The War They Wanted, the Lies They Needed By Craig Unger Vanity Fair

Tuesday 06 June 2006

BushThe Bush administration invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellowcake uranium in Niger. As much of Washington knew, and the world soon learned, the charge was false. Worse, it appears to have been the cornerstone of a highly successful “black propaganda” campaign with links to the White House.

It’s a crisp, clear winter morning in Rome. In the neighborhood between the Vatican and the Olympic Stadium, a phalanx of motor scooters is parked outside a graffiti-scarred 10-story apartment building. No. 10 Via Antonio Baiamonte is home to scores of middle-class families, and to the embassy for the Republic of Niger, the impoverished West African nation that was once a French colony.

Though it may be unprepossessing, the Niger Embassy is the site of one of the great mysteries of our times. On January 2, 2001, an embassy official returned there after New Year’s Day and discovered that the offices had been robbed. Little of value was missing – a wristwatch, perfume, worthless documents, embassy stationery, and some official stamps bearing the seal of the Republic of Niger. Nevertheless, the consequences of the robbery were so great that the Watergate break-in pales by comparison.

A few months after the robbery, Western intelligence analysts began hearing that Saddam Hussein had sought yellowcake – a concentrated form of uranium which, if enriched, can be used in nuclear weapons – from Niger. Next came a dossier purporting to document the attempted purchase of hundreds of tons of uranium by Iraq. Information from the dossier and, later, the papers themselves made their way from Italian intelligence to, at various times, the C.I.A., other Western intelligence agencies, the U.S. Embassy in Rome, the State Department, and the White House, as well as several media outlets. Finally, in his January 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush told the world, “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

Two months later, the United States invaded Iraq, starting a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and has irrevocably de-stabilized the strategically vital Middle East. Since then, the world has learned not just that Bush’s 16-word casus belli was apparently based on the Niger documents but also that the documents were forged.

In Italy, a source with intimate knowledge of the Niger affair has warned me that powerful people are watching. Phones may be tapped. Jobs are in jeopardy, and people are scared.

On the sixth floor at Via Baiamonte, a receptionist finally comes to the door of the nondescript embassy office. She is of medium height, has dark-brown hair, wears a handsome blue suit, and appears to be in her 50s. She declines to give her full name. A look of concern and fear crosses her face. “Don’t believe what you read in the papers,” she cautions in French. “Ce n’est pas la vérité.” It is not the truth.

But who was behind the forgeries? Italian intelligence? American operatives? The woman tilts her head toward one of the closed doors to indicate that there are people there who can hear. She can’t talk. “C’est interdit,” she says. It is forbidden.

“A Classic Psy-Ops Campaign”

For more than two years it has been widely reported that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of intelligence failures. But in fact it is far more likely that the Iraq war started because of an extraordinary intelligence success – specifically, an astoundingly effective campaign of disinformation, or black propaganda, which led the White House, the Pentagon, Britain’s M.I.6 intelligence service, and thousands of outlets in the American media to promote the falsehood that Saddam Hussein’s nuclear-weapons program posed a grave risk to the United States.

The Bush administration made other false charges about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (W.M.D.) – that Iraq had acquired aluminum tubes suitable for centrifuges, that Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda, that he had mobile weapons labs, and so forth. But the Niger claim, unlike other allegations, can’t be dismissed as an innocent error or blamed on ambiguous data. “This wasn’t an accident,” says Milt Bearden, a 30-year C.I.A. veteran who was a station chief in Pakistan, Sudan, Nigeria, and Germany, and the head of the Soviet-East European division. “This wasn’t 15 monkeys in a room with typewriters.”

In recent months, it has emerged that the forged Niger documents went through the hands of the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI (Servizio per le Informazioni e la Sicurezza Militare), or operatives close to it, and that neoconservative policymakers helped bring them to the attention of the White House. Even after information in the Niger documents was repeatedly rejected by the C.I.A. and the State Department, hawkish neocons managed to circumvent seasoned intelligence analysts and insert the Niger claims into Bush’s State of the Union address.

By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq, in March 2003, this apparent black-propaganda operation had helped convince more than 90 percent of the American people that a brutal dictator was developing W.M.D. – and had led us into war.

To trace the path of the documents from their fabrication to their inclusion in Bush’s infamous speech, Vanity Fair has interviewed a number of former intelligence and military analysts who have served in the C.I.A., the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency (D.I.A.), and the Pentagon. Some of them refer to the Niger documents as “a disinformation operation,” others as “black propaganda,” “black ops,” or “a classic psy-ops [psychological-operations] campaign.” But whatever term they use, at least nine of these officials believe that the Niger documents were part of a covert operation to deliberately mislead the American public.

The officials are Bearden; Colonel W. Patrick Lang, who served as the D.I.A.’s defense intelligence officer for the Middle East, South Asia, and terrorism; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Melvin Goodman, a former division chief and senior analyst at the C.I.A. and the State Department; Ray McGovern, a C.I.A. analyst for 27 years; Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia division in 2002 and 2003; Larry C. Johnson, a former C.I.A. officer who was deputy director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism from 1989 to 1993; former C.I.A. official Philip Giraldi; and Vincent Cannistraro, the former chief of operations of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center.

In addition, Vanity Fair has found at least 14 instances prior to the 2003 State of the Union in which analysts at the C.I.A., the State Department, or other government agencies who had examined the Niger documents or reports about them raised serious doubts about their legitimacy – only to be rebuffed by Bush-administration officials who wanted to use the material. “They were just relentless,” says Wilkerson, who later prepared Colin Powell’s presentation before the United Nations General Assembly. “You would take it out and they would stick it back in. That was their favorite bureaucratic technique – ruthless relentlessness.”

All of which flies in the face of a campaign by senior Republicans including Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, to blame the C.I.A. for the faulty pre-war intelligence on W.M.D. Indeed, the accounts put forth by Wilkerson and his colleagues strongly suggest that the C.I.A. is under siege not because it was wrong but because it was right. Agency analysts were not serving the White House’s agenda.

What followed was not just the catastrophic foreign-policy blunder in Iraq but also an ongoing battle for the future of U.S. intelligence. Top officials have been leaving the C.I.A. in droves – including Porter Goss, who mysteriously resigned in May, just 18 months after he had been handpicked by Bush to be the director of Central Intelligence. Whatever the reason for his sudden departure, anyone at the top of the C.I.A., Goss’s replacement included, ultimately must worry about serving two masters: a White House that desperately wants intelligence it can use to remake the Middle East and a spy agency that is acutely sensitive to having its intelligence politicized.

Cui Bono?

Unraveling a disinformation campaign is no easy task. It means entering a kingdom of shadows peopled by would-be Machiavellis who are practiced in the art of deception. “In the world of fabrication, you don’t just drop something and let someone pick it up,” says Bearden. “Your first goal is to make sure it doesn’t find its way back to you, so you do several things. You may start out with a document that is a forgery, that is a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy, which makes it hard to track down. You go through cutouts so that the person who puts it out doesn’t know where it came from. And you build in subtle, nuanced errors so you can say, ‘We would never misspell that.’ If it’s very cleverly done, it’s a chess game, not checkers.”

Reporters who have entered this labyrinth often emerge so perplexed that they choose not to write about it. “The chances of being manipulated are very high,” says Claudio Gatti, a New York-based investigative reporter at Il Sole, the Italian business daily. “That’s why I decided to stay out of it.”

Despite such obstacles, a handful of independent journalists and bloggers on both sides of the Atlantic have been pursuing the story. “Most of the people you are dealing with are professional liars, which really leaves you with your work cut out for you as a reporter,” says Joshua Micah Marshall, who has written about the documents on his blog, Talking Points Memo.

So far, no one has figured out all the answers. There is even disagreement about why the documents were fabricated. In a story by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, a source suggested that retired and embittered C.I.A. operatives had intentionally put together a lousy forgery in hopes of embarrassing Cheney’s hawkish followers. But no evidence has emerged to support this theory, and many intelligence officers embrace a simpler explanation. “They needed this for the case to go to war,” says Melvin Goodman, who is now a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. “It serves no other purpose.”

By and large, knowledgeable government officials in the U.S., Italy, France, and Great Britain are mum. Official government investigations in Italy, the U.K., and the U.S. – including a two-year probe into pre-war intelligence failures by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence – have been so highly politicized as to be completely unsatisfying.

Only the ongoing investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the Plamegate scandal bears promise. However, it is focused not on the forgeries but on the leaks that were apparently designed to discredit former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson and that outed his wife, former C.I.A. agent Valerie Plame, after Wilson revealed that the Niger story was false. I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, has already been charged in the case, and President Bush’s senior adviser, Karl Rove, has been Fitzgerald’s other principal target. But, with the dubious exception of an ongoing F.B.I. inquiry, there is no official probe into who forged the Niger documents, who disseminated them, and why, after they had been repeatedly discredited, they kept resurfacing.

Meanwhile, from Rome to Washington, and countless points in between, journalists, bloggers, politicians, and intelligence agents are pondering the same question: Cui bono? Who benefits? Who wanted to start the war?

The Stuff of Conspiracy Fantasies

If Italy seems like an unlikely setting for a black-propaganda plot to start the Iraq war, it is worth remembering that Et tu, Brute is part of the local idiom, and Machiavelli was a native son. Accordingly, one can’t probe Nigergate without examining the rich tapestry of intrigue that is Italian intelligence.

Because Italy emerged from World War II with a strong Communist Party, domestic politics had elements of a civil war, explains Guido Moltedo, editor of Europa, a center-left daily in Italy. That meant ultra-conservative Cold Warriors battled the Communists not just electorally but through undercover operations in the intelligence world. “In addition to the secret service, SISMI, there was another, informal, parallel secret service,” Moltedo says. “It was known as Propaganda Due.”

Led by a neo-Fascist named Licio Gelli, Propaganda Due, with its penchant for exotic covert operations, was the stuff of conspiracy fantasies – except that it was real. According to The Sunday Times of London, until 1986 members agreed to have their throats slit and tongues cut out if they broke their oaths. Subversive, authoritarian, and right-wing, the group was sometimes referred to as the P-2 Masonic Lodge because of its ties to the secret society of Masons, and it served as the covert intelligence agency for militant anti-Communists. It was also linked to Operation Gladio, a secret paramilitary wing in NATO that supported far-right military coups in Greece and Turkey during the Cold War.

In 1981 the Italian Parliament banned Propaganda Due, and all secret organizations in Italy, after an investigation concluded that it had infiltrated the highest levels of Italy’s judiciary, parliament, military, and press, and was tied to assassinations, kidnappings, and arms deals around the world. But before it was banned, P-2 members and their allies participated in two ideologically driven international black-propaganda schemes that foreshadowed the Niger Embassy job 20 years later. The first took place in 1980, when Francesco Pazienza, a charming and sophisticated Propaganda Due operative at the highest levels of SISMI, allegedly teamed up with an American named Michael Ledeen, a Rome correspondent for The New Republic. According to The Wall Street Journal, Pazienza said he first met Ledeen that summer, through a SISMI agent in New York who was working under the cover of a U.N. job.

The end result of their collaboration was a widely publicized story that helped Ronald Reagan unseat President Jimmy Carter, whom they considered too timid in his approach to winning the Cold War. The target was Carter’s younger brother, Billy, a hard-drinking “good ol’ boy” from Georgia who repeatedly embarrassed his sibling in the White House.

It began after Billy mortified the president in 1979 by going to Tripoli at a time when Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, was reviled as a radical Arab dictator who supported terrorism. Coupled with Billy’s later admission that he had received a $220,000 loan from Qaddafi’s regime, the ensuing “Billygate” scandal made headlines across America and led to a Senate investigation. But it had died down as the November 1980 elections approached.

Then, in the last week of October 1980, just two weeks before the election, The New Republic in Washington and Now magazine in Great Britain published a story co-authored by Michael Ledeen and Arnaud de Borchgrave, now an editor-at-large at The Washington Times and United Press International. According to the story, headlined “Qaddafi, Arafat and Billy Carter,” the president’s brother had been given an additional $50,000 by Qaddafi, on top of the loan, and had met secretly with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. The story had come dramatically back to life. The new charges were disputed by Billy Carter and many others, and were never corroborated.

A 1985 investigation by Jonathan Kwitny in The Wall Street Journal reported that the New Republic article was part of a larger disinformation scam run by Ledeen and SISMI to tilt the election, and that “Billy Carter wasn’t the only one allegedly getting money from a foreign government.” According to Pazienza, Kwitny reported, Michael Ledeen had received at least $120,000 from SISMI in 1980 or 1981 for his work on Billygate and other projects. Ledeen even had a coded identity, Z-3, and had money sent to him in a Bermuda bank account, Pazienza said.

Ledeen told the Journal that a consulting firm he owned, I.S.I., worked for SISMI and may have received the money. He said he did not recall whether he had a coded identity.

Pazienza was subsequently convicted in absentia on multiple charges, including having used extortion and fraud to obtain embarrassing facts about Billy Carter. Ledeen was never charged with any crime, but he was cited in Pazienza’s indictment, which read, “With the illicit support of the SISMI and in collaboration with the well-known American ‘Italianist’ Michael Ledeen, Pazienza succeeded in extorting, also using fraudulent means, information … on the Libyan business of Billy Carter, the brother of the then President of the United States.”

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Ledeen denied having worked with Pazienza or Propaganda Due as part of a disinformation scheme. “I knew Pazienza,” he explained. “I didn’t think P-2 existed. I thought it was all nonsense – typical Italian fantasy.”

He added, “I’m not aware that anything in [the Billygate] story turned out to be false.”

Asked if he had worked with SISMI, Ledeen told Vanity Fair, “No,” then added, “I had a project with SISMI – one project.” He described it as a simple “desktop” exercise in 1979 or 1980, in which he taught Italian intelligence how to deal with U.S. officials on extradition matters. His fee, he said, was about $10,000.

The Bulgarian Connection

In 1981, Ledeen played a role in what has been widely characterized as another disinformation operation. Once again his alleged ties to SISMI were front and center. The episode began after Mehmet Ali Agca, the right-wing terrorist who shot Pope John Paul II that May, told authorities that he had been taking orders from the Soviet Union’s K.G.B. and Bulgaria’s secret service. With Ronald Reagan newly installed in the White House, the so-called Bulgarian Connection made perfect Cold War propaganda. Michael Ledeen was one of its most vocal proponents, promoting it on TV and in newspapers all over the world. In light of the ascendancy of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, the Pope’s homeland, the Bulgarian Connection played a role in the demise of Communism in 1989.

There was just one problem – it probably wasn’t true. “It just doesn’t pass the giggle test,” says Frank Brodhead, co-author of The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection. “Agca, the shooter, had been deeply embedded in a Turkish youth group of the Fascist National Action Party known as the Gray Wolves. It seemed illogical that a Turkish Fascist would work with Bulgarian Communists.”

The only real source for the Bulgarian Connection theory was Agca himself, a pathological liar given to delusional proclamations such as his insistence that he was Jesus Christ. When eight men were later tried in Italian courts as part of the Bulgarian Connection case, all were acquitted for lack of evidence. One reason was that Agca had changed his story repeatedly. On the witness stand, he said he had put forth the Bulgarian Connection theory after Francesco Pazienza offered him freedom in exchange for the testimony. He subsequently changed that story as well.

Years later, Washington Post reporter Michael Dobbs, who had initially believed the theory, wrote that “I became convinced … that the Bulgarian connection was invented by Agca with the hope of winning his release from prison. … He was aided and abetted in this scheme by right-wing conspiracy theorists in the United States and William Casey’s Central Intelligence Agency, which became a victim of its own disinformation campaign.”

Exactly which Americans might have been behind such a campaign? According to a 1987 article in The Nation, Francesco Pazienza said Ledeen “was the person responsible for dreaming up the ‘Bulgarian connection’ behind the plot to kill the Pope.” Similarly, according to The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection, Pazienza claimed that Ledeen had worked closely with the SISMI team that coached Agca on his testimony.

But Ledeen angrily denies the charges. “It’s all a lie,” he says. He adds that he protested to The Wall Street Journal when it first reported on his alleged relationship with Pazienza: “If one-tenth of it were true, I would not have security clearances, but I do.”

Not long before his death, in 2005, Pope John Paul II announced that he did not believe the Bulgarian Connection theory. But that wasn’t the end of it. In March 2006 an Italian commission run by Paolo Guzzanti, a senator in the right-wing Forza Italia Party, reopened the case and concluded that the Bulgarian Connection was real. According to Frank Brodhead, however, the new conclusions are based on the same old information, which is “bogus at best and at worst deliberately misleading.”

In the wake of Billygate and the Bulgarian Connection, Ledeen allegedly began to play a role as a behind-the-scenes operative with the ascendant Reagan-Bush team. According to Mission Italy, by former ambassador to Italy Richard Gardner, after Reagan’s victory, but while Jimmy Carter was still president, “Ledeen and Pazienza set themselves up as the preferred channel between Italian political leaders and members of the new administration.” Ledeen responds, “Gardner was wrong. And, by the way, he had every opportunity to raise it with me and never did.”

When Reagan took office, Ledeen was made special assistant to Alexander Haig, Reagan’s secretary of state. Ledeen later took a staff position on Reagan’s National Security Council and played a key role in initiating the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that became known as the Iran-contra scandal.

The Italian Job

In 1981, P-2 was outlawed and police raided the home of its leader, Licio Gelli. Authorities found a list of nearly a thousand prominent public figures in Italy who were believed to be members. Among them was a billionaire media mogul who had not yet entered politics – Silvio Berlusconi.

In 1994, Berlusconi was elected prime minister. Rather than distancing himself from the criminal organization, he told a reporter that “P-2 had brought together the best men in the country,” and he began to execute policies very much aligned with it.

Among those Berlusconi appointed to powerful national-security positions were two men known to Ledeen. A founding member of Forza Italia, Minister of Defense Antonio Martino was a well-known figure in Washington neocon circles and had been close friends with Michael Ledeen since the 1970s. Ledeen also occasionally played bridge with the head of SISMI under Berlusconi, Nicolò Pollari. “Michael Ledeen is connected to all the players,” says Philip Giraldi, who was stationed in Italy with the C.I.A. in the 1980s and has been a keen observer of Ledeen over the years.

Enter Rocco Martino. An elegantly attired man in his 60s with white hair and a neatly trimmed mustache, Martino (no relation to Antonio Martino) had served in SISMI until 1999 and had a long history of peddling information to other intelligence services in Europe, including France’s Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (D.G.S.E.).

By 2000, however, Martino had fallen on hard times financially. It was then that a longtime colleague named Antonio Nucera offered him a lucrative proposition. A SISMI colonel specializing in counter-proliferation and W.M.D., Nucera told Martino that Italian intelligence had long had an “asset” in the Niger Embassy in Rome: a woman who was about 60 years old, had a low-level job, and occasionally sold off embassy documents to SISMI. But now SISMI had no more use for the woman – who is known in the Italian press as “La Signora” and has recently been identified as the ambassador’s assistant, Laura Montini. Perhaps, Nucera suggested, Martino could use La Signora as Italian intelligence had, paying her to pass on documents she copied or stole from the embassy.

Shortly after New Year’s 2001, the break-in took place at the Niger Embassy. Martino denies any participation. There are many conflicting accounts of the episode. According to La Repubblica, a left-of-center daily which has published an investigative series on Nigergate, documents stolen from the embassy ultimately were combined with other papers that were already in SISMI archives. In addition, the embassy stationery was apparently used to forge records about a phony uranium deal between Niger and Iraq. The Sunday Times of London recently reported that the papers had been forged for profit by two embassy employees: Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the consul, and Montini. But many believe that they, wittingly or not, were merely pawns in a larger game.

According to Martino, the documents were not given to him all at once. First, he explained, SISMI had La Signora give him documents that had come from the robbery: “I was told that a woman in the Niger Embassy in Rome had a gift for me. I met her and she gave me documents.” Later, he said, SISMI dug into its archives and added new papers. There was a codebook, then a dossier with a mixture of fake and genuine documents. Among them was an authentic telex dated February 1, 1999, in which Adamou Chékou, the ambassador from Niger, wrote another official about a forthcoming visit from Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican.

The last one Martino says he received, and the most important one, was not genuine, however. Dated July 27, 2000, it was a two-page memo purportedly sent to the president of Niger concerning the sale of 500 tons of pure uranium per year by Niger to Iraq.

The forged documents were full of errors. A letter dated October 10, 2000, was signed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Allele Elhadj Habibou – even though he had been out of office for more than a decade. Its September 28 postmark indicated that somehow the letter had been received nearly two weeks before it was sent. In another letter, President Tandja Mamadou’s signature appeared to be phony. The accord signed by him referred to the Niger constitution of May 12, 1965, when a new constitution had been enacted in 1999. One of the letters was dated July 30, 1999, but referred to agreements that were not made until a year later. Finally, the agreement called for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters – a spectacularly difficult feat.

Martino, however, says he was unaware that they were forgeries. He was merely interested in a payday. “He was not looking for great amounts of money – $10,000, $20,000, maybe $40,000,” says Carlo Bonini, who co-authored the Nigergate stories for La Repubblica.

SISMI director Nicolò Pollari acknowledges that Martino has worked for Italian intelligence. But, beyond that, he claims that Italian intelligence played no role in the Niger operation. “[Nucera] offered [Martino] the use of an intelligence asset [La Signora] – no big deal, you understand – one who was still on the books but inactive – to give a hand to Martino,” Pollari told a reporter.

Rocco Martino, however, said SISMI had another agenda: “SISMI wanted me to pass on the documents, but they didn’t want anyone to know they had been involved.”

The Cutout

Whom should we believe? Characterized by La Repubblica as “a failed carabiniere and dishonest spy,” a “double-dealer” who “plays every side of the fence,” Martino has reportedly been arrested for extortion and for possession of stolen checks, and was fired by SISMI in 1999 for “conduct unbecoming.” Elsewhere he has been described as “a trickster” and “a rogue.” He is a man who traffics in deception.

On the other hand, operatives like Martino are highly valued precisely because they can be discredited so easily. “If there were a deep-cover unit of SISMI, it would make sense to use someone like Rocco,” says Patrick Lang. “His flakiness gives SISMI plausible deniability. It’s their cover story. That’s standard tradecraft with the agencies.”

In other words, Rocco Martino may well have been the cutout for SISMI, a postman who, if he dared to go public, could be disavowed.

Martino, who is the subject of a recently reopened investigation by the public prosecutor in Rome, has declined to talk to the press in recent months. But before going silent, he gave interviews to Italian, British, and American journalists characterizing himself as a pawn who distributed the documents on behalf of SISMI and believed that they were authentic. “I sell information, I admit,” Martino told The Sunday Times of London, using his pseudonym, Giacomo. “But I sell only good information.”

Over the next two years, the Niger documents and reports based on them made at least three journeys to the C.I.A. They also found their way to the U.S. Embassy in Rome, to the White House, to British intelligence, to French intelligence, and to Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Each of these recipients in turn shared the documents or their contents with others, in effect creating an echo chamber that gave the illusion that several independent sources had corroborated an Iraq-Niger uranium deal.

“It was the Italians and Americans together who were behind it. It was all a disinformation operation,” Martino told a reporter at England’s Guardian newspaper. He called himself “a tool used by someone for games much bigger than me.”

What exactly might those games have been? Berlusconi defined his role on the world stage largely in terms of his relationship with the U.S., and he jumped at the chance to forge closer ties with the White House when Bush took office, in 2001. In its three-part series on Nigergate, La Repubblica charges that Berlusconi was so eager to win Bush’s favor that he “instructed Italian Military Intelligence to plant the evidence implicating Saddam in a bogus uranium deal with Niger.” (The Berlusconi government, which lost power in April, denied the charge.)

Because the Niger break-in happened before Bush took office, La Repubblica and many others assume that the robbery was initiated as a small-time job. “When the story began, they were not thinking about Iraq,” says La Repubblica’s Bonini. “They were just trying to gather something that could be sold on the black market to the intelligence community.”

But it is also possible that from its very inception the Niger operation was aimed at starting an invasion of Iraq. As early as 1992, neoconservative hawks in the administration of George H. W. Bush, under the aegis of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, unsuccessfully lobbied for regime change in Iraq as part of a grandiose vision for American supremacy in the next century.

During the Clinton era, the neocons persisted with their policy goals, and in early 1998 they twice lobbied President Clinton to bring down Saddam. The second attempt came in the form of “An Open Letter to the President” by leading neoconservatives, many of whom later played key roles in the Bush administration, where they became known as the Vulcans. Among those who signed were Michael Ledeen, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and David Wurmser.

According to Patrick Lang, the initial Niger Embassy robbery could have been aimed at starting the war even though Bush had yet to be inaugurated. The scenario, he cautions, is merely speculation on his part. But he says that the neocons wouldn’t have hesitated to reach out to SISMI even before Bush took office. “There’s no doubt in my mind that the neocons had their eye on Iraq,” he says. “This is something they intended to do, and they would have communicated that to SISMI or anybody else to get the help they wanted.”

In Lang’s view, SISMI would also have wanted to ingratiate itself with the incoming administration. “These foreign intelligence agencies are so dependent on us that the urge to acquire I.O.U.’s is a powerful incentive by itself,” he says. “It would have been very easy to have someone go to Rome and talk to them, or have one of the SISMI guys here [in Washington], perhaps the SISMI officer in the Italian Embassy, talk to them.”

Lang’s scenario rings true to Frank Brodhead. “When I read that the Niger break-in took place before Bush took office, I immediately thought back to the Bulgarian Connection,” he says. “That job was done during the transition as well. [Michael] Ledeen … saw himself as making a serious contribution to the Cold War through the Bulgarian Connection. Now, it was possible, 20 years later, that he was doing the same to start the war in Iraq.”

Brodhead is not alone. Several press outlets, including the San Francisco Chronicle, United Press International, and The American Conservative, as well as a chorus of bloggers – Daily Kos, the Left Coaster, and Raw Story among them – have raised the question of whether Ledeen was involved with the Niger documents. But none have found any hard evidence.

An Absurd Idea

Early in the summer of 2001, about six months after the break-in, information from the forged documents was given to U.S. intelligence for the first time. Details about the transfer are extremely sketchy, but it is highly probable that the reports were summaries of the documents. It is standard practice for intelligence services, in the interests of protecting sources, to share reports, rather than original documents, with allies.

To many W.M.D. analysts in the C.I.A. and the military, the initial reports sounded ridiculous. “The idea that you could get that much yellowcake out of Niger without the French knowing, that you could have a train big enough to carry it, much less a ship, is absurd,” says Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff.

“The reports made no sense on the face of it,” says Ray McGovern, the former C.I.A. analyst, who challenged Rumsfeld about the war at a public event this spring. “Most of us knew the Iraqis already had yellowcake. It is a sophisticated process to change it into a very refined state and they didn’t have the technology.”

“Yellowcake is unprocessed bulk ore,” explains Karen Kwiatkowski, who has written extensively about the intelligence fiasco that led to the war. “If Saddam wanted to make nuclear bombs, why would he want unprocessed ore when the best thing to do would be to get processed stuff in the Congo?”

“When it comes to raw reports, all manner of crap comes out of the field,” McGovern adds. “The C.I.A. traditionally has had experienced officers…. They are qualified to see if these reports make sense. For some reason, perhaps out of cowardice, these reports were judged to be of such potential significance that no one wanted to sit on it.”

Since Niger was a former French colony, French intelligence was the logical choice to vet the allegations. “The French were managing partners of the international consortium in Niger,” explains Joseph Wilson, who eventually traveled to Niger to investigate the uranium claim. “The French did the actual mining and shipping of it.”

So Alain Chouet, then head of security intelligence for France’s D.G.S.E., was tasked with checking out the first Niger report for the C.I.A. He recalls that much of the information he received from Langley was vague, with the exception of one striking detail. The agency had heard that in 1999 the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, Wissam al-Zahawie, had made an unusual visit to four African countries, including Niger. Analysts feared that the trip may have been a prelude to a uranium deal.

Chouet soon found that the al-Zahawie visit was no secret. It had been covered by the local press in Niger at the time, and reports had surfaced in French, British, and American intelligence. Chouet had a 700-man unit at his command, and he ordered an extensive on-the-ground investigation in Niger.

“In France, we’ve always been very careful about both problems of uranium production in Niger and Iraqi attempts to get uranium,” Chouet told the Los Angeles Times last December. Having concluded that nothing had come of al-Zahawie’s visit and that there was no evidence of a uranium deal, French intelligence forwarded its assessment to the C.I.A. But the Niger affair had just begun.

Into Overdrive

A few weeks later, on September 11, 2001, terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The neocons had long said that they needed another Pearl Harbor in order to realize their dreams of regime change in Iraq. Now it had taken place. According to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, C.I.A. director George Tenet reported to the White House within hours that Osama bin Laden was behind the attack. But by midday Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had already raised the question of attacking Saddam. Likewise, four days later, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz advised President Bush not to bother going after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan but to train American guns on Iraq instead.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Bush’s approval ratings soared to 90 percent, the all-time high for any U.S. president. This was the perfect opportunity to go after Saddam, except for one thing: the available intelligence did not support the action. Ten days after the attacks, Bush was told in a classified briefing that there was no credible evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks.

Now the Niger operation went into overdrive. The details of how this happened are murky. Accounts from usually reputable newspapers, the United States Senate Intelligence Committee, and other sources are wildly at variance with one another. In October 2001, SISMI, which had already sent reports about the alleged Niger deal to French intelligence, finally had them forwarded to British and U.S. intelligence. The exact dates of the distribution are unclear, but, according to the British daily The Independent, SISMI sent the dossier to the Vauxhall Cross headquarters of M.I.6, in South London. The delivery might have been made, Italian reports say, by Rocco Martino. At roughly the same time, in early October, according to La Repubblica, SISMI also gave a report about the Niger deal to Jeff Castelli, the C.I.A. station chief in Rome. According to a recent broadcast by CBS’s 60 Minutes, C.I.A. analysts who saw the material were skeptical.

In addition, on October 15, 2001, Nicolò Pollari, the newly appointed chief of SISMI, made his first visit to his counterparts at the C.I.A. Under pressure from Berlusconi to turn over information that would be useful for America’s Iraq-war policy, Pollari met “with top C.I.A. officials to provide a SISMI dossier indicating that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Niger,” according to an article by Philip Giraldi in The American Conservative.

According to the Senate Intelligence Committee, the analysts saw Pollari’s report as “very limited and lacking needed detail.” Nevertheless, the State Department had the U.S. Embassy in Niger check out the alleged uranium deal. On November 20, 2001, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey, the capital of Niger, sent a cable reporting that the director general of Niger’s French-led consortium had told the American ambassador that “there was no possibility” that the African nation had diverted any yellowcake to Iraq.

In December 2001, Greg Thielmann, director for strategic proliferation and military affairs at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), reviewed Iraq’s W.M.D. program for Colin Powell. As for the Niger report, Thielmann said, “A whole lot of things told us that the report was bogus. This wasn’t highly contested. There weren’t strong advocates on the other side. It was done, shot down.”

“Faster, Please”

Michael Ledeen waves an unlit cigar as he welcomes me into his 11th-floor office at the American Enterprise Institute, in Washington. Home to Irving Kristol, Lynne Cheney, Richard Perle, and countless other stars in the neocon firmament, the A.E.I. is one of the most powerful think tanks in the country. It has sent more than two dozen of its alumni to the Bush administration.

After 17 years at the A.E.I., Ledeen is the institute’s Freedom Scholar and rates a corner office decorated with prints of the Colosseum in Rome, the Duomo in Florence, and other mementos of his days in Italy. Having served as a consultant at the Pentagon and the State Department and on the National Security Council, Ledeen relishes playing the role of the intriguer. In the Iran-contra scandal, Ledeen won notoriety for introducing Oliver North to his friend the Iranian arms dealer and con man Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was labeled “an intelligence fabricator” by the C.I.A. Ledeen has made his share of enemies along the way, especially at the C.I.A. According to Larry Johnson, “The C.I.A. viewed Ledeen as a meddlesome troublemaker who usually got it wrong and was allied with people who were dangerous to the U.S., such as Ghorbanifar.”

Apprised of such views, Ledeen, no fan of the C.I.A., responds, “Oh, that’s a shock. Ghorbanifar over the years has been one of the most accurate sources of understanding what is going on in Iran. … I have always thought the C.I.A. made a big mistake.”

Bearded and balding, the 65-year-old Ledeen makes for an unlikely 007. On the one hand, he can be self-deprecating, describing himself as “powerless … and, well, schlumpy.” On the other, one of his bios grandiosely proclaims that he has executed “the most sensitive and dangerous missions in recent American history.”

Ledeen props his feet up on his desk next to an icon of villainy – a mask of Darth Vader. “I’m tired of being described as someone who likes Fascism and is a warmonger,” he says. “I’ve said it over and over again. I’m not the person you think you are looking for. … I think it’s obvious I have no clout in the administration. I haven’t had a role. I don’t have a role.” He barely knows Karl Rove, he says. He has “very occasionally” had discussions with Cheney’s office. And he denies reports that he was a consultant for Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans, the division of the Pentagon that was famous for cherry-picking and “stovepiping” intelligence that suited its policy of invading Iraq. “I have had no professional relationship with any agency of the federal government during the Bush Administration,” Ledeen later clarifies via e-mail. “That includes the Pentagon.”

However, there is considerable evidence that Ledeen has had far more access than he lets on to the highest levels of the Bush administration. Even before Bush took office, Rove asked Ledeen to funnel ideas to the White House. According to The Washington Post, some of Ledeen’s ideas became “official policy or rhetoric.” As for Ledeen’s role in the Office of Special Plans, Karen Kwiatkowski, who worked in the Pentagon during the run-up to the Iraq war, has described Ledeen as Feith’s collaborator and said in an e-mail that he “was in and out of there (OSP) all the time.”

Through his ties to Rove and Deputy National-Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Michael Ledeen was also wired into the White House Iraq Group, which was charged with marketing an invasion of Iraq.

Ledeen claims, as he told the Web site Raw Story, that he had strongly advised against the plan, saying that the invasion of Iraq was the “wrong war, wrong time, wrong way, wrong place.” But the truth is somewhat more complicated. Ledeen had urged regime change in Iraq since 1998, and just four hours after the 9/11 attacks he posted an article on the National Review Web site urging Bush to take “the fight directly to Saddam on his own territory.”

But to Ledeen, Iraq was just one part of a larger war. As he later told a seminar, “All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … that is entirely the wrong way to go about it.” He urged Americans not to try to “piece together clever diplomatic solutions to this thing, but just wage a total war against these tyrants.”

In January 2003, two months before the war started, he wrote, “If we were serious about waging this war, we would, at an absolute minimum, support the Iranian people’s brave campaign against their tyrants … and recognize an Iraqi government in exile in the ‘no fly’ zones we control. … If we don’t, we may well find ourselves facing a far bigger problem than Saddam alone.”

Ledeen repeatedly urged war or destabilization not just in Iraq but also in Iran, Syria, Lebanon, even Saudi Arabia. “One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please,” he wrote. “Faster, please” became his mantra, repeated incessantly in his National Review columns.

Rhapsodizing about war week after week, Ledeen became chief rhetorician for neoconservative visionaries who wanted to remake the Middle East. “Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad,” he wrote after the attacks. “We must destroy [our enemies] to advance our historic mission.”

The U.S. must be “imperious, ruthless, and relentless,” he argued, until there has been “total surrender” by the Muslim world. “We must keep our fangs bared,” he wrote, “we must remind them daily that we Americans are in a rage, and we will not rest until we have avenged our dead, we will not be sated until we have had the blood of every miserable little tyrant in the Middle East, until every leader of every cell of the terror network is dead or locked securely away, and every last drooling anti-Semitic and anti-American mullah, imam, sheikh, and ayatollah is either singing the praises of the United States of America, or pumping gasoline, for a dime a gallon, on an American military base near the Arctic Circle.”

“An Old Friend of Italy”

As 2001 drew to a close, such positions seemed decidedly outside the mainstream. Career military and intelligence professionals saw the relatively moderate Colin Powell and George Tenet, a Clinton appointee, reassuringly ensconced as secretary of state and director of central intelligence, respectively. “George Tenet had been there for a number of years,” says Larry Wilkerson. “He knew what he was doing. He was a professional. What did he have to do with Douglas Feith? It didn’t seem possible that someone like Douglas Feith could exercise such influence.” But a schism was growing between the cautious realism of analysts in the C.I.A. and the State Department, on one side, and the hawkish ambitions of Dick Cheney and the Pentagon, on the other.

As for Ledeen, how much clout he carried with the administration is a matter of debate. But one measure of his influence may be a series of secret meetings he set up – with Hadley’s approval, he claims – in Rome in the second week of December 2001. During these meetings, Ghorbanifar introduced American officials to other Iranians who passed on information about their government’s plans to target U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Among those in attendance were Harold Rhode and Larry Franklin of the Office of Special Plans. (In a separate matter, Franklin has since pleaded guilty to passing secrets to Israel and been sentenced to 12 years in prison.) “That information saved American lives in Afghanistan,” Ledeen asserts.

But other accounts suggest that Ledeen may have used his time in Italy to reactivate old friendships that played a role in the Niger affair.

According to La Repubblica, Nicolò Pollari had become frustrated by the C.I.A.’s refusal to let SISMI deliver a smoking gun that would justify an invasion of Iraq. At an unspecified date, he discussed the issue with Ledeen’s longtime friend Minister of Defense Antonio Martino. Martino, the paper reported, told Pollari to expect a visit from “an old friend of Italy,” namely Ledeen. Soon afterward, according to La Repubblica, Pollari allegedly took up the Niger matter with Ledeen when he was in Rome. Ledeen denies having had any such conversations. Pollari declined to be interviewed by Vanity Fair, and has denied playing any role in the Niger affair. Martino has declined to comment.

By early 2002, career military and intelligence professionals had seen the Niger reports repeatedly discredited, and assumed that the issue was dead. But that was not the case.

“These guys in the Office of Special Plans delighted in telling people, ‘You don’t understand your own data,'” says Patrick Lang. “‘We know that Saddam is evil and deceptive, and if you see this piece of data, to say just because it is not well supported it’s not true is to be politically naïve.'”

Not everybody in the C.I.A. was of one mind with regard to the alleged Niger deal. As the Senate Intelligence Committee report points out, some analysts at the C.I.A. and other agencies considered the Niger deal to be “possible.” In the fall of 2002, the C.I.A. approved language referring to the Niger deal in one speech by the president but vetoed it in another. And in December 2002, analysts at WINPAC, the C.I.A.’s center for Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control, produced a paper that chided Iraq for not acknowledging its “efforts to procure uranium from Niger.”

Nevertheless, the C.I.A. had enough doubts about the Niger claims to initially leave them out of the President’s Daily Brief (P.D.B.), the intelligence updates given each morning to President Bush. On February 5, 2002, however, for reasons that remain unclear, the C.I.A. issued a new report on the alleged Niger deal, one that provided significantly more detail, including what was said to be “verbatim text” of the accord between Niger and Iraq. In the State Department, analysts were still suspicious of the reports. But in the Pentagon, the Vulcans pounced on the new material. On February 12, the D.I.A. issued “a finished intelligence product,” titled “Niamey Signed an Agreement to Sell 500 Tons of Uranium a Year to Baghdad,” and passed it to the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney gave the Niger claims new life. “The [C.I.A.] briefer came in. Cheney said, ‘What about this?,’ and the briefer hadn’t heard one word, because no one in the agency thought it was of any significance,” says Ray McGovern, whose job at the C.I.A. included preparing and delivering the P.D.B. in the Reagan era. “But when a briefer gets a request from the vice president of the United States, he goes back and leaves no stone unturned.”

The C.I.A.’s Directorate of Operations, the branch responsible for the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence, immediately tasked its Counterproliferation Division (CPD) with getting more information. According to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report, just hours after Dick Cheney had gotten the Niger report, Valerie Plame, who worked in the CPD, wrote a memo to the division’s deputy chief that read, “My husband has good relations with both the PM [prime minister] and the former Minister of Mines (not to mention lots of French contacts), both of whom could possibly shed light on this sort of activity.”

Her husband, as the world now knows, was Joseph Wilson, who had served as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and as ambassador to Gabon under George H. W. Bush. Wilson approached the task with a healthy skepticism. “The office of the vice president had asked me to check this out,” Wilson told Vanity Fair. “My skepticism was the same as it would have been with any unverified intelligence report, because there is a lot of stuff that comes over the transom every day.”

He arrived in Niger on February 26, 2002. “Niger has a simplistic government structure,” he says. “Both the minister of mines and the prime minister had gone through the mines. The French were managing partners of the international consortium. The French mining company actually had its hands on the product. Nobody else in the consortium had operators on the ground.”

In addition, Wilson personally knew Wissam al-Zahawie, the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, whose visit to Niger had raised suspicions. “Wissam al-Zahawie was a world-class opera singer, and he went to the Vatican as his last post so he could be near the great European opera houses in Rome,” says Wilson. “He was not in the Ba’thist inner circle. He was not in Saddam’s tribe. The idea that he would be entrusted with this super-secret mission to buy 500 tons of uranium from Niger is out of the question.”

On March 1, the State Department weighed in with another cable, headed “Sale of Niger Uranium to Iraq Unlikely.” Citing “unequivocal” control of the mines, the cable asserted that President Tandja of Niger would not want to risk good relations with the U.S. by trading with Iraq, and cited the prohibitive logistical problems in such a transaction.

A few days later, Wilson returned from Niger and told C.I.A. officials that he had found no evidence to support the uranium charges. By now the Niger reports had been discredited more than half a dozen times – by the French in 2001, by the C.I.A. in Rome and in Langley, by the State Department’s INR, by some analysts in the Pentagon, by the ambassador to Niger, by Wilson, and yet again by State.

But the top brass at the C.I.A. knew what Cheney wanted. They went back to French intelligence again – twice. According to the Los Angeles Times, the second request that year, in mid-2002, “was more urgent and more specific.” The C.I.A. sought confirmation of the alleged agreement by Niger to sell 500 tons of yellowcake to Iraq. Alain Chouet reportedly sent five or six men to Niger and again found the charges to be false. Then his staff noticed that the allegations matched those brought to him by Rocco Martino. “We told the Americans, ‘Bullshit. It doesn’t make any sense.'”

The Marketing Campaign

Until this point, the American people had been largely oblivious to the Bush administration’s emerging policy toward Iraq. But in August 2002, just as Douglas Feith’s Office of Special Plans formally set up shop in the Pentagon, White House chief of staff Andrew Card launched the White House Iraq Group to sell the war through the media. The plan was to open a full-fledged marketing campaign after Labor Day, featuring images of nuclear devastation and threats of biological and chemical weapons. A key piece of the evidence was the Niger dossier.

Test-marketing began in August, with Cheney and his surrogates asserting repeatedly that “many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.” Making Cheney seem moderate by comparison, a piece by Ledeen appeared in The Wall Street Journal on September 4, suggesting that, in addition to Iraq, the governments of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia should be overthrown.

But the real push was delayed until the second week of September. As Card famously put it, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks was perfect.

The opening salvo was fired on Sunday, September 8, 2002, when National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told CNN, “There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly [Saddam] can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

The smoking-gun-mushroom-cloud catchphrase was such a hit that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld all picked it up in one form or another, sending it out repeatedly to the entire country.

Meanwhile, the C.I.A. had finally penetrated Saddam’s inner sanctum by “turning” Foreign Minister Naji Sabri. Tenet delivered the news personally to Bush, Cheney, and other top officials in September 2002. Initially, the White House was ecstatic about this coup.

But, according to Tyler Drumheller, the C.I.A.’s chief of operations in Europe until he retired last year, that reaction changed dramatically when they heard what Sabri had to say. “He told us that they had no active weapons-of-mass-destruction program,” Drumheller told 60 Minutes. “The [White House] group that was dealing with the preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said, ‘Well, what about the intel?’ And they said, ‘Well, this isn’t about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'”

At roughly the same time, highly placed White House sources such as Scooter Libby leaked exclusive “scoops” to credulous reporters as part of the campaign to make Saddam’s nuclear threat seem real. On the same day the “mushroom cloud” slogan made its debut, The New York Times printed a front-page story by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller citing administration officials who said that Saddam had “embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.” Specifically, the article contended that Iraq “has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium.”

The next day, September 9, the White House received a visitor who should have known exactly what the tubes were for – Nicolò Pollari. As it happens, the Italians used the same tubes Iraq was seeking in their Medusa air-to-ground missile systems, so Pollari presumably knew that Iraq was not trying to enrich uranium but merely attempting to reproduce weaponry dating back to an era of military trade between Rome and Baghdad. As La Repubblica pointed out, however, he did not set the record straight.

Pollari met with Stephen Hadley, an understated but resolute hawk who has since replaced Condoleezza Rice as national-security adviser. Hadley has confirmed that he met Pollari, but declined to say what was discussed. “It was a courtesy call,” Hadley told reporters. “Nobody participating in that meeting or asked about that meeting has any recollection of a discussion of natural uranium, or any recollection of any documents being passed.”

But there was no need to pass documents. It was significant enough for Pollari to have met with Hadley, a White House official allied with Cheney’s hard-liners, rather than with Pollari’s American counterpart, George Tenet. “It is completely out of protocol for the head of a foreign intelligence service to circumvent the C.I.A.,” says former C.I.A. officer Philip Giraldi. “It is uniquely unusual. In spite of lots of people having seen these documents, and having said they were not right, they went around them.”

“To me there is no benign interpretation of this,” says Melvin Goodman, the former C.I.A. and State Department analyst. “At the highest level it was known the documents were forgeries. Stephen Hadley knew it. Condi Rice knew it. Everyone at the highest level knew.” Both Rice and Hadley have declined to comment.

Michael Ledeen, who had access to both Pollari and Hadley, categorically denies setting up the meeting: “I had nothing to do with it.” A former senior intelligence official close to Tenet says that the former C.I.A. chief had no information suggesting that Pollari or elements of SISMI may have been trying to circumvent the C.I.A. and go directly to the White House.

But the Niger documents had been resurrected once again. Two days later, on September 11, 2002, the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks, Hadley’s office asked the C.I.A. to clear language so that President Bush could issue a statement saying, “Within the past few years, Iraq has resumed efforts to purchase large quantities of a type of uranium oxide known as yellowcake. … The regime was caught trying to purchase 500 metric tons of this material. It takes about 10 tons to produce enough enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon.”

In addition, in a new paper that month, the D.I.A. issued an assessment claiming that “Iraq has been vigorously trying to procure uranium ore and yellowcake.”

Later that month, the British published a 50-page, 14-point report on Iraq’s pursuit of weapons that said, “There is intelligence that Iraq has sought the supply of significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”

“When you are playing a disinformation operation,” says Milt Bearden, “you’re like a conductor who can single out one note in the symphony and say, ‘Let the Brits have that.'”

On September 24, Prime Minister Tony Blair cited that “dossier of death” and asserted again that Iraq had tried to acquire uranium from Africa. “The reports in [the Niger file] were going around the world, and Bush and Blair were talking about the documents without actually mentioning them,” Rocco Martino told Milan’s Il Giornale. “I turned the television on and I did not believe my ears.”

Now it was time for the international media to chime in with independent corroboration. In early October 2002, Martino approached Elisabetta Burba, a journalist at Panorama, the Milan-based newsmagazine. Burba and Martino had worked together in the past, but there may have been other reasons he went to her again. Owned by Silvio Berlusconi, Panorama was edited by Carlo Rossella, a close ally of the prime minister’s. It also counted among its contributors Michael Ledeen.

Martino told Burba he had something truly explosive – documents that proved Saddam was buying yellowcake from Niger. Burba was intrigued, but skeptical. She agreed to pay just over 10,000 euros – about $12,500 – on one condition: Martino would get paid only after his dossier had been corroborated by independent authorities. Martino gave her the documents.

When Burba told Rossella of her concerns about the authenticity of the Niger documents, he sent her to Africa to investigate. But he also insisted that she give copies to the U.S. Embassy. “I think the Americans are very interested in this problem of unconventional weapons,” Rossella told her.

On October 17, Burba flew to Niger. Once there, she discovered for herself how difficult it would be to ship 500 tons of uranium out of Africa. By the time she returned, she believed the real story was not about Saddam’s secret nuclear-weapons program at all, but about whether someone had forged the documents to fabricate a rationale for invading Iraq. But when she reported her findings to Rossella, he called her off. “I told her to forget the documents,” he told Vanity Fair. “From my point of view, the story was over.”

Now, however, thanks to Panorama, the U.S. had received copies of the Niger documents. They were quickly disseminated to the C.I.A. station chief in Rome, who recognized them as the same old story the Italians had been pushing months before, and to nuclear experts at the D.I.A., the Energy Department, and the N.S.A.

The State Department had already twice cast doubt on the reports of the sale of uranium to Iraq. In the fall, Wayne White, who served as the deputy director of the State Department’s intelligence unit and was the principal Iraq analyst, reviewed the papers themselves. According to The Boston Globe, he said that after a 15-minute review he doubted their authenticity.

“Stick That Baby in There”

In early October, Bush was scheduled to give a major address on Iraq in Cincinnati. A few days earlier, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, the N.S.C. sent the C.I.A. a draft which asserted that Saddam “has been caught attempting to purchase up to 500 metric tons of uranium oxide from Africa – an essential ingredient in the enrichment process.”

The C.I.A. faxed a memo to Hadley and the speechwriters telling them to delete the sentence on uranium, “because the amount is in dispute and it is debatable whether it can be acquired from the source. We told Congress that the Brits have exaggerated this issue. Finally, the Iraqis already have 550 metric tons of uranium oxide in their inventory.” Iraq’s supply of yellowcake dated back to the 1980s, when it had imported hundreds of tons of uranium ore from Niger and mined the rest itself. The C.I.A. felt that if Saddam was trying to revive his nuclear program he would be more likely to use his own stockpile than risk exposure in an illegal international deal.

But the White House refused to let go. Later that day, Hadley’s staff sent over another draft of the Cincinnati speech, which stated, “The regime has been caught attempting to purchase substantial amounts of uranium oxide from sources in Africa.”

This time, George Tenet himself interceded to keep the president from making false statements. According to his Senate testimony, he told Hadley that the “president should not be a fact witness on this issue,” because the “reporting was weak.” The C.I.A. even put it in writing and faxed it to the N.S.C.

The neocons were not done yet, however. “That was their favorite technique,” says Larry Wilkerson, “stick that baby in there 47 times and on the 47th time it will stay. At every level of the decision-making process you had to have your ax out, ready to chop their fingers off. Sooner or later you would miss one and it would get in there.”

For the next two months, December 2002 and January 2003, references to the uranium deal resurfaced again and again in “fact sheets,” talking-point memos, and speeches. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Rice all declared publicly that Iraq had been caught trying to buy uranium from Niger. On December 19, the claim reappeared on a fact sheet published by the State Department. The bureaucratic battle was unending. In light of the many differing viewpoints, the Pentagon asked the National Intelligence Council, the body that oversees the 15 agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, to resolve the matter. According to The Washington Post, in a January 2003 memo the council replied unequivocally that “the Niger story was baseless and should be laid to rest.” The memo went immediately to Bush and his advisers.

Nevertheless, on January 20, with war imminent, President Bush submitted a report to Congress citing Iraq’s attempts “to acquire uranium and the means to enrich it.”

At an N.S.C. meeting on January 27, 2003, George Tenet was given a hard-copy draft of the State of the Union address. Bush was to deliver it the next day. Acutely aware of the ongoing intelligence wars, Tenet was caught between the hard-liners in the White House, to whom he reported, and the C.I.A., whose integrity he was duty-bound to uphold. That day, he returned to C.I.A. headquarters and, without even reading the speech, gave a copy to an assistant who was told to deliver it to the deputy director for intelligence. But, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report, no one in the D.D.I.’s office recalls receiving the speech.

A State of the Union address that was a call for war, that desperately needed to be vetted, had been misplaced and gone unread. “It is inconceivable to me that George Tenet didn’t read that speech,” says Milt Bearden. “At that point, he was effectively no longer D.C.I. [director of central intelligence]. He was part of that cabal, and no longer able to carry an honest message.”

In an e-mail, a former intelligence official close to Tenet said the charge that Tenet was “part of a ‘cabal’ is absurd.” The official added, “Mr. Tenet was unaware of attempts to put the Niger information in the State of the Union speech. Had he been aware, he would have vigorously tried to have it removed.”

The next day, despite countless objections from the C.I.A. and other agencies, Bush cited the charges from the fraudulent Niger documents in his speech. Later that year, Stephen Hadley accepted responsibility for allowing the sentence to remain in the speech. He said he had failed to remember the warnings he’d received about the allegations.

Blaming the CIA

In last-minute negotiations between the White House and the C.I.A., a decision was made to attribute the alleged Niger uranium deal to British intelligence. The official reason was that it was preferable to cite British intelligence, which Blair had championed in his 50-page report, rather than classified American intelligence. But the C.I.A. had told the White House again and again that it didn’t trust the British reports.

The British, meanwhile, have repeatedly claimed to have other sources, but they have refused to identify them. According to Joseph Wilson, that refusal is a violation of the U.N. resolution stipulating that member states must share with the International Atomic Energy Agency all information they have on prohibited nuclear programs in Iraq. “The British say they cannot share the information, because it comes from a third-country intelligence source,” says Wilson. “But that third country is presumably a member of the United Nations, and it too should comply with Article 10 of United Nations Resolution 1441.” So far, Wilson says, no evidence of a third country has come to light.

A week after Bush’s speech, on February 4, the Bush administration finally forwarded electronic copies of the Niger documents to the I.A.E.A. Astonishingly, a note was attached to the documents which said, “We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims.”

On March 7, the I.A.E.A. publicly exposed the Niger documents as forgeries. Not long afterward, Cheney was asked about it on Meet the Press. He said that the I.A.E.A. was wrong, that it had “consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing.” He added, “We know [Saddam] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

On March 14, Senator Jay Rockefeller IV, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wrote a letter to F.B.I. chief Robert Mueller asking for an investigation because “the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.” But Senator Pat Roberts, of Kansas, the Republican chair of the committee, declined to co-sign the letter.

Then, on March 19, 2003, the war in Iraq began.

On July 11, 2003, faced with public pressure to investigate the forgeries, Roberts issued a statement blaming the C.I.A. and defending the White House. “So far, I am very disturbed by what appears to be extremely sloppy handling of the issue from the outset by the C.I.A.,” he said.

Under Roberts’s aegis, the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated the Niger affair and came to some extraordinary conclusions. “At the time the President delivered the State of the Union address, no one in the IC [intelligence community] had asked anyone in the White House to remove the sentence from the speech,” read the report. It added that “CIA Iraq nuclear analysts … told Committee staff that at the time of the State of the Union, they still believed that Iraq was probably seeking uranium from Africa.”

In November 2005, Rockefeller and Democratic senator Harry Reid staged a dramatic shutdown of the Senate and challenged Roberts to get to the bottom of the forgeries. “The fact is that at any time the Senate Intelligence Committee pursued a line of questioning that brought us close to the White House, our efforts were thwarted,” Rockefeller said.

So far, the Republican-controlled Senate committee has failed to produce a more extensive report.

An Even Bigger Mistake

For his part, Michael Ledeen thinks all the interest in the Niger documents and Bush’s famous 16 words is overblown. “I don’t want my government’s decisions based on falsehoods,” he says. “But the president referred to British intelligence. So far as I’ve read about it, that statement is true.”

Ledeen categorically asserts that he couldn’t have orchestrated the Niger operation, because he disagreed so strongly with the administration’s policy. “I thought it was wrong to do Iraq militarily,” he says. “Before we went into Iraq, I said that anyone who thinks we can march into Iraq, overthrow Saddam, and then have peace is crazy. I thought it was a mistake at the time, and the way they did it.” He adds, “Let’s get real. This is politics. People in office do not like people who criticize them.”

It is unclear how these assertions square with the widespread reports that Ledeen was tightly wired into the neocons in the administration; with his long history of ties to SISMI, as reported by The Wall Street Journal and the court records from the trial of Francesco Pazienza; and with Ledeen’s own pro-war writings.

Despite all the speculation, there are no fingerprints connecting Ledeen to the Niger documents. Even his fiercest adversaries will concede this. “In talking to hundreds of people, no one has given us a hint linking Ledeen to the Niger documents,” says Carlo Bonini of La Repubblica, which is facing a defamation suit by Ledeen in Italy.

It is also unclear what, if anything, the Italians may have received for their alleged participation in Nigergate. In 2005, a consortium led by Finmeccanica, the Italian arms company, and Lockheed Martin unexpectedly beat out U.S.-owned Sikorsky to win a contract to build presidential helicopters. Some saw the contract, worth as much as $6.1 billion, as a reward to Berlusconi for helping Bush on Iraq.

Regardless of who fabricated the Niger documents, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the war they helped ignite. By May 18, 2006, the number of American fatalities was 2,448, while various methods of tracking American casualties put the number of wounded at between 18,000 and 48,000. At least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed. A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion. That figure includes the long-term health-care costs for injured soldiers, the cost of higher oil prices, and a bigger U.S. budget deficit.

But the most important consequence of the Iraq war is its destabilization of the Middle East. If neoconservatives such as Ledeen and their critics agree on anything, it is that so far there has been only one real winner in the Iraq conflict: the fundamentalist mullahs in Iran. For decades, the two big threats in the Middle East – Iran and Iraq – had counterbalanced each other in a standoff that neutralized both. Yet the Bush administration, despite having declared Iran a member of the Axis of Evil, proceeded to attack its two biggest enemies, Afghanistan and Iraq. “Iran is unquestionably the biggest beneficiary of the war in Iraq,” says Milt Bearden.

Perhaps it is not surprising that the Bush administration is now rattling its sabers against Iran, which has been flexing its muscles with a new nuclear program. As a result, according to a Zogby poll in May, 66 percent of Americans now see Iran as a threat to the U.S. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national-security adviser to President Carter, has argued that starting the Iraq war was a catastrophic strategic blunder, and that taking military action against Iran may be an even bigger mistake. “I think of war with Iran as the ending of America’s present role in the world,” he told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “Iraq may have been a preview of that, but it’s still redeemable if we get out fast. In a war with Iran, we’ll get dragged down for 20 or 30 years. The world will condemn us. We will lose our position in the world.”

To Michael Ledeen, however, Iran’s ascendancy is just one more reason to expand the Iraq war to the “terror masters” of the Middle East. “I keep saying it over and over again to the point where I myself am bored,” he says. “I have been screaming ‘Iran, Iran, Iran, Iran’ for five years. [Those in the Bush administration] don’t have an Iran policy. Still don’t have one. They haven’t done fuck-all.”


This is Craig Unger’s third article for Vanity Fair. He is currently working on a book based on his article “American Rapture,” which appeared in the December 2005 issue.


Geovic Mining Resolves Geovic Cameroon Accounting Disagreement

Geovic Mining Corp. (“Geovic” or “the Company”) (TSX: GMC)(OTCBB: GVCM) is pleased to announce it has resolved the previously disclosed accounting disagreement with Societe Nationale d’Investissement du Cameroun (“SNI”). Geovic indirectly owns 60.5% of Geovic Cameroon plc (“Geovic Cameroon”), the entity that owns the Nkamouna cobalt/nickel/manganese project, while SNI owns or represents 39.5%.

As discussed in Press Releases dated June 24th and June 26th, 2009, the two parties previously disagreed on the accounting treatment of foreign exchange gains applicable to capital contributions made by Geovic Mining to Geovic Cameroon prior to 2007. SNI had also initiated litigation for the removal of Deloitte & Touche Afrique Centrale Sarl (“Deloitte”) as Geovic Cameroon’s statutory auditor.

Both parties have agreed to settle the disagreement as follows:

– Any exchange rate gain registered in Geovic Cameroon’s accounts will be shared by all Geovic Cameroon shareholders on a proportionate basis.

– Deloitte will remain as Geovic Cameroon’s statutory auditor.

– Pending litigation between SNI and Geovic Cameroon will be withdrawn.

Notably, the settlement is expected to have no material impact on the financial statements of Geovic Mining.

Geovic Mining CEO John E. (“Jack”) Sherborne stated: “Amicable resolution of this disagreement is another positive milestone in the Company’s efforts to commence financing and construction of Nkamouna in the second half of 2010. Geovic and SNI look forward to continued co-operation in our mutual target of building the world’s largest primary cobalt mine.”

About Geovic

Geovic is a U.S.-based corporation whose principal asset is 60.5% of a significant cobalt-nickel-manganese deposit in the Republic of Cameroon, Africa. Additional Company initiatives and Project information may be found on the websites,, and For more information, please go to

The Concept of Peasant Economists: An Innovative Approach to Community Development By Ntemfac Nchwete Ofege

Could it just be that by bringing people together to poll all their financial and intellectual wealth together, community projects like the provision potable water, the maintenance of roads, the construction of schools, the invention and sustenance of electricity, the improved of health services and innovative agriculture could be handled better and faster than by governments?

This is what PEECAS or the Peasant Economists Association, code named PEECAS,  is all about. PEECAS was initiated by its founding fathers, who are based in Cameroon and abroad, to underscore the importance of any do-it-yourself projects to local communities.

Its was founded on the premise that individuals, groups and communities could and shoule be catalysts of their own development initiatives without exclusive dependence on the government for support.

As a spillover, the provision of basic infrastructure and community services could curb rural-urban exodus.  As a compliment,  asylum seekers searching for the ever-elusive Golden Fleece in seeming greener pastures in Europe and elsewhere can be lured back to their villages thanks to improved services and basic infrastructure.

Objectives of PEECAS:

-To identify existing socio-cultural and economic development structures as well as vulnerable groups in target communities.

-To discuss socio-economic and development initiatives with target populations.

-To strengthen the capacity of target communities and vulnerable groups thereby making them agents of  self-growth and socio-economic development.

-To mobilise concerned target groups and populations towards directed self reliant  growth and socio-economic development.

Activities of PEECAS:

– Carry out and inventory of existing socio-cultural and development associations and vulnerable groups in targeted communities to discuss socio-economic and development concerns of common interest.

– Organise sensitisation and mobilisation meetings with target groups and communities.

– Appeal for support from local , national and external elites of target groups and communities.

– Make regular reports to stakeholders and partners on activities and achievements.

– Organise workshops to train community team leaders and representatives .

PEECAS was created as a development association in January 2009 at Mankon Bamenda to address these challenges. It was officially registered and acknowledged by the Senior Divisional Officer for Mezam Division by Authorisation Ref. N° 083/E.29/1111/Vol.8/APPB of 29th December, 2009.

PEECAS is apolitical and non discriminative on the basis of age, sex, colour, creed, ethnicity, nationality, etc.. Branches shall be gradually established in other regions of Cameroon depending on availability of resources. PEECAS has the intention of establishing external branches depending on the interest of the elites abroad who subscribe to values, goal and objectives of the association


PEECAS Logo portrays its development priorities such as roads, electricity, water and community groups anchored on such attainable goals like good health


From us, For us, By us

Target Population:

Disadvantaged communities and vulnerable groups

Prioritiy Areas of Intervention:

Rural road network, bridges (culverts), rural electrification, pipe borne water, wells, sanitation, health infrastructure/equipment, educational infrastructure/equipment and assistance to farmers.


Accessibility by all to the fruits of development.

Mission statement:

PEECAS intends to promote the  socio-cultural and development of vulnerable groups as well as disadvantaged communities thanks to support from local, national and external elites.


The goal of PEECAS is to alleviate poverty through directed and sustainable self development efforts.

Management Structure:

PEECAS is managed by an executive comity made up of : a president and vice, secretary general, treasurer, financial secretary, public relations officer and two advisers.

Divisional Structure:

Divisional outreach or branches are managed by a project committee of 5 members : a chairman, a secretary, treasurer, financial secretary, a public relation officer and two members.

Their role is to mobilise the target communities and vulnerable groups towards the realisation of  priority projects. Divisional outreach or branches are the critical focal points for project conception and execution.


Branch executives table reports of local project and development activities to the head office for exploitation and concrete action.

The head office staff are charged with synthesizing branch reports for the Annual  General Assembly of PEECAS These reports are also ventilted to development partners and other stakeholders.

NB: Our values:

–         Accountability

–          Record keeping

–          Service to the needy

Head Office:

PEECAS’s head office is located at Alamatu – Mankon, Bamenda, North West Region of Cameroon where its first Constituent Assembly was held.

Contact Address:

All contacts can be made to the following addresses;

The Peasant Economists Association

National Head Office

Alamatu, Mankon

P. O Box 1080,


Tel: (+237) 77719121

Tel: (+237) 77660859


The Peasant Economists Association

International Office


Apartment 22

47475 Kamp-Lintfort


“It’s time to walk away” By Ntemfac Ofege Revisited.

Reaction to the July 22 heavily-rigged Elections

“I leave Cameroon with the impression that there is only one Cameroon, multilingual and multi-ethnic. I encourage dialogue of these stakeholders. In every country, there are problems of marginalisation. The way it has to be solved is by dialogue and not by walking away.” Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, on the Anglophone Problem. .2000AD

“It’s time to walk away” Ntemfac A.N. Ofege

Chronicle: Mr. Ntemfac A.N. Ofege, two years ago you prophesized that the CPDM will gerrymander, rig the elections and collect 7-10 seats from the SDF. You also said that the CPDM would take at least 15 councils room the SDF. You must be pleased with yourself now that everything you said has come to pass.

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Pleased? No, not at all, Mr. Motomu, it gives me no pleasure at all. Rather I’m truly saddened by what is happening. You may see only the gerrymandering aspect of the rigging, but the CPDM did more than that. Once again, Mr. Biya’s government and party used all election-fraud strategies known to man to give themselves another moonslide victory. They ethnically cleansed English-speaking Cameroonians especially from the voter’s register; they created fake registers; they registered themselves in hideouts; they refused to give English-speaking Cameroonians especially voting cards; they registered foreigners; they refused to publish voter’s registers; they chased away opposition observers; they stuffed ballot boxes; they asked known or suspected opposition hands to produce birth certificate, bank statements, driving licenses, residence permits, ID cards before voting; they sent the voting cards and registers of known opposition hands to wrong polling stations; they ferried themselves to vote left, right and center; they caused children to vote; they gave CPDM cards to militants days ahead of the election, they refused to produce indelible ink; they voted many times; they confiscated ballot boxes; they corrupted voters, even the prime minister bought and sold votes; the decreed shortage of opposition ballot papers; they bought votes; they sold votes; they used state resources to campaign; they hijacked the public media; they disqualified the lists of opponents; they created ghost polling stations; they declared fake results; they created fake result sheets; they cancelled votes; they announced the result of past fake results; they even created their own Election Observatory to…observe the rigging, etc. They gerrymandered and invented fake constituencies. Like Mr. Biya and his regime did every time they won the World Corruption Trophy, “They bribed, they threatened, they issues veiled and real threats, they looted, they embezzled ballot papers and boxes, they ransacked polling stations, they exploited, they pilfered, they shook down, they play bikutsi tunes on ballot boxes, they brought in muscle, etc.” In fact, they did everything a president and his party had to do to be world champions in election fraud.  The purpose of this exercise was to eternalize the system by giving themselves the means (vast majority) to maintain the chairman of the board for life. I’ve heard that some so-called international observers have issued reports saying that the elections were “peaceful, calm, free and fair.” Rubbish. These observers are operating in the blind. All elections in Cameroon are rigged even before they happen.

Chronicle: Was there any new method of fraud in these elections?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: There was and this one is most devilish. The CPDM gave its militants CPDM ballot papers three days ahead of the election. All CPDM militants had to do was walk into the polling stations with hundreds of ballot papers into their pockets to stuff the envelopes and then the ballot box. Who knows Mr. Biya probably had some ballot papers hidden away in his coat pocket under his bulletproof vest.  This poses a new problem for the future independent election commission. Like they search for “cartouches” in the University of Yaounde, ELECAM would have to search handbags, pockets and private parts of voters for ballot papers in every election. Did the so-called international observers, who were fed, lodged and brown-enveloped by the CPDM, know that? 

Chronicle: Before these elections, the American Ambassador said any elections with less than 8.000.000 registered voters would not be credible. The observation is that the turnout was very low. Given this low turnout can these elections be credible?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Take it from me. The Minister of Territorial Administration is even now doctoring the books to up the turnout. You will hear that 80% of the fake 5.000.000 figure that the minister announced turned out to. The truth is that there are less than three million Cameroonians actually registered and out of this figure, there were less than 1.5oo.000 who actually voted. The actual valid votes are less than 1.000.000. Ethnic cleansing of known opposition names from the voter’s register is the key parameter of election fraud in Cameroon. Take the figures. By every extrapolation, Cameroon has a population of circa 17.000.000. By African standards, at least 70 percent of that population should be registered since Africa countries tend to have a young population which is easily mobilized for elections. There should be at least 10.000.000 Cameroonians on that register; the best-case scenario is 11.900.000. Our voters register has less than 3.000.000 and less than 1.000.000 Cameroonians actually voted. There were less than 500.000 Southern Cameroonians out of 6.000.000. What this means concretely is that 90% of Cameroonians are excluded from the electoral process. Since 1992, Mr. Biya’s score, on the average for every seriously flawed (massively rigged) presidential election, has never been beyond 1.500.000 votes. This is less than 10% of the population and less than less than 15% of the potential electorate of 10.000.000. You see, we are dealing with some unrepresentative governance created by fraudulent and hence unrepresentative and illegitimate processes.

Chronicle: The SDF has 14 seats, barely enough to form a parliamentary group. What do you think the SDF and its Chairman should do now?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: There is no point giving any advice to people who are very hard of hearing. Or rather people who are blinded by the vast sums the have been collecting from the regime for themselves. I told you that Mr. Fru Ndi is now the CPDM sub-section president of Ntarikon. The SDF that he runs is no longer the SDF that children died for and that people gave their sweat, time and energy for.  It is a CPDM sub-section. The good people have since left the SDF because the principles are no longer there. It is saddening that very old and retired men like Pa Nicholas Ade Ngwa and Lucas Tandap should be the ones doggedly manning the trenches and fighting the enemy…with bayonets when the enemy has bazookas, computers and cruise missiles. The fault is in the miss-leader ship of one man – Mr. John of Ntarikon. You see Mr. Motomu, there is a definition of leaders and leadership that I want to share with your readers. Pastor Myles Munroe defines leadership as “The ability to influence others through inspiration, generated by a passion, motivated by a vision, produced by a conviction, birth by a purpose.” To agree with Munroe, most characters passing around for leaders in Africa fall short of all of the above terms of reference. Mr. Fru Ndi never had any vision for a political party, let alone a vision to be president. The only conviction Fru Ndi now has, like the Baforchu businessman he is, is how to use this position to make money and wheel and deal.  This man is the victim of circumstances – opportunity miss road. Fru Ndi sees the SDF as a limited liability company, a tool to use for wheeling and dealing. Unfortunately. This is now a business, an NGO with Fru Ndi as chairman of the board. He has been acting out his role in full; pretending to oppose the government so that more money should come. Give me one good reason why those that Fru Ndi has been misleading for 17 years should not now brand him a traitor and then do what they do to all traitors. String him up! Give me one good reason why the any of those who actually founded and believe in the SDF should not string Fru Ndi, Mbah Ndam and Yoyo up.

Mr. Fru Ndi is not even a manager. Managers maintain. Leaders lead. Managers are concerned about keeping the status quo. Leaders innovate. Mr. Biya has proven that he is a neither a leader nor a manager. Same for Mr. Fru Ndi who confuses the maintenance of his own stomach and personal provision store with that of the SDF. That is why the SDF capital has been depleting since 1992.

Also, Mr. Fru Ndi and his party continue to show an ignorance of the Cameroonian reality that is mortifying. The SDF trump card is that it is an Anglophone party. I painstakingly explained that reality to Fru Ndi and his NEC members in 1997. That was when they had 43 parliamentarians and were excited about going to parliament to “change Cameroon.” On that day, the SDF had to decide whether to go to parliament or not, I told Fru Ndi to take that NEC meeting to Buea and hold it there. The argument was that it sent the right signal to Biya. The man said something about not wanting to bring bloodshed to Cameroon. Rubbish. He held the meeting at his Tower Restaurant in Bamenda. Biya sent helicopters and Alpha jets to fly over the building to intimidate Mr. John. The Francophone spies in the meeting came in with warlike–talkies to report to proceedings to their paymasters. The long and short of it was that Pa John panicked as sent unprincipled characters like Mbah Ndam Yoyo and Akonteh to parliament. My friend and brother, Fai Emmanuel Visha, has just reminded me that when we pointed out to Fru Ndi the stupidity of not anchoring on the Angophone base and that of going to parliament he called us “blind radicals.” Now the blind radicals are laughing all the way to the bank.  Let me shout it out: change via parliament/elections is impossible! Article 9 of the current constituent says that the head of state – Mr. Paul Biya defines all policies in Cameroon. Even if the SDF had 100 seats in parliament, the head of state will still define policies because of the constitution and the fact that he is also elected by universal suffrage. The standing orders of the National Assembly make it quasi impossible for any opposition or private member to table a bill in parliament. Only government bills are allowed. Mbah Ndam and the rest of the dishonest people in the SDF know this very well. Anyway, they are hunting dogs, you see. They spend their time arm-twisting Gregoire Owona and others for money for themselves and their chairman. Fru Ndi now has 14 fresh, starving (ravenous!)  hunting dogs – German Shepherds. These new boys will charge into parliament with gusto and then collect some more money for their own vast stomachs and for their chairman. What can they change? Let them not pretend to represent anybody because they do not. I was most amused to hear my elder brother, Simon Nchinda Fobi, now MP for Bamenda-Bali, tell Bafreng (Nkwen) people that Fru Ndi was sending him to parliament to vote the budget and change laws. I laugh.  How will he do that? With 14 Mps? Fru Ndi is a pretender.  He is paid to pretend: The Great Pretender. Fru Ndi came from the CNU-CPDM, for God’s sake! He cannot be different. The man knows that change will not come through the ballot box. He knows that change can never come through parliament. It’s as if Mr. Biya planted an inside man, a front CPDM man and a spy, within the opposition system. Biya now sleeps with two eyes shut tightly because Fru Ndi is there. Your readers must understand this. Well you must know Fru Ndi’s methods by now. He waits until election money comes from Biya, then he does a grand safari around the country and like a stuck gramophone, he comes singing this dirge about suffering natives in Bertoua, Garoua. Then he pockets the rest of the money and goes into real estate (houses), caterpillars, 40-wheelers, farming, etc, while waiting for the next elections to bring more loot. This is no longer politics, this is no longer the art of the possible, and this is armed robbery. This is a scam. These con artists should not deceive people, especially Anglophones, again. Fru Ndi failed in 1992, not so much because of the rigging but because he failed to listen to sound advice. In 1997, Fru Ndi, some Anglophone prisoners of hope, gave Fru Ndi another chance. 2002 and now 2007. What song does he have to sing now? You fool me once, shame on you. You fool me twice, shame on me. You fool me three times; I must be Jack the Ass himself.

Chronicle: Should the SDF now join the government?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Interesting question. Mr. Biya opened the door to that eventuality when he told CRTV on Election Day that he expected other Cameroonians (of the opposition) to join his administration. There is a problem here. The problem is what Mr. Biya stands for. The regime in Yaounde is identified with fraud, tyranny, dictatorship, trickery, thievery, pilfering, hegemony, Pedes, nepotism, Freemasonry, occultism, witchcraft, kleptocracy, tribalism, oligarchy, corruption, extortion, election-fraud, subterfuge, graft, tribalism, colonization, annexation, incompetence, confusion, underachievement, subterfuge, grand larceny, autocracy, violence, etc., etc. This system was created by the French “Code de l’indigénat,” a body of French-enacted laws that made the government system of La Republique du Cameroun not only corrupt, but also vicious, barbaric and savage. In the July edition of his newspaper, the Star, ‘Enoh Meyomesse, leader of the National Renaissance Party, Parena, likened it to a man being infected with AIDS, prostrate cancer, hypertension and diabetes at the same time. When you live in the bush for long with baboons, you will start barking like a baboon. In 1990, the SDF claimed to be different. How different? The current SDF has been identified with some of the above, no? Your newspaper has exposed the negatives in Fru Ndi and the SDF for one year, no? Today the SDF baboons look very much like the CPDM chimpanzees. Seen in this light the SDF baboon should join its twin brother, the CPDM chimpanzee, in government to continue stealing. Speedily. Birds of a feather flock together. Fru Ndi should officially merge into the CPDM and stop pretending that he is only asking for a salary. He should do that fast and stop distracting Anglophones from the real issue. The SDF is already part of the government machinery anyway i.e. in councils and in parliament. I would be most interesting to see how exactly Mr. Biya builds a government of national unity out of all these CPDM clowns who have rigged the elections and want instant gratification and then some so-called opposition folks. We may have a 200 member cabinet with Bernard Muna being Minister of Lawyers and Simon Fobi being Minister of Architecture. Don’t laugh, the French say le ridicule ne tue pas. Greed.

Chronicle: You are neither for the SDF nor for the CPDM. Who are you for?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege (laughs): Must I be for the SDF or the CPDM? Let’s just say I’m independent, neutral. If you look at it closely, the independents are the majority in Cameroon. The independents are the nationalists, the intellectuals, the educated, the wise and the knowledgeable class. Unfortunately, Cameroon’s current system does not allow independents to run. Maybe the independents will save Cameroon someday, who knows. Political parties operate like joint-stock companies or like ngumbah houses with strict and often stupid rules. You either toe the line of the blind man leading you or get out.

Chronicle: But you are a known sympathizer of the Anglophone independentist movement the SCNC. What will happen now that it is proven that the regime in Yaounde does not want Anglophones?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: The question warms my heart. When he visited Cameroon in 1996, the then Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan said. “I leave Cameroon with the impression that there is only one Cameroon, multilingual and multi-ethnic. I encourage dialogue of these stakeholders. In every country, there are problems of marginalisation. The way it has to be solved is by dialogue and not by walking away.”  Mr. Biya is not interested in dialogue. I mean the kind of consensual dialogue that is normal in a consociational, fragmented and multi-national (multicultural and multiethnic) state. In such a contraption, because there are irreconcilable symbolic and real boundaries between the stakeholders, all parties agree on an innovative power-sharing mechanism to suit their situation.  You see, Mr. Motomu, in all situations, elections are always a conflict-resolution and/or power-resource sharing machinery. People place their hopes in elections because they are a means of curbing raving greed, violence and man’s inhumanity to man. You place your hope in your elected official to speak for you and get something from the commonwealth for you. Overt rigging breeds frustration and frustration breeds violence. The same people cannot continue stuffing their elephantine bowels and vast mouths through corruption for 45 years while others watch. And when challenged by a peaceful means called elections, these fraudsters rig the thing. I hope you have heard everything that the so-called elite – did in Santa. It’s a pity that so-called leaders would transform to petty thieves. Also these elections were supposed to adjudge the perpetual conflict of values between the Francophone led CPDM and all that it stands for and the Anglophone-led SDF and what it stands for. It did because rigging, fraud and corruption won. However, this is one rigging too many. Elections are by nature divisive, especially in a fragmented state. Rigged elections are even more divisive. In the absence of a genuine power-sharing mechanism and in the absence of dialogue to establish one, the time has come to walk away. If you don’t walk away, you condone rigging, fraud and corruption. Eventually, you will become part of the system.  Walking away is an imperative. It is a must. It is a matter of survival. It is a matter of fleeing ethnic and economic genocide and cleansing. It is a matter of fleeing the deaf, dumb and blind subjugation of Anglophones. The regime has always operated on the typically Francophone myopia that it is untouchable, Le chien aboie et la caravane passé. It has to stop. The long walk to freedom has to start somewhere, no? In fact, it started on May 26th 1990, the same day Anglophones got together and constituted themselves into a political party. Those who hijacked that party and thought they could use it for their own agenda have failed. Now is time to get down to basics. You see Mr. Motomu, even if the SDF took power in Yaounde Anglophones would have walked away. Only faster.

Chronicle: You seem to simply the entire issue to the conflict between the Anglophones and Francophones.

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Absolutely. The entire Cameroonian tragedy is solidly grounded on this conflict and the manner in which it is resolved or not resolved. I just told you that Mr. Biya is not interested in dialogue. Before him, Ahidjo was not interested in dialogue. Let me explain the gravity of the situation to your readers, especially the Anglophones among them. I hope they understand it once and for all. There are 6.000.000 Anglophones. There are circa 6-7 million Bamilekes. That is about 13 million. An Anglophone-Bamileke axis will win every election in Cameroon, all things being equal. That scares Biya just as it scared Ahidjo. Ahidjo never wanted Southern Cameroons to join La Republique because of this threat. He wanted Northern Cameroons, which he could use to counter the Anglophone-Bamilke-Bassa-Ewondo threat presented by Andre-Marie Mbida. Biya is also scared of the threat. In any free and fair elections, the Anglo-Bami candidate will always win because, unfortunately, polyarchy (Lincolnian democracy) is a game of numbers. That is why it is difficult to apply polyarchy in a multi-state, multicultural, fragmented, multi-national or multi-ethnic state. Except you operate a form of the Canadian consensus wherein the prime minister comes from the minority. All Francophone presidents will always see Anglophones as threats even Francophone leaders from the North. They must be kept out of the system. The only way to keep them out is disenfranchise them – ethnically cleanse them out of the voters’ registers. Secondly, Anglophones stand for everything that Francophone-led regimes do not stand for. I have told you that the system over which Mr. Biya presides is a corrupt, kleptocratic, visionless, barbarian, incompetent, underachieving governance that can only survive through massive election fraud. Since he knows that he will always be beaten in any free and fair elections he gets the administration to rig the thing. What is happening is a facet of majority-minority interaction. The majority French-speaking is afraid of the minority but it cannot let the minority go because that minority has the oil. So the majority designs all tricks, including election fraud, to keep the minority down as slaves. In minority-majority interaction, prejudice is an attitudinal phenomenon and often involves an intense emotional component. The dominant group goes forward to elaborate mechanisms to keep “the troublesome presence” in subservience. The dominant group operates on the foundation that what unsettles culture is “matter out of place”– the breaking of our unwritten rules and codes.

Name-calling, ethnic and economic cleansing, economic genocide, election fraud, intellectual and actual terrorism and violence are just some of the methods used by the dominant group to maintain its illicit position of prestige, privilege and power. For example, a Southern Cameroonian must never hold the position of any of the “ministries of sovereignty” – finance, home affairs, foreign affairs and defense. They must always be relegated to symbolic and inconsequential (faire valoir) positions. Even when they have been prime ministers, they have been only in name. The system also creates other structures and positions to water down the powers of a prime minister when a native Southern Cameroonian is involved. In the early 1990s, Sardou Hayatou benefited from the full plenitude of prime ministerial power and prerogatives in Cameroon. When a native of Southern Cameroons (Achidi Achu) came into the job, Mr. Biya created a Vice Prime Minister and an omnipotent secretary general to hem in the prime minister. Ditto for the current Southern Cameroonian native, Inoni Ephraim, who has to contend with the minister of justice, Amadou Ali, as vice prime minister.

Chronicle: Can a government of national unity work. Could this save Cameroon?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Mr. Biya should have thought of that before he started this blind, deaf and dumb rigging of the elections. I’ve told you that elections are by nature divisive. More so when they are rigged. It does not suffice to appoint a few un-representative Anglophones into government. Only a genuine authentic representation and sharing of the national cake and power would do. There are 6 million Anglophones, right. This is about 35% of the population. Let’s just take 30% as the working base. Whether Mr. Biya knows it or not, Cameroon is a consociational state, one in which only a consensual application of consociational paradigms would do. When Kofi Annan suggested dialogue rather than walking away as a solution to the Cameroonian drama, he meant a one-on-one discussion on an equal sharing of power, positions, prestige, privileges and resources. No taxation without representation. The minimum representation in the National Assembly that should pacify Anglophones is 54. This will guarantee that laws passed by the National Assembly have some Anglophone flavour. Anglophones must also get 30% of the councils…even councils in Diaspora areas like Bonaberi and Obili-Biyemassi. Read meaning in the fact that the lone SDF seat in the Diaspora is the seat in Bonaberi Douala i.e. where Anglophones live. The local people, not the un-elected Divisional Officers and Senior Divisional Officers, must define policies within these councils. Then 30 percent of the budget must be invested in Anglophone Cameroon and 30 percent of the cabinet positions (including the so-called sovereign ministries) must come to Anglophones. This is even minimalist agenda. Also an Affirmative Action program should be established to make up for years and years of rape, marginalisation an un-equal sharing. Then a Federal Character must be established to permit, the South West, for example, use part of its revenue from CDC and the oil for its own development. Anglophones gave Mr. Biya the Buea Peace Initiative (BPI) ages ago. The man continues to ignore it. Shoving a few obscure Anglophone obscurantists into obscure assistant to the assistant of the assistant of the assistant positions of power, privilege and prestige will not do.

Chronicle: Do you see Mr. Biya accepting sharing?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: He has no choice. The alterative is that Southern Cameroons nationalism will be pushed to the logical conclusion – armed conflict. You see, Mr. Motomu, the Cameroon drama is anchored on one reality. That reality is how to deal with the Anglophones be they in the SDF or in the SCNC. Nfor Susungi once wrote that this situation will inevitable build up to an armed conflict. That armed conflict, he said, would be triggered by the SDF trying to fight its way out of the antechamber of the republic to the core (center of the republic) or the SCNC trying to fight its way out of the republic and all it stands for.  The Anglophone leadership of the SDF has manoeuvred itself into the position of losers. So we now know who exactly will trigger the armed conflict.  I say, walk away. Unfortunately, where there is no vision and inspiration, manipulation sets in. Mr. Paul Biya, president of La Republique du Cameroun, is a professional Machiavellian manipulator.  He is the hand that holds the hands that rig elections. Mr. Biya continues to believe that he can keep Anglophones be they in the SDF or the SCNC under by rigging elections, and state-sponsored terrorism. It will not work. The situation needs vision and innovation because the price is implosion. Unfortunately, Mr. Biya can only manipulate elections, manipulate people, divide and rule, and preside over corruption. Development is not his thing. He cannot innovate. When Mr. Biya was asked what his vision for Cameroun is, the man says, “I have Grand Ambitions for Cameroon.” When asked to translate “Grand Ambitions” into bread and butter, the man remains daft. The man’s disciples have used their own blindness to attempt putting flesh to Mr. Biya’s dry bones. In vain. When Mr. Biya was asked what he expected from the elections (which he has rigged), the man said he expected his party to garner a give him a vast majority to continue the policies he has commenced. Which policies? The artistic miasma of corruption, election-fraud, incompetence and Grand Ambitions, naturally. Blind man leading the blind. So goes the leader, so goes the organization. Rather than inspire people, a man anchored on miasma and fumes of “Grand Ambitions” can only be a manipulator. He can and will always rig elections to survive. Grand Ambition is not a vision, neither is it an inspiration. Instead, the slogan comes from the profound darkness of a hollow mind and a dark spirit. Would you submit your time, energy, life to a thing called “Grand Ambitions?”

A leader can only move a people from where they are to where he has been. Mr. Biya condones, he lives in and he thrives in corruption and election fraud because he lives in the field of those tares. That is the quintessential and essential Biya. He can only lead people into corruption. Mr. Biya represents continuity and the externalization of a mindset and system, which mindset and system believe that real and symbolic boundaries could be obliterated by shouting “National Unity and Integration” from every rooftop. In 1984, in a fit of maladroitness, Mr. Biya signed a law ending the tie between Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun by re-creating La Republique du Cameroun. The symbolism of this act is clear: The real and symbolic boundaries between the founding components of the Federal and the United Republic no longer exist. Southern Cameroons now has every right to restore its independence, preferably under a new name. For one thing, the difference is clear. Real and symbolic boundaries are eternal. They Scriptures cannot be broken so also the real and symbolic boundaries between Anglophones and Francophones.

Chronicle: What about the CPDM Anglophones or Anglophone CPDM. Don’t they represent Anglophones?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Ntumfor Nico Halle, ONEL representative for the North West province, repeated this statement again and again during the campaigns for the just ended elections for the benefit of Mr. Biya and his ilk. “When you rig elections everything else is rigged; appointments are rigged, contract-awards are rigged, etc.” Would you want to be represented by a fraud? A man who rigs elections or who benefits from rigged elections is worst than a thief. Do you think the population would be supportive of a council or parliamentarian created by fraud? The entire population, even members of the CPDM, would consider such individuals and councils as fraud, illegitimate and a joke. For one thing, the population knows how the got there. So goes a leader who rigs elections so goes the entire administration. Should anyone be surprised that corruption reeks at all levels of this Francophone-invented and led system? Does Inoni Ephraim represent you? Is he speaking or you? Does he know you problem? Can he address your problem? The CPDM was maybe born in Bamenda but it is a foreign party. The CPDM can and will never speak for you and me. In sociology and political science, we say that there are real and symbolic boundaries between Anglophones and Francophones, between the SDF and the CPDM. 

Chronicle: Do you mean there is no way Anglophones and Francophones can live together?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: I just told you. By an application of a genuine, innovative and consociational power-sharing mechanism. That is just one step. The next step would be to revolutionize the system – a forceful application of the system that worked in Southern Cameroon on the Francophones. That, unfortunately, is not as easy as it seems. Mr. Motomu, I’m always scared of these luminaries who think that they can foist their own beliefs or pattern of values on others. The SDF thought that it had a mandate to liberate Cameroon by forcing Southern Cameroonian system and values of the Francophones. George Bush thought that he had a mandate to impose the American system and values on Iraq. Who send you? A drowning man and system can only drag you under with it. What if the Francophones believe in and massively support their CPDM, its president and all that they stand for? Mr. Motomu, since the biblical Tower of Babel, boundaries (be they symbolic or real) have been very powerful in maintaining separation between nations and individuals.  Boundaries between individuals and nations can be either real or symbolic. Boundaries are those frontier points recognized, legalized and legitimized by national and/or International law, attitudes, behaviour, customs and mores. Boundaries often have their own history and anthropology some of which are contentious. In the specific context of Cameroun, symbolic and real borders became an issue once historically and culturally different Anglophones and Francophones were lumped together into a dubious state by the UN with the pious hope that a nation-state could be forged out of the wedlock. It will not work. Real and symbolic boundaries are eternal. They cannot be broken. A real boundary is that recognized national/international frontier post separating a recognized or legitimized state with a collective of individuals and groups who identify with that state. Whether you like it or not the Southern Cameroons state was one of the states that made up Cameroon.  A symbolic boundary is that moral code, that spiritual thing, that convention that makes of its adherents the “we” versus the “them” non-adherents and unbelievers on the other side.

‘Real and symbolic boundaries are central to all culture. Marking “difference” leads us, symbolically, to close ranks, shore up culture and to stigmatize and expel anything which is defined as impure, strangely attractive precisely because it is forbidden, taboo, threatening to cultural order’

Whenever the heathen culture starts reaching out for freedom and independence, the symbolic or boundary marking “difference” leads the majority, to close ranks, shore up culture and to stigmatize and expel anything that is defined as impure, taboo, forbidden or whatever it is that threatens the cultural order. Francophones are Francophones. Anglophones are Anglophones.  La Republique du Cameroun is La Republique. Southern Cameroons is Southern Cameroons. The majority of Anglophones still live in their territory while a majority of Francophones live in their territory. There is a middle of the road zone made up of bastardized entities – those who have married into either cultures but that zone is a minority. An absolute minority. What I am saying is that after45 years of a live-and-let-live mutual disdain; after decades of a strange monster called national unity-integration, reality has now set it. Oil and water cannot mix; real and symbolic boundaries cannot be broken.

Disparate cultures and histories will always create a process of purification legitimizes exclusion, intolerance, tribalism and racism. They would always allocate marginal identities to individuals who do not conform to the values and perception of the norm – the majoritarian view. Southern Cameroonians have been called Anglofous, Anglo-fools, Biafrans, Anglos, l’enemie dans la maison, etc. In fact, a francophone CPDM parliamentarian once called Paulinus Jua, a Southern Cameroonians representative of the opposition SDF Party, a Biafran. We have called them frogs, no?

Chronicle: The attitude of the Francophones in this thing is interesting. Why do they seem to support Biya and his regime?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: It is their system. They created it. They support it; they glorify it; they thrive in it and they live in it. A frog can only live in the swamps, the mud and the muck. Frogs can only croak (die) in the swamps, the mud and the muck. Remove a frog from its natural habitat and it will no longer croak. Biya does not want to change the system; it is his system. He knows it and he thrives in it. French-speaking Cameroonians, (East Cameroonians) may disagree strenuously with the severity of one, or all, of the items that symbolize their side of the symbolic boundary, but facts are facts and truths are truths. Francophones dare not quarrel with this depiction after all the socio-political system in Cameroon is created and sustained by the majority. Robert Bierstedt says, “Within every polity, it is the majority, which sets the cultural pattern and sustains it, which is in fact responsible for whatever pattern or configuration there is in a culture. It is the majority, which confers upon folkways, mores, customs, and laws the status of norms and gives the coercive power. It is the majority, which guarantees the stability of a society. It is the majority which requires conformity to customs and which penalizes deviation…“except in ways in which the majority sanctions and approves. It is the majority which is the custodian of the mores and which defends them against innovation. And it is the inertia of the majorities, finally, which retards the processes of social change.” The best case scenario is that Francophones support their corrupt system because they have never known better. They are also afraid of the unknown.

When a culture and a people, especially a large group of people, are afraid of an unknown culture and people, they rig elections. As a last resort, the majority culture resorts to state-sponsored economic cleansing and other genocidal practices to get rid of the unwelcome and troublesome presence. And violence is used to keep the slaves in their proper place of subservience. In extreme cases (and the Cameroonian scenario is extreme by all definitions) genocidal practices (ethnic and economic cleansing, intellectual terrorism, war and violence) against the troublesome presence starts at the initial level of conflict. The most intense conflicts between majority and minority have resulted when “the subordinate minority group has attempted to disrupt the accommodative pattern or when the super ordinate group has defined the situation as one in which such an attempt is being made.” You see that in this case, my suggestion of an application of consociationalism (consensual power sharing) is only a stopgap measure. The system is now caught between a rock and a very haaard place. In the long run, the differences will tear the thing apart. Nations and people live together by desire, not by force.

Chronicle: What role will the South West play? The SDF has zero parliamentarian and zero councils in the South West.

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Do not be deceived. Politicization of ethnicity (Divide and Rule) is a strategy for every manipulator. Mr. Biya is a manipulator. Mr. Biya operates by divide and rule or politicized ethnicity. He gets the elites in the South Westerner to believe that a good score will eternalize the post of prime minister. Then he gets the North westerner to believe the same thing. These poor devils go about outsmarting each other in rigging.  The elites of the South West are so desperate to be in the good books of the regime that they get the SDOs and DOs to disenfranchise North Westerners or SDFers (Cam-no-go) from the voters register. The orders to rig came from the office of the prime minister. It is a pity how low the Anglophone elites and the intelligentsia would stoop to collect crumbs from the slave master’s table. The DOs, SDOs, directors, ministers and prime ministers rigging elections are fathers and grandfathers who are supposed to be role models. Now they have transformed into petty thieves. Some years ago, Mr. Inoni was chased by a mob in Victoria. He was ferrying a ballot box to a hideout. Politics is a game of numbers. Reality is that 55-60% of the South West province is made up of North Westerners. The regime may disenfranchise the voters but it does not mean the mumbers are not there. Add the 55-60% North Westerners born in the SW to the die-hard independentists, SCNC militants, like those in Meme, Ndian, Lebialem, Manyu and you get the picture. Shared values, the values that are shares by Anglophones go deeper than politicized ethnicity. Those who think the post of prime minister could mean anything to them are just a misguided handful of tribesmen and elite and even then. Even then…

Chronicle: You say Anglophones should walk away. How?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: The first thing is to accept is that Fru Ndi should just shut up and keep quiet for now. He should stop being a distraction. Or else we string him up. He should enjoy the money he has gotten out of Biya and get the hell out of the way. He has failed. Woefully. Hear Fru Ndi on July 26, 2007: “We did not get in into this unification business to learn election rigging, fraud, embezzlement, corruption, homosexual acts.” Has Fru Ndi seen the light at last? No. Be careful. This is a businessman and a politician. He’s only saying this to up the stakes in his future negotiations and deals with Biya. Don’t forget that before the elections Fru Ndi called on Biya to arrest all SCNC members because he thought, they were the people telling Anglophones to boycott the elections. The SDF is not Fru Ndi. Vice versa. We all created the SDF. By the way, Mr. Fru Ndi and his generation are on their way out. Our generation must take over. The time is now. We have a better plan. Not the Muna plan though (laughs). We have the trump card. The time has come for our creation to work for us. What do we have in hand? What is the rod of Moses? We have a very good starting point. We now have Biya and Fru Ndi just where we want them – by their arrangements. Now we squeeze tight. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The rest of the strategies are unprintable. Our generation, my generation, must now deal with the problem directly. There will not be another chance.

Chronicle: But how can Anglophones free themselves when they have no leader? All we see is a confusion of SCNC groups, groups that cannot agree on anything? There are no encouraging signs as far as liberating Anglophones is concerned.

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Quite the contrary Mr. Motomu, quite the contrary. The cacophony of groups and voices instead shows buoyancy in the various liberation movements. They do not disagree on the objective – liberating Southern Cameroons. Rather they disagree and quarrel over strategies. In that kind of situation, some groups and individuals have a better strategy than others. One group is in Banjul, the Youth League is carrying out demonstration and sensitization is all European capitals, another group is working with UNPO, another group has now identified the UN as the source o and the solution to the problem…brief, something is happening. Your newspaper, like others, must have published reports denouncing Ambassador (rtd) Fossung’s SCNC and so on, right? Wrong. Fossung has been working. Let me unveil to your readers this excerpt of a letter from the UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs to Ambassador Fossung as recently as 12 February 2007: “I write to acknowledge your previous correspondence on the above subject and to inform you that, as you rightly know, the issues they raised are sensitive and they require a great deal of careful, full and fair evaluation and consideration. Please be assured that this is being done at the moment…. I will encourage you to continue to use your good offices as Chairman of the SCNC to continue to pursue the dialogue and non-violent approach to addressing all outstanding issues. We all engage in the search for a peaceful and just resolution of this important matter.”

The UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, a key Advisor to the Security Council and the Secretary General, knows the political implication of the non-respect of the UN Charter and Resolutions regarding fundamental issue like decolonization, membership, etc. Diplomacy and the UN system are slow machines. Let’s hope they are effective machines to avoid the bloodbath that looms. I believe that all liberation movements should focus on the ball, on the key issue. The so-called Anglophones, I rather call them Southern Cameroonians, do not have a problem with Mr. Biya or with Francophones for that matter. Ahidjo and the Francophones did not initiate the Trusteeship, the Plebiscite and unification. These were imposed on Southern Cameroons by the United Nations, but under conditions that were enshrined in a plethora of UN Resolutions and the UN Charter. In fact, Ahidjo did not want unification with Southern Cameroons for reasons I’ve already explained. Those shouting “we must unite withi we brada” were the likes of Dibonge, former UPC refugees who had discovered and enjoyed the freedom of Southern Cameroons. UPC refugees also infiltrated Foncha’s party and started clamouring for unification. Anglophones have a problem with the UN and the UN system which failed to apply its own charter and almost all resolutions it took on Southern Cameroons especially:

1)      Article 73:  Declaration regarding Non-Self-Governing Territories;

2)      Article 76.b on the basic objectives of the trusteeship system;

3)      UNGA Resolution 224 (III) of 18 November 1948 on the Administrative  Unions Affecting Trust Territories;

4)       UNGA Resolution 226 (III) of 18 November 1948 on the Progressive Development of Trust Territories;

5)      UNGA  Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960  Declaration on the  Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples; and;

6)      UNGA Resolution 1803 (XVII), 17 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No.17) at 15, UN. Doc. A/5217 (1962) on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources.

I am especially grateful to Professor Chia Martin and Dr Arnold Boh Yongbang who opened my eyes to the meaning of the next thing I will tell your readers. For there to be any union between La Republique and Southern Cameroons, UN Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 that voted for the independence of Southern Cameroons required that a “TREATY of UNION” be worked out between the Governments of the Federation of Nigeria, Northern Cameroons and the United Kingdom as Administering Authority of Northern Cameroons Trust Territory before 6 June 1961; and between the Governments of La Republique du Cameroun and of the Southern Cameroons with the United Kingdom as Administering Authority of the Southern Cameroons Trust Territory  before 1st October 1961. No such treat exists simply because there is none. I hope you understand the meaning of this. Had there been such a treaty, the Northern Cameroons Territorial Assembly and the Parliament of the Federation of Nigeria would have ratified it on the one hand, and by the Southern Cameroons Territorial Assembly and the Parliament of La Republique du Cameroun on the other. The TREATIES should have been registered and copies deposited at the Secretariat of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Organization in application of Article 102 (1) of the Charter of the United Nations. That Article states: Every Treaty and every international agreement entered into by any member of the United Nations after the present Charter comes into force shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it.”

Article 102 (2) reads: “No party to any such Treaty or International Agreement which has not been registered in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article may invoke that treaty or agreement before any organ of the United Nations.”

The non-application of Article 76b of the UN Charter and the non-application of the above resolutions mean one thing: the UN is still the Administrating Authority of Southern Cameroons.

Come back sometime and I will give you copies of all of these resolutions to publish for the education of your readers. The treaties were to protect the interests of both the Northern Cameroons and the Federation of Nigeria on the one hand, and the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun on the other. There is no such treaty. None whatsoever. Anglophones have been (1) free since 1961 or (2) the UN has to see Article 76b on the “emancipation” (de-colonization) clause to the finish. In this and in the absence of a Treaty of Union between the Southern Cameroons and La Republique du Cameroun, La Republique du Cameroun had no right to claim that Southern Cameroons is part of its territory let alone applying its policies like rigged elections, fraud, corruption an Grand Ambitions thereon.  La Republique had no locus standi in taking the Federation of Nigeria to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the Southern Cameroons Territory of the Bakassi Peninsula. Consequently, the ruling of the ICJ over the Bakassi Conflict on 10 October 2002 was misleading and null and void ab initio in international law. The trouble is they do not know it. There is a Bible principle is this. Jesus Christ set man free and man does not know it. Take it from me, one of these days, the leadership issue in the restoration movement will be addressed and then the end will come. Anglophones have now woken up from their slumber. It is now time to walk away.

Chronicle: The last word?

Ntemfac A. N. Ofege: Anglophones have no business being part of this mess. Fraud ad infinitum ad nauseam we abhor. The hegemonistic paranoia of the Francophone led, invented sustained regime in Yaounde must be halted for a very good reason. Allowing Francophones and their regime to be rampant would only mean the acceptation and the spread of slavery, corruption, fraud, thievery as well as other intoxicating, viral and hence catching tares. We are different. We are not grounded within the internationally defined and recognized real and symbolic boundaries. We have a different anchored on the same pattern of norms, customs and values. For 25 years, Mr. Biya has proven that he has neither the capacity nor the will to dialogue. Why then should people having different knowledge base, people trained in a different perception of public life and people with a different set of values continue along this path to the precipice? Therefore, an unknown quantity is leading you to an unknown place called “Grand Ambitions?” And another unknown quantity called Fru Ndi is pretending to lead you to a promise land that he has not seen? And you are trundling behind him like a goat to the market? God forbid. Myles Munroe says it is illegal (a sin) to lead people to nowhere. The leader you follow will determine your destination.

Since 1972, the date of a contentious referendum, rather than knuckling under, our “difference” values, nationalism are rather on the ascendancy. It is just a matter of time before that buoyancy translates into implosion.

Doctoring the Spin Doctors. By Ntemfac Nchwete Ofege


In June this year, a French and Catholic outfit, CCFD, published a disquieting document to the effect that Mr. Paul Biya, erstwhile president of La Republique du Cameroun, may have stolen 46 billion FCFA from the country. Since that publication, the Biya regime has wheeled out militants, universitydons, sociologists, political thugs, political touts, pseudo-intellectuals, medical doctors, witch doctors, etc, to demonize and exorcise all who talkabout the issue. Now comes another report that Mr. Biya incinerated circa in three weeks of vacation, bringing the tally to 47 billion! Out come the militants, university dons, sociologists, political thugs, political touts, pseudo-intellectuals, medical doctors, witch doctors, etc, again. Media Strategist, Ntemfac Nchwete Ofege starts telling these tatterdemalion hellcats what is who… Curioser and curioser. A French newspaper says that for his latest ‘private stay’ at the Hermitage and Royal hotels in La Baule, France, Mr. Paul BIYA, President of Cameroun, and his retinue of some 43 happy-go-lucky souls, incinerated 27.000.000fcfa a day on choice items like lodging, feeding, shopping, manicure, pedicure, massage, what have you. The newspaper report, taken up by two other major French newspapers, stated clearly that for his circa three week stay in France, Paul Biya and his merry men used up some 600.000.000fcfa! The Biya government itself announced that Mr. Biya actually spent only for his vacation, but that part of the bill was picked up by ‘friends’likethe very French Bolloré Group. Now Bolloré is this offending French offender (investigated and actually found guilty in France for scams) to whom Mr. Biya traded off Cameroun’s railway Corporation, REGIFERCAM, the container terminal of the Douala Port, investments in agro-industries, etc. for a token sum. If these officials of Mr Biya’s entourage are correct, Bolloré picked up the tab as a matter of saying, thank you, Mr. President for the gift of key portions of Cameroun’s economy. Some local newspapers even refer to Bolloré as the vice president of Cameroon. Incidentally, while Mr. Biya and Co. were winning and dinning on Bolloré ‘s money, some Regifercam staff, protesting years of slave labour under the new slave drive Bolloré, pulled out rails in Yaounde and its environs. The result was a series of train accidents in which at least 05 Camerounians lost their lives and over 300 were wounded. Actually, the French Journalists who leaked out the figures of Mr. Biya’s expenses at La Baule were off the mark. They forgot the price tag of a private jet waiting for Mr. Biya at the nearest airport. An airline expert has just revealed to me that that plane was leased at the astronomical 300.000.000fcfa a day! That means that for his current private trip abroad Mr. Biya could have squandered anything between and! Work out the figure of all previous private visits abroad by this gentleman since 1982 and you only just begin to get the sorry picture. Mr. Biya blew away 1 billion in three weeks and now his administration has just obtained a 50 billion FCFA loan from the IMF. One tends not to be sympathetic with the screams from French newspapers that Mr. Biya had incinerated circa 1 billion FCFA whereas the French government had pledged aid of 350 billion FCFA to Cameroon over 05 years. The French have maintained Mr. Biya in power anyway and French hotels benefited from the steal. This leads me kindly to Issa Bakary Tchiroma. Mr. Biya’s latest spin doctor. Now another term for spin doctor is shit-shiner. Never in the life of me did I imagine that a man, one of God’s creatures would opt to be a shit shiner. Except, of course, Mr. Tchiroma is of his father….. Mr. Bakary told the BBC’s Focus on Africa prgramme the reports were an attempt to “destabilise” the country. “Isn’t he free to make a good use of his money?” the minister asked. “Does he have to give the account of the way that he’s using this money to journalists in Paris or here?” Whaaaat!!!!!! His money? And, I fail to see the correlation between denouncing a spendthrift president and the stability of Cameroon. Yet another minister, Biyiti bi Essam defended Mr, Biya’s right to his vacation in two newspapers (Cameroon Tribune and Le Jour) as if that right was at issue. Now let us work out the implication of the cash as squandered by Mr. Biya. The government of Cameroun constructs a classroom for 10.000.000fcfa. Given that Mr. Biya’s latest vacation costs according to the presidency the government could have constructed 1000 classrooms with this loot. At ten classrooms (plus offices) per school, government could have erected 100 schools. I bet that government could have erected at least 300 schools with the total amount wasted by Mr. Biya in his latest extravaganza. It is a fine irony that while the president squandered state funds a mud block wall in an equally makeshift government school in Balepipi, West region collapsed killing two children one four the other five-year old. When the CCFD, a French cum Catholic watchdog, published a document suggesting that Mr. Biya may have stolen some from Cameroon Mr. Tchiroma, the shit-shiner, shouted from the rooftop that those who publishing this information were characters trying to destabilize Cameroun and steal the country’s vast mineral wealth, especially the newly discovered diamond fields. I fail to see the correlation between a high official accused of swiping public money and Cameroon’s mineral wealth. The ruling party then wheeled out a whole kyrie of pseudo-intellectuals, psychologists, sociologists, political thugs, etc to defend Mr. Biya. CDPM Secretary General, Rene Sadi, expressed the indignation of his militants. Mr. Sadi said the CPDM condemned the insidious manœuvres and disinformation which were intended to distract the Camerounese people from their forward march to economic, social and cultural development which march had recorded precious achievements in stability,, unity, democracy social justice and international expansion !” That bombast failed to address the critical issue. Did Mr. Biya spoil the Camerounese state by stealing money from SCB? Did he institute a procedure to skim away percentages from public and private companies? Ha Paul Biya swiped 46 billion from the state of Cameroon? At least of this 46 billion can be accounted for. Messi Messi told us that Mr. Biya (via his defunct wife, Jeane Irene Biya) took out from the now dead SCB Bank (as a loan) to build for himself a country house in Mvomeka. That house was designed by Tunisian architect Cacoub, the very one who designed the current presidency. Did Mr. Biya pay back this ‘loan?’ If he did, where did he get the money to pay back? Name one civil servant who can obtain a 3.2 billion loan? So what is this Mullah, Tchiroma talking about? Learning from Mr. Biya’s example, all sort of government officials moved forcefully into SCB and other banks to offer themselves huge loans. Local newspapers have published the various swindlers lists of all regime couriers who dry-cleaned the banks. These people stole 150 billion from SCB alone. Have they paid back the money? Ngang. No sooner had the news about Mr. Biya’s extravaganza in France became public than Mr. Biya’s spin doctor, Tchiroma summoned the national press. Among other things, Mr. Biya told the press to be ‘patriotic’ by not publishing the facts. Mr. Biya should have thought about that before his wanton hussying. Secondly, who is the true patriot? The magnificent reporter who points out that in three weeks a president just incinerated enough to construct 100 schools or the president whose irresponsibility is so shouting? Who is the patriot between the reporter and the shit shiner who hands out gag orders? Mr. Tchiroma has no business telling the press not to go to town about Mr. Biya’s waste. Gregoire Owona, Mr Biya’s minister in charge of relations with the assemblies (yes, assemblies – West and East Cameroun Houses of Assembly) brings another sordid spin into this mess. Remember that Gregoire Owona’s name figures prominently on the 58-member strong swindlers list published by Kroll Associates. This list concerns people suspected of stealing public money. Grégoire Owona is number 48 on the list. Gregoire Owona said Mr. Biya had the right to spend all that money because he was not quite on vacation but he was actually working on very important files for the Camerounese people. Owona exhorted local newspapers not to join the French papers in destroying “our beautiful country. » Messrs Owona and Tchroma claim that newspapers that publish the Mr. Biya’s latest foible are tarnishing Cameroon’s image. Really? Who has greatly tarnished the country’s image between a spendthrift globe-trotting president and a minister who shuts down radio stations? Mr. Tchiroma also says that there is hope for Cameroun after the discovery of the largest diamond field in Mobilong, Yokaduma. Rubbish! There is enough selective amnesia here. The Korean company accredited with the Mobilong find thoroughly snookered the government of Cameroon by awarding itself 80% of the find leaving the government of Cameroun with only 10% and 10% to some private investors. As usual some Yaounde bureaucrats took bribes and let the Koreans off with murder. Citizen Journalist, Innocent Chia has just published the pitiful details about how exactly corrupt bureaucracts in Yaounde took bribes and traded off all the new mineral finds in Cameroon for a small fee. Chia writes, “Unfortunately, due to the failure of the Cameroon government to effectively streamline the mining code with other fiscal laws, foreign investors have successfully navigated the heavy and complex bureau-cratic machinery with the following scorecard: • Aluminum-Bauxite-Alumina Project: Hydromine Global Minerals GMBH Ltd, British Virgin Island (90%) – U.S Tax Shelter – “Build-Operate-Transfer” (BOT) government of Cameroon (10%)* • Cobalt-manganese-nickel Project: Geovic Ltd, Cayman Island (U.S tax shelter) – (60.5%) government of Cameroon (20%) four individuals (19.5%) • Diamond (CAPAM) Project: CNK Korea (80%) government of Cameroon (20%) • Gold (CAMINCO) Project: African Aura Resources, South Africa (90%) government of Cameroon (10%)* • Iron (Cam Iron) Project: Sundance Australia (90%) government of Cameroon (10%) • Uranium Project: Mega Uranium Canada*” The long and short of this wahala is simple. Listen, enough is enough. A warning to all these investors who are ripping off Cameroun though. These thieving contracts will be reviewed by the next administration.

Children of a Lesser God. By Ntemfac Ofege

Children of a lesser god: In 2007, five trigger-happy American-Blackwater mass murderers sprayed 17 innocent Iraqi civilians in Bagdad, including a wife and child whose heads were blown away, under the excuse that a top American demon was riding by in a motorcade. In 2009, breaking 2010, mass murderers freed by a Republican? Judge defending the insanity of American legal systems and functions, the same dubious system that made George Bush president. Children of a lesser god, the will of their father would they do.