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"Curveball" Talks (or rather: Lies) Again

"Curveball" is the Iraqi exile whose lies were key to the Bush administrations case against Saddam on alleged WMDs, although US intelligence agents were not allowed to talk to him. He was an informant of the German Bundesnachrichtendienst. Thus many Americans criticized Germany later on, when they realized his stories about WMD were nonsense.

Michael Stickings writes that "Curveball" has now spoken publicly. Michael isn't impressed and concludes in The Moderate Voice:

The Bush Administration didn't get it so wrong because of Curveball, however much of a liar he may have been, but because it didn't seem to matter to the warmongers from Bush on down whether they got it right or wrong at all. There were ample warnings questioning Curveballs credibility, as well as the credibility of other such sources, but the warmongers believed what they wanted to believe, so rooted were they in their own fanaticism, and didn't let anything like the truth get in the way.

Still, I wish German and American intelligence agencies would cooperate more so that politicians cannot later blame the other country's agencies for misinformation, but that is probably too much to expect. Well, sometimes they work well together: German spy received US medal for support to combat operations in Iraq in 2003 and German Intelligence gave U.S. Iraqi defense plan.

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Elisabetta on :

Why you are giving 'curveball' space alongside the moderate voice? Who is 'curveball'? And to quote the moderate voice? Please dont be a stupid cunt: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c107:H.J.RES.114.ENR:. You do realize that what you post will never die?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

What's your point? And what's wrong with the Moderate Voice? "Please dont be a stupid cunt:" You are always so polite, but now you need to wash your mouth as McCain's mum likes to say, or so I heard. Endnote: For some reason our blog software has put your comment in the moderation and I only saw it now. If you enter an email address in the comment field, then our software might publish your comment immediately rather than considering it potential spam. But to be honest: I do not quite understand how the spam protection software works.

Joe Noory on :

Her point is that teh war was authorized by congress, and the idea of a character such as "Curveball", once made available can always get hist story aired so long as it, how shall we put it, fits a profile. So long as it provides more heat than light, it will get space. On the other hand, the fact that someone in the BND swallowed it unquestionably - which was also true of a stringer working for Italian and French intelligence somehow doesn't float to the top. What the CIA had on hand was not Curveball's statement, they had the German, French, and Italian reports. That this would not be aired (over, and over, and over, and over) anywhere where red meat can be thrown at an ugly mob is no surprise. My wish is that Europeans find themselves in this position someday, if a population of people that vicious can be found to do it to them, one grinning on about peace while a dictator is being deposed, and while the heat is being taken somewhere other than in a potential biological release in the airport at Frankfurt.

Elisabetta on :

The point, rather intemperately made I admit and apologise, is that "Curveball" in the larger scheme of things is a non-entity; and to any objective evaluator of the reasons, right or wrong, relied upon to wage war, the professed intelligence of this guy in Baghdad will not make a footnote in the historians' annals. His intelligence became important because it coincided with the majority opinion of every Western intelligence agency--Brits, French, Germans, Turkish. There has not been, nor apparently ever will be, a memorandum stating that the American claims were false or cooked b/c no one had evidence to the contrary. That is demonstrable fact for anyone who was sentient during the build-up to the 2003 war or skimmed the 9.11 report or even the Rockfeller report. The post is pure partisanship which while good-fun does not accomplish anything and muddies the waters unnecessarily. Was Halder and v. Brauchitsch's inability to tackle Hitler's usurpation of the OBK's central planning competence the reason that post 42 everything military went south? Or was there something else active? Hitler, the cabbal of NSDAP acolytes, the ideological movement which needed a counterpoint/fulcrum for their movement intra German society, lack of warmongering resources available... Was Hitler's aversion to man-on-man action the reason for the sacrifice of Roemer and v. Fritsch? or something else? The nazizeit examples are just arbitrary selections. popped in mah heid. But you are deliberately employing a reductionist interpretative lense to evoke factionalism and petty strife for some reason. You are osentsibly an academic and somewhere within the greater penumbra of the German research university tradition and to sully that tradition for partisan points on a blog is distasteful.

David on :

"Please dont be a stupid cunt:" Well, she is only mimicking what [url=http://www.alternet.org/blogs/peek/81588/] John McCain called his wife.[/url] In terms of the Curveball timeline, The Washington Post did the most [url=http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-curveball20nov20,0,1753730.story?page=1&coll=la-home-headlines]comprehensive reporting[/url]. CIA operative Tyler Drumheller met with BND officers in September 2002 and was told that Curveball was crazy. Drumheller reported his concerns to Langley and tried to redact the false information from the Powell speech, but was overruled. The die had been cast and the truth was not going to change the outcome...

John in Michigan, USA on :

Still waiting for a European to condemn David for being an American prude...waiting....still waiting...Oh, silly of me, leftists and their politicians have different rules. They really are better than us and shouldn't be held back by conventional morality...never mind. "McCain's face reddened, and he responded, 'At least I don't plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt.'" Face reddening could be anger, but it is also a sign of sexual tension. Think about it: The words are so over the top, they could easily be a form of flirting or even coded pillow talk. Naval aviator, etc. Imagine that, a candidate who has the hots [i]for his own wife[/i]! So, after all the trees that have been killed explaining how Clinton's serial adultery, likely including serious crimes like sexual assault ([url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathleen_Willey]Kathleen Willey[/url]) and rape ([url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juanita_Broaddrick]Juanita Broaddrick[/url]), and provably including workplace sexual harassment, perjury, and obstruction of justice (Monica), are nobody's business but his, and should have been ignored like we did for Kennedy...suddenly this McCain moment, dredged up from 1992, is newsworthy how exactly? Gee, might McCain have matured since then? Gee, I wonder what Obama was doing in 1992? He met his wife in 1989, got married in October, 1992, so I'LL BET HE WAS HAVING SEX OUT OF WEDLOCK FOR MOST OF 1992!!! Front page news!!! Fer fuck's sake, David.

Joe Noory on :

How is anyone's casual opinion more important than the BND's actions? Or doesn't that matter when you're constructing a specious hall of mirrors? It's very "patriotic" of you to operate on the assumption that the only evil there could possibly be in the world has a specific national or partisan attachment.

Pat Patterson on :

It's not often do you see warmongers and moderate used in the same sentence!

Joe Noory on :

So the BND was not responsible for the BND's report? Is this how governments that pointed to as the gold standard (always comparatively against "you know who") supposed to work?

David on :

It is worth reading the original article in the LA Times. Curveball's co-workers at Burger King in Nuernberg knew the guy was a pathological liar: "During breaks, he told stories about what a big man he was in Baghdad," said Hamza Hamad Rashid, who remembered an odd scene with the pudgy Alwan in his too-tight Burger King uniform praising Hussein in the home of der Whopper. "But he always lied. We never believed anything he said." Yet Colin Powell used Curveball's boastful lies in his infamous PowerPoint presentation to the world to justify a disastrous war.

Joe Noory on :

No David, the BND included him in his report despite his co-workers later saying that he was a pathological liar. Why all the evasion on something so obvious? Are Europeans so thin skinned that they can't be shown to be capable of error?

Anonymous on :

Joe to be fair here, I'm easy to convince where stupidity, corruption or sheer incompetence of nearly any institution is concerned but any of this among the German Intelligence (and there is plenty) was matched twice by the American political elite. Here are the facts as I'm aware of them: The gentleman in question turned up in Germany some time 99/00 and was picked up by the secret service shortly after. He reported a whole lot of things, that all sounded alarming and more or less plausible so they were passed on to the Americans. The CIA was very much aware that there were serious doubts about the source: Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA's European division, says so. I obviously don't know what exactly the BND told the CIA and what they didn't but it is known the then President of the BND ( that would have been August Hanning on the other hand I seem to remember Ernst Uhrlau wrote the actual letter => I'm somewhat fuzzy on the details here) told the Americans more or less that the BND couldn't verify anything and would take no responsibility. Essentially: Do what you feel but keep our name out of it. A query by the Bush Administration if Germany would hand over Curveball so that they could put him on prime time TV was apparently flat out denied. This was apparently shortly before Colin Powells fatefull address to the United Nations the rest is - as they say - history. What should the BND have done differently? Don't pass the information on? Can you imagine the uproar: Cowardly, shifty-eyed Germans stand on the sidelines, cackling evilly while patriotic, baseball-playing, god-fearing, American Heroes die a horrible death. Lots and lots of fun. They could have allowed direct contact. I don't know why they didn't but if I had to venture a guess I would say petty jealousy between the services. I'm no insidere so it's all heresay but apparently the Americans are known for playing their cards pretty close to their chests. Anyway it wouldn't have mattered. The CIA had already smelt a rat but the simple truth is Mr Bush was spoiling for this fight and no one would be allowed to take his fun away. Now if you want to get a little paranoid you could speculate that it was all part of a dastardly plan on behalve of the BND to lure our unsuspecting American friends in a bloody war, only to abandone them in the hour of their need. We ARE German after all, I always say: every day we don't plot world dominion, or at the very least mass murder, between tea-time and dinner is a wasted day. Now I'm off, I still have to complete those War robots.

Fred on :

God damn it. Once again that was me - not remembering to write my fucking name in the headline.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

No problem, Fred. You could also check the "Remember information" box just above the "submit comment"-button. Then the blog software would remember your name and you don't have to type it in every time. Unless of course, you use several computers...

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@Joe "Are Europeans so thin skinned that they can't be shown to be capable of error?" I don't have a problem saying that the BND screwed up, but it seems that the Americans did not want to pay attention when the BND changed its mind about curveball a few months before the invasion of iraq. Or have I misunderstood something? The Bush admin was also very keen on believing all the nonsense Chalabi and his gang have told them.

Joe Noory on :

Did he use chemical weapons or didn't he? Was he a mass murderer of wasn't he? Wouldn't Saddam have made IRaq an even bigger host to a well funded terror training if he thought it would really work for him? Isn't keeping busy and off our turf the terroisty proxies funded by the Iranians, Syrians, privately donating Wahabists, and the like? Was it so wrong to split the Arab & Muslim world in half while a violent, expansionist movement is on the ascent and ready to lean on any participatory government in its' "realm"? And WHEN did deposing a dictator become such a huge problem to societies who pump their fists in the air demanding "peace" and "human rights"? Enough of this nonsense. People beating on about htis need to put up or shut up. Where did they suddenly find an admiration for Saddam "governance"? Did you want to see the chaotic, oppresive, violent societies of the near east only to get worse? Because I didn't see anyone on the east side of this little pond doing ANYTHING but selling arms and chemical equipment to anyone in the middle east who could cough up the dough. I can tell you from first hand experience and that of my relatives going back a century that there was no peace to keep. Nearly every population center in the near east has to deal with the violence and terror of their own factional conflicts, and in large part horrendously abusive governments. I am genuiniely sick of this never-ending beating on. If the opponents of the Iraq war are so right, why don't they have any solutions to propose that the US act on to redress it other than giving themselves the satisfaction that the US pull out and declare ITSELF an evil failure? The war's over. It's been over. Like in Germany up until 1954, as long as there was money and weapons to be found, there was an insurgency. Instead of finding an opportunity to work toward a better society in Iraq that others might borrow from (such as treating women as if they're human, and teaching people skills that improve human life), the "peace" movement has done little other than howl in impotent rage, take allegations of some abude and call it systematic torture, and lionize advocates of terror. Want to know what torture is? Go get yourself arrested for even a small infraction in Cairo or Damascus.

Joe Noory on :

You'll note that the "WMD as the only reason for war" meme was something that emmerged from the repetative pro-Saddam "peace" camp 6 months after the tanks started rolling. It was ridiculous opportunism for people who carry a "Pace" flag, and live in a society where they couldn't look a Mogabe of Mobutu in the eye without their lips quivering. I'll buy their moral vanity about "Pace" when they stop buying time for the Janjaweed and the Iranian nuclear weapons development program. I don't even need to see them actually DO something about these things - just seeing them stop trying to kick the legs out from under civilization is enough for me.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

[i]"You'll note that the "WMD as the only reason for war" meme"[/i] WMD was the main reason to support the war for most Americans. Americans would not have supported the war to punish Saddam for violation of UN sanctions and to promote democracy in the ME. Anyway, if as you say WMD was not the only reason for war (and indeed it wasn't), then the German intelligence service should not get soo much blame for Curveball. But they did get. That's why I wrote this post.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joerg, As you'll see from my response to Joe, I basically agree. Some thoughts: "Americans would not have supported the war to punish Saddam for violation of UN sanctions and to promote democracy in the ME." Well, we might have, depending on how it was presented. The intervention in Mogadishu in 1992 was initially popular, based in part on momentum from the successful 1991 Gulf War. We had similar momentum after taking down the Taliban. Even without momentum, the NATO intervention in former Yugoslavia was popular enough to be approved by Congress. But I agree, WMD, and specifically, stockpiles, was emphasized. And of course, the Iraq intervention was a much bigger scale, with more lives and treasure at stake, so there would have been more resistance to the idea. But I don't think we can completely rule it out...

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joe, I agree that far too many of the peace demonstrators were, and are, caught up in a mind-numbing utopian dream. However, to be fair, the various people in favor of the war certainly talked a lot about WMD. They (well, we) simply didn't put the same amount of effort into talking about the non-WMD reasons for the war. In that sense, they (and we) contributed (by omission or by choice of emphasis, if not by explicit commission) to the meme you speak of. If I were in charge, my pro-war meme or soundbyte would have been something like "its the nexus, stupid", referring to all the factors (including the WMD threat) that went into the case for war, and the synergy between them. Instead, the soundbyte became something more like "its the WMD, stupid" and so, here we are. Looking back, one has to admit that the fear of WMD, which was well-founded but proved to be over-stated in this particular case, had a certain vicarious aspect that the other aspects of the case for the war simply did not have. Besides overstating the WMD case, the pro-war side also has to answer for the fact that we went to war, knowing full well that the formidable propaganda resources of the so-called peace movement would be deployed against us. In addition to the intelligence failure re WMD, we have to accept that we didn't deploy, or even give sufficient thought to, what it would take to counter the propaganda we should have known was coming. If we had found WMD, the way Bush [i]pere[/i] did in 1991, Bush and Blair wouldn't be nearly as embarrassed as they are today, but it isn't clear they or the coalition would be all that popular, at home or abroad. The so-called "resistance" would probably have happened anyway, U.N. and other, non-coalition humanitarian efforts would probably have collapsed anyway, and there would be much the same rash of I-told-you-so and even schadenfreude. There was more dancing in the streets after 9-11 than during the peak of the Iraqi "resistance". I'm writing all this in the spirit of an after-action report, lessons learned, etc. I think all this should be kept in mind in considering what is to be done about Iran. Fear of the Iranian bomb is rational; a nuclear exchange in the region would make the debate about the Iraq body count into a nostalgic footnote. An incident of nuclear terrorism, and the ripple effects, would be devastating to both civil liberties and the world economy. Still, it may not be enough to be right about the danger of this stuff. [b]One has to be seen to be right[/b]. For example, a radioactive crater in place of, say, Jaffa, would be a horrible thing; but the same crater, plus the emergence of a meme of, well, [i]they had it coming[/i], would be even worse. Well I've wandered a bit off-topic here. I guess I'll wrap it up thus: we can complain all day about the soundbyte culture that spawns the type of memes you mention. But, to paraphrase Rummy, we communicate using the memes we have, not the memes we would like to have.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Says the LA Times, Curveball "...worked as a technician at Babel, a Baghdad film and TV company that produced adoring documentaries about Hussein" "In early 2002, a year before the war, he told co-workers at the Burger King that he spied for Iraqi intelligence and would report any fellow Iraqi worker who criticized Hussein's regime." And in other places in the article, you see that Curveball says he was pro-Saddam. He "applied to join the ruling Baath Party." If these points, which presumably have been checked and double-checked by the reporters, are true, it makes it unlikely Curveball was part of a false flag operation (i.e. he was probably not a Bush/DOD/MI-6/Mossad/whatever operative posing as an Iraqi defector). Probably, he was just winging it in order to get attention and money. This further supports my theory that the WMD fiasco is more properly understood as a catastrophic intelligence failure, rather than an outright fabrication by the Bush administration. Also, it seems to me this tends to vindicate Ahmed Chalabi. This article proves that Chalabi was NOT Curveball, but a relative of Curveball. Chalabi's longtime position, that he did little other than help confirm Curveball's basic identity, remains unrefuted. Anybody know otherwise? --- "In October 2004, more than a year after the invasion, a CIA-led investigation concluded that Baghdad had abandoned all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The germ trucks never existed." This is very misleading. Baghdad did not abandon all WMD programs immediately after the 1991 war. There were no production facilities, but there were several fully or partially destroyed lab facilities found after the invasion. These facilities had been destroyed recently and in haste. The Iraq Survey Group's final report in 2004 found that "[url=http://www.opinionjournal.com/diary/?id=110008535]Saddam had the capability to start anthrax production within one week of making the decision to do so, and thereafter to produce more than 10 tons of weaponized anthrax a year[/url]." Also I believe trucks matching Curveball's description were in fact found, however they were probably designed to produce helium or hydrogen gas as part of a military weather balloon system.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

[i]"Saddam had the capability to start anthrax production within one week of making the decision to do so, and thereafter to produce more than 10 tons of weaponized anthrax a year."[/i] I think, many dozens of countries and thousands of companies and private groups around the world have the capability to start what you say above. And they can then produce "weaponized anthrax" a year later. But what does "weaponized anthrax" mean exactly? How deadly? Aren't there many different levels of "weaponized"? BTW: What is the latest theory on the anthrax letters mailed shortly after 9/11?

John in Michigan, USA on :

Joerg, Of course, anthrax was just one component of the programs Saddam had lying dormant at the time of the 2003 invasion. There was sarin, VX, and misc other stuff. The only thing he had truly given up was a nuclear bomb (meaning we found misc equipment but not enough for experiments, and certainly not production). What is "weaponized"? Fair question. Shortly after the 1991 attack, we found and destroyed military-grade, weaponized biological and chemical weapons. Some of them, however, were in parts of the country we didn't have access to in 1991. They would have been easily deployable on the battlefield, but even when brand new were probably not as effective as the "ideal" weapons which are very pure, have well-engineered and tested delivery and dispersal media, are properly stored, etc. Some 500 of these weapons were only recovered in 2004; they were severely degraded, but still lethal against an unprepared target under the right conditions (i.e. terrorism). Ironically, it seems that the Iraqi forces were so disorganized, they may not have known these weapons still existed! Even the best chemical and biological weapons are not very effective on the battlefield against a modern, well-equipped army such as the coalition. The threat was that he would use them against rag-tag, conscripted, middle eastern armies, insurgents, civilians, and even as a psychological terror weapon similar to the anthrax letters. For these purposes, high- or even military-quality weapons were beside the point -- all you need is a fresh source, a modest amount of the stuff, and the will to use it. All of which he had demonstrated in the past, time and time again. So to answer your question, the "one week" weapons the article I cited would presumably have been effective for terrorism, or for genocide against Iraqi civilians or insurgents; it may have taken longer to make them into medium-grade military weapons, as he had done in the past. Or perhaps military-grade weapons would have been impossible, if all the real experts were dead or gone. There is still no evidence as to the ultimate origin of the 2001 anthrax letters. Dr. Steven Hatfill, the main "person of interest" for a time, has also been vindicated as far as I can tell. Personally, I doubt Saddam was behind them or the 9/11 attacks; Iraqi intelligence may have provided some incidental support (passports, cover stories, etc) but it is unlikely they knew what it was for, other than general anti-Western activities. Under US organized crime laws that long predate the Patriot act, proof that Iraqi intelligence had done this would make them co-conspirators; however, the possible Iraq/9-11 connection is at best only a peripheral element of the case for the war. Remaining anthrax attack theories (in no particular order, [i]this is all speculation[/i]) include: [list=1] [*]1) al-Quaeda, as part of a coordinated attack; [*]2) a sympathetic attack by an Islamist entity not connected to al-Q; [*]3) an opportunistic attack by a non-Islamist entity (far right? far left? disgruntled individual?) that saw a chance a) to help push the US over the edge into collapse, or b) to see if he could get away with something and have it blamed on someone else, or c) make al-Q appear even more a threat than it was; [/list] Option 3) could theoretically include a rouge person or cell operating within the US government, but almost certainly not acting at the behest of the government; if it had, someone with knowledge would have emerged by now.

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