The ‘Modified Vehicles’ Powell Forgot To Mention

Colin Powell was full of fire and brimstone in the UN Security Council Chambers yesterday. Iraq had once again committed an outrage.

“The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pose to the world. Let me now turn to those deadly weapons programmes and describe why they are real and present dangers to the region and to the world.”

Parodying Iraqi public officials whose conversations the Americans allegedly spied on, Powell put himself smugly in their shoes.

“We have this modified vehicle. What do we say if one of them sees it?” mocked Powell. “What is their concern?” Powell demanded. “Their concern is that it’s something they should not have, something that should not be seen.”

As ‘they’ weren’t invited to answer for themselves, Powell spoke in their place as he described how Iraqis moved mobile bio-weapons production and even research facilities “…in trucks and in railcars,” to foil UN weapons inspectors.

“In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.”

Then Powell held a single vial of anthrax up to the light, as if it were a precious jewel.

“If concentrated into this dry form this amount would be enough to turn into tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons,” said Powell, aghast. Americans are worried about Anthrax attacks like those against Democratic Senators and US postal workers in 2001, still unsolved by Powell’s government.

Never mind that the US government has developed a genetically modified anthrax spore in quantities that exceed the amount needed for defensive purposes.

Never mind the fact that Powell’s government rejected a tough new inspection regime under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention on December 7, 2001.

Never mind that an EU delegate to the Organization for the Prohibition of Biological Weapons described the Bush administration as “liars,” quoted at the 5th Review Conference of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in December, 2001as saying “In decades of multilateral negotiations, we’ve never experienced this kind of insulting behaviour.”

And nobody seems particularly concerned about that in the State Department.

And so Powell tried to change the subject, if not the insulting behaviour, offering the services of the United States Army, Navy, Air force and Marines to rid the world of anthrax that nobody can find.

Powell displayed ‘disturbing’ computer drawings of the “modified trucks” Saddam Hussein is supposed to posses. And he spoke about them in great detail.

“We have diagrammed what our sources reported about these mobile facilities. Here you see both truck and rail car-mounted mobile factories. The description our sources gave us of the technical features required by such facilities are highly detailed and extremely accurate. As these drawings based on their description show, we know what the fermenters look like, we know what the tanks, pumps, compressors and other parts look like. We know how they fit together. We know how they work. And we know a great deal about the platforms on which they are mounted. “

Powell tried to scare his audience with the unknown. “Just imagine trying to find 18 trucks among the thousands and thousands of trucks that travel the roads of Iraq every single day.”

What we were not shown was a photograph of a similar truck, owned by the US Department of Defence under the direction of one Donald Rumsfeld, parked in the United States, which General Powell represents to the world. You can check out a photograph of this potential American ‘material breech’ yourself, on the US Army’s own website at  .

Such ‘modified trucks’ are part of the American arsenal. It’s a “chemical warfare lab on wheels,” complete with a “horizontal blast chamber.” This truck is for ‘defensive purposes,’ though it is the United States that is openly planning aggressive war, though American companies like American Type Culture Collection sold the anthrax to Saddam Hussein in the first place while Donald Rumsfeld shared his thoughts on human rights with Tariq Aziz.

But never mind all that.

Silence in the face of hypocrisy is standard treatment for the well-documented American bio-weapons programme. And the double standard was on the march yesterday at the UN. It would not do to have General Powell paraded yesterday before Picasso’s Guernica, that memorial to the victims of carpet bombing hanging outside the Security Council. Janitors covered it with a blue sheet.

Once inside that august chamber, created from the ashes of war, Powell was silent on exactly how his government plans to rid the world of what is surely a lesser pimple on the ass end of evil; with 2000 cruise missiles in two days, aimed at the civilian population of Baghdad.

Perhaps they will hit one of 18 trucks.

Perhaps not. 18 trucks are not the target of ‘Shock and Awe,’ the name of the Powell plan to rain Armageddon down on innocent Iraqis. “You grind down people so you affect their psychologies…so that they accept whatever option you are forcing on them,” according to Harlan Ulmann, the plan’s author. Shock and Awe is the culmination of the Powell Doctrine, which calls for the use of “overwhelming force,” against weaker states.

Yesterday Powell asked us to dress up mass murder in sky blue drag.

How sad then for Mr. Powell that much more convincing and to the point were the words Saddam Hussein, who broke 12 years of silence in an interview with Tony Benn, the former Labour MP. Saddam, the ruthless dictator managed to sound more credible than Powell, so recently trusted by ‘old Europe.’ The interview was conducted before Powell addressed the UN.

“If we look at the representatives of the two superpowers – America and Britain – and look at their conduct and their language, we would notice that they are more motivated by war than their responsibility for peace. And when they talk about peace, all they do is accuse others they wish to destroy – in the name of peace,” said Hussein to the world.

“They claim they are looking after the interests of their people. You know as well as I do that this is not the truth.

“When we speak about oil, we are an integral part of the world,” Saddam continued, making more sense than Powell. “It seems that the authorities in the US are motivated by aggression against the region that has been evident for more than a decade.”

Most of the world shares Saddam’s analysis of the American motivation for a war on Iraq, if nothing else. The outrage against Powell’s plan has been building for some time.

This outrage is only intensified by the full blown economic crisis that haunted Mr. Powell’s presentation. Bankrupt American companies are naked; seen by all to be bereft of morals, ethics and of a political vision that includes anything other than tax-cuts for themselves, bailouts, relaxed conflict of interest laws and environmental regulation to their benefit, and freedom from civil lawsuits by damaged or injured consumers.

And that’s just the beginning.

At the top of this rotten heap are George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their network of corporate friends in the oil and weapons businesses. For us, programme cuts and layoffs. For them, the elimination of the inheritance and capital gains taxes, and banking holidays in the Caymans. We get war without end, they get endless profits.

But not without a the biggest fight the world will ever see. The demonstrations worldwide against the war on February 15th in more than 55 world cities will be the largest combined mass actions in history, though the war’s not even officially a go, yet. The Americans have already lost the political fight, so they propose to rule the world with brute force, papered over with some empty rhetoric about “modified trucks.”

All of this is unprecedented.

Still, there was no mention of these glaring contradictions before our elected representatives from Powell, just computer simulations and oblique references to shifty maneuvers in a desert on the other side of the planet, by a ruined state without a missile of major consequence for its missing ‘weapons of mass destruction.’

Powell did not seriously address the UN Security Council, but rather directed his remarks over their heads, to the well trained professionals who report the news to the American people, using emotionally manipulative propaganda techniques first perfected in Germany.

It was quite the sales pitch, and for the indoctrinated or those with something to gain from a war on Iraq, like the corporate owners of American media, heavily invested in “weapons of mass destruction,” it was not complete nonsense.

Powell, in what Canada’s inept foreign Minister Bill Graham described as “a persuasive presentation,” disdained fresh intelligence, opting instead to show the world a re-run about nothing. It was a typical American show.

“This video of an Iraqi test flight obtained by UNSCOM some years ago [emphasis the author’s] shows an Iraqi F-1 Mirage jet aircraft. Note the spray coming from beneath the Mirage; that is 2,000 litres of simulated anthrax [emphasis the author’s] that a jet is spraying. In 1995, an Iraqi military officer, Mujahid Sali Abdul Latif, told inspectors that Iraq intended the spray tanks to be mounted onto a MiG-21 that had been converted into an unmanned aerial vehicle, or a UAV. UAVs outfitted with spray tanks constitute an ideal method for launching a terrorist attack using biological weapons.”

And Powell should know. The US Army leads the world in the production of Unmanned Arial Vehicles, all documented on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, at  . They feature ominous names, like Dark Star, Global Hawk, and Predator.

Colin Powell’s government uses them to kill people it deems a threat.

On November 3, 2002 in the Yemeni desert, Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi was killed when a US Hellfire missile fired from a Predator UAV slammed into the car carrying him and five others: Saleh Abu Hamam, Al-Qia’gaa, Abu Jirah, Mounir and Jalal, also known as Ahmed Hijazi. Jalal was a U.S. citizen. The US government had determined they were members of al Qaeda.

And Powell’s Army is also busy figuring out novel ways to deliver chemical and biological agents to civilian ‘targets.’

The US Army developing what it called the Ring Airfoil Projectile, “for the delivery of selected incapacitating chemical agents.” The RAP is a chemical filled rubber ring, about 2.5 inches in diameter, and delivers “a three foot cloud of incapacitating riot control agent.” Check it out at  .

This research is being conducted at the Edgewood Chemical and Biological Facility, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. In its own words, “the nation’s center of chemical and biological expertise, the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and Project Managers continue research, concept exploration, demonstration, validation and engineering manufacturing development for production of chemical defense systems, obscuring smoke, aerosol systems, and flame weapons.”

According to a growing number of scientists and activists, much of this research is illegal under the international treaties on chemical and biological weapons, signed by the US.

The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) forbids “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals. This includes all such chemicals, regardless of their origin or of their method of production, and regardless of whether they are produced in facilities, in munitions or elsewhere.”

Further, the CWC contains the following undertaking, which is being openly flouted by the United States

“Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never under any circumstances:

(a) To develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone;

(b) To use chemical weapons;

(c) To engage in any military preparations to use chemical weapons;

(d) To assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.”

The convention lives at  . Yet the United States will not allow Iraq to sign this convention, preferring political stage shows at the UN as a blunt tool to use against various states according to the immediate needs of US oil corporations, and pharmaceutical companies.

It was to protect these interests that the United States ripped 8000 pages from the Iraqi declaration of its chemical and biological weapons program in December, 2002. The declaration contained damning information on companies like Unisys, Hewlett Packard, Bechtel, Dupont, Honeywell, and other big names in corporate America. These sold both Iraq and the Pentagon their deadly arsenals. Many of these corporations are Republican Party donors.

It was to protect these interests that the United States killed the inspections regime of The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, (BTWC) which forbids outright all forms of biological warfare, and the preparation for such conflict. Available at  , the major undertaking of the Convention is as follows:

“Each State Party to this Convention undertakes never in any circumstances to develop, produce, stockpile or otherwise acquire or retain:

(1) Microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective or other peaceful purposes;

(2) Weapons, equipment or means of delivery designed to use such agents or toxins for hostile purposes or in armed conflict. ”

After Powell’s bristling display, one would rightly wonder what interest would be served by abandoning the BTWC. But corporate America opposes the universal application of these provisions, or any others that would hurt their profits.

US Ambassador Don Mahley was blunt about it, saying “The United States is the world leader in biotechnology. The cost of early research and development is enormous. Providing others with the means to avoid such costs or to obtain process information for unfair competition would endanger not only the industry, but the benefits that industry provides to the entire world.” The USA maintained at the meetings of the BTWC that national governments should control their own biotechnology, rejecting international inspection and verification of American compliance. Iraq is a notable exception, sitting as it does on top of a great deal of oil, not unlike Colombia. Currently the United States is engaged in the spraying of crops and people in the rainforests of Colombia with Round Up pesticide. The people of Colombia have been rebelling against the domination of American oil companies in the region. So the US government is poisoning their crops and their bodies, for the profit of American chemical and pharmaceutical companies.

The next step in Plan Colombia is to use microbial toxins such as Fusarium oxysporum to kill coca and cannabis, and Pleospora papaveracea to kill opium poppies. Congressman John Mica (R Florida) has endorsed the plan, declaring before a Congressional Committee on December 17, 2002 “We have to restore our… myco-herbicide. Things that have been studied for too long need to be put into action.” The US Ambassador to Colombia, Anne Patterson retracted a statement she made in response to Mica, claiming bio-agents had already been tested in Colombia. The Ambassador claimed the statement was made under duress.

Chemical warfare is of a piece with a foreign policy of shock and awe.

To facilitate chemical warfare, US Army Soldier Biological and Chemical Command freely maintains two “Hazardous Material Explosion facilities located at the U.S. Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. Both facilities have chambers uniquely designed for total containment in the testing of chemical (military and industrial) related equipment, and explosive/toxic munitions.”

A declaration of documents from America’s secret weapons programmes should include a full description of the Pentagon’s plan to transform dangerous synthetic opiates – sedatives and anesthetics, drugs of abuse – into chemical weapons, “to put everybody in a room to sleep, combatants and non-combatants, ” according to Col George Fenton, the program’s director, who desires “a magic dust.”

The Pentagon is creating new, so-called ‘non-lethal’ chemical weapons through the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, (JNLWD) freely advertised on the web at . According to the Pentagon’s own doctrine, DOD directive 3000.3 the term ‘non-lethal’ is not accurate. A document from January 2003, describes how JNLWD is “identifying advances in the pharmaceutical industry for potential non-lethal applications.” The Directorate works with the US Departments of Energy, and Justice, and Penn State University.

FOI officers at the Pentagon have only released a fraction of the existing documents from this programme, which discus plans for a tunable weapons system, which “…could theoretically present the operator with choices ranging from mild discomfort, to severe injury, or even death.” The targets for these weapons are civilians. “Such a system could be used effectively against a wide variety of targets, from healthy young men, to the elderly and the infirm,” according to minutes from a joint US UK meeting on Urban Operations, available on the website of the Sunshine Project at   .

The non-lethal (sedative drug) weapons programme, when seen in light of the Pentagon doctrine of “urban operations, ” ( / and  ) erases the line between war and domestic policing, calling into question the US commitment to article 1, Section 5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which commits the USA “…not to use riot control agents as a method of warfare.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of US non-compliance with international chemical and biological arms control law, we are asked to believe, but not touch Powell’s evidence, or cross examine the witnesses, namely “a defector, currently hiding in another country,” and “a second source, an Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know,” and “a third source, also in a position to know,” and finally,” a fourth source, an Iraqi major, who defected…”

Will they testify in court?

Not according to Donald Rumsfeld, who lowered our expectations before Powell’s presentation. “In our country, in courts of law it has been customary to seek evidence that could prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That approach, of course, is appropriate when the objective is to protect the rights of the accused,” Rumsfeld said during a Pentagon media briefing, without reference to the fact that his administration leads the world in attacking the rights of the accused to a fair trial. Rumsfeld described world demand for irrefutable proof about Iraqi weapons as a “fixation.”

Rumsfeld is famously not fixated on the rights of those he condemns to death, or an indefinite stay in a concentration camp.

And so Powell sat there and gave us our ‘smoking gun’ that was not a smoking gun, fulfilling the Rumsfeld Doctrine, namely that “The absence of evidence, is not the evidence of absence.” According to Powell, “we have first hand knowledge of bio-weapons facilities on wheels,” while his own Army’s website has quite a serviceable description of an American modified truck in the form of a photograph.

But that was not Powell’s idea of a photo op.

Playing to the cameras, Powell demanded that the United Nation take action against what he termed Iraq’s ‘material breech’ of UN Resolution 1441: “How much longer are we willing to put up with Iraq’s non-compliance before we, as a council, we, as the United Nations, say: “Enough. Enough.””

Let the shock and awe begin.

Concerned about anthrax or bio-warfare?




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