It’s too late for impeachment but a new book lays out a clear case for criminal prosecution of Bush and Cheney for launching the Iraq war, either by the US government (obviously after they leave office) or the International Criminal Court.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind, whose new book The Way of the World, was officially released yesterday but available over the weekend (at least in my neighbourhood bookstore) contends that the White House obtained compelling evidence in early 2003 that Iraq possessed no significant stocks of nuclear or biological weapons but decided to invade anyway.
The book contends – using named sources and on-the-record interviews – that the Bush administration also orchestrated the forging of a document by Iraqi defector and former intelligence chief Tahir Jalil Habbush to create an after-the-fact justification for invading Iraq: That Saddam had WMDs and that Mohammad Atta, the lead 9/11 highjacker, trained in Iraq under Abu Nidal with Saddam Hussein’s blessing.
The forged document, purportedly signed by Habbus, was leaked to British tabloid hack Con Coughlin in December, 2003. Habbush was paid $5-million and re-settled in Jordan because of his cooperation.
The forgery creates legal culpability for Bush and Cheney because they violated two federal statutes.
The first is a bill in 1991 that amended the 1947 act creating the CIA. It states “No covert action may be conducted which is intended to influence United States political processes, public opinion, processes or the media.” Even worse, they could be charged under 18.USC.371 – the same law that hung most of the Watergate conspirators including Nixon – which makes it a crime to conspire to defraud the US government.
Suskind has written two previous books sharply critical of Bush administration policies. described the alleged forgery as one of the great lies in modern American political history, likening it to Watergate. Last night on Countdown, Nixon White House counsel John Dean agreed.
The allegations in the document are completely implausible.
Abu Nidal was a psychopathic and paranoid leftist with ties to East Germany and split with the PLO because it was too far right for him. Al-Qaeda, a far rightwing Muslim fundamentalist cult, would have wanted anything to do with him, nor he with it.
Hussein would never have allowed a loose cannon like Abu Nidal to run a terrorist training camp in Iraq. Excuse me? I mean, really: First Bush and Cheney accuse the Baath Party of being totalitarian, then they say Saddam let notoriously unstable people run around with explosives? Get real! Moreover, Jordanian intelligence never would have tolerated it and Saddam needed Jordan's smuggling trade to get around the UN and US boycotts. So, he could not have afforded to disregard Jordanian sensibilities completely. He could not have hidden a whole training camp from Amman.
Ironically, Habbush, who allegedly signed the forgery, was probably the man who killed Abu Nidal in 2002.
The letter also mentions, according to Coughlin, the purchase of uranium from Niger by Iraq and its transhipment across Libya and Syria.
Ayad Allawi, a long-time CIA asset, vouched for the forged document to Coughlin. That item is evidence for Suskind's narrative about Bush coercing George Tenet into manufacturing the letter. Allawi, based in London, had a special mandate from the CIA to cultivate ex-officers who defected from Iraq, so he was likely Habbush’s handler.
Now for the big mystery: Why bother to cook this up in September, 2003, after the US had already conquered Iraq?
It seems likely that the forgery was ordered by the White House as a direct response to former Ambassador Joe Wilson’s New York Times Op-Ed that revealed that the allegation that Saddam had recently bought yellowcake uranium from Niger was total bunk.
By September of 2003, a guerrilla war was raging in Iraq and it had become clear that there was no WMD. Shiite cleric Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim was blown up in Najaf on August 31. GIs were being killed in al-Anbar. Bush and Cheney needed to refute Wilson's allegation that they ignored his report on Niger uranium. They also needed a smoking gun to tie Iraq to al-Qaeda, without which their continued occupation of the country was on thin legal grounds.
Tying Atta to Abu Nidal would form an ex post facto justification for the war, something Bush desperately needed. Tying Syria and Libya to the alleged Iraqi nuclear program was also a way to set them up as the next targets.
Dean titled his 2005 book Worse Than Watergate. Actually, this is worse than anything the United States has ever experienced; it is even worse than Pearl Harbor or 9-11 itself.
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