Documentary shows how reasons of state produce international lies

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In the midst of tensions in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attacks, one of the indirect victims was Ambassador José Maurício Bustani. The Brazilian diplomat was director general of an important UN agency, the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons).

He was ousted from his post in an openly US-led maneuver because inspectors reporting to him could not substantiate the US thesis that Iraq was clandestinely engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction.

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who in the past even used chemical weapons against Iraqi Shiites in the south of his country, no longer had these weapons in his arsenals.

Not that he had converted to ethics. But Iraq was subject to a strong economic embargo, with which it was difficult to circumvent the ban on manufacturing weapons. But false certainty was needed to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the Americans, British and countries of both sides.

Ambassador Bustani’s story is told in the documentary “Symphony of a Common Man”, which premiered this Thursday (9) in theaters. Directed by José Joffily, the film is a well-constructed denunciation of how the so-called reasons of State produce big international lies.

With regard to Iraq, there was a clash between two logics. President George W. Bush’s consisted in making people believe that the Iraqi dictatorship even had nuclear weapons hidden from Westerners. The OPCW’s logic, on the contrary, was to make Iraq signatory to the international treaty banning chemical weapons, so that inspectors could start sweeping its facilities.

There was already inspection inside Iraq. But it covered 95% of the arsenals. Americans thought that the remaining 5% hid prohibited things. The documentary brings a succession of testimonies that prove the fragility of the assumption that Bustani let dangerous weapons pass under his legs. From the former chief of inspectors in Iraq to the former Bush spokesman, everyone admits to mistakes.

But the US siege was tight. The only non-glazed wall in the Brazilian diplomat’s office in The Hague, Holland, was lined with hidden listening devices. The citizen who installed them disappeared upon discovery. He was definitely an American agent.

The game was heavy to the point that President Bush bypassed the Senate (which was in recess) to nominate the ultraconservative John Bolton as ambassador to the UN. The latter, when not convincing Bustani to resign, said he knew where his three children lived, in a thinly veiled threat to the personal safety of the young people.

Bolton returned to the forefront with President Donald Trump and was even named as one of Jair Bolsonaro’s good friends.

Another curious detail. The OPCW plenary session in which Bustani was dismissed does not exist in minutes on the website or in recordings in the agency’s library. Such records, says the diplomat, would fully show the boos to the American representative and to the Indian representative, who changed his vote to receive military planes from the Pentagon.

One of the inspectors claims that Iraq had the technology to conserve chemical weapons for a maximum of five years. And that, in the previous five years, nothing had been manufactured.

Bustanni says he believes the only way to call Saddam’s bluff would be for him to adhere to the OPCW treaty to make the contents of his weapons stockpiles transparent.

The documentary could also have revealed that the American establishment poisoned a New York Times journalist with false information, for whom Saddam even secretly produced nuclear warheads. The journalist in question, named Judith Miller, was fired later.

The dismissal, or “removal by mutual agreement”, was a way for the American newspaper to apologize for having joined the chorus of those who believed that Saddam, being a horrible dictator, could not be telling the truth by denying that he was dealing with the famous weapons of mass destruction.

The fact is that, removed in an American maneuver, Bustani returned to Itamaraty, where he fell into the limbo of the unloved. Until Lula, newly elected president, appointed him to the London embassy. The diplomat’s star shone again.

She could also have projected him as a musician. An amateur pianist, he always showed familiarity with the keyboard. So much so that the documentary begins with Bustani performing, with the Orquestra Jovem do Rio de Janeiro, Mozart’s “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 21”.

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