Colin Powell and the Great "Intelligence" Fraud
Posted: Saturday, February 15, 2003
by ALEXANDER COCKBURN
ABSTRACT: Condition Orange as a Way of Life; Colin Powell and the Great "Intelligence" Fraud; Recipes from the Donner Party; One More Look at Lerner; Return to Blackhawk Down [Full Text]
"there was the British intelligence report, sent by Tony Blair to Powell who commended it in his UN speech as particularly "fine". The report turned out to be a series of plagiarisms from old articles from Jane's, and from a paper on Iraqi politics written by a student called Ibrahim al Marashi, at the Monterey Institute for International Studies.
The Marashi plagiarism represents an intrusive parable on how "intelligence" reports actually get put together, to fulfill a political agenda. From some enterprising work by freelance reporter Kenneth Raposa who worked on the Iraqi Dossier story for the Boston Globe, it emerges that Marashi himself comes from a Shi'a family in Baltimore, Md. He's never visited Iraq and is keen to see Saddam toppled by US invasion.
Marashi's essay was published in the Middle East Review of International Affairs in Sept 2002, a scholarly magazine run by the GLORIA Center (acronym for Global Research in International Affairs Center) in Herzliya, Israel. Its director is Barry Rubin, who has also been a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy -- an Israel policy think tank. Rubin is part of the coterie--which includes Daniel Pipes, Michael Ledeen, and the arch conspirator Richard Perle--who have been pressing for a US attack on Iraq.
Marashi told Raposa that the documents on which he had based his paper had been given him by Kenaan Makiya, a well-known Iraqi exile, and proponent of invasion, much favored by Powell's own State Department. Makiya claims to have some 4 million pages of documents seized from northern Iraq after
Operation Desert Storm.
So here we have a politically-inspired document, spliced together by a Shi'a student, published by an Israeli-based think-tank hot for war, swiped off the web by Blair's harried minions and served up to Powell as a masterpiece of British intelligence collection from MI6.
Quite aside from the welcome damage done to Powell's credibility and to the war party in general, the Marashi saga vividly reminds us of just how much rubbish has been served up to the American people in the guise of reliable "intelligence". Remember how back amid the build-up to the last Iraqi war, the Pentagon invoked satellite photos of 265,000 Iraqi troops massed to invade Saudi Arabia.
Jean Heller, a journalist from the St Petersburg Times in Florida persuaded her newspaper to buy two photos at $1,600 each from the Russian commercial satellite, the Soyuz Karta. No troops showed up on the photos. "You could see the planes sitting wing tip to wing tip in Riyadh airport," Ms Heller says, "but there wasn't was any sign of a quarter of a million Iraqi troops sitting in the middle of the desert."
The ridicule now being showered on Powell's Iraq Dossier won't slow up the production of these ridiculous documents or hinder the endless flourishing of supposedly conclusive satellite photography or communications intercepts. If war does come, we can be sure there will be repetitions of the "misinterpretations" and "tragic errors" of the 1991 onslaught.
When my brother Patrick drove from Amman to Baghdad back at the end of the 1991 onslaught he passed the hulks of oil tankers bombed to bits under the claim they were mobile SCUD launchers. The single biggest atrocity of that war was the US bombing of the Almariya shelter in Baghdad. The Pentagon claimed it was a top secret military command center. It wasn't. Absent its intended occupants, university professors and technocrats, ordinary Iraqi mothers and children had taken shelter there. Just another intelligence screw-up, with several hundred dead mothers and kids as the price.
And yes, we are in the wake of the greatest intelligence failure in American history, for which not one intelligence head rolled. Instead they gave the CIA even more money, and yes, it's grateful chief George Tenet sitting beside Powell in the UN Security Council. He should have been too ashamed to show his face in public."
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