The unmasking of “Curveball,” the Iraqi informant who made up lies about mobile chemical/biological weapons being developed in his home country in order to spur the Bush administration to give in to its desire to invade Iraq, has led to potential criminal charges in Germany, but barely a yawn in the U.S. But at least one former member of the Bush administration would like some answers.
From The Guardian, which broke the story and interviewed Curveball in Germany:
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state at the time of the Iraq invasion, has called on the CIA and Pentagon to explain why they failed to alert him to the unreliability of a key source behind claims of Saddam Hussein’s bio-weapons capability.
Responding to the Guardian’s revelation that the source, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi or “Curveball” as his US and German handlers called him, admitted fabricating evidence of Iraq’s secret biological weapons programme, Powell said that questions should be put to the US agencies involved in compiling the case for war. In particular he singled out the CIA and the Defence Intelligence Agency – the Pentagon’s military intelligence arm. Janabi, an Iraqi defector, was used as the primary source by the Bush administration to justify invading Iraq in March 2003. Doubts about his credibility circulated before the war and have been confirmed by his admission this week that he lied.
Powell said that both the CIA and DIA should face questions about why they failed to sound the alarm about Janabi. He demanded to know why it had not been made clear to him that Curveball was totally unreliable before false information was put into the key intelligence assessment, or NIE, put before Congress, into the president’s state of the union address two months before the war and into his own speech to the UN.
“It has been known for several years that the source called Curveball was totally unreliable,” he told the Guardian . “The question should be put to the CIA and the DIA as to why this wasn’t known before the false information was put into the NIE sent to Congress, the president’s state of the union address and my 5 February presentation to the UN.”
On 5 February 2003, just a month before the invasion, Powell went before the UN security council to make the case for war. In his speech he referred to “firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and on rails … The source was an eyewitness who supervised one of these facilities”. It is now known that the source, Janabi, made up the story.
Curveball told the Guardian he welcomed Powell’s demand. “It’s great,” he said tonight. “The BND [German intelligence] knew in 2000 that I was lying after they talked to my former boss, Dr Bassil Latif, who told them there were no mobile bioweapons factories. For 18 months after that they left me alone because they knew I was telling lies even though I never admitted it. Believe me, back then, I thought the whole thing was over for me.
Of course, it wouldn’t be over until more than 4,000 Americans and north of 100,000 Iraqis were dead, something al Jana it turns out, doesn’t even really regret:
Everything he had said about the inner workings of Saddam Hussein’s biological weapons programme was a flight of fantasy – one that, he now claims was aimed at ousting the Iraqi dictator. Janabi, a chemical engineering graduate who had worked in the Iraqi industry, says he looked on in shock as Powell’s presentation revealed that the Bush administration’s hawkish decisionmakers had swallowed the lot. Something else left him even more amazed; until that point he had not met a US official, let alone been interviewed by one.
“I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime,” he told the Guardian in a series of interviews carried out in his native Arabic and German. “I and my sons are proud of that, and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy.”
Asked about how he felt as the bodycount among of countrymen mounted and Iraq descended into chaos, Curveball shifted uncomfortably in his chair, then said: “I tell you something when I hear anybody – not just in Iraq but in any war – (is) killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?
“Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities.”
“Saddam did not [allow] freedom in our land. There are no other political parties. You have to believe what Saddam says, and do what Saddam wants. And I don’t accept that. I have to do something for my country. So I did this and I am satisfied, because there is no dictator in Iraq any more.”
Curveball’s reinvention as a liberator and patriot is a tough sell to many in the CIA, the BND and in the Bush administration, whose careers were terminally wounded as mystery surrounding the whereabouts of the missing bioweapons in the post-invasion months turned into the reality that there were none.
His critics — who are many and powerful — say the cost of his deception is too difficult to estimate, even now. As the US scales back its presence in Iraq it is leaving behind an unstable country, whose allegiance — after eight years of blood and treasure — may not be to the US and its allies after all. For Curveball though, it’s time to reinvent himself. He has returned twice to Iraq and started a political party, winning a modest 1,700-odd votes in the general election last March. He has also written a manuscript about his past 10 years and is looking for a publisher.
In the meantime, things seem to be turning increasingly sour with the BND. The spooks helped him, his wife and two children get German citizenship in 2008. At the same time they cut off his stipend of €3,000 (£2,500) per month and told him to fend for himself.
Maybe he could embark on a book tour with Don Rumsfeld…
Original Guardian story here.
Flashback from The American Prospect: The CIA’s flim flam man