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Dr Bill Wilson MSP

Dr Bill Wilson MSP

By Bill Wilson

Recently I had an article in the Scottish Left Review, also published on a number of websites. It described the horrific situation in Fallujah in Iraq, where women have been advised to avoid becoming pregnant due to the very high risk of gross birth deformities in their children.

It is notable that the first signs that something odd was happening (changing birth-gender ratios) appeared shortly after the first Gulf war. Since then, evidence has been mounting that a significant factor in the very high level of genetic abnormalities is the use of depleted uranium (DU) weapons.

I mention the events in Fallujah not because it is an isolated case, but because the situation – doctors advising an entire city of women not to become pregnant – is so extreme. However, the use of DU was not limited to Fallujah. In Basra there is a new cancer hospital, necessary due to the substantial rise in childhood cancers, and man’s inhumanity to man extends beyond Iraq.

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Think of the nations of the former Yugoslavia, think Gaza, think Afghanistan. Does it stop even there? Once in a while dust will arrive in Scotland from North Africa. Once DU particles enter the water, once they become dust, where does the pollution end?

Even if the dust never arrives, the effects will. Our servicemen and women are no more immune from breathing in, or drinking, the DU particles than are the civilians in the target zones. Of course the Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense continue to deny that DU presents a risk. Yet the Italian government paid some 170 million euros in compensation to their soldiers, and a coroner’s report in the UK quite specifically identified DU as the cause of death.

However, it is not my intention to discuss the evidence or effects of DU here. Those interested can check my home page, or can read the Scottish Left Review.

This article looks specifically at disinformation. When challenging the vested interests of the powerful, it is not unusual to have to deal with disinformation campaigns – think of smoking and climate change, for example. Such campaigns are fairly standard. So that there is no room for doubt, I am not referring to genuine scientific debate, but specifically to disinformation:

1 – the use of errors in minor details to cast doubt upon an entire case;
2 – the distortion/misrepresentation of facts;
3 – the creation of new facts lacking any evidence for such (which might also be referred to as lying);
4 – character assassination.

It did not take long for me to become aware of a disinformation campaign surrounding DU and its effects. Perhaps the first clear indication I had was from a former US colonel, who wrote an angry email noting that the DU campaign was based on lies, that the use of the word “weapon” was misleading, and that “There is no such thing as a uranium weapon. That is [the] term that they made up to make DU kinetic energy penetrators look like weapons of mass destruction instead of tank killing bullets”.

As the argument goes, it certainly fits into category 2, as I cannot really see any difference between a bullet and a weapon. There is an attempt at 1, as even if a bullet is not a weapon the end result, particularly with DU, is the same. And certainly 3, as DU is also used in “bunker busters” and other munitions used to attack buildings and is not restricted to use against tanks. (Hence its use in Gaza, where the Palestinians have a distinct lack of tanks.)

In case you think that I am splitting hairs, I should note that this self-same US colonel went on to argue that DU could not have been used at Fallujah because there were “no tank battles in Fallujah”. In effect, he was using the “fact” that DU was only used in anti-tank shells to cast doubt on their use in Fallujah. Thus the point is not one of hair-splitting, but rather more significant than that. All this within a matter of hours of my dipping my toe into the DU nightmare!

Dr Doug Rokke is a retired US Army major. He was appointed by the Pentagon to devise the protocols in handling DU, and how/if it might safely be used. Dr Rokke duly provided the Pentagon with the required report and protocols. He also had responsibility for the limited clear-up of some sites in Iraq. There is a tragic side to this, as Dr Rokke, an honourable and decent man, is seriously ill, and many of his team are dead or likewise seriously ill. Dr Rokke has no doubt as to the source of their ill-health: DU does not just affect civilians.

Why the detour to describe Dr Rokke and his team? Well, the disinformation did not stop at modifying or redefining facts. It went on from there. I was reading a blog article on DU and glanced at the responses below. I was immediately confused. A respondent angrily attacked Doug Rokke because he had been supporting the DU lobby in viciously attacking him when the respondent had written on DU. This was bizarre, really bizarre.

Dr Rokke was actually accused of working with a man who had regularly smeared him. More confusing was that the arch anti-DU campaigner had suddenly become a DU supporter. What the heck was going on? It was clear that the original author of the blog was equally dumfounnart – to use the Scots word for dumbfounded.

There followed a confused and lengthy exchange between the blog author and the respondent. It moved on to the respondent wondering about Dr Rokke’s email address, as his IP address seemed similar to that of a notorious DU supporter. To cut a long story short, the respondent concluded with: “I am now watching the real Doug Rokke on YouTube”.

Somebody had gone out of their way to make it appear that Doug Rokke was working with the pro-DU lobby. This of a man seriously ill from the effects of DU, who is furious that the Pentagon has ignored his advice and protocols – insult to injury!

The above would certainly fall into my fourth category of disinformation: character assassination. A pretty unpleasant form of character assassination, given the circumstances. But of course it does not stop there. I have received a large number of emails specifically attacking the qualifications and character of various individuals with whom I have corresponded, or to whom I have referred in my articles/press releases.

Doug Rokke is specifically accused of having lied about his army service, lied about his depleted DU findings, and having very unpleasant connections (apparently somebody he knew had written something which may have used something else which may have come from an organisation with dubious repute – no, seriously!), and finally he is accused of smearing the man who sent me the email smearing Dr Rokke. I assume the latter works on the principle of distracting people from your own thieving by shouting, “Catch the thief!”

I have concentrated on Dr Rokke not because he is the only individual about whom I have received unpleasant (and dishonest) allegations, but rather because he seems to have earned the most vitriol.

Having become rather tired of all this, I wrote to the US ambassador asking if the individual who had been putting out many of the smears (I named him in the letter) worked for or had worked for the US government. I await the reply with anticipation.

Let me end with some useful Arabian advice for Doug Rokke and my other correspondents fighting for justice: “Tell the truth, but keep one foot in the stirrup”.

Dr Bill Wilson is a list MSP for the West of Scotland.

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Depleted uranium shellsBy Bill Wilson

It was recently reported that doctors had advised women in Fallujah not to give birth. There are many medical reasons for infertility which might shatter the dreams of a young woman. It is not difficult to imagine how heartbreaking it must be for a woman who is advised that she can never bear children.

But for the young women of an entire city – tens of thousands of them – to be advised not to give birth, how can one imagine such collective pain? But perhaps it does not matter – one life is a tragedy, a million a statistic? Certainly this episode attracted limited press attention. Media Lens highlighted an interesting contrast with the attention directed at the lady who chucked a cat into a bin – one cat confined for a few hours was a tragedy.

This year the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study, “Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009” by Chris Busby, Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi. The report concludes “results confirm the reported increases in cancer and infant mortality which are alarmingly high. The remarkable reduction in the sex ratio in the cohort born one year after the fighting in [Falluja] 2004 identifies that year as the time of the environmental contamination.”

It was this increase in the incidence of child cancer and deformities which resulted in women being advised not to give birth. Fallujah is not the only city witnessing skyrocketing rates of child cancer. “The rapidly soaring child cancer rate in the southern Iraqi province of Basra has prompted the officials in the country to open the country’s first specialist cancer hospital for children in the province’s capital. […] Since 1993, Basra province has witnessed a sharp rise in the incidence of childhood cancer. ‘Leukemia (a type of blood cancer) among children under 15 has increased by about four times,’ said Dr. Janan Hasan of the hospital inaugurated on Thursday in the southern port city of Basra.”

In response to such reports, I lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament highlighting the issue. This was of limited interest to my fellow parliamentarians (fewer than 20 supported it), and of no interest to the Scottish media, but it did attract the attention of a number of dedicated individuals campaigning on the issues raised by the Iraq war, including the issue very relevant to the increase in childhood cancers and birth deformities: depleted uranium (DU). I have subsequently come to appreciate their bravery and determination in the face of what would seem to be attack, denial and disinformation by a ruthless, dishonest and uncaring establishment.

This opinion piece is part of The Caledonian Mercury’s ongoing debate about Scotland’s national life and is part of our commitment to raise the level of debate in Scotland. If you or your organisation would like a platform to voice your views then please contact us at stewart AT caledonianmercury DOT com.

The Non-Aligned Movement in the UN believes at least 400,000 kg of DU shells have been fired. Precisely how many and even where is uncertain. Whether we will ever know is also uncertain. The United Nations First Committee recently voted, by an overwhelming margin, for state users of depleted uranium weapons to release data on where the weapons have been used to governments of the states affected by their use. However, four nations opposed the motion: the UK, the USA, Israel and France. Three of these nations have used DU weapons; France produces them. The resolution then went forward to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for a second vote. The result was identical. However, as such votes are non-binding, it is likely that the four nations opposed to the resolution will simply ignore it.

Alongside refusing to divulge precise details on where DU weapons were deployed, the four also voted against previous resolutions accepting that DU has the potential to damage human health (2007) and calling for more research in affected states (2008). Meanwhile the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) claims that not only is the risk low, but that simple countermeasures can deal with contaminated sites. Even the latter point, with which I strongly disagree, does raise the question: if the counter-measures are so simple, why is nobody taking them in Iraq?

Nicholas Wood has suggested spraying oil on and around destroyed tanks (a temporary measure to stop the dust blowing about and to discourage children from playing on them) and deploying barbed wire to barricade contaminated areas. In Iraq no such measures have been taken, nor has there been any significant clean-up, though the BBC did report a UK commitment to doing so in 2003. It should be noted that the UK’s failure to do so may constitute a war crime. Nicholas believes that these things are not being done because to do so would be an effective admission that DU might be harmful, and that is not something the UK or the US government/military are keen to admit (more on that later). Meanwhile, children continue to play in contaminated tanks.

It is not just in Iraq that little or no action is being taken. The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons reported: “In Kosovo, where most of the contaminated sites are located, and over 70 per cent of the DU was fired, there has been no programme of monitoring since UNEP’s study in 2001”.

The report further notes that decontamination is difficult work and it is impossible to fully remove all the contamination. It is also very costly. The Cape Arza site in Montenegro cost DM 400,000 (almost US$280,000) and took about 5,000 working person days to decontaminate 480 rounds, which in total took around twelve seconds to fire. The estimated cost of clearing up a test firing site in Indiana is $7.8bn.

The report also notes that the health consequences remain unclear with a lack of research data, though it is known that internalised DU is a carcinogen. It is also know that as a DU shell hits a tank it effectively vaporises, resulting in rather a lot of carcinogenic dust. Radioactive materials do not remain radioactive forever, however. DU dust has a half-life of only 4.5 billion years. It is good to know that if we don’t bother to clean up the mess then 150 million generations or so down the line the descendants of today’s Iraqis, Afghans, etc. will only have to cope with half the radiation that people have to face today! The sun will still have half a billion years to burn.

The use of radioactive weapons in Iraq as far back as 1991 was exposed by Professor Siegwart-Horst Gunther, who found, on the highway between Baghdad and Amman, projectiles the size and shape of a cigar (fired from aeroplanes). Professor Gunther took a bullet back to Germany for testing. The bullet exhibited a radioactivity giving an effective dose of 11 to 12 microsieverts per hour and was considered highly dangerous. It was seized by German police, wearing protective clothing, and transported to a safe place. (In Germany, radiology personnel should not be exposed to more than 50 millisieverts per year.)

It might also be noted that US authorities closed a DU penetrator ammunition factory on the edge of Albany in upstate New York because airborne contamination levels exceeded 150 microcurie per month, contaminating populated areas up to 26 miles away. This was the equivalent of only one or two 30 mm cannon shells per month releasing their radioactivity to the environment.

The fact that definitive evidence that the shells fired by allied force are responsible for the huge increase in cancers, stillbirths and birth deformities is limited is not surprising, as the nations that fire the shells refuse to provide accurate information on where they have been fired, making accurate statistical analysis all but impossible. However, there is abundant circumstantial evidence, as two minutes on the Internet will show (for example search for “Doug Rokke” on YouTube).

Whilst it may appear a cynical view, sadly I have come to the conclusion that the UK Government and MoD are deliberately making such analyses impossible. Indeed, the level to which supporters of DU weapons will go to deny effects are quite considerable. A classical example is a communication I recently received from Roger Helbig, considered by some to be a Pentagon “attack dog”. In a lengthy email which accused various anti-DU groups of lying, Mr Helbig also included the following quite stupendous line: “There is no such thing as a uranium weapon. That is term that they [the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons] made up to make depleted uranium kinetic energy penetrators look like weapons of mass destruction instead of tank-killing bullets.” Yes you did read that correctly: there is no such thing as a uranium weapon, only a “depleted uranium kinetic energy penetrator”!

Recently I asked the Scottish minister for public health and sport, Shona Robinson, if the Scottish Government held statistics relating to the incidence of cancer, stillbirth and birth deformities in Scottish armed forces personnel and their families. She obligingly wrote to the MoD to follow up my question. I received her reply a few days ago. In summary: (1) the MoD does not believe that there is credible evidence that DU induces cancer and birth defects (2) the MoD asserts that there is no evidence that DU has been responsible for incidences of ill-health in UK forces or in civilian populations and (3) the MoD does not believe that a statistical study would be appropriate as this issue has been addressed under the auspices of the Independent Depleted Uranium Oversight Board (DUOB).

The first and third claims are clearly disputed, while the second statement is a simple lie. At a coroner’s inquest (10 September 2009) into the death of Mr Stuart Dyson a unanimous jury ruled that his death from colon cancer was caused by the DU he was exposed to in the Gulf War of 1990/91. In the USA, Leuren Moret, a geoscientist and geologist has said: “Of 251 Gulf War I veterans in Mississippi, in 67 percent of them, their babies born after the war were deemed to have severe birth defects. They had brains missing, arms and legs missing, organs missing. They were born without eyes. They had horrible blood diseases. It’s horrific.”

Perhaps the warning given to the women of Fallujah should have been extended to service personnel?

Bill Wilson is MSP for the West of Scotland. This article first appeared in the Scottish Left Review.

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Obama: Waiting for UN move

Obama: Waiting for UN move

Patience is running thin in the US Congress over President Barack Obama’s perceived dithering over Iran.

US military chiefs have told Congress that Iran could enrich enough weapons-grade uranium for a single bomb within a year, and overcome technical difficulties with the Shahab-3 missile, which has the range to hit Israel, within three to five years. “With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] capable of reaching the United States by 2015,” a Pentagon document said.

On Sunday Iran’s Revolutionary Guards test-fired five missiles during the last stage of its “Great Prophet 5” manoeuevres in the Persian Gulf, a waterway crucial for global oil supplies.

Tehran denies it is trying to build a nuclear weapon, saying its programme is aimed solely at generating power. But its denial has failed to convince Mr Obama and even less the US Congress, which is pressing the president to block Iranian imports of petrol and other refined petroleum products. Though Iran is the world’s fifth largest crude oil exporter, due to a lack of refining capacity it has to import around 40 per cent of its petrol needs.

Mr Obama is hoping the UN Security Council will reach agreement on new sanctions early next month. These would target Iran’s access to banking, insurance and credit, but congressional leaders don’t believe they go far emough.

The Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who has described Iran as “a festering sore in the world”, says time is running out to act, while Howard Berman, the top Democratic representative on the House foreign relations committee, says that while he supports Mr Obama’s efforts to engage Tehran, “all of his diplomatic overtures were rebuffed, and it should now be clear to the world that Tehran has no intention of changing its reckless course in the absence of strong and sustained pressure from the international community”.

The US move would have international repercussions, as any companies worldwide which supply petrol to Iran could be barred from doing business with America. There were signs that foreign companies were already responding to the US move: Christophe de Margerie, chief executive of Total, which delivers small amounts of fuel to Tehran, said his company would halt sales if the US legislation went through.

In a strongly worded editorial, the Christian Science Monitor last week warned against the petrol sanctions move because “the only way to really enforce such a crippling sanction against the Iranian economy would be through an American-led naval blockade which, by international law, is an act of war … History is instructive here: it was a US ban on the export of oil to Imperial Japan for its invasion of China that triggered the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbour. And a US naval blockade of Cuba in 1962 almost led to nuclear war with the Soviet Union.”

There are fears, too, that unless sanctions are seen to be working, Israel may strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, as it did against
Iraq’s in 1981 and a suspected nuclear research centre in Syria in 2007.

The Obama administration has called for restraint from Israel, because any attack on Iran would escalate tensions and possibly plunge the Middle East into a new conflict. But though relations between the White House and Israel are at a low ebb over the expansion of Israeli settlements, support for Israel in Congress is as strong as ever. The US mid-term elections in November could be a factor in any Israel decision to attack Iran, and Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is not known for his patience.

With the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, suggesting in a leaked memo that the Obama administration has no clear strategy over Iran, some analysts are concerned that the president may be coerced into taking military action himself. “We do not know who leaked the Gates memo,” said an article in Politico.

“But the ‘senior officials’ who did so were clearly seeking to use their selective description to catalyze more robust planning for potential military strikes against Iranian nuclear targets – the very option that Gates has consistently opposed”.

The magazine added that Mr Obama might be encouraged to go down that route by a recent rise in public support for military action against Iran.

General Raymond Odierno

General Raymond Odierno

Iraqi security forces backed by US troops have killed two top leaders of al-Qaeda in Iraq in separate operations.

Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who was the military leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in one of the operations southwest of Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein.

Muhajir replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi when Zarqawi was killed in June 2006, and he was directly responsible for high-profile bombings and attacks, the Iraqi government and US Army said.

Also killed in the operation was Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, or Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, who was leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and was known as the “Prince of the Faithful.”

“These are two significant individuals. It demonstrates, again, a growing capability of the Iraqi security forces to go after these threats to their country,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington. “It’s very positive that neither of those individuals will be operating in Iraq anymore.

“I don’t want to overstate, but I don’t want to understate the success” of the operation, he added.

Past Iraqi claims to have captured or killed Baghdadi have proved wrong, and US officials have questioned whether he was a real person or a composite of a terrorist. At least one audio recording purported to have been made by Baghdadi were in fact read by someone else, the US Army has said. The Islamic State of Iraq has issued at least two denials of his capture.

But today General Raymond Odierno, commander of US forces in Iraq, added weight to the announcement of the deaths when he said it was “potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency”.

The deaths of the two top leaders of al-Qaeda could not have been more timely. On Sunday Gen Odierno said the plan to pull out 45,000 of the 95,000 US troops in Iraq by the end of August was on track despite a recent rise in violence, and only a serious surge in attacks would alter the Obama administration’s aim of completing the withdrawal by the end of next year.

George Mitchell

George Mitchell

Accustomed as Israel became during the Bush years to influencing US policy in the Middle East, the row between the United States and Israel over the expansion of Jewish settlements in Arab East Jerusalem may have more profound implications for Israel than it would like to admit: the US Central Command (CentCom) is reportedly concerned that Israeli intransigence is jeopardising American efforts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, and would like to see the occupied territories come under its area of operation.

In the latest development in the row, George Mitchell, the US special envoy to the Middle East, postponed a visit to Israel today. He had hoped to persuade Israelis and Palestinians to hold at least low-level talks in an effort to resume peace negotiations, but the announcement by Israel during a visit by the vice-president, Joe Biden, that it was expanding the settlements scuppered that plan.

However, the roots of the row go deeper than that, and can be traced to a January briefing by senior officers of CentCom to the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Michael Mullen.

According to an article by Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy, “the team had been dispatched by CentCom commander Gen David Petraeus to underline his growing worries at the lack of progress in resolving the [Palestinian-Israeli] issue. The 33-slide, 45-minute PowerPoint briefing stunned Mullen. The briefers reported that there was a growing perception among Arab leaders that the US was incapable of standing up to Israel, that CentCom’s mostly Arab constituency was losing faith in American promises, that Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardising US standing in the region, and that Mitchell himself was (as a senior Pentagon officer
later bluntly described it) ‘too old, too slow … and too late’.”

Crucially, Perry says Gen Petraeus has formally requested that the Palestinian occupied territories – though not Israel itself — be brought under the CentCom’s region of operation. He adds: “There are important and powerful lobbies in America: the NRA, the American Medical Association, the lawyers — and the Israeli lobby. But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the US military.

“While commentators and pundits might reflect that Joe Biden’s trip to Israel has forever shifted America’s relationship with its erstwhile ally in the region, the real break came in January, when David Petraeus sent a briefing team to the Pentagon with a stark warning: America’s relationship with Israel is important, but not as important as the lives of America’s soldiers.”

Ahmed_Chalabi_2004-Jan-20 2Ahmed Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile whom the Bush administration once hoped would replace Saddam Hussein under its “regime change” policy, has been openly branded an Iranian collaborator by the top commander of US forces in Iraq.

General Ray Odierno told an audience at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington that Chalabi and another Iraqi politician, Ali Faisal al-Lami, are “clearly influenced by Iran… We have direct intelligence that tells us that.”

Odierno’s comments the latest episode in a decades-long struggle by Chalabi, widely seen to have misled the Bush administration over Saddam Hussein’s WMD capacity, to gain power in his homeland.

Chalabi and Lami had had “several meetings in Iran with a man named [Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis] Muhandis… who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s – they are tied to him,” Odierno said., adding that Muhandis was right-hand-man to General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Army’s Quds force. The US claims Quds, which reports directly to the Ayatollah Khamenei, sponsors Islamic militant groups around the world.

Lami, a Shiite who is close to the hitherto secular Chalabi, headed an Iraqi panel that tried to bar around 500 mostly Sunni candidates, many of them members of Saddam’s banned Baathist Party, from running in the general election scheduled for March 7, which is to be the second since the invasion of Iraq. Following pressure from the United States, the list was reduced to 145 candidates, though leading Sunni member of parliament Saleh al-Mutlak is still excluded.

The US fears an outbreak of fresh violence between Sunnis and Muslims in the wake of Lami’s perceived move to marginalise Sunnis. Chalabi, who was deputy prime minister of Iraq between May 2005 and May 2006, claims he had no role in barring the Sunni candidates. Nevertheless on Sunday he directly accused US Vice President Joe Biden of interfering in the election by pressuring the electoral appeals committee into reversing its decision to ban all 500 candidates.

Odierno said “no one denies that… you have the right to work through de Baathification, [to] disqualify anyone who’s involved in the Baath Party, or leans towards the Baath Party… [but] what actually was the authority of this commission.  What’s the authority of those running it, and why they were able to do this, and was it according to the law…”

He said the candidate vetting process had not been transparent. “Unfortunately, it happened right before the election, which was clearly planned very carefully by certain individuals — Ahmed Chalabi and others who I would argue are getting support by other nations, who in fact are trying to push very specific agendas inside of Iraq.”

Lami vehemently denies he has any link with Iran or any hidden agenda. Supporters of Chalabi say he was in fact encouraged by the US to set up an office in Tehran in an attempt to improve relations between the US and Iran. Before the invasion – and before President George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech helped bring Iranian hardliners to power – Chalabi was close to the reformist President Mohammad Khatami. “There are geopolitical reasons to be friendly with Iran,” he told the New Yorker in 2004.
“Iran has the longest border with Iraq. Also, Iran is a much stronger state than Iraq, with three times the population. So strategically it’s not a good idea to be on bad terms. My good relations were not a secret from the US.”

Indeed, Chalabi was close to US hawks Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defence, and Richard Perle, former chairman of the US Defence Policy Board, both architects of the Bush administration’s “regime change” strategy. In 2004, US officials accused Chalabi of revealing to Iran’s top spy in Baghdad that the US was reading Iranian spy traffic. Perle, in Chalabi’s defence, told the New York Times at the time that he believed the CIA had turned against Chalabi because he had refused to be the agency’s “puppet”. Chalabi, said Perle, had “a mind of his own”.

However, Chalabi’s reliability had worried the CIA even before the invasion of Iraq. Though President George W Bush was informed of the CIA’s view of Chalabi at the start of his first term, Bush chose to follow the advice of Vice-President Dick Cheney and the neo-conservatives. Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC) organisation provided the hawks at the Pentagon with the WMD “evidence” they wanted. Though the CIA believed much of the information passed to the Pentagon by the defectors was false, the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s address to the UN Security Council on February 5, 2003, was based largely on this “evidence”. As Robert Baer, a former top Middle East operative put it, “Chalabi was scamming the US because the US wanted to be scammed.”

Wolfowitz acknowledged in an interview with Vanity Fair that the WMD evidence was not the best argument for the invasion of Iraq, but “we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction”.

Chalabi appears to believe that he is being pilloried for having influenced US policy.  “There is a smear campaign that says I am responsible for the liberation of Iraq,” he once said, “but how bad is that?”

On Tuesday, General Odierno had this response: “Chalabi, you know, has been involved in Iraqi politics in many different ways over the last seven years, mostly bad.”

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