“Curveball” lied and Colin Powell is mystified

Originally published February 2011.

Colin Powell is apparently surprised that he was lied to about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. But when the informant’s name was “Curveball”, wasn’t that a clue?

According to CNN, Colin Powell is apparently surprised (shocked and awed?) that he was lied to about the existence of WMDs in Iraq. The primary justification that the Bush Administration used for invading Iraq in 2003 came from a defector known to the American CIA as “Curveball”, who claimed to have seen first-hand a fleet of mobile bioweapons labs. Powell presented the evidence to the nation and the world in the form of drawings and ambiguous satellite photographs of trucks, with no hard proof or corroboration. And based largely on that scant evidence, the U.S. invaded Iraq.

Now, after nine years of war, 4,326 American deaths (NPR), at least 650,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, millions of refugees, and $3 trillion expended, (Washington Post), Curveball, has told The Guardian that he lied. He has confessed that he concocted the stories of mobile bioweapons trucks and secret factories in an effort to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime.

According to Colin Powell, Curveball (whose real name is Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi) was able to completely con the American CIA, the American Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Bush Administration, most of Congress and a good portion the American public into believing that Iraq had assembled a fleet of mobile weapons labs. These secret labs somehow shuttled around the country, remaining always one step ahead of our best intelligence efforts, continuous surveillance over flights of Iraqi no-fly zones, and the team UN weapons inspectors that had scoured Iraq for years.

When Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush campaigned to sell the Second Gulf War to the world, weapons inspectors had already concluded that there were no WMDs in Iraq. Exhaustive searching revealed no hint of an active WMD program. Scott Ritter, the Chief UN Weapons Inspector in Iraq, was emphatic: There were no WMDs.

I watched, aghast, the day that Colin Powell stood and sold the Bush Administration’s lie to the U.N. and the world. The drums of war were deafening. Young men and women, many of them just kids, would soon be marching off to war for a massive, orchestrated lie. Now, for Powell to be outraged that he was lied to, that he was hoodwinked, and that world’s most well-funded and most capable intelligence agencies, the CIA and DIA, were somehow taken in by one man and a pile of fabrications, is truly pathetic. If this story represents the best the CIA and DIA can offer, then we are in deep trouble. In my humble opinion, Colin Powell, you are either unbelievably naïve, or you’re a liar.

Millions of Americans didn’t buy the lie, but American anger over 9-11 was the fuel the Administration used to propel the country to war. Yes, Saddam Hussein’s regime was the incarnation of evil. And the hard sacrifices by the vast majority of our men in women in arms (and not only American soldiers) have been noble. But the abuse of power by so many top officials in this debacle is staggering, and probably unprecedented. Mr. Powell, you don’t take a superpower to war with such a flimsy collection of evidence. And if you’re sending our sons and daughters to die, do not do so with a lie. It is our blood on the line, our children, our families and our dashed dreams. And don’t you dare now pretend that you didn’t know. Following Curveball’s confession, notice that the other officials mentioned above, who repeated the lie, are mute. Curveball’s confession is apparently not news to them. Tragically, under the banner of America’s claimed values of integrity, justice, honor, and the respect for the rule of law, our most senior leaders perverted those very values.


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