An Iraqi defector whose claims that Saddam Hussein had both biological weapons and the means to manufacture them were a key part of the Bush administration rationale for going to war now admits he lied.
AND, HE INSISTS after two days of interviews with the British newspaper The Guardian, that he is proud of the subterfuge, which ultimately resulted in the loss of more than 100,000 of his fellow Iraqis.
“I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime,” he said, later adding, “Believe me, there was no other way to bring freedom to Iraq.”
The story of Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, whose code name “Curveball” turned out to be unfortunately accurate, should be a cautionary tale for the need for skepticism, caution and restraint in weighing the factors to justify a war, especially one of choice.
Al-Janabi, who was, in fact, a chemical engineer, sought asylum in Germany in late 1999. German intelligence began interrogating him in 2000 and, according to the interview, he began regaling his interviewers with tales of mobile bio-weapons factories. Indeed, he claimed to have supervised one.
The Germans relayed this information to the CIA and it began working its way up the intelligence chain. Meanwhile, the Germans began to doubt al-Janabi’s veracity and passed their doubts on to the CIA. The top CIA agent in Europe began to have his doubts, too.
BUT THE TOP LEVELS of the Bush administration were so determined to make the case for war they ignored the red flags. One of them was that the Germans wouldn’t allow the CIA to question al-Janabi directly, meaning we had no assessment from our own experts as to his credibility.
Al-Janabi’s bogus claims of skillfully hidden mobile bio-weapons labs became the most compelling piece of evidence in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 speech before the United Nations making the case for war. The following month the United States, along with its reluctant but loyal allies, invaded. We’re there still with the last of our troops slated to leave by the end of this year.
The question is why al-Janabi chose now to talk. The Guardian said it appeared “to be partly a purge of conscience, partly an attempt to justify what he did. It also seems to be a bid to resurrect his own reputation, which might help him start again in Iraq.”
AL-JANABI’S BELATED admission absolves the Bush administration of the charge of having deliberately lied to get us into war but finds it was willfully, deliberately gullible.