First in a series: “Bush” vs. Bush

“Bush” is a creation of the morbid Leftist imagination, a voodoo doll now shaken over the cereal bowl in the morning and over the covers at night before bed, haunting the believers in the pure evil of “Bush” even into their sleep. It’s ridiculous.

Bush, on the other hand, is a reasonably sharp individual with pretty good instincts who has had hard matters in front of him since becoming president (the bursting of the dot.com stock bubble, for instance), but especially since September 11, 2001.

From today’s Wall Street Journal comes a clearer account of “Curveball,” the code name for the Iraqi national who was a principal intelligence source on Iraq’s WMDs for the West (you’ll see why I say the West and not simply the U.S. as you read):

According to media legend, Curveball was a creation of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who headed the exiled Iraqi National Congress before Saddam’s overthrow. That notion was destroyed in 2005 with the bipartisan Robb-Silberman report on intelligence. But the myth persists in many circles that, through Curveball, Mr. Chalabi had conned his neocon friends, who in turn had conned President Bush, who in turn had pressured a reluctant but spineless CIA into giving him the “intelligence” he needed to make the case for war.

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.”

Read the whole thing for more of the story. But the essence of it is that the intelligence was believed to be reliable by the Germans, didn’t involve sinister scheming by Chalabi or the conniving neocons, and certainly was not something that “Bush” invented, nor something that Bush could ignore.

Even here though, in this revealing account of Curveball’s provenance within Western intelligence circles, there is a suggestion that we — the West in general, the U.S. specifically — need to wring our hands and beat ourselves up over our motivations for removing the Hussein regime in Iraq.

In coming installments of “Bush” vs. Bush I’m going to demonstrate precisely why there is no need to beat ourselves up and, further, why the decision to remove the Hussein regime, even in the light of wrongly perceived facts about the regime’s WMDs, was the right choice.

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