"Weapons of Mass Deception"


Ex-ally's advice haunts U.S.

Iraqi's intelligence proves damaging
May 24, 2004
WASHINGTON -- Of all the Bush administration's missteps in Iraq, the worst may have been listening to Ahmad Chalabi.

The former Iraqi exile fed the administration bogus intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs and ties to international terrorism. He encouraged an invasion with fewer troops than U.S. generals wanted by assuring U.S. officials they would be greeted as liberators and that entire Iraqi army units would surrender. He urged the administration to purge members of deposed leader Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from the police, the military and the government, creating a security vacuum quickly filled by violent insurgency.
The abuse scandal in Iraq's prisons has so far eclipsed the Chalabi story. But his influence on the administration's case for war, its plan for war and its planning for postwar Iraq could prove to be even more damaging.
Much of what Chalabi said before, during and after the U.S. invasion of Iraq has turned out to be wrong, and one of his top aides is now accused of supplying U.S. intelligence to Iran.
That doesn't mean Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress are responsible for a war that has resulted in 970 American deaths and thousands of Iraqi ones.
The administration didn't need much encouragement to declare war on Hussein, and the administration's goals -- remaking the Middle East, reducing U.S. dependence on Saudi Arabia, demonstrating a new doctrine of preemptive war -- were far more ambitious than Chalabi's desire to oust Hussein.
Yes, Chalabi went out of his way to lobby the administration to expand its war on terrorism to Iraq. But officials in Vice President Dick Cheney's and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's offices and on the staff of the National Security Council went out of their way to believe what he told them, despite repeated warnings about Chalabi from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department.
If Chalabi didn't talk the administration into invading Iraq, his dubious intelligence underpinned much of its case for war, and his prediction about how Iraqis would greet U.S. troops encouraged Pentagon civilians to spurn advice from their own generals about how many and what kind of troops it would take to secure Iraq. Among the troops the Pentagon left out were sufficient numbers of military police.
Since Iraqi police -- backed by U.S. soldiers -- raided his home and offices Thursday, Chalabi has become a harsh critic of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in an attempt to woo the popular support that so far has eluded him.
Iran, for its part, denied Sunday that Chalabi had given it sensitive information about the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Chalabi mounted an all-out public relations campaign on Sunday, appearing on four talk shows to defend himself and criticize a U.S. mission he once helped set in motion. He blamed the raid and the accusations of links to Iran on CIA Director George Tenet and called on Congress to conduct an investigation.
He said U.S. officials "did not listen that they should not do occupation because they would lose the moral high ground, and they did that -- and the troubles started then."
Contact JOHN WALCOTT at The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Milton Frihetsson, 16:03


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