Powell to Present Both Circumstantial and Hard Evidence Against Iraq

July 7, 2008 - 7:20 PM

(CNSNews.com) - When Secretary of State Colin Powell makes a case against Iraq at the United Nations on Wednesday, he will present both circumstantial and hard evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime has repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions on disarmament, Bush administration officials and national security analysts said Tuesday.

Powell likely will present declassified intercepted conversations among Iraqi officials about their weapons programs, along with photographic evidence of suspected mobile weapons laboratories, they said.

He may also offer evidence that Iraqi officials had advance knowledge of where U.N. weapons inspectors were going to search, based on reports from the British government that said Iraqi intelligence had bugged inspectors' phones and conference rooms, they said.

At a Pentagon press conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cautioned against categorizing types of evidence.

"The idea that all there has been is circumstantial evidence is false," he said, in response to questions.

"I do know that a good number of the things that have been released by the United Kingdom and by the United States already - let alone what will be presented by Secretary Powell tomorrow morning - are evidence," Rumsfeld said.

What's being tested is whether or not Iraq will provide the United Nations with its weapons of mass destruction and permit them to be destroyed, Rumsfeld said.

"The fixation that people have on the smoking gun business, I think, is a misunderstanding of what we're doing and what's going on in this world, and what the nature of the threat is and what the danger is," he said.

Besides the evidence, Powell's considerable prestige among the U.N. delegates will carry at least as much weight as the evidence he presents, analysts said.

Charles Pena, director of defense policy studies with the Cato Institute, said that in this case, the messenger is more important than the message.

"It's a fact that there are a lot of people, both in the American public and throughout the world, who trust and have more confidence in Secretary Powell than they do in the president of the United States," Pena said.

What the administration is hoping is that when Powell says what the president and others have been saying, people will believe it, Pena said.

However, Powell's presentation, contrary to speculation in media reports, will not be like that of former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson, who presented dramatic photos proving that the Soviet Union was erecting ballistic missiles in Cuba in 1962, Pena said. See U.N photo

"Nobody should be sitting on the edge of his or her seat expecting some revelation coming down from the heavens. The secretary is going to continue to make more of the same case that the president and others have made," he said.

Jack Spencer, a national security analyst with the Heritage Foundation, said Powell will offer compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein continues to defy the U.N. Security Council resolution and that Iraq is actively engaged in a program of denial and deceit in terms of its weapons of mass destruction program.

If the United Nations combines the amount of evidence amassed against Saddam Hussein over the past 30 years in Iraq with his deception and denial since 1991 and his continued deception and denial over the past two months, there will be no doubt that Saddam Hussein continues to defy the United Nations, Spencer said.

Spencer also said Powell's prestige will carry much weight at the United Nations.

"I certainly think that he is one of the most respected diplomats and statesmen in the world," he said. "His commitment to this cause certainly should tell the whole world that it's a serious issue," he added.

But analysts cautioned against the expectation of a dramatic sway in public opinion as a result of Powell's presentation. Even photographic evidence of supposed mobile weapons laboratories or the reconstruction of facilities that housed chemical, biological or nuclear programs destroyed in the Gulf War of 1991 will not be enough to sway the unconvinced, Pena said.

"It's clear that there's no smoking gun here, so it's more of the same courtroom drama, if you will, and it's a question of which camp you fall into, the 'I believe it' camp or the 'I'm not convinced' camp," he said.

E-mail a news tip to Lawrence Morahan.

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