Friday, October 07, 2005

Frankly Wrong

Mohamed ElBaradei, that perpetual thorn in the side of the Bush administration, has just won (along with the U.N. agency he heads) this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

ElBaradei is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. organization that works to oversee nuclear non-proliferation. The IAEA's inspectors were in Iraq prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion, looking for evidence of Saddam Hussein's alleged nuclear weapons program. It couldn't find any, and it said so.

The Bush administration, incensed at ElBaradei's insistence that the Iraqis didn't appear to be pursuing nuclear weapons, attempted in its usual heavy handed way to have the Director General removed from his post. Indeed, the administration acted as if the teams of U.N. inspectors scouring the country for Iraqi WMD were little more than well intentioned but incompetent knuckleheads. Those inspectors were thus brushed aside to make way for the U.S. invasion.

By early 2003, as the Bush administration was finalizing its invasion plans, it was also spewing propaganda about the certainty of Iraqi WMD and the failure of the inspections regime. The administration had no patience for contrary messages. It and its neocon friends heaped contemptuous scorn on the U.N. inspectors. And more than anybody else, Vice President Dick Cheney exemplified the administration's smug certainty that it was right and all doubters were wrong.

One of those doubters was Mohamed ElBaradei. In March 2003, ElBaradei testified before the U.N. Security Council about the lack of evidence for Iraqi nuclear weapons. And ElBaradei told the Security Council that the Niger documents purporting to show Saddam's attempt to acquire yellowcake uranium from Africa were "shoddy forgeries". (And indeed they were. But Saddam's alleged attempts to acquire uranium from Aftrica was a cornerstone of administration propaganda).

On March 13, a week after ElBaradei's Security Council appearance, Dick Cheney was a guest on NBC's Meet The Press, and took issue with ElBaradei. Said Cheney: "We know that based on intelligence that he [Saddam] has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it, and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei is frankly wrong. [my emphasis] And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency on this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past."

If you've listened much to Dick Cheney, you know he's an extremely frank person. With Dick, it's always "frankly" this and "frankly" that. Unfortunately, he has a long record of calmly and forthrightly delivering, in his characteristic deadpan manner, the biggest lies this administration has to offer. It was Cheney who doggedly stuck with the Saddam-al Qaeda connection long after it had been discredited. And it was Cheney who only recently said that the Iraqi insurgency is in its "last throes"--even as that insurgency is proving to be more organized, sophisticated, and deadly than ever.

It has now been two and one half years since the invasion of Iraq. No WMD have ever been found. At present the U.S. continues to search--not for WMD but for a way to extract itself from the morass of Iraq. As the IAEA's Director General claims his prize, it is worth reiterating that it was Cheney and the Bush Administration, not Mohamed ElBaradei, who were "frankly wrong".

Copyright (C) 2005 James Michael Brennan, All Rights Reserved