Written by Will Porter

Since the cataclysmic events that took place on the morning of September 11th 2001, an extended series of consequences have unfolded with an alarming rapidity. Between vast escalations of military activity abroad, the passing of draconian laws, like the Patriot Act and the NDAA, the instituting of the Department of Homeland Security, and the ramping up of domestic spy programs through the NSA, 9/11 has served as a catalyst for a radical change in how America conducts itself, both at home and around the world. In the weeks and months following the incident, the American people were bombarded with a veritable hurricane of bold-faced lies and assertions based on dubious “intelligence”. Before they could begin to wrap their heads around the significance of the events taking place around them, their government had already set plans into motion to wage a decades-long military conflict in the Middle East, a conflict which rages at full force to this day. In fact, recent developments in Iraq regarding the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS, elevate the issue of the 2003 Iraq War to the utmost importance.

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Among the general populace, a widely-accepted narrative has developed which attempts to make sense of all that has happened since September 11th. Very broadly, the narrative contends that Islamic extremists have declared war on the United States, and this alone serves to explain and justify the long string of wars that have been waged in the name of the global “War on Terrorism” ever since. What’s most surprising about the public narrative is that it offers almost no explanation at all of how or why Iraq was implicated in the 2001 terror attacks on New York and DC. At best, the accepted storyline suggests only a vague connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, or the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Any substantial explanation of this tie, however, has seemingly fallen away into the ethereal memory hole of American historical conscience.
Of all the oft-repeated talking points which comprise the terror war narrative, the question of the highest importance almost always goes unasked: why exactly did the United States wage war against Iraq in the first place? It is extremely peculiar that the largest-scale, most significant conflict to date in the war on terrorism has no widely-understood explanation. Those who have paid the highest price to initiate this war, the American people, seem to be the least informed on the matter. It is because of this lack of understanding regarding Iraq in particular that the terror war was ever able to get underway, and, indeed, build up a seemingly unstoppable momentum.

On this 13th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and in light of the recent escalation of hostilities in Iraq related to the Islamic State, it is vital to return to these basic questions. How did this happen? Who was involved? What connections, if any, existed between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers? What justifications were given to go into Iraq in the first place? After more than a decade, the American people still cannot provide firm answers to such questions. To understand the broader war on terror, and how it came to dominate American foreign policy, it is necessary to fill in the blanks of the official narrative, as well as overturn some of the prevailing falsehoods about Iraq and its connection to 9/11.

In basic terms, the official US government justification for the Iraq War goes something like this: Saddam Hussein was a supporter of not only the 9/11 hijackers, but of terrorism in general. On top of this connection is the somewhat separate claim that Hussein was actively pursuing ”weapons of mass destruction,” using “mobile bio-weapons labs,” and “aluminum tubes” for centrifuges in his reconstituted nuclear weapons program. Attempts were also made to link the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohammad Atta, to Iraqi intelligence in an alleged meeting in Prague. Later, additional allegations derived from “Israeli security sources” assert that an Iraqi agent furnished Atta with an “anthrax flask” at the same meeting. This anthrax was, in turn, said to be related to the September 2001 anthrax-letter attacks targeting media outlets as well as Senators Patrick Leahy and Thomas Daschle (who both, coincidentally, happened to oppose the invasion of Iraq). This “anthrax in Prague” story was touted as solid proof of Iraqi complicity with the 9/11 attackers. Finally, but no less important, we have the documents, discovered by an Italian intelligence agency, which were claimed to prove Saddam’s attempt to procure 500 tons of yellowcake uranium from Niger.
As we shall see, absolutely none of this has any resemblance to truth or reality. Through a complex network of government officials—primarily connected to the Pentagon, and the office of VP Cheney—media pundits and journalists—such as Judith Miller and others at the New York Times, also the neocon PNAC crowd at the Weekly Standard—as well as foreign sources—Iraqi ex-pats and Israeli intelligence—the Iraq War was set off without a hitch, built upon a grand web of deception.

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An important link in this chain of lies is the Pentagon-created Office of Special Plans. This agency, indeed, lies at the very heart of the War Party push to invade Iraq. Through this office, established in 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld and directed by Abram Shulsky, “intelligence” was funneled into important or influential places, such as the office of Vice President Cheney via his Chief of Staff, Louis “Scooter” Libby, and leaked to Bill Kristol’s neocon rag, the Weekly Standard. Also heavily involved in the OSP’s activities were neocon underlings Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, whose prior informal intelligence operations were officially codified in the creation of the OSP. The information disseminated from this office was carefully cherry-picked and highly exaggerated, with much of it gleaned from Iraqi expat group the Iraqi National Congress (INC), led by Ahmed Chalabi, the War Party’s’ loyal sock puppet in the long series of US-Iraq conflicts.

Chalabi, the darling of the neocons, was selected by administration war hawks as early as the Gulf War to lead the Iraqi political march to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Exiled from Iraq, and a convicted bank fraudster, Chalabi weaseled his way into high positions in the post-Saddam Iraqi state after helping the Bush Administration successfully bamboozle their way into war. Later on, it was discovered that he’d realigned his loyalties to betray the War Party, but it was Chalabi and his INC who provided many of the sources of intelligence which were vital in the push for invasion. For example, in a New York Times piece by Judith Miller, she cites a meeting, set up by the INC, with an “Iraqi defector,” claiming there to be “renovations at sites for chemical and nuclear arms” in Saddam’s Iraq. In the end, nothing about the “aluminum tubes,” the “arms sites,” the “mobile weapons labs” turned out to be true. These particular lies, among others, are officially debunked by a 2004 Senate Report (download PDF in link). None of the information used to bolster the WMD claims held any weight, and a large portion of the US intelligence community had said so all along. While it remains remotely possible this was all an accident, a result of mistaken intelligence, it seems much more likely that it was, instead, intelligence deliberately concocted in order to send the nation (back) to war, to finish the job started in the 1991 Gulf War.

Official skepticism toward Bush Administration claims of Saddam’s weapons, as well as his ties to terror is illustrated in a leaked secret UK intelligence document showing high-ranking UK officials expressing concern over whether the US government was “fixing” intelligence around a pro-war policy, rather than a policy around intelligence. This appears to be precisely what occurred. Additionally, before, during, and after the war, a multitude of intelligence sources, as well as journalists, conveyed skepticism toward the dubious claims of weapons and ties to terror. There certainly were dissenting voices in the lead up to the war; these voices simply went unheeded and unheard, at least until after the invasion. The mainstream media chose, instead, to create an echo chamber for the flurry of false claims emanating from the tightly-knit group of neo-conservatives in high office and positions of public influence.

Also proven false in the 2004 Senate Report are the allegations of Saddam attempting to purchase yellowcake uranium from the Nigerian government in 1999-2000. The documents passed along from Italian intelligence, in fact, turned out to be crude forgeries! By 2002, the CIA, among other agencies, expressed doubts about the information contained in the documents, yet this didn’t stop President Bush from invoking it in his State of the Union address of January 2003! Indeed, the CIA’s skepticism, at every turn, was either discounted or completely circumnavigated in order to push this particular piece of intelligence. Of extreme intrigue is the evidence seeming to prove a connection between Pentagon (and OSP) officials, Ahmed Chalabi, and the Italian intelligence agency, SISME, who initially produced the Niger documents. It suggests that here, too, the same cabal of neo-conservative war hawks were involved in the dissemination, and possibly even the creation, of this fabricated piece of intelligence, all coordinated during meetings held in Rome.

Finally—for sake of space-limitations here I cannot fully elaborate—it should also be noted that the more recent scandal involving the controversial outing of undercover agent Valerie Plame has heavy ties to her and her husband’s investigations of the forged Niger documents in the run-up to the Iraq War. One might speculate that their Niger investigations probed too close to the truth, rubbing those in power the wrong way.

Another key example of botched intelligence is the claim of the meeting in Prague between Mohammad Atta and Iraqi intelligence, as well as the later attempt to link this meeting with the 2001 anthrax-letter attacks—a secondary result of which was to help along the passage of the totalitarian US Patriot Act. The Prague meeting was initially reported by Czech officials, although there were many conflicting accounts where different Czech officials claimed the opposite. An interesting parenthetical note, when Dick Cheney cited these reports in a TV interview to confirm the 9/11-Iraq tie, he refers to “Czechoslovakia,” a country which had no longer existed since Czech-Slovak split in 1993. This certainly could have been a simple slip of the tongue, but it seems quite strange that, assuming Cheney himself had seen the Czech report, that it’d be fresh enough in his mind to at least get the country’s name right! Nevertheless, a 2006 Select Committee on Intelligence report repeats the conclusion made among US intelligence circles that the Prague meeting was dubious at best, definitely not solid enough base an invasion on. Since this meeting likely never occurred, there is no need to provide further evidence to disprove the claim, sourced from “Israeli security,” that a flask full of anthrax was given to Atta during the meeting.

Aside from the Prague-anthrax connection, further attempts were made to link the anthrax-letter attacks to both the 9/11 hijackers and, again, to Iraq. The letters themselves contained messages that were deliberately suggestive of hijacker involvement, proclaiming “09-11-01, this is next,” adding “Death to America, death to Israel” for dramatic flair. Certain journalists made a big, evidence-free ruckus over the potential Iraq and/or 9/11 hijacker connection, yet nothing ever came of it. Despite the massive FBI probe into the case, no definitive answers were ever provided as to who was responsible. The total incompetency of the FBI, however, didn’t stop independent journalists from delving into the case themselves. From these investigations came a series of very strange discoveries, not the least of which was the fact that the weaponized anthrax strains used in the letter-attacks originated in US Army labs! Although two different people were selected as “fall-men,” the baseless accusations against neither of them stuck. The second of the two, one Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Egyptian-American scientist, worked at the Fort Detrick facility from which samples of anthrax, among other dangerous biological compounds, went missing years before the letter-attacks. In seemingly unrelated events at Fort Detrick, Dr. Assaad’s colleagues, primarily a group of researchers led by a man named Phillip Zack, engaged in bizarre and juvenile harassments directed against him. This same Phillip Zack was a suspect in a 1992 internal Army inquiry, thought to be making unauthorized access, by cover of night, to a biological compounds lab, where pathogens like anthrax, Ebola, and the Hanta virus had gone missing.

Moreover, in late September 2001, an anonymous letter sent to military-police officials in Quantico, Virginia alleged that Dr. Assaad was behind a terrorist plot to use biological agents in the United States. This accusatory letter was sent after the anthrax-letters were mailed, but before they were discovered to contain anthrax. This suggests that some third-party, somebody other than Dr. Assaad, had foreknowledge of the attacks. Tying things together, in the missive accusing Assaad it is also stated that the author had formerly worked with him, demonstrating fairly extensive knowledge of Assaad’s career at USAMRIID.

Although the true culprits of the 2001 anthrax-letter attacks remain a mystery, this highly peculiar series of events seems to suggest there is much more to the story than simply a second act of terrorism perpetrated by the same group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. One might speculate that this Phillip Zack, or somebody closely related, had a hand in the anthrax-letters, based on his unauthorized access to pathogens labs, his clear hatred for Dr. Assaad, and the strange letter sent by an alleged former colleague of Assaad’s, ascribing the guilt to him. There is more to be said about this story, but the important point here is that despite almost zero solid evidence pointing to Iraq, nor to the 9/11 hijackers, the Bush Administration was more than willing to use such an event as a pretext for war.

In the end, most of the high-ranking US officials involved in kicking off the Iraq invasion have subsequently come out to admit there were no WMDs, and no ties between Hussein and the 9/11 attacks. While they admit they made mistakes, most of them, unbelievably, deny they ever made claims about nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons. They also deny ever asserting there were ties between Saddam and al-Qaeda. Needless to say, there are mountains of direct evidence proving without a shadow of a doubt that these people are complete liars, guilty of the highest crimes against humanity imaginable.

The Iraq War quagmire is often blamed on faulty intelligence alone, and for some of the people involved this may well be true. However, the absolutely damning ties between the neocon cabal responsible for the war, and the Israeli foreign policy apparatus might persuade one to think otherwise. There is a long and extensive history of neo-conservative groups’—such as the American Enterprise Institute, and the Project for a New American Century (PNAC)—involvement in the crafting of both Israeli and American policy, as well as garnering immense tax-dollar support for the Israeli state. Perhaps this is best illustrated in a 1996 Israeli policy paper entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” authored by, among others, neocon figurehead Richard Perle and crony Douglas Feith. Here they outline a detailed plan to destabilize and break apart various Arab nations, seen as threats by the Israeli defense establishment. In the “Clean Break” papers, next to countries like Syria, Lebanon, and Iran (countries the US has, coincidentally, taken an increasingly aggressive posture toward), Iraq is said to be target number-one, with the removal of Saddam Hussein from power a top priority. Indeed, for many years, long before 9/11, this very same group of hardline Israel-firsters sought to influence American policy toward war with Iraq, in large part to serve Israeli interests (alongside military-industrial concerns). To these neocons, American and Israeli security interests are one in the same, certainly including the aggressive Zionism which characterizes Israeli policy, both domestic and foreign.
This incestuous neocon-Israeli involvement in the crafting of state-policy should, of course, come as no surprise. This is a well-known phenomenon, not any sort of nutty conspiracy fringe. Israel not only has long-standing ties with influential conservative movers-and-shakers in the foreign policy field, but also a history of deceptive and outright murderous behavior all around. From the decades of military occupation of the Palestinian people, to Israeli spying on American institutions, to multiple cases of Israeli theft of sensitive US intelligence-related secrets (and actual uranium in the 1950s, to build nuclear bombs with), to their deliberate sinking of the USS Liberty, Israel has quite a dark history indeed. Much more controversial is the evidence linking Israeli intelligence to the 9/11 attacks themselves! This issue is surrounded by a high degree of taboo, but one should never let such nonsensical concerns get in the way of historical understanding and intellectual honesty. If one is able to accept the notion that military conflicts are almost always based on lies and propaganda, it shouldn’t be such a leap to suggest that governments also deliberately stage events to create pretexts for war. Again, books-worth could be said about this particular issue, but for sake of brevity it will be left here. This author can’t encourage enough an independent examination of the evidence and sources provided throughout the present work; they are due a thorough and critical examination.

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I have hardly even begun to broach the voluminous content of the Iraq War chronicles, but this short review should alone serve to prove the case. The United States government, or rather a militant clique within its most powerful and influential agencies, sent this nation to war with a largely disarmed and impoverished adversary. Between the 1990s sanctions, which killed 500,000 children, and the war launched in ’03, over one million people have been killed, with many more millions displaced, their homes in ruin and their lives destroyed.

Let us never forget how easily this happened, as we are faced with yet another attempt to send troops to Iraq. For almost a half-century now, the United States has constantly intervened in Iraq, and to what avail? Of all the trillions of dollars, the millions of lives, the rivers of blood poured into Iraq, it has only given rise to the most brutal, out of control problem to date: the Islamic State. ISIS, as they are called, are currently rampaging across Iraq and Syria, taking entire swaths of territory and proclaiming the establishment of a long-sought Islamic Caliphate in the Levant region.

As the United States, with its regional allies the Turks and Saudis, continues to funnel material support to the anti-Assad rebels in Syria, they fund and back precisely the same people they claim to oppose in Iraq. The anti-Assad rebels and the pro-caliphate militants are, in many cases, the very same people. Considering these issues, it is long, long, overdue that the American people and, less likely, the politicians who craft US policy, reexamine the issue of Iraq, and the long-standing practice of US foreign intervention in general. If 50 years of failed policy and its resulting blowback can’t teach us this lesson, I truly do not know what ever will.

For any hope to avoid future bloodshed and destruction, it is vital that we remember the past, that we return to history in order to inform our knowledge of the present and the future. On this 13th anniversary of the most horrific example of blowback this country has ever seen, let us never forget Iraq.

*A special thank you is reserved for independent researcher, author, and filmmaker Ryan Dawson. Both his film “War by Deception” and his personal correspondence proved indespensible in the course of writing this piece. Another thanks goes out to Scott Horton, whose radio show exposed me to a vast amount of the journalism sourced here.

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If you enjoyed Will’s writing, you can find him at his blog, The Market Radical