Rafid Ahmed Alwan – the infamous “Curveball” who provided a lot of “intel” about Iraq to our intelligence agencies – has been unmasked. And his credibility should have been zero from the start.
Along with confirmation of Curveball’s identity, however, have come fresh disclosures raising doubts about his honesty — much of that new detail coming from friends, associates and past employers.
“He was corrupt,” said a family friend who once employed him.
“He always lied,” said a fellow Burger King worker.
And records reveal that when Alwan fled to Germany, one step ahead of the Iraq Justice Ministry, an arrest warrant had been issued alleging that he sold filched camera equipment on the Baghdad black market.
The reporter at his door that morning offered Alwan a chance to defend himself publicly.
He was calm, unshaven, wearing a T-shirt and pajama bottoms. Alwan tried to bargain for an interview fee. When he didn’t get one, he shut the door, saying he was “risking my family” by talking.
Classy. Of course, there were some big clues that should have led our intelligence agencies to discount everything he ever said.
Alwan didn’t share all his secrets. He didn’t disclose that he had been fired at least twice for dishonesty, or that he fled Iraq to avoid arrest. But he did tell some whoppers that should have raised warnings about his credibility.
He claimed, for example, that the son of his former boss, Basil Latif, secretly headed a vast weapons of mass destruction procurement and smuggling scheme from England. British investigators found, however, that Latif’s son was a 16-year-old exchange student, not a criminal mastermind.
His history in Iraq?
He worked as an appliance repairman, then as a junior engineer at the state-run Chemical Engineering and Design Center. In late 1994, he was named site engineer at Djerf al Nadaf, a new warehouse complex about 10 miles south of Baghdad.
His direct supervisor was Hilal Freah, a British-trained engineer and friend of Alwan’s mother. Freah, who now lives in Jordan, viewed himself as Alwan’s mentor but had trouble trusting his protege.
“Rafid told five or 10 stories every day,” Freah said in an interview. “I’d ask, ‘Where have you been?’ And he’d say, ‘I had a problem with my car.’ Or, ‘My family was sick.’ But I knew he was lying.”
He had a gift for it and “was not embarrassed when caught in a lie,” Freah said.
At the Djerf al Nadaf warehouse, laborers treated seeds from local farmers with fungicides to prevent mold and rot. But Alwan convinced his BND handlers that the site’s corn-filled sheds were part of Iraq’s secret germ weapons program. He worked there, he told them, until 1998, when an unreported biological accident occurred.
In fact, Alwan had been dismissed three years earlier, in 1995, after inflating expenses and faking receipts for tools, supplies and lamb for a party.
“I fired him,” Freah said. “He was corrupt and he was found stealing.” But the family friend gave Alwan one more chance.
It got no better in Germany.
Alwan’s fanciful accounts to BND officers were echoed in his tall tales to friends and co-workers.
In early 2002, a year before the war, he told co-workers at the Burger King that he spied for Iraqi intelligence and would report any fellow Iraqi worker who criticized Hussein’s regime.
They couldn’t decide if he was dangerous or crazy.
“During breaks, he told stories about what a big man he was in Baghdad,” said Hamza Hamad Rashid, who remembered an odd scene with the pudgy Alwan in his too-tight Burger King uniform praising Hussein in the home of der Whopper. “But he always lied. We never believed anything he said.”
Another Iraqi friend, Ghazwan Adnan, remembers laughing when he applied for a job at a local Princess Garden Chinese Restaurant and discovered Alwan washing dishes in the back while claiming to be “a big deal” in Iraq. “How could America believe such a person?”
Yeah – we let this guy lead us to war. Either our current government is incredibly inept, or incredibly corrupt. Neither is particularly comforting (tho my money is on the latter).