Atta, the Times and the Iraqi Agent

by William Blum

Is there anyone out there who’s not yet totally cynical about US foreign policy and the propaganda that accompanies it?

For months we’ve been told that Mohamed Atta, the alleged ringleader of the September 11 attacks, had met an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague in April, with all the ominous implication of Iraqi involvement in the attack that this story carried, along with the implied threat of US retaliation against Iraq.

Well, in case you missed it, the NY Times reported on page B6 of its October 20, 2001 issue that Czech “officials said they had been asked by Washington to comb their records to determine whether Mr. Atta met with an Iraqi diplomat or agent here. They said they had told the United States they found no evidence of any such meeting. … Petr Necas, chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, said, ‘I haven’t seen any direct evidence that Mr. Atta met any Iraqi agent’.”

Well, that would seem to have put an end to that. All the American officials who have been hungering for a chance to further devastate the people of Iraq would have to find another pretext.

Then, on October 27, the Times reported that: “Speaking at a news conference in Prague, the Czech interior minister, Stanislav Gross, said that Mr. Atta met Mr. Ani, an Iraqi diplomat identified by Czech authorities as an intelligence officer, in early April.”

What’s going on here?

Said the Times: “Mr. Gross and other Czech officials suggested earlier this month that while there was evidence that Mr. Atta had visited Prague, there was none he had actually met with Iraqi agents. It was unclear what prompted them to revise their conclusions, although it seemed possible that American officials, concerned about the political implications of Iraqi involvement in terror attacks, had put pressure on the Czechs to keep quiet.”

Part of the second sentence indicates that the Times writer was a bit confused inasmuch as it’s been US officials trumpeting alleged Iraqi involvement. But that’s neither here nor there. What’s important is the claim that the first announcement by the Czech government may have induced US officials to put pressure on the Czechs to revise that claim.

If the NY Times can express such unusual cynicism about US foreign policy, who are we to not have our doubts?

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