John McCain's campaign launched a new effort this week to whitewash his calamitous record of egregious errors and flawed forecasts when it comes to Iraq. As ThinkProgress reported, the McCain web site has unveiled a very elegant - and very selective - new timeline highlighting John McCain's "judgment" on Iraq. Hoping that voters will forget his disastrous predictions throughout 2002 and 2003 in the run-up to the war, the McCain timeline unsurprisingly starts in August 2003. Unfortunately, a timely Los Angeles Times interview with the infamous "Curveball" will remind Americans just how wrong John McCain has been about Iraq from the very beginning.
As the LA Times recounts, Rafid Ahmed Alwan, aka Curveball, played an essential role in the Bush administration's justification for war with Iraq. Despite warnings from CIA officials such as Tyler Drumheller that claims from Curveball were unreliable and unbelievable, the German intelligence asset's tall tales became a foundation for the White House's rationale for war:
President Bush declared in his State of the Union address in January 2003 that "we know" that Iraq built mobile germ factories. Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell highlighted Alwan's supposed "eyewitness" account to the U.N. Security Council when he pressed the case for war.
Among those taken in was John McCain, who bought in to the WMD horror stories lock, stock and two-smoking barrels. In October 2002, McCain took to the Senate floor to sound the alarm about Saddam's weapons:
"He has developed stocks of germs and toxins in sufficient quantities to kill the entire population of the Earth multiple times. He's placed weapons laden with these poisons on alert to fire at his neighbors within minutes, not hours, and has devolved military authority to fire them to subordinates. He develops nuclear weapons, with which he would hold his neighbors and us hostage."
On February 13, 2003, McCain again showed his "judgment" on Iraq, declaring:
"Proponents of containment claim that Iraq is in a 'box.' But it is a box with no lid, no bottom, and whose sides are falling out. Within this box are definitive footprints of germ, chemical and nuclear programs."
McCain's confidence was unshaken into June 2003, when he said, "I remain confident that we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq." Alas, as the Los Angeles Times noted today:
In October 2004, more than a year after the invasion, a CIA-led investigation concluded that Baghdad had abandoned all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The germ trucks never existed.
What the LA Times' interview of and investigation into Alwan also reveals is just what a pathetically awful fabulist Curveball was:
He claimed, for example, that the son of his former boss, Basil Latif, secretly headed a vast weapons of mass destruction procurement and smuggling scheme from England. British investigators found, however, that Latif's son was a 16-year-old exchange student, not a criminal mastermind.
His one-time supervisor Hilal Freah, a British-trained engineer and friend of Alwan's mother, recounted Curveball's duplicity:
"Rafid told five or 10 stories every day," Freah said in an interview. "I'd ask, 'Where have you been?' And he'd say, 'I had a problem with my car.' Or, 'My family was sick.' But I knew he was lying." He had a gift for it and "was not embarrassed when caught in a lie," Freah said. At the Djerf al Nadaf warehouse, laborers treated seeds from local farmers with fungicides to prevent mold and rot. But Alwan convinced his BND [German intelligence] handlers that the site's corn-filled sheds were part of Iraq's secret germ weapons program. He worked there, he told them, until 1998, when an unreported biological accident occurred. In fact, Alwan had been dismissed three years earlier, in 1995, after inflating expenses and faking receipts for tools, supplies and lamb for a party. "I fired him," Freah said. "He was corrupt and he was found stealing."
For his part, Rafid Ahmed Alwan alias Curveball is unrepentant about his record when it comes to his role in enabling the war in Iraq. Rather than scorn, he claims, he deserves to rewarded and respected:
"Everything I said was true. And everything that's been written about me is wrong. It's all wrong. The main thing is, I'm an honest man" "For what I've done, I should be treated like a king."
Which sounds a lot like John McCain.
(This piece is cross-posted at Perrspectives.)