April 2, 2008


From WSJ, Curveball Revisited, March 29, 2008; Page A8

In the long history of U.S. intelligence fiascos, few have been as minutely examined as the "Curveball" episode – the source whose fraudulent claims were largely responsible for the pre-Iraq War view that Saddam Hussein possessed biological weapons. So it's worth noting what a new, remarkable report from the German magazine Der Spiegel tells us about the spy who lied...

....But Curveball was nobody's stooge. On the contrary, he is Rafid Ahmed Alwan, an opportunistic Iraqi asylum-seeker who came to Germany in 1999. His claims to having inside knowledge of Saddam's illicit weapons program quickly made him a prized asset of Germany's intelligence service, the BND. So convinced were the Germans of the reliability of his information that in the fall of 2001 they purchased 35 million doses of smallpox vaccine for fear of what Saddam might be cooking up.

More remarkable is that even after September 11 – when then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder promised "infinite solidarity" with the U.S. – the German government refused to allow the CIA to interview Curveball in person. Often, the Germans resorted to dishonest pretexts for their lack of cooperation, such as that Curveball didn't speak English, when in fact he spoke it fluently (and as if nobody in the CIA spoke German or Arabic). "It was a blockade that made it impossible for any other service to validate his information," David Kay, who ran the Iraq Survey Group that looked for WMD after the war, told Der Spiegel.

BND nonetheless sent some 100 reports about Curveball's information to the CIA. And while doubts about Curveball's credibility began to emerge on both sides of the Atlantic as early as 2000, the Germans persisted in believing him. In November 2002, according to Der Spiegel, Curveball's disclosures formed the centerpiece of a top secret briefing by the BND to the foreign affairs committee of the German parliament. This caused one of those who were briefed to note the "enormous discrepancy between the public statements made by the government" – which opposed the war and downplayed the Iraq threat – "and the knowledge it had in its possession."...

I don't really care about this in regards to our decisions--I think we had plentiful reasons both moral and practical to liberate Iraq. But it is very interesting as a psychological window into the nihilism of most of Europe. Germany believed that Saddam posed a huge danger to them and the world---believed it enough to purchase 25 million doses of smallpox vaccine. And yet, amazingly, at the same time, Germany was eager to prevent us from doing anything about it! That seems insane.

(Regular readers already know where I'm going here...feel free to skip.)

But it's not actually insane if you follow my thinking about these things. (And I'd be happy to entertain alternate theories, or critiques of my logic.) My theory is that the amorphous leftism (what we Americans usually call "liberalism") that is the norm in Europe's governing classes and much of its population, is now being worn as a disguise, to cover up the complete lack of any real beliefs. To conceal nihilism.

It was precisely because they believed or suspected that Iraq was a real threat that the bulk of the world's leftists hated the idea of taking any military action. (And regardless of how things turned out, it looked in 2002 like Iraq was a big threat, with a large well-equipped military, active WMD programs, and active sponsorship of many terrorist groups.)

The invasion of Iraq posed a huge existential threat to the left, because it was implicitly a blow in defense of Western civilization, and our own interests. It was saying that we believe that our world is worth fighting for. It said that we believe in our Western and liberal values, such as the value of liberating people from a hideous fascist tyranny. It is belief that is a threat to the nihilist.

Posted by John Weidner at April 2, 2008 11:51 AM
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