Curveball deserves permanent exile for WMD lies, say Iraq politicians
Defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi's hope of a political career met by scorn following admission he lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons programme
Politicians in Iraq have called for the permanent exile of the Iraqi defector, codenamed Curveball by his US and German handlers, who admitted to the Guardian he lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi said he invented stories about Saddam Hussein's non-existent bioweapons programme in order to "liberate" Iraq.
But if he thought that his mea culpa would make him a hero, it seems he was wrong. "He is a liar, he will not serve his country," one Iraqi politician said in response to Curveball's claim to want to build a political career in his motherland.
In his adopted home of Germany, politicians are demanding to know why the German secret service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), paid Curveball €3,000 (£2,500) a month for at least five years after they knew he had lied.
In the US, questions are being asked of the CIA's handling of Curveball, 43, and specifically why the then head of the intelligence agency, George Tenet, did not pass on warnings from the Germans about Curveball's reliability.
But the harshest criticism of Curveball is coming from Iraq.
Jamal Al Battikh, the country's minister for tribes' affairs, said: "Honestly, this man led Iraq to a catastrophe and a disaster. Iraqis paid a heavy price for his lies – the invasion of 2003 destroyed Iraqi basic infrastructure and after eight years we cannot fix electricity. Plus thousands of Iraqis have died.
"This man is not welcome back. In fact, Iraqis should complain against him and sue him for his lies."
Others poured scorn on Curveball's plan to return to Iraq and enter politics.
Intefadh Qanber, spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmed Chalabi, said: "He is a liar, he will not serve his country. He fabricated the story about WMD and that story gave the USA a suitable pretext to lead the 2003 invasion, which hurt Iraq. For most Iraqis, it was obvious that Saddam was a dictator, but they wanted to see him ousted on the basis of his crimes against human rights, not a fabricated story about weapons of mass destruction."
In the US, a pressure group representing veterans of the Iraq war demanded the justice department open an investigation into the INC's relationship to Curveball.
Chalabi, who was very close to the former US vice-president Dick Cheney in the decade leading up to the 2003 invasion, has often been accused of being the man behind Curveball. It has long been known that Chalabi provided the CIA with three other sources who lied about Saddam's WMD capability. But when asked by the Guardian, al-Janabi and Chalabi denied knowing each other.
A spokesman for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) said: "There must be accountability. Mr Janabi manipulated the United States government in a self-confessed effort to precipitate US military action in Iraq. IVAW calls for the justice department to investigate whether he acted alone or in concert with others who now occupy senior positions in the Iraqi government."
In Germany, politicians are demanding an open parliamentary inquiry into the BND's handling of the Curveball case.
Hans-Ulrich Sckerl, a Green MP in Baden-Württemberg, where Curveball now lives, said Germany's interior ministry had never given a satisfactory explanation for why the BND continued to support Curveball financially until 2008, when he was given a German passport.
He said: "We asked about this matter in the local parliament and the ministry of the interior gave us a very guarded response. They deny knowing anything about Curveball being given German citizenship – with the help of the BND – or being involved with it in any way. Still now, we don't quite believe it ... We will keep asking questions."
Another MP, Hans-Christian Ströbele, who represents the Green Party in the parliamentary control panel on the work of the intelligence services, has already said the Bundestag should investigate why the BND provided support payments to Curveball for so long.
On Wednesday, the BND answered "no comment" to all of the Guardian's questions about Curveball.
In the US, Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to the US secretary of state Colin Powell in the build-up to the invasion, said Curveball's lies raised questions about how the CIA had briefed Powell ahead of his crucial speech to the UN security council presenting the case for war.
Tyler Drumheller, the head of the CIA's Europe division in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, said he welcomed Curveball's confession because he had always warned Tenet that Curveball may have been a fabricator.
On the streets of Baghdad today, some ordinary Iraqis said they were grateful for Curveball's lies.
Salem Ahmed, 55, a businessman, said: "I would welcome Rafid back. His lies helped Iraqis get rid of Saddam and now we can travel everywhere. On a personal level, my business has improved, too. I wish Iraqi politicians had lied earlier than 2003 so that we could have got a free country sooner."
Will revolution spread to Pakistan?
The country is ripe for revolt, though it would mean ousting the army
As Hosni Mubarak reluctantly retired last Friday night, another revolt was reaching its climax in Pakistan. For four days the workers of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national carrier, had been on strike. Some 25,000 passengers were stranded, including me.
I was stuck in Quetta, a tense, paranoid city near the Afghan border where the security forces are engaged in a ruthless cat-and-mouse game with nationalist rebels; it is also a supposed refuge for the one-eyed Taliban leader Mullah Omar. As the skies emptied of planes, guests from my hotel fled Quetta by car, crossing the sprawling deserts, or chancing the rickety 22-hour train ride to Karachi. I stayed put.
Afghans fear return of the warlords as anti-Taliban militias clash
David Petraeus-backed defence programme put on hold in Helmand as governor warns militia leaders in former Taliban stronghold
UK: Mosque school arrest following Channel 4 documentary
Police act after alleged assault on child as second mosque featured in film is forced to close amid far-right attack fears
The toxic residue of colonialism
The overt age of grand empires gave way to the age of covert imperial hegemony, but now the edifice is crumbling.
Richard Falk Last Modified: 14 Feb 2011 15:44 GMT
At least, overtly, there has been no talk from either Washington or Tel Aviv - the governments with most to lose as the Egyptian revolution unfolds - of military intervention. Such restraint is more expressive of geopolitical sanity than postcolonial morality, but still it enables some measure of change to take place that unsettles, temporarily at least, the established political order.
And yet, by means seen and unseen, external actors, especially the United States, with a distinct American blend of presumed imperial and paternal prerogatives are seeking to shape and limit the outcome of this extraordinary uprising of the Egyptian people, long held in subsidised bondage by the cruel and corrupt Mubarak dictatorship. What is the most defining feature of this American-led diplomacy-from-without is the seeming propriety of managing the turmoil, so that the regime survives and the demonstrators return to what is perversely being called "normalcy".
I find most astonishing that President Obama so openly claimed the authority to instruct the Mubarak regime about how it was supposed to respond to the revolutionary uprising. I am not surprised at the effort, and would be surprised by its absence - but merely by the lack of any sign of imperial shyness in a world order that is supposedly built around the legitimacy of self-determination, national sovereignty, and democracy.
And almost as surprising, is the failure of Mubarak to pretend in public that such interference in the guise of guidance is unacceptable - even if, behind closed doors, he listens submissively and acts accordingly. This geopolitical theatre performance of master and servant suggests the persistence of the colonial mentality on the part of both coloniser - and their national collaborators.
The only genuine post-colonial message would be one of deference: "Stand aside, and applaud." The great transformative struggles of the past century involved a series of challenges throughout the global south to get rid of the European colonial empires. But political independence did not bring an end to the more indirect, but still insidious, methods of control designed to protect economic and strategic interests. Such a dynamic meant reliance on political leaders that would sacrifice the wellbeing of their own people to serve the wishes of their unacknowledged former colonial masters, or their Western successors - the United States largely displacing France and the United Kingdom in the Middle East after the Suez crisis of 1956.
And these post-colonial servants of the West would be well-paid autocrats vested with virtual ownership rights in relation to the indigenous wealth of their country, provided they remained receptive to foreign capital. In this regard, the Mubarak regime was a poster child of post-colonial success.
Western liberal eyes were long accustomed not to notice the internal patterns of abuse that were integral to this foreign policy success - and if occasionally noticed by some intrepid journalist, who would then be ignored, or if necessary discredited as some sort of "leftist". And if this failed to deflect criticism, they would point out, usually with an accompanying condescending smile, that torture and the like came with Arab cultural territory - a reality that savvy outsiders adapted to without any discomfort.
Actually, in this instance, such practices were quite convenient, Egypt serving as one of the interrogation sites for the insidious practice of "extreme rendition", by which the CIA transports "terrorist suspects" to accommodating foreign countries that willingly provide torture tools and facilities. Is this what is meant by "a human rights presidency"? The irony should not be overlooked that President Obama's special envoy to the Mubarak government in the crisis was none other than Frank Wisner, an American with a most notable CIA lineage.
There should be clarity about the relationship between this kind of post-colonial state, serving US regional interests - oil, Israel, containment of Islam, avoidance of unwanted proliferation of nuclear weapons - in exchange for power, privilege, and wealth vested in a tiny corrupt national elite that sacrifices the wellbeing and dignity of the national populace in the process.
Such a structure in the post-colonial era, where national sovereignty and human rights infuse popular consciousness can only be maintained by erecting high barriers of fear, reinforced by state terror, designed to intimidate the populace from pursuing their goals and values. When these barriers are breached, as recently in Tunisia and Egypt, then the fragility of the oppressive regime glows in the dark.
The dictator either runs for the nearest exit, as did Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, or is dumped by his entourage and foreign friends so that the revolutionary challenge can be tricked into a premature accommodation. This latter process seemed to represent the one of latest maneuverings of the palace elite in Cairo and their backers in the White House. Only time will tell whether the furies of counterrevolution will win the day, possibly by gunfire and whip - and possibly through mollifying gestures of reform that become unfulfillable promises in due course if the old regime is not totally reconstructed.
Unfulfillable - because corruption and gross disparities of wealth amid mass impoverishment can only be sustained, post-Tahrir Square, through the reimposition of oppressive rule. And if it is not oppressive, then it will not be able for very long to withstand demands for rights, for social and economic justice, and due cause for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.
Here is the crux of the ethical irony. Washington is respectful of the logic of self-determination, so long as it converges with the US grand strategy, and is oblivious to the will of the people whenever its expression is seen as posing a threat to the neoliberal overlords of the globalised world economy, or to strategic alignments that seem so dear to State Department or Pentagon planners.
As a result there is an inevitable to-ing and fro-ing as the United States tries to bob and weave, celebrating the advent of democracy in Egypt,complaining about the violence and torture of the tottering regime - while doing what it can to manage the process from outside, which means preventing genuine change, much less a democratic transformation of the Egyptian state. Anointing the main CIA contact and Mubarak loyalist, Omar Suleiman, to preside over the transition process on behalf of Egypt seems a thinly disguised plan to throw Mubarak to the crowd, while stabilising the regime he presided over for more than 30 years.
I would have expected more subtlety on the part of the geopolitical managers, but perhaps its absence is one more sign of imperial myopia that so often accompanies the decline of great empires.
It is notable that most protesters, when asked by the media about their reasons for risking death and violence by being in the Egyptian streets, responded with variations on the phrases: "We want our rights" or: "We want freedom and dignity". Of course, joblessness, poverty, food security - and anger at the corruption, abuses, and dynastic pretensions of the Mubarak regime offer an understandable infrastructure of rage that undoubtedly fuels the revolutionary fires. But it is "rights" and "dignity" that seem to float on the surface of this awakened political consciousness.
These ideas, to a large extent nurtured in the hothouse of Western consciousness and then innocently exported as a sign of good will, like "nationalism" a century earlier, might originally be intended only as public relations move, but over time, such ideas gave rise to the dreams of the oppressed and victimised - and when the unexpected historical moment finally arrived, burst into flame. I remember talking a decade or so ago to Indonesian radicals in Jakarta who talked of the extent to which their initial involvement in anti-colonial struggle was stimulated by what they had learned from their Dutch colonial teachers about the rise of nationalism as a political ideology in the West.
Ideas may be disseminated with conservative intent, but if they later become appropriated on behalf of the struggles of oppressed peoples, such ideas are reborn - and serve as the underpinnings of a new emancipatory politics. Nothing better illustrates this Hegelian journey than the idea of "self-determination", initially proclaimed by Woodrow Wilson after World War I. Wilson was a leader who sought above all to maintain order, believed in satisfying the aims of foreign investors and corporations, and had no complaints about the European colonial empires. For him, self-determination was merely a convenient means to arrange the permanent breakup of the Ottoman Empire through the formation of a series of ethnic states.
Little did Wilson imagine, despite warnings from his secretary of state, that self-determination could serve other gods - and become a powerful mobilising tool to overthrow colonial rule. In our time, human rights has followed a similarly winding path, sometimes being no more than a propaganda banner used to taunt enemies during the Cold War, sometimes as a convenient hedge against imperial identity - and sometimes as the foundation of revolutionary zeal, as seems to be the case in the unfinished and ongoing struggles for rights and dignity taking place throughout the Arab world in a variety of forms.
It is impossible to predict how this future will play out. There are too many forces at play in circumstances of radical uncertainty. In Egypt, for instance, it is widely believed that the army holds most of the cards, and that where it finally decides to put its weight will determine the outcome. But is such conventional wisdom not just one more sign that hard power realism dominates our imagination, and that historical agency belongs in the end to the generals and their weapons, and not to the people in the streets?
Of course, there is a blurring of pressures as the army could have been merely trying to go with the flow, siding with the winner once the outcome was clear. Is there any reason to rely on the wisdom, judgment, and good will of armies - not just in Egypt whose commanders owe their positions to Mubarak - but throughout the world?
In Iran the army did stand aside, and a revolutionary process transformed the Shah's edifice of corrupt and brutal governance. The people momentarily prevailed, only to have their extraordinary nonviolent victory snatched away in a subsequent counter-revolutionary move that substituted theocracy for democracy.
There are few instances of revolutionary victory, and in those few instances, it is rarer still to carry forward the revolutionary mission without disruption. The challenge is to sustain the revolution in the face of almost inevitable counter-revolutionary projects, some launched by those who were part of the earlier movement unified against the old order, but now determined to hijack the victory for its own ends. The complexities of the revolutionary moment require utmost vigilance on the part of those who view emancipation, justice, and democracy as their animating ideals, because there will be enemies who seek to seize power at the expense of humane politics.
One of the most impressive features of the Egyptian revolution up to this point has been the extraordinary ethos of nonviolence and solidarity exhibited by the massed demonstrators, even in the face of repeated bloody provocations of the baltagiyya dispatched by the regime. This ethos refused to be diverted by these provocations, and we can only hope against hope that the provocations will cease, and that counter-revolutionary tides will subside, sensing either the futility of assaulting history or imploding at long last from the build up of corrosive effects from a long embrace of an encompassing illegitimacy.
Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).
He is currently serving his third year of a six year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
Northern Iraq's budding Chinatown
As foreign investment increases in Iraqi Kurdistan, cultural boundaries are being broken.
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US foreign aid benefits recipients – and the donor
Americans think they give far more aid than they actually do, and are clamouring to cut it. But aid isn't just about compassion, it serves our security and economic interests too
Jihadi who helped train 7/7 bomber freed by US after just five years
Exclusive: Release prompts claim Islamist was US informant while assisting London terrorist
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 13 February 2011 22.00 GMT
An American jihadist who set up the terrorist training camp where the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers learned how to manufacture explosives, has been quietly released after serving only four and a half years of a possible 70-year sentence, a Guardian investigation has learned.
The unreported sentencing of Mohammed Junaid Babar to "time served" because of what a New York judge described as "exceptional co-operation" that began even before his arrest has raised questions over whether Babar was a US informer at the time he was helping to train the ringleader of the 7 July tube and bus bombings.
Lawyers representing the families of victims and survivors of the attacks have compared the lenient treatment of Babar to the controversial release of the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.
Babar was imprisoned in 2004 – although final sentencing was deferred – after pleading guilty in a New York court to five counts of terrorism. He set up the training camp in Pakistan where Mohammad Sidique Khan and several other British terrorists learned about bomb-making and how to use combat weapons.
Palestinian cabinet resigns
President Mahmoud Abbas re-assigns Salam Fayyad, who also resigned, to form new government.
Cabbie Returns $100K Worth Of Jewelry, Cash Left In Taxi
February 15, 2011 8:00 PM
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – To most taxi riders, $100,000 left in the back of a cab is as good as gone, but John James is a lucky man.
After returning to his apartment at the National Arts Club Sunday afternoon, James realized he forgot a bag with $100,000 worth of jewelry and cash in the back seat of a taxi cab.
“I thought that it was the end of the world, James said.
With the help of a friend in city government and a receipt he thankfully kept, James was able to track down cabbie Zubiru Jalloh.
“The man had my possessions because he took it from the backseat when new passengers got on and were, I guess, messing with my tote bag,” James told 1010 WINS. ”He asked to have it lifted up to the front seat where he protected it and then took it home.”