Powell’s Fairy Tales: Puerile and Patronising

The “evidence” which was presented to the United Nations Security Council today by Colin Powell was a miscellany of obscure recordings which were misinterpreted by the US Secretary of State and risible satellite photographs which bore a strange resemblance to those which had been taken in Afghanistan two years before.

Colin Powell described the snippets of conversation and cloudy satellite pictures as “solid evidence” that Iraq was in breach of UN SC Resolution 1441 and that this created the grounds for “serious consequences” to be applied.

He began by playing two recordings of conversations between Iraqi officials speaking about sites to be inspected by the UNMOVIC team. In one, the Iraqi claimed “We don’t have anything left”, interpreted by Colin Powell, to quote, “It was not around” when the inspectors came. There is a subtle and unsubstantiated insinuation in Powell’s remark, this being that the material had been removed. Or destroyed, in accordance with the provisions of the UN Resolution but this hypothesis was systematically ignored by the head of US diplomacy throughout his arrogant, forbearing and bullying intervention.

In the second recording, a Republican Guard received a message from an official which stated “There is a possibility that there is by chance forbidden ammo” in the compound. Colin Powell interpreted this as a message to “evacuate it” because there was a “presence of weapons of mass destruction”.

Not so. The Iraqi message could have involved anything from out-of-date shells, and we do not know whether the subject of this conversation was the cache of obsolete arms that the inspectors found lying under three years of bird excrement, to banned components. It does not automatically mean that weapons of mass destruction are involved as Colin Powell so simplistically and childishly tried to state.

The fact that Colin Powell was trying so obviously to find links where there were none, does nothing to further the notion that the Bush administration believes in the UNO as a forum of debate. Instead, it lends weight to the belief that the United States of America prefers to ride roughshod over the rest of the international community, as has long been suspected.

The next piece of “solid intelligence” was a series of reports that weapons of mass destruction were being hidden in homes or moved around the countryside in cars, or in trucks under palm trees. It is patently evident that Colin Powell, or the speechwriter, does not understand the complicated, delicate systems which compose the high-tech weaponry of today. These are not shields and spears that can be slung into the back of a truck and carted off across the desert. Colin Powell did not back up this claim with any source of evidence and as such, it is no more than hearsay and gossip, making the US Secretary of State no more than a cheap guttersnipe.

“Solid Intelligence” was supposed to be corroborated by many sources, including intelligence agencies of other countries. Again, the sources were never mentioned. If these sources were the cream of world intelligence agencies which allowed the 11th September to happen on Colin Powell’s doorstep, perhaps it would have been more plausible to leave them out of what was supposed to be a serious report.

Interspersed with interjections such as “Tell me! Answer me!” seeming as if he were addressing a convention of boy scouts, showing an utter disrespect for his colleagues on the UN Security Council, Powell went on to back up his evidence with puerile remarks such as “We know from evidence”, without ever substantiating what.

The greatest guffaw is the satellite pictures. True, Colin Powell had said before he introduced them, that they were very difficult to interpret and that experts had spent hours poring over them. In other words, in a sickeningly patronising tone, he was saying “These are so difficult to understand but I will tell you how to interpret them”, as if his misinterpretations of the recordings were a sound precedent.

Evidently, if it took experts hours and hours to discern what they were looking at, the photographs serve as nothing regarding “solid evidence”, making the presentation of these images ludicrous. Obscure rectangular buildings were then shown, looking suspiciously like those taken over Afghanistan, which Colin Powell referred to as “one of the chemical bunkers” and then vehicles, “decontamination vehicles” or “vehicles to move missiles”. Previous claims that WMD was being produced at a similar-looking building, which was subsequently inspected, turned out to be wrong: the building was a production facility for powdered baby milk.

One facility, he claimed, was cleaned out on 22nd December, so that when the weapons inspectors arrived, there was nothing to find. Surely they had equipment to check whether or not there were vestiges of chemical or biological weapons. It is simply not possible to load such substances into plastic bags, chuck them onto the backs of lorries and speed them off to fight the elements under some palm tree.

Risibly, and here is the cherry on the cake, immediately after pointing out that “trucks arrived to move more missiles”, Powell stated “We don’t know precisely what Iraq is moving”.

This presentation of “hard evidence” is a tissue of lies, gossip, misinterpretation, cynical manoeuvring and possibly even misrepresentation, aimed at providing a case for a war against Iraq. The UN Security Council is not a kindergarten or a scout camp. The international community is not a class of primary school pupils to be lectured in this way by an incompetent teacher. Were this the case, Colin Powell would be the one to have a donkey’s tail pinned to his trousers when he turned around to illustrate his great case against Iraq.

If people believe this report, they will believe that there are fairies at the end of the garden. Colin Powell has managed to allow himself and his image descend from a respected world-class diplomat to some sort of confused, rambling and unconvincing Peter Pan.


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