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January 26, 2006

Hearsay Claim: Saddam's WMDs Secreted To Syria (Bumped For Updates)

So says now the number two man in Saddam's air force, who claims he was told of the transfers by "very good friends" who served as pilots on the smuggling mission.

Before you get your hopes up-- he just happens to have a book coming out.

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

...

Mr. Sada, 65, told the Sun that the pilots of the two airliners that transported the weapons of mass destruction to Syria from Iraq approached him in the middle of 2004, after Saddam was captured by American troops.

"I know them very well. They are very good friends of mine. We trust each other. We are friends as pilots," Mr. Sada said of the two pilots. He declined to disclose their names, saying they are concerned for their safety. But he said they are now employed by other airlines outside Iraq.

The pilots told Mr. Sada that two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, Mr. Sada said. Then Special Republican Guard brigades loaded materials onto the planes, he said, including "yellow barrels with skull and crossbones on each barrel." The pilots said there was also a ground convoy of trucks.

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

Eh. Some people tell tall tales for money. We've heard such "secrets" before.

The WMDs may be in Syria. But I don't think one man's say-so proves that proposition.

Update: Laurie Byrd thinks this report, unverified though it is, does fit in with other evidence about a Syria smuggle.

She also links this bit from Right Wing Nuthouse. It's been mentioned before, but it's worth quoting again.

The CIA’s chief weapons inspector said he cannot rule out the possibility that Iraqi weapons of mass destruction were secretly shipped to Syria before the March 2003 invasion, citing “sufficiently credible” evidence that WMDs may have been moved there.

Inspector Charles Duelfer, who heads the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), made the findings in an addendum to his final report filed last year. He said the search for WMD in Iraq—the main reason President Bush went to war to oust Saddam Hussein—has been exhausted without finding such weapons. Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the early 1990s.

But on the question of Syria, Mr. Duelfer did not close the books. “ISG was unable to complete its investigation and is unable to rule out the possibility that WMD was evacuated to Syria before the war,” Mr. Duelfer said in a report posted on the CIA’s Web site Monday night.

He's got more than that, too.

Who Is Georges Sada? Mark in Mexico has an extensive bio and clippings from the net.

He seems like a decent guy. For example, he fought Qusay Hussein's order to kill captured American pilots:

On Jan. 24, (2001) Qusai first ordered the POWs executed. When Sada balked, Qusai accused him of disobeying the orders of the president.

Sada tried to reason with Qusai, reminding him that even the prophet Muhammad once said that if prisoners of war learned 10 verses of the Koran, they could be set free. This only angered Qusai, who threatened to put the POWs in areas being bombed by American forces. Sada urged him not to use them as human shields. He kept turning to the Geneva Convention, which made Qusai angrier still.

"This was the end," Sada thought. "And I knew something was going to happen to me."

He was right. Qusai pitched him into a cell in the same prison as the POWs, and Sada wondered if his head would be separated from his body at last. But even locked up, Sada still had his contacts check on the POW pilots, making sure they were still alive.

After 12 days, Sada finally found a way to reach Qusai: He made the war personal.

"If you kill the pilots," Sada told him, "you will have new war between America and your family. They'll come and kill your father, your brother...." He ticked off Hussein family members.

"After that," Sada says, "he was changed. He thought twice."

Finally, Sada was released from prison. A few weeks later, the war ended and Eberly and the other POWs were released. Battered physically and mentally, they returned home in early March.

Still, as Powerline notes, character references just aren't enough to establish something as big as this.

For now, file it under "Stuff That's Too Good To Be True. Unless It's Proven."

Laurie Byrd is right, though-- if the political situation were reversed, the media would be running with this story without confirmation. And of course all the lefty blogs would be declaring a new Fitzmas -- maybe an Easter Sada.

But just because they, like Fox Mulder, "want to believe," doesn't mean we should emulate the, uhhh, "reality-based community."



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