Iraqi who lived in Columbus waffles on plea in plot to kill former President George W. Bush

Iraqi who lived in Columbus waffles on plea in plot to kill former President George W. Bush

Updated: 24 days, 7 hours, 21 minutes, 46 seconds ago

Iraqi who lived in Columbus waffles on plea in plot to kill former President George W. Bush

The Iraqi national met with an informant at a hotel in Columbus to view a sampling of firearms, according to the charging document.

An Iraqi man admitted Thursday in federal court in Columbus to planning to smuggle other Iraqi nationals into the country in a plot to assassinate former President George W. Bush for initiating the Iraq War. But in a surprise twist, before the judge could accept a guilty plea, his defense attorney asked for the case to be continued so he could make sure his client was knowingly entering into the plea.

Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, 52, who had lived in an apartment in Columbus' Northland area and in Indianapolis after arriving in the U.S. in 2020, appeared in court with an interpreter and pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to provide material support to terrorists.

When Shihab was arrested last May, law enforcement officials said Bush was never in real danger because Shihab had unwittingly told his plans to confidential informants for the FBI between November 2021 and April 2022. The plot included the intention to smuggle at least four Iraqi nationals into the country to kill Bush.

Shihab would have admitted in his guilty plea to the charging document that he told an informant he was part of a group overseas seeking to assassinate Bush, and that his role in the plot was to conduct surveillance on Bush's residences and offices and to obtain firearms and vehicles.

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Shihab's plan

The FBI, in the original complaint filed against Shihab, alleged he planned to smuggle Iraqi nationals across the Mexican border in exchange for thousands of dollars per person.

"Shihab advised (the confidential source) that they wished to kill former President Bush because they felt that he was responsible for killing many Iraqis and breaking apart the entire country of Iraq," the complaint stated.

In subsequent discussions with the informants, the complaint stated Shihab said he "wanted to be involved in the actual attack and assassination of former President Bush and did not care if he died as he would be proud to have been involved in killing former President Bush."

Shihab met with an informant at a hotel in Columbus last March, according to the charging document, where the informant presented him with sample firearms and law enforcement uniforms — including an M-16 rifle and a U.S. Border Patrol uniform, according to the earlier complaint. 

"Shihab asked if (the informant) could obtain grenade launchers that can be attached to the barrel of the M-16s," the complaint states. The informant "advised that this should be possible."

The charging document also stated Shihab traveled with one of the informants in February to the former president's residence and the George W. Bush Institute, both in Dallas, where he recorded cellphone video of the buildings and surrounding area.

Columbus man's plan kill George W. Bush:Iraqi man in Columbus accused of plot to kill George W. Bush waived detention hearing

The Bush administration

In response to the news of the attempted assassination plot, a spokesperson for Bush said at the time that the former president had confidence in the nation's law enforcement and intelligence agents.

President Bush's administration began pressing for U.S. military intervention in Iraq in late 2001, and obtained approval from the U.S. Congress in 2002 through a joint resolution known as the Iraq Resolution. The resolution claimed the U.S. intent for the Iraq War was to remove weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, end Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism that included allowing al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to operate there, and to free the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Hussein's leadershp.

Although the United Nations Security Council did not authorize a unilateral invasion of Iraq, Bush obtained the support of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and some other nations and invaded Iraq in March 2003. Bush declared that major combat operations were over by May 1, 2003, and U.S. and their Allies began occupation of Iraq.

Multiple U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department's Inspector General's Office eventually discredited the Bush administration rationalizations that there were weapons of mass destruction or terrorists operating in Iraq, citing lack of evidence. Under criticism for starting a war and occupation under false pretenses, the Bush administration eventually focused on the U.N.'s condemnation of Hussein's human rights violations to justify the military action removing him from power.

In May 2022, Bush, then 75, was speaking at an event in Dallas about elections. He was discussing Russian President Putin's invasion and war against Ukraine when he made a major gaffe, saying that it was the “decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified and brutal invasion of Iraq."

"I mean of Ukraine," he said, immediately correcting himself. Then he smirked and shooked his head and said, "Iraq."

jlaird@dispatch.com

@LairdWrites

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