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BBC Radio 4 Today: John Humphrys interview with Jack Straw

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David C
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Joined: 12 Jan 2004
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Location: Southampton

Post Post subject: BBC Radio 4 Today: John Humphrys interview with Jack Straw Reply with quote

[Sent by David Miller to John Humphrys re: Jack Straw interview on BBC Radio 4 this morning.]

Dear John,

I am writing about your interview with Jack Straw this morning. I never fail to be amazed at the brazenness of Straw in continuing to state a version of events on Iraq which are the direct opposite of the truth and to support this with evidence which actually shows precisely the opposite. This morning Straw repeated the falsehood that the UN weapons inspectors had been 'thrown out' of Iraq. This, as you have pointed out before on Today, is not true, but you didn't pick him up on it this morning. No doubt there is much to pick him up on.

More importantly, and this goes to the very heart of contention over Iraq, you didn't challenge his statements on biological weapons. Straw stated that Iraq still had a stockpile of liquid Anthrax. He claimed that this fact came from the UNMOVIC report of March 2003 and that the report stated that the Anthrax could still be viable. This is simply false. According to Hans Blix back in April 2002:

"Iraq states that it has produced 8,500 litres, but there are no production records to sustain that, so it's a unilateral statement. Then they say they destroyed it all in the summer of 1991, but there are no protocols, no records, of the destruction. It's an open issue. Maybe it is truthful, but until evidence has been produced then I would have to draw the conclusion that they could dry it - and if the anthrax were dried, it could still be viable."(The Guardian, April 2002,,1520,681686,00.html)

'If the anthrax were dried'. But the Anthrax was not dried. Anthrax can only be stored for ten years or more if it is dried. In liquid form it has a shelf life of about three years. But the weapons inspectors recorded in the report of March 2003 cited by Straw this morning that: "UNMOVIC has no evidence that drying of anthrax or any other agent in bulk was conducted." (UNMOVIC "Unresolved disarmament issues", 6 March 2003, p.120). So, even if the Iraqi's had lied about the amount of Anthrax produced or about destroying it (and it rather looks now as if they didn't), then it would all have been 'useless sludge' as Scott Ritter has noted, by 1994 at the latest (National Public Radio, 28 August 2002,

Surely, a journalist of your calibre is aware, after all this time, of the contents of the UNMOVIC reports? Yet you didn't challenge Straw on this. I think this is important, because, while the Hutton debate has focused on Blair's involvement in naming Kelly and on the 'sexing up' of the dossier, very little attention has been focused on the underlying question of the unlikely continued existence of chemical and biological agents.

We can repeat the Anthrax example for every other chemical or biological agent produced by Iraq (with the single exception of mustard gas). In the case of mustard gas the UNMOVIC reports indicate that the amount of agent unaccounted for by Iraq would be enough to cover an area the size of 5.2 square kilometres. (For your information I have pasted in the precise details on this below from the report The Absence of Truth Government Propaganda and the War on Iraq Produced by Alan Simpson MP and Dr. Glen Rangwala for Labour Against the War, 3 July 2003

It seems to me that unless journalists start challenging the falsehoods of ministers like Straw, they will go on and on stating them and continue to mislead the public. Please try and challenge them on the facts in the coming days.

Best wishes
David Miller

David Miller
Editor of Tell Me Lies, Propaganda and Media Distortion in the attack on Iraq, Pluto, 2004.

Stirling Media Research Institute
Stirling University
Phone ++ 44 (0)1786 467 973

CLAIM: "Iraq has chemical and biological agents and weapons available [..]
from pre-Gulf War stocks". p.23 In other words, Iraq has managed to retain
stockpiles of these weapons for 12 years.

FACT: According to the weapons inspectors. Iraq produced 4 sets of chemical
agents (1. VX, 2. sarin, 3. tabun, 4. mustard) and 3 sets of biological
agents (5. anthrax, 6. botulinum toxin, 7. aflatoxin) in bulk that it
weaponised before 1991. All of these, except mustard, would have degenerated
within 5 to 10 years. These are the relevant quotes from the 173-page report
of the weapons inspectors, entitled "Unresolved disarmament issues" (6 March
2003), which is at
1. "VX produced through route B must be used relatively quickly after
production (about 1 to 8 weeks), which would probably be satisfactory for
wartime requirements." (p.82)

[NB: Iraq produced the 1.5 tonnes of VX referred to on p.16 of the dossier
using the method the inspectors called "route B". There are other ways to
produce VX, but the quantity of VX that the government is referring to was
produced in this unstable form]

2. "According to documents discovered by UNSCOM in Iraq, the purity of
Sarin-type agents produced by Iraq were on average below 60%, and dropped
below Iraq1s established quality control acceptance level of 40% by purity
some 3 to 12 months after production." (p.72)

3. "documentary evidence suggests that Tabun was produced using process
technology and quality control methodologies that would result in the agent
being degraded to a very low quality through the action of a resulting
by-product." (p.68)

4. mustard produced before 1991 would still be viable today.

5. anthrax can only be stored for ten years or more if it is dried. But the
weapons inspectors recorded: "UNMOVIC has no evidence that drying of anthrax
or any other agent in bulk was conducted." (p.120)

6. "any such stockpiles of botulinum toxin, whether in bulk storage or in
weapons that remained in 1991, would not be active today." (p.101)

7. on aflatoxin: "Such stocks would have degraded and would contain little
if any viable agent in 2003" (p.105).

In summary, all chemical and biological agents that Iraq produced before
1991 - with the one exception of the chemical agent of mustard gas - would
have degenerated by now. In particular, the claim that Iraq could still have
biological agents left over from 1991 -- a claim that the document does make
-- is contradicted by the findings of the weapons inspectors.

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David Cromwell
Media Lens
Mon Jan 26, 2004 11:58 am
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David Traynier

Joined: 14 Jan 2004
Posts: 112
Location: Colchester, UK

Post Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent letter, David.

It's reassuring to know that Humprhys is being sent the information he needs to do his job effectively. I just wish he'd use it more.

Mon Jan 26, 2004 12:40 pm
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