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Yet more Iraq lies

The combination of bizarrely implausible factors that led to the United States-led and United Kingdom-backed invasion of Iraq in March 2003 has been exposed yet again by one of its own proponents. The Iraq-born former chemical engineer Alwan al-Janabi has told The Guardian in detail how, when approached by an official in the German security service, the BND, in March 2000, he made wildly inaccurate claims about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Mr. Janabi kept up the inventions for six months, and even thought they would go no further when the British and German secret services rejected his claim that the son of his former boss was a procurer of WMDs; the boy was in fact at school in the U.K. The ex-chemist says he was shocked when he heard his lies being repeated in the speech by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council. In that notorious speech, Mr. Powell made it clear that the invasion would proceed, and added more fictions about Baghdad's purchases of uranium ore from Niger and its links with al-Qaida.

Mr. Janabi says he was desperate for Iraq to be rid of Saddam Hussein and therefore uttered lie after lie about the regime. His capacity for invention is similar to that of the Bush administration's Iraqi favourite Ahmed Chalabi. But by saying that given the chance he would do the same again, he puts himself in the same class for self-exculpation as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Unlike Mr. Blair, however, he has not convinced himself that what he said about Iraq was true. What they both evade is the fact that if the evidence for WMDs had been strong enough, the U.N. would have been much more likely to legitimise further action against Iraq. Secondly, Mr. Janabi brings to light wider culpability for the war than is often acknowledged. Germany shared the lies with Washington; another blot on the record is that sceptical officers in the Central Intelligence Agency, as well as the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and security agencies, made no impression on either George W. Bush or his British counterpart. It is not just that the White House, faced with post-invasion catastrophe in Iraq, blamed the CIA for intelligence failures and then tried to wreck it from inside. Nor is it just that Mr. Blair never discussed the case for war in the Cabinet. Instead, Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair had a supporting chorus in large sections of the international media, and no British or American political institution could stop them. It remains highly unlikely that either of them will ever face justice over the 100,000 Iraqis who died for the indulgence of their fantasies.

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