Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 24, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

AHMED CHALABI TIMELINE....Why exactly is Ahmed Chalabi hated by so many people? And exactly who is he hated by? Here's an Ahmed Chalabi timeline to help sort it out for you:

  • 1969: Chalabi earns a PhD in mathematics from the University of Chicago. While there, he hits it off with Albert Wohlstetter, a military theorist who was one of the founders of the neocon movement.

  • 1985: Wohlstetter introduces Chalabi to ber-neocon Richard Perle. He later hooks up with Paul Wolfowitz and other neocon leading lights.

  • 1989: Petra Bank of Jordan, run by Chalabi, collapses under mysterious circumstances. Chalabi flees the country and is tried and convicted in absentia on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and currency speculation, and sentenced by a Jordanian court to 22 years in jail.

    As with all things related to Chalabi, his supporters and detractors have diametrically opposite stories about what happened. He and his supporters say the Jordanian government (backed by Saddam Hussein) executed a politically motivated coup against him. The Jordanians backed up by an Arthur Andersen audit scoff at this. Chalabi, they say, was a common swindler who fraudulently funneled money to his own accounts and left the bank with over $200 million in debts, which the Jordanian government eventually paid off.

    Whichever side you believe, the end result is that the Jordanians and their friends became mortal enemies of Chalabi.

  • 1992: Chalabi makes his first contact with the CIA and forms the Iraqi National Congress, an umbrella group of Iraqi exiles opposed to Saddam Hussein.

  • 1995: Chalabi convinces the CIA that Saddam's hold on power is tenuous and that a rebellion led by the Kurds and the INC could topple him. The American NSC discovers at the last minute that Saddam has penetrated part of the plan and withdraws its support. Chalabi and the Kurds go ahead anyway and the plot fails miserably. It is referred to by the CIA as the "Bay of Goats."

    Result: the CIA decides Chalabi is a blowhard with little actual support or knowledge of what's happening in Iraq.

  • 1996: More prime grade murkiness, this time about a CIA coup attempt against Saddam. The fact that the coup actually was attempted is about the only thing everyone agrees about.

    Chalabi side of the story (sort of): The CIA cooked up one of its "fatuous little coup plots," and when Chalabi found out about it he informed them that Saddam had already infiltrated their plot. The CIA stupidly ignored him, and in June, after stringing them along for a few months, Saddam arrested hundreds of conspirators and completely demolished the coup attempt.

    CIA side of the story (maybe): It was Chalabi himself who compromised the plan. He was angry because the CIA was working with the INA, a different group of Iraqi exiles, and Chalabi was not involved.

    Result: now the CIA really hates Chalabi's guts.

  • 1998: With Chalabi's help, Congress passes the Iraq Liberation Act and the INC subsequently starts getting large sums of money from the United States government amounting to tens of millions of dollars over the years from various government sources. Much of this money has never been accounted for, and the State Department eventually concludes that Chalabi has been raking off a percentage.

    Result: the State Department, which had never been too enamored of Chalabi anyway, decides that Chalabi is a fraud and a con man who can't be trusted.

  • April 2003: Against the wishes of virtually everyone except his friends in the Pentagon, Chalabi and 700 of his troops are airlifted into northern Iraq. He will later be installed as one of the 25 members of Iraq's Interim Governing Council.

  • 2003-2004: The shit hits the fan. It turns out that Chalabi actually has very little support within Iraq. Paul Bremer grows increasingly disgusted with Chalabi as Chalabi's public statements become more stridently anti-American. UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi comes in for abuse from Chalabi and turns against him. The White House is annoyed that Chalabi refuses to hand over documents related to the UN's oil-for-food scandal. The CIA learns that Chalabi was responsible for providing phony WMD intelligence before the war. In April the NSC decides to cut its losses and severs its ties with Chalabi. And finally, the Defense Intelligence Agency has apparently also turned against Chalabi based on evidence that he has been passing ultrasensitive intelligence information to Iran.

    Result: Bremer hates Chalabi, Brahimi hates Chalabi, the UN hates Chalabi, a large swathe of Iraqis hate Chalabi, and the NSC and DIA hate Chalabi.

Bottom line: practically every group that has ever worked with Chalabi has eventually felt betrayed by him. This includes, at a minimum: (1) the Jordanian government, (2) the CIA, (3) the State Department, (4) Paul Bremer and the CPA, (5) the United Nations, (6) the NSC, and (7) the DIA. Oh and quite possibly, (8) George W. Bush.

But at least the cuddly ayatollahs in Iran still seem to like him. It's good to have at least a few friends who stay loyal through thick and thin.

Kevin Drum 12:31 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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