LONDON — An Iraqi defector who went by the codename “Curveball” has publicly admitted for the first time that he made up stories about mobile bioweapons trucks and secret factories to try to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime.
"I had a problem with the Saddam regime," Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who fled Iraq in 1995, told The Guardian newspaper. "I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance."
Al-Janabi’s information was used in part by the U.S. as justification for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. More than 100,000 people, most of them Iraqi civilians, have died in the war. The U.S. began to withdraw its troops from Iraq last summer.
Janabi said he was comfortable with what he did, despite the war that ensued.
"Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right," he told the Guardian. "They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."
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Al-Janabi’s admission that he lied comes a little over a week after the eighth anniversary of then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in which he laid out the case for the war by presenting U.S. intelligence that purported to prove that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction
At one point, Powell presented slides alleging that Saddam had bioweapons labs mounted on trucks that would be almost impossible to find.
"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources," Powell told the U.N. gathering. "These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
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As it turned out, Powell was not told that one of the sources for the information — “Curveball" — had been flagged by the Defense Intelligence Agency as suspect and untrustworthy.
The Guardian said it recently interviewed Al-Janabi in a series of meetings in Germany, where he has been granted asylum. The Iraqi engineer said the BND, the German secret service, approached him in March 2000 looking for inside information about Saddam's Iraq.
He said he had told a German official about the existence of mobile bioweapons trucks throughout 2000.
The BND traveled to a Gulf city, believed to be Dubai, to speak with his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Dr. Bassil Latif.
Latif strongly denied al-Janabi's claim of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility in Baghdad, according to the Guardian.
German officials confronted al-Janabi with his boss’s denial and did not contact him again until the end of May 2002, al-Janabi told the Guardian. Despite his earlier disputed statements, al-Janabi said, Gerrman and U.S. authorities continued to take him seriously.
He said he was not asked again about the bioweapons trucks until a month before Powell's speech.
"I tell you something when I hear anybody — not just in Iraq but in any war — [is] killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?" he told the Guardian.
"Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities."
Tyler Drumheller, the former head of the CIA in Europe, said Curveball's admission made him feel better about himself.
Drumheller, who says he warned his superiors at the CIA before the 2003 invasion that Curveball might be a liar, said the confession would be a final wake-up call for those who continue to insist there had been weapons of mass destruction.
"The interesting part for me is that he has recanted what he said, which is fascinating in the sense that I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that. Even now," Drumheller told the Guardian.
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