I retired in 2010 after a 27-year career with the CIA and for the first 20 years of my career, I was a senior political and media analyst with the CIA’s open source arm. That department monitors and translates speeches by foreign leaders, newspaper editorials and other foreign news of interest to US policymakers.
Our job was to analyze the speeches of foreign leaders and the political spin of foreign media content and help the policymakers we worked with understand the implications for US policy and interests. It was exciting, challenging and very interesting work.
In early 2003, just prior to the launching of the US attack on Iraq, I was the senior analyst in charge of Iraqi media at the Open Source Center. The political atmosphere around the Beltway had become very charged amid allegations that Saddam Husayn possessed WMD and there were active efforts afoot to link him to al-Qa’ida and the events of 9-11. The drumbeat for war was in full swing.
One morning I received a telephone call from the office of then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asking us to find media reportage of meetings between al-Qaida representatives and Iraqi officials. There was a strong implication in the way the tasking was conveyed to me that a meeting between the two sides had, in fact, taken place - possibly in Prague - and that we needed to find the evidence.
I gave the tasking my highest priority. I immediately contacted our overseas bureau in the Middle East in charge of monitoring and translating Iraqi media. We had the monitors/translators undertake an exhaustive search of all relevant Iraqi media reports in our archives that might contain such information. We also leveraged other resources available to us in Baghdad so that they could check on lesser known Iraq media sources - we pulled out all the stops.
About 2 weeks later, we received a definitive response - there was no evidence in Iraqi media of any such relationship between al-Qaida and Saddam Husayn’s regime. I promptly reported this information to Wolfowitz’s office. I assumed that was the end of the matter.
However, about a week later Wolfowitz’s office phoned us again, asking for the same thing - media evidence of an Iraqi government link with al-Qaida. So I again marshaled all the resources we had and dedicated some of our overseas staff to a full-time search. Again the finding was negative.
Again I reported this back. Unbelievably, a few weeks the request came to us a third time. It was slowly dawning on me that we were not providing his office with the answer they wanted. We were being subjected to political pressure. We had already expended many hours and many US tax dollars on this search - and I trusted our seasoned media professionals when they said there was no evidence of these allegations.
So I asked Wolfowitz’s office where they had heard that a meeting between al-Qa’ida and Iraqi officials had taken place - in the hopes that this might aid our search. However, I never received a response to my request.
Of course, we now know that these allegations were pure fiction, as were the allegations that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.
By 2006 - three years into the war on Iraq — the Bush administration officially admitted it had no evidence of any Iraqi role in the 9-11 attacks. Nevertheless, the US continues to devastate that country, to this very day.
It is time to face the truth and hold our leaders to account for the terrible war crimes committed against the Iraqi people. And it is time for the United States to withdraw from Iraq and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their country free of foreign interference.
That is why I have shared my experience with The People's Tribunal on the Iraq War – as my testimony to the lies that led to the mass murder of so many innocent people. It is my hope that the truth uncovered by the Tribunal will enable a national reckoning and help us hold our leaders accountable for the past and present war crimes committed against the nation of Iraq – crimes which could not have been committed in the absence of the lies that were told to the American people.