Don't Panic! April 22 2004

Your war questions answered

Who is Ahmad Chalabi?

For several years, the job market has been tough. Tough for everyone, it seems, except people who've contributed to America's colossal security and foreign policy fuck-ups.

For example, the president hasn't fired any of the people who held back U.S. ground forces while Osama bin Laden fled his Afghanistan hiding place into Pakistan. He hasn't fired any of the people who incorrectly told him that we could secure Iraq with just 130,000 or so soldiers (in fact, when Army Chief of Staff Gen. Erik Shinseki correctly testified to the Senate before the war that many more soldiers would be needed than Rummy was sending, the administration forced him out). And Bush hasn't fired any of the people who napped in 2001 while evidence of an impending terrorist attack against the United States piled up. Of course, if Bush did decide to start firing people for incompetence, he would have to start by firing himself.

And then, there's Maude.

I mean, and then there's Ahmad Chalabi.

Chalabi is a man in need of a good firing. Before I explain why, here's some background.

Chalabi is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and a friend to Cheney, Rummy, Wolfie, etc. He was born Oct. 30, 1944 (a Scorpio!), into a wealthy Shi'ite family with close ties to then King Faisal 2.0. He left Iraq in 1958 in pursuit of a dream — a dream of not dying in the revolution that had just killed Faisal. Chalabi went to MIT, then U. of Chicago. He married Leila, damned with faint praise in numerous biographical accounts as the daughter of one of the signers of Lebanon's declaration of independence. He moved to Jordan where he had a big bank. The bank failed, he fled, and, in absentia, was sentenced to 22 years up the Jordan.

Chalabi says the charges were political — he claims he'd tried to stop the flow of credit to Saddam, so in return Saddam leaned on his Jordanian neighbors to seek proxy revenge. Hmm, I wonder if Saddam also leaned on the Swiss Federal Banking Commission, which in 1989 called Chalabi-managed Mebco bank badly run and plagued by lax accounting procedures.

During the '90s, Chalabi garnered U.S. support in an attempt to overthrow Saddam's regime. He went to Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq and tried to stage a rebellion there. When he failed, he came to D.C. and wiggled his way into many a neo-con's cold, cold heart by putting an Arab face on their desire to send U.S. forces into Iraq.

As long as I'm profiling him, I should mention that Chalabi tells reporters that Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway is his favorite book. And I should also mention that he's a liar and a phony. And not just because Orlando is a much better book and everyone knows it. Chalabi and his cronies are responsible for feeding barrel-loads of false claims about Saddam's WMDs to American intelligence and the American media. Some examples, pretty please:

Through a defector code-named Curveball, Chalabi fed us the bogus "firsthand descriptions of biological weapons factories on wheels and rails" that Colin Powell described during his pre-war, pro-war PowerPoint presentation to the United Nations. German intelligence warned us that Curveball was every bit as trustworthy as his name implies, but we didn't listen. But Germany's "Old Europe." If Estonia had spoken, we might have listened. They're "New Europe."

Chalabi and his peeps also used the "chatty defector" technique to plant false, firsthand accounts in reputable news outlets of chemical and bio-weapons factories, secret nuclear facilities, Saddam's supposed links to Osama and Iraqi commandos training to hijack planes. The cleverest part about the chatty defector technique is that the news stories were often "corroborated" by government officials either eager to promote the Iraq war or just suckered by the same informants.

Particularly upsetting is that Chalabi's scam was funded by the Pentagon. The United States paid Chalabi to fool the United States. But instead of firing Chalabi, or better yet, arresting him, we continue to give him money.

Chalabi gets $350,000 monthly for, of all things, intelligence gathering. It's the foreign policy equivalent of sending the kids off to a slumber party at Neverland.


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