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Former CIA analyst: US `conned into war'
Robert Baer charges that the American-led invasion is a `dire mistake'

Lebanonwire/The Daily Star, 29 March 2003


BEIRUT: Middle East expert and former Central Intelligence Agency officer Robert Baer has charged that the American-led war in Iraq is a dire mistake based on false assumptions and faulty information, but that President George W. Bush cannot stop now and leave Saddam Hussein in power after the long emotional and political buildup to the war.

"The American people, Congress, government and president were conned into this war, in the full sense of the word, by neo-conservatives and hawks in Washington who sold a false bill of goods. The president was lied to and given erroneous information that was filtered through Iraqi exiles who had not lived in Iraq for 20 or 30 years and had no clear idea of realities inside Iraq. The exiles had no intention of fighting themselves, but wanted the US to fight for them," he told The Daily Star Thursday in an interview.

The 21-year CIA veteran quit the agency in good standing about five years ago, and was given the Career Intelligence Medal for his service.

He called this "almost an accidental war," against the backdrop of an American population that did not bother with foreign affairs but suddenly suffered the wrenching emotional experience of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"There was already in place among some circles in Washington an old plan to attack Iraq. After Sept. 11, 2001 it was sold to the president, who was told that this would be a quick, decisive, easy, almost bloodless operation, at little expense and with no resistance by Iraqis, with Saddam Hussein gone at a flash of the muzzle. But it has not worked out that way. Determined Iraqis who stalled mechanized divisions in southern Iraq are not just pockets of resistance. In its first week the war did not go as planned."

Baer, who has published a book on his years in the CIA and is now publishing a second book about Saudi Arabia, said the worst scenario for the US is to surround and lay siege to Baghdad and its 5 million people.

He fears that this will increase the bitterness felt against the US by Arabs and Muslims, who increasingly see Americans as hostile to them. He is also concerned "that young Americans now are fighting and dying in Iraq based on faulty analyses from questionable sources," but he cannot see Bush stopping the war now.

"President Bush spent nine months working the American population into a frenzy of fear and anger about Saddam Hussein, and he cannot now tell them that it was not so serious after all, that he has to stop the war and leave Saddam in power."

The best way to minimize long-term damage to the US' standing in this region is for Washington "to make a brisk, clean transition to Iraqi or Iraqi-UN rule after the war ends, offer substantial assistance for reconstruction, leave the Iraqis alone, and turn America's attention quickly to achieving a fair resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict." R.K.

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Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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