A spate of stories in the media have been proclaiming the end of Chalabi – rather like chasing the Lord of Misrule from the scene at the end of a Tudor play. Shall we all get up and get married? Is there a God in Heaven? Certainly this would falsify parts of LI’s predictions about Iraq in the coming months, which we just prognostically emitted the other day. Were we so out of the loop?
While we believe that Chalabi himself is a stand-in for a policy default position of the hawks – that Iraq should be, in effect, an American colony – character does count. There is nobody around who has been groomed to quite such perfection as Chalabi – the man is from the Agency dream book of the 50s. A crook, an opportunist, a liar, and a blackmailer – you don’t get that Somoza combination at your nearest convenience food store. It is much harder to produce a tinhorn dictator than people think. So many of them think only of stealing the silverware. The real thing, the real defender of the Free World, thinks more ideologically, thinks further ahead, thinks of death squads, of selling off mineral rights, of establishing the family in all branches of industry and the state. With one nephew on the IGC with him, and one prosecuting Saddam Hussein, Chalabi has already shown his mettle. Are we going to throw our leading man away?
The Chalabi is done fad emerged from a Washington Post article last week. According to the article, Chalabi had offended Bush somehow, leading to consequences parallel only to those meted out by Louis XIV to his more rebellious nobles.
Here are the WP grafs that started the whole mini-juggernaut:
“At the top of the list of those likely to be jettisoned is Ahmed Chalabi, a Shiite politician who for years was a favorite of the Pentagon and the office of Vice President Cheney, and who was once expected to assume a powerful role after the ouster of Saddam Hussein, U.S. officials acknowledged.
Chalabi has increasingly alienated the Bush administration, including President Bush, in recent months, U.S. officials said. He generated anger in Washington yesterday when he said a new U.S. plan to allow some former officials of Hussein's ruling Baath Party and military to return to office is the equivalent of returning Nazis to power in Germany after World War II.”
Moreover, our man at the UN with the gluegun in his hand and Iraq in his sights, your friend and mine, a man who needs no introduction even though nobody knows just how the hell he got here, that’s right a round of applause for Mister Lakhdar Brahimi, is not, reportedly, too enthusiastic about Chalabi enthusiast. The NYT had a story this morning that congress might stop stuffing Chalabi’s pocket with the around 400,000 monthly supplement they pay him. Such degradation!
However, in this corner, we still don’t see it. Bush sometimes signals that he has regained his sanity. For instance, he came out foursquare for a Palestinian state. That would seem to be a shot at the Defense department crowd, where they like to say, with a smirk, the “so called occupied West Bank.” But the Cheney-Rumsfeld side is nothing if not persistent, and the recent concession about settlements in the West Bank is surely a stage on the way to an embrace of the Defense Department view. Similarly, that Chalabi has been attacked in the Post will surely be seen as a wound of honor.
But how will Chalabi counter-attack? We will be watching for his three press henchman, Hoagland, Hitchens, and Judy Miller, to do the initial work for him. His big threat is from the U.N. Thus, he has to use his little black bag of Saddam’s papers to reveal the corrupt dealings of the U.N. with the Meat Machine during the sanctions. Our bet is that this story will hit soon, and will spill over into whether we are going to allow a person that Chalabi calls, disdainfully, an “Arab nationalist,” to throw away one of our best and brightest. If, even now, Hitchens isn’t boiling up some screed about the perfidious U.N. and its sanction profiteering, LI will be surprised.
Whatever the weapon will be, however, I would not count a man out who is as adept at the fine arts of fraud and deceit as Chalabi.