The Powell Presentation

by Harry Browne

February 8, 2003     

Colin Powell's presentation against Iraq at the United Nations was more detailed than anything the Bush administration has offered so far.

However, while it was detailed in accusations, it still wasn't accompanied by any verifiable evidence.

In America, we don't condemn people to death before the "evidence" against them is subjected to rigorous tests. Witnesses must be cross-examined and checked for bias, independent forensic tests must be conducted to verify photos and phone bugs, hearsay evidence must be disqualified, the defense must be able to confront and question anyone who claims to have evidence against the accused.

How then can we condemn to death thousands of innocent Iraqis and perhaps hundreds if not thousands of Americans on the basis of one man's testimony that is filled with hearsay, hasn't been subjected to cross-examination, and includes "evidence" that isn't available for independent forensic tests?

(If questioning the integrity of a government official sounds paranoid on my part, please read the Bill of Rights a very paranoid document that says we should never condemn anyone on the word of government officials alone.)

Which Is It?

But perhaps you assume that Mr. Powell's evidence is real, unexaggerated, and can be backed up.

If so, that leaves two possibilities:

1. The U.S. has had this evidence for two years, but has refused to make it available even though it might have served to quiet the overwhelming anti-American, anti-war, anti-Bush sentiment that has swept through the world during the past year. Or . . . 

2. The U.S. just recently obtained this evidence in which case we have to wonder: Why did George Bush make so many accusations against Iraq two years ago, a year ago, six months ago, when he didn't have evidence then?

Neither possibility makes sense.

There is now not a single major country outside America in which a majority of the people polled support a U.S. attack on Iraq. George Bush has managed to enlist a very feeble coalition of governments containing the likes of Spain and Turkey by making huge bribes with your money.

If the Bush administration actually has "solid evidence" of Saddam Hussein's guilt, why wouldn't they have made at least some of this evidence public in order to generate some support?

On the other hand, if such evidence was obtained just recently, why has George Bush been running around the U.S. and the world for the past two years demanding that Saddam Hussein be removed from power?

The argument that the administration couldn't reveal the evidence until now because of security reasons simply doesn't hold up. Consider . . . 

  • Revealing the evidence would lead the UN inspectors to the "smoking gun."

  • Revealing the evidence could have caused Hussein to be confronted with a worldwide coalition that might have caused him to step down from power.

  • Revealing the evidence could have saved thousands of lives.

  • Revealing the evidence could have saved George Bush's reputation.

  • Revealing the evidence would have created conditions in which security was no longer a concern.


It's very hard to escape the conclusion that this whole crisis is a personal matter for George Bush.

I have no way of knowing whether it's about oil, or about the alleged assassination attempt on his father, or the belief that he will be more popular as a war president than as a domestic one with a mediocre approval rating.

All I know is that thousands perhaps tens of thousands of people will die only to satisfy George Bush's obsession.

No one can know how many terrorist attacks will be stimulated by the U.S. destroying another small, virtually defenseless country.

No one can know what kind of havoc will engulf the Middle East once Hussein is defeated.

No one can know how many more millions of people will come to the conclusion that America truly is "the Great Satan."

But acts do have consequences.

And you and I will be among those who suffer the consequences.