CBS: Uh, Germans lied, people died?

Not exactly, but the truth seems to be that a particular Iraqi defector did lie, and he was believed by the Germans, who passed on his lies to us, and we ended up going to war in part based on those lies. The defector is the infamous Curve Ball, who has now been revealed as Rafid Ahmed Alwan, an Iraqi who defected to Germany in 1999.

How did Rafid Alwan become Curve Ball? 60 Minutes’ investigation led us to Germany, where in November 1999, Alwan arrived by car and requested asylum at a refugee center outside Nuremberg. The 32-year-old told German intelligence that he was a chemical engineer in Saddam’s Iraq, and that he had done so well in university he had been made director of a site at Djerf al Nadaf, just outside Baghdad. The Iraqis called it a “seed purification plant.” In reality, he said, the place was secretly making mobile biological weapons.

He told the Germans specially-equipped trucks made their way to one end of a warehouse, entered doors there, hooked up to hoses and pumps and brewed biological agents. The germ trucks then exited hidden doors on the other side.

Alwan’s story fit what Western intelligence agencies feared: that Saddam might turn to mobile weapons to evade American bombs. The Germans hid Alwan in Nuremberg, then later in the town of Erlangen. He was given a code name: Curve Ball. He was interrogated once a week, sometimes twice, for a year and a half. He told the Germans he didn’t want to meet with Americans. Only summaries of his debriefings were transmitted to Washington. Still, there were enough details to convince analysts at the CIA.

“Curve Ball was the one piece of evidence where they could say, ‘Look at this. If they have this capability, where they can transport biological weapons, anthrax, all these horrible weapons, they can attack our troops with them. They can give them to terrorist groups,'” Drumheller says.

Similar logic led to the August 1998 US bombing of a pharma plant in Sudan: It was suspected of being a dual-use facility that was making chemical weapons for Saddam and al Qaeda on the side, so Clinton hit it with Tomahawks. Where was Dennis Kucinich to argue that that strike was illegal under international law? The point is, the belief that Iraq was working on WMDs and was in cahoots with terrorists didn’t start with the eeevil BushCo in 2001. It formed much of US foreign policy throughout the 1990s.

Read the entire CBS article. The biggest of several takeaways from it is that Curve Ball had no connection to the Iraqi National Congress whatsoever, so accusations that he was in league with them to cook up a story to get the US to take out Saddam are unfounded. A second takeaway is that our intel agencies really don’t seem to know very much. They look at a few satellite pictures, they get some second-hand info from what turns out to be an entirely bogus source, or in Joseph Wilson’s case they sit around by a pool sipping tea and talking to the local bigwigs. If that’s an accurate picture of our intelligence agencies, then two things are true. One, the paranoia wrapped up in the whole wiretapping debate is overblown. Two, we’re fighting this war blind, and therefore we’re screwed.

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