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[casi] Selective reading and choice friends

Oct 7, 2003

Selective reading and choice friends
By Pepe Escobar

BAGHDAD and AMMAN - Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix knew
it. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter knew it. French, German and
Russian intelligence knew it. Sultan Hashim Ahmad - Iraq's former minister
of defense, now safe after a cosy deal with the Americans - knew it. In
1995, Hussein Kamel, married to one of Saddam Hussein's daughters and the
man in charge of it all, knew it. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in
Langley and the MI6 in London knew it. Saddam's regime was not lying when it
claimed that it had destroyed all its WMD after the 1991 Gulf War. Whatever
the spin, the fact of the matter is that now there's conclusive proof that
both US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair lied about
the reason for invading Iraq.

As it was widely reported at the time, on the night of August 7, 1995,
General Hussein Kamel, former director of Iraq's Military Industrialization
Corp - the organism in charge of Iraq's weapons program - defected to
Jordan, along with his brother, Colonel Saddam Kamel. Hussein Kamel managed
to smuggle tons of documents with him with priceless information about
different Iraqi weapons programs. A few days later, Saddam's regime went on
the offensive, presenting another set of documents showing that Iraq had
conducted an aborted crash program to develop a nuclear bomb. A few months
later, Hussein and Saddam Kamel made the biggest mistake of their lives.
Following family pleas and giving credence to assurances from Baghdad, they
returned to Iraq in early 1996, and were inevitably killed by Saddam's
secret services.

On August 22, 1995, Hussein Kamel was interviewed in Amman by three top
Western officials: Rolf Ekeus, executive chairman of UNSCOM from 1991 to
1997; Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; and
Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM's ballistic missile
team, and Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM. Major Izz al-Din
al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein's who defected with the Kamel brothers,
was also present. Unlike the brothers, he remained in Jordan and exiled
himself in Europe in an undisclosed location.

The key document - shown to Asia Times Online by a Jordanian intelligence
source - is in the form of an internal UNSCOM/IAEA report classified as
"sensitive". On page 13 of what is the transcript of the UNSCOM/IAEA
interview with Hussein Kamel, he categorically says, "I ordered the
destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical,
missile, nuclear were destroyed." He also says that "not a single missile
was left, but they had blueprints and molds for production. All missiles
were destroyed."

Kamel discloses that anthrax was "the main focus" of the Iraqi biological
program (pages 7-8). He confirms all weapons and agents were destroyed:
"Nothing remained after visits of inspection teams." Kamel also says, "They
put VX [nerve gas] in bombs during the last days of the Iran-Iraq war [of
the 1980s]. They were not used and the program was terminated." On page 13,
Rolf Ekeus asks Kamel if Iraq had restarted VX production after the
Iran-Iraq war. Kamel says, "We changed the factory into pesticide
production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine [...] we
gave instructions not to produce chemical weapons." On page 8, Kamel insists
that "I made the decision to disclose everything so that Iraq could return
to normal."

In August 1995, both the Bill Clinton administration in the US and the John
Major government in the UK took Kamel's assertion that Iraq had destroyed
its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned
missiles - as Saddam's regime claimed - very seriously. But this "sensitive"
interview was kept secret for more than seven years. It was only leaked in
early 2003. Kamel's interview was then endlessly spun by Bush and Blair. But
the key point remains undisputable: Saddam's regime destroyed all its WMD
after the 1991 Gulf War.

This was not the soundbite that the Pentagon neo-conservatives wanted. So
they listened instead to their lone "humint" (human intelligence) on Iraq -
which entirely consists in the person of Ahmad Chalabi, founder of the Iraqi
National Congress (INC) - an organization basically created by the US - a
convicted fraudster in Jordan, and rotating chairman during the month of
September of the 25-member, American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

Chalabi, a 54-year-old banker, heir of a rich Shi'ite family, was living in
early 2003 in a lavish mansion in Tehran paid by the State Department,
plotting his triumphant return to Iraq after more than two decades. He never
had any political support inside Iraq. After his conviction - 22 years - in
Jordan in the early 1980s for bank fraud, nobody knows what he made of
lavish funds dispensed to the INC by the CIA in the mid-1990s. And in late
2002, nobody also knew what happened to half of the US$4.3 million once
again dispensed to the INC.

Chalabi is an extremely persuasive character. It was himself who proposed to
Washington a mutual collaboration against Saddam. Ultra-conservative
American senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms loved it, as well as the
"Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle, the CIA and the Jewish lobby. In their
1999 book Out of the Ashes, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn paint a devastating
portrait of CIA agent Chalabi's wheelings and dealings since 1991. But the
fact is Washington would never trust the INC to depose Saddam: the
emphasis - or wishful thinking - relied on a coup orchestrated by the army.
Chalabi was progressively relegated to oblivion. In desperation, he launched
a plan in 1996 for Kurds to attack Iraqi army units stationed in Mosul and
Kirkuk. The operation failed miserably. Chalabi was totally discredited in
the CIA's eyes, and they turned to another potential and more trustworthy
agent: Ayad Allaoui, chief of the Iraqi National Accord (INA).

With the neo-cons in power, the tireless Chalabi managed to get back into
the limelight via the Pentagon - even though the CIA and the State
Department now openly despised him. The go-between was none other than
Richard Perle. Once again, this correspondent in the past few weeks has been
able to reconfirm that Chalabi's street credibility in Iraq is less than
zero. The most flattering compliment he gets is that he may be the new
"American Saddam".

In his new self-attributed role of respected statesman, Chalabi was part of
the Iraqi delegation to the recent UN General Assembly. In the first address
by an Iraqi to the 191-member body since the fall of Saddam's regime,
Chalabi could do no better than scold France, Germany, Russia, Syria and in
fact most of the planet for opposing the American invasion. He said
absolutely nothing about a UN role in Iraq - now desperately wanted by the
Bush administration. He said absolutely nothing about how and when Iraqis
will get back their sovereignty - a key UN demand. But true to form, Chalabi
promoted his own personal political causes: he called for the "eradication"
of Ba'ath Party members "once and for all".

The Pentagon still buys his take that the Iraqi resistance is conducted by
"remnants of Saddam's regime". In fact, the Pentagon still parrots
everything Chalabi says. But on a more serious note, Chalabi can be accused
of promoting a sectarian war in Iraq. Weeks before coming to the UN, he
recommended the arrest of brothers, sons, nephews and cousins of Ba'ath
Party members and former Iraqi army officials, as well as male Iraqis
between the ages of 15 and 50 if illegal weapons were found in their homes.
If this "recommendation" was to be taken seriously, it would mean no less
than an horrendous civil war.

Chief US weapons inspector David Kay's interim report on WMD has already
proved that the Bush administration was chasing a ghost. In fact, Kay should
save the extra 600 million demanded by Bush for the investigation to
continue and ask the Pentagon's "humint" Chalabi where the weapons are. With
friends like Chalabi, "liberated" Iraqi certainly doesn't need enemies.

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