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Slam Dunk! – Were the rats playing basketball?

May 5, 2007 -- Did he say it or didn’t he? George Tenet does not deny uttering “Slam Dunk” but tells us that it was taken out of context.

We know that his statement is connected to the Iraq war but there is a need to be fair and determine the exact context. His interviews have not revealed it, as if intentional. If he thinks I am going to rush and buy his book so I could be fair, he is dreaming, the Internet is free.

From “Was Woodward Slam Dunked?” by Robert Parry of Consortium News, I chose to accept the ‘Tenet cronies’ version that the statement was made on December 21, 2002, at “a marketing meeting” at the White House to discuss how Colin Powell would present the WMD issue to the UN and not a meeting to discuss the value of the intelligence. Supposedly, the presentation approach, in Tenet’s judgment, was a “Slam Dunk”.

I consider this to be a much kinder assessment than Woodward’s book and, as such, Mr. Tenet should accept it as fair.

Colin Powell’s presentation at the UN was on February 5, 2003, flanked by no other than George Tenet and John Negroponte, the UN ambassador. I can understand why Negroponte was there but Tenet’s presence was viewed by most as support for the quality of the intelligence; he was there to put his stamp of approval not on the presentation but to ensure that the content was accepted as fact and ensure the “Slam Dunk”.

To the average person, it was a “Slam Dunk” and the audience was not world opinion but the American citizen; the presentation stuck since it drew credibility from two respected individuals, the head of the CIA, George Tenet, and a war hero, Colin Powell.

To the critical listener, Powell had plenty of caveats, as an example, the issue of the aluminum tubes. Al-Baradai, in a report to the UN a week earlier said:

From our analysis to date, it appears that the aluminum tubes would be consistent with the purpose stated by Iraq and unless modified would not be suitable for manufacture centrifuges.

Powell presents the aluminum tube evidence and adds the following:

Most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Other experts, and the Iraqis themselves, argue that they are really to produce the rocket bodies for a conventional weapon, a multiple rocket launcher.

But Powell fails to tell us that some of the – other - experts are U.S. experts.

If the issue of the aluminum tubes was debatable, the issue that Powell stood strongly behind was the issue of Iraq's “mobile production facilities used to make biological agents.”

The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors. In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War.

He goes on to tell us that this information was based on four sources, not the single source, Curveball, as we all now know. He also never told us that a CIA report from the station chief in Germany stated that Curveball was unreliable.

In his UN presentation, Powell tells us that American Scientists evaluated the aluminum tubes; did American scientists have a chance to evaluate the schematics of the mobile biological labs?

As an engineer who spent 15 years in the chemical process industry, allow me to inform you that, any decent junior Chemical Process engineer vetting such evidence would within two hours of analysis, recognize two drawbacks:

1. The fermentation tanks are too short
2. The spray dryers are the bottleneck of the process 

While the fermentation tanks, where biological matter is introduced with nutrients and oxygen continuously metered in for growth, could be pushed beyond their physical shortcomings – lack of height - by running the tanks at higher pressures, the spray dryers allow little or no flexibility and will always remain the bottleneck.

If such a junior engineer was in doubt, Niro, the largest supplier of spray dryers, has their U.S. headquarters within a few miles of the DC beltway; a phone call or a morning trip would have been sufficient handholding by Niro for a solid evaluation.

If we examine Niro’s lineup of equipment, the largest spray dryer that would fit in a trailer is model PSD-1 and only two would fit, not three as Powell’s diagram showed, and all three trailers would have to be interconnected for 24 days; the duration of a single batch.

Also, because of the way a spray dryer works, any biological matter exiting in the spray dryer is sterile. Yes, sterile, since a spray dryer uses gas temperatures in excess of 100 degrees centigrade, the boiling point of water. The shorter the spray dryer is, the higher the minimum operating temperature is. For Niro’s PSD-1 the minimum temperature is 150 degrees centigrade with almost zero yield; my calculations were based on 175 degrees centigrade.

Technically, the process is highly flawed. Operationally, parking the trailers and interconnecting them for 24 days negates the need for mobility. This is what the American people accepted as the “Slam Dunk” part of the presentation; never challenged until after the invasion.

It is inconceivable that such an evaluation by The Weapons Intelligence Non Proliferation and Arms Control Center (WINPAC), a program of the CIA, or similarly qualified scientists was not provided between the “Slam Dunk” meeting of December 21, 2002 and the “Slam Dunk” presentation of February 5, 2003.

Could Colin Powell have presented the evidence because he was given assurances that similar trailers would be found?

In May of 2003, within a week of each other, two trailers were found in Iraq, and Powell clung to them as the WMD trailers. On May 22, 2003, CNN reports from Washington:

Intelligence analysts have determined that two suspected mobile biological weapons laboratories found in Iraq were "certainly designed and constructed for that purpose," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday.

Conveniently, both trailers were found in Kurdish controlled territory, recently cleaned, and with a fresh coat of military green paint.

On June 5, 2003, the late Dr. David Kelly, the British biological weapons expert, went to Iraq to inspect and photograph those trailers. Shortly after, on June 15, 2003, The Observer reports using information later attributed to Dr. Kelly:

British scientist and biological weapons expert, who has examined the trailers in Iraq, told The Observer last week: “They are not mobile germ warfare laboratories. You could not use them for making biological weapons. They do not even look like them. They are exactly what the Iraqis said they were - facilities for the production of hydrogen gas to fill balloons.”

The Observer concludes that report by informing us:

The revelation that the mobile labs were to produce hydrogen for artillery balloons will also cause discomfort for the British authorities because the Iraqi army's original system was sold to it by the British company, Marconi Command & Control.

By July 17, 2003, Dr. David Kelly was found dead in a park, suicide or murder, the jury is still out.

Such specificity was out in the public domain as early as June of 2003, yet, on October 2, 2003, three months into his job, David Kay, the head of the Iraq Survey Group, testified in a Senate hearing:

The mobile lab program, as you'll see when you look at the unclassified summary of the statement, is still something that is very much being examined. It was equally unsuitable for biological weapons, hydrogen, as well as rocket fuel regeneration. That is, it could have done either of those three; it would have done all of them almost equally unsuitable.

We simply are continuing our investigation. We're not yet at a point where we can say what they were for.

What Kay is saying there is, they are unsuitable for biological weapons but they are not allowing me to say it. By January of 2004, David Kay resigns his post stating, "I don't think they existed," about WMDs. It was not until September of 2004 that the Iraq Survey Group produced its final report; basically, no WMDs.

Powell, Tenet, and the rest of the Bush cabal, “Slam Dunked” an illegal war down the throat of the American people and a cycle of suffering with no end on Bush’s watch. To the rats that are jumping ship now, that is the proper context for your “Slam Dunk”; war is not a basketball game.

This article was first published on The Muckraker Report

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© 2005 Maher Osseiran