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Ahmed Chalabi: the Man Who Invited America to Invade Iraq
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Ahmed Chalabi, who died of a heart attack in Baghdad on Tuesday aged 71, was one of the ablest, most maligned and misunderstood figures to play a central role in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the shaping of modern Iraq.

Chalabi was a man of the highest intelligence and mental agility, who attracted many friends and allies, but also many enemies. These were very diverse and ranged from Saddam Hussein to the CIA and the British Foreign Office, all of whom denounced him furiously.

A diplomat in Baghdad once told me: “I think that Chalabi is pure evil,” before going on to laud an Iraqi politician of notorious incompetence and corruption as the potential saviour of his country.

People always had strong opinions about Chalabi because he had a personality that nobody could ignore and because he was undoubtedly effective. He spent much of his life in a relentless campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein and was uncaring about the methods he used to achieve these ends. He was ever the activist.

The accusation made against Chalabi after 2003 was that he had lured the US and its allies into a disastrous invasion of Iraq by fabricating or manipulating evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In time, he became the scapegoat for politicians and journalists looking for somebody else to blame for their own failures and falsehoods.

The charge seemed to me to be absurd because it is the business of the political exile to pass on damaging information, true or false, about the government he or she is trying to overthrow. Only the laziest or most naïve of journalists should have imagined that information put their way by Chalabi – or any other Iraqi exile – was non-partisan.

The son of a wealthy Baghdad family, Chalabi fled Iraq as a teenager when the monarchy was overthrown. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965, and then went on to get a PhD in mathematics at the University of Chicago.

I first met him in London in about 1992 when he had set up the Iraqi National Congress (INC) as an umbrella organisation for opposition to Saddam. The Iraqi leader had crushed the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in 1991 and it was evident to all his opponents that the only way to get rid of him was to get the Americans to invade Iraq. Chalabi’s objective was the same as that of the others, and he differed from them only in the care and hard work he put into achieving this end.

He moved to Washington, cultivated politicians and journalists and worked with American political lobbyists. He mingled with anybody who would listen, but particularly with Republicans. He helped pass the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998, committing the US to replacing Iraq’s regime with a democracy, but it is worth keeping in mind that none of this would have led to the US invading Iraq if it had not been for 9/11.

I saw Chalabi many times during these years and always found his political judgement very clear, except in matters concerning his own political career. I remember him once saying to me about Iraq that “it is almost impossible to overthrow a government in power that is guarded by a violent, pro-active intelligence service”. This seemed strange since he had in fact been trying to do just that when based in Iraqi Kurdistan, plotting to start an insurgency against Saddam or foment a mutiny in the Iraqi army. I suspected that the aim of these machinations was to entangle the Americans once again in Iraq, but none these schemes worked.

The US-led invasion of 2003 was in a sense the high tide and the turn for Chalabi: he and the Americans had used each other, but had never trusted each other. He would say to me later that the big problem for the US was the same in 2003 as it had been in 1991, at the end of the Gulf war: if America got rid of Saddam Hussein’s regime, then its natural successor would be a Shia government (since the Shia make up 60 per cent of the Iraqi population) which would be close to Iran. The American solution to this problem was not only to invade Iraq but to occupy, and this was the origin of all subsequent calamities.

One reason so many American officials did not like Chalabi was that they did not control him and much preferred proxies whom they could order about. They were suspicious of his openly good relations with Iran, though in fact the US badly needed a conduit to Tehran. Chalabi’s abilities counted against him because his energy and intelligence frightened potential rivals who combined to exclude him from power.

The other charge brought against him was that he was corrupt. That accusation was always a bit rich coming from Iraqi politicians who had miraculously turned themselves into multimillionaires after a short time in office. The allegations usually revolved around the collapse of the Petra Bank in Jordan in the 1980s and Chalabi always denied wrongdoing, saying the bank had been targeted by other Jordanian banks and state officials.

Most of this time he stayed in Baghdad and, at one moment, was running a system of emergency committees. Once, I went with him to a bridge over the Tigris River that had been destroyed by a truck bomb and he was looking to see how it might be reconstructed. I was very conscious that the far side of the river at that time was in the hands of insurgents whose snipers could easily identify Chalabi. I lurked behind a broken pier of the bridge until he had finished his inspection.

ORDER IT NOW

His political vision remained clear to the end and early last year he told me that the Iraqi army would collapse as soon as it was attacked by the forerunners of Isis. I could not quite believe this but a few months later they captured Mosul and established the Islamic State.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy, History • Tags: Ahmed Chalabi, Iraq War 
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  1. Chiron says:

    What was Chalabi relation with the jewish neocons?

  2. bunga says:

    Chalabi was sought out by the likudnik and they found in him the right man to carry the PNAC agenda

    “By the time of the Iraq War, recalled scholars Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke in their book America Alone, “Chalabi was an established neoconservative ally of some two decades. He met [Albert] Wohlstetter while studying mathematics at the University of Chicago, who introduced him to [Richard] Perle in 1985.” In the following decade,

    “Chalabi gained political favor with Washington’s staunch pro-Israeli think tanks, the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs and JINSA. He became a frequent guest at their symposia and drew wide support from key figures with neoconservative connections, such as [Dick] Cheney, [Donald] Rumsfeld, [Paul] Wolfowitz, and [James] Woolsey.”[8]

    Even before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Chalabi proved capable of securing the U.S. government’s support for his attempts at subterfuge in the country. In the mid-1990s, Chalabi returned to Iraq and, with U.S. backing, tried to organize an uprising in Kurdish areas of Iraq through the INC. The effort failed and hundreds of supporters were killed as Chalabi and many of his INC cohorts fled the country.[9]

    Despite this failure, Chalabi retained the confidence of his neoconservative allies, with Perle and Wolfowitz proving to be his biggest boosters. As early as 1998, Wolfowitz testified in front of the House International Relations Committee that regime change in Iraq was the “only way to rescue the region and the world from the threat” posed by Saddam Hussein. Wolfowitz added that the United States should recognize “a provisional government of free Iraq” and that the best place to look for such a government was within the INC.[10]

    Eventually, under pressure from a Republican-controlled Congress and heavy lobbying by neoconservative groups like the Project for the New American Century, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which made the overthrow of Saddam an official U.S. policy goal and supplied funds for the INC.[11] Commenting on the money the INC received from the United States, the New Yorker’s Jane Meyer wrote in 2004: “Between 1992 and [May 2004], the U.S. government funneled more than $100 million to the Iraqi National Congress. The current Bush administration gave Chalabi’s group at least $39 million. Exactly what the INC provided in exchange for these sums has yet to be fully explained.”[12]

    Bush administration hawks placed Chalabi at the forefront of efforts to build support for invading Iraq after the 9/11 attacks, to which Saddam Hussein’s government was never linked. In the days immediately following the attacks, Perle invited Chalabi to a meeting of the Defense Policy Board (DPB), an in-house Pentagon advisory board then chaired by Perle, to discuss responses to the terrorist attacks. According to Meyer of the New Yorker, “Chalabi’s message [to the DPB] was to skip any intervention in Afghanistan, where the Taliban had harbored al-Qaida, and to proceed immediately with targeting Iraq. A participant at the meeting, who asked not to be named, recalled that Chalabi made a compelling case that the Americans would have an easy victory there: ‘He said there’d be no resistance, no guerrilla warfare from the Baathists, and a quick matter of establishing a government.’”[13]


    8] Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neoconservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 220.

    [9] BBC, “Profile: Ahmed Chalabi,” October 3, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2291649.stm.

    [10] America Alone, pp. 101-102.

    [11] Chris Suellentrop, “Ahmed Chalabi: Why Shouldn’t a Politician Be President of Iraq?” Slate.com, April 9, 2003, http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/assessment/2003/04/ahmad_chalabi.html

    [12] Jane Meyer, “The Manipulator,” New Yorker, June 7, 2004, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/06/07/040607fa_fact1?currentPage=all.

    [13] Jane Meyer, “The Manipulator,” New Yorker, June 7, 2004, http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2004/06/07/040607fa_fact1?currentPage=all.

    See more at: http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Chalabi_Ahmed#sthash.TQH5c7fh.dpuf

    • Replies: @SolontoCroesus
  3. @bunga

    yea, and the Jewish neocons did all this out of the goodness of their hearts.

    How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons by JOHN DIZARD

    The hawks who launched the Iraq war believed the deal-making exile when he promised to build a secular democracy with close ties to Israel. Now the Israel deal is dead, he’s cozying up to Iran — and his patrons look like they’re on the way out.

    . . .
    “Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat,” says L. Marc Zell, a former law partner of Douglas Feith, now the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a former friend and supporter of Chalabi and his aspirations to lead Iraq. “He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he’s got another.” While Zell’s disaffection with Chalabi has been a long time in the making, his remarks to Salon represent his first public break with the would-be Iraqi leader, and are likely to ripple throughout Washington in the days to come.

    Zell, a Jerusalem attorney, continues to be a partner in the firm that Feith left in 2001 to take the Pentagon job. He also helped Ahmed Chalabi’s nephew Salem set up a new law office in Baghdad in late 2003. Chalabi met with Zell and other neoconservatives many times from the mid-1990s on in London, Turkey, and the U.S. Zell outlines what Chalabi was promising the neocons before the Iraq war: “He said he would end Iraq’s boycott of trade with Israel, and would allow Israeli companies to do business there. He said [the new Iraqi government] would agree to rebuild the pipeline from Mosul [in the northern Iraqi oil fields] to Haifa [the Israeli port, and the location of a major refinery].” But Chalabi, Zell says, has delivered on none of them. The bitter ex-Chalabi backer believes his former friend’s moves were a deliberate bait and switch designed to win support for his designs to return to Iraq and run the country.

    no honor among thieves.

  4. Rehmat says:

    The entire Zionist-controlled media is weeping over the death of an Iraqi traitor who never shame for sending more than one million of fellow Iraqis to death and destroyed the most rich, and crime free socialist state – just to save Israel.

    Uri Avnery, veteran Israeli journalist, author and former 3-term member of Knesset, wrote on April 9, 2003: “Who are the winners? They are the so-called neo-cons, or neo-conservatives. A compact group, almost all of whose members are Jewish. They hold the key positions in the Bush administration, as well as in the think-tanks that play an important role in formulating American policy and the ed-op pages of the influential newspapers“.

    On February 5, 2004, Sam Francis (died 2005) wrote at VDARE website: “Ever since Saddam was overthrown, the same (neo-con) cabal – there’s really no better word for it – has been pushing for more wars against Syria and Iran, also Israel’s enemies. Mr. Bush shows little sign of wising up to how these ostensible supporters have manipulated and exploited him and his administration and the country itself for their own ends. If he stays in office, we may well be at war with other states in the Middle East in the near future.”

    On September 10, 2002 – Philip Zelikow, the Zionist Jew Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, told a crowd at the University of Virginia: “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat and actually has been since 1990 – It’s the threat against Israel“.

    http://rehmat1.com/2013/05/29/iraq-after-10-years/

  5. 5371 says:

    [I was very conscious that the far side of the river at that time was in the hands of insurgents whose snipers could easily identify Chalabi.]

    I’m sure he had paid them off.

  6. Chalabi worked any sides that would do his bidding and he succeeded (Pyrrhic Victory) though not the way he wanted it to! You had lies coming from all sides and at some point they merged and the US got into Iraq by all means they could have used.

  7. “Chalabi was a man of the highest intelligence and mental agility” –

    and a consummate psychopath.

    May the POS rot in Hell.

  8. DB Cooper says:

    Chalabi was basically Iraq’s Dalai Lama. But whereas the Dalai Lama delivers, Chalabi did not.

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