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Another Iraq Story Gets Debunked
By Dave Zweifel, Madison Capital Times (Wisconsin)
In November 2001, just two months after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, two high-profile U.S. journalists Chris Hedges of the New York Times and Christopher Buchanan of PBS' "Frontline" were ushered to a meeting in a Beirut hotel with a man identified as Jamal al-Ghurairy, an Iraqi lieutenant general who had fled Saddam Hussein.
The high-ranking Iraqi military officer claimed he had witnessed terrorist training camps in Iraq where Islamic militants learned how to hijack airplanes. About 40 foreign nationals were based there at any given time, he said.
"We were training these people to attack installations important to the United States," he told the journalists at the meeting arranged by the Iraqi National Congress.
Reporter Hedges and producer Buchanan found Ghurairy to be very convincing, worried for his life and very insistent that his face couldn't be shown on camera. He was accompanied by a well-organized entourage.
A story appeared a couple of days later on the front page of the Times and then "Frontline" followed with a report on public television. The stories generated numerous editorials and op-ed pieces and, of course, became the topic of the week on cable talk shows.
Now, the liberal investigative magazine Mother Jones has exposed the "general" as a fake.
"The story of Saddam training foreign fighters to hijack airplanes was instrumental in building the case to invade Iraq," a detailed report in the March-April issue says. "But it turns out that the Iraqi general who told the story to the New York Times and 'Frontline' was a complete fake a low-ranking former soldier whom Ahmed Chalabi's aides had coached to deceive the media."
The Mother Jones investigator, Jack Fairweather, was even able to track down a Lt. Gen. Ghurairy in Iraq. He interviewed him in Fallujah and this Ghurairy said he had never left Iraq, nor had he ever spoken to the U.S. journalists.
According to the magazine, the Ghurairy tale was one of 108 stories the Iraqi National Congress and Chalabi, who was exiled from Iraq, planted in the American and British media between October 2001 and May 2002. Chalabi is the figure on whom the Bush administration relied for much of the Iraqi intelligence about weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's supposed connection with the 9/11 terrorists.
After the war started, the Bush neocons had a falling out with Chalabi, discovering that much of the information he had provided was fabricated. They also accused him of spying on the U.S. for neighboring Iran. He has had a resurgence in Iraq, though, and is now the deputy prime minister in the new U.S.-sponsored government and apparently back in favor with the Bush people.
He obviously had a major role in helping sell the war to the American people. Thanks to the deceptions, which a compliant American press didn't uncover, some 69 percent of the American public believed that Saddam had a role in the 9/11 attacks.
Just how hookwinked Americans were is underscored by this Mother Jones expose.
Dave Zweifel is editor of The Capital Times.