from Democratic Benevolence:


Wherever there is a dictator, tyrant we should use any means, peaceful if possible, to get rid of him, because he is a threat to the democracy of his own country, and hence to his own people. [10]


In Iraq there is a dictator, tyrant – Saddam Hussein – that is a threat to the democracy of his own country, and hence to his own people.

——————–

Therefore, we should use any means, peaceful if possible, to get rid of Saddam Hussein.


But if the US ever believed that argument, it should not have supported either Saddam Hussein or the Shah of Iran, Pinochet in Chile, the Contras in Nicaragua etc. in the first place.


Let us even be charitable, and say that US had a change of heart. It now believes in the argument from Democratic Benevolence. That of course, means that it should stop supporting Musharraf in Pakistan and any other dictator or tyrant in the world. For if you wish to get rid of Saddam because he is a dictator, you would be in contradiction if you supported Musharraf, who is also a dictator.


But even if we were to grant that we should get rid of dictators and tyrants that would not immediately entail that we would authorize the use of force. For the clause was “peaceful if possible”. This clause is important because military force usually is accompanied by “collateral” damage – namely the death of innocent civilians – something that sane people would like to avoid if possible. There are peaceful ways to get rid of dictators, although they may not always be possible. However, the use of force should be the very last resort. [11]


An idea that seems plausible prima facie, is to have the UN guarantee democratic elections in Iraq, inform the citizens of Iraq of the advantages and disadvantages of different forms of government, and let them elect their own candidates. Obviously, a lot more is to be said as to how this scheme is to be implemented, and what consequences it would have internationally. For if it happens in Iraq, why shouldn’t it happen in other states as well? And who can guarantee that the UN won’t be corrupted by the influence of powerful states? But this another issue for another essay.


As for the “Argument from Terror” namely the US claiming that Iraq has links with Al Qaida and a war on Iraq is justified by its links with terrorist networks, I think this argument has been thoroughly demolished by several writers like Chomsky (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/Chomsky_ConfrontingEmpire.htm) and others you will find on http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm and http://www.dissidentvoice.org


The Overall Conclusion


If the US/UK administration wishes to use any of the above mentioned arguments, if they do not wish to fall into contradiction they should follow the logical consequences of these arguments.


If they want to use arguments from WMD, they should disarm. If they want to use the argument from Threat, the second premise of this argument is currently false. If “threat” is interpreted defensively, then US and UK should disarm as well. The argument from Belief contains a hidden premise that no sane person would accept which is that: A belief that a nation or leader – even though it is not stated by that nation or leader – is threatening another, is enough to justify either demanding disarmament or using military force.


More is needed – justification and truth – for such and argument to work, but even if the argument was reformulated so as to include those, it would require that the US/UK provide a justified true belief that Iraq and Saddam Hussein – even though it is not stated by that nation or that leader – is threatening the US or any other nation, in order for the US and its allies to be justified in demanding disarmament or using military force. Unless such a justified true belief is provided, the US/UK is unjustified and cannot use this argument. Even if they [US/UK administrations] did provide such a justified true belief, if the word “threat” is interpreted to mean “military threat” then the argument collapses because Iraq poses no military threat.


If we expand the scope of the word “threat” so that “Saddam Hussein is a threat to democracy” for instance, then the US/UK administrations would require the argument from Democratic Benevolence in order for them to justify their intentions. Although history teaches us that the US rarely upheld such an argument, if there is surprising change of heart, that would mean that the US should stop supporting dictators and tyrants throughout the world like Pakistan’s Musharraf. But even if the change of heart enables the US to advocate the argument from Democratic Benevolence, it still does not enable it to launch a war as long as peaceful alternatives are possible. For such a war, not only will promote a new generation of terrorists according the CIA [12], but it will also result in numerous – “collateral”– deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians.

** For further reasons why the US is pushing for war, read the articles by Chomsky in http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm (you’ll find them as you scroll down on your right), Robert Fisk (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/Fisk_IraqOil2.htm), Milan Rai (http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/Rai_IraqOil.htm) and other

articles on Iraq in http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm and http://www.dissidentvoice.org **

Alexandros Pagidas is currently doing his MA in Philosophy at the University of Reading, UK, and can be reached at: [email protected]

NOTES


[1] Obviously wherever I speak of “disarming” I refer to disarming WMD, not disarming conventional weapons generally.


[2] Jeffrey St.Clair, Drug War According to Mengele, Dissident Voice, December 31, 2002, http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/StClair_Andes.htm


[3] Ibid.


[4] For more on the devastating effects of depleted uranium, the Gulf War and the devastating sanctions that cost the lives of literally thousands of Iraqi children, read: Samia Nakhoul, Parents of Dying Iraqi Children vent Fury on Bush, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2532, Seiji Yamada, The Ongoing Assault, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2394, Jeff Lindemyer, Myth and Fact, http://zmag.org/ZMag/Articles/nov01lindemyer.htm, Claudia Lefko, What about Children in Iraq, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2123 and more if you search http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm


[5] “When you next hear Blair or Straw or Bush talk about “bringing democracy to the people of Iraq”, remember that it was the CIA that installed the Ba’ath Party in Baghdad from which emerged Saddam Hussein. “That was my favourite coup,” said the CIA man responsible. When you next hear Blair and Bush talking about a “smoking gun” in Iraq, ask why the US government last December confiscated the 12,000 pages of Iraq’s weapons declaration, saying they contained “sensitive information” which needed “a little editing”. Sensitive indeed. The original Iraqi documents listed 150 American, British and other foreign companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions. In 2000 Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office Minister, blocked a parliamentary request to publish the full list of lawbreaking British companies. He has never explained why.”


John Pilger, Blood on their Hands, January 29 2003, Dissident Voice:

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/Pilger_Blair-Iraq.htm


[6] Noam Chomsky, Confronting Empire, February 4 2003, Dissident Voice:

http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles/Chomsky_ConfrontingEmpire.htm


[7] Dennis Hans, Lying us into War, Scoop Media, February 12, 2003, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3024


[8] Blair’s Betrayal part 1, Media Lens, February 10 2003,

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/030210_Blairs_Betrayal1.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] There is a missing premise which states: “Whoever is a threat to the democracy of his own country is also a threat to his own people” which we assumed to be true.

[11] Let us not forget that this is within the context of the argument from Democratic Benevolence. People might not accept such an argument for various reasons.


[12] See Chomsky, Confronting Empire.

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