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WMD: 'You have got to be kidding
By Nir Rosen

BAGHDAD - To the surprise of few, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency-led survey group hunting for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has admitted in his latest report released on Thursday that none have yet been unearthed.

But the Iraq Survey Group's leader, David Kay, did say that Saddam Hussein "remained firmly committed to acquiring nuclear weapons". However, they have not found any, nor any evidence of any.

The report will come as more bad news for President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are under increasing pressure from their American and British constituencies for allegedly "cooking" or exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam as a pretext for going to war against him.

And now Asia Times Online can confirm reports from the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which says that information provided by the Iraqi National Congress (INC) about Iraq's weapon's programs was exaggerated and false.

Two DIA agents currently serving in Iraq, who also voiced bitterness about other aspects of US Iraq policy, spoke on condition of anonymity to Asia Times Online. The first, a 30-year veteran of the agency, complained that "the fixation on weapons is alienating intelligence staff", calling it an "obsession".

Officials in Washington now confirm that former Iraqi officials who had defected and were handed over to the CIA by the INC, the exile opposition group led by Chalabi, provided them with information on Iraq's WMD program, which the Bush administration relied on to press its case for war.

In Iraq, this was confirmed by the same DIA agent. "The statements on WMD that the INC guys brought in matched conclusions they [Bush cabinet members] already had. We looked at the info and said 'you can't be serious, you have got to be kidding'."

There has been an increase in the willingness of intelligence officials from the CIA and DIA to speak out about their skepticism over Iraq WMD claims since the end of the war and the failure to discover any evidence of their existence. Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix also recently asserted that Iraq had had no chemical or biological program since 1998, and no nuclear program since the first Gulf war of 1991.

The DIA agent went on to say, in Chalabi's defense that "there were plenty of good reasons to attack Iraq, human rights, dictatorship, but the impetus to attack was the immediacy of a threat. Without Chalabi and his access to the Pentagon through [former CIA chief James] Woolsey and then [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz, [Vice President Dick] Cheyney, [Pentagon head Donald] Rumsfeld and [Under Secretary of Defense Douglas J ] Feith the war wouldn't have happened. The INC was very good at manipulating the press. They would say, 'look at this, look at this', and [New York Times reporter] Judy Miller would go to Baghdad and chase down a guy and her information provided the lever to go to war."

This DIA agent, who has served as an interrogator at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where the US holds alleged terrorists from Afghanistan called "illegal combatants", also rejected claims still alleged by the vice president that there was a relationship between Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda and Saddam's regime in Iraq. "There were four Iraqis in Guantanamo. More people had British passports than Iraqi ones."

Now serving in Iraq as a security expert, the DIA agent criticized post-war policy as well, referring to what he described as "the coalition's pursuit of a single point panacea with a semblance of political organization to hand over the country to them", meaning the undue trust placed in Chalabi's organization, as well as Iyad Alawi's Iraqi National Accord. He also did not mince words with the staff of the office of the Coalition Provisional Administration (CPA), headed by L Paul Bremer. He viewed Bremer's young staff as immature and inexperienced, citing the case where an aide to Bremer did not want to issue weapons licenses for a political organization to provide for its security,"she's worried about issuing a few weapons licenses when they have whole armies".

He added that Bremer's predecessor Jay Garner was unfairly maligned due to inflated expectations. "Garner was friendly, approachable and personable. He got scapegoated by impatient people in DC. Now its DC politics and 'what's your stance on Israel'?" He also strongly criticized Bremer's decision to dismiss all 400,000 members of the Iraqi army. "It was a dogmatic and ideological brain fart idea to dissolve the military. They should have used them for security. They should have issued an order mobilizing the regular army and put them on highways." He ended his litany by adding that there was not even any cable television in the al-Rashid hotel where CPA staff were housed and they had to rely on short wave radio for news "they want to keep CPA staff as ignorant as possible".

A lieutenant-colonel in the DIA who specialized in terrorism and the Muslim world also ridiculed the claims connecting Iraq and al-Qaeda, adding that administration officials relied on evidence provided by Laurie Mylroie in her book The War Against America: Saddam Hussein and the World Trade Center Attacks: A Study of Revenge. "From her book," he said, "It was evident she hadn't spent one day in the Middle East but she was close with Wolfowitz and as a result we had a guy on staff [at the DIA] whose job for two years was to debunk her allegations."

The lieutenant-colonel maintained that the civilian staff of CPA, drawn from the State Department, were ineffective in Iraq. "The State Department just generates public policy papers," he said, "they don't do anything, they don't run organizations." He cited a recent CPA talking point that it would be run and structured like an embassy, "but embassies preserve the status quo, they don't do anything, we are creating a revolution. Military officers are used to managing organizations and know they have to deal with everybody from top to bottom, but the State Department trains policy makers and they don't want to hear stuff they disagree with."

He added finally that Iraqis are ill informed about what the CPA does do because "CPA public affairs pay more attention to the foreign press then the local Iraqi press. English is a problem. Also they are used to a standard press conference and then send press releases that nobody reads. Even if Iraqi papers can find the numbers for CPA, nobody returns their calls."

The 30-year veteran also confirms language difficulties in Iraq. "The entire government was unprepared for 9/11 [September 11] and for Iraq in terms of linguists and interrogators."

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Oct 4, 2003

The tangled WMD web
(Sep 24, '03)

A war based on fallacious reasoning
(Sep 24, '03)


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