Iraq war: Defector says he lied about WMDs

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

LONDON - A defector, whose information was used by the US to justify the Iraq war, has admitted for the first time that he lied about the secret biological weapons programme as he “had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime”.

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi’s tall tale convinced the US that Iraq had a secret weapons programme, but he was left stunned when it was used to justify the war, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Alwan al-Janabi, who had been codenamed Curveball, told the daily that he cooked up stories of mobile bioweapons trucks and clandestine factories in an effort to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime. He fled Iraq in 1995.

“Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right.

“They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy,” he was quoted as saying.

The candid admission comes just after the eighth anniversary of Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Feb 5, 2003 in which he relied heavily on the lies that Janabi had told the German secret service, the BND. It also follows the release of former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s memoirs in which he said Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction programme.

The US is now leaving Iraq.

Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief in Europe, described Janabi’s admission as “fascinating”, and said the emergence of the truth “makes me feel better”.

“I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that. Even now,” Drumheller was quoted as saying.

The Guardian held a string of meeting with the defector in Germany where he has been granted asylum.

Alwan al-Janabi said he had told a German official about mobile bioweapons trucks throughout 2000.

He said the German secret service had identified him as a Baghdad-trained chemical engineer and met him as they were looking for inside information about Saddam’s Iraq.

“I had a problem with the Saddam regime.

“I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance.”

He suggested that the German secret service BND was gullible.

“They were asking me about pumps for filtration, how to make detergent after the reaction,” he said.

“Any engineer who studied in this field can explain or answer any question they asked.”

His lies were first exposed in mid-2000 when the BND went to a Gulf city to speak with his former chief at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Bassil Latif.

The daily learned that British intelligence officials were at that meeting, investigating a claim made by Janabi that Latif’s son, who was then studying in Britain, was procuring weapons for Saddam.

Alwan al-Janabi’s claim was proven false, and Latif denied the allegation of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility.

The German officials then confronted him with Latif’s version.

The defector wasn’t contacted by the BND till the end of May 2002. It, however, became clear to him that that he was still being taken seriously.

The meetings continued throughout 2002 and Alwan al-Janabi felt that a case for war was being constructed.

He was not asked again about the bioweapons trucks until a month before Powell’s speech, the media report said.

After Powell’s speech at the UN, Alwan al-Janabi said he called his handler and accused the secret service of breaking an understanding that they would not share anything he had told them with another country.

He said he was comfortable with his actions, though it resulted in chaos in Iraq in the past eight years and the civilian death toll stood over 100,000.

“I tell you something when I hear anybody - not just in Iraq but in any war - (is) killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?

“Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities.”

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