-by Sam Husseini
Here’s a letter that was sent to Rob Reiner in April 2016. At the time, he was directing the film Shock and Awe which would be released the following year.
Dear Rob Reiner,
I’ve of course enjoyed your work over the years.
I recently tweeted “Finally saw The Big Short. Good. Sure they’ll produce a film about folks who were right about Iraq wmds any decade now.”
Immediately, a couple of McClatchy reporters I know responded, tweeting that you are working on Shock and Awe.
At the Institute for Public Accuracy, we got a lot of critical information out scrutinizing claims regarding alleged Iraq WMDs from 2002-03 and I thought you’d be interested in learning of it.
A sample: in October, 2002, John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, noted on one of our news releases: “Recently, Bush cited an IAEA report that Iraq was ‘six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.’ The IAEA responded that not only was there no new report, ‘there’s never been a report’ asserting that Iraq was six months away from constructing a nuclear weapon.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg of what was knowable at the time. See other such news releases we put out from before the invasion: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit” and “Bush’s War Case: Fiction vs. Facts at Accuracy.org/bush” and “U.S. Credibility Problems” and “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”
Something of a mythology developed after the invasion that “now we know” that Bush lied. That itself was false. It was knowable before the invasion that the Bush administration was putting forward falsehoods.
Like The Big Short, different people were reaching the same conclusion– the Iraq war case was based on lies– from different angles before the war. Knight-Ridder was doing their work and we were doing ours. They had internal anonymous sources, we dealt with things in the public record, but made the effort to seriously scrutinize the claims.
We also got delegations to Iraq lead by our executive director, Norman Solomon: One with the actor Sean Penn, another with former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, yet another with former Sen. James Abourezk and Rep. Nick Rahall (Iraq allowed the inspectors– which had been withdrawn during the Clinton administration– back in Iraq just after that delegation urged them to do so.)
One trip we’d planned, that would have done the most to address the WMD issue, was with former WMD inspector Scott Ritter. However, just before the trip, news leaked that he was accused of interacting online with sexual content with under aged girls. So that trip never happened.
Many critical aspects of the Iraq war lies have never seriously been dealt with. For example, lots of people who voted against authorizing war still claimed that Iraq had WMDs, effectively helping the case for war while voting against it. One was Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. I questioned her about that after the invasion. Virtually the entire upper echelon of Obama’s foreign policy team backed the Iraq invasion, the 23 senators who voted against it were effectively iced out. Here’s a news release we did in 2013 on Kerry claiming he was opposed to the Iraq war.
Some who went the last mile to expose the war lies were never meaningfully acknowledge. Katharine Gun, who worked with British intelligence, leaked a memo from the NSA ordering a surge of spying at the UN to help obtain a second UN resolution authorizing the invasion– presumably by attempting to get info to blackmail or bully other Security Council members. U.S. officials had said there would be a second UN resolution, but this leak helped block that. After the war, we organized an effort to prevent the British government from prosecuting Gun under their official secrets act. I wrote a piece looking back on this case in 2014.
Another aspect that’s still poorly understood is the role of torture in producing the case for war. It’s a liberal mantra that “torture doesn’t work” but that’s not really true. It does work– to produce false but useful (dis)information. For example, Ibn Shaykh al-Libi was tortured by the Mubarak regime into falsely “confessing” that Iraq was tied to Al-Qaeda and was helping it to obtain chemical and biological weapons. That claim ended up in Colin Powell’s UN speech before the Iraq invasion. Powell’s chief of staff Larry Wilkerson has since written about this fairly forthrightly. I questioned Powell about this in 2009, but he was still refusing to admit meaningful wrongdoing. See a piece of mine: “‘Both Sides’ Are Wrong: Torture Did Work– to Produce Lies for War.”
There’s obviously a lot more I could go into– I’d been tracking Iraq fairly closely through out the 1990s, including Clinton administration deceits around its strikes and the perpetual sanctions policy Bill Clinton tragically adopted from the first Bush administration as he came into office.
Here’s a Washington Post op-ed I wrote in 1999: “Twisted Policy on Iraq.” Unfortunately, such media were incredibly closed after 9/11– up top is a video of Bill O’Reilly cutting my microphone two days after 9/11.
Certainly, I don’t doubt that one could do a 20-hour documentary and not get at all the deceit around the Iraq invasion. There was a staggering amount of fabrication from the Bush administration and so many foibles from the antiwar movement and other quarters. But I’d be very happy to help in making your effort as meaningful and compelling as possible.