Did Chalabi Help Write Bush’s State of the Union Address?

by JASON LEOPOLD

Last weekend, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz explained that the United States at times relied on "murky" intelligence in trying to link Iraq to the al-Qaeda terrorist group, but the war against Iraq was justified despite the fact that the White House is now being dogged by questions about the accuracy of its prewar intelligence.

"The nature of terrorism intelligence is intrinsically murky," Wolfowitz said on "Meet the Press. "If you wait until the terrorism picture is clear, you’re going to wait until after something terrible has happened."

But the reasons behind the murky intelligence used by the White House to build a case for war against Iraq may have more to do with the people who provided the Pentagon and the White House with its information on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction than the difficulties the intelligence community already faces in trying to obtain reliable intelligence from a variety of sources.

"Having concluded that international inspectors are unlikely to find tangible and irrefutable evidence that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction, the Bush administration is preparing its own assessment that will rely heavily on evidence from Iraqi defectors, according to senior administration officials," The New York Times reported Jan. 23.

In addition, Bush administration officials said Jan. 23 some of the intelligence information provided by the Iraqi defectors would likely be included in the president’s State of the Union address, which may explain why the White House has come under fire for failing to paint an accurate picture of the Iraqi threat_it is well-known among intelligence experts that much of the information provided by Iraqi defectors is unreliable.

"The White House asked administration intelligence analysts … to use the information from the defectors as part of a "bill of particulars" that the administration hopes will convince skeptical allies and the American public that Iraq’s behavior warrants military action, the officials said," The Times reported. "In addition, they said, it may be incorporated into President Bush’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28."

Many of the defectors were encouraged to speak to intelligence officials by Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile group with close ties to the White House. There continue to be deep divisions in Washington over the value of information from defectors associated with Chalabi’s group.

"The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency has been the most receptive to the defectors intelligence, saying that defectors are critical to penetrating Iraq’s deceptive practices. The CIA has often been dismissive of the defectors and questioned their credibility, according to administration officials," the Times reported.

As lawmakers in Washington begin investigations into the accuracy of pre-war intelligence, they should question whether the White House and the Pentagon used dubious information from Iraqi defectors to help sway public opinion in supporting the war and whether some of that information was included in Bush’s State of the Union address in January.

Five days before President’s Bush’s State of the Union Speech Jan. 28, Wolfowitz spoke to the Council of Foreign Relations in New York and credited Iraqi defectors with providing the Pentagon and other U.S. "intelligence agencies" much of the information on Iraq’s secret weapons programs that has long been dismissed by military personnel in Iraq as unreliable.

Wolfowitz said in his Jan. 23, presentation to the Council of Foreign Relations that it was Iraqi defectors who told the CIA and the Pentagon about mobile trailers in Iraq that were allegedly used to produce biological weapons.

"We know about that capability from defectors and other sources," Wolfowitz said during his speech, which can be found at <http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan2003/t01232003_t0123cfr. html> "For a great body of what we need to know, we are very dependent on traditional methods of intelligence _ that is to say, human beings who are either deliberately or inadvertently communicating to us."

Secretary of State Colin Powell in his February presentation to the United Nations where he was trying to win support for war, pointed to the trailers as evidence of Iraq’s secret weapons program.

When the trailers were found in May, President Bush, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice were quick to point out that the trailers were used to produce lethal chemical weapons, even though no traces of any chemical weapons were found inside the trailers.

But the State Department in a June 2 classified memorandum disputed the conclusion that the trailers were used to cook up deadly weapons. United Nations weapons inspectors said that the trailers were likely used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons.

Prior to the war in March, Wolfowitz said some of the most valuable information it received came from Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a contractor who escaped Iraq in the summer of 2001. He told American officials that chemical and biological weapons laboratories were hidden beneath hospitals and inside presidential palaces and he provided documents to back up some of his other assertions about Iraq’s weapons programs.

In December and January, the White House highlighted Haideri’s claims against Iraq in a report called "Iraq; A Decade of Deception and Defiance" and in a fact sheet on Iraq posted on the White Houses web site. But when U.S. forces searched the hospitals and presidential palaces where Haideri said weapons were hidden they found nothing, not even evidence that weapons had ever been there.

JASON LEOPOLD can be reached at: jasonleopold@hotmail.com


Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times
Brian Cloughley
Don’t be Black in America
Kent Paterson
In Search of the Great New Mexico Chile Pepper in a Post-NAFTA Era
Binoy Kampmark
Live Death on Air: The Killings at WDBJ
Gui Rochat
The Guise of American Democracy
Emma Scully
Vultures Over Puerto Rico: the Financial Implications of Dependency
Chuck Churchill
Is “White Skin Privilege” the Key to Understanding Racism?
Kathleen Wallace
The Id(iots) Emerge
Andrew Stewart
Zionist Hip-Hop: a Critical Look at Matisyahu
Gregg Shotwell
The Fate of the UAW: Study, Aim, Fire
Halyna Mokrushyna
Decentralization Reform in Ukraine
Norman Pollack
World Capitalism, a Basket Case: A Layman’s View
Sarah Lazare
Listening to Iraq
John Laforge
NSP/Xcel Energy Falsified Welding Test Documents on Rad Waste Casks
Wendell G Bradley
Drilling for Wattenberg Oil is Not Profitable
Joy First
Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field
Mel Gurtov
China’s Insecurity
Mateo Pimentel
An Operator’s Guide to Trump’s Racism
Yves Engler
Harper Conservatives and Abuse of Power
Michael Dickinson
Police Guns of Brixton: Another Unarmed Black Shot by London Cops
Ron Jacobs
Daydream Sunset: a Playlist
Charles R. Larson
The Beginning of the Poppy Wars: Amitav Ghosh’s “Flood of Fire”
David Yearsley
A Rising Star Over a Dark Forest
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman