Category Archives: Ahmad Chalabi

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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Bush and WMDs

Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles – one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable – made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.

If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also – and crucially – about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.

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Bush, Tenet, and Bagman Bartlett (Updated)

George Tenet’s new book has stirred up some supposed controversy, primarily by acknowledging and confirming a bunch of stuff we already knew. Why any of this should be “controversial” at this point is beyond me. Maybe because the Great American “Don’t Tell Me, I Don’t Want to Know” Public remains as inexcusably clueless as it was when almost half of it voted for the Emperor for the second – count ’em, second – time and is determined to stay that way.

There’s no “news” here despite the “Today’s Circus” blanket coverage by the so-called “news” media except for two minor details. The first is the surprising – and disappointing – decision by “I’ll Fall on My Sword for You” Tenet to continue covering Junior’s ass. He’s still willing to take the rap for Bush on behalf of the CIA for “mistaken” intel when actually his agency got it right it –

Mr. Tenet takes blame for the flawed 2002 National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq’s weapons programs, calling the episode “one of the lowest moments of my seven-year tenure.” He expresses regret that the document was not more nuanced, but says there was no doubt in his mind at the time that Saddam Hussein possessed unconventional weapons. “In retrospect, we got it wrong partly because the truth was so implausible,” he writes.

– and he continues to praise Dear Leader’s cynical exploitation of 9/11.

Despite such sweeping indictments, Mr. Bush, who in 2004 awarded Mr. Tenet a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is portrayed personally in a largely positive light, with particular praise for the his leadership after the 2001 attacks. “He was absolutely in charge, determined, and directed,” Mr. Tenet writes of the president, whom he describes as a blunt-spoken kindred spirit.

He puts all the responsibility on Cheney, writing as if Junior, you know, didn’t realize the VP was up to all that shit.

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The US Isn’t Behind Chalabi’s Arrest

An article in todays LAT wastes a lot of space airing the hysterical charges of one of Chalabi’s minions.

Mithal Alusi, a member of Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress party, said arrest warrants issued by an Iraqi court over the weekend were part of an international plot that is “bigger than anyone could imagine” to strip Chalabi of his popularity.

Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah. Poor persecuted little Ahmad. The LAT reporters, Henry Chu and Paul Richter, spent so much time on this foolishness that they missed one of the two more important stories around this arrest and buried the other at the bottom of the column.

The story they missed altogether has to do with Chalabi’s successful attempt to burrow into Iraq’s blossoming bureaucracy like a tick into a hound. Ahmad has spent the year-and-a-half since the invasion putting his followers, employees, family and friends in positions that control the everyday life of Iraqis, and while a lot of them will probably use this arrest as an excuse to dump him, a lot won’t. How are they going to handle it? Will they tie up the life of the city even more than it is with red tape and baksheesh? Will they make a concerted attempt to undermine Chalabi’s trial or Allawi’s govt or both? How are they going to respond?

By all accounts, Chalabi has been very shrewd, placing his most valued and trusted employees deep into the Finance Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and the legal system (that’s how Salem got to be in charge of Saddam’s trial), among other vital govt agencies. Yes, Ahmad made enemies in the process of doing that; he was riding high at the time, with the US wind at his back, and he wasn’t any too gentle in his maneuvering, apparently. There were reports that he stepped on a lot of toes, and that he may have used the old Iraqi secret police files that we gave him after the invasion (another untold story: Who ordered that and why?) to blackmail members of the IGC and others coming into the new puppet govt. Chalabists are now located in many of the key chokehold points on the govt grid, and if they worked together, they could bring the activities of the nascent govt to a grinding halt.

Chalabi’s arrest almost certainly has more to do with Allawi trying to break that power than it does with counterfeiting. Not that I think Ahmad is innocent of the charges (it’s just the sort of thing he would try if he was in the position to get away with it) but the evidence appears to be awfully thin.

Ahmad Chalabi is accused of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars. But Alusi said only about 3,000 counterfeit dinars, worth approximately $2, were found in Chalabi’s office, and they were marked as forgeries with a red stamp from the Iraqi Central Bank. Chalabi, who headed the Finance Committee of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council, has said he was engaged in an effort to stem counterfeiting. Alusi said Chalabi held the forged dinars as part of that effort.A Central Bank official said his agency never sought the counterfeiting charges.

“The Central Bank has not lodged a complaint against any individual regarding money counterfeiting and never requested that such charges be brought,” Sinan Shabibi, the bank’s governor, told the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

And just whose boy is Shabibi?

The political reality is that Allawi has to break Chalabi’s stranglehold or he won’t be in control of his own govt, and he knows it. They have been rivals, jockeying for position as the New Puppet Potentate-in-Waiting; Chalabi chose to burrow into the govt infrastructure, Allawi decided to use his heavy CIA and CPA connections to strike directly for the top. Allawi won, but now he has the problem of cleaning out Chalabi’s die-hard button-men. The best way to kill a poisonous snake is to chop off the head. Allawi’s sword is the countertfeiting charge.

Then there’s the little matter that Ahmad has been running around trying to make a ‘coalition’ out of all the Shi’ite tribes that don’t think they’re represented by the new puppet regime and are looking for a champion. It was a last-ditch act of desperation by a Chalabi looking to build some kind of powerbase, but it could have worked well enough to make him a player and a major thorn in Allawi’s side.

No, the idea that the US is behind Chalabi’s arrest is strictly for the domestic market. The occupation is increasingly hated by more and more of the population, and blaming us is a convenient tactic, nothing more. From the US side, Chalabi is still being defended by Bush Admin neocons and their home-away-from-home, the American Enterprise Institute. While Poor Paul (Wolfowitz) hasn’t made any public statements since Michael Moore showed him wetting his hair down with his own spit, as recently as May he was defending Ahmad, ‘saying that intelligence he had provided saved American lives and helped troops.’ Sure. It killed a lot more, but we’re emphasizing the positive in BushAmerica. In any case, Poor Paul has adopted the BA’s new hands-off policy with regard to Ahmad–he ain’t talking.

[A] Wolfowitz spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.

“His future will be decided by the people of Iraq, if he wants to continue to be involved in Iraq ‘s future,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said. “This latest investigation, that is a matter for Iraqi authorities to handle.”The State Department, never as close to Chalabi as the White House or Pentagon, also distanced itself. Adam Ereli, a State Department spokesman, said the charges “are certainly new to us. This is a question of the Iraqi justice system at work. And we are going to play the appropriate role, which is to let that process take its course.”

That cautious distancing does not, however, extend to his other neocon backers. Perle the Pearl, for example, has been actively defending Chalabi every chance he gets.

Richard N. Perle, a former top advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and a leader of the so-called neoconservatives who embraced Chalabi and the war, said in an interview that he believed the warrants were part of an effort against Chalabi undertaken by the Iraqi government with the support of the U.S. government.”I’m sure it’s been encouraged by the U.S.,” Perle said in an interview from Europe.

He said CIA and State Department officials have long opposed Chalabi and have convinced others in the government to move against him. Now officials in the White House oppose Chalabi as well, Perle said.

“It was those reports that led to a decision to destroy him,” Perle said, adding that he believed there was no basis to the reports that Chalabi passed classified information to Iran.

And, of course, the AEI, avid Laurie Mylroie supporter and the place where Gingrich gave his famous speech proposing the stovepiping of raw data to get around the CIA’s pickiness about needing to have actual proof before they’d believe anything Ahmad said, has been in there pitching.

Michael Rubin, a former advisor to the U.S.-led occupation authority in Iraq now at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, said the judge who issued the warrant was unqualified, and that the Bush administration and government of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi wanted to keep Chalabi from gaining influence.Rubin said the Allawi government had moved against Chalabi to prevent him from gaining a role in the upcoming conference

Maybe, but as usual with the NWB’s, Rubin asserts facts without offering either evidence or compelling analysis. Here’s mine: nobody in the BA is smart enough or knowledgable enough about internal Iraqi politics, particularly in their present chaotic state, to predict how this is going to shake out, much less take control of the shaking. The Admin that started a war with ‘plans’ that could have been written on the back of an envelope is not an Admin so canny in the ways of the maze/minefield of Arabic politics that it would dare to pick a winner, much less plot the strategy to get him there.

It’s much easier and safer to do what they’re doing: foster the illusion of Iraqi sovereignty by sitting back and letting the battle play itself out. Chalabi could still become a power–if the trial doesn’t result in a conviction, Ahmad has the right to stump the country as a persecuted victim of US manipulation who successfully beat the Superpower at its own game. He becomes a hero to a certain segment, and can no longer be ignored. Allawi’s taking a helluva gamble, but if he wants to run Iraq without Ahmad nipping at his heels all the time, he doesn’t have much choice.

Read Robert Scheer’s column, ‘One More Chalabi Black Eye’.

And Another One Bites the Dust

Our old buddy Ahmad Chalabi is about to be arrested by the Iraqi ‘govt’ for–wait for it!–counterfeiting. Is there no end to this man’s talent? Embezzler, swindler, con-artist, double agent, and trouble-maker extraordinaire, Chalabi, the NWB Pin-Up Boy, just can’t seem to keep his hand out of the till or his ass out of a sling. He may have fooled the Neocon Wonder Boys (‘fooled’ them? he wrapped duct tape around his little finger and sold it to them as ‘gray gold’) but the Iraqis know him for what he is and they’re not having any.

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s interim government announced arrest warrants Sunday for special tribunal head Salem Chalabi, on murder charges, and former Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, on counterfeiting charges.Ahmad Chalabi, a longtime opposition leader, was a Pentagon favorite in the years leading up to the Iraq war but fell out of favor in the spring over allegations that his political faction gave flawed intelligence to U.S. agents and leaked American secrets to Iran.

Um, guys? We’re waaaay past the ‘allegations’ phase at this point. If conning gullible idiots like Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz was a crime, Ahmad would be in Leavenworth right now.

Ahmad Chalabi and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi also have frequently clashed over issues such as Allawi’s move to partially reverse the U.S.-sponsored “de-Baathification” process.Salem Chalabi, Ahmad’s nephew, has been in charge of the effort to try ousted President Saddam Hussein on war crimes charges. “They should be arrested and then questioned, and then we will evaluate the evidence, and then if there is enough evidence, they will be sent to trial,” Zuhair Maliky, Iraq’s chief investigating judge, said Sunday.

Spokesmen for the White House and the State Department said the charges were up to the Iraqis to deal with.

Supporters like Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz were not available for comment.

Really? Well, they wouldn’t be, would they? They’re all in the basement of Cheney’s new bunker with the doors locked and the blankets pulled up over their heads and ear plugs so they can’t hear the questions, chanting ‘Ahmad is a hero, Ahmad is a national treasure, Ahmad is King’ in unison while they whap each other blindly with rolled-up copies of the 9/11CR. Chalabi, of course, says it’s all a frame.

“I’m going to go back to confront those lies,” Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress party, told CNN, speaking from Tehran. “There is no case here. I will go back to meet those charges head-on…. This judge should recuse himself because he went on many times in the American press attacking me personally on political grounds.”Ahmad Chalabi also accused Maliky of trying to derail Hussein’s trial. “He attacked the court, he attacked the trial of Saddam Hussein in the press,” Chalabi said.

The warrant against Ahmad Chalabi reportedly accuses him of counterfeiting old Iraqi dinars. But Chalabi told CNN that the former Governing Council’s Finance Committee, which he had headed, had been trying to stop the circulation of fake currency and had been in possession of counterfeit bills.

“All this was done under the auspices of the Finance Committee to stop the forgeries and to put a stop to the theft,” he said. “Without a doubt, I’m being set up…. They think they can hurt me by doing this, politically.”

Now that’s vintage Ahmad. He was trying to stop counterfeiting when he was circulating all those counterfeit bills. He’s really just a poor govt clerk who was simply doing his job and now he’s caught up in the middle of a ‘political’ fracas. Pity poor innocent him. They call that gall where I come from; in the next neighborhood over they call it chutzpah.

The charges against Salem are much more serious.

Word of the investigation against Salem Chalabi in connection with the May slaying of Haitham Fadhil, a Finance Ministry official who was delving into the Chalabi family’s real estate holdings, was first reported by The Times last week. Iraq’s top criminal court has been looking into allegations that Salem Chalabi threatened Fadhil days before he was killed.Fadhil, who was shot on May 28, had been preparing a report on reclaiming government-owned real estate. According to the source who spoke earlier with The Times, the document stated that members of the Chalabi family and the Iraqi National Congress had illegally seized hundreds of properties after the U.S.-led invasion last year. The property, the source said, included government offices, mansions and agricultural land.

Salem Chalabi, 41, denied involvement in the slaying and said the allegations were aimed at removing him as executive director of the Iraqi Special Tribunal, which will try top officials of Hussein’s government for crimes against humanity.

Well, he’s got his uncle’s way with an excuse, anyway. It’s all a plot to keep him from trying Saddam. Right.

I have been waiting almost a decade to see Chalabi’s inevitable fall from grace. I thought he was going to be outed, finally, five or six years ago when the CIA exposed the INC as a fraud and their ‘intelligence’ as either useless or a pack of lies. But then Newt Gingrich, Laurie Mylroie’s Champion Defender of the Faith and a man who has less experience with intelligence than your Aunt Millie’s cat, began using the American Enterprise Institute as a platform to attack the CIA as a bunch of incompetent hacks who wouldn’t know good intel if they fell in it. In early 2000, he made a speech at AEI in which he proposed the stovepiping of raw data that acolyte Doug Feith would later set up C-TEG to handle, zipping unconfirmed reports that fit the NWB’s preconceptions straight to the Veep’s office without the annoyance of checking to see if anything in them was accurate.

Junior’s ‘election’ and selection of the NWB All-Stars as his Defense Team saved Ahmad’s butt that time. Suddenly he was rehabilitated. Suddenly his lies weren’t lies any more, his unverified Fairy Tales became Holy Writ, not to be challenged, and Ahmad had conned the US Govt into invading Iraq (which wasn’t hard since that’s what they wanted to do anyway) with the idea that he and his intrepid band of expatriate liars–um, Freedom Fighters–would become the new Iraqi govt and hand control of the oilfields over to Chevron (Condi deserved a perk, I guess). It was all going to be so easy, so simple, a walk in a flower-strewn park.

It didn’t work out that way because fantasies never do when you try to make them real. Ahmad, the old chiseler, knew that. The overgrown boys in charge of the US Govt, who’d been shielded from harsh realities all their lives, didn’t have a clue. They were so pampered, so used to getting everything they wanted, that it never dawned on them that what they dreamed about was just that–a dream. But even if it had, in their privileged world Dreams Come True, so why not in Iraq?

Well, now we know. And may it be a lesson to us: Never expect Boys to think like Grown-ups. And for gawd’s-sake don’t give them the keys to the house when you’re gone, to the car on Saturday night, or to the govt anytime. They’re not mature enough to handle them responsibly.

You Can’t Keep a Good Con Down

Our old friend Ahmad Chalabi, embezzler, thief, swindler, master con artist and possible double agent, still isn’t in jail if that’s what you thought. No, like the trouper he is, he has re-written the script and taken his act on the road where he is performing as The People’s Friend–and Muqtada al-Sadr’s ally.

Snubbed by the Bush administration neoconservatives who once embraced him [Untrue: Perle is still defending him, as are Wolfowitz and Libby–MA], and excluded from the interim government, he is building a grass-roots coalition of Shiite Muslim groups who lack a voice in the new Iraq.At the same time, he’s reaching out to Iraq’s most prominent anti-American Shiite cleric, Muqtada Sadr, whose followers come mainly from Baghdad’s urban underclass and the impoverished south of the country. Political analysts here believe that the new approach will eventually win support from a significant segment of Sadr’s followers if Chalabi chooses to run for office — and, as expected, Sadr chooses to wield his power from the pulpit instead.

That would give Chalabi and his new organization, the Shiite Political Council, mass support that could yield considerable clout in the majority Shiite community.

More established Shiite parties alternately discount Chalabi and describe him as a strong opponent. He is gathering up the political scraps, “mingling with little groups,” in the words of Ridha Taqi, director of political relations for a major Shiite party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

But he acknowledged that if Chalabi can bring Sadr on board, he will be a formidable force. “If the Sadr movement abandons violence and makes an alliance with Ahmad Chalabi, he will gain something from that movement,” Taqi said. “Sadr is one of the big pillars of the Shiite family.” And, he added, “it’s not that Ahmad Chalabi is [just] thinking of cooperating with the Sadr group — he’s already working with them in an intense manner.”

Chalabi clearly hasn’t given up on his dream of one day ruling Iraq–and controlling its treasury. He has found a little opening and he’s exploiting it for all he’s worth. Remember, he still controls much of the bureaucracy in Iraq, having installed loyalists at key points in the new govt’s infrastructure who know where all the bodies are buried, and Allawi has made no significant attempt to remove or replace them–not a good sign, since it would be one of the surest ways to consolidate his power before the election that will undoubtedly come.

You can file this under Bad News From Iraq. I suspect that the Neocon Wonder Boys are as proud as peacocks that their protege just won’t give up but the rest of us should be seriously concerned that Chalabi hasn’t been stepped on yet. An alliance with al-Sadr bodes no good for either the US or the Iraqi people’s best interests. I’ve said before that I doubted he was doubling for Iranian Intelligence and I still do, but his contacts with them are real enough and they will use him if they get the opportunity. At the moment, I figure he’s probably feeding them information about Iraq’s dissident Shiite groups and they’re patting him on the head and making promises they don’t intend to keep, but if he manages to corral some power in the eventual coalition govt, their contacts could get a lot more serious.

Chalabi is steadily building his new coalition. The leadership of the Shiite Political Council includes several members of the former Governing Council who, like Chalabi, were left out of the interim government. But the bulk of the members come from small, little-known groups. Unsophisticated in politics, they are joining because they see the organization as a means to make their voices heard.And because they are Shiites, they hope that by banding together they will avoid being crushed the way they were under the previous regime.

“It has nothing to do with sectarianism. It’s just that Shiites represent the majority,” said Ali Aliausha, an earnest man in a pinstriped suit who spent much of the last 20 years in exile and says he lost two brothers to Hussein’s executioners. He was one of many people at a recent meeting of the council at Chalabi’s headquarters — known as the China House for its pagoda-like architecture.

“Dr. Ahmad Chalabi is an Iraqi citizen, and he has played a big role in this moment of change,” Aliausha said, admiration in his voice.

Oh, so it’s Dr Chalabi now, is it? Cute. That title carries a lot of freight in Arabic countries where it represents a combination of virtues like honesty, selflessness, and political integrity, to none of which Ahmad has any legitimate claim. His populist stance is as big a sham as the ‘information’ he had his minions in the INC invent and then pass along to the gullible neocon newcomers at C-TEG, but it may be awhile before the Shiite groups figure that out.

Little Ahmad better be careful how he steps, though. He’s playing with dynamite in al-Sadr, and the dynamite is sweating.

Iraqi Defectors Exaggerated

What a shock.

The way intelligence works–not that any of these guys would know…in either sense of the word–is with a healthy dose of skepticism laced with suspicion. The reason they are healthy is contained in a little story–the kind Judith Miller should have written two years ago–about one of Ahmad Chalabi’s chief information collectors noticing how greatly the defectors’ stories had changed between the time he first heard them and the time they hit Washington.

Mr. Zubaidi said in interviews last week in Lebanon, the ominous claims by the defectors differed significantly from the versions that they had first related to him and his associates. Mr. Zubaidi provided his handwritten diaries from 2001 and 2002, and his existing reports on the statements originally made by the defectors.According to the documents, the defectors, while speaking with precision about aspects of Iraqi military facilities like its stock of missiles, did not initially make some of the most provocative claims about weapons production or that an Iraqi official had met with Mr. bin Laden.

The precise circumstances under which the stories apparently changed remains unclear. The defectors themselves could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Zubaidi contends that the men altered their stories after they met with senior figures in the Iraqi National Congress. Mr. Zubaidi, who acknowledged that he had a bitter split with the I.N.C. in April 2003, said officials of the group prepped the defectors before allowing them to meet with the American intelligence agents and journalists.

“They intentionally exaggerated all the information so they would drag the United States into war,” Mr. Zubaidi said. “We all know the defectors had a little information on which they built big stories.”

As a primer for Doug Feith and his merry band of novitiate intelligence gatherers at OSP and C-TEG, here are a couple of the basic rules of intelligence-gathering.

Intel 101

Defectors, all defectors, no matter where they come from, have a reason for defecting. You may or may not know what that reason is. For instance:

#1: Could they be double agents throwing you chickenfeed and disinformation because they actually work for the opposition?

#2: Could they be free-lance doubles who are selling you information about the opposition and then turning around and selling the opposition information about you, thus working both sides of the street for the greater glory of their expense accounts? (This is extremely common in the Middle East.)

#3: Remember at all times that defectors, whether #1’s, #2’s or relatively honest, have an interest in telling you what they think you want to hear in order to keep you interested in them. They almost always exaggerate or outright lie to make themselves and their information seem more important than it is. This is common. Assume it and verify their stories before you act on them.

#4: When you interrogate/de-brief them, DO NOT LEAD THEM IN ANY PARTICULAR DIRECTION unless you are deliberately testing them (which none of you are competent to do, so leave it to the pros). If you lead, they will follow and their stories will get more and more exaggerated as a result.

Follow these four simple rules and they should keep you from falling into any of the more obvious traps when questioning a defector.

Of course I realize this is like giving you a lecture on how to lock the barn when the horses have already escaped, but, you know, for next time. Real intelligence analysts and interrogators learn these rules their first few days in Spy School but you, of course, came in way late and unprepared, jumped ahead of the rest of the class because your Daddy knows the school’s owner. Influence-peddling and nepotism may be good for your career but they don’t make you smart. In fact, they tend to make you suckers, so beware.

That’s it for today. Now go outside and play nice with the other kids. Try to remember, you don’t know everything and don’t brag too much about how the owner let you skip a grade because your Dad plays golf with him at the Country Club. The other kids may decide you look like a fish and try to drown you in the wading pool.

NYT Swallows Iraq/bin Laden ‘Document’ Whole

As if determined to prove that their status as the media’s premier wide-eyed gulls has been entirely unaffected by their recent ‘apology’, the NY Times printed a report today on a supposed connection between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda that’s exactly as trustworthy as Judith Miller’s propaganda riffs before the war because it comes from the same source: our old friend, Ahmad Chalabi.

WASHINGTON, June 24 — Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990’s were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

That’s the first problem: it wasn’t ‘obtained’ by the US; as the article admits later, it was handed to us on a silver platter.

The Americans confirmed that they had obtained the document from the Iraqi National Congress, as part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government last year. The Defense Intelligence Agency paid the Iraqi National Congress for documents and other information until recently, when the group and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, fell out of favor in Washington.

This is the second problem: he didn’t ‘fall’ out of favor; he was pushed. Rudely. Over charges that his ‘closest aides’ were corrupt and had been falsifying information. Gives you a lot of confidence in this ‘document’, doesn’t it? The Times does manage to note in passing, later on, that the INC doesn’t have the most wonderful reputation for credibility in the known universe–

Some of the intelligence provided by the group is now wholly discredited, although officials have called some of the documents it helped to obtain useful.

Well, thanks for the bone, guys. But this statement is, of course, then followed by this:

A translation of the new Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group in the spring, officials said. It included senior analysts from the military’s Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a joint intelligence task force that specialized in counterterrorism issues, they said.The task force concluded that the document “appeared authentic,” and that it “corroborates and expands on previous reporting” about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force’s analysis.

‘Appeared’ to be authentic? A small reminder to our ‘intelligence’ forces: Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted embezzler now know to have fabricated most of the documents he handed off before the war to Doug Feith and his intrepid band of stone-ignorant innocents in order to justify his insistence that the US was in ‘imminent danger’ from Saddam, has had these Iraqi Secret Police files for more than a year–files we gave him–which is more than enough time to make a document ‘appear authentic’.

That these blockheads are giving credence to anything that comes from Chalabi at this point is beyond belief. That the NYT is printing it with a straight face proves only one thing: NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The Times is still sucking the Administration’s tit, and the Administration is still sucking Ahmad’s. He tosses the bait our way and we grab it because–Chalabi’s perrenial MO–it fits the lies the Admninistration has been telling for months. Lo! and a document shall appear from below to smite the unbelievers (of course, we may just have to forge it, but what the hell? When you decide to believe something, you believe it no matter how little sense it makes).

Even if this ‘evidence’ turns out to be genuine, what does it actually say? That Iraqi intelligence was listening to bin Laden’s proposal (Iraqi intelligence, mind, not Saddam himself, who may not even have known about the overtures since they were the work of a single intelligence officer known to have his…differences…with Hussein) and we already know that. We also already know that these tentative explorations went nowhere. We have known it for months. So how does this qualify as ‘news’?

In only one way: it seems to back up the Admin’s position and anything that does that is ‘news’ as far as the NYT is concerned, which then, after token doubt has been cast and rejected, goes into a lengthy description of what the ‘document’ purports to substantiate. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go, and mind you don’t trip over the wizard’s curtain.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so disgusting.

Clueless in Baghdad–Chalabi Unmasked

Seattle points out that Josh Marshall is ‘very skeptical’ that the Chalabi raid was a put-on.

I don’t doubt that some of Chalabi’s Washington supporters have encouraged him to take a more oppositional stand toward the occupation authorities to bolster his own popularity. But there are many US government players in Iraq right now. And many of them really are hostile to Chalabi.

True enough, but one of Josh’s reasons is silly:

Something quite that orchestrated would, I suspect, be far too difficult to pull-off. And are we dealing here with smooth operators? Answers itself, doesn’t it?

Josh, how tough do you think this would be? How much ‘orchestration’ would be needed, really? Feith tells Bremer, ‘Find a pretext. Shake him down but don’t arrest him.’ Bremer tells the Iraqi judge, ‘We think Chalabi’s involved in anti-American activities, or else somebody on his staff is. Issue a warrant to search his house. The Iraqi police will do the search. US Army troops will “advise” and stand backup.’ There. How hard was that?

In the aftermath, Chalabi’s busy trying to sell the story the raid set up–

Chalabi, once the darling of a Pentagon that groomed him as a possible successor to Saddam Hussein, is now embroiled in a public battle with the U.S.-run occupation authority. He has become a vociferous critic of Washington’s Iraq policies — a change of roles that has left him with little choice but to try and endear himself to the Iraqis he says he wants to serve.”I only act from an Iraqi national perspective,” he told a TV interviewer Friday, a day after Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided his Baghdad home and offices. “I consider what happened to me (on Thursday) as a medal from the people of Iraq. It is the final piece of evidence that discredits rumors that I am with the Americans.” (emphasis added)

Meanwhile Richard Perle, the neocon Whizkid who got handed Chalabi on a plate and promptly passed him around to all his friends, has been using Chalabi’s ‘mistreatment’ in the service of his own agenda: undermining the CIA and State.

Even still, he remains a figure of hope among some neoconservatives both inside and outside the administration, some of whom go so far as to applaud Chalabi for strategically distancing himself from unpopular US occupiers and buffing up his own credibility as a future leader of an independent Iraq.”The CIA despises Chalabi; the State Department despises him,” said Richard Perle, a senior Pentagon adviser and key supporter of the war who has known Chalabi for 15 years. “They did everything they could to put him out of business. Now there is a deliberate effort to marginalize him.”

“He has devoted his life to freeing his country,” Perle added. “He is a man of enormous intelligence, and I believe the effort to marginalize him will fail. They will end up looking ridiculous.”

Perle, as always, defines ‘enormous intelligence’ by the number of times it agrees with him.

OK OK, so do I think it was a setup or not? Basically…yes and no.

Perle’s right about one thing: the IC has been out to get Chalabi for years. To their credit, they’ve been out to get him because they knew he was a fake.

U.S. intelligence analysts in some cases used information from now-discredited “foreign intelligence sources” to corroborate their own assessments of Hussein’s suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. Few of the CIA’s prewar judgments have been proved accurate so far.”We had a lot of sources, but it was all coming from the same pot,” said a former senior U.S. intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They were all INC guys. And none of them panned out.”

The LA Times reports that Chalabi shopped his shopworn INC storytellers to every Western nation that would listen–

Because even friendly spy services rarely share the identities of their informants or let outsiders meet or debrief their sources, it has only in recent months become clear that Chalabi’s group sent defectors with inaccurate or misleading information to Denmark, England, Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Sweden, as well as to the United States, the officials said.

–before they landed in the gullible laps of the NWB’s Perle and Wolfowitz. Nobody else believed them. With reason.

A discredited INC defector to Germany who was code-named “Curveball” was the chief source of information on Iraq’s supposed fleet of mobile germ weapons factories. Another INC defector who provided similar information was deemed a liar. So was an INC defector who said he had helped build 20 underground germ weapons laboratories, a now-discredited claim that made headlines when the INC made him available to some reporters in December 2001.The CIA was unable to interview two other supposedly senior Iraqis who spied for British intelligence in Baghdad before the war and claimed to provide detailed information from within Hussein’s inner circle.

Information from both informants has now “fallen apart,” one U.S. official said. “Neither had direct knowledge of what they claimed. They were describing what they had heard.”

Or, in some cases, describing what they had made up to claim that they’d heard. The picture that’s emerging is susceptible of two explanations;

#1: Chalabi the con artist was running a massive con and sending out his shills to cast around for the right mark.

#2: Chalabi is a double agent and the hoax was masterminded by Iranian intelligence to put pressure on their old enemy, Saddam Hussein.

U.S. investigators are seeking to determine whether the effort — which one U.S. official likened to an attempt to “game the system” — was secretly supported by Iran’s intelligence service to help persuade the Bush administration to oust the regime in Baghdad, Tehran’s longtime enemy.Officials said other evidence indicated that Chalabi’s intelligence chief had furnished Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security with highly classified information on U.S. troop movements, top-secret communications, plans of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority and other closely guarded material on U.S. operations in Iraq.

The U.S. investigation into the suspected spy operation was a key reason behind Thursday’s raids on Chalabi’s Baghdad house and the offices of his Iraqi National Congress. Several INC members were accused of kidnapping, robbery and corruption.

I think both of the explanations are true–and that neither of them is the whole truth.

The raid seems now to have been orchestrated, alright, but not by Chalabi and the NWB’s to distance fair-haired boy Ahmad from the filthy American occupiers; that all sounds like spin to me. They’re trying to make a situation that’s patently bad for them work to their advantage, something they’ve had plenty of practice doing this past year, albeit with limited success.

No, the original source would seem to be the IC who seized on Ahmad’s ill-timed approach to Iranian Intelligence to force the Administration’s hand. Not even deaf-and-dumb ‘I know NOTHING’ Junior could ignore contacts between an American ‘puppet’ and the intelligence service of one of the members of the ‘axis of evil’. There are limits even for him. Bringing down Chalabi would strengthen the IC’s hand immeasurably, which is good, but what’s better is it could turn the tide of power in the WH by arming the State Dept with powerful new weapons to use against the NWB cabal.

If that’s what happened, it was a masterstroke. I’ve been saying ever since the Plame Affair (which I still insist is sooo not over, and I’m laying $20 bucks at 3-1 that it will hit big time before the election; any takers?) that the IC was going to find a way to make the BA pay for what they did to her, and I think we’re seeing Stage One playing out now.

Which means, of course, that I’m suspicious of the ‘Iranian connection’. It’s too neat. Not that I don’t think he met with them; he almost certainly did. Chalabi has been getting nowhere plumping for political power in Iraq despite all the advantages we saddled him with–the support of the most powerful players in the BA; his possession of all the files of Saddam’s secret police (which we handed to him gift-wrapped); the USAF flying him and 200 heavily-armed INC fighters into Baghdad within hours of our taking the capital (it was Chalabi and his little ‘army’ who pulled down the statue of Saddam while ordinary Iraqis were hiding from the bombs); maneuvering to make sure it was Chalabi’s hand on the finances of the fledgling IGC (he’s ‘Finance Minister’); and paying out a cool $$33MILLION$$ to the INC over the last three years–

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States paid Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress at least $33 million since March 2000, according to a congressional report made public on Thursday.The report by the Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, found $33 million in funds from the State Department and did not include any funds from the Pentagon or other U.S. agencies, a congressional source told Reuters.

–or more (note the last sentence). Despite all that, he is disliked by the Iraqis (when they don’t hate him) and distrusted by everyone, including the Army and the CPA, and has so far been able to attract ZERO support from either the people or the IGC itself. The Washington Post reported an incident during the raid that tells the tale.

One of [Chalabi’s] guards said the American directed the Iraqi police, who they said kicked down doors and smashed a picture of Chalabi. Damaged picture frames, including one holding a photograph of Chalabi, were seen by a reporter in one of the ransacked offices.Haider Ridha Mohammed, a guard on duty at the time, said he asked the police officer why he had tossed the framed photograph on the ground. Mohammed said the officer responded, “He’s gone now, Ahmad Chalabi is finished.”

Not a supporter, you’d say. But then, nobody in Iraq is outside of Chalabi’s INC co-conspirators. Even his compadres on the Governing Council are less than thrilled. It seems he’s been stealing from them.

For several months, U.S. officials have been investigating people affiliated with the INC for possible ties to a scheme to defraud the Iraqi government during the transition to a new currency that took place from Oct. 15 last year to Jan. 15, according to a U.S. occupation authority official familiar with the case. The official said the raids were partly related to that investigation.At the center of the inquiry is Nouri, whom Chalabi picked as the top anti-corruption official in the new Iraqi Finance Ministry. Chalabi heads the Governing Council’s finance committee and has major influence in its staffing and operation.

When auditors early this year began counting the old Iraqi dinars brought in and the new Iraqi dinars given out in return, they discovered a shortfall of more than $22 million. Nouri, a German national, was arrested in April and faces 17 charges including extortion, fraud, embezzlement, theft of government property and abuse of authority. He is being held in a maximum security facility, according to three sources close to the investigation.

In recent weeks, several other Finance Ministry officials have been arrested as part of the investigation. A U.S. official familiar with the case said, “We are cracking down on corruption regardless of names involved.”

So what does a player like Chalabi do when the mark turns on him? Look for a new sponsor, of course. You go through your Rolodex for a likely target, someone who hates the Americans and is willing to pay handsomely for information that might damage them. I suspect we’ll discover in due time that Iran wasn’t the only unfriendly govt Chalabi approached, just as the US wasn’t the only one he approached when he was trying to sell his WMD fairy tales.

American conservatives are so hopelessly naive when it comes to dealing with the rest of the world that they never got this. Digby at Hullabaloo found this intriguing piece from Tapped. It’s two years old.

Almost to a man, Washington’s hawks lavishly praise Chalabi. “He’s a rare find,” says Max Singer, a trustee and co-founder of the Hudson Institute. “He’s deep in the Arab world and at the same time he is fundamentally a man of the West.”In Washington, Team Chalabi is led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, the neoconservative strategist who heads the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. Chalabi’s partisans run the gamut from far right to extremely far right, with key supporters in most of the Pentagon’s Middle-East policy offices — such as Peter Rodman, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Michael Rubin. Also included are key staffers in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, not to mention Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

In early October [2002], Perle and Chalabi shared a podium at an American Enterprise Institute conference called “The Day After: Planning for a Post-Saddam Iraq,” which was held, appropriately enough, in AEI’s 12th-floor Wohlstetter Conference Center. “The Iraqi National Congress has been the philosophical voice of free Iraq for a dozen years,” Perle told me.

This was five years after Chalabi’s 1997 conviction in absentia for bank fraud in Jordan. He hadn’t set foot in Iraq since 1954. Neither circumstance bothered Perle.

Dickie, baby, ask yourself this question: What do players do?

Answer: They play. This one against that one, that side against this side, both ends against the middle with both hands skinning as many pockets as they can reach. The Middle East is full of players like Chalabi–traders, merchants, thieves, govt agents–who go where the money or the power is, who float on it like a hawk floats on a tide of air, who change sides as easily and as often as they change clothes. Chalabi went to Iran because he wants to stay in the game and he’s run out his string with the dopey Americans. It’s that simple.

So now you’re the Iranian intelligence officer who wound up with this character sitting on your desk and offering to lay the secrets of the Americans at your feet–for a price. What do you do? You pay him and put him in play, that’s what you do. Why not? Chalabi’s been moving inside some of the heaviest power circles in the US govt for 15 years. He’s got A LOT to sell that’s undoubtedly worth buying. What’s even better, a bunch of those nitwit Americans, in spite of everything that’s come out about him, still believe in him. They’re still talking to him, for chrissake. Best of all, he’s been building a buraucracy in Iraq that’s loyal only to him and has its grubby little fingers in every Iraqi pie going. You’ve got everything to gain and nothing to lose by running him except a little money and a few worthless promises to support his fantasies about taking over Iraq.

All of which makes Ahmad just as dangerous on the outside as he was on the inside. The Iranians–familiar with Chalabi’s type–aren’t going to settle for pretty stories like our neocon naifs; they’re going to want the hard stuff–provable, accurate information and guaranteed use of his influence–or it’s Ahmad’s head and be quick about it. He’s in the game now and no mistake. If he doesn’t want to be found floating belly-up in the harbor at Tangier, he’d better deliver. And the thing is, he can do it.

“He has certain levers of power,” said [Larry Diamond, a senior fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University who last month finished a three-month stint as a senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority]. “He’s a shrewd player, and much of that power comes from the ministries that he controls.”As head of the Iraqi Governing Council’s economic and finance committee, Chalabi has been able to install his relatives or friends as the minister of oil, the minister of finance, the central bank governor, the trade minister, the head of the trade bank and the managing director of Iraq’s largest commercial bank. These connections reportedly have allowed firms controlled by his allies to make millions in government contracts.

He was given control of the entire archive of the Hussein regime’s secret documents, as well as the so-called de-Baathification process. The powers of the De-Baathification Commission, which Chalabi chairs, are so wide-ranging that it is often called a government within the government.The commission singled out tens of thousands of former Baath Party members to be fired from their government jobs and has allowed Chalabi to replace them with his followers. It oversees educational reform, tracks down Hussein’s funds stashed in foreign banks and compiles lists of pro-Hussein businessmen who are then blacklisted and banned from government contracting.

His nephew Salem Chalabi is in charge of the war-crimes tribunal that is planning to try Hussein and other top former regime officials. His personal militia, paid for almost entirely with U.S. funds, has become the best- financed and best-armed Iraqi force in Baghdad.

Even mundane details show his power. To process the vast mountains of documents, the commission has 50 document scanners. There are only 20 other scanners in all the rest of the Iraqi government.

Oops. Imagine all that–and an Iranian agent, too.

If you think it’s nasty and complicated now, wait til Ahmad gets through with it. He can make such an unholy mess out of Iraq that it will make the situation in Israel look like a Memorial Day picnic by comparison.

My god, what these naive, fantasy-driven birdbrains have done to us. It just goes to show you should never let your idiot children have the keys to your car. It’ll wind up wrapped around a tree and they’ll swear they don’t have any idea how it got there. And they’ll be telling the truth.

Chalabi Raid Charade?

There seems to have been a turnaround in Ahmad Chalabi’s convivial relationship with US neocons and the CPA. Or at least you would think so, given this:

BAGHDAD, Iraq — With the U.S. transfer of power to an interim Iraqi government just six weeks away, fresh political turmoil broke out Thursday when Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided the home and offices of Ahmad Chalabi, a top Iraqi leader and former U.S. adviser who has become a vocal critic of transition plans.Chalabi was not arrested, and officials said they knew of no charges against him.

Hmmm. A few months ago, when it was clear that the Iraqis didn’t trust Cheney’s Golden Boy because they judged (correctly) that he was a power-hungry thief and US puppet (incorrectly; it was the other way around), Chalabi used his month’s worth of rotating IGC chairmanship not to work for Iraqi sovreignity or urge the writing of the constitution but to come to Washington. In public, he testified before Congress (asking for money, naturally, as well as a quick handover), but he also had a number of private meetings with his buddies Wolfowitz, Cheney, Feith, and Libby.

Act II: He goes back to Iraq and suddenly he’s a critic of the US administration on behalf of ‘ordinary Iraqis’.

In recent months, Chalabi has fallen out of favor with Bush administration officials, due partly to his open criticism of the U.S. plan for handing over power on June 30 to an interim Iraqi government, saying the plan will not grant full sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

Well, maybe, but if he cares it would be the first time.

Act III: So Ahmad, who needs desperately to distance himself from the American occupation, is now attacking it, attacking his US sponsors in Washington, and accused of handing sensitive information to another Arab state–Iran–on the US enemies list. For the climax, Iraqi police raid his home and offices–just like they do ordinary Iraqis, except they don’t bulldoze it to rubble–and Ahmad is furious.

“I am America’s best friend in Iraq,” Chalabi said later at a news conference, claiming that he was roused from his bed by armed police during the raid. “If the [coalition] finds it necessary to direct an armed attack against my home, you can see the state of relations between the [coalition] and the Iraqi people.”

Now, I’m not doubting the possibility that Chalabi finally overplayed his hand with the Neocon Wonder Boys, but there’s another explanation that’s at least as likely: that the whole thing is a charade. Chalabi needs credibility as an opponent of the US since no one is going to have real power in Iraq at this point–not after Abu Ghraib, they’re not–who’s an open ally. Conveniently, the Iraqi police, at the order of an Iraqi judge, give him that credibility on what both say were orders from the American authorities, while the Army and the CPA say, ‘Uh-uh. Wasn’t us’, and point their fingers the other way.

From a certain vantage, it’s awfully convenient timing. If the NWB’s wanted to rehabilitate their protege, this would be the only hope they had of doing it.

The Ahmad Chalabi Method for Multi-Millionaires

Introducing–The Ahmad Chalabi Method for Multi-Millionaires!
Get the government to do anything you want!

Henry Gondorff Rides Again: Ahmad Chalabi Suckers the Bushies

Finally, a mainstream pundit, Maureen Dowd, has nailed Ahmad Chalabi as the source of all the phony intel Feith’s OSP and Cheney’s All-Stars used to get us into Iraq. In a somewhat less snarky column than usual (parts of it approach her older, straight[er] style), Dowd says it flat out, no punches pulled or cute evasions to soften the blow.

Back when Dick Cheney was fiddling with salt shakers, Ahmad Chalabi, a smooth-talking and wealthy young Iraqi M.I.T. graduate, was founding the Petra Bank in Jordan.

As Mr. Cheney moved up in the capital, Mr. Chalabi was tripped up in Jordan by a small matter of embezzlement from his own bank. Jordanian officials have said that the crime rocked their economy and that they paid $300 million to depositors to cover the bank’s losses. By the time Mr. Chalabi was convicted and received a sentence of 22 years of hard labor, he was a fugitive in London.

During the early 90’s, when Mr. Cheney was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Chalabi was in a full courtship press with Washington’s conservative and journalistic elites. He saw them as a springboard for his triumphant return to Iraq.

After 9/11, his passionate desire to take out Saddam coincided with that of conservatives. All they needed for their belli was a casus, so Mr. Chalabi obligingly conned the neocons.

He hoodwinked his pals Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle into believing Iraq would be a flowery cakewalk to democracy.

A wily expert in the politics of the bazaar, he knew he had to sell his scheme on what was good for Americans and their security. He was happy to funnel information to the vice president that painted a picture of Saddam hunkered on a hair-raising stockpile of W.M.D. His group, the Iraqi National Congress, tried to spin our government and media through its “information collection program.” Intelligence officials now say that the prewar information provided to Washington by this group was suspect and useless, even disinformation.

But here’s the wild thing: the propaganda program was underwritten by U.S. government funds. So Americans paid Ahmad Chalabi to gull them into a war that is costing them a billion a week — and a precious human cost. Cops dealing with their snitches check out the information better than the Bush administration did.

When you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into a belief, you don’t usually think that information fitting neatly into that belief needs checking. Henry Gondorff, the legendary artist of the Big Con, understood that better than anyone but even he never dreamed that there could be a room full of powerful suckers in our govt so gullible that he could con them out of a whole country. Wherever he is now, he must be laughing his ass off.

The C.I.A. was stung to find out its analysts had mistakenly thought that Iraq weapons information had been confirmed by multiple sources, when it came from only a single source; that analysts had relied on a fabricating Iraqi defector and spin material from Iraqi exiles; and that this blather made its way into documents and speeches used by the Bush administration to justify war. George Tenet ordered a major change in procedure last week, removing barricades so that analysts can know more about the identities of clandestine agents’ sources, and their possible motives.

But even incestuous amplification could not have drowned out reality if Bush officials had not glommed onto the Chalabi flummery for their own reasons — to feed their fantasies about refashioning America’s power, psyche and military, and making over the Middle East in our image.

Swept up in big dreams, the foreign policy dream team became dupes in Ahmad Chalabi’s big con

Suckers, marks, targets, sheep, whatever. Chalabi wrapped them around his little finger with a few choice fantasies and damn near got crowned King of Iraq by our own forces. It was a bold con, maybe the boldest since Lola Montez came within inches of conning Leopold into making her Queen of Austria. I hate what he did, but I have to admire the style, the smoothness, the sheer audacity of Chalabi’s game. Skinning a mark (it means taking everything he has) depends almost entirely on a con’s ability to accurately read the sucker’s dreams, desires, and weaknesses, and then play him like a bull fiddle. With ace gulls like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, and Feith to play, Chalabi was Segovia.

If they had been rich, rapacious robber barons instead – Malone, Murdoch, and Kenny-Boy Lay, for instance – I would have enjoyed Chalabi’s mastery and the symmetry of the sting. But they weren’t. They were people responsible for the lives of thousands, people with years of experience in govt, business, and finance, and they were suckered like greenhorns still wet behind the ears, rubes with hay sticking out of their hair.

And these are the guys our C-average Prez relies on to make his decisions for him? No wonder the country’s going to hell. Alfred E Neuman would be a significant improvement. Jeesh. If thousands of Iraqis and over 500 of our own soldiers hadn’t died because of their ineptitude, it would be funny.

But they did and it isn’t.

A Piece of Good News from Iraq (Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept)

Despite many expectations to the contrary expressed from this side of the fence, the Bush Admin has NOT (–yet) planted WMD’s in Iraq for Kay to find, and it’s unlikely that they’ll do so at this point. They may have lied to get us into this imperial entanglement, but they haven’t been willing to go so far as to commit fraud. I find that, in an odd way, comforting. It might mean that even they have lines they will not cross.

Of course, to be honest I have to admit that I never really expected them to bogus up a find. Not because they’re above that sort of thing–they’ve proved over and over again that they’re not–but because I’ve been saying all along that they wholeheartedly believed what they’ve been saying all these months.

***They believed that the UN was a toothless debating society, that their inspectors were gullible patsies, and that Saddam was successfully jerking their chains in order to prevent their discovery of his WMD cache(s).

***They believed that Ahmad Chalabi was an Iraqi patriot who would never lie to them and that if he said the Iraqi people would strew flowers in the path of invading American troops, then that’s what they’d do. Probably daisies.

***They believed that the post-war period would last a few weeks at most, that the reconstruction would be paid for by Iraqi oil despite their own experts trying to tell them otherwise, and that once American troops overthrew Saddam there would be no significant backlash, no guerilla fighting, and very few American deaths.

They believed all this because they wanted to believe it. Because they believed it, they didn’t need to plant false evidence–they fully expected that real evidence would exist and be found and that they would be vindicated when everyone else in the world was proved to be wrong.

Unfortunately, the fact that they didn’t plant any evidence when no WMD turned up in the first few weeks tends to strengthen their contention that they weren’t lying: in their minds, they were telling the truth–a truth nobody else happened to know yet, that’s all. They were in full corporate-style happy-talk denial, optimism2. It was going to be OK because they believed it was going to be OK.

You gotta remember, these are people who have never had to struggle all that much. Things were given to them and they assumed they’d earned them; they got bailed out of any trouble they got into and they assumed that they deserved it. They’ve gotten pretty much everything they’ve ever wanted without working up enough of a sweat to put a small stain on one of their $1000 suits. When people told them that what they wanted to do couldn’t be done or shouldn’t be done or would have unintended consequences, they did it anyway, usually by turning a blind eye to the damage they were doing (after all, it didn’t affect them) and insulating themselves from the consequences of their acts–other people paid those prices. These are people whom denial has served well; why would they think that govt would be any different? Ignore the Cassandras and plough right on ahead.

Of course, now it’s different. Reality is smacking them upside the head and no matter how tight they close their eyes, this time nobody’s running to their rescue. Their denial is breaking down in the face of what is, and they’re not going to be able to keep it up forever. Desperation is setting in, and desperation is a hell of a motivator. They’re under seige from all sides, Junior–as predicted–doesn’t have a clue and isn’t running the ship, the crew is breaking into sections and engaging in some deadly tribal warfare, and their continued hold on power is looking very shaky indeed as the passengers begin to realize that the ship is wandering aimlessly in waters filled with icebergs and mines.

When people who think they are chosen by God, who believe thay are the only possible hope of mankind in the face of mortal dangers threatening the very existence of the human race, when such people begin to feel power slipping away from them, then all bets are off and you better save yourself a seat in one of the sturdier lifeboats.

Plant WMD’s? We should be so lucky if that’s all it is. Find another enemy to sell would be more like it. Harder this time, but not impossible. All they need is a little help. Another attack on the Homeland would do the trick. Of course, Osama may not be so obliging, and anyway, the timing has to be just right and you can’t trust terrorists for that. They got lucky the first time; the second time they’ll need to be careful and a little more hands-on.

I don’t think, despite some tantalizing indications, that the Bushies arranged 9/11. If they knew and didn’t do anything about it (which they did and didn’t), it was more likely because they were already in denial and couldn’t believe it would happen here. But if it happens again….

Well, suspicion better raise its ugly little head because it will have A LOT to look at.

A Fairy Tale for Our Times: Ahmad and the 40 Thieves


An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.

Ahmad (as he is spelling it now) Chalabi was a con-artist. Every intelligence agency on the planet knew it, from the CIA on down. Jordan actually convicted him of bank fraud. But they couldn’t arrest him–he was in the US under the protection of Neocon Wonder Boys Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Lewis Libby, and Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom, with a naivete which is almost touching, believed everything he said.

He told them he was innocent of all charges, and they believed him. He told them he had an army of dissidents and defectors that he could put at their disposal, and they believed him. He told them stories about how they should get the US to storm into Iraq and throw out that monster Saddam.

We can’t, they said. We’d love to but we can’t just start a war for no reason. We need an excuse.

So he told them about nuclear scientists who didn’t exist creating WMD’s that didn’t exist to fulfill plans by Hussein to attack the US which had never existed. Only he pretended they did exist. The Wonder Boys believed it all. They were overjoyed. Wait ’til we take him out, they told him. You’re our boy. We”ll make you a King. Ahmad didn’t want to be King–he wanted to be President, like Saddam, and have palaces and many secret Swiss bank accounts. Or failing that, Finance Minister.

But then the CIA told them that Ahmad was a crook, a fraud and a liar. The DIA told them that he was coaching the defectors on what to say, and that almost all of it was unreliable at best and untrue at worst. Interpol told them he was wanted on charges of stock-and-securities swindling. Jordan convicted him of bank fraud in absentia and tried to extradite him so he could serve his sentence. MI6 and the Surete confirmed it all. The NWB’s either didn’t believe any of it, or they didn’t care. Ahmad was their ticket to control of the 2nd biggest oil field in the world, and the song he sang to them was sweet and sentimental and full of promises. They were putty in his hands for 15 years, and they loved it.

So did he, except sometimes he wondered what was taking them so long to invade.

First they said, Poppy is a weenie. He won’t do it. Some claptrap about “unacceptable consequences” and “de-stabilizing the region” and “potentially igniting WWIII”. They were disgusted by his cowardice, but what could they do?

Then they said, We got a damn Democrat traitor running the show and he sold us out to the UN, that useless, good-for-nothing, debating society where idiots actually listen to the French, if you can believe it. Ahmad believed it. He remembered Algeria. But he kept his remembering to himself–the NWB’s wouldn’t have liked being reminded and he didn’t want to do anything that would get them off the track he’d so carefully set them on. Instead he asked, What are you going to do?

Oh, we’ll get rid of The Traitor, don’t you worry about that, they said. We’ve made plans. He won’t survive his first term.

And they did have plans, and they executed them all, paralyzing The Traitor’s Presidency by manufacturing rumors, innuendos, and pointless investigations of scandals that had never happened and crimes that had never taken place. They used their tame right-wing media-giants to pound away at the stories day-after-day to convince people that something real was being covered up when they knew it wasn’t, and they intimidated the media they didn’t control by influencing their mostly-right-wing advertising money to drop their accounts if the media said something they didn’t like. It was a well-planned operation and it went off like a well-oiled machine doing something it’s done a million times before and knows like the back of its hand and its perfection was a marvel to behold.

There was only one thing wrong: Despite their obvious success in painting The Traitor as a diseased maniac who should be taken out and shot for the good of society, the goddam people had the nerve to re-elect him!

The NWB’s were livid. All that work, all that time, all that money spent on buying testimony and coercing witnesses to make investigations of thin air seem as substantial as mud. All for nothing. They were frustrated. But they kept at it, even attempting to impeach The Traitor for adultery (which wasn’t, strictly speaking, a Constitutional issue at all, but what the hell? You go with what you’ve got).

Ahmad waited through all this, chomping at the bit. To pass the time, he trained a cadre of Iraqi “defectors” in what to say and how to say it, and then fed them to the NWB’s, who sucked it up with a silver spoon and whined for more.

In return, they fed him to a mole they’d placed at the NY Times named Judith Miller, and Judith dutifully printed all of his fascinating stories without, needless to say, doing any independent investigation of her own–this was Gospel, and you don’t question the Gospel. She was so credulous that Ahmad discovered he could tell her the most appalling lies, lies that anyone who knew the slightest bit of truth about Iraqi culture or history would know weren’t true, and she would simply gasp with awe and delight and then run off and write them down for posterity.

Interesting, he thought, looking at a paper one day; I say it here and it comes out there. Now he understood the definition of the American expression, “mouthpiece”.

Finally, in the fullness of time, The Traitor finished his 2 terms and had to be replaced. The NWB’s backed a born-again fundamentalist knucklehead with a C-average brain and no experience whatever. They did so chiefly because they knew him–he was Poppy’s kid, Junior–and they knew he would believe everything they told him.

The election was a real squeaker, and in the end had to be stolen by Junior’s bro in Florida and a right-wing Supreme Court willing to throw out all its previous commitment to stuff like “state’s rights” to swing it. But they won, and that’s all that mattered to them. Junior appointed them all to positions of power and they no longer had to persuade the govt to do what they wanted–they were the govt and they could damn well do what they wanted without asking anybody. Well, except Junior, of course, but with Dick “Halliburton” Cheney behind them (all they had to do was promise Dick that Halliburton would get the reconstruction contracts), that was just a formality.

They thought. So as soon as Junior was sworn in, they started planning the Iraqi invasion. They told Ahmad it would be any day now, and he was very happy.

Unfortunately, it turned out there was a fly in the soup: some guy named Karl Rove. Rove was in charge of the politicals, and Junior was enthralled with him, wouldn’t make a move without his say-so. And Karl wouldn’t OK the Iraq invasion.

We need an excuse, he said.

We’ve got an excuse, they said. Saddam’s planning to attack America with balsa-wood planes full of chemical and/or biological weapons.

Incredulous, Karl asked sarcastically, Where’d you hear that malarkey?

They pointed to Ahmad over in the corner. Him? Karl rolled his eyes and muttered, You’ve got to be kidding, but passed it and went on:

It doesn’t matter. That’s not enough. He has to actually do something. Plans aren’t enough, I can’t sell it on plans, we’re going to have to scare the people out of their shirts before they’ll buy this. Something has to happen. Something bad.

Well, before long, something bad did, and even though the perp was an old enemy of Saddam’s, Karl was able to sell fear to the American people wholesale, and they didn’t look too close at the lies he had Junior tell about the “proof” or the unsubstantiated assertions he had Junior make about how Saddam was behind 9/11. The NWB’s jumped on Rove’s fable like The Lone Ranger on his horse–at last they had the excuse they needed–and before you could say, “Hi-yo, Silver, away!”, Ahmad was flying in a USAF plane on the way to Baghdad with some of his “army” to tear down a statue of Saddam for FOXNews’ cameras, who obligingly shot it all in close-up to make him and his small band of dedicated followers look like the whole population of the city.

He was on his way.

Moral: If you tell him what he wants to hear, you can lead a Neocon to water and make him drink it, or drown in it, or spit it through his nose, and he won’t just thank you for it–he’ll give you your very own country to play with.

In the "No Shit, Sherlock" Dept t…

Item #1:

From the Boston Globe:

The interim Iraqi government, set up by the United States to advise its senior administrator in Baghdad, has surprised Washington recently with a series of increasingly contentious positions as it presses for self-rule, from a push for sweeping economic changes to a move toward normalizing trade relations with Syria and Iran, countries branded by US officials as exporters of terrorism.

Oops. What have we here? Insubordination? Rebellion in the ranks? The Governing Council wants to govern? How dare they….

The rapid push for self-rule, led by Achmed Chalabi, a prominent dissident during Saddam Hussein’s rule who is now the council’s president, is the latest sign that the 25-member panel is growing more independent-minded and could disrupt the work of L. Paul Bremer III, the top US civilian official in Iraq.

Comments Chalabi made before this week’s opening session of the UN General Assembly in New York followed other declarations by the council in recent weeks that challenge Bremer’s desire for gradual political development and economic change.

As mentioned previously on this blog, Achmed Chalabi, embezzler and master manipulator, the man who’s had Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz wrapped around his little finger since before the First Gulf War, has always had his own agenda. He has displayed real genius in the way he fed the Neocon Boys exactly what they wanted to hear while managing to keep his true goal–getting the Boys to install him as Iraq’s new ruler–under his hat, at least publicly.

Unfortunately, Paul Bremer wasn’t a member of the Holy Circle early on and apparently missed the memo, so when the dust of occupation settled, Chalabi, much to his chagrin, found himself not Iraq’s newest American-backed dictator but just another member of the Iraqi Governing Council. IOW, one of 2 dozen–not exactly the prominence of position he expected.

But you can’t keep a good man down. Chalabi, like all manipulators a very perceptive guy when it comes to reading the mood of the manipulatees (the Iraqi population in general and the members of the Council in particular), waited his turn for the Chair, meanwhile fomenting rebellion against the Occupiers every chance he got. Why would he turn against his old “friends”, the guys who flew him and his private army into Baghdad as soon as feasible so they could tear down Hussein’s statue while the real city-folk were hiding from the bombs and the shooting?

Because he’s pissed off, that’s why. There’s no way of knowing at this point exactly what promises had been made to Chalabi by the Neocon Boys over the years of their association, but it’s reasonable to suppose that if they didn’t expressly promise to put him on the throne, at least they led him to believe they would. And then they didn’t.

It must have been a shock for poor Achmed. All those years of playing the Boys like a violin and then at the last minute they weasel out from under him. But not to worry–our boy still had a few tricks up his sleeve.

So when it came time for Chalabi’s month as Council Prez, does he content himself like the CP’s before him with the humdrum day-to-day business of trying the get the Occupation Govt to get Halliburton to do something–anything–about the country’s infrastructural chaos, like getting their water running again or electricity for more than a few hours a day?

Nah. Our boy has much bigger fish to fry. He’s off to NY, representing the Council to the UN–just like a real ruler!–and crying about independence from the Oppressors just like he actually meant it–which, if they don’t live up to his expectations about their backing him, he probably will. In time.

What a slap in the face to the NB’s. But really, how did they think a monomaniacal manipulator would react when they pulled the Persian carpet out from underneath him? Did they really think he was just going to slink away into a dark corner with his tail between his legs and whine quietly to himself while The Prize went to someone else?

Another indication–if you needed one–that our leaders’ “depth” of forethought about their adventure lacked, um, depth. Any kind or species thereof.

What a shock.

Item #2:

This one doesn’t require much in the way of comment; it pretty much speaks for itself:

The White House office in charge of reviewing federal regulations has reported that the benefits of some major environmental rules appear to exceed the costs by several times and that the net benefits may be even larger than previously acknowledged.

In its annual review of the costs and benefits of regulations, the Office of Management and Budget examined a sampling of major rules and found that the total benefits, to the extent they can be measured, were at least triple the costs.


Nice to have it confirmed, I suppose….