Friday, April 05, 2013


"Curveball" was the name given by the CIA to an Iraqi defector to Germany in 1999.  He was a chemical engineer named Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi and was picked up by German intelligence and interrogated.  What he told the Germans was extremely sensational and so they shared this information with their counterparts in Britain and the US. He told them that while he worked for 9 months at a specific chemical production plant in Iraq, which they were able to locate on satellite photos, chemical fermentors were being produced on large mobile trucks that when finished were driven out of the plant.  From his drawings and descriptions of these mobile fermentors it was concluded that they were probably mobile chemical weapons plants that could produce poison gas or so-called "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) anywhere in Iraq.  When this intelligence was received by the British MI5 and American CIA it was taken as proof that Saddam Hussein was preparing to produce WMD.  After the al Qaeda attack on the WTC on 9/11/2001 and the invasion of Afghanistan in Oct. 2001 to destroy al Qaeda capability, Pres. Bush was planning to invade Iraq, and this report of WMD was used as prima facie evidence of Saddam Hussein's intentions.
However, after further investigations German intelligence concluded that Curveball was a "fabricator."  Detailed examination of the plant where he had worked showed that it was impossible for trucks of the size he had described to be driven out of that plant, in fact there was a 6 ft wall across the plant that would have prevented this.  Although the German intelligence chief  warned the other services not to believe this report, nevertheless the CIA ignored this follow-up and the British political establishment, including PM Blair, ignored the warnings of MI5. This information was included in the so-called "dodgy Dossier" that PM Blair published in Sept 2002 to justify invading Iraq and this report was one of the main pieces of evidence that US Chief of Staff Colin Powell quoted in his evidence to the UN Security Council in Feb, 2003, showing detailed imaginary drawings of such WMD trucks to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  Subsequent investigations by the UN at the site in question and painstaking attempts by specialized British and US teams tasked with finding these trucks and other WMDs concluded that they never existed and the whole story was a fabrication.
Unfortunately, there were other Iraqi defectors who also apparently lied.  An Iraqi Major in Amman told a similar story to that of Curveball, but without any direct evidence and another defector told the Iraqi National Committee, the opposition to Saddam, that he was still developing nuclear weapons.  Added to that the reports that Saddam Hussein had preliminary contacts with al Qaeda, all this evidence was used to justify the invasion of Iraq and the war that ensued. 
Subsequently Curveball admitted that he had lied and that the story of mobile WMD trucks was a fabrication of his own imagination in order to obtain money from the various intelligence services.  In other words, tell them what they want to hear and you will be rewarded for it.  Information from the highest sources in the Iraqi Government that there were no WMDs was disbelieved as self-serving.  The lesson from this event is that even the most believable story given by any defector must be treated with extreme caution and subjected to thorough analysis before being considered reliable.  So now it is clear that the US and British Governments used faulty intelligence to justify their invasion of Iraq.  But, in my opinion the overthrow of Saddam Hussein justified the war.  Iraq is still far from a real democracy and may yet fall apart into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish cantons.  But, then again Iraq was a colonial invention anyway.  The removal of Saddam's Iraq as a threat to Israel and the West and the subsequent breakdown of Syria are among the most positive outcomes of recent Middle Eastern history. 

PS. This information was taken from a recent BBC TV Panorama Report, based on Bob Drogin's 2007 book "Curveball" and  the recent public British Chilcot Enquiry into the origins of the Iraq war.


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