In 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson made a strong case that the Soviet Union had placed intermediate-range ballistic missiles—with ranges sufficient to hit targets, such as New York City and Washington, D.C.—in Cuba. The Ambassador used photographs taken from U-2 spy planes to show what was on an island only 90 miles or so from the tip of Florida. In regard to a response from the Soviet Union’s ambassador, Stevenson said, “I can wait until hell freezes over.”
That presentation was effective because the facts set forth by Ambassador Stevenson were accurately stated. The United States gained support in the world. Nuclear war was averted. Some would say the Soviets had been emboldened by President Kennedy’s indecisiveness about Cuba, particularly the invasion of the Bay of Pigs. Another view could be the invasion at the Bay of Pigs—planned during the Eisenhower administration—caused Fidel Castro to seek Soviet support as a mechanism of defense against the United States. The invasion was doomed to failure, as Cuban ex-patriots involved in the invasion had boasted about it. Cuban military officials knew the date of the invasion and a great many other details.
The Soviets removed the missiles.
On February 5, 2003, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the same type presentation, as had Adlai Stevenson, to state a case for invasion of Iraq. Powell had photographs on easels and indicated, as had Stevenson, the significance of each. Powell also had communications from Iraqi officials. Ironically those communications concerned compliance with United Nations demands about WMDs, but were translated in such a fashion as to mislead the audience to believe the communications were about how to deploy the weapons.
Most of what Secretary of State Powell said was false. Iraq lacked any WMDs—weapons of mass destruction. Iraq had no nuclear capability. The Secretary knew these matters were false when he made his presentation. The Cheney-Bush administration, however, wanted a war with Iraq. They made false claims in a format Stevenson had used to state matters of truth for the goal of tricking everyone into buying into a war against Iraq.
The consequences of their lies will be felt for a long time. Over four thousand United States service personnel have been killed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis are dead. Many more people suffered wounds the effects of some of which will be lifelong. The United States incurred a monetary debt in the trillions. We also lost the respect of many of the people of the rest of the world. We left Iraq—as well we should have; as we never should have invaded Iraq in 2003—in shambles, its new government vulnerable to the divisions within it that had been held in check by a dictator. The thing about the attitude of the United States government has been consistent over the past several decades. When they do not support our economic or foreign policies, they are despots, killers or communists. When they support such policies, those dictators are friends and allies.
Another consequence is playing out now, over the shooting down of Malaysia Airline flight MH17. Secretary of State John Kerry has spoken of evidence the United States consisting of, among other relevant matters, satellite photographs of a Russian convoy entering Ukraine with at least one missile launcher of the type missile used in the MH17 crash and signals transmissions about deployment of the various weapons.
A presentation by the United States Secretary of State or the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, to the United Nations Security Council might have a significant effect. At least that would be a nice option to have. Unfortunately, the cynical neo-cons of the “W” administration used that platform to lie us into a war. I would think the Russian Ambassador would be pretty quick to dismiss any such presentation by the United States. All the Russian ambassador would need do is refer to the lies told by Colin Powell.