We are a long way from being able to calmly tell the story of the Iraqi war, but it’s already clear, I think, that one of the major themes in any such history will be the ferocious battle waged by significant parts of the U.S. Government–notably the CIA and the State Department–against the Iraqi National Congress (INC), its leader Ahmad Chalabi, and its allies elsewhere in the government–notably the Pentagon. Part of that battle was the CIA’s very successful campaign to get gullible journalists to blame the INC for Iraqi sources who falsely claimed knowledge about Saddam’s various WMD programs. Since “Sixty Minutes” has now identified the guilty party, an Iraqi with no relationship to the INC, the INC seems to me fully justified in its public statement today, seething with righteous indignation:
INC STATEMENT ON ‘CURVEBALL’
BAGHDAD (4 November 2007): The release of the name of Iraqi defector known as Curveball by CBS News 60 Minutes is the final evidence that there is no link between this person and the Iraqi National Congress. The INC can state categorically that there has never been any person at any level of the INC who is related to anyone named Rafid Ahmed Alwan.
The CIA engaged in a smear campaign to link Curveball to the INC in order to deflect blame from its own failures in Iraq. These lies were repeated by media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Knight Ridder and others with no evidence or substantiation and no attempt by the reporters to check the truth. They have been most recently repeated in a book about Curveball. The INC calls upon these media organisations to publish corrections to the false information that has misled their readers.
Actually, I think those various media outlets can do even better. I think at this point, with the knowledge they were deceived, the folks who wrote the disinformation should identify their sources, so that their colleagues in the press will know to avoid them.