Posts Tagged ‘Saddam Hussein’

Walkout on Ahmadinejad at UN: The Craven Whores Doth Protest Too Much

September 29, 2010
Dr K R Bolton, Foreign Policy Journal,  Sep 28, 2010

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

While it is all very easy for the news media, sundry interest groups, and government functionaries throughout the world to dismiss Dr Ahmadinejad as a Mad Mullah beyond the ken of rational debate, perhaps that is because Iran’s president poses questions that are too near the mark to allow a sensible hearing.

As if it weren’t enough being the leader of a large Islamic nation that does not kowtow to the USA and to Israel, Dr Ahmadinejad put himself beyond redemption for eternity by suggesting that “holocaust revisionism” should be subjected to the same standards of scholarly scrutiny as any other historical matter,[1] and like the Left-wing Jewish academic Prof. Norman G Finkelstein, suggested that the holocaust was being exploited for political and economic motives.[2] Being Jewish, Left-wing and the son of parents who had survived both the Warsaw Ghetto and Nazi concentration camps,[3] didn’t save Finkelstein from the Zionist smear-brigade, so Dr Ahmadinejad is not about to be cut any slack.

When Dr Ahmadinejad reached the UN podium on September 24, it is certain that Israel, the USA and sundry lackeys to both states, waited with baited breath to see what the president would do this time to try and expose their corrupt system before what remains of states that have any sense of national sovereignty and dignity. The reaction of the delegates from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, all 27 delegates from the EU states, Canada, and Costa Rica was to walk out en mass — the response of those who have nothing thoughtful or honest to offer. In New Zealand’s case, our state relies of moral posturing at world forums to compensate for national impotence.

Continues >>

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Two Wars Don’t Make a Right

September 1, 2010

By Robert Scheer, truthdig.com, Sept 1, 2010

AP Photo/Karim Kadim
An Iraqi man and his wife watch U.S. President Barack Obama’s televised speech in Baghdad, Iraq, on Wednesday.

The carnage is not yet complete, and President Barack Obama’s attempt to put the best face on the ignominious U.S. occupation of Iraq will not hide what he and the rest of the world well know. The lies that empowered George W. Bush to invade Iraq represent an enduring stain on the reputation of American democracy. Our much-vaunted system of checks and balances failed to temper the mendacity of the president who acted like a king and got away with it.

It is utter nonsense for Obama, who in the past has made clear his belief that the Bush administration’s case for this war was a tissue of lies, to now state: “The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people.” We paid a huge price simply to assuage the arrogance of a president that was unfettered by the restraints of common sense expected in a functioning democracy. Particularly shameful was the betrayal by the Congress and the mass media of the obligations to challenge a president who exploited post-9/11 fears to go to war with a nation that had nothing whatsoever to do with that attack.

With hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans dead and maimed and at a cost of $3 trillion to American taxpayers, the U.S. imperial adventure in Iraq has left that country in a horrible mess, controlled by a corrupt and deeply divided elite that shows no serious inclination to effectively govern. Nor can there be a claim of enhanced U.S. security when the real victors are the ayatollahs of Iran, whose influence in once bitterly hostile Iraq is now immense. The price in shattered lives and dollars will continue, as Iraq remains haunted by ethnic and religious conflict that we did so much to provoke.

Remember when most of the once respected mass media, and not just the obvious lunatics on cable, bought the Bush propaganda that democracy in Iraq, a harbinger of a new Middle East, was just around the corner? They based that absurd expectation on the fact that an Iraqi ayatollah disciple of the ones ruining Iran could order millions of his followers to hold up purple fingers. What a joke we have made of the ideal of representative democracy when Iraq is operating under an incomprehensible constitution, which our proconsul ordered, and is still without a functioning government six months after an election that our media once again dutifully celebrated.

Continues >>

Turning Back From the Point of No Return – Implications of the Threat to Bomb Iran

August 26, 2010
Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, August 26, 2010

The drums for war on Iran have been banging louder than ever lately, with a spate of articles by political commentators either directly encouraging the bombing of the Islamic Republic or otherwise offering a narrative in which this is effectively portrayed as the only option to prevent Iran from waging a nuclear holocaust against Israel. A prominent example of the latter is Jeffrey Goldberg’s article last month in the Atlantic magazine, “The Point of No Return”.[1] Goldberg’s lengthy piece essentially boils down to this: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons poses an existential threat to Israel’s existence comparable to the Nazi Holocaust, and although the U.S. recognizes this threat, the Obama administration is weak, so Israel will have no choice but to act alone in bombing Iran to ensure its own survival.

Continues >>

Blum: USrael and Iran

August 5, 2010

William Blum, Foreign Policy Journal, August 5, 2010

If and when the United States and Israel bomb Iran (marking the sixth country so blessed by Barack Obama) and this sad old world has a new daily horror show to look at on their TV sets, and we then discover that Iran was not actually building nuclear weapons after all, the American mainstream media and the benighted American mind will ask: “Why didn’t they tell us that? Did they want us to bomb them?”

The same questions were asked about Iraq following the discovery that Saddam Hussein didn’t in fact have any weapons of mass destruction. However, in actuality, before the US invasion Iraqi officials had stated clearly on repeated occasions that they had no such weapons. I’m reminded of this by the recent news report about Hans Blix, former chief United Nations weapons inspector, who led a doomed hunt for WMD in Iraq. Last week he told the British inquiry into the March 2003 invasion that those who were “100 percent certain there were weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq turned out to have “less than zero percent knowledge” of where the purported hidden caches might be. He testified that he had warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair in a February 2003 meeting — as well as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in separate talks — that Hussein might have no weapons of mass destruction.[1]

Continues >>

Blair sold Iraq on WMD, but only regime change adds up

December 15, 2009

The PM seems to have deployed arguments as they suited him. Our weapons inspections were telling another story

Before the Iraq war was launched in March 2003 the world was given the impression by the US and Britain that the goal was to eradicate weapons of mass destruction. Recent comments by Tony Blair suggest, however, that regime change was the essential aim. He would have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even if he had known that there were no WMD, he said, but he would obviously have had to “deploy” different arguments. Must we not conclude that the WMD arguments were “deployed” mainly as the best way of selling the war? Blair’s comments do not exclude a strong – but mistaken – belief in the existence of WMD even when the invasion was launched. However, given that hundreds of inspections had found no WMD and important evidence had fallen apart, such a belief would have been based on a lack of critical thinking.

How could the issue of – non-existent – WMD mislead the world for more than 10 years? At the end of the Gulf war in 1991 the UN security council ordered Iraq to declare all WMD and destroy them under international supervision. However, Iraq chose to destroy much material without any inspection, giving rise to suspicions that weapons had been squirrelled away. These were nurtured by the frequent Iraqi refusals throughout the 90s to let UN inspectors enter sites and by evasive and erroneous responses to inspectors’ inquiries.

What other reason could there have been than to prevent inspectors getting evidence of existing weapons? It is possible that Saddam wanted to create the – false – impression that he still had WMD. What seems more likely to me, however, was a sense of hurt pride, a wish to defy and the knowledge that some of the inspectors worked directly for western intelligence – perhaps even passed information about suitable military targets.

Only in September 2002, when the US had already moved troops to Kuwait, did Iraq say it was to accept the inspection that the UN demanded. By that time a new US national security strategy declared that it could take armed (pre-emptive or preventive) action without UN authorisation; many in the Bush administration saw UN involvement as a potential impediment.

Many are convinced that the American and UK military plans moved on autopilot, and the inspections were a charade. I am sure that many in the Bush team felt that way. It seems likely that British and American leaders expected that UN inspections would again be obstructed or that Iraqi violation of the draconian new resolution 1441 would persuade the security council to authorise military action to remove the regime. For my part, I tended to think of the war preparations rather as a train moving slowly to the front and helping to make Iraq co-operative. If something removed or reduced the weapons issue, the train, I thought, might stop.

For the UK to join the US on an unpredictable UN line was a gamble – and in the end it failed. Inspections did not turn up any “smoking guns” and gradually undermined some of the evidence that had been invoked. Iraq became more co-operative and showed no defiance that could prompt the authorising of armed force. Thus, while the train of war moved on, the UN path pointed less and less to an authorisation of war.

What could the UK have done to avoid this development? It could have made a condition of its participation in the enterprise that the movement of the military train be synchronised with the movement on the UN path. With inspections just starting in the autumn of 2002 the military train should have moved very slowly. We have heard that Karl Rove had said that the autumn of 2003 was the latest time for invasion. Why so fast then in 2002? As the then German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, said: what was the sense of demanding UN inspections for two and a half years and then let them work only for a few months? Of course, if regime change – and not WMD – was the main aim, the steady speed becomes logical.

The responsibility for launching the war must be judged against the knowledge that the allies had when they actually started it. The UK should have recognised that no smoking gun had been found at any time, and that in the months before the invasion evidence of WMD was beginning to unravel. As we have heard recently: out of 19 Iraqi sites suspected by the UK – and suggested to the UN monitoring, verification and inspection commission for inspection (Unmovic) – 10 were actually inspected, and while “interesting”, none turned up any WMD. This warning that sources were not reliable seems to have been ignored. Intelligence organisations seem to have been 100% convinced of the existence of WMD but to have had 0% knowledge where they were. Worse still: the uranium contract between Iraq and Niger that George Bush had given prominence in his 2002 state of the union message was found by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be a forgery.

The absence of convincing evidence of WMD did not stop the train to war. It arrived at the front before the weather got too hot and the soldiers got impatient waiting for action. The factual reports of the IAEA and Unmovic did, however, have the result that a majority on the security council wanted more inspections and were unconvinced about the existence of WMD.

At the end the UK tried desperately to get some kind of authorisation from the security council as a legal basis for armed action – but failed. Confirming the fears of Dick Cheney, President Bush’s vice-president, the UN and inspections became an impediment – not to armed action, but to legitimacy.

Unlike the US, the UK and perhaps other members of the alliance were not ready to claim a right to preventive war against Iraq regardless of security council authorisation. In these circumstances they developed and advanced the argument that the war was authorised by the council under a series of earlier resolutions. As Condoleezza Rice put it, the alliance action “upheld the authority of the council”. It was irrelevant to this argument that China, France, Germany and Russia explicitly opposed the action and that a majority on the council declined to give the requested green light for the armed action. If hypocrisy is the compliment that virtue pays to vice then strained legal arguments are the compliments that violators of UN rules pay to the UN charter.

Memo that told Blair aides Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat

March 13, 2009

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Tony Blair

Weapons warning: Tony Blair published the WMD dossier in September 2002 which critics believe paved the way for war

Intelligence experts explicitly warned Tony Blair‘s aides that Britain was not in “imminent danger of attack” from Saddam Hussein, a confidential memo revealed today.

The row over claims that the Government “spun” its way into war with Iraq is likely to be reignited after the release of the document by the Cabinet Office.

The memo, released after a long-running Freedom of Information battle, shows Mr Blair’s officials knew seven years ago that the threat from Saddam was not immediate.

Despite the warning, the Government’s dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction included a claim that Baghdad was ready to launch an attack within “45 minutes”.

Lord Hutton cleared the Government in 2004 of the charge that it tried to manipulate intelligence to pave the way for war.

But today Whitehall released a memo from former Cabinet Office defence expert Desmond Bowen, who later won promotion to policy director at the Ministry of Defence, which shows he disagreed Saddam posed an immediate threat.

The September 2002 memo, written to then Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett and copied to Alastair Campbell, provides comments on an early draft of the government dossier on Iraq.

Mr Bowen wrote: “The question which we have to have in the back of our mind is ‘why now?’ I think we have moved away from promoting the idea that we are in imminent danger of attack and therefore intend to act in a pre-emptive self defence.”

Another email published today underlines ministers’ focus on how to get their message across in the media.

A memo from then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw‘s office stresses the dossier had to be shown on the Sky News video “wall”.

The email from Mr Straw’s private secretary Mark Sedwill suggests the dossier needed a “very simple table”.

Mr Sedwill wrote: “This should be brief enough to get onto the Sky wall ie no more than 5 bullets.”

Another email, apparently from an intelligence official, says a part of the dossier on chemical and biological weapons would be “likely to give a misleading impression”.

A further email, from unnamed officials, says “there is nothing we can point to that we know for sure is going to the BW [Biological Weapons] programme”.

Mr Blair published the WMD dossier in September 2002, which critics believe paved the way for war the following spring.

An inquiry by Lord Butler found blunders in its compilation, with the “45 minutes” claim based on unreliable evidence.

A separate “dodgy dossier” was published in early 2003. It was discovered to have sections copied off the internet.

A bigger liar than Bush

September 11, 2008

McCain (and Palin) are setting a record for outright lies. But what is to stop them?

Michael Tomsky | The Guardian, Sep 11, 2008

In 2002 and 2003, the Bush administration knew something about the media that the media still don’t fully understand about themselves. If you’re in a position of power and you want to say something, just say it, no matter what, and the media will repeat it and repeat it.

Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction to speak of? No matter. Just say he did. He wasn’t six months away from nuclear capability? So what—just assert that he was. He wasn’t tied to 9-11, there was no famous Prague meeting? No problem. Suggest there might have been. Muddy it up. Good enough.

Bush and co. knew that the media are constitutionally unequipped to call a lie a lie. People in the media like to flatter themselves as truth-tellers and the people’s watchdogs and all that, but the fact is that except in very rare circumstances, there’s no such thing as “objective truth” in the media, particularly the political media. There’s just what one side says and what the other side says. This is especially so on cable television.

The Bush people manipulated this. But the McCain campaign has taken it to extremes that make even Dick Cheney look like a wallflower. The number and intensity of outright lies, even for jaded observers, is just staggering.

There’s Sarah Palin’s lies about the bridge and earmarks. There’s an unbelievable one I mentioned yesterday about Obama’s alleged opposition to combat systems. There’s the flatly false assertion to middle-class audiences that Obama will raise their taxes, even though his tax plan does no such thing.

Now there’s this incredible McCain education ad that tries to argue that Obama wants to pervert kindergartners. The legislation, in Illinois, was in fact designed to allow local school boards to teach “age appropriate” sex education – and to teach children about how to identify sexual predators!

And then there’s this silly pig-lipstick business, which I wouldn’t even dignify by mentioning except that, obvious as it was that Obama was talking about McCain and not Palin, the McCain camp has now created something called the “Palin Truth Squad” that was formed to push the lie that Obama was talking about Palin. I’ll say that again: a “truth squad” created for the express purpose of pushing a lie.

And where is the truth squad of the press, the people’s watchdogs? Mostly enjoying the show, hyping the “mudslinging” between the two sides, which of course “both sides” are guilty of. Nonsense. Obama and Biden distort certain things about McCain’s record – that whole 100 years in Iraq business is a stretch. But McCain did say it, so it’s only a stretch, not a fabrication.

McCain and Palin are engaged in serial total fabrications. And almost no one calls them on it. The New York Times, which found the space to run a puffy piece on Palin’s family on its front page the other day, hasn’t found similar space to run a story under a headline like, “McCain-Palin Claims Stretch Credulity, Some Say.”

CBS and CNN have finally gotten around to running reports that pretty much state outright that Palin is lying about the bridge. ABC’s Jake Tapper plainly called out the “truth squad” on the lipstick story. McClatchy did a strong fact-check of the McCain education ad. But for the most part, the media treats it all as entertainment, a matter of which side has seized the offensive.

The McCain team knows all this. So they consciously promote lies, knowing that no real mechanism exists to stop them from doing so.

The Obama team should have been doing a stronger job of push-back these last few days. It was only after Obama himself said Palin was lying about the bridge that a few media outlets started pursuing that angle. That’s how the game is played, and the McCain strategy will be a test of their ability to hit back fast and hard.

But this race is now a test of the media too. You’d think after being told in the run-up to the Iraq war a bushel of things that didn’t end up being true that they printed anyway, they’d have given some thought to the question of how not to let themselves be manipulated like that again. But it is happening again, and the media are getting played in exactly the same way.

And what does all this say about John McCain? In 2000, when he was running against George Bush in the South Carolina primary, he was smeared by outright lies charging among other things that he’d fathered an out-of-wedlock black child. The man who “directed communications” for Bush’s 2000 South Carolina effort was Tucker Eskew. McCain confidants have long held Eskew partly responsible for those smears.

Last week, McCain hired him, to staff up Palin. That just about says all we need to know about today’s McCain.

Now let me ask you. What is more revealing of a candidate’s “character”: The fact that a candidate used a phrase as old as the hills, a phrase the other candidate himself has used (see Jake Tapper above), or the fact that a candidate would hire someone he once regarded as having helped spread vile innuendo about him and his family?

Deeper and deeper we go into the hall of mirrors…

Charging the Victim: Who Should Pay to Rebuild Iraq?

August 14, 2008

Our Congressional Representative James Walsh (R-NY) recently “lashed out at Iraq.” Walsh, now in his tenth term, said Iraq should use its oil windfall sales to repay some of the $48 billion the United States has spent “rebuilding” there.

“We have delivered democracy for them….The least they could do is step up to the plate and help out,” Walsh opined.

Let’s not look too closely at that “democracy” we’ve “delivered.” Let’s not ask to what extent bombed-out medical facilities have been restored. Nor to what extent Iraqis, after five years of beneficent occupation, now have electricity and potable water. Nor how many Iraqi jobs any U.S. reconstruction has generated. Nor how much of that $48 billion lined the capacious pockets of Halliburton et al. Nor how much of the “re-building” fund goes to building permanent U.S. military bases.

Nor need we ask who’s going to pay to clean up Iraq’s soil, air and water after their protracted exposure to depleted uranium — the toxic and radioactive substance used in the U.S. shells rained down on that liberated land. And let’s not open that other can of worms: How will we compensate Iraqi families for the unnumbered kin we have killed?

Instead let’s take a more legalistic approach. Let’s look at precedent. In 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, no one thought to hold that victim responsible for the damage. Nor did anyone claim that, because it had oil assets, Kuwait owed Iraq money.

No one – especially the UN Security Council — questioned that it was Iraq that had to reimburse losses and finance the rebuilding. Indeed, since its Gulf War defeat, Iraq keeps paying billions in reparations. But those billions are only a fraction of what Kuwait and the corporations doing business there still keep demanding.

Fast forward to the new century. Now it’s Iraq that’s been (illegally) invaded; it’s Iraq that’s been laid low. In a classic case of “charging the victim,” Mr. Walsh and some of his Congressional colleagues,* both Democrat and Republican, argue that Iraq must help pay for its own rebuilding. Both common sense and common decency wince.

It is the invader, not the invaded, who is both morally and legally obligated to pay to restore a war-torn land. And note: those billions Iraq has been paying Kuwait go to Kuwaitis and not to any Iraqi war profiteer. Given adequate reparations, Iraq — a land of builders and engineers — is quite capable of repairing itself. It needs no assist from the invader’s avid corporations.

Those who perpetrated the U.S. invasion, besides being tried in a Nurnberg-like tribunal, should make financial amends. Their shills — much of the U.S. mainstream media — also share responsibility. But sorting out who should pay what would take the wisdom of Solomon.

In the case of Kuwait, a UN commission plays Solomon. The case seemed simple enough: only Iraq invaded; it was then vanquished. Ergo, the Iraqi people — via their oil reserves — must be perpetually taxed to repair Saddam Hussein’s folly. Never mind that it was his western allies who helped militarize Saddam’s regime.

Yes, some Iraqis also collaborated with Saddam. But most were Saddam’s victims. Saddam frowned on dissent. Many of his soldiers were conscripts. Thousands of these — slaughtered from the air as they fled homeward — remain interred in desert sands.

Now, the U.S./Iraq case isn’t quite parallel. All too many U.S. people and our Congressional representatives enthusiastically supported “Shock and Awe” and the ensuing occupation.

Does it let us off the hook — at least a little — that Cheney/Bush and their shills persistently lied to us? Many U.S. Americans believed that our “pre-emptive” war had nothing to do with certain corporations cornering the world’s oil supply. Nor did it even occur to us that Saddam’s move to switch from dollars to euros for oil payments helped trigger the wrath. Wasn’t the war about WMD and about somehow — never mind how — defending our borders against “terror”?

Should U.S. wage earners be forced to pay for a war many might not have supported had they known the truth? Should they then also pay for what that war wrought? Maybe yes, maybe no. One thing is certain: it was the Pentagon that maniacally demolished Iraq.

No, Mr. Walsh, it isn’t the Iraqi people who should devote their national wealth to rebuilding their desolated country. Nor should the U.S. people, also variously victims and dupes of this war, be further taxed. By all rights, the rebuilding fund should come out of our own oiligarchy’s windfall profits and out of the Pentagon’s obscenely bloated budget.

* “Iraq Told to Pick Up the Tab: Congress Wants to Cut Reconstruction Aid,” by Anne Flaherty, Associated Press in the Syracuse Post-Standard, 15 Apr. 2008.

The author spent five months in Iraq in 2003 with the human rights group, Voices in the Wilderness. Reach him at edkinane@verizon.net.

‘Where Are the Weapons of Mass Destruction?’

August 13, 2008

Truthdig, Aug 11, 2008

AP photo / Bullit Marquez

A U.S. soldier checks the radiation level of a canister that was looted during the invasion from the nuclear facility in Tuwaitha, Iraq. A Harris poll released July 21, 2006, found that 50 percent of U.S. respondents said they believed Iraq had nuclear arms when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003.

By Scott Ritter

In the past two decades I have had the opportunity to participate in certain experiences pertaining to my work that fall into the category of “no one will ever believe this.” I usually file these away, calling on them only when events transpire that breathe new life into these extraordinary memories. Ron Suskind, a noted and accomplished journalist, has written a new book, “The Way of the World: A Story of Truth and Hope in an Age of Extremism,” in which he claims that the “White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush [Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Mukhabarat], to Saddam [Hussein], backdated to July 1, 2001.” According to Suskind, the letter said that “9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq—thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq.”

This is an extraordinary charge, which both the White House and the CIA vehemently deny. Suskind outlines a scenario which dates to the summer and fall of 2003, troubled times for the Bush administration as its case for invading Iraq was unraveling. I cannot independently confirm Suskind’s findings, but I, too, heard a similar story, from a source I trust implicitly. In my former line of work, intelligence, it was understood that establishing patterns of behavior was important. Past patterns of behavior tend to repeat themselves, and are thus of interest when assessing a set of seemingly separate circumstances around the same source. Of course, given the nature of the story line, it is better if I introduce this information within its proper context.

In the summer of 2003 I was approached by Harper’s Magazine to do a story on the work of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), a CIA-sponsored operation investigating Saddam’s weapons-of-mass-destruction programs in the aftermath of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. David Kay, a former International Atomic Energy Agency inspector who served briefly in Iraq in 1991 and 1992, was at that time the head of the ISG. By October 2003 the group had prepared a so-called interim report, which claimed to have eyewitness evidence of Iraqi WMD-related activities prior to the invasion in March. The key to the ISG’s interim report was the testimony of “cooperative sources,” Iraqis of unstated pedigree purportedly providing the ISG with unverifiable information. With one exception—an Iraqi nuclear scientist who had been killed by coalition forces—David Kay failed to provide the name or WMD association of any of the sources he used for his report, making any effort to verify their assertions impossible. Many of the senior Iraqis who had openly contradicted Kay’s report were, and still are to this day, muzzled behind the walls of an American prison in Baghdad. But there was another group of Iraqis, the former scientists and technicians involved in Iraq’s WMD programs who were known to have been interviewed by the ISG, and who were released back into Iraqi society. These scientists held the key to deciphering the vague pronouncements of the ISG interim report, and could help to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Continued . . .

How Tenet Betrayed the CIA on WMD in Iraq

August 10, 2008

Analysis by Gareth Porter | Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug 8 – Journalist Ron Suskind’s revelation that Saddam Hussein’s intelligence chief was a prewar intelligence source reporting to the British that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD) adds yet another dimension to the systematic effort by then Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George Tenet to quash any evidence — no matter how credible — that conflicted with the George W. Bush administration’s propaganda line that Saddam was actively pursuing a nuclear weapons programme.

According to Suskind’s new book, ‘The Way of the World’, Iraqi Director of Intelligence Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti had been passing on sensitive intelligence to the UK’s MI6 intelligence service for more than a year before the U.S invasion. In early 2003, Suskind writes, Habbush told MI6 official Michael Shipster in Jordan that Saddam had ended his nuclear programme in 1991 and his biological weapons programme in 1996. Habbush explained to the British official that Saddam tried to maintain the impression that he did have such weapons in order to impress Iran.

Suskind writes that the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove, flew to Washington to present details of the Habbush report to Tenet, who then briefed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Soon after that, the CIA informed the British that the Bush administration was not interested in keeping the Habbush channel open, according to Suskind’s account.

Tenet has called the story of the Habbush prewar intelligence a “complete fabrication”, claiming Habbush had “failed to persuade” the British that he had “anything new to offer by way of intelligence”. His statement actually reinforces Suskind’s account, however, by indicating that he had simply chosen not to believe Habbush. “There were many Iraqi officials who said both publicly and privately that Iraq had no WMD,” said the statement, “but our foreign intelligence colleagues and we assessed that these individuals were parroting the Baath party line and trying to delay any coalition attack.”

Contradicting Tenet’s claim that the British did not take the Habbush report seriously, MI6 director Dearlove told Suskind he had asked Prime Minister Tony Blair why he had not acted on the intelligence from Habbush.

Another high-level U.S. source in the last months of the Saddam regime was Saddam’s foreign minister Naji Sabri. Tyler Drumheller, the CIA’s chief of clandestine operations for Europe from 2001 until 2005, recounts in his book ‘On the Brink’ that Sadri was passing on information to an official of a European government in early autumn 2002 indicating that hints of a WMD programme were essentially a “Potemkin village” used to impress foreign enemies.

Sidney Blumenthal wrote in Sep. 2007 that two former CIA officers who had worked on the Sabri case identified the foreign intermediary as being France and said he had been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the CIA and French intelligence to provide documents on Saddam’s WMDs.

Drumheller told ‘60 Minutes’ that Sabri “told us that they had no active weapons of mass destruction program.”

On Sep. 17, 2002, the CIA officer who had debriefed Sabri in New York, briefed CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin, according to Blumenthal’s account. McLaughlin responded that Sabri’s information was at odds with “our best source”. That was a reference to ‘Curveball’, the Iraqi who claimed knowledge of an Iraqi mobile bio-weapons lab programme but was later found to be a professional liar.

The next day, Tenet briefed Bush on Sabri’s intelligence, but Bush rejected it out of hand as “what Saddam wanted him to think”.

French intelligence agents later tapped Sabri’s telephone conversations and determined that he was telling the truth. But it was too late. One of Tenet’s deputies told the CIA officers, “This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”

Yet another highly credible U.S. source on the WMD issue in Sep. 2002 was Saad Tawfik, an electrical engineer who had been identified by the CIA as a “key figure in Saddam Hussein’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme”. The story of the CIA’s handling of his testimony is told in James Risen’s ‘State of War’.

In early Sep. 2002, Tawfik’s sister, who lived in Cleveland, flew to Baghdad with a mission from the CIA to obtain details about Saddam’s nuclear weapons from her brother. But when she returned in mid-September, the CIA didn’t like the report from her conversations with the source.

Tawfik told his sister that Saddam’s nuclear programme had been abandoned in 1991. When she told him the CIA wanted her to ask such questions as “how advanced is the centrifuge” and “where are the weapons factories”, Tawfik was incredulous that the CIA didn’t understand that there was no such programme.

Tawfik’s was only one of thirty cases of former Iraqi WMD experts who reported through relatives that Saddam had long since abandoned his dreams of WMD, according to Risen.

Both the Sabri evidence and the evidence from Tawfik and other former Iraqi experts was available to the CIA during the work on the Oct. 2002 National Intelligence Estimates (NIE). But the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence kept all of that evidence out of the NIE process.

No report based on any of that evidence was ever circulated to State, Defence or the White House, according to Risen and Blumenthal.

The disappearance of all that credible evidence reflected a deliberate decision by Tenet. The White House Iraq Group had just rolled out its new campaign to create a political climate supporting war in early September, and Tenet knew what was expected of him. As an analyst who worked on the NIE told Bob Drogin of the Los Angeles Times, “The going-in assumption was that we were going to war, so this NIE was to be written with that in mind.” That means Tenet’s account of the CIA’s role in the WMD issue in his 2007 memoirs completely ignored the credible evidence from Habbush, Sabri and the former Iraqi specialists that there was no active program, as well as his own role in suppressing it.

Tenet even brazenly claimed that a “very sensitive, highly placed source in Iraq” about whom “little has been publicly said” had “reported that production of chemical and biological weapons was taking place”. The reporting from the source, continuing through the NIE and beyond, “gave those of us at the most senior level further confidence that our information about Saddam’s WMD programmes was correct.”

Tenet was clearly referring to the reporting coming from the Sabri debriefings, but his description of them was a prevarication. As Blumenthal reported, they had written a report on Sabri’s intelligence spelling out his view that there was no active WMD programme, but they later discovered that it had been rewritten and given an entirely new preamble asserting that Saddam already possessed chemical and biological weapons and was “aggressively and covertly developing” nuclear weapons.

Tenet — who was a political operator rather than an intelligence professional — had betrayed the CIA’s mission of providing objective analysis, instead choosing to serve the interests of the Bush administration in preparing the way for war. It is not difficult to imagine how he would have meekly carried out whatever was asked of him by the White House — even forging a document and leaking it to the media, to buttress the administration’s case for war.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist. The paperback edition of his latest book, ‘Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam’ was published in 2006.


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