1-3 VOICES FROM THE WILDERNESS (Anti-War Activists in Iraq) 4 MEDIA ADVISORY: Iraq’s Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact (FAIR) Job of inspectors-not Pentagon- is to find and destroy weapons, but media is cheerleader for war 1. CRUCIAL DAYS AHEAD BY KATHY KELLY January 30, 2003 BAGHDAD – Nine of us arrived in Baghdad close to midnight last night. This is my twentieth trip to Iraq since our campaign began in 1996. “After the first trip, the novelty wears off,” joked Thorne Anderson, as we waited several hours to clear the Jordanian and Iraq borders. But a novel sadness awaited us as we entered a country on the verge of being attacked. At breakfast, several hotel workers whom I’ve known for years greeted me warmly and then asked, timidly, “There will be a war?” Another friend had a more dire view. “They are going to kill us,” he said, matter-of-factly. We began our day at a press conference held by the Center for Economic and Social Rights during which international scholars reported on the likelihood of catastrophic humanitarian crises in Iraq should the US decide to wage a new war here. Roger Normand, an international law scholar, insisted that human beings are entitled to protection under international law. Pentagon plans for high intensity bombardment in a comprehensive war would translate into severe and more intensified suffering for Iraq’s people. Hans von Sponeck, former UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, insisted that although the CESR team intended to create a data base for use in the event of evaluating effects of warfare, it is nevertheless crucial to assert that peace is still possible. “Iraqis want to turn a chapter in their history and prevent war,” said Mr. Von Sponeck. He will remain in Iraq for two more days, working to develop peace initiatives with other humanitarian groups and “high profile” individuals. Our team members have met for long hours working out various details, e.g., how to operate an emergency back-up generator, usage of the satellite phone that I carried in, emergency medical training, maintenance of files for individual declarations that, in the event of death, one prefers cremation rather than shipping a corpse back to the US. And a less dire list gives names of people who want to help set up an arts and crafts workshop for children hospitalized at a local cancer ward. “Maybe Monday, me and my family will make a well,” said Sattar, our driver, as we neared Baghdad. This afternoon, the desk manager at our hotel pointed toward the open lot where hired workers were installing a well for our use. “Will you have room for more of us?” I asked. “Yes, sure,” he joked, “we are making room on the rooftop.” It is too soon to answer our friends who ask if there will be a war, too soon to declare that war is inevitable. Crucial days ahead offer people throughout the world a momentous opportunity to prevent bloodshed and destruction. The novelty of such a triumph would never wear off. It could usher all of us toward the political maturity required to survive our shameful capacity for annihilation. For more dispatches from Iraq, see the “diaries” page at http://iraqpeaceteam.org 2. ON THE WEB: COMMUNITY OF RESISTANCE United For Peace www.unitedforpeace.org Iraq Pledge of Resistance www.peacepledge.org/resist/default.htm National Network to End the War Against Iraq www.endthewar.org International A.N.S.W.E.R. www.internationalanswer.org Not in Our Name www.notinourname.net 3. VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS UPDATE To get more up-to-date about the projects at the Voices office (Iraq Peace Team, Declaration 2002-03, the Mirror of Truth Tour, or speaking events, etc.), visit our websites. Voices in the Wilderness 1-773-784-8065 http://www.nonviolence.org/vitw 1460 West Carmen Ave Chicago IL 60640 **Please visit http://www.iraqpeaceteam.org 4. MEDIA ADVISORY: Iraq’s Hidden Weapons: From Allegation to Fact February 4, 2003 While teams of U.N. experts scouring Iraq have yet to find any hidden caches of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, some U.S. journalists seem to have already turned up their own smoking guns. Whether out of excess zeal or simple carelessness, the media’s intensive coverage of the U.N. inspections has repeatedly glided from reporting the allegation that Iraq is hiding banned weapons materials to repeating it as a statement of fact. “The Bush administration is seeking to derail plans by the chief U.N. weapons inspector to issue another report,” wrote the Washington Post’s Colum Lynch (1/16/03), “fearing it could delay the U.S. timetable for an early confrontation over Iraq’s banned weapons programs.” “Today Mr. Bush left it to his spokesman to answer critics who asked what precise threat Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction pose to America,” reported NBC White House correspondent David Gregory (NBC Nightly News, 1/27/03). Tony Blair, wrote Time’s Michael Elliot (2/3/03), has declared that “Britain’s troops will fight alongside their American counterparts if Washington judges that Saddam Hussein is not making a good-faith effort to disarm Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Clearly, however, it has not been demonstrated that Iraq continues to hold unconventional weapons, such as the chemical munitions it used in its war against Iran. (Iraq is barred from possessing or developing such weapons under the ceasefire agreement that ended the 1991 Gulf War.) On the contrary, the 1999 U.N. report that led to the establishment of UNMOVIC summarized the state of Iraq’s disarmament this way: “Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq’s proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated.” (The report was issued by the U.N. Security Council’s disarmament panel, whose members included senior UNSCOM officials, such as its American deputy executive director, Charles Duelfer.) Rolf Ekeus, who led UNSCOM from 1991 to 1997, agrees with that assessment: “I would say that we felt that in all areas we have eliminated Iraq’s capabilities fundamentally,” he told a May 2000 Harvard seminar (AP, 8/16/00), adding that “there are some question marks left.” Iraq’s failure to document its answers to those remaining “question marks” formed the basis of Hans Blix’s critical January 27 progress report to the U.N. But while Blix said he could not certify that all of the proscribed materials Iraq once possessed had been destroyed, neither did he find evidence that any remain. In private, some inspectors do not rule out the possibility that Iraq truly is free of banned weapons: “We haven’t found an iota of concealed material yet,” one unnamed UNMOVIC official told Los Angeles Times Baghdad correspondent Sergei Loiko (12/31/02), who added: “The inspector said his colleagues think it possible that Iraq really has eliminated its banned materials.” Yet some major news outlets seem to have made up their minds to the contrary. The Bush administration, according to CBS’s John Roberts (CBS Evening News, 12/29/02), is “threatening war against Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction,” while Dan Rather (CBS Evening News, 1/6/03) announced that “the CIA is being urged to make public more of its intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” In a piece about how the United States is winning the debate at the U.N. over Iraq, the New York Times (2/2/03) claimed that “nobody seriously expected Mr. Hussein to lead inspectors to his stash of illegal poisons or rockets, or to let his scientists tell all.” On January 27, CNN host Paula Zahn teased the network’s upcoming live coverage of the inspectors’ “highly anticipated progress report on the search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.” Through constant repetition of phrases like “the search for Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction,” the media convey to the public the impression that the alleged banned weapons on which the Bush administration rests its case for war are known to exist and that the question is simply whether inspectors are skillful enough to find them. In fact, whether or not Iraq possesses banned weapons is very much an open question, one which no publicly available evidence can answer one way or the other. As they routinely do in other cases, journalists should make a habit of using the modifier “alleged” when referring to Iraq’s alleged hidden weapons.