by Nick Menchise (Jan 29 2003)
On Tuesday 28 January, the mainstream Australian news media presented a misleading interpretation of Dr. Hans Blix's update on weapons inspections in Iraq.
This distortion was in line with pro-war elements, and indicates that military action is in the interests of media corporations.
On Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, the mainstream Australian news media joined other corporate and state interests in echoing a misrepresentation of an update on weapons inspections in Iraq. The featured update, presented by Dr. Hans Blix, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, was the first of two presented in an open meeting of the Security Council. News coverage of this update among the mainstream television networks, including the ABC, was so remarkably similar that one could mistake the media industry for a monopoly. Given the almost verbatim similarity between the coverage of the news networks, one cannot imagine the diabolical distortion of Blix's update as being anything but deliberate.
The most common direct quote from the update during the news coverage is in the first section on Security Council resolutions:
[quote] ...Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace. [end quote]
Here is the full paragraph from which the quote was taken:
[quote] Resolution 687 (1991), like the subsequent resolutions I shall refer to, required cooperation by Iraq but such was often withheld or given grudgingly. Unlike South Africa, which decided on its own to eliminate its nuclear weapons and welcomed inspection as a means of creating confidence in its disarmament, Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament, which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and to live in peace. [end quote]
One can now observe how the quote was taken out of context. Rather than stating that Iraq was not cooperating, Blix was actually stating that Iraq was not enthusiastically cooperating, unlike South Africa.
The next paragraph elaborates on how the limits of Iraqi cooperation (briefly described in the first sentence of the previous paragraph) affected the efficiency of the UNSCOM inspections (1991-1998):
[quote] As we know, the twin operation 'declare and verify', which was prescribed in resolution 687 (1991), too often turned into a game of 'hide and seek'. Rather than just verifying declarations and supporting evidence, the two inspecting organizations found themselves engaged in efforts to map the weapons programmes and to search for evidence through inspections, interviews, seminars, inquiries with suppliers and intelligence organizations. As a result, the disarmament phase was not completed in the short time expected. Sanctions remained and took a severe toll until Iraq accepted the Oil for Food Programme and the gradual development of that programme mitigated the effects of the sanctions. [end quote]
In the first of several inferences made throughout the update, Blix makes it very clear that despite Iraqi cooperation being significantly less than desired, weapons inspections have not only been successful in disarming Iraq, but more successful than previous military action:
[quote] The implementation of resolution 687 (1991) nevertheless brought about considerable disarmament results. It has been recognized that more weapons of mass destruction were destroyed under this resolution than were destroyed during the Gulf War: large quantities of chemical weapons were destroyed under UNSCOM supervision before 1994. While Iraq claims - with little evidence - that it destroyed all biological weapons unilaterally in 1991, it is certain that UNSCOM destroyed large biological weapons production facilities in 1996. The large nuclear infrastructure was destroyed and the fissionable material was removed from Iraq by the IAEA. [end quote]
Later in the update, Blix reports in detail on the nature of Iraqi cooperation.
In the section titled "Cooperation on process", Blix states that Iraq has "on the whole cooperated rather well so far with UNMOVIC in this field."
[quote] The most important point to make is that access has been provided to all sites we have wanted to inspect and with one exception it has been prompt. We have further had great help in building up the infrastructure of our office in Baghdad and the field office in Mosul. Arrangements and services for our plane and our helicopters have been good. The environment has been workable. [end quote]
He subsequently describes that there are a few contentious issues that have been counter-productive to the disarmament process, one of which has already been settled through negotiations. Blix's citation of a diplomatic approach in this section is notable as an additional inference that military action is not justified.
In the section titled "Cooperation on substance", Blix points out where Iraq has not been so cooperative:
[quote] The substantive cooperation required relates above all to the obligation of Iraq to declare all programmes of weapons of mass destruction and either to present items and activities for elimination or else to provide evidence supporting the conclusion that nothing proscribed remains. Paragraph 9 of resolution 1441 (2002) states that this cooperation shall be "active". It is not enough to open doors. Inspection is not a game of "catch as catch can". Rather, as I noted, it is a process of verification for the purpose of creating confidence. It is not built upon the premise of trust. Rather, it is designed to lead to trust, if there is both openness to the inspectors and action to present them with items to destroy or credible evidence about the absence of any such items. [end quote]
Blix subsequently elaborates on the unresolved issues related to substance in the sections on the 7 December declaration, chemical weapons, biological weapons, and missiles, including discrepancies in weapons counts, which include 8 500 litres of anthrax and 6 500 chemical bombs that are currently unaccounted for. Mainstream news coverage often presented these discrepencies as conclusive evidence.
One can conclude from Blix's report on the nature of Iraqi cooperation that UNMOVIC is in a similar situation to UNSCOM in the 1990s, if not better, where the Iraqis would allow access but would not always actively present the inspectors with the items they were seeking, unless the inspectors provided conclusive evidence that the items existed, hence compelling a confession, much like in regular police work. It is important to reiterate that despite Blix's complaints about inadequate cooperation on substance, he does make it very clear that the disarmament process is moving forward, and that it needs more time to be completed. He made this especially clear in the section titled "UNMOVIC's capability" and in his concluding statement, both of which point out that the past two months were just the beginning of the disarmament process.
[quote] We have now an inspection apparatus that permits us to send multiple inspection teams every day all over Iraq, by road or by air. Let me end by simply noting that that capability which has been built-up in a short time and which is now operating, is at the disposal of the Security Council. [end quote]
Following the mainstream media's extremely brief coverage of the report itself, it spent more time quoting pro-war elements like Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State, who implied that the inspectors would not be given the time that they requested. This statement, which was parroted almost verbatim by Prime Minister John Howard, is a clear indication that the U.S. government is going to war, with or without justification, and unilaterally if necessary.
Opposition Leader Simon Crean was also featured very briefly to state the obvious: John Howard is parroting the U.S. government. However, one obvious fact that wasn't stated by anyone in the news coverage, for obvious reasons, is that the mainstream media is also parroting the U.S. government's pro-war position by distorting the objective report provided by Dr. Hans Blix.
The full text of the "Blix Report" is available at http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/Bx27.htm