Friday, July 18, 2008


Corporate Media Play Pattycake with Yellowcake in Iraq

“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for … He can go about his business … Move along … There’s no story here.”

The Associated Press recently reported (July 5, 2008) the good news that 550 metric tons of low-grade uranium known as yellowcake had been secretly and safely transported from Iraq to Montreal, to Cameco Corp., the Canadian uranium producer that purchased it from Iraq.

America’s corporate media covered the news in minimalist style, without providing context or the bigger picture, thus allowing the gullible to conclude that nuclear materials had been “found” in Iraq and that therefore Bush must have been right after all about Saddam’s WMDs. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Some rightwing commentators—allergic to facts and critical analysis—immediately jumped to the conclusion that the 550 tons of yellowcake proved that Saddam had an active nuclear weapons program. The conclusion was 100% wrong.

In fact, the recently removed yellowcake uranium dates back to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who in the 1980s supported Saddam’s WMD programs, including providing Saddam with know-how, equipment and materials for biological and chemical weapons. Other nations also contributed to this effort. Saddam extensively used chemical weapons including mustard gas against Iranian troops and civilians during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) and later against his own people.

Yes, Reagan and Saddam were in bed together, as Iraq waged war on Iran. Knowing that Saddam used chemical weapons on an almost daily basis, the Reagan administration provided intelligence and targeting information to Iraq and reestablished diplomatic relations with that nation. Estimates of the number of Iraqis and Iranians killed in the Iran-Iraq War range up to 1.5 million.

An excellent account of this sad chapter in American history is: “Reagan’s WMD Connection to Saddam Hussein,” by Jacob Hornberger, June 18, 2004.

Some of the yellowcake recently removed from Iraq to Canada was already in Iraq when Reagan became president in 1980, and substantially more was acquired by Iraq during his watch.

The existence, quantity and location of this Reagan-era yellowcake was known to the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United States for many years prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Gulf War I in 1991—also known as Desert Storm—and the subsequent IAEA inspection efforts completely ended whatever yellowcake production and processing efforts Saddam may have started during the Reagan era.

In addition, at the time of the 2003 invasion, the Reagan-era yellowcake:

(1) was legally possessed and stored by Iraq under international law;
(2) was under IAEA control and seal (until the seals were broken in 2003 by U.S. marines);
(3) was inspected frequently by the IAEA over the years; and
(4) was not weapons grade.

In short, the Reagan-era yellowcake was obviously not a casus belli to justify war against Iraq, not even to creative liars in the Bush administration. Therefore, in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, they relentlessly repeated the lie that Saddam had recently sought new uranium from Africa.

The lie was highlighted in the sixteen infamous words in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Although the Bush administration during the 2003 invasion knew the exact location of the Reagan-era yellowcake—the Tuwaitha complex 15 miles south of Baghdad—they were so unconcerned about it that they left the site unguarded for 30 days following the invasion.

American marines who stumbled upon the facility in 2003 thought they had found an illegal WMD site and unwittingly broke the IAEA seals on the facility. America’s corporate media then quickly spread misinformation and unfounded speculation regarding the site. Following the “discovery,” an indecisive Pentagon took a month to send a qualified inspection team to the site, and by then the site had been looted.

The yellowcake facility at Tuwaitha was not looted by insurgents or terrorists seeking WMD material, but by local Iraqis who saw a market for barrels and sold them for $2 each after dumping at the site the toxic materials they contained. Many of the empty barrels were then used to store water and food.

The Bush administration later ordered Iraqis to sell back the barrels for $3 each, and some of the roughly 3,000 missing barrels were thus recovered.

Off the radar is any concern about possible health risks to Iraqis who bought the drums or to Iraqis who live near the toxic materials.

Yellowcake—a word previously unfamiliar to most Americans—became part of the public lexicon as the Bush administration’s cover-up regarding its crimes and impeachable offenses began to unravel. These include the attacks on Ambassador Joseph Wilson who had refuted the bogus claims regarding uranium from the African nation of Niger; the treasonous outing of Wilson’s wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA operative; and, of course, the underlying Niger scandal itself, which history is likely to regard as one of the most evil of the many Bush regime campaigns of lies, propaganda and impeachable offenses.

Ironically, it was not real yellowcake—say that from the Reagan era, which Bush understandably did not want to talk about—but rather imaginary yellowcake—which the Bush warmongers marketed relentlessly—that caused the Bush administration so much trouble.

A detailed account of the Bush regime’s relentless campaign of propaganda and lies regarding uranium from Niger during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is found at pages 351-8 in this blogger’s recent book, “The Bush League of Nations: The Coalition of the Unwilling, the Bullied and the Bribed—The GOP’s War on Iraq and America” (2008).

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