Just Above Sunset
November 27, 2005 - The Sunday Funnies Featuring Curveball

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Last weekend, after Just Above Sunset was published - Sunday, November 20 - the newspaper of this odd town out here in the west, the Los Angeles Times, has the scoop of the week, if nothing else at all happens this week – and they ran it on the front page, upper right – dateline Berlin (see photo at end) -

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.
Bob Drogin and John Goetz, Special to The Times

Ah yes, the Bush administration publicly repeated information from a source known as Curveball despite warnings from his German handlers that the information was unreliable, as in this:


Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

... "This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."

The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems. "He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case. "He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst.

... The senior BND officer who supervised Curveball's case said he was aghast when he watched Powell misstate Curveball's claims as a justification for war.

"We were shocked," the official said. "Mein Gott! We had always told them it was not proven... It was not hard intelligence."


There's a ton of detail in the item, but the whole thing is concrete evidence one key justification for the war, and one key section of what Colin Powell presented to the UN, was bogus, and key players were told it was bogus - and they used it anyway. And it worked. People bought it.


Curveball was not first in his class at the technical school, he was last, and he didn't have a big job with the evil people making mobile chemical weapons laboratories on big trucks, but was a minor functionary in another area who heard someone might be thinking about that, and he was fired in 1995 anyway for being a flake, and on and on. He was glad-hander and an alcoholic and full of crap. Even Saddam's bad guys found him useless. We didn't.

There's been a storm of controversy over this, beside the obvious comments that we used this useful idiot's yarns because they were useful when we knew they were not based in any kind of reality most people acknowledge. The secondary commentary is all the wonderment that the congress cannot get around to "Phase Two" of their investigation of whether or not intelligence was manipulated before the war, but the Times, out here in the land of movies, pneumatic starlets and smog, can get a small team together, talk to all the key people in various foreign intelligence services, do some digging of their own, and come up with this.

What can the administration say? Everyone thought this guy was giving us the truth? The Germans didn't think that. They told us. The CIA knew better. The DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) knew the guy was hopeless and the information just junk.

Well, this really isn't much of story. It'll sink. What else is new? This is no "smoking gun" or "nail in the coffin."


It's supporting evidence for the disgruntled whose kids have died or come home limbless with brain damage. The administration will say was an honest mistake made because they were so worried about us all, or if you follow Jonah Goldberg's line of reasoning, a "noble lie" for a greater good - told on purpose, knowing it was a lie, but to achieve something really important. FDR did the same, saying we'd stay out of WWII when he was getting us in. It's the same thing, or so Jonah says.

It doesn't matter now.

Over at the Washington Post, former senator (and Florida governor) Bob Graham, and former Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, explains that, way back when, he was getting information that the intelligence was questionable - "I, too, presumed the president was being truthful - until a series of events undercut that confidence." So he was saying we were being conned, nicely, in debate after debate - and that this call for taking over Iraq would lead to a war that would undercut "the war against al Qaeda."


He didn't do so well with that. The Democrats ran Kerry.

So you couldn't get away with that then. You'd appear some sort of unpatriotic tin-foil hat kind of guy. But you can say it now, in a major newspaper (if you're part of the Graham family that owns the newspaper). It's not news.

Over at Rolling Stone, James Bamford here says the same thing happened with an informant named Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri. This guy said he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's merry madmen secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. But he failed the CIA polygraph test and that sort of thing. He was making it up. We knew it was bull. But what he said was carefully leaked to Judy Miller and the New York Times ran with it. She got her scoop. Hey, you market the product you have, not the product you want.

So? It doesn't matter now.

And the Christian evangelical party that runs the joint now is trying to be a little looser about things. Last week, one of their big thinkers, Charles Krauthammer, here addressed "intelligent design" and told the true believers that science and faith were not incompatible, and maybe this God-did-it stuff might best be left for philosophy classes, or comparative religion or that sort of thing. Newton was a believer, after all – and science might be a good thing, and by the way, we could lose some voters if we keep up with this business about the earth being only six thousand years old and the Grand Canyon proof of the Noah flood and all that. The Vatican's astronomer too said last week Darwin was just fine - the Catholic Church had no problem with him at all. The pope hasn't weighed in yet.

Of course, out here a group of students from Christian academies are suing UCLA, actually the whole University of California system. The problem is bias, in particular anti-Christian bias. It's a problem with admissions criteria. The University of California schools won't give them credit for high science courses that say science is wrong - God did it all - so they cannot get in. And they haven't read "ungodly" books so they seem to be a bit short in history and literature. One assumes they're fine in mathematics.

We'll see how that one goes. These are pubic universities, and the argument is that such public institutions cannot use a religious test to bar applicants for admission - it's a violation of the first amendment regarding the state not taking sides in religious matters. Interesting.

Anyway, even the president is lightening up. All that talk that anyone who said the pre-war intelligence was in intentionally manipulated would send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will" - it was unpatriotic and close to treason?

Just kidding, as in this


People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq. I heard somebody say, well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought. This is not an issue of who's patriot [sic] and who's not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq.


What happened?

Steve Benen here


At this risk of sounding ungracious, isn't it a little late in the game for Bush to express tolerance for dissent?

After all, only a week ago it was the president who said criticisms from Democrats "send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will." It was also his White House that issued a formal statement in response to Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), comparing him to Michael Moore - for the Bush gang, a serious insult - and suggesting that Murtha's position purports to "surrender to the terrorists." And it was the Vice President who offered similar rhetoric, lashing out at "a few opportunists" he believes are undermining the troops.

Indeed, at a press conference in Korea last week, a reporter told Bush that Dick Cheney called it "reprehensible" for critics to question how the administration took the country to war, while Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said it's patriotic to ask those kinds of questions. Asked who he thinks is right, Bush said, "The Vice President."

But now the president wants everyone to know that we're having an "honest, open debate" and he "totally rejects" calling others' patriotism into question. Looks like he was for demagogic attacks before he was against them.


Well, perhaps he's been told that when just ordinary people, the bystanders watching all this, see him and Uncle Dick, again and again, say anyone asking questions is unpatriotic and aiding and abetting the enemy in time of war, they're getting the idea that something is wrong here - it looks someone you has something to hide. And bystanders vote. And the administration needs the house and senate in their party's hands after the 2006 mid-term elections, or they cannot get things done their way.


There's three more years of ruling America at stake. Better play nice. Bush has got his core thirty-four percent. Time to be a good guy for the bystanders, those middle people.

And it's time to be nice on another front. With a close family member serving in Baghdad, I know the default position in that environment of hope and danger, intense idealism and boredom, wanting to be home and wanting to stay and do the job honorably and right, is pro-war and pro-administration. Of course.

But then there's this guy "Stryker," also over there in the thick of things, who on this blog Digital Warfighter says this of Bush and the Republicans –


I have never seen a Party so full of shit when it comes to supporting the military. They fight wars on the cheap and get people killed unnecessarily, instead of fighting with everything we've got under a coherent and cohesive strategy that ensures military victory. They let domestic politics trump military necessity, preferring to lie and shift the blame rather than address the problems and solve them like real men. They care about image rather than substance, empty rhetoric instead of courage, mediocrity instead of excellence, and Machiavellian maneuvering instead of strong moral character. They have demonstrated nothing but contempt for us and for those that have served honorably in the past. They play us for suckers and weep crocodile tears at our deaths as their stock values rise. They are strangers to integrity and completely bereft of the basic values that we hold dear. They are without honor. They can go to hell.

If this is what Republicans mean by 'supporting the troops,' then they can by all means support the insurgents. We'd have a free and democratic Iraq by the end of the year.


The man is pro-war, and he's there. And he's unhappy.

Is his position so far from those who are calling Bush out here?

Even those of the left know war is sometimes necessary, but you do your best to know when it is and when it is not. And you don't trick people into supporting it - you lay it all out, all of it, and discuss it. And if war, then, damn it, you do it right, and you don't screw the people who stand up and do the job for us all.

There's a big and odd middle here who are not happy - folks from left and right who just don't like being kept in the dark, and want some say in what happens and not be told to keep quiet. That was the whole idea back in the 1770's, wasn't it? Remember some folks met in Philadelphia, there was this war with the Brits, we put some basic rules and such on paper and agreed some things were fundamental to how we'd get along?

What happened? It doesn't matter now?



About the Los Angeles Times posting a feature story from Berlin - it's not so odd. On the long trail from the Griffith Park Observatory, high over Hollywood, across the hills to the Hollywood sign, this is just up the hill from the observatory.

Los Angeles - Berlin Forest in Hollywood


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
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