18 dec. 2008

How German Agents Helped Pave the Way into Iraq


Photo: General Tommy Franks led the invasion of Iraq. "Anyone who claims that these reports did not play a role for combat operations is living on another planet," he says.
He would make the perfect witness. The tall, slim retired US general has nothing but good things to say about the Germans. He says they are "reliable" and extremely trustworthy. Most of all, though, he knows things that German parliamentarians would like to know.
But General James Marks is not a witness, nor is he ever likely to be one. The German parliamentary committee charged with investigating the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), prefers to question Germans in its effort to find out what role the agency played during the Iraq war. Those asked to testify tend to be government employees and, therefore, dependent on the government. Americans have not thus far been summoned. Indeed, no effort to do so has been made.
Still, a man like Marks would have a lot to say. He could talk about the spring of 2003, when he was sitting in a windowless, air-conditioned briefing room at the US military's Camp Doha in the Kuwaiti desert, reading the reports of two BND agents who held out in Baghdad during the war. And he could talk about how the information provided by the Germans was incorporated into the situation reports he presented in daily videoconferences to General Tommy Franks, head of the US invading forces, and sometimes to then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
In the spring of 2003, Marks headed up the military intelligence efforts both before and during the American campaign. It was his job to ensure that the 115,000 US troops didn't run into any surprises as they advanced toward Baghdad. All information relevant to the war ended up on his desk. By virtue of this position, Marks, more than almost anyone else, knows how important the reports provided by the two Germans were for the American war effort.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will testify before the parliamentary investigative committee on Thursday. When the Iraq war began in early 2003, Steinmeier was head of Germany's secret services as well as being then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's chief of staff. Schröder, for his part, owed his re-election in September 2002 primarily to his tough opposition to US plans to invade Iraq.

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