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The Sunni Heartland

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Intelligence failures

Mud splattered billboard of Saddam -
photo: Tom Bullock

It is one of the untold stories of the war, of missed opportunities and intelligence failures says Bob Baer, an ex -CIA agent who was based in the Middle East. He first met the Kerbeits in the 1990s - a time when, Baer says, many Sunni Arabs had turned against Saddam's regime.

"The Sunni Arabs were finished with him," continues Baer. "Even the Kerbeits, in the early 90s, recognized this...and said, let's get rid of the man. And they passed the message on to Washington. Except (in) Washington, at the time, the policy was containment. It was bad timing."

A decade later - as the deadline for Operation Iraqi Freedom approached - the Kerbeits hoped the timing was right. They contacted Baer again.

"What the family asked me and anybody they could get to - they had other contacts in Washington, in the state department...they wanted to quietly remove Saddam at the end, in order to avoid a war," explains Baer. "After the war they wanted contacts in the American government in order to smooth over the situation, to make a better transition to a sovereign government. No, no one would talk to them."

There were other secret offers by the Sunni Arab elites, but Washington was making no deals. It is unclear why the Kerbeit family compound was targeted. An accident in the fog of war, or a belief on the part of the U.S. military that Saddam might be hiding in Ramadi.

Whatever the reason, there was no follow-up investigation, no explanation, says Bob Baer, who visited the family in Ramadi just eight days after the bombing.

"The only people who had visited the house were a Special Forces unit that came over to ask if they could take over an adjoining house to use as a base," says Baer. "The Special Forces had no idea why the house had been hit...No one bothered to look in the ruins of this house to see who had actually died. Or even asked."

Next: Rage... and a Deep Sense of Loss

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