It’s difficult not to regard Ahmad Chalabi as an unprincipled, unscrupulous opportunist who would stop at nothing to rid his former country of Saddam Hussein. It is not entirely his fault that the United States involved itself in a second land war in Iraq. But he was indisputably the source of much of the excuse that President Bush and his war-mongering administration used. Chalabi died November 3, and WC thinks the world would have been a better place if Dr. Chalabi hadn’t ever been in it.
An expatriate Iraqi, born and raised in privilege in Baghdad, his family fled the country in 1958. Dr. Chalabi made it his life’s work to oust Saddam Hussein and Hussein’s Baath Party from control of Dr. Chalabi’s native country. He helped create the Iraqi National Congress in 1992, which eventually received more than $100 million from the CIA and other agencies between its founding and the start of President Bush’s invasion.[^1] Dr. Chalabi cultivated friendships with a circle of hawkish Republicans, including future Vice President Dick Cheney and future Pentagon officials Douglas J. Feith, William J. Luti, Richard N. Perle and Paul D. Wolfowitz. Those persons, relying on the supposed intelligence from Dr. Chalabi, led our terrible decision to invade Iraq.
It was Dr. Chalabi’s claim, uncritically shared by United States intelligence agencies, that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. And that became the basis for Bush’s Folly, a second land war in Asia.
It was Dr. Chalabi’s claim, uncritically accepted by President Bush and his advisors, that Americans would be welcomed with open arms. The “open arms” turned out to be a war that cost 4,486 American soldier’s lives and possibly as many as 100,000 injured. Not to mention an estimated 224,000 Iraqi civilians. The “arms” turned out to be mostly improvised explosive devices.
It was Dr. Chalabi who crafted the “de-Baathification policy,” prohibiting any member of Saddam Hussein’s political party from having any role in the “new” Iraqi government. Apart from effectively disbanding most of the government of the country, it created an instant pool of deeply unhappy Iraqis who were more than willing to fight the American invaders.
It was Dr. Chalabi, after the Bush Administration distanced itself from him, who aligned himself with Moktada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite leader and ally of Iran whose Mahdi Army led two bloody uprisings. Fighting, yes, Americans.
The lesson from all this is that the enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend. It may just be a completely unscrupulous opportunist.
[^1]:WC thinks that some of that $100 million was used by Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress to hire lobbyists to influence Congress to vote to support the U.S. invasion. If true, that’s outrageous.