Powell Fails to Make Case for War, Middle East Critics Say

July 7, 2008 - 7:13 PM

(Adds more perspective on Bush administration's strategy in handling Iraq and the United Nations)

(CNSNews.com) - In his presentation to the United Nations Assembly, Secretary of State Colin Powell made a convincing case that Saddam Hussein is a liar and a human rights abuser, but failed to show why a U.S.-led military attack on Iraq would be justified, Middle East experts said Wednesday.

"Powell was trying to make a case for war and I believe, failed to do that in key respects," said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy in Washington, and co-author of the book, "Target Iraq."

"He talked about how, for instance, Saddam Hussein is a threat to countries in the region, but everybody knows that if there's an attack, it's because of the wishes of Washington, which is well outside the 500 kilometer missile range that Powell alleged," Solomon said.

If Saddam Hussein is a threat to the region, as Powell alleges, why are the Arab governments in the region not making a case for war? Solomon asked.

Rahul Mahajan, author of "The New Crusade: America's War on Terrorism," and of the forthcoming book, "The U.S. War on Iraq," said the rhetoric from "hawks" like Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld prepared the stage for "the diplomatic arm-twisting of Powell."

"Basically it's very clear and almost openly admitted that they have no case for war. This is why even Powell was careful to lower expectations by saying there would be no smoking gun," Mahajan told CNSNews.com .

Powell addressed the Security Council in an hour-long presentation, offering what the Bush administration said is evidence gathered by intelligence sources, telephone intercepts, satellite photos and testimony by defectors on Iraq's ongoing weapons of mass destruction programs.

Iraq is in further material breach of U.N. resolutions demanding that it disarm, Powell said.

"I believe this conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable. Iraq has now placed itself in danger of the serious consequences," Powell said, using diplomatic code for a possible U.S-led strike.

Iraqi officials quickly denounced Powell's presentation, saying it was utterly unrelated to the truth.

"There are incorrect allegations, unnamed sources, unknown sources," said Mohammed Al-Douri, Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations.

"There are assumptions and presumptions, which all fall in line with the American policy towards one known objective," Al-Douri said.

Saddam Hussein reiterated in an interview granted yesterday to former British Cabinet Minister Tony Benn that Iraq is totally free of weapons of mass destruction, "a statement repeated by numerous Iraqi officials for over a decade," Al-Douri said.

Powell 'Best Salesman for War'

Opponents of war with Iraq said the selection of Powell to make the case before the United Nations was the result of a carefully orchestrated public relations effort by the Bush administration.

Differences between Powell and other Cabinet members, widely reported last summer, were not fundamental, they said.

"It was real because there was a different perspective about how to proceed toward war, but not a fundamental clash as to the wisdom of going to war," Solomon said.

Powell is shrewder in terms of global geo-politics than other senior officials close to Bush, including Rumsfeld or even Vice President Dick Cheney, Solomon said.

"He persuasively made the argument to the president that, 'if you're going to go to war, you've got to line up your ducks in many different spheres. And Powell is very good at doing that. He understands the carrots and the sticks," he said.

Indeed, if not for Powell, the administration wouldn't have bothered to try to get a U.N. resolution in the first place, Solomon said. "They would have said 'just screw the U.N.,' but Powell understands that you can cajole and taunt and utilize the U.N. structure."

The administration has used Powell's prestige as a diplomat to win over reluctant governments, Mahajan said.

What the administration has done "is repeatedly had Powell be the 'good cop' to their 'bad cop,' and essentially used that tension to manipulate things," Mahajan said.

Read Powell's Remarks to the UN

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