Sunday, March 28, 2010

What we knew

On March 20, 2003 -- seven years and eight days ago -- the US and its small retinue of allies invaded Iraq. At the time, I was communicating with a fellow translator based in Israel about some Excel macro I was trying to explain to him. After a brief break in communication, he wrote back again, explaining he was having to perform military service now.

He had been mentioning his concern about possible attacks from Iraq on Israel, and I remember telling him he needn't worry -- because Iraq could not reach Israel. Recently, I came across that e-mail when erasing my private data on an old computer. Here's the German, written seven years ago today:

Ich wollte dir sowieso irgendwann sagen, daß der Irak meines Wissens Israel nicht erreichen kann. Ich bin natürlich kein Spion mit Insiderwissen, aber - um ein Beispiel zu nennen - Tatsache ist, daß die Scudraketen, von denen in den Medien häufig die Rede ist, bereits Anfang der 90er abgebaut wurden - die Rakaten, die der Irak jetzt abfeuert, sind keine Scuds. Es wird eben heutzutage durch die Bank gelogen - Bush & Co. stehen Hussein in nichts nach - und ich kann's kaum mehr aushalten.

Which could be translated into English as:

I've been meaning to tell you that I don't believe that Iraq can reach Israel. Naturally, I am not a spy with any insider knowledge, but -- to take just one example -- it is a fact that the SCUD missiles currently being talked about in the media so much were actually dismantled at the beginning of the 90s. The missiles that Iraq is now shooting off are not SCUDs. It seems like there's a lot of lying going on these days, and Bush & Co. are hardly closer to the truth than Hussein. It's all driving me nuts.

I know that a lot of people say they felt misled into believing that Iraq had weapons of mass distraction, but I never bought it, and it seems to me that there was enough evidence publicly available all along to draw that conclusion. I'm afraid, however, that I never published my doubt that we would find WMD. Basically, I was sure that we would plant something. What surprised me was not that we did not find WMD, but that we admitted not finding anything.

And according to a review in the New Yorker of a book recently published by a speechwriter from the Bush administration, we are no closer to the truth today:

In order to make the case that America was blind to the threat of Al Qaeda in the days before 9/11, Thiessen skips over the scandalous amount of intelligence that reached the Bush White House before the attacks. In February, 2001, the C.I.A.’s director, George Tenet, called Al Qaeda “the most immediate and serious threat” to the country. Richard Clarke, then the country’s counterterrorism chief, tried without success to get Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national-security adviser, to hold a Cabinet-level meeting on Al Qaeda. Thomas Pickard, then the F.B.I.’s acting director, has testified that Attorney General John Ashcroft told him that he wanted to hear no more about Al Qaeda. On August 6, 2001, Bush did nothing in response to a briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” As Tenet later put it, “The system was blinking red...”

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