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  • EIGHT WEEKS after September 11, a pair of Americans entered the gleaming marble lobby of Beirut’s Intercontinental Hotel La Vendome, where they were greeted by a group of Iraqi expatriates. The Americans were reporters — New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges, who’d just been put on the Al Qaeda beat, and Christopher Buchanan, an associate producer of PBS’s Frontline — there to meet a mysterious Iraqi defector with information about Saddam Hussein’s secret weapons program. Hedges and Buchanan were ushered to an elegant suite overlooking the Mediterranean, where they interviewed Jamal al-Ghurairy, an Iraqi lieutenant general who had fled Iraq. Ghurairy claimed to have witnessed foreign Islamic militants training to hijack airplanes at an Iraqi terrorist training camp.

    Buchanan had been given the assignment just a few days earlier and knew very little about the interview’s subject. “It was all very hush-hush,” he says. “His life might be in danger. I didn’t know much else.” Buchanan recalls the general as thickset, “fierce looking,” and having a military bearing. “He looked the part,” he says. Hedges adds that the general “was definitely Iraqi and struck me as having spent a lot of time in the military.” The general’s entourage—including Nabeel Musawi, the political liaison of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which had arranged the interview—“were all wearing leather coats. They were slick and well organized,” says Buchanan. “Very well organized, very well set up,” Hedges concurs.

    The general hadn’t been told he’d be filmed, and it took Musawi almost an hour to persuade him to go on camera. The general himself then spent several minutes making sure his face would be blacked out when the tape rolled. The resulting television interview, for which Musawi acted as translator, was stilted and brief. It would become only a small segment of the Frontline piece, which also featured an interview with another INC-provided defector, Sabah Khodada, a former Iraqi captain whose identity was not concealed. Buchanan recalls that “as soon as the lights and camera were switched off, the general began to talk.” He says the general then spent more than an hour with Hedges in an adjoining room of the suite while he left the hotel to transmit the tape via satellite uplink. When Buchanan eventually returned to the empty suite, he found coffee cups and saucers filled with cigarette butts that he felt indicated an intense conversation. Hedges says that after the interview was completed, he “spoke to the U.S. embassy in Turkey”—where the general had fled after leaving Iraq—“and asked if the general was credible. They confirmed he had recently been debriefed.”

    Two days later the story that spun out on the front page of the New York Times was as shocking as it was convincing. Ghurairy claimed that as a senior intelligence official, he had witnessed foreign Arab fighters training to hijack airplanes at the Salman Pak military facility south of Baghdad. About 40 foreign nationals, Ghurairy said, were based there at any given time. “We were training these people to attack installations important to the United States. The Gulf War never ended for Saddam Hussein. He is at war with the United States,” the Times quoted Ghurairy as saying. Ghurairy also claimed a German scientist was working in a section of the base that produced biological agents. The report noted the role the INC had in setting up the interview, but no serious questions were raised about the general’s provenance.

    The impact of the article and the concurrent Frontline show, “Gunning for Saddam,” was immediate: Op-eds ran in major papers, and the story was taken to a wider audience through cable-TV talk shows. When Condoleezza Rice, then George W. Bush’s national security adviser, was asked about the story at a press briefing, she said, “I think it surprises no one that Saddam Hussein is engaged in all kinds of activities that are destabilizing.” Vanity Fair and the London Observer elaborated on Ghurairy’s claims; another version of the story appeared in the Washington Post courtesy of defector Khodada. The White House included the story of Salman Pak in its “Decade of Deception and Defiance” background paper prepared for President Bush’s September 12, 2002, speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Along with the tale of Mohammed Atta meeting Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague—another INC-hyped story—Ghurairy’s account helped establish the connection between Saddam and the 9/11 hijackers, making Iraq, like Afghanistan, a legitimate target for Bush’s war on terror.

    Unfortunately, the story was an elaborate scam. The purported general had indeed met with American intelligence agents in Turkey, but unbeknownst to Hedges the agents had dismissed his claims out of hand. What the reporters also didn’t know, and what has never before been reported, is that it now appears that the man himself was a fake. According to an ex-INC official, the Ghurairy who met with the Times and PBS was actually a former Iraqi sergeant, then living in Turkey and known by the code name Abu Zainab. The real Lt. General Ghurairy, it seems, had never left Iraq.......

    'Heroes in error'

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    • [b]'Heroes in error'[b]

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      • Just how hookwinked Americans were is underscored by this Mother Jones expose

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        • The Salvador option


          From January 2005:

          "..The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists....From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation..."

          The Pentagon may put Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq

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          • The Balkanization of Iraq has become more evident than ever with the recent sectarian violence, unleashed by last month's bombing of the Shi'ite Askariya shrine. Iraq is moving closer to a civil war and almost unavoidable disintegration, prompting serious but less-mentioned worries in Turkey.

            The generally accepted interpretation of Turkey's insistence on the unity of Iraq has been that an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq might in turn stoke separatist feelings among Turkey's own Kurds. This interpretation might hold some truth, but only when looking at the issue from such a limited perspective that overshadows Turkey's other concerns, which include important strategic assessments, and further limits understanding the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party's Iraq policy....

            Balkanization of Iraq and Turkey's real concerns

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            • U.N. hopes of stepping up its activities in Iraq are still on hold due to the violence across the country and the risk of U.N. staff becoming targets, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Tuesday.

              Efforts to reinforce the world body's presence in satellite offices in Basra in the south and Erbil in the north appear to have failed because no country will provide the aircraft needed to ferry staff safely in and out of those cities, Annan said.....

              Violence keeps UN expansion in Iraq on hold: Annan

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              • The US Forces in Iraq have recently released former Iraqi Minister of Military Production, Abdultawab Haweesh, and Foreign Undersecretary, Saad Al Faisal.

                Radio Sawa said Al Huwaish and Al Faisal left Baghdad soon after being released and headed to a European capital. It is noteworthy that the former Minister of Military production was on the list of the 55 most wanted officials of the former Iraqi regime.

                US forces release two former Iraqi officials

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                • While much has been made of the recent poll showing that a majority of U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq think we should get out – heartening news for all those who oppose Bush's bloodsoaked war crime – the poll contained another revelation that should disturb anyone – anti-war or pro-war – who still believes in American democracy: the fact that some 85 percent of US forces in Iraq believe they are fighting to avenge Saddam Hussein's role in the September 11 attacks....

                  ....Saddam Hussein played no role in the September 11 attacks, of course; even the Warmonger-in-Chief has been forced to admit this indisputable fact, in public. It has also been confirmed by multiple investigations by the intelligence services, and even by the whitewashing, Bush-run, see-no-evil-unless-it-speaks-Arabic 9/11 Commission. Yet American troops have been thoroughly inculcated with this false notion – no doubt deliberately....

                  Fighting for their lies: The deadly delusions of America's troops

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                  • A controversial Kuwait-based construction firm accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-torn Iraq is now building the new $592-million U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Once completed, the compound will likely be the biggest, most fortified diplomatic compound in the world.

                    Some 900 workers live and work for First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC) on the construction site of the massive project. Undoubtedly, they have been largely pulled from ranks of low-paid laborers flooding into Iraq from Asia's poorest countries to work under U.S. military and reconstruction projects.

                    Meanwhile, their boss, Wadih al-Absi jets back and forth to the United States, dreaming of magazine covers celebrating his rise to a global player in large-scale engineering and construction....

                    Baghdad embassy bonanza

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                    • US says to close Iraq‘s Abu Ghraib prison

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                      • The Iraqi authorities have hanged 13 people accused of taking part in the insurgency, the first execution of militants since the US-led invasion....

                        Iraq hangs 13 for 'insurgency role'

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                        • Contentious as the current debate over Iraq is, all sides seem to make the crucial assumption that to succeed there the United States must fight the Vietnam War again -- but this time the right way. The Bush administration is relying on an updated playbook from the Nixon administration. Pro-war commentators argue that Washington should switch to a defensive approach to counterinsurgency, which they feel might have worked wonders a generation ago. According to the antiwar movement, the struggle is already over, because, as it did in Vietnam, Washington has lost hearts and minds in Iraq, and so the United States should withdraw....

                          Seeing Baghdad, thinking Saigon

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                          • In Iraq, defeat stares us in the face. Efforts to "Iraq-ize" the campaign to crush the Sunni insurgency have the U.S. war effort sinking under the weight of its own implausibility, and American policymakers are flailing around in search of an alternative. As U.S. casualties mount and the specter of civil war materializes into a bloody reality, political support for the war on the home front is rapidly evaporating: a whopping 63 percent now say the invasion of Iraq "was not worth it," and even the troops in the field are coming around to the opinion that the best policy is to cut our losses and get out.

                            To circumvent this growing demand for withdrawal, the War Party has come up with a number of alternate plans, all of which involve a continued U.S. military presence. Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, has advocated what might be called the "downlow" strategy: withdraw to secure bases and attempt to protect the Iraqi civilian population from the consequences of spreading sectarian violence.

                            Seymour Hersh has reported that the plan now gaining favor is to keep a lower profile on the ground, while escalating the air war – with the idea that the Shi'ite-dominated central government and its supporters in the field would essentially act as spotters for U.S. warplanes, much as the Kosovo "Liberation" Army was used to home in on Serbian targets during Clinton's Balkan adventure and the "Northern Alliance" was utilized as the eyes and ears of the Americans during the initial stages of the Afghan war.....

                            Biddle's Pivot: The ominous implications of a new strategy for winning the war in Iraq


                            This article is a criticism of the Biddle piece posted above.

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                            • Those who say Iraq is nothing like Vietnam have another guess coming, says retired U.S. General William Odom. He lists striking similarities and asserts that only after it pulls out of Iraq can the U.S. hope for international support to deal with anti-Western forces.....

                              Iraq through the prism of Vietnam

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                              • The United States always has planned to transfer authority for all detention facilities in Iraq to the Iraqis, but announcements regarding the imminent closure at the Abu Ghraib prison are premature, defense officials said today.

                                News reports that the U.S. military intends to close Abu Ghraib within the next few months and to transfer its prisoners to other jails are inaccurate, officials said....

                                U.S. has no immediate plans to close Abu Ghraib prison

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