The Source of the Iraqi WMD Claims Comes Clean … And Shows that the American and British Governments Willfully Manipulated the Evidence

As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, everyone knew that Iraq didn’t have WMDs.

The Guardian just interviewed the infamous “Curveball” who provided false evidence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Curveball admitted that he knowingly lied about WMDs, in order to topple Saddam Hussein. Today, the Guardian is running a series of articles on Curveball which reinforce the conclusion that the American and British governments deliberately manipulated the evidence to justify the Iraqi invasion.

In one article, the Guardian notes :

The former head of the CIA in Europe … Tyler Drumheller, who says he warned the head of the US intelligence agency before the 2003 invasion of Iraq that Curveball might be a liar ….

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“My impression was always that his reporting was done in January and February,” said Drumheller, adding that he had been warned well before 2003 by his counterparts in the German secret service (BND) that Curveball might not be reliable. “We didn’t know if it was true. We knew there were real problems with it and there were inconsistencies.”

He passed on this information to the head of the CIA, George Tenet, he said, and yet Curveball’s testimony still made it into Colin Powell’s famous February 2003 speech justifying an invasion. “Right up to the night of Powell’s speech, I said, don’t use that German reporting because there’s a problem with that,” said Drumheller.

***

He recalled a conversation he had with John McLaughlin, then the CIA’s deputy director. “The week before the speech, I talked to the Deputy McLaughlin, and someone says to him, ‘Tyler’s worried that Curveball might be a fabricator.

“And McLaughlin said, ‘Oh, I hope not, because this is really all we have.’ And I said, and I’ve got to be honest with you, I said: ‘You’ve got to be kidding? his is all we have!’”

In a second article, the Guardian reports:

A senior aide to Colin Powell at the time of his pivotal speech to the United Nations said on Tuesday that Curveball’s admission raised questions about the CIA’s role.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to the then US secretary of state Powell in the build-up to the invasion, said the lies of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, also known by the codename Curveball, raised questions about how the CIA had briefed Powell ahead of his crucial speech to the UN security council presenting the case for war.

In particular, why did the CIA’s then director George Tenet and his deputy John McLaughlin believe the claim by Curveball, “and convey that to Powell even though the CIA’s own European chief Tyler Drumheller had already raised serious doubts.

“And why did Tenet and McLaughlin portray the presence of mobile biological labs in Iraq to the secretary of state with a degree of conviction bordering on passionate, soul-felt certainty?”

***

“This is very damning testimony and an indictment of the work the US put into the pre-war intelligence. The decision to go to war, to spend billions on sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to the region, was in large part taken on the basis of an admitted liar,” said Ashwin Madia, head of an organisation of progressive US military veterans, VoteVets.

***

Judith Yaphe, a former CIA analyst on Iraq now at the National Defence University in Washington, said … “There were people at the time who doubted what Curveball was saying, but if the administration doesn’t want to believe it, it doesn’t make much difference.”

And in a third piece, Carne Ross – Britain’s former Iraq expert at the UN security council, and the person responsible for liaison with the weapons inspectors – writes:

Again, we will be confronted with the “not my fault!” excuse from those who manufactured the case for an avoidable war.

But once again, they are trying to mislead. Here’s why.

As I learned in my work on Iraq’s WMD in the late 90s and early 2000s, when I was Britain’s Iraq expert at the UN security council and responsible for liaison with the weapons inspectors, intelligence on WMD is a confusing and complicated issue. There was a great deal of data, much of it contradictory, from an array of different sources – intercepts of communications, aerial and satellite imagery and “humint” from defectors or agents inside Iraq. Our task in the government was to try to make sense of all this, and interpret from the data a reasonably plausible and coherent picture of what was actually going on.

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Given the complexity of the data, no single source could ever be taken as authoritative. And the least convincing sources – by their very nature – were defectors. We knew full well that, for very understandable reasons, defectors had a powerful incentive to exaggerate the nature of Iraq’s development of WMD. They hated Saddam and wanted him gone. Long before Curveball, there were other defectors who made sometimes wild claims about Iraq’s weapons programmes. I remember one report that suggested Iraq had armed its Scud missiles (none of which, in fact, existed, it later emerged) with nuclear warheads, ready to be launched at Israel and other targets. Defector intelligence was, therefore, lowest in the hierarchy of evidence; photographic or signals intercepts were, for obvious reasons, treated as more plausible.

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All evidence had to be tested by the simple method of seeking corroboration from other sources. This method was used across Whitehall, and in the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office in particular, and was the basis for the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments of the WMD threat, several of which I contributed to. In the years I worked on the subject (1997-2002), the picture produced by this method was very clear: there was no credible evidence of substantial stocks of WMD in Iraq.

And it was this method – clearly – that was abandoned in advance of the war. Instead of a careful cross-checking of evidence, reports that suited the story of an imminent Iraqi threat were picked out, polished and formed the basis of public claims like Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN security council, or the No 10 dossier. This was exactly how a false case for war was constructed: not by the deliberate creation of a falsehood, but by willfully and secretly manipulating the evidence to exaggerate the importance of reports like Curveball’s, and to ignore contradictory evidence.

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Others of my former colleagues in the MOD and Foreign Office have freely admitted to me that this is precisely what took place. Yet, for all its subtlety and secrecy, we should name this process for what it was: the manufacture of a lie.

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