This is a new local blog for Florida's sixth Congressional district and watching the actions of Cliff Stearns, the Republican representative who misserves us in Washington. If you are interested in posting at The Case Against Cliff, drop me a line at with some idea of your Democratic and/or progressive credentials and I'll add you as a blogger.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Friend of Cliff

I was checking out the website Friends of Cliff Stearns ( and found the following photo:The caption at the website informs us that Cliff is posing with Retired Iraqi Major General Georges Sada. The picture was taken on October 19, 2006 at the annual Black Tie and Barbecue thrown by the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee. Sada is the author of Saddam's Secrets, in which he makes the claim that prior to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Saddam secretly shipped all of his weapons of mass destruction to Syria.

When the book first came out in January of 2006, Sada was of course immediately spirited to Fox News where he was able to spout his claims with Sean Hannity. A YouTube of that interview can be seen here. A breathless article repeating Sada's claims also was published in the New York Sun.

In the Sun article, Sada makes these claims:

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.

There are major problems with Sada's claims. First of all, the Iraq Survey Group, a United States effort headed by Charles Duelfer, produced a 1000 page study in October, 2004 that found that Iraq did not possess WMD's prior to the invasion. As reported by BBC:

Iraq Survey Group head Charles Duelfer said Iraq's nuclear capability had decayed not grown since the 1991 war.

But in a 1,000-page report his group said Saddam Hussein intended to resume production of banned weapons when UN sanctions were lifted.

So, first of all, Saddam had all of his WMD's destroyed after the first Gulf War. However, there's even a further hole in Sada's claims. It turns out that the UN was in charge of the humanitarian relief efforts for the dam collapse in Syria in June, 2002 and a report on those efforts is still available.

From the Executive Summary of the report:
The large Zeyzoun earth dam, located in the agricultural Al-Ghab region some 300 km north of Damascus, collapsed on 4 June 2002. The impact of the released water caused serious damage in nearby populated areas with resultant casualties .

To date some 20 people are known to have been killed, and this figure is not likely to change. It is estimated that over 10,000 people were directly affected by this incident to varying degrees, with at least 2,000 rendered completely homeless.

Six days after the disaster, it is considered that the humanitarian situation resulting from this accident is largely under control as a result of a swift and targeted response by the Provincial and Central Syrian authorities. A rapid reaction by the international community, which sent large quantities of emergency supplies, also contributed to quickly stabilize the situation.
Drilling down for further detail, here is how Iraq is credited for its role in the relief efforts:
Iraq has sent 12 airplanes with food, medicines and blankets, and also dispatched a 12-member medical team.
The scale of the relief effort for the dam collapse is just too small for Iraq to have hidden an additional 56 flights beyond those documented by the UN, since the other flights noted were two from Algeria, one from Italy, four from Morocco, one from Saudi Arabia and one from the United Arab Emirates. For Iraq to have hidden an extra 56 flights in the effort, one would think the overall relief effort should have been several hundreds of flights. Further, since Sada says only two Iraqi planes were involved in the weapons transfer, it's hard to see how two planes can move 56 flights of dangerous cargo in a six day window.

Sada's story just doesn't hold up under even the slightest scrutiny, yet Cliff is happy to pose with him as a friend to stay in the good graces of the radical right wing of the Republican party that idolizes war and Sean Hannity.

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