Raid proof that Bush administration's 'cowboy diplomacy' a failure, House Rep. says

An October, 2008, US military raid inside Syria that killed seven civilians may not have eliminated a senior al Qaeda operative as anonymous Pentagon sources claimed at the time, says a new investigative report.

On October 26 of last year, a squadron of US military helicopters raided a farm five miles from the Iraqi border, inside Syria. Although the US government has never officially admitted the Abu Kamal raid, anonymous Pentagon sources at the time leaked the claim that Abu Ghadiya, a "senior al Qaeda terrorist," was killed in the attack. The US had earlier named Ghadiya as a major al Qaeda operative who ran the smuggling operation that brought al Qaeda arms, fighters and money into Iraq to fight the US.

Even as US audiences -- mesmerized by the presidential election at home -- mostly didn't notice the incident, the raid caused an uproar in the Middle East at the time, with most Arab countries viewing it as an act of war. The Syrian government described the US's actions as "terrorism."

"An al Qaeda coordinator in Syria who was wanted for sending operatives, weapons and cash into Iraq was captured during a US strike, but it was not clear whether or not he survived," Fox News reported at the time, citing an anonymous source in the Pentagon.

But an investigative report in Vanity Fair states there is no evidence to suggest Ghadiya was captured or killed during that raid, nor is there evidence that he was anywhere near that farmhouse.

After interviewing eyewitnesses and officials, authors Reese Erlich and Peter Coyote conclude that, in all likelihood, this was a botched raid based on faulty intelligence. The only tangible result of the raid was the death of seven civilians, including a six-year-old boy and three other children.

The authors point out some unusual things about the Pentagon's behavior with respect to the raid: The military has never officially admitted the raid, and it has never provided evidence of Ghadiya's death, as it had done earlier with other targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders.

The anonymous claims that Ghadiya was killed in the operation are “total bullshit,” former CIA Middle East expert Bob Baer told Vanity Fair.

Baer, whose book See No Evil was made into the film Syriana, asked: “Where’s the body? Where are the documents or the cell phone? If they brought back an al Qaeda body, why don’t they have something? There’s no conceivable way they would have killed him and not shown it.”

US House Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) told the magazine that the Bush administration mishandled the raid. Syrian civilians “lost their lives in an unfortunate attempt by the previous administration to once again mislead, bully, and isolate a regime.”

Rahall added that raids like this are having a “disastrous effect on American foreign policy. They alienate civilians. The cowboy diplomacy of the past led America to some of its lowest [public-opinion] ratings around the world.”