Part of the problem in writing a column such as this, where I have to write about events as they unfold and at a very rapid pace, is the danger of going too fast – of failing to follow up on stories that once seemed of such pressing interest that I devoted 2000-word columns to the subject, and often a whole series of pieces, only to leave my readers with a lot of loose ends.
So let’s clean up some of those longstanding loose ends, why don’t we?
My own favorite is the mystery of the Niger uranium forgeries [.pdf]. Remember that? President Bush’s infamous “sixteen words,” which loomed so large in the headlines at one point, have faded with the years, and yet the mystery lingers on. Who fed the White House “intelligence” based on crude forgeries, which imputed that the Iraqis had tried to buy uranium from the African country of Niger in an effort to construct a nuclear weapon?
The forgeries, which somehow made it onto the President’s desk embedded in a State of the Union speech, were so crude and obvious that it took IAEA scientists but a few hours to debunk them. So how did something soobviously fraudulent get injected into the US intelligence stream in the first place – and by whom?
In their extravagant disregard for the known facts and fondness for complex narratives, the authors of these forgeries created a typical example of the sort of “intelligence” that pushed us into a disastrous, costly, andunnecessary war. One portion of the documents purported to demonstrate the existence of an international network linking Iraq with nearly every known terrorist group and a confederation of Arab states – rather like the worldview propounded by neoconservative guru and spook-ster Michael Ledeen in his book, The War Against the Terror Masters. As Ledeen was one of the prime suspects, according to several reports, in this bit of legerdemain, the similarities may be far from coincidental.
Yet the media – for a while fixated on those “sixteen words” – never followed up, and neither did the much-promised investigation into the intelligence-gathering methods of the Bush administration – the sort of methods that let the Niger forgeries slip through the net.
The Niger forgeries were pretty clearly part of a highly successful effort to lie us into war, and the lies, in this case, did not originate with the White House – which was sorely embarrassed by the exposure of the fraud. Quite obviously the perpetrators didn’t care about that. So whodunit? We still don’t know.
My second favorite unsolved mystery is l’affaire Chalabi – the counterintelligence investigation into the double-and –triple-dealing Ahmed Chalabi, neocon hero and convicted embezzler. It was Chalabi’s group of Iraqi exiles, the Iraqi National Congress, that later dubbed themselves “heroes in error” for having fed the US government and the New York Times reams of lies about Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction” (and were paidby the US taxpayers to do so).
Hailed by the neocons as the George Washington of “liberated” Iraq, Chalabi enjoyed access to top US government officials and was portrayed in the media as a staunch US ally, a veritable model of the kind of Arab leader that would emerge on the heels on George W. Bush’s “global democratic revolution.” Chalabi was a special guest of the President at his State of the Union speech, and hobnobbed with the powerful on his many visits to Washington. In the spring of 2004, however, the CIA abruptly cut off Chalabi’s subsidy, launched raids on his Iraqi headquarters, and subjected Pentagon personnel in Washington to lie detector tests about information they may have passed on to Chalabi and his people.
The backstory quickly emerged: the US had tapped into the private communications network used by Iranian government officials and broken their code, but somehow the Iranians had discovered the break-in, and hurriedly plugged the giant hole in their security. A senior official in the Bush administration was cited by Fox News as having said “"There is no need for an investigation because we’re quite certain [Chalabi] did it.”
Not long afterwards, Bush’s undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas J. Feith, resigned. Feith’s policy shop had been unusually close to Chalabi. The results of the investigation into penetration of the Pentagon were never announced.
Today, Chalabi is riding high, having aligned himself with the ruling party in Iraq: the hero of the neocons is now an open Iranian agent. He played a key role in disqualifying mainly Sunni parties in the Iraqi elections, and his connections with militant Shi’ites are extensive. The question is: who in the Bush administration, among Chalabi’s many admirers and promoters, gave him access to the tightly-held highly sensitive information that the US had broken the Iranian code? If Chalabi is guilty – and he is – then he’s not alone, but who in our government – and it would’ve had to have been fairly high up – helped him betray the US? We still don’t know the answer to that question.
These two stories are at the top of my list of dropped narratives that seem to have no ending. It’s like reading a murder mystery and discovering the final twenty pages are missing. The problem is that the enforcement arm of the US government, especially as regards its own security, is not always allowed to follow its investigatory instincts to the end. Politics often gets in the way of sensitive probes, and in the two above-mentioned cases, that, I fear, is what happened – US counterintelligence no doubt has some inkling of the perpetrators, but has been prevented from following the trail of evidence.
Expecting Congress to investigate these brazen violations of law and US national security is almost as pointless as waiting for the US media to pursue the story – i.e., forget it, and down the Memory Hole it goes. Here at Antiwar.com, however, these stories are still alive, because that’s why we’re here – to debunk the lies and keep reminding you of who told them.