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For The Record  

FTR #388 Between Iraq and a Hard Place, Part 5

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Highlighting aspects of the Iraqi standoff that have not received as much attention as they deserve, this broadcast updates a number of points of inquiry developed in previous broadcasts on the subject.

1. Before turning to the subject of Iraq, the discussion touches on the death of Senator Paul Wellstone and some interesting comments made by Senator Robert Byrd. Senator Wellstone’s death and the Homeland Security bill are synopsized by the comments of Senator Byrd, and For The Record listeners are urged to “read” between the lines. “As his colleagues hurriedly tried to give the president a domestic security bill, Senator Robert C. Byrd took the floor this morning to tell them of a ‘truly great’ senator from the first century A.D. named Helvidius Priscus. One day this Roman was met outside the senate by the emperor Vespasian, who threatened to execute him if he spoke too freely. ‘And so both did their parts,’ Mr. Byrd said. ‘Helvidius Priscus spoke his mind; the emperor Vespasian killed him. In this effeminate age it is instructive to read of courage. There are members of the U.S Senate and House who are terrified, apparently, if the president of the United States tells them, urges them, to vote a certain way that may be against their belief.'” (“Byrd, at 85, Fills the Forum with Romans and Wrath” by John Tierney; The New York Times; 11/20/2002; p. A1.)

2. Concerning the Homeland Security Bill, Byrd was more emphatic. “‘This mon-stros-ity,’ Mr. Byrd has been calling the bill, repeatedly lifting its 484 pages above his head with trembling hands and flinging them down on his desk with the fury of Moses smashing the tablets.” (Idem.)

3. Next, the broadcast turns to the subject of Iraq. Among the aspects of the Iraq/U.S. confrontation is the fact that many individuals-and agencies-within the intelligence community and military are at variance with the Bush administration’s policy. “Mobilizing the United States for war is hard enough, but it becomes truly difficult when the State Department, the Pentagon brass and the intelligence agencies are all, for somewhat different reasons, expressing doubts about the mission. Congress is running scared on Iraq, for fear of seeming unpatriotic on the eve of midterm elections. But that political silence has masked the increasingly vocal grumbling throughout the Washington bureaucracy.” (“Doubt in the Ranks” by David Ignatius; Washington Post; 11/1/2002; p. A35.)

4. Mr. Ignatius further develops the differences of opinion between elements of the national security establishment and George W. Bush. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is not well regarded by many at the Pentagon. “Washington’s dissent extends further, into the ranks of the military. The extent of Pentagon mistrust of the leading Iraq hawk, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was revealed in a remarkable article last month by Vernon Loeb and Thomas E. Ricks of The [Washington] Post. They reported that military anger over Rumsfeld’s ‘frequently abusive and indecisive’ styles was ‘influencing the Pentagon’s internal debate over a possible invasion of Iraq, with some officers questioning whether their concerns about the dangers of urban warfare and other aspects of a potential conflict are being sufficiently weighed.” (Idem.)

5. The CIA has also been far more skeptical of U.S. policy than media coverage would lead us to believe. Among the reasons for their skepticism is the view that attacking Iraq will divert resources from the effort against Bin Laden. (Mr. Emory suggests the Underground Reich may have just such a goal in mind.) “Another skeptical bureaucracy is the Central Intelligence Agency. At a time when the CIA is waging a global anti-terrorism war against al Qaeda, the Iraq talk strikes many intelligence officers as a dangerous distraction. CIA analysts fear that in its eagerness to find an Iraqi ‘smoking gun,’ the Bush administration may be ‘cooking’ the intelligence-that is, implying connections between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that have not been established.” (Idem.)

6. “Rank-and-file CIA officers ‘don’t want to do this war,’ says one former agency official of his former colleagues. They fear, in part, that an Iraq war will jeopardize the ‘liaison’ relationships with other intelligence services that are crucial in fighting al Qaeda.” (Idem.)

7. “If President Bush is going to lead the country into battle, he needs to begin by convincing his own national security bureaucracy. The effects of Iraq, like Vietnam, could last a generation. It’s crucial to get it right-and to have a united country that will stay the course behind the president, even when things turn nasty and optimistic assumptions prove wrong. . . .He [Bush] may choose war, but if he does so today it will be despite widespread, if largely silent, dissent.” (Idem.)

8. Among the dissenting voices on Iraq within the ranks of the military establishment was former Secretary of the Navy James Webb. “When former Secretary of the Navy James Webb gave a speech last Thursday at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey slamming the Bush administration’s threatened war with Iraq, an outsider might have expected the officers assembled there to give him a frosty reception. In fact, the opposite occurred. The respectful admiring welcome he received gave an unusual, somewhat counterintuitive glimpse into the often-closed world of the U.S. military. Among the Naval Postgraduate School’s students and faculty, at least, it seems that independent, critical thinking is alive and well.” (“At Navy School in Monterey, Voices of Skepticism about Iraq War” by Robert Collier; San Francisco Chronicle; 11/10/2002; p. A3.)

9. “Granted, Webb is no outsider. A much-decorated former Marine officer, he became assistant defense secretary and secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration-quitting the latter job in 1988 to protest budget cutbacks in the Navy’s fleet expansion program. In recent months, Webb has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, calling it, in an op-ed in The Washington Post, a distraction from the fight against al Qaeda.” (Idem.)

10. “But in his introduction before a packed auditorium, the school’s superintendent, Rear Adm. David Ellison, called Webb a ‘military hero’ and a ‘dedicated public servant.’ Webb took the baton and ran with it, warning that a war in Iraq-and a possible long-term occupation of the country-would be a critical mistake. ‘We should not occupy territory in Iraq,’ he said. ‘Do you really want the United States on the ground in that region for a generation.?'” (Idem.)

11. “I don’t think Iraq is that much of a threat,’ said Webb, an opinion rarely heard among current or former Republican administration officials. But Webb recalled proudly that as Navy secretary in 1987, ‘I was the only one in the Reagan administration who opposed the tilt toward Iraq in the war with Iran,’ referring to the U.S. sharing of intelligence and arms with Saddam Hussein’s forces.” (Idem.)

12. “The reaction at Monterey to Webb’s speech might have surprised Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who has led the administration’s charge on Iraq. ‘His reputation may be controversial, but a lot of things he said we tend to agree with,’ said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Paul Tanks, a graduate student in space systems operations.” (Idem.)

13. Collier goes on to describe the significance of the reaction Webb received. The Naval Postgraduate School is a very important institution. “The Naval Postgraduate School, at least in civilian circles, does not have the name recognition of military institutions like West Point. But it is a premier school for the U.S. armed services, giving master’s and Ph.D. degrees to mid-level officers of the Navy and other branches. About one-quarter of its student body is foreign, from the armed forces of 45 nations. Some departments, such as meteorology and computer science, rank with the best of U.S. civilian universities.” (Idem.)

14. The article goes on to make a very important point about the military, something generally not recognized by civilians. “‘The military is not monolithic,’ said John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis who was in the audience Thursday. ‘These are all military officers, they’re very sensible people, and Webb is a very, very thoughtful guy.’ Arquilla, like Webb, is one of the military’s critical thinkers, an oft-quoted expert on what he calls ‘network theory’-studying decentralized organizations like al Qaeda.” (Idem.)

15. Arquilla goes on to echo Webb’s view. “‘Iraq is a terrible detour from what we ought to be doing,’ Arquilla said. ‘The real threat is from the al Qaeda network. Saddam is a minimal threat to us. He knows if he uses any of his weapons of mass destruction against us or our allies, we’re going to nuke him into glass, but if al Qaeda uses them, what are we going to retaliate against? Whom do we target?’ Arquilla explained that many students agree with Webb. Military officers, he said, are far from the hard-line, uncritical followers that most civilians think they are.'” (Idem.)

16. “‘Most of my students are in special operations, they want to be challenged, they are off-design thinkers by nature,’ Arquilla said. ‘Overall, military officers have a great openness of mind. There’s a great capacity for innovative thinking. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve done a lot, they come here at mid-career. Now we’re getting many who are rotating out of Afghanistan. This isn’t like four-star generals who are just thinking how to protect their conventional force structures.'” (Idem.)

17. One of the considerations that may have influenced the thinking of some of the military and intelligence critics of the Bush administration’s Iraq policy is Saddam’s acquisition of a powdered chemical agent called Aerosil. This agent (manufactured by the Degussa chemical company of Germany), could cause enormous casualties among U.S. troops in Iraq. It might be given to terrorist elements if Bush proceeds with an invasion of Iraq. Many U.S. intelligence analysts, including officers of the CIA, believe that Saddam’s equipping of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction is more probable if the U.S. invades. One of the possibilities to be borne in mind concerns the manipulation of the various forces in this confrontation by the Underground Reich-present in the Al Qaeda network, the Bush administration, Iraq, the PLO and the Israeli right-wing. “Iraqi scientists know how to make chemical weapons that can penetrate military protective clothing, and Iraq imported up to 25 metric tons last month of a powder that is a crucial ingredient to such ‘dusty’ weapons. Iraq told the United Nations the powder was destined for a pharmaceutical company that a former weapons inspector says was ordered by President Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Persian Gulf War to work on chemical and biological weapons. The powder, sold under the brand name Aerosil, has particles so small that, when coated with deadly poisons, can pass through the tiniest gaps in protective suits.” (“Iraq Chem Threat-New Weapon: Poison Dust Penetrates Gear” by Matt Kelly [AP]; The San Francisco Examiner; 11/18/2002; p. 5A.)

18. It is worth noting that one of the agents potentially contemplated in connection with Aerosil is VX. It appears that the Al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan (controlled by the Al Qaeda network) actually was producing chemical weapons-specifically a “binary” version of VX. “If Iraq made and used a powdered form of its deadliest nerve agent, VX, it could kill U.S. troops dressed in full protective gear, according to a 1990 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment. Although the military’s protective suits have been improved since then, experts say dusty weapons could penetrate the new suits. . . The 1990 DIA document said soldiers could protect themselves by throwing rain ponchos over their chemical suits, which would reduce the fatality risk to near zero. One expert wrote later: ‘One gets the sense that this was recommended in the fact of few other options.'” (Idem.)

19. “The researcher, Eric Croddy of the private Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said dusty VX would be a serious danger to U.S. troops. VX is so toxic that, in its liquid form, a drop on the skin can kill within minutes. ‘The effects of dusty VX, depending on how it gets in the body, would be somewhat faster,’ Croddy said. ‘It’s certainly much more injurious and much more of a severe threat.'” (Idem.)

20. “Dusty chemical weapons are formed by mixing a liquid chemical agent with a fine powder to coat the powder’s tiny particles with the deadly poison. The particles’ small size allows them to pass through the fabric of a protective suit and any tiny gaps around the seal of a gas mask. The latest U.S. military protective suits have a layer of charcoal in the fabric to trap any poisons that might penetrate the outer covering, but particles small enough could pass through even the charcoal layer. . .” (Idem.)

21. “The poisonous powder also would settle in the tiniest nooks and crannies of buildings and equipment, making decontamination extremely difficult. VX in its liquid form already is a decontamination challenge; the sticky poison is persistent and cannot be neutralized easily with substances such as bleach. Even if dusty chemical weapons caused no U.S. casualties, they could force American soldiers to work in clumsy protective gear, decontaminate their equipment and avoid contaminated areas, giving Iraqi soldiers time to mount defenses.” (Idem.)

22. As if that wasn’t scary enough, Aerosil may have been used in the (as yet unsolved) anthrax attacks in the United States. It is Mr. Emory’s view that the Underground Reich was behind the anthrax attacks. “A significant number of scientists and biological warfare experts are expressing skepticism about the FBI’s view that a single disgruntled American scientist prepared the spores and mailed the deadly anthrax letters that killed five people last year. These sources say that making a weaponized aerosol of such sophistication and virulence would require scientific knowledge, technical competence, access to expensive equipment and safety know-how that are probably beyond the capabilities of a lone individual. . .” (“FBI’s Theory on Anthrax Is Doubted: Attacks Not Likely Work of One Person, Experts Say” by Guy Gugliotta and Gary Matsumoto; Washington Post; 10/28/2002; p. A1.)

23. Assessing the possibility that Aerosil may have been used in the anthrax attacks, the program notes that experts believe that two main possibilities exist for the type of agent used in the attacks-“fumed silica.” “Fumed silica has myriad uses, mostly as a thickening agent in products including ceramics, house paint, toothpaste and cosmetics. It is not widely known as an aerosol additive. ‘If you’re going to put it into the lung, there has to be a mechanism to clear it, otherwise you just fill up somebody’s lung with silica after repeated dosing,’ said [Richard] Dalby, of the Aerosol Lab. The anthrax mailer, he noted, obviously wasn’t worried about giving his victims silicosis.” (Ibid.; p. 4.)

24. “Some fumed silicas are extremely difficult to make, but at least two-Aerosil and Cab-O-Sil-are readily available and sold commercially in bulk. Either product, in theory, could be used to coat anthrax spores. Aerosil is based in Germany and Cab-O-Sil, in Boston. Both firms have offices around the world.” (Idem.)

25. The Banca del Gottardo (affiliated, in turn, with Al Taqwa, Al Qaeda and the Banco Ambrosiano scandal) also had connections with the former Soviet biological weapons program. In that context, it is interesting to contemplate the use of Aerosil by that program. “Ken Alibek, a former deputy director of the Soviet bioweapons program now running an Alexandria biotechnology firm, said the Soviets used Aerosil in agent powders, and a classified Defense Department memo in 1991 said Iraq had ‘imported approximately 100MT [metric tons] of Aerosil during the last 8-9 years.'” (Idem.)

26. It is interesting and possibly very significant that the manufacturer of Aerosil is Degussa, the former I.G. Farben subsidiary that made the Zyklon B in World War II. Note, in particular, the role of a Degussa subsidiary in arming Iraq with its weapons of mass destruction. Degussa is also among the defendants in a suit by veterans of the Persian Gulf War. See FTR#87.) The Degussa subsidiary that makes Aerosil is “Aerosil & Silanes.”)

27. Degussa’s best-known product was the Zyklon B used in the concentration camps during World War II. One of the principal propaganda documents used by the Nazis to realize their agenda was the anti-Semitic forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. The document has achieved a remarkable degree of circulation in the Middle East. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Egyptian state television has shown a long, made for TV series called “A Rider without a Horse.” That series is based on the Protocols. One of the few Arab voices to be raised against this was a Palestinian business consultant, Qais S. Saleh. “Broadcasting during Ramadan nearly guarantees audiences in the tens of millions, and widespread coverage on efforts to ban it only widened its appeal. A real danger is that there has been a trend in Arab societies toward visual inputs of information, where satellite TV programs sometimes serve as the only conduit of information to the Arab family. The main reason why we as Arabs should reject this program and the text it uses is that is an imported piece of anti-Semitic bigotry that was forged in one of the darkest chapters in European history.” (“The Road to Imported Bigotry” by Qais S. Saleh; The San Francisco Examiner; 11/14/2002; p. 19A.) Amen.

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