report on how the “Powers That Be” conned Americans into believing
Iraq had weapons of mass destruction is buried so deep within the The New York Times Website
today that it’s virtually invisible.
You can always second-guess the way an article is played, of course, and the Times
editors decided Johnston’s rated only page 12 treatment in the print edition. It’s not breaking
news, after all, and it’s just one of many stories fleshing out details of the scathing Senate
Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s prewar intelligence failures.
But the story’s importance is clear, given the fact that we must wait until after the presidential
election in November for the official verdict from the Senate committee on whether our
bonehead Maximum Leader and his minions pressured the intelligence community into supporting
a preconceived policy to invade Iraq.
Johnston describes how a CIA analyst doubted the information obtained from a crucial Iraqi
source — a defector code named “Curveball” — claiming that Iraq had mobile bioweapons
laboratories. When the analyst saw that Secretary of State Colin Powell was going to cite
Curveball’s information in his speech to the U.N. to justify going to war with Iraq, he expressed
“But the deputy chief of the agency’s Iraqi Task Force,” Johnston writes, “rejected the
worries as irrelevant” and sent the analyst this e-mail:
Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what
Curveball said or didn’t say, and that the Powers That Be probably aren’t terribly interested in
whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.
It didn’t matter that the analyst, an expert in biological warfare, was “the only American
intelligence official” to meet Curveball before the war, that Curveball showed up at their meeting
with “a terrible hangover,” and that “intelligence officials were not even sure of Curveball’s true
identity.” It didn’t matter because “this war’s going to happen regardless.”
Powell, who by his own account vetted “the backup material for each piece of
evidence” cited in his U.N. speech and who demanded “multiple sources for every assertion,”
nonetheless included Curveball among the four sources who
provided “eyewitness accounts” and “first-hand descriptions” that
served as a basis for invading Iraq. (He has said he never heard any doubts about
Indeed, as the world watched and listened on Feb. 5, 2003, six weeks before the U.S.
invasion began, Powell told the U.N. Security Council: “My
colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not
assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
In his speech, Powell went on to say:
One of the most worrisome things that emerges from the thick intelligence file
we have on Iraq’s biological weapons is the existence of mobile production facilities used to make
Let me take you inside that intelligence file and share with you what we know from
eyewitness accounts. We have first-hand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels
and on rails.
The trucks and train cars are easily moved and are designed to evade detection by inspectors.
In a matter of months, they can produce a quantity of biological poison equal to the entire amount
that Iraq claimed to have produced in the years prior to the Gulf War. …
The source was an eyewitness, an Iraqi chemical engineer who supervised one of these
facilities. He actually was present during biological agent production runs. …
This defector is currently hiding in another country with the certain knowledge that Saddam
Hussein will kill him if he finds him. His eyewitness account of these mobile production facilities
has been corroborated by other sources.
A second source. An Iraqi civil engineer in a position to know the details of the program
confirmed the existence of transportable facilities moving on trailers.
A third source, also in a position to know, reported in summer, 2002, that Iraq had
manufactured mobile production systems mounted on road-trailer units and on rail cars.
Finally, a fourth source. An Iraqi major who defected confirmed that Iraq has mobile
biological research laboratories in addition to the production facilities I mentioned
“Yet now,” Johnston writes, “all four of the sources on whom Mr. Powell relied
concerning the supposed mobile biolabs seem at best unreliable, and at worst fictional. Curveball
has been discredited. Another source was deemed a ‘fabricator’ which in intelligence circles is
tantamount to a designation as untrustworthy. The third source said the information needed
further checking. The fourth source could not corroborate Curveball’s claims.”
Although we’ll have to wait until after the November election for the Senate to
officially identify the “Powers That Be” who misled us into the war in Iraq, can there be
any question about who arrogantly made the case for the invasion? Can there be any question
about who has mismanaged the aftermath of the so-called military victory at the human cost of a
thousand American soldiers’ lives so far and thousands more wounded?
Can there be any question about who caused the death of thousands of Iraqi civilians and tens
of thousands of civilian casualties? Or who has emptied the pockets of U.S. taxpayers of $122
billion to pay for the war so far, with no end in sight?
We don’t really need to wait for the Senate to tell us. We already know who the Powers That
Be are. We know their names. We know their style. We know their miscalculations. We know
their arrogance. And we know we need a change.