Iraqi defector whose phony WMD intel and "sexed up graphics" led to 100,000+ deaths: "Yes, I lied."

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, aka "Curveball", an Iraqi defector who falsified testimony about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, confirms that he made the whole thing up in an interview airing this week on the BBC2 TV series, "Modern Spies." The former chemical engineer's "confidence trick" was used by the Bush administration to justify going to war with Iraq in 2003.

Snip from The Independent:

But Mr Janabi, speaking in a two-part series, Modern Spies, starting tomorrow on BBC2, says none of it was true. When it is put to him "we went to war in Iraq on a lie. And that lie was your lie", he simply replies: "Yes."

US officials "sexed up" Mr Janabi's drawings of mobile biological weapons labs to make them more presentable, admits Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, General Powell's former chief of staff. "I brought the White House team in to do the graphics," he says, adding how "intelligence was being worked to fit around the policy".

You can watch the episode in entirety here, for a limited time—but alas, only if the BBC's web servers can be convinced that you're in the UK.

(via Doctrine Man).


  1. Don’t feel too bad. They would have found someone else to say this if it weren’t you.

    1. I remember hearing it reported at the time that “Curveball” was considered an unreliable source by most intelligence officials and that the information he provided was purposely being “sexed up”.

      I’m not sure it would have mattered if someone had said it or not. The people responsible for taking us to war didn’t just hear what they wanted to hear. They made up what they wanted to hear and didn’t really need a source.

      1.  Hell, Rory Bremner reported it shortly afterwards; it was well known.

        I’m very sure it didn’t matter. As you say, policy came first, actual evidence distant last.

      1. One possibility:

        18 USC 1001 (a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully-
        (1) falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact;
        (2) makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or
        (3) makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry;
        shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years…

        Unfortunately the sovereign immunity of his co-conspirators may make other charges difficult to bring, but conspiracy to commit murder, war crimes [war of aggression], fraud [he was paid], felony murder [he was engaged in a felony, so resulting deaths are murder] and maybe some of those vaguely-written terrorism statutes might be brought to bear. Iraq could prosecute him, too. Frankly, he’s such an embarrassment to the US and such an enemy of so many victims’ families I’m surprised that he hasn’t been disappeared or assassinated.

          1. Anyone seen Dick Cheney lately?

            I really hope a bunch of meddling kids pull a Scooby-Doo on Mr. Curveball there. “Now let’s see who you really are!”

    1. Seriously! Why soulless, reprehensible excuses for human being like this are not rotting in the foulest jail cell available – being pissed upon daily –  just defies reason. Them, and the scumbags who paid them for their lies.

          1.  @NathanHornby:disqus
            Just because I think this guy is a contemptible asshole who deserves to be charged with war crimes doesn’t mean I don’t think the same thing about GWB.

  2. In the immortal words of G. W.:

    Fool me once, shame on you.Fool me… 

    …you can’t get fooled again.

    1. Awww come on, you know how hard it is to put food on your family.

      Pickled hippocampus, anyone?

  3. Out of respect for the more than 1 million dead Iraqi’s please make some effort to report the casualty estimates accurately. Researchers at Johns Hopkins estimated that 601,000 violent Iraqi deaths were attributable to the U.S.-led invasion as of July 2006. In January 2008, a poll of Iraqis confirmed that the number dead is likely to be over a million. The prestigious British polling firm, Opinion Research Business, estimated that 1,033,000 Iraqis had been killed violently since the U.S. invasion as of August 2007.

    Based on these and other research projects by publications such as The Lancet a current estimate of 1.5 million is not unreasonable. Please do not continue to spread the propaganda of 100.000 casualties. It is an affront. How would American feel if Vietnamese media claimed only 3800 US soldiers died in Vietnam?

    For more details and links to the research see:

    1.  Let’s not forget that that just counts violent deaths. The sanctions on Iraq between Gulf War I and II prohibited the import of water treatment chemicals and equipment, pharmaceuticals and other essential items. This resulted in the deaths of over 500,000 infants and preschoolers, mostly due to dysentery. [Unicef, 1999] The consequences of sanctions were well known to the GHWB, Clinton and GWB administrations, and they each continued them with malice.

      That cannot be laid at Curveball’s feet, and without excusing him, it may be that he hoped that getting the US to invade would end the sanctions and allow reconstruction. Indeed, that’s what should have happened – with or without invasion  – but the GWB administration comprehensively failed to plan or execute reconstruction.

      1. You can’t speak of Iraqi casualties incurred during and after GW2 as equivalent to Iraqi casualties incurred due to sanctions between GW1 & 2.

        Those sanctions and the No-Fly zone were placed in lieu of a war, because of Sadaam’s systematic oppression of the Kurds and Shiites, after GW1.

        The sanctions only hurt Iraq’s people because Sadaam let them hurt them.

  4. Fuck this guy. Extraordinarily rendition his ass back to Iraq, let him live in the “freedom” that he so generously sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives for.

  5. Sure this guy lied.  It was what the administration wanted to hear.   Did they maybe think of getting a second source before starting a war?  The press (eg NY Times) was also an embarrassment; they just believed what they were told.  I really hope we learn from this for the next times – yeah Iran.

    1.  Yeah, this. 

      (If John le Carre novels are to believed, and he *was* a spy) sources lie all the time.  The onus is on the handlers and the government to treat a single source with the respect it is due, ie, not much.

    2. The exact same people are all on the news shows pushing Iran, and without anybody saying “Wait, a minute…why are we listening to these fucks?!”  Nobody learns..

      1. And they don’t listen to anyone who asks that question.

        Having been against the Iraq War makes us all ‘unserious.’ Having questioned the bullshit they were pushing on us makes us all ‘unserious.’ I guess it takes being an idiot and believing the bullshit, or being a mass-murderer and pushing the bullshit to make someone ‘serious’ and worth listening too.

    3. Back when we were about to invade Serbia, I was generally impressed by the humanitarian need, but I remember talking to someone much more skeptical.

      He explained that when the first Iraq war was argued for, it wasn’t just that Iraq had invaded Kuwait, but they made a big deal of things like turning babies out of incubators. It sold him at the time. Later, though, the testimonial turned out to be unsubstantiated, organized as part of a PR campaign, and the source was revealed to be the ambassador’s daughter.

      I wasn’t old enough at the time to know about that, and it was a surprise to me. I don’t think I’ve heard it mentioned since. So it seems like each war, new people have to learn the same lessons all over again.

      1. The US wouldve gone into GW1 without this particular piece of atrocity-propaganda.  I believe that this particular episode was engineered by Kuwaiti goverment. 

        Curveball, however, was essentially US-made because it was intentionally harvested from the “noise” of intelligence sources and trumpeted as a “proof” Saddam’s nuclear ambitions.

        The two incidents are only comparable in showing that you never have to look hard to find dubious grounds for war.

    4. The NY Times didn’t “just believe what they were told”. The NY Times (and others) are in the business of manufacturing news, not reporting it. The occupy protests and other recent news have proved that. And yes, you’re right. The gears of war are already turning regarding Iran. The way it’s talked about in the news is chilling.

  6. BBC made another documentary about this a while back, called “In The Loop.”  I highly recommend it, though I think it makes the process of manufacturing casus belli look more serious, grave, and dignified than it really was.

    1. I hope you stash that in a good safe place where it’ll be available for a long time in case the original is disappeared.

  7. wiki:

    Iraq War Resolution

    The October, 2002, U.S. congress Iraq War Resolution cited many factors to justify the use of military force against Iraq:

    Iraq’s noncompliance with the conditions of the 1991 ceasefire agreement, including interference with U.N. weapons inspectors.Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, and programs to develop such weapons, posed a “threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region.”Iraq’s “brutal repression of its civilian population.”Iraq’s “capability and willingness to use weapons of mass destruction against other nations and its own people”.Iraq’s hostility towards the United States as demonstrated by the 1993 assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush and firing on coalition aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones following the 1991 Gulf War.Members of al-Qaeda, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq.Iraq’s “continuing to aid and harbor other international terrorist organizations,” including anti-United States terrorist organizations.Iraq paid bounty to families of suicide bombers.The efforts by the Congress and the President to fight terrorists, including the September 11th, 2001 terrorists and those who aided or harbored them.The authorization by the Constitution and the Congress for the President to fight anti-United States terrorism.The governments in Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia feared Saddam and wanted him removed from power.Citing the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, the resolution reiterated that it should be the policy of the United States to remove the Saddam Hussein regime and promote a democratic replacement.

    The Resolution required President Bush’s diplomatic efforts at the U.N. Security Council to “obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion, and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.” It authorized the United States to use military force to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.”

  8. At least this guy is now owning up to the lie. Given the choice, John Yoo would be first in line to provide legal cover to Bush/Cheney all over again.

  9.  Doug Feith, John Yoo, and countless others who cherrypick what goes in the PDB  knew this guy was full of shit.

  10. In the book on Cheney by Meyer, The Dark Side, she talked about how Cheney started asking for, and getting, raw intelligence. The kind of info that doesn’t say, “This guy is a liar and a drunk. His credibility is worthless, but we are including it to be through”

    When you have a 1% policy that if something is only 1% true you will start thinking all the crazy, drunk liars are real threats.

    As for the press failure. It was beyond the New York Times. They were just the big fish that The White House used. I think about all the other press and especially TV media that got on board. Remember all the retired generals on the TV (which we learned were being briefed by the Pentagon) up against Actors?

    The Bush admin had their war in Afghanistan, but that wasn’t enough.  Could the WH have gotten their war in Iraq if a large group of the MSM been willing to seriously question it? Or at least put up people against the war who had some heft behind them. Retired Military officials who weren’t in the pay of weapons makers? (are there any?)

    The other thing is that all the people against the war were smeared as “un-serious”  Did the TV news ever point out the economic interest of the retired generals talking about war?

    Judith Miller works for Fox now. Fox is the political communications arm of the conservative and hard right republican movement, but the rest of the MSM did not provide any kind of counterbalance to the war cheerleading. From failure to vet the war pushing guests to failure to provide a real counterbalance to the views being pushed.

    1.  Actually, before America invaded Iraq in 2003, I remember seeing Phil Donahue due some shows about the Iraq “threat”, and having an weapons inspector as a guest, the gist of what he said was that there was no immediate threat from Iraq. So let’s slow down folks, be cautious and not rush to war…
      But apparently no one was watching, Donahue’s MSNBC show got cancelled due to “low ratings”. (Except that they weren’t “low ratings”) Oops. I guess someone reminded GE about all the money that they were about to make in Iraq.

  11. Can people sue the government for wrongful death for people who died as a result of this?

  12. Fake but accurate?  No. 

    Accurate,  yet not relevant.

    Wiki again:

    An authorization by Congress was sought by President George W. Bush soon after his September 12, 2002, statement before the U.N. General Assembly asking for quick action by the Security Council in enforcing the resolutions against Iraq.

    Of the legislation introduced by Congress in response to President Bush’s requests, S.J.Res. 45 sponsored by Sen. Daschle & Sen. Lott was based on the original White House proposal authorizing the use of force in Iraq, H.J.Res. 114 sponsored by Rep. Hastert & Rep. Gephardt and the substantially similar S.J.Res. 46 sponsored by Sen. Lieberman were modified proposals. H.J.Res. 110 sponsored by Rep. Hastings was a separate proposal never considered on the floor. Eventually, the Hastert-Gephardt proposal became the legislation Congress focused on.

    Introduced in Congress on October 2, 2002, in conjunction with the Administration’s proposals, H.J.Res. 114 passed the House of Representatives on Thursday afternoon at 3:05 p.m. EDT on October 10, 2002, by a vote of 296-133, and passed the Senate after midnight early Friday morning, at 12:50 a.m. EDT on October 11, 2002, by a vote of 77-23. It was signed into law as Pub.L. 107-243 by President Bush on October 16, 2002.

  13. That’s not news. Unless you consider information that’s over a decade old as “news”.

  14. Admitting it hardly seems important. Nobody involved made more than the slightest effort to hide the fact that they were lying in the first place. Even while it was happening, everyone knew it was bullshit- there was never any justification for going into Iraq, but all protests were ignored and the majority of Americans apparently didn’t mind being lied to, as long as we got to kill some foreigners.

  15. Too bad he didn’t warn us about the domestic Pandora’s Box that he was opening.

    Wasn’t that the real reason we went over there to line the pockets of the war-profiteers so that domestic infrastructure could be created to electronically enslave us?

    Imagine if J. Edgar had just dropped the phony pretense and just joined forces with the Mobsters.
    (Hoover blackmailed politicans with his blackmail file cabinet, every politician [with ANY skeletons] is obviously electronically enslaved too, now. All it takes is access to the right info and you can have them tap-dancing for ya! Tapity-tap-tap!)

    You just can’t hand the keys to America to Orwellian Authoritarians without a good excuse, so we went to Iraq for WMD, I mean, FOR NO GOOD REASON.

    Thanks a lot, Curveball-dude.
    Seriously, Mission Accomplished, you got the box open, which was the real goal.

  16. Long ago, every “reason” submitted by Bush/Cheney for going to war with Iraq had been stripped away, except for: “We wanted to go to war with Iraq.”

    I’d say it was just as bad as Viet Nam, except it was worse. Viet Nam also had a manufactured casus belli and was the result of us being unable to de-escalate due to machoism, but at least JFK/Nixon had the Cold War as an excuse.

    With GW2, We still don’t really know why Bush did it. Al-Qaeda in Iraq… WMDs … all lies.

  17. I lay far more of the blame on Bush and his people. Curveball told them some BS – but they were the ones who ordered the invasion that killed people. They didn’t actually believe him – and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody hinted broadly about the sort of lies they wanted to hear.
    Which doesn’t let him off the hook, just puts other people on bigger hooks next to him.

  18. The programme was fascinating. It shows that Curveball was known to German and other EU spy agencies. They all suspected him to be unreliable and told this to the US handlers.

    Curveball was one of many Iraqis with a (probably legitimate) grudge against the Hussein patriarcy, and who was prepared to lie to defeat a brutal dictator. However, the US not only took his story at face value, they also embellished it, crediting Curveball as an eye witness (which he never claimed).

    And in case that wasn’t crazy enough, Colin Powell then went to the UN with an embellished version of the evidence that Germany and others knew to be unreliable, and the US knew that Germany knew it was unreliable. The whole thing was a press campaign.
    The US weren’t trying to convince Germany and France to authorise a war since they all knew it was fake . They were trying to convince the world that Germany and France were cowardly peaceniks who were going against the evidence of WMD.

  19. Tony Blair admitted in a video interview that they had knowledge that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before they invaded. This is called invading a country because you feel like it.

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