“If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program.”
–President Bill Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
CBS is reporting that it has found the source of the bad Iraqi WMD intelligence; that would be one Rafid Ahmed Alwan, aka “Curveball.”
Are informants generally so aptly named?
Almost for as long as I’ve been blogging, I’ve been asking Where did the WMD intel come from?, a good question that everyone ignored in the rush to chant, “Bush lied!” As I pointed out repeatedly, President Bush presented the nation and the UN with the same intelligence President Clinton used to justify the Iraqi Liberation Act, and our flyovers and occasional bombings in that country – intelligence that pre-dated the Bush administration. Hillary Clinton, in 2003, concurred, saying that the information President Bush was showing was “consistent with what we saw,” when she and her husband were in the White House.
I’ve always maintained that since both presidents used the same intelligence, either both lied, or both told the truth. CBS is saying neither President lied; they were duped.
Curve Ball is an Iraqi defector named Rafid Ahmed Alwan, who arrived at a German refugee center in 1999. To bolster his asylum case and increase his importance, he told officials he was a star chemical engineer who had been in charge of a facility at Djerf al Nadaf that was making mobile biological weapons.
He eventually wound up in the care of German intelligence officials to whom he continued to spin his tale of biological weapons. His plan succeeded partially because he had worked briefly at the plant outside Baghdad and his descriptions of it were mostly accurate. He embellished his account by saying 12 workers had been killed by biological agents in an accident at the plant.
More than a hundred summaries of his debriefings were sent to the CIA, which then became a pillar – along with the now-disproved Iraqi quest for uranium for nuclear weapons – for the U.S. decision to bomb and then invade Iraq. The CIA-director George Tenet gave Alwan’s information to Secretary of State Colin Powell to use at the U.N. in his speech justifying military action against Iraq.
After 9/11, it would have been unthinkable for any president to allow Saddam, with his history of using biological weapons, of attempting to assassinate an American President and of harboring terrorists like Abu Abbas, to maintain the status quo. And once upon a time, most Americans and most congressional creatures understood that, which is why the congress voted to depose Saddam and liberate the Iraqi people, a good move they’ve actually tried to distance themselves from, because it got difficult as Bush said it would. Some who talked up the action might have thought Iraq would be a “cakewalk,” but Bush told us it would be a “long, hard slog.”
You’d think this story – which goes to the root of the “lies” that brought us into Iraq after 9/11, and puts to rest the “Bush lied” mantra – would be grabbing headlines all over the place. Oh, I forgot, it puts to rest the “Bush lied” mantra.
The narrative is so ingrained, and so many have so much invested in it, that it would be remarkable – and inspiring – to see a few folk in the press and congress suggest (even if they do it grudgingly) that “maybe Bush didn’t ‘lie,’ maybe the rhetoric has been too harsh,” but I won’t hold my breath for it. And I know the Bush WH won’t do anything to correct the narrative because they never do.
But if things continue to look up in Iraq, some in congress might want to go look at their vote authorizing action once again, and maybe even take a little credit for taking part in an action that was bold and visionary, even if it was terribly, terribly difficult, (nothing great is easy) and which liberated millions of people who are learning to trust the US – after being let down by us, before – and are slowly, slowly, learning to throw off the yoke of tribalism and begin to self-govern.
If things continue to look up in Iraq, then someday America will look back and say, “we did something great, there, and – considering Japan and Germany – we did it in a remarkable space of time.” If things collapse there, well…then we will be looking at a very different world, altogether. In either case, perhaps it is time to put the blame on the Curveball, and hope that our at-bats get better.
Jimmie Bise notes that “Curveball has popped up before, “but this is the first time we’ve gotten a clear look at what he told German intelligence officials and how the CIA took that information and ran with it.” He has more thoughts, here.
Ed Morrissey was writing about Curveball (and other things) back in May of 2007 so some are wondering why CBS is talking this up now.
Red State suspects CBS is setting up a narrative shift on the war and the Clinton administration. While Big Lizard wonders about the whole story’s credibility – he says CBS is pulling a fast one.
Meanwhile Rudy Giuliani notes how Bill Clinton slashed our intelligence budget. Not saying that’s why we relied too much on a curveball, but who knows. Rudy’s speech sounds both funny and frank.
WELCOME: Instapundit readers and thanks, Glenn, for the link! While you’re here, please look around. We’re also talking about why Hillary Clinton reminds me of Mama Rose, whether she and Rudy should have some sort of glamorous sing-off, how much it peeves me to see the way men and parents are portrayed on television and in ads (the writer’s strike is not breaking my heart) and we’re wondering whether the press is interested in declaring itself free guardians of the public trust or owned members of a political movement. They can’t really be both.