Published on Thursday, February 6, 2003 by the Long Island, NY Newsday
They Call This Evidence
by Jimmy Breslin
The firefighter was in the World Trade Center wreckage when he found a perfectly knotted necktie. He took it to a cop who was running his section of recovering things and the cop was unimpressed and the firefighter got mad, left the tie and walked off.
On a Saturday morning, he was at Our Lady of Hope Church in Middle Village for the funeral of Mike Weinberg, a fellow firefighter. After it, the firefighter was across the street, still talking about the necktie.
"You know what it means when you find a knotted necktie, don't you?" he said.
"Somebody's neck and head were inside it," he said.
That was his smoking gun.
I thought of that yesterday when Colin Powell was so sure of everything he was saying about Iraq, and sitting behind him, as incontrovertible proof, was George Tenet, the head of the CIA.
The CIA was a floor full of incompetents who did not warn the people of the nation's and the world's most important city that they were going to be hit by an attack on the Trade Center by Osama bin Laden's suicide bombers. We now have our knotted neckties.
The CIA, as Tenet's presence said yesterday, now is sure it knows everything, or what passes as everything for them, about Iraq, knows it right down to the 18 trucks that suddenly threaten us and the world.
That Powell was down to pointing to 18 trucks as the possible end of the world showed that he was at the UN with a case that would have difficulty in Criminal Court on Queens Boulevard. He put his soul on the line for the Republicans and it showed. He had three wiretap transcripts that were weak enough, until I realized that the conversations were in Arabic and I would like to meet the translator before accepting the copy.
Powell says that this intercept is of a colonel and brigadier general from Iraq's Republican Guard. They speak in Arabic. Powell pointed out that when the conversation took place, a UN inspector was coming the next day and expected these officers to cooperate. The American translation reads:
"We have this modified vehicle. What do we say if one of them sees it?"
[Powell says, "The general is incredulous." How does he know that? you ask.]
"You didn't get a modified? You don't have one of those, do you?"
"I have one."
"Which, from where?"
"From the workshop. From the al-Kindi Company?"
"I'll come to see you in the morning. I'm worried. You all have something left."
"We evacuated everything. We don't have anything left."
Powell said they found 12 empty chemical warheads on Jan. 16. He played a conversation between two officers that took place last week.
"They're inspecting the ammunition you have, yes?"
"For the possibility there are forbidden ammo?"
"For the possibility there is by chance forbidden ammo?"
"And we sent you a message yesterday to clean out all of the areas, the scrap areas, the abandoned areas. Make sure there is nothing there."
Powell then brought up what he said was specific instructions from headquarters.
"After you have carried out what is contained in this message, destroy the message because I don't want anyone to see this message."
Whatever it is, and you could get any number of people to dispute every word of this and have the conversations in doubt from start to finish, it still is about small items, one vehicle, ammunition that was still around as of the past two weeks.
That is hardly enough reason to blow up the city of Baghdad with its civilians, with its women and its children in school. The only thing as crazed as this was the start of the Vietnam War.
We lost 58,000 young Americans in Vietnam, of the total of close to 100,000 lost since World War II, because of a night in August of 1964 when the secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, reported to President Lyndon Johnson that two American destroyers, the Turner Joy and the Maddox, had been attacked by a North Vietnamese PT boat in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is the waters off Haiphong, east of Hanoi in North Vietnam.
"McNamara was sending messages to the president that one or both of the destroyers had been fired on," Bill Moyers, who was in the White House that night, was saying yesterday. He was in his WNET-TV office on West 57th Street. "Everybody was perplexed and confused. Johnson was persuaded by McNamara that there was an attack on the destroyers. Johnson had a predisposition to take a stand."
Johnson moved too swiftly for discoveries. He got a resolution from Congress and immediately ordered North Vietnam to be bombed. That was the start of a war in which we lost 58,000 young Americans.
"After some time, we didn't really know what had happened that night," Moyers said. "Then after a long time, we saw that maybe there was no attack at all. What did you learn out of that? That you have to take time and build up more evidence than you need before you go to war."
Based on yesterday, Powell has a long way to go and Bush even further, because his notion of compelling evidence is personal pique.
The other 37,000 dead young Americans, other than those lost in Vietnam, were killed in the war with North Korea. Which undoubtedly has a nuclear bomb now and yesterday announced that it is making more reactors, which in Korean means "bombs."
Powell counts Iraq's 18 trucks as deadly dangerous. North Korea might have more trucks than that to drive around its army, which is 1 million men.
Copyright © 2003, Newsday, Inc.