BAGHDAD and AMMAN – Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix knew it. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter knew it. French, German and Russian intelligence knew it. Sultan Hashim Ahmad – Iraq’s former minister of defense, now safe after a cosy deal with the Americans – knew it. In 1995, Hussein Kamel, married to one of Saddam Hussein’s daughters and the man in charge of it all, knew it. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley and the MI6 in London knew it. Saddam’s regime was not lying when it claimed that it had destroyed all its WMD after the 1991 Gulf War. Whatever the spin, the fact of the matter is that now there’s conclusive proof that both US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair lied about the reason for invading Iraq.
As it was widely reported at the time, on the night of August 7, 1995, General Hussein Kamel, former director of Iraq’s Military Industrialization Corp – the organism in charge of Iraq’s weapons program – defected to Jordan, along with his brother, Colonel Saddam Kamel. Hussein Kamel managed to smuggle tons of documents with him with priceless information about different Iraqi weapons programs. A few days later, Saddam’s regime went on the offensive, presenting another set of documents showing that Iraq had conducted an aborted crash program to develop a nuclear bomb. A few months later, Hussein and Saddam Kamel made the biggest mistake of their lives. Following family pleas and giving credence to assurances from Baghdad, they returned to Iraq in early 1996, and were inevitably killed by Saddam’s secret services.
On August 22, 1995, Hussein Kamel was interviewed in Amman by three top Western officials: Rolf Ekeus, executive chairman of UNSCOM from 1991 to 1997; Professor Maurizio Zifferero, deputy director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of the inspections team in Iraq; and Nikita Smidovich, a Russian diplomat who led UNSCOM’s ballistic missile team, and Deputy Director for Operations of UNSCOM. Major Izz al-Din al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein’s who defected with the Kamel brothers, was also present. Unlike the brothers, he remained in Jordan and exiled himself in Europe in an undisclosed location.
The key document – shown to Asia Times Online by a Jordanian intelligence source – is in the form of an internal UNSCOM/IAEA report classified as “sensitive”. On page 13 of what is the transcript of the UNSCOM/IAEA interview with Hussein Kamel, he categorically says, “I ordered the destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed.” He also says that “not a single missile was left, but they had blueprints and molds for production. All missiles were destroyed.”
Kamel discloses that anthrax was “the main focus” of the Iraqi biological program (pages 7-8). He confirms all weapons and agents were destroyed: “Nothing remained after visits of inspection teams.” Kamel also says, “They put VX [nerve gas] in bombs during the last days of the Iran-Iraq war [of the 1980s]. They were not used and the program was terminated.” On page 13, Rolf Ekeus asks Kamel if Iraq had restarted VX production after the Iran-Iraq war. Kamel says, “We changed the factory into pesticide production. Part of the establishment started to produce medicine […] we gave instructions not to produce chemical weapons.” On page 8, Kamel insists that “I made the decision to disclose everything so that Iraq could return to normal.”
In August 1995, both the Bill Clinton administration in the US and the John Major government in the UK took Kamel’s assertion that Iraq had destroyed its entire stockpile of chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles – as Saddam’s regime claimed – very seriously. But this “sensitive” interview was kept secret for more than seven years. It was only leaked in early 2003. Kamel’s interview was then endlessly spun by Bush and Blair. But the key point remains undisputable: Saddam’s regime destroyed all its WMD after the 1991 Gulf War.
This was not the soundbite that the Pentagon neo-conservatives wanted. So they listened instead to their lone “humint” (human intelligence) on Iraq – which entirely consists in the person of Ahmad Chalabi, founder of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) – an organization basically created by the US – a convicted fraudster in Jordan, and rotating chairman during the month of September of the 25-member, American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
Chalabi, a 54-year-old banker, heir of a rich Shi’ite family, was living in early 2003 in a lavish mansion in Tehran paid by the State Department, plotting his triumphant return to Iraq after more than two decades. He never had any political support inside Iraq. After his conviction – 22 years – in Jordan in the early 1980s for bank fraud, nobody knows what he made of lavish funds dispensed to the INC by the CIA in the mid-1990s. And in late 2002, nobody also knew what happened to half of the US$4.3 million once again dispensed to the INC.
Chalabi is an extremely persuasive character. It was himself who proposed to Washington a mutual collaboration against Saddam. Ultra-conservative American senators Trent Lott and Jesse Helms loved it, as well as the “Prince of Darkness” Richard Perle, the CIA and the Jewish lobby. In their 1999 book Out of the Ashes, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn paint a devastating portrait of CIA agent Chalabi’s wheelings and dealings since 1991. But the fact is Washington would never trust the INC to depose Saddam: the emphasis – or wishful thinking – relied on a coup orchestrated by the army. Chalabi was progressively relegated to oblivion. In desperation, he launched a plan in 1996 for Kurds to attack Iraqi army units stationed in Mosul and Kirkuk. The operation failed miserably. Chalabi was totally discredited in the CIA’s eyes, and they turned to another potential and more trustworthy agent: Ayad Allaoui, chief of the Iraqi National Accord (INA).
With the neo-cons in power, the tireless Chalabi managed to get back into the limelight via the Pentagon – even though the CIA and the State Department now openly despised him. The go-between was none other than Richard Perle. Once again, this correspondent in the past few weeks has been able to reconfirm that Chalabi’s street credibility in Iraq is less than zero. The most flattering compliment he gets is that he may be the new “American Saddam”.
In his new self-attributed role of respected statesman, Chalabi was part of the Iraqi delegation to the recent UN General Assembly. In the first address by an Iraqi to the 191-member body since the fall of Saddam’s regime, Chalabi could do no better than scold France, Germany, Russia, Syria and in fact most of the planet for opposing the American invasion. He said absolutely nothing about a UN role in Iraq – now desperately wanted by the Bush administration. He said absolutely nothing about how and when Iraqis will get back their sovereignty – a key UN demand. But true to form, Chalabi promoted his own personal political causes: he called for the “eradication” of Ba’ath Party members “once and for all”.
The Pentagon still buys his take that the Iraqi resistance is conducted by “remnants of Saddam’s regime”. In fact, the Pentagon still parrots everything Chalabi says. But on a more serious note, Chalabi can be accused of promoting a sectarian war in Iraq. Weeks before coming to the UN, he recommended the arrest of brothers, sons, nephews and cousins of Ba’ath Party members and former Iraqi army officials, as well as male Iraqis between the ages of 15 and 50 if illegal weapons were found in their homes. If this “recommendation” was to be taken seriously, it would mean no less than an horrendous civil war.
Chief US weapons inspector David Kay’s interim report on WMD has already proved that the Bush administration was chasing a ghost. In fact, Kay should save the extra 600 million demanded by Bush for the investigation to continue and ask the Pentagon’s “humint” Chalabi where the weapons are. With friends like Chalabi, “liberated” Iraqi certainly doesn’t need enemies.