Codename Curveball

"Curveball"
Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, known to most of the world simply as "Curveball", was an Iraqi chemical engineer who claimed to work at a plant that made and mobilized Weapons of Mass Destruction in the mid to late 1990's under Saddam Hussein.

Curveball's story is one that is seldom told in the United States because it exposed the weaknesses in the intelligence community. It now seems as though people forget that we weren't going to war with Iraq to eradicate radical Islamic terrorists, but to seize and destroy WMDs that Saddam Hussein was creating and getting ready to use. 

This seems like a perfectly good idea. The trouble is, we found out the hard way that Iraq never had WMDs. It could have been prevented.

Curveball defected from Iraq in 1998 and attempted to get a green card in Germany. The way that he thought he could get his green card was to leak top secret information about harmful weapons that Iraq was making.

Rafid said that he had graduated at the top of his class and earned a degree in chemical engineering. Right after college he was hired by a facility in south-east Baghdad. He claimed that trucks loaded with special tanks, panels and other things would secretly come in to their warehouse and make harmful agents used in WMDs. The truck aspect of his story was important because it showed that Saddam was going mobile to avoid being bombed by the United States if the location of a nuclear plant was ever to leak out. Curveball also spoke about an accident that happened at the facility that killed 12 technicians in 1998, proving that whatever they were making was certainly deadly. 

Colin Powell eventually used Curveball's testimony to the Germans in front of the United Nations. He claimed that the source was completely credible and had been properly vetted by the United States. A little over a month after his speech, the United States had invaded Iraq looking to destroy biochemical weapons.

The trouble here is: none of this is true information. It came out years later that Curveball had fabricated his entire story in order for him to get a green card. Your first reaction might be to blame George Bush for his gross negligence in overseeing this whole debacle. I wouldn't say that you're totally wrong, but other people deserve more of the blame. 

The first shoulders that this issue should fall on is those of George Tenet, head of the CIA at the time. He presented this information to President Bush, calling the information a "slam dunk". Tenet said this to the president knowing that no United States intelligence employee had ever interviewed Curveball. We were working with information given to us by the Germans. It would not be until after the invasion was launched that a member of the CIA would sit down and actually interview the informant. At this point, the CIA agent realized that Curveball had no base for his claims. Tenet effectively launched us into a war that was impossible to win because what we thought was at the end of the tunnel was never there in the first place.

What did come out after the invasion was the fact that Curveball actually graduated last in his class. He never worked in the facility itself, but helped to design it when it was being built. It turned out he ultimately left the facility in 1995 to work at a television news station. This means that his claim of an accident in 1998 that killed 12 people was completely fabricated, as was everything else he said about the place. It didn't make WMDs, it was actually a seed purification plant meant to help grow crops in the region.

I get that we were looking to blame somebody for what happened in the attacks on September 11th, 2001. The nation was hurting and we were looking to strike someone back for what we had done. We just took a swing at the wrong person.

The second person deserving the blame is General Colin Powell. For him to take the stand under oath in front of the entirety of the United Nations and present Curveball as solid evidence is terrible. It just shows that if one man, or agency, fails to do their job properly there will be a domino effect of epic proportions. Powell probably didn't know that this information was sketchy, but as Secretary of State, you need to make sure that all evidence is concrete.

Powell dove in to this notion of Iraq hiding the WMDs by saying, "We know that Iraq has embedded key portions of its illicit chemical weapons infrastructure within its legitimate civilian industry. To all outward appearances, even to experts, the infrastructure looks like an ordinary civilian operation." It turns out it really was just legitimate civilian industry.

What is especially troubling about this whole scenario is the fact that the United Nations sent their team in Iraq to the facility in south-east Baghdad to check out what was really going on. When they got there, they noticed that the plant was different than Curveball had originally described it. This can be attributed to the fact that changes were made after he left the design process in 1995. The UN team then tested for any harmful biochemical substance and found nothing. However, the United States had a source and they ran with it anyway.

Curveball would later say that he did what he did because he saw what was happening to the people of Iraq under Saddam's brutal dictatorship. They were being tortured and murdered for no apparent reason, Saddam ruled with an iron fist. Again, I get this point of view. However, Curveball should have realized that what he was doing would effect the global balance of peace. Iraq is still not in a great place because of years of American occupation and now the rise of ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the region have them fighting a constant battle.

The biggest takeaway from this whole scenario is to not repeat the past. Hundreds of thousands of people died because one man wanted to get his green card. Families lost fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters due to this one man's lies. The CIA and all agencies in America need to work so that nothing like this ever happens again. 

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