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Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War (Anglais) Relié – 16 octobre 2007

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Staring out the window, Ahmed Hassan Mohammed could see little of his new home.
In the spring or summer, arriving passengers at Munich's Franz Josef Strauss International Airport normally glimpse the rugged foothills of the Bavarian Alps jutting above the horizon. The distant mountains gleam softly in the morning light, and shimmer in the rich pastels of the setting sun.
But in November 1999, when Ahmed's plane landed, gray mist usually veiled the view. On most days, heavy clouds swirled across the leaden sky. Rain pelted down from passing squalls and driving storms. Sharp gusts skittered across the runway puddles and flattened the nearby grass. Droplets streamed down the windows like tears.
Ahmed's plane ?ew from North Africa, and the stale air in the cabin would smell of sweet anise and cheap cologne. Foreign workers heading home traveled heavy and happy. They forgot their dismal jobs and cramped ?ats. They shrugged off the suspicious eyes and sudden silences in German shops. Their bags betrayed their new riches. They hauled television sets and fancy stereos. They dragged cheap suitcases, cardboard boxes wrapped with rope, and plastic sacks full of duty-free cigarettes. But the return ?ights, like this one, from the desert villages and urban slums of Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, seemed sadder. The men brought back stuffed dates and preserved lemons, kif candy and almond cookies. They suffused the plane with the scent of regret and wrenching farewells.
The airplane aisle ?lled quickly as passengers climbed out of their seats and yanked overstuffed bags down from overhead bins. They pulled on worn leather coats and thick ski parkas. They pushed their tired children and each other toward the exit door and shuf?ed down the metal stairs. Ahmed followed.
Airport workers in neon yellow slickers scurried near the plane. Utility vehicles painted cautionary orange chugged and hauled silver containers bulging with bags. Boxy white Sky Chefs delivery trucks disgorged supplies or took others on. Airport vans, all the same olive green, rushed in one direction and then back again. Ahmed couldn't help but notice. Germany was so orderly. So color-coordinated. So different from the cacophony of life back home. An elongated blue bus, the two parts joined by a black rubber accordion neck, pulled up beside the plane. On the side, black letters read "Flughafen Munchen." Munich Airport.
He boarded the bus to the terminal for international arrivals and was swept along as the throng pushed inside. White acoustic tiles and the drone of hidden machinery suddenly muffled the crowd's chatter. He stepped on a moving sidewalk that glided silently past glittering ads for gold watches, sleek cars, and high-priced appliances. Gorgeous women, tall and young, beckoned to him from the posters. The light was blindingly bright.
The long hall emptied into a smaller area, where other passengers already were shuffling into lines in front of four booths. A large sign on top read, Passkontrolle–Alle Posse. Ahmed didn't speak German, but a translation was posted underneath in English and he could read and write enough of that. Passport Control–All Passports. Each booth featured a large glass window at eye level, but the lower portion was frosted white so someone waiting in line or even standing a foot away could only see the face and chest of the federal border police officer sitting inside. The officer wore a starched, military-style khaki shirt and a white plastic ID card in a red border hung from the right pocket. Small stars embroidered his shoulder boards. A patch on the left shoulder read "Polizei."
The long line moved slowly, but the traveler was patient. He knew how to wait in submissive silence for hard-eyed men in military uniforms. Finally his turn came. He steeled himself and stepped up to the window. The officer inside could extend his right arm and his open palm would appear in a small, semicircular opening. Ahmed handed his dark brown passport to the pink fingers that suddenly poked out.
The document was from Iraq, issued in Baghdad. Lea?ng through the stiff pages, the officer could see several large, colorful visas, plus the usual entry and exit stamps. Small countries invariably issue the biggest, most ?orid visas, perhaps to compensate for their insigni?cance.
These showed he had visited Turkey and, more recently, Jordan, Cyprus, Morocco, and Spain, traveling for about six months. His passport held no visa for Germany.
Just outside each booth, a rectangular mirror hung on a metal arm from the ceiling. It was positioned so the border officer could tilt his head and peer up to his right, and get a clear view of the applicant waiting in front of him. This one didn't stand out.
He was a good-looking man, solidly built, of olive complexion and medium height. He looked in his late twenties, perhaps a little older. He had jet black hair, parted on the left, and a thick shock draped low on his forehead. His eyes were large and heavy-lidded, pensive and brooding, set far apart. A broad, hawkish nose sat over full lips and a strong chin. A full mustache curled around the corners of his mouth like a sneer. It seemed notable only because most Iraqi men raised shaggy brush mustaches to mimic Saddam. Perhaps he was cold, or tense, but the traveler seemed to tremble. Later, German intelligence authorities would say he often quivered with nervous energy.
The border officer studied the document and then looked up at the Iraqi. Ahmed would have stared back. He usually held people in a frank gaze, tilting his head just so. It conjured an impression of serious endeavor. If he ?ashed a shy smile, as he often did, the officer would have noticed teeth stained with tobacco tar. Ahmed didn't just smoke. He embraced the habit, almost tenderly. He carefully cupped his lighter with his slender ?ngers, as if facing a vigorous wind. Then he ?icked the blue ?ame alive, closed his dark eyes, and leaned back, letting the smoke wreathe up to caress his face.
No record was kept of their conversation, but it would be brief and to the point.
Where is your visa? The border officer spoke in English. Few Iraqis knew decent German.
Please, I want political asylum. He replied in slow, thickly accented English. Few Germans spoke any Arabic.
The officer was not, as one might think, surprised. Germany was the travel hub of modern Europe and its economy was booming. Every day–every hour–refugees showed up from one hellhole or another and appealed for safe haven from war, famine, ethnic persecution, and political oppression. Nearly half of all refugees who applied for asylum in the promised lands of Western Europe ?led their claims in Germany. Immigration records showed 7,476 people sought asylum in Germany the month Ahmed arrived. A total of 95,113 ?ooded in that year.
Most ?ed the vicious civil war in the Balkans, then rupturing along ethnic fault lines. But southern Germany also was refuge of choice for Iraqis on the run. Thousands ?owed in each year, wave upon wave of businessmen, engineers, scientists, and soldiers, all ?eeing Saddam's tyranny. More than sixty thousand Iraqi refugees and emigres lived in Germany, and at least half of them clustered around the cities of Munich, Nuremberg, and Augsburg in the southern state of Bavaria.
They had good reason to come. Germany provided greater bene?ts to refugees than nearly any other nation in Europe. It was especially tolerant and benevolent to those seeking sanctuary from the misery of Iraq. Saddam's secret police picked up and tortured people at whim, or shot them in front of their homes and hung the bodies from lampposts. The U.N. had imposed strict military and economic sanctions, and guilt-stricken postwar Germany wasn't going to forcibly repatriate anyone to one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.
The border officer pressed a button on his desk, and another man in a starched khaki shirt appeared and escorted the traveler across the hall to a small of?ce with a desk. Ahmed sat down on a hard metal chair, and an Arabic translator soon arrived so the German officer could ask a series of questions and take down the answers. German of?cials later would describe the story that Ahmed blurted out in a smoker's voice, thick and gravelly.
I am from Baghdad, northeast Baghdad. I live with my mother and father. I am a chemical engineer. I attended the University of Baghdad. I worked at the government Chemical Engineering and Design Center. I worked in a program to help Iraqi farmers. We improved their seeds.
Yes, I am married. No, she is still in Baghdad. Ahmed Hassan Mohammed is a false name. I used this passport to escape Iraq. I cannot go back. I am against Saddam. They know this. I had serious problems with the authorities. If I go back, they will put me in prison and torture or kill me.
The lengthy interview and paperwork took several hours but the translator ?nally wrote out careful instructions and helped Ahmed buy the necessary bus and train tickets at a kiosk just outside the customs hall so he wouldn't get lost. Clutching the slips of paper and his bag, he walked purposefully through the huge airport to reach the bus stand outside.
He boarded the local bus to the town of Friesing, about twenty minutes away past dark russet ?elds lined by thick hedgerows. He got out at the town center and entered a small Tyrolean train station with carved wooden benches and a red-gabled roof, like a model for a toy train set. He descended into a small tunnel under the tracks, and climbed back up into the biting wind on Platform 4. A red suburban train soon roared up, and when the door slid open, he entered the second-class compartment and found a seat. The doors whooshed to a close, and the train roared away again on the two-hour journey to Nuremberg.
From the train, Ahmed could see rolling hills, ice-?ecked rivers, and desolate winter ?elds of rapeseed and ?ax. The view was surprisingly rural. Horses grazed in small paddocks, stamping their feet and snorting steam in the cold air. Every so often, the train entered a deep forest glen, and the light ...

Présentation de l'éditeur

Curveball answers the crucial question of the Iraq war: How and why was America’s intelligence so catastrophically wrong? In this dramatic and explosive book, award-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Bob Drogin delivers a narrative that takes us to Europe, the Middle East, and deep inside the CIA to find the truth–the truth about the lies and self-deception that led us into a military and political nightmare.

In 1999, a mysterious Iraqi applies for political asylum in Munich. The young chemical engineer offers compelling testimony of Saddam Hussein’s secret program to build weapons of mass destruction. He claims that the dictator has constructed germ factories on trucks, creating a deadly hell on wheels. His grateful German hosts pass his account to their CIA counterparts but deny the Americans access to their superstar informant. The Americans nevertheless give the defector his unforgettable code name: Curveball.
The case lies dormant until after 9/11, when the Bush administration turns its attention to Iraq. Determined to invade, Bush’s people seize on Curveball’s story about mobile germ labs–even though it has begun to unravel. Ignoring a flood of warnings about the informant’s credibility, the CIA allows President Bush to cite Curveball’s unconfirmed claims in a State of the Union speech. Finally, Secretary of State Colin Powell highlights the Iraqi’s “eyewitness” account during his historic address to the U.N. Security Council. Yet the entire case is based on a fraud. America’s vast intelligence apparatus conjured up demons that did not exist. And the proof was clear before the war.

Most of the events and conversations presented here have not been reported before. The portrayals–from an obdurate president to a bamboozled secretary of state to a bungling CIA director to case handlers conned by their snitch–are vivid and exciting. Curveball reads like an investigative spy thriller. Fast-paced and engrossing, it is an inside story of intrigue and incompetence at the highest levels of government. At a time when Americans demand answers, this authoritative book provides them with clarity and conviction.

Just when you thought the WMD debacle couldn’t get worse, here comes veteran Los Angeles Times national-security correspondent Drogin’s look at just who got the stories going in the first place…Simultaneously sobering and infuriating–essential reading for those who follow the headlines. 
--Kirkus Reviews

In this engrossing account, Los Angeles Times correspondent Drogin paints an intimate and revealing portrait of the workings and dysfunctions of the intelligence community.
--Publishers Weekly

Enter Bob Drogin's new book… an insightful and compelling account of one crucial component of the war's origins… Had Drogin merely pieced together Curveball's story, it alone would have made for a thrilling book. But he provides something more: a frightening glimpse at how easily we could make the same mistakes again…The real value of Drogin's book is its meticulous demonstration that bureaucratic imperative often leads to self-delusion.
--Washington Monthly

Drogin delivers a startling account of this fateful intelligence snafu.

But, again, the intelligence community was disappointing the Bush administration… Los Angeles Times correspondent Bob Drogin lays out the whole sorry tale in his forthcoming book, "Curveball: Spies, Lies, and the Con Man Who Caused a War."

By the time you finish this book you will be shaking your head with wonder, or perhaps you will be shaking with anger, about the misadventures that preceded the misadventures in Iraq. This book is so powerful, it almost refutes its subtitle: The man called Curveball did not cause a war; he became a pretext -- one among many.
-- George F. Will
There used to be an old rule that *real* journalists lived by: 'All governments are run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed.' We've come a long way from those days, to a media that has been cowed into submission and accepting the 'official story.' Thank God for Bob Drogin and his refusal to believe. It's journalists like him and books like CURVEBALL that give many of us a sliver of hope that we can turn things around. --Michael Moore, Director of "Fahrenheit 9/11," and "Sicko"
Curveball is the factual equivalent of Catch 22. It is impossible to read this book and then look at our world leaders without thinking, "F*ck. Oh f*ck. Oh my God, oh f*ck."
--Mark Thomas, comedian and political activist

…the biggest fiasco in the history of secret intelligence over 500 years.
--Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day Of The Jackal, The Odessa File and The Afghan

Bob Drogin struck journalistic gold in this story of a conman who told his intelligence handlers exactly what they wanted to hear. If this twisted tale could be read simply as a thrilling farce it would be pure delight -- but much more importantly, it is a history of our time.
--Philip Gourevitch

Bob Drogin is a brilliant reporter. In Curveball, he has produced a riveting and important investigation, full of startling and carefully documented detail, laying bare the anatomy of an intelligence failure and its contribution to a catastrophic war.
--Steve Coll, author of GHOST WARS: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

Bob Drogin accomplishes what only the best reporters can; he forces you to wonder how he could possibly know that! If you want to know how the CIA could have possibly been so wrong about Iraq, here is a big part of the answer.
--Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down

A crucial study in the political manipulation of intelligence, understanding how Curveball got us into Iraq will arm us for the next round of lies coming out of Washington.
--Robert Baer, author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism

Here we go again: the self-deception, the corruption of intelligence, and the abuse of authority, amid a full cast of the usual suspects in the White House and the Pentagon. It's a crucially important story, and it comes wonderfully alive in Curveball. It would be almost fun to read if the message wasn't so important–and so devastating to the integrity of the American processes.
--Seymour M. Hersh, author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib

Curveball is a true story, marvelously reported, about a descent into the netherworld of deceit and duplicity, where the lies of a single man in an interrogation cell in Germany grew like a malign spore in the dark. When it emerged, on the lips of the President and the Secretary of State, it infected the course of world events.
--Jonathan Harr, author of A Civil Action and The Lost Painting.

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Amazon.com: 4,4 sur 5 étoiles 35 commentaires
ME Kincaid
3,0 sur 5 étoilesGood book, but emphasized the story over analysis.
13 novembre 2013 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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Retired Reader
5,0 sur 5 étoilesCurveball as a Sucker Ptich
9 novembre 2007 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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8 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
Steven Peterson
5,0 sur 5 étoilesAnother tale of American intelligence failures in Iraq
26 octobre 2007 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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17 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
Joe Distelheim
5,0 sur 5 étoilesIt reads like fiction; unfortunately, it's not
18 décembre 2007 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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2 personnes ont trouvé cela utile.
Henry Eissler
5,0 sur 5 étoilesVery interesting
7 août 2013 - Publié sur Amazon.com
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