World — February 16, 2011 at 1:51 PM

Devil in the mirror

Lately, as if the world has not had enough of it, events of the Iraq war were thrust upon us again. With that, memories we would rather forget came rushing back like flashbacks of a horror movie. It all started February 15, 2011 when Rafid Ahmed Alwan  Al-Janabi in an interview with the Guardian, a British national daily newspaper, admitted for the first time that he lied about his story that Iraq possessed biological weapons. Not that the world didn’t already know the truth. Nonetheless, the chilling admission is making most of us dizzy. With this admission the Iraq war inner caucus of  President George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and/or their associates were suddenly sort after again by the American press.

No doubt, the Iraq war topic is polarizing, and the jury is still out on whether the invasion was right or wrong. For me, I am over the war. It’s been fought, thousands of lives lost, and Iraq is now a democracy. Just as you cannot “unring” a bell, the Iraq war is done with and cannot be undone. That said, what befuddles me is why the man who fabricated the information cited by the George W. Bush administration as reason for the war is not being prosecuted. Instead, he lives in Germany a free man and has the audacity to grant a press interview and admitted his story was made-up.

Recall that former U.S Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003 made an eloquent pitch to a United Nations (UN) gathering to justify the Iraq war. At one point, Powell presented Power Point slides allegedly depicting that Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had biological weapons laboratories mounted on trucks that would be almost impossible to find. “My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,” Powell told the U.N gathering. “These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence”, he argued.

It turns out that Powell was not told that the major source for the information he pitched,  Al-Janabi (code named “Curveball”), had been flagged by the U.S Defense Intelligence Agency as untrustworthy. While Powell addressed the U.N Curveball was a refugee in Germany. He had defected from Iraq to Germany in 1999 and told the German intelligence service, BND, that Iraq possessed a mobile biological weapons program. That information was passed on to U.S intelligence services and although BND expressed reservations as it passed the intel to the CIA it, nonetheless, became the cornerstone of Powell’s infamous 2003 speech before the United Nations.

According to reports, the moment Curveball showed up in Germany for asylum, German intelligence agents doubted his story and treated it with a pinch of salt. The German intelligence agency wasn’t alone in suspecting Curveball. Tyler Drumheller, former head of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Europe, also suspected that Curveball’s false testimony about Iraqi biological weapons was about facilitating his asylum application than removing a brutal dictator. Drumheller never believed Curveball and that means then CIA Chief in the Bush administration, George Tenat, was warned about Curveball from the onset.

Curveball’s new confession only adds to the frustration of those who opposed the war from the onset. Some opponents of the war even go as far as suggesting that Bush and his top aides who prosecuted the war are war criminals. I disagree. The Bush administration has always maintained that it trusted the Curveball intelligence as at the time it made the case to go to war in Iraq, and that if it believed otherwise then the false information wouldn’t have been used as grounds for the war. That’s what the administration says and we have to accept it. The explanation does not necessarily mean the administration is telling the truth, but in the absence of any credible evidence that Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld or Rice were specifically warned by the CIA and they ignored the warning then their explanation must be accepted for what it is. I, too, wish the war was never fought, but calling the top architects of the invasion war criminals without credible evidence is overkill.

Clearly, based on available evidence, the CIA messed up. But no one knows for sure why it dropped the ball. All we know is that the CIA knew Curveball’s dope was unreliable but failed to effectively communicate that to President Bush or Colin Powell. Further, I refuse to buy the premise insinuated in some quarters that the CIA and the White House under George Bush were in cahoots to mislead the world. Such reasoning is absurd and can only be a result of overactive emotional sensors rather than intellect.

Instead of worrying about what was in Bush’s mind or the “real” reason for his invasion of Iraq, why not direct all that energy into making sure that Curveball is brought to justice. Curveball is responsible for all the lives lost in the Iraq war. In court rooms across the world suspects are prosecuted on a daily basis for taking the life of just one human being. Curveball is responsible for the death of thousands of troops from different countries that fought in that war, including Iraqi civilians and children. If this is not crime against humanity then am not sure what qualifies as one.

Curveball may not have fired a weapon in the Iraq war but his reckless and deliberate action brought about unnecessary loss of lives. Therefore, he should be held accountable just as former Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, who presided over Yugoslavia’s disintegration in the 1990s may not have directly fired a gun in the genocide he presided over but was still held accountable by the United Nations. In May 1999 the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted Milosevic and four subordinates for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war during the Kosovo conflict.

Late last year Pentagon investigators reportedly launched a search for Wikileaks co-founder, Julian Assange, who helped release a classified U.S military video showing a U.S helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians. The U.S military reportedly arrested Army Specialist Bradley Manning who may have passed on the video to Wikileaks. Manning’s arrest and the hunt for Assange show that the Obama administration is concerned about reckless actions that may put U.S troops and American citizens at risk. I may not agree with the administration’s move on Assange on account of freedom of information but I understand why it did what it did. What I don’t understand, however, is why it has not done anything about Curveball and his confession.

Some may argue that there is no need to arrest Curveball and prosecute him because the war is over and it’s been about eight years since it happened. That argument is hogwash and disintegrates under scrutiny as quickly as butter on hot bread. For the record, crimes against humanity have no statute of limitation. To ignore Curveball and his mischief amounts to disservice to the men, women and children who died in that war. In fact, the Iraq war is not over yet until Curveball is made to stand trial for his crime.

Curveball should not be ignored. He is the silent killer in the Iraq war; the devil in the mirror that has been overlooked. If Curveball thought that his lying to authorities was a joke, nobody is laughing. Soon he will see himself in the mirror of justice standing trial.

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