A Key British Official Reminds Us of the Forgotten Anthrax Attack

By Glenn Greenwald

S A L O N

Britain is currently engulfed by a probing, controversial investigation into how their Government came to support the invasion of Iraq, replete with evidence that much of what was said at the time by both British and American officials was knowingly false, particularly regarding the unequivocal intention of the Bush administration to attack Iraq for months when they were pretending otherwise.  Yesterday, the British Ambassador to the U.S. in 2002 and 2003, Sir Christopher Meyer (who favored the war), testified before the investigative tribunal and said this:

Meyer said attitudes towards Iraq were influenced to an extent not appreciated by him at the time by the anthrax scare in the US soon after 9/11. US senators and others were sent anthrax spores in the post, a crime that led to the death of five people, prompting policymakers to claim links to Saddam Hussein. . . .

On 9/11 Condoleezza Rice, then the US national security adviser, told Meyer she was in “no doubt: it was an al-Qaida operation” . . . It seemed that Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy, argued for retaliation to include Iraq, Meyer said. . . .

But the anthrax scare had “steamed up” policy makers in Bush’s administration and helped swing attitudes against Saddam, who the administration believed had been the last person to use anthrax.

I’ve written many times before about how the anthrax attack played at least as large of a role as the 9/11 attack itself, if not larger, in creating the general climate of fear that prevailed for years in the U.S. and specifically how the anthrax episode was exploited by leading media and political figures to gin up intense hostility towards Iraq (a few othersflushed this terrorist attack down the memory hole as though it doesn’t exist.  When Dana Perino boasted this week on Fox News that “we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term,” most of the resulting derision focused on the 9/11 attack while ignoring — as always — the anthrax attack. have argued the same).  That’s why it’s so striking how we’ve collectively

What makes this particularly significant is that the anthrax attack is unresolved and uninvestigated. The FBI claimed last year that it had identified the sole perpetrator, Bruce Ivins, but because Ivins is dead, they never had the opportunity — or the obligation — to prove their accusations in any meaningful tribunal.  The case against Ivins is so riddled with logical and evidentiary holes that it has generated extreme doubts not merely from typical government skeptics but from the most mainstream, establishment-revering, and ideologically disparate sources.  Just consider some of the outlets and individuals who have stated unequivocally that the FBI’s case against Ivinis is unpersausive and requires a meaningful investigation:  The Washington Post Editorial Page; The New York Times Editorial Page; The Wall St. Journal Editorial Page; the science journal Nature; Senators Pat Leahy, Arlen Specter and Charles Grassley; physicist and Congressman Rush Holt, whose New Jersey district was where the anthrax letters were sent; Dr. Alan Pearson, Director of the Biological and Chemical Weapons Control Program at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation; and a vast array of scientific and legal experts in the field.

Here we have one of the most consequential political events of the last decade at least — a lethal biological terrorist attack aimed at key U.S. Senators and media figures, which even the FBI claims originated from a U.S. military lab.  The then-British Ambassador to the U.S. is now testifying what has long been clear:  that this episode played a huge role in enabling the attack on Iraq.  Even our leading mainstream, establishment-serving media outlets — and countless bio-weapons experts — believe that we do not have real answers about who perpetrated this attack and how.  And there is little apparent interest in investigating in order to find out.  Evidently, this is just another one of those things that we’ll relegate to “the irrelevant past,” and therefore deem it unworthy of attention from our future-gazing, always-distracted minds.

UPDATE:  Marcy Wheeler notes that the FBI has become increasingly defiant towards requests that its claims be reviewed by an independent panel; of course, that couldn’t happen unless the White House and Congress permitted it to.

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From Secret Deals With Big Oil in The White House to Permanent Bases in Iraq

Think Progress

Engel: Permanent Bases Would Technically Be Iraqi With U.S.
‘Tenants’ As ‘A Face Saving Device

On Thursday, the UK Independent’s Patrick Cockburn reported on “a secret deal being
negotiated in Baghdad” that “would perpetuate the American
military occupation of Iraq indefinitely.” According to Cockburn,
the deal result in American soldiers being stationed on permanent bases in Iraq:

Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US
troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations,
arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise
Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending
conflict in their country.

On the same day, NPR’s Diane Rehm asked
NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel about the report.
Engel said that as part of “a face saving device,” the
bases would technically be Iraqi and “U.S. troops would reside on
them as tenants”:

ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it not, and the details of this have not been published. The
U.S. and Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be
U.S. permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S.
troops would reside on them as tenants and may even have to pay some
sort of nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device.

What’s also trying to be worked out is what’s the exact
U.S. mission. Would they be able to conduct independent operations
without the advice and consultation of the Iraqi government and that
has been a point of contention.

After Cockburn’s report was released, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq,
Ryan Crocker, tried to quash talk of permanent U.S. bases, telling
reporters that “it is not going to be forever.”
But Crocker also spoke of a situation that could comport with
Engel’s “face saving” description, claiming that
“there isn’t going to be an agreement that infringes on
Iraqi sovereignty.”

Transcript:

REHM: Here’s an email from James asking about an
article published today in the Independent in UK by Patrick Coburn and
it’s entitled, Revealed: Secret Plan To Keep Iraq Under U.S.
Control. Do you know about this?

ENGEL: I don’t know the article, but I know Patrick Cockburn,
he’s a friend and a fine reporter. Is this, I’ll take a
look at the article.

REHM: Just published today and our communicator in Raleigh says, “why has this not received more attention?”

ENGEL: I know what he’s talking about. This is the strategic
long term agreement that is being negotiated between Iraq and the
United States. This is a deal that is supposed to be, and we have
reported it, I think NBC News was the first to report this, it was, it
is a long term strategic alliance that is being hammered out, mostly in
secret in Baghdad. And that has many, many Iraqis concerned, it has
some U.S. officials concerned as well. The U.S. negotiators that
I’ve spoken to who are involved in this insist that it is not a
treaty, that it will not commit large numbers of U.S. forces to Iraq
for a long time, but it does clarify what the role of U.S. forces will
be for a long period going forward.

REHM: I.E.

ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it
not, and the details of this have not been published. The U.S. and
Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be U.S.
permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S. troops
would reside on them as tenets and may even have to pay some sort of
nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device. What’s also
trying to be worked out is what’s the exact U.S. mission. Would
they be able to conduct independent operations without the advice and
consultation of the Iraqi government and that has been a point of
contention.

DOZIER: I know a member of Crocker’s team has been working on
this for about a year behind the scenes. And one of the major sticking
points is what law will apply to U.S. troops, how much will they be
able to do on their own, how much will they have to…they want of
course the rights that they have right now, to stage their own
missions, their own raids, without getting anybody’s say so, just
informing, “We’re headed off, we’re going to do
this.” The Iraqis are pushing for approval of everything and also
that Iraqi law would apply to soldiers, Marines who conduct violent
acts.

The Dumbest Anchorwoman On The Planet

(Paraphrasing)

“How do you know about the Iraq War”

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