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Iraq All Over Again? And Where Is Katharine Gun

A rush to war based on faulty intelligence and a manufactured crisis sounds very familiar.

Whistleblower and former employee of Britain's global surveillance center GCHQ (Government Communications Head Quarters) Katharine Gun smiles as she speaks to the media during a press conference February 25, 2004 in London, England. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

Some called her a traitor; others insisted she was a hero. Whatever, she blew the whistle ultimately revealing the truth behind the build-up to the Iraq War—regime change, disguised as terrifying threats of weapons of mass destruction.

Exaggerating threats to provoke a war? Sound familiar?

Never mind that invading another country for the purpose of regime change is illegal according to international laws to which the United States is a signatory. The team of hawks circling George Bush had long wanted to take out Saddam Hussein, as did Bush. Some of those same birds are still flapping wings in the skies above Washington. The concern among many Americans is that claims of an unprovoked, deadly attack by Iran are exaggerated. The issue is provocation. Who, one must ask, is provoking whom?

Much to the distress of our former partners in the Iran nuclear deal, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the agreement and announced tougher sanctions. This, despite credible evidence that Iran was in full compliance with terms of the agreement. Provocation? Now, Trump says, he wants to see Iran back at the negotiating table. Iran, of course, isn't interested in dealing with him. Perhaps they don't trust him to keep his word.

Iran has been filmed loading missiles aboard some of its vessels. Is this a matter of threatening to launch a war, or is it a matter of responding to the US positioning itself for war? The increasing presence of US Navy ships and a B-52 bomber task force in their neighborhood might provoke the Iranians to load up their missiles. However, the Pentagon says the US deployment is "in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness to conduct offensive operations against US forces and our interests."

Iran, meanwhile, says it doesn't want war, but will defend itself. Donald Trump also is saying he doesn't want war, which is probably true. He loves a battle, when it's done with words, boasts, and threats. The other kind of fight could be frightening and politically risky.


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One is reminded of the January 31, 2003 Oval Office meeting with George Bush, Tony Blair, and Condoleeza Rice, in which the topic of provoking Iraq to start a war was particularly revealing. Perhaps a plane painted in UN colors could be shot down over Iraq. Not good enough, the trio decided. To legitimize an invasion and get rid of Saddam, a new UN Security Council resolution, going beyond SC1441 and specifically sanctioning the invasion, was the answer.

Enter Katharine Gun. Her story, which reveals what a country will do when it wants war and claims it does not, is told in an updated book and a major motion picture soon to be released—Official Secrets (Keira Knightly is Katharine). British Secret Service Officer Katharine, then a young bride, risked everything to leak details of the Bush-Blair plan to coerce (possibly blackmail) members of the UN Security Council in order to win their votes to legalize invading Iraq. The spin in this country and in the UK was the threat of deadly weapons ready to be deployed by Saddam. The truth was that in April of 2002, the two world leaders secretly had agreed on a plan to take out Saddam, all the while giving speeches insisting that the only motivation for even considering war was that horrific stockpile of deadly weapons.

And then there is the Gulf of Tonkin incident that led America deeply into war against North Vietnam. Actually, there were two incidents at sea, blamed originally on the North Vietnamese. Eventually, it was widely held that at least one of the reports of the attacks, and perhaps even both, were false. A manufactured provocation. By design.

The point of all of this is painfully obvious. We must not be flummoxed by exaggerated claims of threats against America and our interests. This is not to say that Iran does not have a trick up its sleeve, or that wild-eyed Iranian hawks aren't circling its leaders. It is to say that a government, for its own reasons may, either by design or through miscalculation, lead a country into an unnecessary and brutal war. It is to say that we need to know the truth behind the decisions to act or not to act.

We need a truth-sayer. We need another Katharine Gun. An insider with courage.

Marcia Mitchell

Marcia Mitchell

Marcia Mitchell is a writer, researcher, and the author of "The Spy Who Tried to Stop a War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion." This and her other writings about intelligence issues have been critically acclaimed. Her late husband, Tom, a former special agent of the FBI and one-time head of counter-intelligence in New York, co-authored the Gun story.

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