More u2018Shaky' Intelligence Claims?

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by Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) by Jim Grichar

One week after the capture of Saddam Hussein, the London Telegraph reported that contrary to first impressions Saddam was u2018… actively involved in directing attacks on the U.S. forces…' in Iraq. First reports from the U.S. military indicated that Saddam was not in control of any of the post-war attacks on U.S. forces and that he was only receiving briefings on the results of attacks on various U.S. and other foreign interests in Iraq.

According to the Telegraph reporter, who was listed as filing his story from Baghdad, subsequent information gathered by U.S. investigators indicated that Saddam was heading an elaborate network of guerrillas by working through five very high-ranking Iraqi intelligence officers who executed his instructions. The Telegraph reporter directly quoted only one U.S. Army officer in his report – Major Stan Murphy, who serves as the intelligence officer for the 4th Infantry Division's First Brigade, and Major Murphy stated that the five Iraqi intelligence officers “… knew where he (i.e., Saddam) was and they were able to travel to him or meet him somewhere.” These five officers (from Tikrit, Saddam's home village) reportedly passed Saddam's commands to lower level officials who then had others, in various guerrilla cells, execute various attacks. To back this up further, the Telegraph reported that u2018… millions of dollars to support the insurgency were recovered in raids on other suspected Saddam safe houses.'

While this information may lead some to conclude that Saddam was indeed actively involved in directing the post-war insurgency (the reporter used this word, as “counter-insurgency” would imply that the coalition illegally invaded Iraq), other interpretations are possible, and this makes the intelligence gained thus far about Saddam's activities rather shaky. And it raises the further question of why U.S. officials would deliberately release such information about Saddam's alleged direct involvement in the insurgency to the press.

Questions

Some intelligence officials and other investigators – including military intelligence officers – could readily claim that Saddam was only carrying the briefing materials in his possession in order to conduct an elaborate ruse – that is, to fool Americans into believing that he was only receiving reports and not actively involved in planning and directing the attacks – if he were captured.

The perspective sounds quite plausible until you begin to analyze the information reportedly gathered about Saddam and his henchmen. One question, which the Telegraph reporter inadvertently raised but did not ask, was how Saddam could be accused of running the insurgency operation if he were only giving general guidance. The Army Major was quoted as saying, “He (i.e., Saddam – author's note) would give very general guidance, like u2018Hey, I'd like to see more attacks. His enablers (meaning the five senior Iraqi intelligence officials from Tikrit) would then go out to the various tiers below them and give specific guidance, money and weapons.” Even Don Corleone in “The Godfather” gave specific instructions on who to punish and who to reward, and “The Don” was usually involved in approving the actual plans for executing his instructions. No evidence has been reported thus far showing Saddam's dictation of specific instructions on the who, what, when, where, and how of attacks on U.S. forces.

Maybe the U.S. military is keeping such information classified so as to catch more of Saddam's henchmen, but then you have to ask why information about Saddam's involvement would have been deliberately revealed to the press if the information were critical to catching more of his henchmen.

Cui Bono?

One explanation is possible for the real motive behind revealing such shaky intelligence to the press, but it can only be inferred and not readily confirmed. In another article in the same issue, the Telegraph also reported that any Iraqi trial of Saddam would take up to five years before reaching a verdict if international criminal court procedures were followed. Such a lengthy trial could prove extremely embarrassing, to say the least, not only for the current Bush Administration but also other major international leaders who cooperated with Saddam in some of his earlier activities for which he may be charged with war crimes.

According to the Telegraph, one prominent Baghdad attorney who has offered his services pro bono to Saddam, stated, “This tribunal will embarrass Bush the father and that will be bad for Bush the son. Saddam will talk and the whole world will be able to listen.”

A veteran French attorney – who defended the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and who is now representing captured former Iraqi Vice President Tariq Aziz – hinted that “… Saddam's defence would highlight the international support he received while, for example, gassing Kurds at Halabja.” This attorney also visited Tariq Aziz's relations, now living in Amman, Jordan, and is reported to have said, “‘all Western heads of state” from that era should also go on trial if Saddam ended up in the dock."

All of which brings us back to the first article, about Saddam being involved in directing attacks on the U.S. forces in Iraq. As the author of that article stated, "This conclusion could have serious implications for his (i.e., Saddam's) status in United States custody. American officials have made clear that he will lose his rights as a prisoner of war if he was involved in the post-war violence." Does this also mean that the U.S. would then try Saddam itself and not allow him to be tried by an Iraqi court? Would Saddam be placed in a status similar to that of those now being held in Guantanamo Bay, a situation in which he would be presumably be held indefinitely by the U.S.? Would Saddam instead be tried by a U.S. military court?

Grabbing control of trying Saddam for various post-Iraqi war crimes sounds like a convenient way of taking jurisdiction away from an Iraqi court, a court that would apparently allow Saddam to indict the past and present Bush Administrations as well as a number of other past or present leaders.

As in all deliberate intelligence leaks to the press, readers should always ask themselves the question, “cui bono,” or, “who benefits,” from the leak. Whether or not the Bush Administration actually is worried about what Saddam would say in a lengthy trial, the timing of the press leak, the deliberate public quotation from a military officer involved in the investigation, and the tentative nature of the information itself make the whole affair smell fishy.

Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government, writes to “un-spin” the federal government’s attempt to con the public. He teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides economic consulting services to the private sector.

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