While Iraqi citizens went to the polls in an election that has been marred by US meddling and extensive violence which is already being used by Odierno to suggest a new rationale for staying in Iraq, VoteVets’ launched a new ad campaign that revives a false Iraq war claim from 2007 to get our attention.
VoteVets is running this ad as part of Operation Free which, according to the website, is “paid for by the Truman National Security Project.” Truman describes itself as a “national security leadership institute… to to create an influential force of leaders across the country who advance strong progressive national security policy.” It’s led by such progressive (sic) luminaries as Madeleine K. Albright, Leslie H. Gelb and John D. Podesta. It’s unclear whether all the money for the campaign came from this source and VoteVets has not so far been willing to disclose their funding for this project which certainly sounds like some neocons had a hand in the planning.
The ad campaign, including a banner which has run on our site, claims that ”Iranian bombs are killing Americans”. The TV version which is running in multiple states dramatically portrays the impact of an EFP and repeats the claim that these are Iranian supplied weapons. The ad goes on to encourage support of the current climate change bill. Certainly the linkage of American oil dependence to national security is an argument all of us who abhor “wars for oil” can support but in this case the good message is completely lost in “war porn” images and false accusations.
Let’s look at the accusation. The ad claims that Iran has supplied Iraqi insurgents with EFPs (explosively formed penetrators) – a high powered IED weapon capable of piercing the armor on US vehicles. This claim was first made in February of 2007 by the Bush administration who portrayed EFPs as a new kind of weapon, unavailable to Iraqis without Iranian sources.
Yet this claim that EFPs were a “new weapon” and were supplied by Iran was disproved almost immediately by multiple reputable sources. For example, Gareth Porter in the Asia Times pointed to Michael Knight’s analysis in Jane’s Intelligence Review [subscription] which found that, counter to the DoD claims that Iraqis were unable to produce these weapons themselves:
Iraqi Shi’ites have indeed manufactured both the components for EFPs and the complete EFPs. He observes that the kind of tools required to fabricate EFPs “can easily be found in Iraqi metalworking shops and garages”.
He also notes that some of the EFPs found in Iraq had substituted steel plates for the copper lining found in the externally made lids. Knights calculates that the entire production of EFPs exploded thus far could have been manufactured in one or at most two simple workshops with one or two specialists in each – one in the Baghdad area and one in southern Iraq.
David Hambling, writing at the time in Defenselink:
But as has been observed here, anyone can make crude and simple EFP munitions in a basic workshop. All you need is a lump of plastic explosive and a piece of copper. Shape the copper into a saucer, put the explosive under it, and you’re there. Obviously this will be a lot less efficient, accurate and reliable than something like SLAM (optimal design of the the metal ‘lens’ is an art requiring a lot of computer power), but you can compensate by making it ten times bigger if you need to.
Maybe the insurgents should be given some credit for being able to build their own gear, or maybe there’s more intelligence we don’t know. But if EFP mines were being supplied by an outside source, you might expect to see somethng a lot slicker.
Hambling went on to link to a report that:
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace seemed to contradict this claim [that the Iranian government was supplying EFPs], saying that he has not seen evidence that the Iranian government “clearly knows or is complicit” in the weapons smuggling.
In a report about the technology of EFPs, the New York Times also noted the shakiness of the claim:
The most specialized part of the E.F.P.’s that were found is the concave copper disc, called a liner, that rolls into a deadly armor-piercing ball when the device explodes. Although American explosives experts say that the liner is deceptively difficult to make properly, the discs in Hilla look like a thick little alms plate or even a souvenir ashtray minus the indentations for holding cigarettes.
The electronics package is built around everyday items like the motion sensors used in garage-door openers and outdoor security systems; in fact, at the heart of some of the bombs found in Iraq is a type of infrared sensor commonly sold at electronic stores like RadioShack.
Noah Shachtman at Danger Room also highlighted the problems with the BushCo claim and in fact, just a few weeks after making the claim, even General Odierno and Major Weber, the expert used to brief the press on these charges, began to walk the story back with Weber saying the EFPs might be “copy cats.”
Gareth Porter also reported that even Bush administration figures like Condi Rice and Steven Hadley doubted the Iranian EFP stories that Cheney was pushing and tried to get them quashed ahead of time but Petraeus went ahead with the announcement to the press just days after his appointment to command in Iraq.
As Cernig summed up the situation at the time:
Secondly, the claim that EFP’s are exclusively the property of Iran is just stupid. These same weapons were first used by the IRA and spread to Columbia’s FARC and Spain’s ETA as well as Hizboullah and other terror groups worldwide years before the US-led invasion of Iraq. They are easy to make in any minimally equipped machine shop and at least three manufactories for EFP’s have been found inside Iraq itself. When the US tried to prove that Iran was responsible for these weapons, the whole world laughed. Not a single EFP has ever been intercepted crossing the Iran-Iraq border, even though one entire regiment of British troops spent months actively looking. And the Pentagon’s ever-evolving explanations of contrary evidence have descended to fairy tales that contravene the laws of physics. Even General Pace and Admiral Fallon refused to get onboard the neocon warmongering train – which later cost both their jobs.
The VoteVets ad is certainly shocking and meant to be – and designed to get viewers upset enough to call congress. But will those viewers even notice the climate change call to action amongst all the “Iran kills our boys” imagery and the Iranian bombs Kill Americans rhetoric. It would not be surprising if instead they call for an attack on Iran.
As the Columbia Journalism Review noted in 2007 about the original claims:
We remember a time a few years back when the press was sloppy with the facts on another Middle Eastern country’s military capabilities, and its ability and willingness to export those capabilities. The nation—and the world—can’t afford to have this particular bit of history repeat itself.