If you begin by not being knowledgeable, you surround yourself with people like Ahmad Chalabi (2 October 2004)
- Subscribe: IraqFrontNewsemail@example.com October 2004News roundup by Jim GalasynIn this issue:~ Bring Them Home ~~ Fool Me Once ~~ Hearts and Minds ~~ White Man's Burden ~
~ Bring Them Home ~Fri Oct 1, 9:13 AM ET Top Stories - AFP
SAMARRA, Iraq (AFP) - At least 90 people were killed and 180 wounded as US troops and Iraqi forces charged into Samarra in a first effort to reclaim troublespots before Iraq's planned elections, while a shocked nation buried 34 children killed by car bombs.In the United States, President George W. Bush and challenger John Kerry held their first debate before the November 2 election, with Kerry terming the invasion of Iraq "a colossal error" and Bush replying that "the world is better off without Saddam Hussein."Iraq's hostage saga showed no let-up, with Jakarta confirming on Friday that two Indonesian women were among the 10 latest people to be kidnapped. Al-Jazeera television said the two were seized along with six Iraqis and two Lebanese working for an electrical equipment firm.The Samarra operation, 125 kilometres (80 miles) north of Baghdad, started before dawn, with the US military saying 2,500 US troops and 1,000 Iraqi forces had seized the city hall and police stations.It followed vows by the interim government to win back swathes of lawless territory in the Sunni Muslim triangle before November to prepare for the January poll.
"In response to repeated and unprovoked attacks by anti-Iraqi forces (US military terminology for insurgents), Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Forces secured the government and police buildings in Samarra," the military said.A military spokesman said 94 insurgents were killed, while three US soldiers were wounded.Dr Khaled Ahmed at Samarra's main hospital said 90 people were killed and 180 hurt.Clashes flared between gunmen and soldiers in the city centre around the gold-domed Imam Ali al-Hadi shrine, revered by Shiite Muslims the world over.Smoke billowed into the sky as the soldiers and insurgents traded fire on the hallowed ground, but the Iraqi army's 36th Commando Battalion secured the area and there was no damage to the shrine, the military said, adding that the Iraqis detained 25 insurgents.
A Turkish hostage was freed by US troops in the city, the military said.
By mid-day, US forces were posted at the city hall and police stations, while Iraqi troops were in full control of religious and cultural sites including the famous spiraling al-Malwiya mosque, built in the 9th century AD on Samarra's outskirts.The governor of Salaheddin province, where Samarra is located, cautioned on Thursday that fresh fighting risked plunging surrounding towns into violence.Unaware of the impending battle, Governor Hamed Hamud al-Qaissy told AFP that local Iraqi officials were close to brokering a deal to allow Americans to return to the troublespot.In a harbinger of the Samarra onslaught, Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh vowed Thursday that the US-backed government would assert mastery over cities like Fallujah, considered no-go zones for the Americans, so Iraq's first free elections in five decades can be held nationwide.
With polls four months away, Iraq has been battered by car bombings and assassinations.
A double suicide car bombing at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Baghdad killed 34 children and eight adults Thursday, capping one of Iraq's deadliest month of violence that saw at least 585 people killed, according to an AFP count.Adults and children in the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Al-Amel, where the streets are filled with rubbish and sewage, were gathered for the opening of a brand new water pump station built by the US military.On Friday, the working-class Baghdad neighborhood was burying its dead and still finding parts of children's bodies at the site of the blasts.The attacks followed another car bombing west of the capital that killed one US soldier and two Iraqis, according to the military.In the aftermath of Thursday car bombings, the group of suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi claimed, via its website, responsibility for three suicide bombings in Iraq. Its authenticity could not be verified.Bloodshed also spread to northern Iraq, with four killed and 16 wounded in a car bombing in Tall Afar, where US and Iraqi forces battled insurgents in early September.In other violence, a soldier with US-led forces whose nationality was not immediately known was killed in a rocket attack on an American military support base near Baghdad.US warplanes earlier on Thursday raided what the military termed a suspected safe house of Iraq's most-wanted man Zarqawi northeast of Fallujah. The strike killed three people, local medics said.Early Friday, nine members of Shiite radical Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army and three civilians were killed during clashes with US forces in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, according to Sadr's movement and medical sources.Britain, meanwhile, hoped desperately to free 62-year-old British engineer Kenneth Bigley, kidnapped by his group on September 16 in Baghdad, along with two US colleagues who were beheaded last week.Meanwhile, a self-declared French mediator arrived in Beirut after having claimed he had secured a deal for the release of two French reporters kidnapped by the Islamic Army in Iraq on August 20.Against a backdrop of extreme tension in Paris the foreign ministry separately rushed an envoy to Amman. topBy ZIDAN KHALAF, Associated Press WriterSAMARRA, Iraq - U.S. and Iraqi forces launched a major assault Friday to regain control of the insurgent stronghold of Samarra, trading gunfire with militants as they pushed toward the city center. More than 100 insurgents and at least one American were killed, an Iraqi minister said.Troops of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, Iraqi National Guard and Iraqi Army moved in after midnight to secure government and police buildings in the city 60 miles north of Baghdad. As they advanced, insurgents attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms, the military said.Qasim Dowoud, minister of state for National Security, said more than 100 insurgents were killed and 37 others captured, including members of Saddam Hussein's regime. No foreign Arab fighters were captured, he said. A CNN correspondent embedded with the 1st Infantry Division reported that an estimated 3,000 U.S. troops moved into Samarra and 109 insurgents were killed.Operations were continuing but the city was virtually in government hands, Dowoud said. The main mosque, one of Iraq's holiest, had been seized, along with the city hall, a pharmaceutical factory and other installations, he added. Earlier, the Interior Ministry said Iraqi and U.S. forces controlled more than 80 percent of the city by Friday afternoon."We are working on the complete cleanup of the city from all those terrorists," Dowoud said, describing Samarra as an "outlaw city" that had spun out of control.
"We will spare no effort to clean all the Iraqi lands and cities from these criminals and we will pave the way through these operations not only for the reconstruction but also for the general elections."Dr. Khalid Ahmed said at least 80 bodies and more than 100 wounded were brought to Samarra General Hospital, but it was not clear how many were insurgents.
One American soldier was killed and four were wounded, said Master Sgt. Robert Powell, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.
Smoke rose from an area around the Imam Ali al-Hadi and Imam Hassan al-Askari shrine, raising fears about one of the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims. But the shrine was not damaged and Iraqi forces had secured the site, said Maj. Neal O'Brien, another spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division."Coalition forces and Iraqi security forces will do everything possible to protect the valuable site from damage," he said.
Later Friday, the city appeared calm except for American snipers on rooftops of high buildings firing at anybody in the streets below.Some residents had fled the city of 250,000 before the attack, but in small numbers because few were expecting the assault amid news of negotiations to resolve the crisis.The push into Samarra appeared to be the start of a promised major offensive to retake several cities that insurgents have rendered "no-go" zones for U.S. and Iraqi troops. Officials have said recapturing those cities is key before nationwide elections scheduled for January.The offensive came a day after a string of bombings across the country killed at least 51 people, including 35 children at a government-sponsored celebration to inaugurate a sewage plant in Baghdad.
Also Friday, U.S. warplanes and tanks attacked the vast Baghdad slum of Sadr City, killing 12 Iraqis and wounding 11 others, a hospital director said. The military said only one rebel was killed.
Samarra residents cowered in their homes as tanks and warplanes pounded the city. The sound of shelling mixed with the crackle of automatic gunfire. At least three houses were flattened and dozens of cars charred, residents said.
"We are terrified by the violent approach used by the Americans to subdue the city," said Mahmoud Saleh, a 33-year-old civil servant. "My wife and children are scared to death and they have not being able to sleep since last night. I hope that the fighting ends as soon as possible."During the push, U.S. soldiers rescued a kidnapped Turkish construction worker held in the city. He was identified as Yahlin Kaya, an employee of the 77 Construction Company in Samarra.U.S. and Iraqi forces blocked the roads into the city to prevent insurgents from moving in and out, O'Brien said.As Iraqi forces secured the Samarra bridge, American soldiers saw insurgents in speedboats loading ordnance on the banks of the Tigris River, the military said. Soldiers fired warning shots and the insurgents returned fire, prompting U.S. forces to destroy the boats, killing their occupants, the statement said.Water and electricity services were cut off, and troops ordered residents to stay off the streets as they moved from house to house in search of insurgents. A 7 p.m.-to-7 a.m. curfew was announced.The military said insurgent attacks and acts of intimidation against the people of Samarra had undermined security in the city, regarded as one of the top three rebel strongholds in Iraq, along with Fallujah and Sadr City.The Americans returned briefly on Sept. 9 under a peace deal brokered by tribal leaders under which U.S. forces agreed to provide millions of dollars in reconstruction funds in exchange for an end to attacks on American and Iraqi troops.In recent weeks, however, the city saw sporadic clashes between U.S. troops and insurgents.Masked gunmen carrying the flag of Iraq's most feared terror group, Tawhid and Jihad, surfaced in force in Samarra on Tuesday, staging a defiant drive through the streets.The group, led by Jordanian terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, claimed responsibility for bloody attacks in Baghdad on Thursday, according to a statement posted on a militant Web site.The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, and it was unclear whether the three "heroic operations" it cites attacks on a government complex and "a convoy of invading forces" included the bombs that killed the children.Al-Zarqawi's group has also claimed to have killed several foreign hostages seized in recent months in a campaign against the United States and its allies.An unofficial French negotiator told a radio station that two journalists who have been held hostage in Iraq for more than a month could be released within hours. Philippe Brett told Europe-1 radio that he was with the two French hostages and that negotiations were being finalized for their release.Christian Chesnot, 37, and George Malbrunot, 41, disappeared Aug. 20 with their Syrian driver while apparently heading toward Najaf. Militants calling themselves the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed responsibility, demanding that France revoke a law banning Islamic head scarves from state schools.Brett is not an official negotiator for the French government. However, he has worked in Iraq for years, mainly through the French Office for Development of Industry and Culture, which he helped found.In the southern city of Kufa, meanwhile, security forces prevented hundreds of Shiite Muslim supporters of radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr from entering a major mosque for Friday prayers the first such action since the fall of Saddam Hussein last year. Police fired in the air to disperse the faithful, but there were no reported casualties.Authorities have prevented worship inside the mosque since August clashes between al-Sadr's militia and U.S. and Iraqi troops in the nearby holy city of Najaf. Until Friday, however, they allowed them to hold prayers in a yard outside the shrine.The clashes ended in late August with a peace deal brokered by Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani. Since then, the cleric's office took control of the Kufa Mosque and the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, one of the holiest in Iraq. top
U.S., Iraqi Troops Storm Rebel Stronghold - Heavy Casualties Reported in House-to-House Fighting in Samarra; One U.S. Soldier KilledBy Karl Vick and Fred Barbash
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 1, 2004; 11:42 AMBAGHDAD, Oct. 1 -- U.S. and Iraqi troops surged into the rebel-controlled city of Samarra Friday, battling insurgents in house-to-house combat supported by airstrikes and armor. One American soldier died in the fighting while four were wounded, the military said.The major offensive, involving more than 1,000 Iraqi Security Forces plus 3,000 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, was aimed at retaking the city of 100,000 people about 60 miles north of Baghdad.Samarra has been in the control of guerrillas and foreign fighters, some of them flying the banner of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who has claimed responsibility for numerous bombings, kidnappings and beheadings.Iraq's interim Deputy Prime Minister, Barham Salih, had indicated Thursday that a military effort to reclaim areas now held in whole or part by insurgents -- such as Fallujah and Samarra -- would go forward in October in order to permit the elections scheduled for January to go forward across the country."Our hope is that we will regain control of these situations as soon as possible," Salih said Thursday. "The month of October begins tomorrow. And we hope to regain control of these areas before the month of November."By mid-afternoon Friday, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry claimed that most of Samarra had been retaken, including the city's Golden Mosque, where Iraqi commandos captured 25 insurgents with weapons."The majority of the Samarra is now in control" of the interim Iraqi government, Sabbah Kadhin, the interior spokesman, told CNN in a live interview Friday. "The whole town was hostage to the terrorists who were terrorizing the town. . . . They used mosques, hospitals and homes" as staging areas, he said, "which is why the deaths will include some people who are innocent, which we deeply regret."Master Sgt. Robert Powell, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said 96 insurgents were believed killed during Friday's clashes, the Associated Press reported. There was no independent confirmation of that number.Khalid Ahmed, a physician at Samarra General Hospital, told the AP that at least 80 bodies and more than 100 wounded were brought in, but it was not immediately clear how many of them were insurgents. The hospital was running out of bandages, oxygen and other supplies, Ahmed said.The Samarra assault, begun at the request of the interim Iraqi government, started late Thursday and intensified after midnight Friday with airstrikes and artillery barrages followed by a ground attack into the city itself, the U.S. military said.As troops crossed the Tigris River and entered the city, they destroyed two speedboats being loaded up with munitions, killing at least four insurgent fighters, the military said. Two other boats were later destroyed as well, with four more deaths.Moving through the city, they were attacked by guerrillas armed with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and small arms."In multiple engagements throughout the morning," the military said in a statement, the U.S.-led forces destroyed mortar sites, RPG teams and vehicles "carrying anti-Iraqi forces," the term used by the military to describe the insurgents. "All units achieved their objectives," the statement said.For months, Samarra has been largely under the control of local insurgents and foreign fighters, who at times have imposed strict Islamic dress and social codes on the population.Thursday was the first time U.S. forces had entered the city in numbers since Sept. 9, when after negotiations with tribal leaders, U.S. troops reopened the bridge into Samarra and proceeded unchallenged to reseat the city council authorized by Iraq's interim government.That uneasy truce subsequently fell apart, however, and earlier this week insurgents put on a defiant show in the town center. Riding in Iraqi police pickups and flying the banners of the insurgent group loyal to Zarqawi, the militants paraded on main streets for some two hours at midday Tuesday."We call that a target," a senior U.S. military official in Iraq said with a grin on Wednesday, as planning proceeded for Thursday's assault.Barbash reported from Washington. top
Army: Reservists Failed to Report on Time - Army Says 622 Ex-Troops Involuntarily Called to Active Duty Overseas Failed to Report on TimeThe Associated PressWASHINGTON Oct. 1, 2004 The Army is getting a grudging response or none at all from hundreds of former soldiers it ordered back into uniform for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, although none has been declared AWOL.Army officials said Friday that 622 people, about one-third of the 1,765 Individual Ready Reserve members who were supposed to report for duty by Sept. 28, failed to show up. Some requested more time. Others wanted to be excused entirely. Some have not responded at all.The no-show rate is approximately what the Army anticipated when it announced the call-up last June, and officials said Friday they believe some no-shows eventually will turn up.That the Army has had to reach this deeply into its store of reserve soldiers is a measure of the strain the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have put on the active-duty Army. When the U.S. invading force toppled Baghdad in April 2003, the Army thought it would be sending most of its soldiers home within months. Instead, it has kept 100,000 or more there ever since.Brig. Gen. Sean J. Byrne of the Army's personnel office in the Pentagon told reporters the Army was "pretty much on track" to getting the 4,402 IRR soldiers it expects to need to fill positions in active-duty and National Guard and Reserve units between now and next spring.However, another official, Robert H. Smiley, told the same news conference it was too early to rule out the possibility of expanding the IRR call-up to reach the 4,402 target."We're going to have to track this on an almost daily basis," Smiley said.Smiley also said a separate call-up of several thousand more is likely next summer or fall because there will be more slots to fill in the force that rotates into Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006.Members of the Individual Ready Reserve are rarely called to active duty. The last time was 1990, when nearly 20,000 were mobilized. IRR members are people who were honorably discharged after finishing their active-duty tours, usually four to six years, but remained in the IRR for the rest of the eight-year commitment they made when they joined the Army. They are separate from the reserve troops who are more routinely mobilized the National Guard and Reserve.The Army anticipated, based on past experience, that about one-third of the IRR people it called up would be disqualified for medical or other reasons. The trend so far bears that out. Thus the Army is calculating it will take 5,765 call-ups to get the 4,402 it needs.A separate problem is those who simply refuse to report. Byrne said he did not know how many have refused, but he disavowed recent statements of other Army officials that at least six no-shows have been listed as Absent Without Leave, or AWOL. He would not say how much leeway the Army will give no-shows before they are declared AWOL and subject to prosecution."We're trying to deal with every individual case to make sure that we're giving everyone appropriate time to rectify whatever situation they may have," Byrne said. "No one is considered AWOL at this point."A total of 3,899 IRR soldiers have been contacted since July and given a report date as late as March 2005. Of that total, 1,498 have asked for a delay or an exemption based on a wide range of issues including medical, financial and personal problems, officials said.The Army has approved about 350 of those requests and rejected 26, said Raymond Robinson, chief of staff for the Army's top uniformed personnel officer. He said the 26 have been told to report for duty, and it was not clear what would happen if they did not.Of the approximately 350 approvals, 239 were for outright exemptions, meaning they will not have to come on active duty, Robinson said. As an example, Smiley cited a person who is already in Iraq as a Defense Department civilian employee. Others have been exempted for personal financial hardships and for medical reasons. top
Navy veteran wages one-man battle against warFriday, October 1, 2004By Lawrence Aaronhttp://www.bergen.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2OTEmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY1OTI2OTgmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkxNA==THE HOUSE on the corner with the coffin in the yard belongs to Milton Hunter Halvorsen. You can't miss it. He doesn't want you to.Adorned with American flags held in place with staples and stone figures, the coffin bears numbers in big black letters reminding everyone how many soldiers have been killed and wounded since the start of the Iraq war.Not everybody is on his side, but he's got some support from Ridgefield neighbors. A couple of them replaced flags ripped off the coffin. If you stand on his corner long enough, you'll see him being greeted with honks, toots, and waves from well-wishers moved by his silent message.As Record Staff Writer John Gavin revealed in his article on Halvorsen last week, Halvorsen hopes to spark local interest in a formal dialogue on the conflicts in the Middle East. All it takes is one man who wants to make a point.Halvorsen may be that man. Through his effort, death is one element of the war that won't be lost and buried, forgotten in the political rationalizations that feed the continuing conflict.By this time next year, instead of going off to college, youngsters could be getting drafted and marching off to war.Halvorsen is sure of it. That's one reason he's stepping up his effort to keep more young people from dying for Iraq."All we can really talk about is that next year they're going to be drafting these kids," says Halvorsen, a 77-year-old World War II veteran who left high school in West New York to volunteer. More kids and their parents should be concerned about the prospect of the draft being reintroduced.Meanwhile, a group of parents in Northern Bergen County debates over how to prepare high school boys and girls in the event that selective service is reinstated for the first time since 1973.In the proposed legislation, the draft for military and civilian service would apply to women and men 18 to 26. But, a pool of about 14 million young men, compiled from 18- to 25-year-olds who are required to register, would be the first source of troops should a post-election decision activate a call-up.Personally, I doubt that mandatory service will resume in the near future no matter which presidential candidate wins. Both know that popular support for war is unenthusiastic, and neither party wants to stir up a hornet's nest of campus protest, which would surely follow any attempt to reinstate mandatory military service. New incentives to attract enlistees and an improved pay scale are likelier to be employed to keep the military all volunteer.Parallel legislation introduced last year by two Democrats, Rep. Charles Rangel and Sen. Fritz Hollings, which never got enough support to move out of committee, has been interpreted in Republican circles as a partisan way of stirring up the masses against President Bush's war policy.Halvorsen has a point, however, in his deep concern that too many young people are dying. To date, the Department of Defense lists 1,053 American fatalities, with the number of seriously wounded approaching 11,400.Without question, there's plenty more death and injury facing American troops destined to be in Iraq for the next decade according to some estimates.The minimum troop level needed for the foreseeable future in Iraq alone was about 140,000, but the administration's military advisers and presidential candidate Sen. Kerry may want up to 40,000 more troops to relieve stressed-out units home.It is anticipated that opposition forces will continue attacks to disrupt the Iraq elections and cause the number of U.S. troop deaths to spike.So, yes, there is plenty of evidence supporting Halvorsen's contention that we need to put the brakes on, and do something to minimize the losses."I never did anything about the Korean War or about the Vietnam War... but this thing here is aggravating me because I have grandchildren now."In Halvorsen's world of cockeyed optimism, a dialogue in his town of Ridgefield, in local schools and colleges, in churches and other forums will lead to a town-by-town adoption of resolutions condemning the way young lives are being taken in war.He's non-committal about politics: "I don't care if it's Democrats, Republicans, or what... I just don't want to see more kids coming home in a body bag."
October 3, 2004This article was reported by David Barstow, William J. Broad and Jeff Gerth, and was written by Mr. Barstow.In 2002, at a crucial juncture on the path to war, senior members of the Bush administration gave a series of speeches and interviews in which they asserted that Saddam Hussein was rebuilding his nuclear weapons program.In a speech to veterans that August, Vice President Dick Cheney said Mr. Hussein could have an atomic bomb "fairly soon." The next month, Mr. Cheney told a group of Wyoming Republicans the United States had "irrefutable evidence" - thousands of tubes made of high-strength aluminum, tubes that the Bush administration said were destined for clandestine Iraqi uranium centrifuges, before some were seized at the behest of the United States.The tubes quickly became a critical exhibit in the administration's brief against Iraq. As the only physical evidence the United States could brandish of Mr. Hussein's revived nuclear ambitions, they gave credibility to the apocalyptic imagery invoked by President Bush and his advisers. The tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons programs," Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, asserted on CNN on Sept. 8, 2002. "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."Before Ms. Rice made those remarks, though, she was aware that the government's foremost nuclear experts had concluded that the tubes were most likely not for nuclear weapons at all, an examination by The New York Times has found. Months before, her staff had been told that these experts, at the Energy Department, believed the tubes were probably intended for small artillery rockets.But Ms. Rice, and other senior administration officials, embraced a disputed theory about the tubes first championed in April 2001 by a new analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency. Senior scientists considered the theory implausible, yet in the months after 9/11, as an administration built a case for confronting Iraq, the theory gained currency as it rose to the top of the government."She was aware of the differences of opinion," the senior administration official said of Ms. Rice in an interview authorized by the White House. "She was also aware that at the highest level of the intelligence community, there was great confidence that these tubes were for centrifuges."Ms. Rice's alarming description on CNN was in keeping with the administration's overall treatment of the tubes. Senior administration officials repeatedly failed to fully disclose the contrary views of America's leading nuclear scientists, The Times found. They sometimes overstated even the most dire intelligence assessments of the tubes, yet minimized or rejected the strong doubts of their own experts. They worried privately that the nuclear case was weak, but expressed sober certitude in public.The result was a largely one-sided presentation to the public that did not convey the depth of evidence and argument against the administration's most tangible proof of a revived nuclear weapons program in Iraq.In response to questions last week about the tubes, administration officials emphasized two points: First, they said they had relied on the repeated assurances of George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, that the tubes were in fact for centrifuges. Second, they noted that the intelligence community, including the Energy Department, largely agreed that Mr. Hussein had revived his nuclear program."We understood from intelligence briefings that the aluminum tubes were a part of the case" for nuclear reconstitution, Kevin Kellems, director of communications for Mr. Cheney, said in a statement. But "there were a number of other important pieces of evidence." Furthermore, he said, the concerns about Mr. Hussein's nuclear capabilities "followed the tenor of the intelligence we had been hearing for some time."It is not known when the president learned of the doubts that had been raised about the tubes. Sean McCormack, a spokesman for Mr. Bush, said yesterday that the president relied on the intelligence community to assess the tubes' significance. "These judgments sometimes require members of the intelligence community to make tough assessments about competing interpretations of facts," he said.Mr. Tenet declined to be interviewed. But in a statement, he said he "made it clear" to the White House "that the case for a possible nuclear program in Iraq was weaker than that for chemical and biological weapons." Regarding the tubes, Mr. Tenet said "alternative views were shared" with the administration after the intelligence community drafted a new National Intelligence Estimate in late September 2002.Today, 18 months after the invasion of Iraq, investigators there have found no evidence of hidden centrifuges or a revived nuclear weapons program. The absence of unconventional weapons in Iraq is now widely seen as evidence of a profound intelligence failure, of an intelligence community blinded by "group think," false assumptions and unreliable human sources.Yet the tale of the tubes, pieced together through records and interviews with senior intelligence officers, nuclear experts, administration officials and Congressional investigators, reveals a different failure.Far from "group think," American nuclear and intelligence experts argued bitterly over the tubes. A "holy war" is how one Congressional investigator described it. But if the opinions of the nuclear experts were seemingly disregarded at every turn, an overwhelming momentum gathered behind the C.I.A. assessment. It was a momentum built on a pattern of haste, secrecy, ambiguity, bureaucratic maneuver and a persistent failure in the Bush administration and even among Democrats in Congress to ask hard questions. That momentum gave urgency to the call for action against Iraq."We have a tendency - I don't know if it's part of the American character - to say, 'Well, we'll sit down and we'll evaluate the evidence, we'll draw a conclusion,' " Mr. Cheney said as he discussed the tubes in September 2002 on the NBC News program "Meet the Press.""But we always think in terms that we've got all the evidence. Here, we don't have all the evidence. We have 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent. We don't know how much. We know we have a part of the picture. And that part of the picture tells us that he is, in fact, actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons."Joe Raises the Tube IssueThroughout the 1990's, United States intelligence agencies were deeply preoccupied with the status of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, and with good reason.After the Persian Gulf war in 1991, arms inspectors discovered that Iraq had been far closer to building an atomic bomb than even the worst-case estimates had envisioned. And no one believed that Saddam Hussein had abandoned his nuclear ambitions. To the contrary, in one secret assessment after another, the agencies concluded that Iraq was conducting low-level theoretical research and quietly plotting to resume work on nuclear weapons.But at the start of the Bush administration, the intelligence agencies also agreed that Iraq had not in fact resumed its nuclear weapons program. Iraq's nuclear infrastructure, they concluded, had been dismantled by sanctions and inspections. In short, Mr. Hussein's nuclear ambitions appear to have been contained.Then Iraq started shopping for tubes.According to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the agencies learned in early 2001 of a plan by Iraq to buy 60,000 high-strength aluminum tubes from Hong Kong.The tubes were made from 7075-T6 aluminum, an extremely hard alloy that made them potentially suitable as rotors in a uranium centrifuge. Properly designed, such tubes are strong enough to spin at the terrific speeds needed to convert uranium gas into enriched uranium, an essential ingredient of an atomic bomb. For this reason, international rules prohibited Iraq from importing certain sizes of 7075-T6 aluminum tubes; it was also why a new C.I.A. analyst named Joe quickly sounded the alarm.At the C.I.A.'s request, The Times agreed to use only Joe's first name; the agency said publishing his full name could hinder his ability to operate overseas.Joe graduated from the University of Kentucky in the late 1970's with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, then joined the Goodyear Atomic Corporation, which dispatched him to Oak Ridge, Tenn., a federal complex that specializes in uranium and national security research.Joe went to work on a new generation of centrifuges. Many European models stood no more than 10 feet tall. The American centrifuges loomed 40 feet high, and Joe's job was to learn how to test and operate them. But when the project was canceled in 1985, Joe spent the next decade performing hazard analyses for nuclear reactors, gaseous diffusion plants and oil refineries.In 1997, Joe transferred to a national security complex at Oak Ridge known as Y-12, his entry into intelligence work. His assignment was to track global sales of material used in nuclear arms. He retired after two years, taking a buyout with hundreds of others at Oak Ridge, and moved to the C.I.A.The agency's ability to assess nuclear intelligence had markedly declined after the cold war, and Joe's appointment was part of an effort to regain lost expertise. He was assigned to a division eventually known as Winpac, for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation and Arms Control. Winpac had hundreds of employees, but only a dozen or so with a technical background in nuclear arms and fuel production. None had Joe's hands-on experience operating centrifuges.Suddenly, Joe's work was ending up in classified intelligence reports being read in the White House. Indeed, his analysis was the primary basis for one of the agency's first reports on the tubes, which went to senior members of the Bush administration on April 10, 2001. The tubes, the report asserted, "have little use other than for a uranium enrichment program."This alarming assessment was immediately challenged by the Energy Department, which builds centrifuges and runs the government's nuclear weapons complex.The next day, Energy Department officials ticked off a long list of reasons why the tubes did not appear well suited for centrifuges. Simply put, the analysis concluded that the tubes were the wrong size - too narrow, too heavy, too long - to be of much practical use in a centrifuge.What was more, the analysis reasoned, if the tubes were part of a secret, high-risk venture to build a nuclear bomb, why were the Iraqis haggling over prices with suppliers all around the world? And why weren't they shopping for all the other sensitive equipment needed for centrifuges?All fine questions. But if the tubes were not for a centrifuge, what were they for?Within weeks, the Energy Department experts had an answer.It turned out, they reported, that Iraq had for years used high-strength aluminum tubes to make combustion chambers for slim rockets fired from launcher pods. Back in 1996, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency had even examined some of these tubes, also made of 7075-T6 aluminum, at a military complex, the Nasser metal fabrication plant in Baghdad, where the Iraqis acknowledged making rockets. According to the international agency, the rocket tubes, some 66,000 of them, were 900 millimeters in length, with a diameter of 81 millimeters and walls 3.3 millimeters thick.The tubes now sought by Iraq had precisely the same dimensions - a perfect match.This finding was published May 9, 2001, in the Daily Intelligence Highlight, a secret Energy Department newsletter published on Intelink, a Web site for the intelligence community and the White House.Joe and his Winpac colleagues at the C.I.A. were not persuaded. Yes, they conceded, the tubes could be used as rocket casings. But this made no sense, they argued in a new report, because Iraq wanted tubes made at tolerances that "far exceed any known conventional weapons." In other words, Iraq was demanding a level of precision craftsmanship unnecessary for ordinary mass-produced rockets.More to the point, these analysts had hit on a competing theory: that the tubes' dimensions matched those used in an early uranium centrifuge developed in the 1950's by a German scientist, Gernot Zippe. Most centrifuge designs are highly classified; this one, though, was readily available in science reports.Thus, well before Sept. 11, 2001, the debate within the intelligence community was already neatly framed: Were the tubes for rockets or centrifuges?Experts Attack Joe's CaseIt was a simple question with enormous implications. If Mr. Hussein acquired nuclear weapons, American officials feared, he would wield them to menace the Middle East. So the tube question was critical, yet none too easy to answer. The United States had few spies in Iraq, and certainly none who knew Mr. Hussein's plans for the tubes.But the tubes themselves could yield many secrets. A centrifuge is an intricate device. Not any old tube would do. Careful inquiry might answer the question.The intelligence community embarked on an ambitious international operation to intercept the tubes before they could get to Iraq. The big break came in June 2001: a shipment was seized in Jordan.At the Energy Department, those examining the tubes included scientists who had spent decades designing and working on centrifuges, and intelligence officers steeped in the tricky business of tracking the nuclear ambitions of America's enemies. They included Dr. Jon A. Kreykes, head of Oak Ridge's national security advanced technology group; Dr. Duane F. Starr, an expert on nuclear proliferation threats; and Dr. Edward Von Halle, a retired Oak Ridge nuclear expert. Dr. Houston G. Wood III, a professor of engineering at the University of Virginia who had helped design the 40-foot American centrifuge, advised the team and consulted with Dr. Zippe.On questions about nuclear centrifuges, this was unambiguously the A-Team of the intelligence community, many experts say.On Aug. 17, 2001, weeks before the twin towers fell, the team published a secret Technical Intelligence Note, a detailed analysis that laid out its doubts about the tubes' suitability for centrifuges.First, in size and material, the tubes were very different from those Iraq had used in its centrifuge prototypes before the first gulf war. Those models used tubes that were nearly twice as wide and made of exotic materials that performed far better than aluminum. "Aluminum was a huge step backwards," Dr. Wood recalled.In fact, the team could find no centrifuge machines "deployed in a production environment" that used such narrow tubes. Their walls were three times too thick for "favorable use" in a centrifuge, the team wrote. They were also anodized, meaning they had a special coating to protect them from weather. Anodized tubes, the team pointed out, are "not consistent" with a uranium centrifuge because the coating can produce bad reactions with uranium gas.In other words, if Joe and his Winpac colleagues were right, it meant that Iraq had chosen to forsake years of promising centrifuge work and instead start from scratch, with inferior material built to less-than-optimal dimensions.The Energy Department experts did not think this made much sense. They concluded that using the tubes in centrifuges "is credible but unlikely, and a rocket production is the much more likely end use for these tubes." Similar conclusions were being reached by Britain's intelligence service and experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations body.Unlike Joe, experts at the international agency had worked with Zippe centrifuges, and they spent hours with him explaining why they believed his analysis was flawed. They pointed out errors in his calculations. They noted design discrepancies. They also sent reports challenging the centrifuge claim to American government experts through the embassy in Vienna, a senior official said.Likewise, Britain's experts believed the tubes would need "substantial re-engineering" to work in centrifuges, according to Britain's review of its prewar intelligence. Their experts found it "paradoxical" that Iraq would order such finely crafted tubes only to radically rebuild each one for a centrifuge. Yes, it was theoretically possible, but as an Energy Department analyst later told Senate investigators, it was also theoretically possible to "turn your new Yugo into a Cadillac."In late 2001, intelligence analysts at the State Department also took issue with Joe's work in reports prepared for Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Joe was "very convinced, but not very convincing," recalled Greg Thielmann, then director of strategic, proliferation and military affairs in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.By year's end, Energy Department analysts published a classified report that even more firmly rejected the theory that the tubes could work as rotors in a 1950's Zippe centrifuge. These particular Zippe centrifuges, they noted, were especially ill suited for bomb making. They were a prototype designed for laboratory experiments, operating as single units. To produce enough enriched uranium to make just one bomb a year, Iraq would need up to 16,000 of them working in concert, a challenge for even the most sophisticated centrifuge plants.Iraq had never made more than a dozen centrifuge prototypes. Half failed when rotors broke. Of the rest, one actually worked to enrich uranium, said Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, who once ran Iraq's centrifuge program.The Energy Department team concluded it was "unlikely that anyone"
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