selling the dummy
Here’s an interesting question about the finally-released Senate Intelligence Committee Phase II report about the use of intelligence on Iraq. The “Shorter” for Phase II A is quite simply that “yes, it was all bollocks”, and specifically that it was all bollocks in the same way it was in the UK – caveats were removed, possibilities upped to certainties, dissent suppressed – with certain well-known exceptions that were complete nonsense. Phase II B deals with the infamous meeting in Rome between top-of-the-barrel rightwing nutcase Michael Ledeen, convicted spy Larry Franklin, all-purpose crook and bullshitter Manuchar Ghorbanifar, plus two Iranians, one of whom Ledeen claimed to be a disaffected Iranian spook on the run, but who may just have had a similar name (another man involved turned out not to exist, and another described as “an information peddler”, and an unknown number of spies from “a foreign government”. What a bunch.
The report should by rights be the final blow for Ledeen’s credibility and reputation, in so far as such things exist – it makes clear that he misrepresented the people present so that the Department of Defense would handle the meeting rather than the CIA (this was important because the CIA considered Ghorbanifar a liar and probably an Iranian spy), and that he also didn’t say that yer man was coming. Nor did he mention the others, because any involvement with Italian officials would have required the permission of the State Department, which presumably considered them all to be a bunch of nutters. Despite much black ink, it is clear from context that the “foreign government” was Italy.
Further, it reveals that US Army counter-intelligence agents suspected he was being used by Iranian intelligence, but that the investigation was killed off on instructions from Stephen Cambone after one month. That’s all impressive enough, and much as we all thought. But what I want to know is precisely where the British government comes in?
You may recall that the famous document that was meant to show Iraq buying uranium from Niger originated with the Italian secret service, and then appeared in yer dossier, just in time for the Americans to start using it in public speeches. It has long been suspected that the meeting in Rome was somehow involved in this exercise in policy-laundering, or rather bullshit-laundering. So how did the thing get from Italy to the UK? Well, there was Harold Rhode, also at the meeting, who made it to the December 2002 Iraqi opposition conference in London. That may give us some idea. Now that’s what I call the exigencies of the service – you’ve got to meet gems like Ledeen, Ghorbanifar, Chalabi, and Nick bleeding Cohen, plus every other Decent out of hospital at the time. It’s hell in the diplomatic, as Harry Flashman so wisely said.
It would be interesting to know if/when any of the other members of the Rome Secret Dining Club visited Britain between then and September 2002. As Mick Smith points out, the war is not over – the Defence Intelligence Staff just got post-Huttonised.