Our Government Has Already
"We were told that Iraqi troops were massing at the Saudi border. And these satellite photographs were shown to the Saudi leadership, to get them to change their mind and allow US troops to enter their country.
Well it turned out that those satellite photos were fake. They never existed. The story was broken in the St. Petersburg Times some months later. And it was something that people were convinced of because we were told it was satellite photographs"- Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies
There was virtual unanimous acceptance by the media of the allegedly enormous manpower behind Saddam's territorial ambition. Only the St. Petersburg Times, a well-respected Florida daily under independent ownership, challenged the government line. In a top-of-front-page story published on Sunday, January 6, Washington bureau reporter Jean Heller reported that satellite photos of the border between southern Kuwait and Saudi Arabia taken on September 11 and 13, 1990, by a Soviet company revealed "no evidence of a massive Iraqi presence in Kuwait in September. . . ." "A number" of American news organizations had bought the same pictures (see article below) and shown them to various experts, [satellite imagery expert Peter] Zimmerman said, and "all of us agreed that we couldn't see anything in the way of military activity in the pictures." But again cautiousness overcame curiosity among the media.( from footnotes to Understanding Power)
Published on Sunday, January 5, 2003 by the Los Angeles Times:
The Lies We Are Told About Iraq
by Victor Marshall
OAKLAND -- The Bush administration's confrontation with Iraq is as much a contest of credibility as it is of military force. Washington claims that Baghdad harbors ambitions of aggression, continues to develop and stockpile weapons of mass destruction and maintains ties to Al Qaeda. Lacking solid evidence, the public must weigh Saddam Hussein's penchant for lies against the administration's own record. Based on recent history, that's not an easy choice.
The first Bush administration, which featured Dick Cheney, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Colin L. Powell at the Pentagon, systematically misrepresented the cause of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the nature of Iraq's conduct in Kuwait and the cost of the Persian Gulf War. Like the second Bush administration, it cynically used the confrontation to justify a more expansive and militaristic foreign policy in the post-Vietnam era.
When Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the first President Bush likened it to Nazi Germany's occupation of the Rhineland. "If history teaches us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms," he declared. The administration leaked reports that tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were massing on the border of Saudi Arabia in preparation for an invasion of the world's major oil fields. The globe's industrial economies would be held hostage if Iraq succeeded.
The reality was different. Two Soviet satellite photos obtained by the St. Petersburg Times raised questions about such a buildup of Iraqi troops. Neither the CIA nor the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia as probable. The administration's estimate of Iraqi troop strength was also grossly exaggerated. After the war, Newsday's Susan Sachs called Iraq the "phantom enemy": "The bulk of the mighty Iraqi army, said to number more than 500,000 in Kuwait and southern Iraq, couldn't be found."
Students of the Gulf War largely agree that Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was primarily motivated by specific historical grievances, not by Hitler-style ambitions. Like most Iraqi rulers before him, Hussein refused to accept borders drawn by Britain after World War I that virtually cut Iraq off from the Gulf. Iraq also chafed at Kuwait's demand that Iraq repay loans made to it during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Administration officials seemed to understand all this. In July 1990, U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad April Glaspie told Hussein that Washington had "no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait," a statement she later regretted.
The National Security Council's first meeting after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was equally low key. As one participant reportedly put it, the attitude was, "Hey, too bad about Kuwait, but it's just a gas station -- and who cares whether the sign says Sinclair or Exxon?"
But administration hawks, led by Cheney, saw a huge opportunity to capitalize on Iraq's move against Kuwait. The elder Bush publicly pronounced, "a line has been drawn in the sand," and he called for a "new world order ... free from the threat of terror." His unstated premise, as noted by National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, was that the United States "henceforth would be obligated to lead the world community to an unprecedented degree" as it attempted "to pursue our national interests."
The administration realized that a peaceful solution to the crisis would undercut its grand ambitions. The White House torpedoed diplomatic initiatives to end the crisis, including a compromise, crafted by Arab leaders, to let Iraq annex a small slice of Kuwait and withdraw. To justify war with Hussein, the Bush administration condoned a propaganda campaign on Iraqi atrocities in Kuwait. Americans were riveted by a 15-year-old Kuwaiti so-called refugee's eyewitness accounts of Iraqi soldiers yanking newborn babies out of hospital incubators in Kuwait, leaving them on a cold floor to die.
The public didn't know that the eyewitness was the daughter of Kuwait's ambassador to the United States, and that her congressional testimony was reportedly arranged by public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and paid for by Kuwait as part of its campaign to bring the United States into war.
To this day, most people regard Operation Desert Storm as remarkably clean, marked by the expert use of precision weapons to minimize "collateral damage." While American TV repeatedly broadcast pictures of cruise missiles homing in on their targets, the Pentagon quietly went about a campaign of carpet bombing. Of the 142,000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait in 43 days, only about 8% were of the "smart" variety.
The indiscriminate targeting of Iraq's civilian infrastructure left the country in ruins. A United Nations mission in March 1991 described the allied bombing of Iraq as "near apocalyptic" and said it threatened to reduce "a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society ... to a preindustrial age." Officially, the U.S. military listed only 79 American soldiers killed in action, plus 59 members of allied forces.
A subsequent demographic study by the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that Iraq probably suffered 145,000 dead -- 40,000 military and 5,000 civilian deaths during the war and 100,000 postwar deaths because of violence and health conditions. The war also produced more than 5 million refugees. Subsequent sanctions were estimated to have killed more than half a million Iraqi children, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and other international bodies.
The Gulf War amply demonstrated the merit of two adages: "War is hell" and "Truth is the first casualty." To date, nothing suggests that a second Gulf War would prove any less costly to truth or humans.
Victor Marshall, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, a public policy group, is the author of "To Have and Have Not: Southeast Asian Raw Materials and the Origins of the Pacific War."
Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times
National media ignored the St. Petersburg Times story, the Department of Defense was asked to provide evidence that would contradict satellite evidence obtained by the St. Petersburg Times, it refused to do so.
How Washington manufactured a war crisis
The Baghdad Observer
8/5/1996, No. 8534
Baghdad, by Huda M. al-Yassiri
The Gulf war reporting gave evidence that American news consumers were gulled by false reports. The reporting on this matter has been almost completelly one-sided consisting of the admonitions of self-interested. Absent from the reports is hard information from disinterested sources.
Late in January, Channel 4 of the British TV broadcast a documentary showing how American news consumers were dazzled and deluded by manipulators of satellite photos of Kuwait taken five weeks after August 1990 to justify the deployment of US troops to Saudi Arabia, al-Jumhuriya daily newspaper reported.
In a news item published on its January 20 issue, the daily said the documentary reveals the role of the Amercan advertising company, Nolton, in fabricating and airing stories on Iraqi troops that were said to be massing on the Saudi border and that claimed to be constituting the possible threat to Saudi Arabia to justify the massive deployment of US troops to the Gulf.
The British daily newspaper, The Guardian, has also published a reportage on the documentary showing its production process and revealing departments and parties that involved in the ploy.
On February 27, 1991, an article appeared in "In These Times" telling how typical consumer of mainstream news dazzled and deluded by the manipulators of images.
The article, "Public doesn't get picture with Gulf satellite photos," said when president George Bush began his massive deployment of American troops to the Gulf in August 1990, he claimed that Iraq, which had just entered Kuwait, had set its sights on Saudi Arabia. On september 11, 1990, Bush addressed a joint session of Congress, saying, "We gather tonight witness to events in the Gulf as significant as they are tragic. 120.000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia".
On January 6, 1991, however, Jean Heller reported in the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times that satellite photos taken the same day the president Bush addressed Congress failed to back up his claim of an imminent Iraqi threat. In fact, there was no sign of a massive Iraqi troops buildup in Kuwait.
Heller told "In These Times," The troops that were said to be massing on the Saudi border and that constituted the possible threat to Saudi Arabia that justified the US sending of troops do not show up in these photographs. And when the Department of Defense was asked to provide evidence that would contradict our satellite evidence, it refused to do it".
But the national media has chosen to ignore Heller's story. St. Petersburg Times editors approached the Associated Press twice about running her story on the wire, but to no avail. Likewise, the Scripps-Howard news service, of which-the St. Petersburg Times is a member, chose not to distribute the story.
"I think part of the reason the story was ignored was that it was published too close to the start of the war," says Heller. "Second, and more importantly, I do not think people wanted to hear that we might have been deceived. A lot of the reporters who have seen the story think it is dynamite, but the editors who have seen it seem to have the attitude. "At this point, who cares? If the war ends badly with a lot of casualities, more than the administration had led us to expect, you might hear of this story again".
Heller said in her story that Soviet satellite photos taken five weeks after August 2, 1990 suggest that the Bush administration might have exaggerated the scope of Iraq's military threat to Saudi Arabia at the time.
The photos are not conclusive proof that the administration overestimated Iraq's buildup along the Saudi border, a buildup that was cited as a justification for the deployment of US troops. But two American satellite imaging experts who examined the photos could find no evidence of a massive Iraqi presence in Kuwait in September 1990.
"The Pentagon kept saying, the Iraqi troops were there, but we do not see anything to indicate an Iraqi force in Kuwait of even 20 per cent the size the administration claimed," said Peter Zimmerman, who served with the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency during the Reagan administration.
A Soviet commercial satellite took a photo of Saudi Arabia on September 11, 1990 and a photo of Kuwait on September 13. At the time, the Defense Department was estimating there were as many as 250.000 Iraqi troops and 1.500 tanks in Kuwait. The photos were obtained by the St. Petersburg Times in late December 1990.
The Times informed the Defense Department of the results of the photo analysis in early January, 1991, and asked to see evidence that would support the official US estimate of the Iraqi buildup. Spokesman Bob Hall turned down the request.
"We have given conservative estimates of Iraqi numbers based on various intelligence resources, and those are the numbers we stand by," Hall said.
The mystery surrounding the numbers of Iraqi troops first surfaced in November, 1990, after ABC News purchased several Soviet satellite photos of Kuwait taken on September 13, 1990 and could find no evidence of large numbers of Iraqi troops.
ABC officials decided not to air the photos because they did not include the strategically important area of southern Kuwait. Without seeing that territory, ABC officials said, they could draw on conclusions about what they were seeing - or not seeing.
The Times bought the missing photos of Kuwait, as well as a photo of part of Saudi Arabia, from Soyuz-Karta, a Soviet commercial satellite agency that sells pictures worldwide for such purposes as geological studies and energy exploration. The cost was $ 1.500 a photo.
The Times retained two satellite image specialists to interpret the photos: Zimmerman, a nuclear physicist who now is a professor of engineering at George Washington University in Washington D.C, and a former image specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) who asked not to be named because of the classified nature of his work.
While Iraqi troops cannot be seen, it is easy to spot the extensive American military presence at the Dhahran Airport in Saudi Arabia.
"We could see five C-141s one C5A and four smaller transport aircraft, probably C-130s," said Zimmerman. "There is also a long line of fighters, F-111s or F-15s on the ground. In the middle of the airfield are what could be camouflaged staging areas.
"We did not find anything of that sort anywhere in Kuwait. We do not see any tent cities, we do not see congregations of tanks, we do not see troops concentrations, and the main kuwaiti air base appears deserted. It's five weeks after August 2, 1990, and what we can see, the Iraqi air force has not flown a single fighter to the most strategic air base in Kuwait.
There is no infrastructure to support large numbers of (military) people. They have to use toilets, or the functional equivalent. They have to have food. They have to have water at the rate of several gallons per man per day. They have to have shelter. But where is it?".
The former DIN specialist agreed: "I simply did not see what I expected to see. There should be revetments - three sided berms with vehicles inside facing the anticipated direction of attack. There should be trenches. But they are not there".
Both analysts say there are several possible explanations for their inability to spot Iraqi forces.
The troops could have been so well camouflaged that they were hidden from the Soviet cameras. However, Zimmerman said that would be a departure from Iraq's strategy during its war with Iran in the 1980s when virtually no effort was made to hide military positions. Both analysts recall seeing Iraqi troops deployments during that war on poorer images from the French SPOT satellite.
It's also possible that the troops were so widely dispersed that the satellite could not "See" them because its cameras could not resolve images smaller than five meters, or about 16 feet, across. Or it might be that glare from the sun on the Kuwaiti sand smudged out troops images, although images taken over Saudi Arabia appear un affected by glare.
Another possibility is that the Soviets deliberatelly or accidently produced a photo taken before August 2, that is before Iraqi troops entering Kuwait.
"We have to take on faith that the image is what the Soviet say it is," Zimmerman said. "I think that is reasonable assumption, because they would not have a motive to misrepresent it, and if they did mis- represent it and the word got out, they would never sell another picture to anybody.
"We are willing to concede, at least for purposes of argument, that it is not impossible that all Iraqi activity is blow the level of resolution. But if there were tent cities, if there were bunkers, if these were staging, supply and maintenance areas, we find it really hard to believe that we missed them".
On September 18, 1990 only days after the Soviet photos were taken, the Pentagon said Iraqi forces in and around Kuwait had grown to 360.000 men and 2.800 tanks, a move of troops and equipment sizable enough to leave telltale marks on the landscape that should be visible by satellite.
In fact, the photo of southern Kuwait bought by The Times clearly shows the tracks left by vehicles that serviced a large oil field, but there are no indications of tank tracks.
Moreover, both analysts said all kuwaiti roads leading to the Saudi border were covered at intervals by deep deposits of windblown sand.
The sand cover is very extensive," the former DIA analyst said. "In many places, it goes on for 30 meters (about 100 feet) and more."
They would be passable by tank but not by personnel or supply vehicles," Zimmerman said. "Yet there's no sign that tanks have used those roads. And there is no evidence of new road being cut. By contrast, none of the roads we see in Saudi Arabia has any sand cover at all. They have been swept clear".
A satellite photo of the same area of kuwait on August 8, just a few days after Iraqi troops entered Kuwait, shows some sand cover on the roads, Zimmerman said, and the cover appeared to be less extensive, suggesting that it continued to build up over the next month.
"It certainly indicates that nobody's been driving over them and that the (Iragi) military has not bothered to clear them for traffic, he said". Asked if the Defense Department officials could dispel the mystery created by the Soviet photos, Pentagon spokesman Hall replied: "There is no mystery as far as we are concerned. They (the Iraqi troops) are there. We would like it to remain a mystery what our intelligence capabilities are. We are not going to make our intelli- gence public".
Rep. Charles Bennett of Jacksonville, the No.2 Democrat on the House of Armed Services Committee, told the St. Petersburg Times: "We have had evidence in the sense that we have had testimony about what the situation was back in September, but I have seen no photographic evidence to back up the administration's claim".
(also see this flyer)
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