In his article in the July issue of Vanity Fair, “The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed,” Craig Unger, author of “House of Saud,” writes that it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. “But in fact,” he states, “it is far more likely that the war in Iraq started because of an extraordinary intelligence success – specificall~ an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain’s M.I.6 intelligence service and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.”
Referring to the robbery of the Niger embassy in Rome on Jan. 2/ 2001/ Unger contends that the consequences of the robbery “were so great that the Watergate break-in pales in comparison,” and that the robbery was the beginning of a covert operation to deceive the American public into war with Iraq by fabricating false information about Saddam Hussein’s alleged attempt to buy hundreds of tons of yellowcake from Niger.
Shortly after the robbery forged dossiers began popping up in intelligence agencies all over the world, reports Unger, a development that led eventually to the inclusion of the 16- word reference to the alleged threat of nuclear weapons from Saddam that appeared in George W. Bush’s State of the Union address.
Even after information in the dossiers was repeatedly rejected by the CIA and the State Department, writes Unger, hawkish neocons managed to circumvent seasoned intelligence analysts and insert the Niger claims into Bush’s State of the Union address.
By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, in March 2003, this apparent black-propaganda operation had helped convince more than 90 percent of the American people that a brutal dictator was developing W.M.D. – and had led us into war.
Unger cites nine former military and intelligence analysts who maintain that the Niger documents “were part of a covert operation to deliberately mislead the American public,” as well as at least 14 instances prior to the State of the Union in which CIA analysts, the State Department, and other governmental agencies “had examined the Niger documents or reports about them [and] raised serious doubts about their legitimacy – only to be rebuffed by Bush administration officials who wanted to use the material.”
“‘They were just relentless'” explained Col. Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, who later prepared Powells call to war before the United Nations General Assembly. “You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique – ruthless relentlessness.” It’s common knowledge that the neocons in and around the Bush Administration had been advocating regime change in Iraq for years, some of them long saying that they needed another Pearl Harbor to mobilize the United States against Saddam Hussein. “Now it had taken place,” writes Unger, and after 9/11 “the Niger operation went into overdrive.”