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60 Minutes Exposes “Curveball”

November 7, 2007

I’m a couple days late on this, but I thought I’d post about the episode of 60 Minutes that I watched on Sunday, where we finally heard the name of the CIA “informant”* that was the cornerstone of the case that Colin Powell made before the UN in the run-up to the Iraq war (a case, incidentally, that I was very sceptical of when I saw it).   The following video will, in the very least, make you shake your head and wonder…

Part I

Part II

*I use the parentheses because, of course, the CIA never actually interviewed Curveball directly, rather they relied on information that was passed on to them by the Germans. 

Punchline: “One of the deadliest con-jobs of our time”

Not to mention one of the costliest?

My takeaway on this is the point that the piece didn’t stress enough;  the administration wasn’t that concerned about Curveball’s credibility.   What mattered to them was that they could use the story to make the case for the war.   That was the real “con-job”.  What we’re seeing here is just part of the bigger picture.

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15 comments

  1. You’re still arguing from the perspective that the whole reason we went to war against Saddam was because he had, or was close to having WMDs; that he was an “imminent threat”, (which of course is not what Bush said.

    But that’s always been a faulty premise. The possibility of a WMD program was only one reason out of several to depose Saddam.

    And we didn’t need Curve Ball to convince us that Saddam was working on WMD.

    It’s now widely known that Saddam had convinced even his top military officers of the existence of WMD stockpiles. This bluff was as necessary for maintaining the Iraqi military’s confidence in its own capabilities as it was for threatening neighboring states.

    Here’s Christopher Hitchens on WMDs in Iraq:

    The entire record of UNSCOM until that date had shown a determination on the part of the Iraqi dictatorship to build dummy facilities to deceive inspectors, to refuse to allow scientists to be interviewed without coercion, to conceal chemical and biological deposits, and to search the black market for materiel that would breach the sanctions. The defection of Saddam Hussein’s sons-in-law, the Kamel brothers, had shown that this policy was even more systematic than had even been suspected. Moreover, Iraq did not account for—has in fact never accounted for—a number of the items that it admitted under pressure to possessing after the Kamel defection. We still do not know what happened to this weaponry. This is partly why all Western intelligence agencies, including French and German ones quite uninfluenced by Ahmad Chalabi, believed that Iraq had actual or latent programs for the production of WMD. Would it have been preferable to accept Saddam Hussein’s word for it and to allow him the chance to re-equip once more once the sanctions had further decayed?

    Hitchens, by the way has conceded that the Powell testimony was a “dog and pony show”, but that that the UN resolutions that Saddam violated for a decade were legal reason enough to go to war with Iraq.

    It was widely believed that credible inspections could not be conducted without regime change.

    Don’t forget he was shooting at US planes flying over the no fly zone that was meant to protect the Kurds from another bloodbath.

    Don’t forget he was a state sponsor of terror and offered safe haven to terrorists.

    Keep in mind that Saddam was sounding increasingly insane in his speeches, and one of his even scarier sons was slated to take the reigns when he died.

    More Hitch:

    The two chief justifications offered by the Bush administration (which did mention human rights and genocide at its first presentation to the United Nations, an appeal that fell on cold as well as deaf ears) were WMDs and terrorism. Here, it is simply astonishing how many people remain willing to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt.


  2. So you’re arguing that the admin. didn’t really need to scrape together all this flimsy intel and present it as iron-clad fact in ad nauseam fashion for months prior to the invasion? Americans would have bought into this war without things like “yellowcake from Niger” being dropped into SOTU speeches and sobering rhetoric like “don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”? I assume you’ve docs like the Downing Street Memo? It was all a dog and pony show.

    The WMD fear factor is what sold this invasion. Period. Violations of UN resolutions were an “oh , and by the way…”.

    And remember that Saddam had let the inspectors back in, and inspect they did, up until we asked them to leave. The admin didn’t really care if they actually found anything or not; they just needed them to go in to provide legitimacy to their assertions that they were doing everything to avoid war.


  3. You do realize that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger, right?

    And every major intelligence agency in the world felt that Saddam had an operating WMD program? Every leading Democrat, too.

    http://www.floppingaces.net/2007/11/02/cbs-is-reporting-that-after/#comment-30273

    Don’t try to blame the Bush administration for that.

    And Saddam was not cooperating with the Weapons inspectors. He had a complex concealment program, and he was intimidating scientists and witnesses.


  4. You do realize that Iraq was trying to buy yellowcake from Niger, right?

    An assertion based on what, forged documents?

    I’ll concede that leading Dems were making statements about Saddam’s alleged WMD capabilities. No one will dispute that Saddam had and used WMD’s in the past either.

    What I’m blaming Bush and the administration for is using whatever evidence existed to lay the groundwork for an invasion, ignoring any evidence to the contrary, and stating that they were working for a peaceful resolution to the situation when war was clearly their sole intention.

    And Saddam was not cooperating with the Weapons inspectors. He had a complex concealment program, and he was intimidating scientists and witnesses.

    Well, in retrospect, it would appear that he didn’t have a whole lot to conceal, did he? Sure, the admin. could easily claim that Saddam wasn’t cooperating. It was probably the plan from the beginning. From the Downing Street Memo:

    The Foreign Secretary said he would discuss this with Colin Powell this week. It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

    Ultimatum? Check. And as predicted, Saddam let them in. Now I wonder…why would we ask the inspectors to leave at a point where they were saying stuff like this…

    “I should note that in recent weeks, possibly as a result of increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been more forthcoming in its cooperation with the IAEA,” he said, adding that inspectors still have found no evidence that Saddam Hussein has revived his nuclear program.

    ..if, as Bush stated “Hopefully this can be done peacefully. Hopefully we can do this without any military action”? Unless, of course, they really didn’t care that much if they found the WMD’s or not. They’d made up their mind.


  5. Chen,

    Why are you so mad at Bush when the following propositions are true…?

    1. Saddam was a tyrant who massacred his own people, and actively supported suicide bombing against “the West” and Israel.

    2. Saddam was breaking the law with regards to UN (Useless Nations) sanctions, and there was hence a legal precedant to go to war.

    3. Saddam is now gone, and we are battling jihadist forces that would exist whether we ever fought in Iraq or not. In short, if we leave Iraq, the war continues on.

    4. We are fighting in Iraq with our hands tied behind our back, and fighting the most losing strategy ever, through insane rules of engagement as well as treating jihadis with kid gloves.

    5. The enemy right now are jihadists in Iraq, whose goal is an Islamist state in Iraq.

    So why this anger at whether “Bush, lied, people died”?

    People would have died anyway, as jihadists would have existed anyway. We are saving people’s lives in Iraq through our fighting jihadists in Iraq. We are not saving ENOUGH lives, as Bush insists the enemy is “terrorism” rather than the Islamist ideology. He might as well have said the enemy is bombs or guns. It is the stupidest phrase ever, and is part of the problem.

    In short, if you claim to be anti-war and anti-human butchery, you would support what is going on in Iraq, as it is fighting those who are human butcherers.

    As far as Saddam letting in UN weapons inspectors – he let them in and did not let them do their inspections. You call that “letting them in”???


  6. Was that just a long-winded way of saying that the ends justify the means?

    Anyway, I’ll address a couple of those…

    2. This is the same UN that declined to authorize the use of force?

    3. It’s pretty convenient to think of those who resist our invasion and subsequent 4 year occupation as the 20th hijacker. It’s a heck of a lot more complicated than that.

    4. I’m not sure what you’re implying here, or if you’re putting words into my mouth or what, but I will say that I really don’t understand this whole warblogger problem with the ROE thing. We’re currently fighting an insurgency, not trying to drive the Japanese off Iwo Jima. What they’re doing there (the stated mission) requires a considerable amount of tact to be successful. There is good reason that the ROE are what they are. “Take the gloves off”, so to speak, and you risk a bona fide uprising. That’d be the quickest way to “lose”, IMO.

    5. An environment that didn’t exist before we invaded. I seem to recall Rumsfeld calling them “dead enders”. Now people are talking about the risk of Iraq becoming an “Islamist state”, and a haven for terrorists. That’s supposed to make me feel good about Bush’s decision to invade in the first place?


  7. Two things about the UN. Firstly, the UN did not need to seek a new authorizing resolution for war, as there were already resolutions from the first Gulf War, still in effect. And THIS is the legal basis for war.

    Secondly.

    The UN is a feckless, useless, terror enabling organization that cannot accomplish anything and should be immediately disbanded and Turtle Bay, where the UN headquarters are in NYC, should be converted into a parking lot. UN diplomats’ cars should be towed and impounded.

    With that in mind, of the loathsome quality of the UN, which only criticizes Israel, was heavily involved in the UN “oil for food” scandal, ignores the plight of the oppressed around the world, and caters to and props up the worst tyrants and terrorists around the world…

    With that in mind, I do not see in general a UN resolution as necessary for…anything. The organization has no purpose and only covers up the actions of the worst dictators and terrorists in the world. So why should anyone give it the legitimacy of any weight to its resolutions? And yet even if you give this corrupt, terror-enabling organization any weight or authority, even according to their biased rules, there was a a legal precedant for war.

    As far as the other items…

    Saddam Hussein in fact did support terror. There was absolutely a Zarqawi-Saddam link. Saddam also was paying $25,000 per family to the human butcher suicide bombers in Israel. And right now, the US is fighting al queda in Iraq. So absolutely the enemy being fought in Iraq is linked to 9/11. This is a fact of life.

    As far as the supposed “insurgency,” that word was taken from the MSM, to imply that somehow the US is fighting a “rising up” of the Iraqi citizens. On the contrary. The US is fighting mostly foreign trained forces, armed and equipped by Iran. Is the Mahdi Army, which are Shias armed and trained in Iran, a homegrown “insurgency”? What about the Iranian Revolutionary Guard? Is that an “insurgency”? Under what possible definition?

    Finally,

    Saddam was violating the law left and right prior to the invasion, and was even more a problem for his own people. The issue is not “were there grounds for invasion,” because there were ample grounds for invasion. The question should be “was it a smart decision to go into Iraq?” The answer there is a murky one. Time will tell whether it was smart to go into Iraq.

    But the American media calling this an “occupation” will not help Americans win this war. The American government is aiding the Iraqis to set up a government. They are not dictating the laws from en high and oppressing the locals. They are doing the opposite!

    And yet the locals are not helped when the American forces have their hands tied in the way they can go after the jihadis. This only enables the human butcher jihadis to succeed, and kill MORE Iraqis. We are in the Mideast, and so we cannot play nice, by Western rules. I believe the Iraqis know this, and if anything are disappointed that the Americans have not shown their might to the jihadis in a way that would TRULY root them out for good.

    Playing nice does not win wars.


  8. I guess it just seems a little odd that you’re claiming that our invasion had legitimacy based on resolutions passed by a “feckless, useless, terror enabling organization that cannot accomplish anything”. I’m not sure you can have this both ways. In addition, Bush sought an AUMF from Congress, which I assume you’d argue was superfluous? I mean, if everything was still “in effect”, then there really wasn’t a need to get Congress’ approval. He could have just gone ahead and invaded, if I’m following you correctly.

    Saddam Hussein in fact did support terror. There was absolutely a Zarqawi-Saddam link. Saddam also was paying $25,000 per family to the human butcher suicide bombers in Israel.

    While that makes him a bad guy, and some may have felt that he was a significant threat and that invasion was the only way to deal with it, at the end of the day it’s an opinion, not justification.

    Look, if you’re going to make claims like “war as a last resort”, then you’d expect people to soberly decide to take that action once it’s justified. What the administration did was decided to invade and then spent countless months on a PR campaign trying to make it look justified. But, hey, as long as Bush said “hopefully no military action”, then that’s what he meant, right?

    As far as the supposed “insurgency,” that word was taken from the MSM, to imply that somehow the US is fighting a “rising up” of the Iraqi citizens.

    People were arguing this point on LGF, and I just don’t get it. I’m not sure if you’re confusing this with the rightosphere’s disdain over the MSM’s selective use of the words “insurgent” and “terrorist”, but I assume that Petraeus wouldn’t have a Senior Counterinsurgency Adviser if there wasn’t an insurgency to counter. The “insurgency” as I understood it, is a complicated hodgepodge of disparate resistance groups, tribes, factions, militias, etc. of constantly shifting alliances and evolving goals. From a military standpoint, the majority of the operations undertaken since the war began were classified as “counter insurgency”. It’s not a MSM thing. Mopping up the al Qaeda franchise there is certainly part of the goal at this point, but overall the mission is to keep Iraq from sliding into absolute chaos, and the ROE are tailored to that. You’ve drunk the kool aid on this one, I’m afraid.

    But the American media calling this an “occupation” will not help Americans win this war. The American government is aiding the Iraqis to set up a government. They are not dictating the laws from en high and oppressing the locals. They are doing the opposite!

    I’m not sure what word would be better. I mean, we’re there, the intention isn’t to kill them, but we’re not going to leave if the majority of the population wants us to either. hmmmm. Tell ya what, let’s ask Bush:

    QUESTION: If you were an Iraqi, would you understand that — would you feel the occupation as a burden?

    THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

    QUESTION: Could you understand that?

    THE PRESIDENT: Of course, I can.

    QUESTION: I mean, being —

    THE PRESIDENT: I say it all — I say it all the time publicly. Yes, I wouldn’t want to be occupied.

    QUESTION: So you cannot say that these are people — you cannot say that all these people are terrorists and —

    THE PRESIDENT: No. I agree. Not all of them are. But I am convinced —

    QUESTION: Even the ones that, you know, takes —

    THE PRESIDENT: The suiciders — and some of them aren’t. And they don’t like to be occupied, and neither would I, and neither would anybody. That’s why we’re handing over sovereignty. Full sovereignty will be transferred here very shortly. I mean, you’re talking — I’m not sure when your magazine is coming out.

    Yep, that darn media.


  9. Chen,

    Perhaps you did not actually read what I wrote. I wrote that a UN resolution is not necessary for anything (as the UN has no legitimacy), but that said, there was already an authorizing UN resolution which means that the Iraq war did not violate the UN’s biased rules.

    As far as Congress, that is a different story. I would argue that the UN vote was completely unneccessary, even as it was obtained, anyway. Congress, however, did have to vote for war authorization, and they did.

    While that makes him a bad guy, and some may have felt that he was a significant threat and that invasion was the only way to deal with it, at the end of the day it’s an opinion, not justification.

    If Saddam was a significant threat, then THAT is a justification. You just happen to disagree that he was a significant threat.

    Finally, Petreaus might call things a “counterinsurgency” operation, but the fact remains that, given so many of the fighters are foreign born and trained, it is NOT some sort of home-grown insurgency. And so he is wrong.

    And as far as Bush goes, he is one of the most inarticulate presidents around. He still claims there is a “war on terror,” rather than a “war against Islamofascists.” You are still going by him???


  10. there was already an authorizing UN resolution which means that the Iraq war did not violate the UN’s biased rules.

    If it’s the case that the original 1990 resolution was enough, then one would have to wonder why they’d send Powell in front of the UN to make this grandiose PowerPoint presentation and seek another resolution after they unanimously passed 1441. After failing to convince the Council that military action was justified, their lawyers put together whatever claims of legality they could with opinions on Iraq’s response to the various resolutions (1141, 678, and 687), and argued that the use of force was valid. But at the end of the day the very body that passed those resolutions didn’t authorize the use of force in 2003. Therefore, from what I can tell, the invasion was technically in violation of Article 42 of the UNC (of which the US is a party), and was not legal under international law.

    The administration was going to attack Iraq with or without UN authorization, but if you’re going to invade, you might as well attempt to get as many blessings as possible.

    If Saddam was a significant threat, then THAT is a justification. You just happen to disagree that he was a significant threat.

    If preemptive self defense is valid then the US and Soviets would have destroyed each other decades ago. This is a whole separate topic for debate, but attacking someone you think is a threat generally wasn’t considered a justification for war under international law.

    Finally, Petreaus might call things a “counterinsurgency” operation, but the fact remains that, given so many of the fighters are foreign born and trained, it is NOT some sort of home-grown insurgency. And so he is wrong.

    I see. You know more than Petraeus and the whole of the US military about what’s going on in Iraq? Of course there are foreigners there, but the ROE’s are what they are for good reason, namely that much of the resistance is domestic and that we’re operating in a country that teeters on the brink of civil war and that we hope will be our friend when this is all over. I don’t know why that’s so hard for people to grasp.

    And as far as Bush goes, he is one of the most inarticulate presidents around. He still claims there is a “war on terror,” rather than a “war against Islamofascists.” You are still going by him???

    If it’s “insurgency”, or “occupation”, I’m just making the point that it’s not entirely the MSM’s fault that these terms get thrown around.


  11. What the hell? We went to war because the U.N. enables terrorism? This is the U.N. America fought to establish; the one that put together the deal to give Israel back it’s land; the one that was created to prevent another world war.
    What the hell? We didn’t invade Iraq because they had WMD’s, but because Hussein was a bad guy? How many other countries are run by bad guys?
    We broke international law and invaded Iraq because we thought Iraq would be the easiest oil giant to take over. After all this time, we still don’t have their damned oil.


  12. You know, this whole idiotic alliance thing is a colossal failure. Not only do I pinged 10 times a day about silly posts, but for some reason no one reads my blog anymore, and right-wing guys on your list are blocking me from commenting. Nice job of silencing voices of dissent.


  13. Who is blocking you?


  14. Chen,

    The US went to the UN with Powell in the hopes of building an international coalition to go after Saddam. It was not necessary to get another war resolution to go after Iraq, because the US was already in a state of war with Iraq, since 1990.

    Attacking someone just because they are a ‘threat’ is not justified, no. Attacking someone because they are a significant threat, and a possibly immediate threat IS justified.

    As an aside, there is no international law. I repeat. There is no international law. At least, not beyond what is an accepted norm. And even these norms (such as international postal service) do not have to be followed. Nations around the world break ‘international law’ left and right, and face no repurcussions. Can you name a single body that actually governs international law? The UN (Useless Nations) is a feckless, inept, terror-enabling institution that does nothing to reign in bad actors. UN sanctions tend to be toothless and worthless. The only ‘international law’ is the law of the jungle. Clearly Iran knows this. Witness them breaking international law left and right. The ‘sanctions’ against them are hardly accomplishing anything, given how Russia, China, India, and the EU flagrantly ignore them.

    There are international conventions and treaties, but they are broken all the time with zero repurcussion, as there ultimately is no governing body to police these treaties and conventions.

    I repeat. There is no international law.

    As far as Petreaus goes; he is a competent man, but he simply is wrong to label the fight an ‘insurgency.’ This is PC terminology for ‘jihad.’ Bush is even worse in this vein.

    I do concede that the problem is not just the MSM, and runs all the way up to the Bush administration.


  15. I find it hard to believe the Bush administration sold this war to so many Americans. I am in total compliance with getting Osama,he after all orcastrated 9-11.Now we are tied up in Iraq,and really,I believe,unable to concentrate on our real enemeys.It worries me.



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