Published on Monday, June 29, 2009 by The Guardian/UK
Iraqi Whose Lies Made the Case for War Looks on from Afar
by Martin Chulove
When the Iraqi who could be considered more responsible than any other for the US invasion six years ago quietly returned last March to the land his lies helped shape, Iraq was entering one of its most stable and promising phases in six years of turmoil
Rafid Ahmed Alwan - otherwise known as Curveball - slipped back into
Before the invasion, Curveball had become the CIA's most valuable source on Iraq's fictitious chemical and biological weapons programme, a man who underscored the White House's push for war through a litany of lies that later claimed the careers of the former secretary of state Colin Powell, and CIA chief George Tenet.
Both were forced to admit they had gone to war partly on the word of a collaborator whom no American agency had even debriefed until one year after
Curveball was a trained chemical engineer, who had been taken straight from university to work in a division of Saddam Hussein's intelligence services, known as division four, which dealt with the former dictator's pet projects. That much was true. But he also harboured illusions of grandeur; a life in a new land with riches, unveiled women and a new Mercedes.
The plump 42-year-old saw none of his old friends or colleagues during his visit; nor did he bother the alumni of
"Are you here to talk about uncle coming back again?" his nephew asked expectantly last week, believing the Guardian was facilitating Curveball's travel. "He hasn't been gone long and we are expecting him soon."
Had he gone near his old workplace, the Saad State Company for Housing and Construction, Curveball would have found his former colleague Dr Abdul Salam Jeber at his desk. He agreed to talk for the first time about his three months in CIA custody, which he now knows were caused by Curveball, a man he barely knew, but never trusted.
Two months after
There were about six high value informants, used by the
As the ultimately fruitless search intensified, Curveball remained under the protection of his German handlers, who drip-fed reports to the CIA throughout the lead-up to the invasion and the increasingly desperate months that followed.
Their man was sticking to his story. He had provided highly detailed and technically specific information about several facilities around
"They were expecting to find information about fermentation projects for bacterial weapons. I was the chief of the fermentation section of the company at the time," he said. "I know exactly what all the facilities were used for and there was no dual purpose for any of them.
"The Americans interrogating me didn't understand that if a project like that was to be started, a minimum of 200 people would know about it; there would be technical reports, chemical process designs, mechanical design, installation, then operation. Any one of the 800 employees in Saad Company may well have known about it."
Jeber was moved around
He was blindfolded and sleep-deprived for days then enticed with fruits and family visits. It was a classic counter-espionage routine designed to break defences that didn't exist.
"They said I had signed an agreement not to disclose information to foreigners, which is totally true. We all had to do that," he said.
"I now know that the 15 July date they kept talking about was a date in which Rafid had told them about an important moment in the so-called dual purpose facility. They also asked me about the three tucks that he talked about."
Jeber was given $1,000 and released in September 2003. Within eight months Tenet and Powell had resigned. He is, however, satisfied at a serendipitous achievement that he lays at Curveball's feet. "It was very important to get rid of Saddam," he said. "I never expected he would be removed from
Should Curveball return, he faces a highly uncertain future in
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2009
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs