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Hullabaloo


Saturday, May 29, 2004

 
Ahmad, We Hardly Knew Ye

The fog is lifting a tiny bit on this story and certain outlines are becoming clearer.

First, despite Matt Yglesias's reasonable belief that the outside-the-government Neo's would listen to any "ix-nay on the Alabi-chay" signals they've been getting from the inside-the-government Neo's, many are following Ahmad off the cliff without hesitation. The exception seems to be The Weakly Standard, which (with the exception of Fred "Nascar" Barnes) is always a bit smarter than the rest of the crew.

So, up to the White House march the perennially wrong Richard Perle, James Woolsey and Newt Gingrich to convince Condi Rice that poor Ahmad is the victim of a smear campaign. Condi is non-committal as is every single neocon in the government who obviously know that Ahmad is a traitor on a particularly egregious scale. (Not to mention that they all may very well be sitting in the same hot seat within a very short period of time.)

Meanwhile, in Jane Meyer's new piece in the best investigative magazine in America, The New Yorker, she relates the inside story of the rise of Chalabi in Washington. He is a clever fellow:

After the fall of Communism, the neoconservatives were eager for a new cause, and Chalabi—an educated, secular Shiite who was accepting of Israel and talked about spreading democracy throughout the Middle East—capitalized on their enthusiasm. Judith Kipper, the Council on Foreign Relations director, said that, around this time, Chalabi made “a deliberate decision to turn to the right,” having realized that conservatives were more likely than liberals to back the use of force against Saddam.[read: gullible fools-ed.]

As Brooke put it, “We thought very carefully about this, and realized there were only a couple of hundred people” in Washington who were influential in shaping policy toward Iraq. He and Chalabi set out to win these people over. Before long, Chalabi was on a first-name basis with thirty members of Congress, such as Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich, and was attending social functions with Richard Perle, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense, who was now a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and Dick Cheney, who was the C.E.O. of Halliburton. According to Brooke, “From the beginning, Cheney was in philosophical agreement with this plan. Cheney has said, ‘Very seldom in life do you get a chance to fix something that went wrong.’”

Wolfowitz was particularly taken with Chalabi, an American friend of Chalabi’s said. “Chalabi really charmed him. He told me they are both intellectuals. Paul is a bit of a dreamer.” To Wolfowitz, Chalabi must have seemed an ideal opposition figure. "He just thought, This is cool—he says all the right stuff about democracy and human rights. I wonder if we can’t roll Saddam, just the way we did the Soviets,” the friend said.[Oh, Jesus - ed]

Chalabi was running out of money, however, and he needed new patrons. Brooke said that he and Chalabi hit upon a notion that, he admitted, was “naked politics”: the I.N.C.’s disastrous history of foiled C.I.A. operations under the Clinton Administration could be turned into a partisan weapon for the Republicans. “Clinton gave us a huge opportunity,” Brooke said. “We took a Republican Congress and pitted it against a Democratic White House. We really hurt and embarrassed the President.” The Republican leadership in Congress, he conceded, “didn’t care that much about the ammunition. They just wanted to beat up the President.” Nonetheless, he said, senior Republican senators, including Trent Lott and Jesse Helms, “were very receptive, right away.”

So basically, Chalabi charmed the starry-eyed neocons with delusions of a Mesopotamian Monticello and handed the craven, GOP powerfucks another weapon to use against Clinton. This guy completely understood the Modern Republican Party, you have to admit.

And then there is this simply mind-blowing story about The NY Times, which they somehow forgot to mention in their "editor's note":

In an unusual arrangement, two months before the invasion began, the chief correspondent for the Times, Patrick E. Tyler, who was in charge of overseeing the paper’s war coverage, hired Chalabi’s niece, Sarah Khalil, to be the paper’s office manager in Kuwait. Chalabi had long been a source for Tyler. Chalabi’s daughter Tamara, who was in Kuwait at the time, told me that Khalil helped her father’s efforts while she was working for the Times.

In early April, 2003, Chalabi was stranded in the desert shortly after U.S. forces airlifted him and several hundred followers into southern Iraq, leaving them without adequate water, food, or transportation. Once again, the assistance of the U.S. military had backfired. Chalabi used a satellite phone to call Khalil for help. According to Tamara, Khalil commandeered money from I.N.C. funds and rounded up a convoy of S.U.V.s, which she herself led across the border into Iraq.

Tyler told me that he hadn’t known that Khalil had helped Chalabi get into southern Iraq. He added that Khalil had a background in journalism, and that Chalabi hadn’t been a factor in the war when he hired her. “We were covering a war, not Chalabi,” he said. The Times dismissed Khalil on May 20, 2003, when word of her employment reached editors in New York. During the five months that Khalil was employed, Tyler published nine pieces that mentioned Chalabi. When asked about Khalil’s rescue of Chalabi, William Schmidt, an associate managing editor of the Times, said, “The Times is not aware of any such story, or whether it happened. If so, it was out of bounds.”

Out of bounds. Goodness gracious, I hope they suspend his milk money for at least a week. But, it begs the question. Was there any reporter on the Iraq story for The NY Times who wasn't in Chalabi's pocket?

Spoonfed journalists and spoonfed presidents alike all got what they wanted. (And the Chayefskys, Hellers and Kubricks of tomorrow have a veritable feast of material to draw from):

Francis Brooke said that nobody had ordered the I.N.C. to focus solely on W.M.D.s. “I’m a smart man,” he said. “I saw what they wanted, and I adapted my strategy.”

[...]

As a result, the war was largely marketed domestically as a scare campaign, and the I.N.C. was enlisted to promote the danger posed by Saddam’s regime. Brooke said, “I sent out an all-points bulletin to our network, saying, ‘Look, guys, get me a terrorist, or someone who works with terrorists. And, if you can get stuff on W.M.D., send it!’”

As Chalabi's little scam unravels, the marks are struggling to understand what's happened to them:

Jack Blum, a former lawyer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told me that the Administration compromised its vision from the start, by relying on dubious partners such as Chalabi. He said, “We ruined what could have had some promise by dealing with all the wrong people.”
Hahaha. The "vision" was Chalabi's from the get-go. He just made the neocon fools think it was theirs. As his daughter said:

[her father’s problems could be traced to the fact that] “a foreigner, and an Arab, had beaten the Administration at their own game, in their own back yard.”





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