Iraq's involvement is unproven and improbable
October 25, 2001
It didn't take long for the hawks to seize on the anthrax attacks as a justification for the United States to go bomb Iraq.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, former CIA director James Woolsey, conservative columnist George Will and the Wall Street Journal editorial page all are shrieking for Iraqi blood.
But I don't buy it.
These same hawks wanted to get Iraq even before any anthrax was delivered. They've been hovering for anything to pounce on.
Plus, the Taliban leaders have not been fond of Saddam Hussein and his secularism. "Last month, Suleiman abu Gheith, a spokesman for bin Laden's al-Qaida organization, was quoted in a Kuwaiti newspaper as saying the Iraqi strongman is a 'false God' who should be 'punished,' " the Wall Street Journal reported on Oct. 10.
One piece of anthrax evidence strongly indicates that Iraq was not involved: The type of anthrax used in some of the U.S. mail attacks, the so-called Ames strain, is one that Iraq doesn't seem to have.
"Federal scientists examining the anthrax used in the Florida and New York attacks have tentatively concluded that it is a domestic strain that bears no resemblance to the strains Russia and Iraq turned into biological weapons," the New York Times reported on Oct. 19. "To the best of their knowledge, Baghdad was unable to obtain the Ames strain."
Scott Ritter, the former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, confirms that Iraq did not have the Ames strain, and he discounts the theory that Iraq is involved. "Fears that the hidden hand of Saddam Hussein lies behind these attacks are based on rumor and speculation that, under close scrutiny, fail to support the weight of the charge," Ritter wrote in the London Guardian on Oct. 19.
And it makes no sense for Iraq to be behind the anthrax attacks. As Ritter points out, Hussein's primary diplomatic effort these last few years has been to lift economic sanctions, and he was making some progress in that effort.
Why would he jeopardize that by involving himself in this terrorism?
Hussein is ruthless, but he is not suicidal. He knows that if President Bush can pin this anthrax thing on him, he's a dead man. Bush's father, remember, threatened to drop a nuclear bomb on Hussein's head if he used chemical or biological weapons during the Gulf War.
Why in the world would Hussein all of a sudden decide to start killing a few Americans when he could have killed tens of thousands during the Gulf War? He had chemical and biological weapons loaded onto his missiles back then, but he did not fire them.
If his goal were to go down in a blaze of infamy, he could have had much more success a decade ago.
The Iraq connection just doesn't add up. If Bush goes to war against Iraq on the flimsiest of evidence, he will show the world community how reckless he is.
Matthew Rothschild is editor of The Progressive magazine (www.progressive.org), based in Madison, Wis. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.