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Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

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Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Dexter Filkens very poor, sham defense of Chalabi.

In the New Yorker, the old interventionist fellow traveler, Dexter Filkins, performs a pretty worn out magic trick, exonerating Chalabi for the lies and propaganda he spread in Iraq, and leaving the man's career at that. 

Of course, Chalabi was no seducer of innocents. The Bush administration was crowded with chickenhawks, anxious to "liberate" Iraq, reap a bountiful political score in the US, and Chili-ize the occupied country in the best shock doctrine fashion. Of course, they were afraid to risk the political capital that would come from really occupying the country, and they could hide behind Rumsfeld's screwy military science which told him that you could pacify Iraq with about five hundred thousand less soldiers than it would actually take to even begin. No Vietnams please, we are chickenhawks was the motto.
However, by trotting out the usual I interviewed Chalabi nonsense, and focusing all attention on the run up to the war, Filkins conveniently forgets Chalabis role in the occupation in 2003. Here, Chalabi was key. Because he was one of the main players to press for de-Baathification, which was realized by Paul Bremer's decision to unilaterally disband the army and ban Ba'athists from state positions. In one stroke, Iraq lost its governance. Imagine having half a million too few soldiers to actually continue the civic and social life of a territory and then stripping out the government that had served that territory for the last thirty years.
Sadly, Filkins, a terrible war correspondent, was chosen by the New Yorker as their man in the Middle East. This isn't surprising - Remnick, after all, published the wild tales of the 9.11 - Saddam Hussein connection, as designed by Jeffrey Goldberg, to turn up the pro-war heat back in the day. But I think that the readership of the New Yorker is probably much out of synch with the pap being fed it by such as Filkins.
For the story of Chalabi and the occupiers, a much better source is Aram Rosten's biography of Chalabi. Here, I'll quote from the pages devoted to Bremer's de-Ba'athification edicts.

As much as L. Paul Bremer and Ahmad Chalabi would come to
hate and despise each other, Bremer, who replaced Jay Garner as
America’s overseer in Iraq, danced unwittingly to Chalabi’s tune when
he issued the de-Baathification order on May 16, 2003. He carried out
Chalabi’s policy, although, he explained later, it was merely adapted
from a law handed to him directly by Doug Feith.

And then Bremer quickly installed Ahmad Chalabi as the head of
the commission to “de-Baathify” Iraq. On the top floor of the Iraqi
government building, in the Green Zone, Chalabi entrenched his De-
Baathification Commission, which assumed the aura and reputation
of an Inquisition. “They had tons of money,” explained one Iraqi involved
with the commission. “Their fortunes have risen and fallen
many times, but when they were first created, they were a much-feared
organization that occupied one of the floors of the building the government
used.And I know people quaked even going there. If your file
entered there, God knows what they would do to you.”

Chalabi had the extraordinary power now to end anyone’s employment,
strip away his pension even, leave him destitute. If Chalabi chose
to paint someone as a leading Baathist, that would mean his prospects of
government employment were over.And of course it left him open to arrest
by the Americans, who barely monitored the committee’s methods.

It was immediately clear to anyone who cared to know that not all
Baathists had blood on their hands and that patriotic Iraqis were being
pushed out of their jobs and turned into beggars because of the
process led by Chalabi. “It was like ‘de-Sunnification,’” said one diplomat.
The most competent administrators, who had been forced to be
Baath Party members, were banned from working in government
jobs. “De-Baathification appears to have gone some way toward dismantling
a state that had been left largely intact by the unexpectedly
swift war,” as The Economist put it."

As I wrote constantly at the time, you cannot separate the run up to the war and the occupation. To do so gives one an absurd picture of what went on - a picture that gives cover to incompetents, criminals, and, by no accident, their abettors in the press.
So why does Dexter Filkins still have a career explaining Iraq?

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