Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Biggest Lie Ever?

One of the more persistent canards about the Iraq war pushed by the Bush administration and its conservative allies is that Saddam Hussein had teamed up with Osama bin Laden. This unholy -- if wholly untrue -- alliance has been used repeatedly to justify the president’s claim that he was acting on the best available intelligence when he beat the war drum and Congress and most of the American public dutifully fell into step behind him.

A newly declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document with the deceptively nondescript title of DITSUM No. 044-02 would seem to be the last nail in the Saddam-OBL claim coffin.

The Los Angeles Times reported today that DITSUM No. 044-02 demolished the credibility of the key Al Qaeda informant whom the administration replied on to make the claim. The document was prepared by the DIA in February 2002 but in a now familiar pattern, was ignored by the White House because it did not fit its preconceptions.

The informant, Al Qaeda senior military trainer Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi — a Libyan captured in Pakistan in 2001 — was probably "intentionally misleading the debriefers," the DIA report concluded in one of two paragraphs declassified at the request of Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and released by his office. The report added: "Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

Notes L.A. Times commentator Robert Scheer:

Folks in the highest places were very interested in claims along the lines Libi was peddling, even though they went against both logic and the preponderance of intelligence gathered to that point about possible collaboration between two enemies of the U.S. that were fundamentally at odds with each other. Al Qaeda was able to create a base in Iraq only after the U.S. overthrow of Hussein, not before.
Bush used the informant's already discredited story in a key speech just before the Senate voted on whether to authorize the use of force in Iraq and again in two speeches in February, just ahead of the invasion.

Adds Scheer:

One by one, the exotic intelligence factoids Bush's researchers culled from raw intelligence data files to publicly bolster their claim of imminent threat — the yellowcake uranium from Niger, the aluminum tubes for processing uranium, the Prague meeting with Mohamed Atta, the discredited Iraqi informants "Curveball" and Ahmad Chalabi — have been exposed as previously known frauds.

Bush exploited the worldwide horror felt over the 9/11 attacks to justify the Iraq invasion. His outrageous claim, repeated over and over before and after he dragged the nation into an unnecessary war, was never supported by a single piece of credible evidence. The Bush defense of what is arguably the biggest lie ever put over on the American people is that everyone had gotten the intelligence wrong. Not so at the highest level of U.S. intelligence, as DITSUM No. 044-02 so clearly shows. How could the president not have known?

How indeed?

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