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An Iraq-WMD Replay on Iran?

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The American public is about to be inundated with another flood of "expert analysis" about a dangerous Middle Eastern country presumably hiding a secret nuclear weapons program that may require a military strike, although this time it is Iran, not Iraq.

In the near future, you will be seeing more satellite photos of nondescript buildings that experts will say are housing elements of a nuclear bomb factory. There will be more diagrams of supposed nuclear devices. Some of the same talking heads will reappear to interpret this new "evidence."

You might even recognize some of those familiar faces from the more innocent days of 2002-2003 when they explained, with unnerving confidence, how Iraq's Saddam Hussein surely had chemical and biological weapons and likely a nuclear weapons program, too.

For instance, back then, former United Nations weapons inspector David Albright was all over the news channels, reinforcing the alarmist claims about Iraq's WMD that were coming from President George W. Bush and his neocon-dominated administration.


David Albright

Today, Albright's Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) is issuing a flurry of alarmist reports about Iran's nuclear bomb progress, often accompanied by the same kind of satellite photos and diagrams that helped persuade many Americans that Iraq must possess unconventional weapons that turned out to be fictitious.

For instance, in the run-up to war in Iraq, Albright co-authored a Sept. 10, 2002, article -- entitled "Is the Activity at Al Qaim Related to Nuclear Efforts?" -- which declared...

"High-resolution commercial satellite imagery shows an apparently operational facility at the site of Iraq's al Qaim phosphate plant and uranium extraction facility (Unit-340), located in northwest Iraq near the Syrian border. This site was where Iraq extracted uranium for its nuclear weapons program in the 1980s. ...

"This image raises questions about whether Iraq has rebuilt a uranium extraction facility at the site, possibly even underground. ... Unless inspectors go to the site and investigate all activities, the international community cannot exclude the possibility that Iraq is secretly producing a stockpile of uranium in violation of its commitments under Security Council resolutions. The uranium could be used in a clandestine nuclear weapons effort."

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Albright's nuclear warning about Iraq coincided with the start of the Bush administration's propaganda campaign to rally Congress and the American people to war with talk about "the smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud."

Though Albright eventually grew skeptical about the alleged resurrection of an Iraqi nuclear program, he remained a firm believer in the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's supposed chemical and biological weapons programs as justification for the March 2003 invasion.

Gullibility Exposed

In summer 2003, after the promised WMD caches proved non-existent, the journalism watchdog group FAIR published a study by Seth Ackerman looking at the American press corps' gullibility and citing the role of weapons experts like Albright.

Entitlted "The Great WMD Hunt," the article said...

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"In part, journalists absorbed their aura of certainty from a battery of 'independent' weapons experts who repeated the mantra of Iraq concealment over and over. Journalists used these experts as outside sources who could independently evaluate the administration's claims. Yet often these 'experts' were simply repeating what they heard from U.S. officials, forming an endless loop of self-reinforcing scare mongering.

"Take the ubiquitous David Albright, a former U.N. inspector in Iraq. Over the years, Albright had been cited in hundreds of news articles and made scores of television appearances as an authority on Iraqi weapons. A sample prewar quote from Albright (CNN, 10/5/02): 'In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those now. How many, how could they deliver them? I mean, these are the big questions.'"

FAIR added:

"But when the postwar weapons hunt started turning up empty, Albright made a rather candid admission (L.A. Times, 4/20/03): 'If there are no weapons of mass destruction, I'll be mad as hell. I certainly accepted the administration claims on chemical and biological weapons. I figured they were telling the truth. If there is no [unconventional weapons program], I will feel taken, because they asserted these things with such assurance.'"

Albright's official biography at ISIS, which he founded and still heads, also boasts about his media influence: "The media frequently cite Albright, and he has appeared often on television and radio. A National Journal profile in 2004 called him a 'go-to guy for media people seeking independent analysis on Iraq's WMD programs.'"

The list of media outlets that relied on Albright is indeed impressive, as the bio reports:

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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