September 5, 2008

It Was Never About WMDs

The Iraq War was never about WMDs.

Now I realize this is a heretical thing to say in many circles, but I think the facts bear me out.

It’s now known that prior to the 2003 invasion, President Bush ignored evidence that the Iraqi government did not have WMDs. This evidence came from two high-level officials in Saddam Hussein’s government: Naji Sabri and Tahir Jalil Habbush.

Naji Sabri

In September 2002, both the French intelligence service and the CIA gave several hundred thousand dollars to Naji Sabri, Iraq’s foreign minister. Sabri in turn agreed to act as a spy for the United States. During an April 2006 interview on 60 Minutes, Tyler Drumheller, who served as the CIA’s chief of covert operations in Europe from 2001-2005, revealed that the Bush administration was initially excited by this news. When CIA Director George Tenet reported the development in a high-level meeting, attended by Bush, Cheney, Rice, and others, “They were enthusiastic because they said, they were excited that we had a high-level penetration of Iraqis.”

But to the disappointment of the Bushies, Sabri eventually provided the CIA with documentation showing that Iraq did not have any WMDs. Drumheller felt that this claim was credible. Not only was Sabri someone “who would know what he was talking about,” but Drumheller believed he could be trusted: “We continued to validate him the whole way through.” Nonetheless, after Tenet conveyed this new information to the administration, they were no longer interested in what Sabri had to say. As Drumheller recalls: “And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said, ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.’”

Two former CIA officers later confirmed Drumheller’s story to journalist Sidney Blumenthal. According to one of the officers, “The information [provided by Sabri] detailed that Saddam may have wished to have a program, that his engineers had told him they could build a nuclear weapon within two years if they had fissile material, which they didn’t, and that they had no chemical or biological weapons.” According to the same officer, after being presented with the information, the president dismissed it as “the same old thing.” The other officer notes: “Bush didn’t give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up.”

Despite this response from the administration, the CIA continued collecting information from Sabri. Moreover, they “checked on everything he told us.” Perhaps most strikingly, they received information from the French intelligence service, which had been eavesdropping on Sabri’s telephone conversations, that further corroborated his claims. Though continuing to insist that Sabri’s claim were credible, they were finally told by one of Tenet’s deputies: “You haven’t figured this out yet. This isn’t about intelligence. It’s about regime change.”

Tahir Jalil Habbush

Thanks to Ron Suskind’s The Way of the World, we know that, along with Sabri, the CIA was receiving information from Tahir Jalil Habbush, the chief of Iraqi intelligence. According to the two CIA officers who spoke with Suskind (different officers than spoke with Blumenthal), Habbush became a secret source to the CIA in January 2003. Like Sabri, he would have known whether Iraq had WMDs. Also like Sabri, he told the CIA that Iraq did not have any WMDs, noting that Saddam was not perfectly forthright about his weapons program because he didn’t want longtime enemy Iran to know about this weakness. Upon first being told of Habbush’s claim, President Bush replied, “Well, why don’t you tell him to give us something we can use to make our case?”

Curveball

The “inside source” that the administration decided to take seriously was Rafid Ahmed Alwan, a.k.a. “Curveball.” Curveball was an Iraqi who defected to Germany in 1999 and claimed to be “a star chemical engineer at a plant that made mobile biological weapons in Djerf al-Nadaf.” As is well known by now, Curveball’s claims turned out to be false. What’s so troubling about this is that the administration had reason to doubt him at the time. Not only did German intelligence officers warn the U.S. that they themselves doubted the veracity of his statements, but “For two months, Drumheller fought against the use of Curveball, raising the red flag that he was likely a fraud.” Yet, while the claims of Sabri and Habbush were ignored, one of Curveball’s claims ended up in Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address.

The Oil Connection


So the war wasn’t about WMDs. It was never about WMDs.

So what then was the war about? Would you be too terribly shocked if I said that the war was, at least in part, about oil?

Or do you think it a mere coincidence that Iraq is believed to contain the second largest oil reserves in the world?

And do you think it a coincidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rice all have oil connections? The Bush family has been in the business for over a century now. Cheney formerly served as the CEO of Halliburton, a Fortune 500 energy firm. And Rice served on Chevron’s board of directors.

And do you think it a coincidence that the 2007 “Declaration of Principles” signed by President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki states that Iraq will facilitate and encourage “foreign investments to Iraq, especially American investments, to contribute to the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq”?

And do you think it a coincidence that the U.S. government recently encouraged Iraq’s Oil Ministry to grant no-bid contracts to America’s largest oil companies?

Now I’m not saying that the Iraq War was all about oil. I don’t know. But I have a much easier time buying this explanation than that old line about WMDs.

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