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Why did the Bush administration turn against Ahmad Chalabi?

Don't Panic!... Your war questions answered

In April, I wrote a column about former Iraqi exile and current Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi. I explained that Chalabi suffers from what psychologists, historians, and bratty children call Stinky, Lying, Poo-Poo-Head Disease. He fed bogus information exaggerating Saddam Hussein's WMD capabilities to the Pentagon, CIA and media. He was a particular favorite of the Cheney-Rumsfeld neo-con faction that controls both the Pentagon and President Bush's short attention span.

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Confronted earlier this year with allegations that he used American taxpayer cash to feed us bogus intel, Chalabi was smug and dismissive. "Intelligence people are supposed to do a better job for their country, and their government did not do such a good job." Translation: "It's not my fault that you suckers believed me."

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Soon after that statement, Chalabi's relationship with the United States started to go down faster than (your metaphor choices are): A) a shot of tequila, or B-) a White House intern.

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First, we cut off his $300,000-plus monthly allowance. Then, a U.S.-appointed Iraqi judge issued a search warrant for Chalabi's Baghdad pad. The judge says he issued the warrant as part of a criminal investigation of 15 members and employees of Chalabi's political group, the Iraqi National Congress. The 15 are suspected of kidnapping, extortion and torture. Iraqi police did the actual raiding and ransacking, confiscating, among other things, according to Chalabi, documents, computers, his copy of the Koran and some food. The cops were accompanied and protected by U.S. soldiers, which means that Bush's man in Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, approved of the raid.

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Why turn on Chalabi now? After all, we knew for a long time that he fed us lies about Saddam's WMDs. We also knew that he was a crook; he was convicted in Jordan for illegally pocketing tens of millions of dollars from the bank he used to operate there. (Although now that I think of it, to a White House whose biggest all-time campaign contributor is Enron, stealing money from his own bank was probably considered one of Chalabi's positive traits.)

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Well, the unofficial official explanation for turning on Chalabi is that he was spying on us on behalf of Iran. It's alleged that Chalabi told an Iranian official in Baghdad that the U.S. had cracked the code with which Iran encrypted its communications. I call it an unofficial official explanation because it was disseminated by government officials speaking anonymously. Journalists eager to beat up on Chalabi because he's a lying scumbag filled in blanks that made it seem like Chalabi was working for Iran all along. A few reporters noted that the copy of the Koran that Chalabi says was confiscated was actually an inscribed gift from 1980s Non-Commie Public Enemy No. 1, Iran's Ayatollah "Rockinrollah" Khomeini — a man considered so evil by the U.S. that during the '80s, we aided Hussein's war against him with weapons, intelligence, billions of dollars, the U.S. Navy, and by turning a blind eye when Saddam gassed his own people.

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An alternate explanation, and frankly, one that makes more sense to me, is that we turned on Chalabi because he was starting to criticize the Bushies too much. Remember, in Bushland, mouthing off is a much bigger offense than incompetence. Chalabi criticized us for blaming him for bad intel and for turning to former Saddamites to stabilize Iraq. He's also been loudly critical of the United Nations at precisely the moment we've decided we need U.N. help to stabilize Iraq.

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Chalabi hates U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi's vision of an interim Iraqi government composed of non-politicians. He also advocates for a big-deal investigation of corruption in the U.N.'s Iraqi-oil-for-food program, something that I advocate for as well, but for a different reason than Chalabi. Chalabi wants to know who illegally profited from the program. I just wanna know who the dummy is that thought you could use Iraq's oil for food. It's not that kind of oil.

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Whatever the reason, dumping Chalabi is certainly a plus for us. It's a relationship that did this country harm. The dumping may even be a plus for him. Being hated by the U.S. can make a guy pretty popular in Iraq these days.

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andisheh@creativeloafing.com



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