Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Scandal With a Pedigree

Most political scandals are based on "anonymous sources." This one comes via a couple of very prominent sources - Nigel Inkster, former assistant director of Britain's MI6 intelligence service, and Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of British intelligence.

The Times Online reports that both Inkster and Dearlove have confirmed American author Ron Suskind's account that, in the run-up to the Iraq invasion of 2003, Tony Blair sent a top spy to the Middle East who reported back that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. The information was relayed to the White House where it was summarily dismissed:

Suskind's book, The Way of the World, claims, "...that the former Prime Minister sent a top British spy to the Middle East in 2003 — three months before the invasion — to dig up enough intelligence to avoid war but that President Bush and Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, dismissed any claims or possible evidence that would stop military action.

In [the book], the Pulitzer prize-winning author Ron Suskind also claimed that the White House ordered the CIA to forge a backdated, handwritten letter purportedly from the head of Iraqi Intelligence to Saddam. The letter, which came to light nine months after the invasion, was meant to demonstrate a link between the Baathist regime and al-Qaeda.

The forgery, adamantly denied by the White House, was passed to a British journalist in Baghdad and written about as if genuine by The Sunday Telegraph on December 14, 2003. The article received significant attention in the US and provided the White House with a new rationale for the invasion, Suskind claimed. The White House called the allegation absurd.

Suskind said that at the beginning of 2003 MI6 sent one of its top agents, Michael Shipster, to the region. Mr Shipster held secret meetings in Jordan with Tahir Jalil Habbush, the head of Iraqi Intelligence. The meetings were confirmed by Nigel Inkster, former assistant director of MI6.

Mr Habbush was put on the White House’s list of most-wanted Iraqis but according to Suskind he was paid by the CIA in October 2003 to write the forged letter to Saddam, dated July 1, 2001, saying that the putative September 11 ringleader Mohammed Atta had trained for his mission in Iraq. This was the letter publicised in The Sunday Telegraph."

So what is the significance of these revelations? Most likely it'll be little to none. What this information does is merely confirm the steadily growing body of evidence that the conquest of Iraq was a war crime, an entirely illegal war of aggression, quite wilfully perpetrated by a gang of radicals who used every contrivance at their disposal to manufacture justifications for their acts.

Speaking of war crimes, a panel of six anonymous US military officers has unanimously found Gitmo inmate Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's one-time chauffeur, of providing material support for terrorism. The jurors, who may not be identified, reached their career-saving verdict following a closed trial that featured secret evidence.

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