News Release

Colin Powell’s Infamous U.N. Speech, 10 Years Later: Deceiving Public, Ignoring Whistleblowers Led to War

NORMAN SOLOMON, [email]
Founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and author of War Made Easy, Solomon just wrote the piece “Ten Years After Powell’s U.N. Speech, Old Hands Are Ready for More Blood,” which states: “When Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to the U.N. Security Council on February 5, 2003, countless journalists in the United States extolled him for a masterful performance — making the case that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The fact that the speech later became notorious should not obscure how easily truth becomes irrelevant in the process of going to war. … The New York Times editorialized that Powell ‘was all the more convincing because he dispensed with apocalyptic invocations of a struggle of good and evil and focused on shaping a sober, factual case against Mr. Hussein’s regime.’ The Washington Post was more war-crazed, headlining its editorial ‘Irrefutable’ and declaring that after Powell’s U.N. presentation ‘it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.’

“Yet basic flaws in Powell’s U.N. speech were abundant. Slanted translations of phone intercepts rendered them sinister. Interpretations of unclear surveillance photos stretched to concoct the worst. Summaries of cherry-picked intelligence detoured around evidence that Iraq no longer had WMDs. Ballyhooed documents about an Iraqi quest for uranium were forgeries.”

“Assumptions about U.S. prerogatives also went largely unquestioned. In response to Powell’s warning that the U.N. Security Council would place itself ‘in danger of irrelevance’ by failing to endorse a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the adulation from U.S. media embraced the notion that the United Nations could only be ‘relevant’ by bending to Washington’s wishes. A combination of cooked intelligence and geopolitical arrogance, served up to rapturous reviews at home, set the stage for what was to come. …

“A decade ago, Colin Powell played a starring role in a recurring type of political dramaturgy. Scripts vary, while similar dramas play out on smaller scales. The new secretary of state, John Kerry — like the one he just replaced, Hillary Clinton — voted for the Iraq war resolution in the Senate, nearly four months before Powell went to the U.N. Security Council.”

GLEN RANGWALA, [email]
Rangwala is University Lecturer and fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University in England. While many spent the time after the invasion of Iraq claiming “now we know Bush lied,” Rangwala was among the analysts the Institute for Public Accuracy turned to during the build-up for war who noted the official falsehoods in real time — before the invasion. The day after Powell’s speech, it was lauded by Susan Rice (now U.S. ambassador to the U.N.) on NPR: “I think he [then Secretary of State Colin Powell] has proved that Iraq has these weapons and is hiding them, and I don’t think many informed people doubted that.” The same day, an IPA release quoted Rangwala: “Powell claimed that UNMOVIC head ‘Dr. Blix pronounced the 12,200-page declaration rich in volume but poor in information and practically devoid of new evidence.’ … In fact, Blix has said that ‘In the fields of missiles and biotechnology, the declaration contains a good deal of new material and information covering the period from 1998 and onward. This is welcome.’” The following day, IPA featured Randwala on another news release titled “Powell Cited Sham ‘Fine Paper’.”

During the same period, an IPA analysis of Bush’s State of the Union Address quoted Rangwala debunking several of Bush’s claims, for example: “The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax.” Rangwala: “This is just plain wrong. Anthrax spores produced in 1990 were in liquid slurry form. They would have deteriorated markedly by the mid-1990s.”

RAY McGOVERN, [email]
McGovern is a veteran CIA analyst and recently wrote the piece “When Truth Tried to Stop War,” which states: “Ten years ago, Katharine Gun, then a 28-year-old British intelligence officer, saw an e-mailed memo from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) that confirmed for her in black and white the already widespread suspicion that the U.S. and U.K. were about to launch war against Iraq on false pretenses.

“Doing what she could to head off what she considered, correctly, an illegal war of aggression, she printed a copy of the memo and arranged for a friend to give it to the London Observer. ‘I have always ever followed my conscience,’ she said, explaining what drove her to take such a large risk.

“Those early months of 2003 were among the worst of times — and not just because the U.S. and U.K. leaders were perverting the post-World War II structure that those same nations designed to stop aggressive wars, but because the vast majority of U.S. and U.K. institutions including the major news organizations and the nations’ legislatures were failing miserably to provide any meaningful check or balance.

“On Jan. 31, 2003, NSA’s Frank Koza, head of ‘Regional Targets’ (RT) sent a ‘HIGH-Importance,’ Top Secret email to Britain’s NSA counterpart, GCHQ, where Katharine Gun worked. The email asked that British eavesdroppers emulate NSA’s ‘surge’ in electronic collection against Security Council members ‘for insights … [on] plans to vote on any Iraq-related resolutions … the whole gamut of information that could give U.S. policymakers an edge in obtaining results favorable to U.S. goals or to head off surprises. … [T]hat means a … surge effort to revive/create efforts against UNSC members Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria and Guinea, as well as extra focus on Pakistan U.N. matters.’ Koza’s ‘surge’ instruction left no doubt in Gun’s mind that Bush and Blair were hell-bent to have their war – legal or illegal … As Gun explained later to Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, authors of The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War, she calculated that if people could see how desperate Bush and Blair were to have an appearance of legitimacy for war, ‘Their eyes would be opened; they would see that the intention was not to disarm Saddam but in fact to go to war.’

“The report shook the government of Tony Blair and caused consternation on several continents. In the U.S., however, it was not a big story. For The New York Times, whose editors were either cheering on false articles about Iraq’s WMD or going into a self-protective career crouch, it was no story at all.” McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. During his career as a CIA analyst, he prepared and gave the President’s Daily Brief and chaired National Intelligence Estimates.

For more, see: “The Katherine Gun Case”