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

Lis­ten:
MP3 One Seg­ment [1]
RealAu­dio [2]

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 [3]-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 [4] 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.