Watergate II : the Berlusconi connection


Richard Moore

Here we learn that U.S. personnel were involved in the 
forgery of the 'Niger uranium' documents. More grist 
for the indictment mill!



Berlusconi's Halloween Visit 

The Plame Affair Leads to Rome 


"All roads lead to Rome," and it seems that Patrick
Fitzgerald's investigation into the Plame Affair, and more
broadly the lies used to hoodwink the American people into
supporting a criminal war on Iraq, will also trudge down
the Appian Way lined this Halloween with the ghosts of
crucified Iraqis.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has recently published
an exposé alleging in essence that the Italian military
intelligence agency SISMI ( Servizio per le Informazioni e
la Sicurezza Militare ) at the specific behest of Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi provided bogus intelligence to
the Bush neocons in order to curry favor with the U.S. and
to abet the relentless drive for war between 9-11 and the
March 2003 invasion. This follows an Italian parliamentary
report released in part to the public in July concerning
the forged Niger uranium documents at the heart of the
Plame Affair. These, which purport to show a deal between
Baghdad and Niger for the purchase of huge quantities of
yellowcake, were it seems produced in the Italian capital.

The report names four men as the likely forgers of the
documents (Michael Ledeen, Dewey Clarridge, Ahmed Chalabi
and Francis Brookes) and suggests that the forgeries may
have been planned at December 2001 gathering in Rome
involving Ledeen and SISMI chief Nicolò Pollari. Also in
attendance at that meeting: Larry Franklin, Harold Rhode,
Manucher Ghorbanifar, Antonio Martino and others including
a former senior official of the Revolutionary Guard in
Iran. Here is a true rogues' gallery.

    Michael Ledeen : neocon columnist, National Review Online
    contributing editor, specialist on the thought of
    Machiavelli and on Italian fascism, former employee of the
    Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security
    Council, was involved in the transfer of arms to Iran
    during the Iran-Contra affair. Active in the American
    Enterprise Institute, Jewish Institute for National
    Security Affairs (JINSA), and Center for Democracy in Iran
    (CDI). Advocates regime change by force in Iran and Syria.
    Nicolò Pollari : Author of many publications on legal and
    economic matters, investigation techniques and
    intelligence. Tax law Professor at the Mediterranean
    University of Reggio Calabria. SISMI head since October
    Dewey Clarridge : former CIA operative, famous in
    mid-1980s for his role in the Iran-Contra Affair. Head of
    CIA's Latin America division 1981-84, directed the mining
    of Nicaragua's harbors and helped organize the Contras.
    Indicted in November 1991 on seven counts of perjury and
    false statements, pardoned by first president Bush
    Christmas Eve 1992.
    Ahmad Chalabi : convicted swindler, leader of U.S.-funded
    Iraqi National Congress, neocon ally, presently one of two
    deputy prime ministers in Iraqi government.
    Francis Brookes : member of the "Rendon Group," a "public
    relations" body formed by the Pentagon engaged to promote
    Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.
    Larry Franklin : colonel in USAF reserve, subordinate to
    Douglas Feith in Defense Department, Middle East
    specialist, under arrest for espionage for Israel.
    Harold Rhode : Pentagon official, Middle East specialist,
    Ledeen protégé, American Enterprise Institute, heavy
    Manucher Ghorbanifar : Iranian exile, arms dealer,
    one-time CIA operative distrusted by CIA since 1980s. Key
    figure in the Iran-Contra scandal.
    Antonio Martino : Founding member of Forza Italiano
    (Berlusconi's political party), Professor of Economics,
    adjunct scholar with the Heritage Foundation, Italian
    Defense Minister.

Let's add to the list Rocco Martino , a former
intelligence officer and carabinieri , who has admitted
(in interviews with the Sunday Times and Financial Times
in August 2004) to involvement in the break-in into the
Niger Embassy in Rome in January 2001 which procured the
letterhead stationary used for the forgeries. He also
acknowledges a role in circulating the fake documents,
which he first passed to French intelligence, the French
being sensitive to any possibility of yellowcake uranium
from the French-owned mines in Niger. His motive was
apparently mercenary. The French quickly realized the
material was bogus, but SISMI, either in possession of the
documents or aware of their content, elected to share them
with Washington after 9-11.

On October 15, 2001, Berlusconi and newly appointed SISMI
chief Pollari made an official visit to Washington.
Berlusconi signaled his willingness to support the U.S.
effort to implicate Saddam Hussein in 9/11, and in that
connection Pollari provided CIA officials with a dossier
indicating that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger.
This was followed by the Rome meeting organized by Ledeen,
by discussions between Pollari and CIA director George
Tenet in February 2002, and a report from Italy detailing
a meeting between the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican and
the Nigerien head of state in 1999. (In the latter
meeting, the Iraqi wanted to discuss trade, and given that
Niger's principal export is uranium, the report suggested
that Baghdad was seeking to purchase yellowcake for a
nuclear weapons program.)

By all accounts the CIA was concerned about and opposed to
Ledeen's dealings, which were unauthorized. In December
2001 the agency reported the matter to Condoleezza Rice's
chief deputy on the National Security Council, Stephen J.
Hadley, who in February 2002 instructed Douglas Feith's
office to terminate Ledeen's rogue operation. But Feith
himself was of course up to his eyeballs in spreading
disinformation to promote war on Iraq.

The report about documents proving Iraqi attempts to
revive a nuclear program didn't die, and in February there
were discussions in Vice President Richard Cheney's office
(involving among others Libby and fellow neocon John
Hannah) about Iraqi efforts to purchase uranium from
Niger. Cheney either requested a CIA investigation, or was
believed by the CIA to have done so, and therefore later
that month the CIA sent Joseph Wilson on his fateful
fact-finding mission to Niger.

Wilson's report, accepted and positively evaluated by the
CIA in March, had as we know no bearing on the decision to
go to war or to prepare public opinion for war through a
concerted disinformation campaign. Over the summer the
Office of Special Plans under Feith, staffed by such
Machiavellians as Abram Shulsky, William Luti, David
Wurmer and Larry Franklin, systematically cherrypicked and
stovepiped "intelligence" to an ignorant president who
thinks he's on a mission from God. Meanwhile the White
House Iraq Group under Libby, Karl Rove, Andrew Card and
Karen Hughs built the public case, apparently suggesting
such talking points as, "We don't want the smoking gun to
be a mushroom cloud."

In July Ledeen informed the U.S. ambassador in Rome that
he planned to return to the city to "continue his work" in
September. On September 9, according to the recent account
in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica , Ledeen arranged a
secret meeting in Washington between Pollari and Hadley,
in which they discussed the Niger uranium documents. On
September 24, the British government, having received
"intelligence" about the same cache of bogus documents,
reported that "there is intelligence that Iraq has sought
the supply of significant quantities of uranium from
Africa. Iraq has no active civil nuclear power programme
or nuclear power plants, and therefore has no legitimate
reason to acquire uranium." (This was in the same report
that alleged Iraq had chemical and biological weapons
"deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them,"
and had "constructed a new engine test stand for the
development of missiles capable of reaching the UK
Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members [Greece
and Turkey], as well as all Iraq's Gulf neighbours and

The CIA, sidelined by the neocons and their Office of
Special Plans, sought to strike back throughout September
and October. They informed the Senate Intelligence
Committee and the White House that they disagreed with the
British report. CIA director Tenet effectively prevented
Bush from including in a speech given on October 7 any
reference to an Africa uranium purchase. But two days
later, the documents the contents of which had only been
summarized in communications between intelligence agencies
to date were handed over by the above-mentioned Rocco
Martino to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist with Panorama.
This Italian magazine happens to be owned by Berlusconi,
and had it published them would have further abetted the
neocon-driven war cause. But Burba, question the
documents' authenticity, does not write about them but
rather turns them over to the U.S. embassy.

Distributed among U.S. intelligence agencies, the
documents are understood to be fraudulent, and since they
are the basis for claims about Iraqi efforts to obtained
African yellowcake, the CIA continues to oppose use of the
Niger connection in building the case for war. Even so,
Bush in his state of the union address in January 2003
asserts that "the British government has learned that
Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of
uranium from Africa." Over CIA protests, National Security
Council staff member and Stephen Hadley subordinate Robert
Joseph approved their inclusion, no doubt reasoning that
if the report were attributed to British intelligence it
would not be technically dishonest.

Turned out to be a bit embarrassing. When IAEA chief
Mohamed ElBaradei asked to see the documentation for the
president's allegation, he was allowed to do so,
concluding almost immediately that they were "crude
forgeries" and expressing amazement that the U.S.
government could have taken them seriously. Colin Powell
on NBC's "Meet the Press" had to deny "any falsification
activities" by U.S. government and state, "It was the
information that we had. We provided it. If that
information is inaccurate, fine." But too late to stop the
train now.

That was just days before the beginning of the Iraq
invasion. Afterwards, when it became clear for the world
to see that there were no bottles of anthrax much less a
developed nuclear weapons program in Iraq, Citizen Wilson
came forward, had his say, and suffered in some small
degree the viciousness that characterizes the neocon
project. Since then Chalabi's been discredited as a liar
and spy, Franklin arrested for espionage on behalf of
Israel, Libby indicted for charges related to Plame's
outing, Rove under suspicion. Feith has left government.
But it's too soon to speak of the "twilight of the
neocons" while Hannah, Hadley, Luti, Wurmser, Elliott
Abrams, John Bolton, John Negroponte and other neocons
remain in power, with Ledeen and Shulsky still skulking

The Italian parliamentary report on the Niger documents,
along with the Repubblica investigative reporting, might
just prove to be a low-smoldering Roman candle that will
soon light up the sky and shower down shock and awe on
these ghouls. Berlusconi's Halloween trip to the White
House occurs as the Italian president facing political
difficulties seeks to back away from the war he so
enthusiastically facilitated. Former Bush advisor and
"Axis of Evil" speechwriter, neocon David Frum, says Bush
feels he can "no longer trust" Berlusconi following his
statement to Italian television, "It would have been
better to avoid military action [in Iraq]. I tried several
times to convince the American president to not go to

That's the statement of a man who, having seen the war
going badly, is not only withdrawing some of his troops
from Iraq but dissociating himself from the whole buildup
to the war. He knows that Fitzgerald has received a copy
of the Italian parliamentary report and will quite likely
ask to question Italian nationals as well as Ledeen about
how the Niger uranium myth Libby was so eager to
promulgate and then protect was spun in the Eternal City
in the first place. Italy should figure centrally in his

Huddling in their creepy conclave this Halloween, Bush and
Berlusconi must've discerned the presence of ghosts of
scandals past (Watergate, Iran-Contra) based on "noble
lies" and noble cover-ups hovering below the White House
ceiling. From under the floorboards the hissing of the
vengeful spirits of tens of thousands of Iraqi dead, and
over 2000 Americans and 27 Italians sacrificed. Far in the
distance the rattling of chains and the bit of the
executioner axe scraping on the sharpening stone. The
screams echoing from the torture chambers. How scared they
must be as Fitzgerald's special-prosecuting craft
threatens to uncover a trans-Atlantic masque so macabre
that once exposed will shake off the spell of even those
most enthralled.

The benumbed, smitten with the charm of the flight-suited
conqueror. Those paralyzed by fear, by the color-coded
terror advisories. Those hypnotized by the eerie
omnipresence of red-white-and blue on their TV screens.
What if they see the trolls exposed, naked in the
daylight, cowering before charges of crimes against peace?
What if those red-white-and-blue scales fall from their
eyes, showing a world filled with complex patterns and
colors? What if hearing returns to the bewitched masses
and they hear the munchkins' song rising over Oz: "Ding
dong, the witch is dead, the witch o witch, the wicked
witch. Ding dong, the wicked witch is dead"? Just thinking
cheerfully here, whistling in the dark, amidst the spooks,
this Halloween.

* * * * *

Libby's hero Niccolo Machiavelli praised his contemporary,
Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) as a master of deception. In
The Prince he writes:

a prudent Prince neither can nor ought to keep his word
when to keep it is hurtful to him and the causes which led
him to pledge it are removed. . . It is necessary, indeed.
. .to be skilful in simulating and dissembling. But men
are so simple, and governed so absolutely by their present
needs, that he who wishes to deceive will never fail in
finding willing dupes. One recent example I will not omit.
Pope Alexander VI had no care or thought but how to
deceive, and always found material to work on. No man ever
had a more effective manner of asseverating, or made
promises with more solemn protestations, or observed them
less. And yet, because he understood this side of human
nature, his frauds always succeeded.

Libby's Pope Alexander is George W. Bush, whom when asked
about his historical legacy once scoffed, "History? We'll
all be dead!" Pope Alexander is gone indeed, reviled even
by the Catholic Church which at one time revered him as
the Vicar of Christ. "Most offensive and scandalous" wrote
eighteenth century Church historian Joseph de Maistre.
Will the History he so dismisses deal the Christian
right's hero, once or even before he's dead, a similar
verdict? Ding dong ding dong.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University,
and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the
author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the
Cities of Tokugawa Japan ;Male Colors: The Construction of
Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan ; and Interracial Intimacy
in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 . He
is also a contributor to CounterPunch's merciless
chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia,
Imperial Crusades .

He can be reached at: •••@••.•••



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