The Last Iraqi WMD Prisoner: The Scientist Who Tried to Reveal on March 2, 2003 He Destroyed the CW/BW

The 10th anniversary of the Iraq War has refocused attention on the Iraqis who warned America before the war that Iraq had no WMD.

Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, told the CIA’s station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, through an intermediary that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD.

[snip]

Panorama confirms that three months before the war an MI6 officer met Iraq’s head of intelligence, Tahir Habbush al-Tikriti, who also said that Saddam had no active WMD. The meeting in the Jordanian capital, Amman, took place days before the British government published its now widely discredited Iraqi weapons dossier in September 2002.

But as far as I can tell, there has been no significant media discussion of what happened with Mahmud Faraj Bilal al Samarrai, the Iraqi who, in 1991, destroyed Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons.

Following a particularly invasive IAEA inspection in late-June 1991, Saddam ordered Dr. Mahmud Faraj Bilal, former deputy of the CW program, to destroy all hidden CW and BW materials, according to an interview with Bilal after OIF.

[snip]

ISG interviewed Dr. Mahmud Firaj Bilal, the Iraqi scientist who supervised the destruction of Iraq’s undeclared chemical munitions, along with a number of Iraqi higher officials who were knowledgeable of the weapons destruction. Although other sources have corroborated parts of Dr. Bilal’s account, ISG’s understanding of Iraq’s chemical and biological warfare agent unilateral destruction is heavily dependent on Dr. Bilal’s information, which is a weakness in our analysis. Nevertheless, as with Iraq’s long range missiles, we obtained a reasonably coherent account of the disposition of the CW munitions, though we were not able physically to verify the story. The UN has, however, verified some of it.

When Bilal was finally released last year (according to his lawyer, the very last scientist in custody to be released) Charles Duelfer reported his statements–the statements describing the destruction of the CW/BW we started a war to find–were mostly credible.

Bilal was interviewed at length by UN inspectors and Iraq Survey Group inspectors. His statements have not been found to be in great error. Yet he spent 9 years in jail. His superior in the Iraq CW program, General Faiz Abdullah Shahine (head of the infamous CW research and production facility known as the al Muthanna State Establishment) was never even detained and has reportedly lived a very successful business life–as he did during the Saddam regime.

Yet Duelfer, who has a piece today insisting the intelligence wasn’t cooked, professed last year to have no idea why Bilal was held so long.

Why? Bilal, must have been asking himself this question for a long time. I suspect “Why?” is a question many Iraqis ask themselves every day…

Maybe this is why:

In a letter to the CIA in 2006, made public by his lawyer, the former head of research and development at the military industries ministry recalled that he had given himself up to the CIA on March 2, 2003.

The guy who destroyed Saddam’s CW/BW stocks 12 years before Bush started a war because of those WMD tried to turn himself in to the CIA more than two weeks before Bush started the Iraq War. And yet that guy — who has never been anything but cooperative, even according to Charles Duelfer, but who tried to avert the war — is the guy our allies in Iraq kept locked up for 9 years.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. Ben Franklin says:

    Marcy; Just curious. How do you organize your files? I have such poor recollection I keep post-its all over the wall. Either you have instant recall, or you have a staff, and I doubt you have a staff. :)

  2. JohnT says:

    Well, if anybody remembers retired Air Force Lt Colonel Charlie Brown from the Blue America chats on FDL he said this on his campaign website, and when he spoke about the war

    Having coordinated surveillance flights over Iraq in the 1990’s, Charlie did not support the U.S. invasion because he knew there were no WMD’s present, that an invasion could unleash centuries old sectarian conflicts inside Iraq, and leave fewer American military resources available to defeat the enemy who attacked America on 9/11–Al Qaeda.

  3. Gimme Shelter says:

    O/T from Irak but still another war/battle that has been ongoing for quite some time.

    and the group that won, Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF), has done great work since the cheney/bush nightmare years – just as important as what the ACLU has done/accomplished.

    National Security Letters Are Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

    Court Finds NSL Statutes Violate First Amendment and Separation of Powers

    https://www.eff.org/press/releases/national-security-letters-are-unconstitutional-federal-judge-rules

  4. Frank33 says:

    Oh the memories. Good times. For war profiteers. Ten years, and it is retrospection time. Who can forget the classic spies and counter-spies. Al-Tikriti, Chalabi, Feith, yellowcake, neo-con forgeries, and even Michael Ledeen. Of course, Ledeen’s old friend, Ollie North has been running around Libya, trying to organize militias and anger about Benghazi.

    Mahmud Faraj Bilal al Samarrai, has been classified as another “Top Secret” secret. Another abuse of government secrecy, and perhaps another case of torture. Has his ten years of imprisonment been to censor the truth? Yes.

    The Irak War was a lie. The Irak War was a crime. Anyone who reveals the truth such as Bradley Manning or al Samarrai, is a hero. Anyone who gaggs the whistleblowers or continues the lies is a villain. These villains will regret, in a Bob Woodward way, their war crimes.

  5. seedeevee says:

    “deputy justice minister Busho Ibrahim said Sunday.” — from one of the quoted article.

    “Busho”? I know nothing of names in Iraq, but anyone named “Busho” should be barred from government work there.

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