Tuesday, November 07, 2006


This NY Times Magazine article on Ahmad Chalabi is a must-read.

There's some great historical background on Chalabi's family, such as that prime minister Nuri al-Said sought refuge with Chalabi's older sister during the coup of 1958, and it was she who dressed Said in an abeya and tried to help him flee. Said was discovered hours later and shot in the street (interestingly, Chalabi insists Said "shot himself.") Later on, Said's body was disinterred by an angry mob, dragged through the streets, hung, and mutilated. This is what's known as "having a low approval rating."

The section on Chalabi's visit to Iran is worthy of an article all by itself. Chalabi's stroll through Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art is a bit surreal.

Then there's this:
Richard Perle, Chalabi’s friend, discounted the idea that Chalabi might be a double agent. "Of course Chalabi has a relationship with the Iranians — you have to have a relationship with the Iranians in order to operate there," Perle said. "The question is what kind of relationship. Is he fooling the Iranians or are the Iranians using him? I think Chalabi has been very shrewd in getting the things he has needed over the years out of the Iranians without giving anything in return."

Right. Aside from helping to facilitate the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the removal of Iran's greatest rival, it's hard to see what, if anything, the Iranians got out of their relationship to Chalabi. He played 'em like an oud!

I do think, though, that it's important not to make too much of Chalabi's role in the Iraq war. I believe he was used as much as he used, by various groups. The "wily foreigner" is a familiar and usually racist character in Orientalist literature, but there should be no mistake: This was a Bush administration operation, and Chalabi seems only to have been willing to provide convincing-sounding bullshit to people who wanted desperately to be convinced by bullshit.

From everything I've read, Chalabi genuinely cares about the future of Iraq, but his committment to a modern, democratic country was overtaken by his strong belief that he should lead it. Before too long, his constant maneuvering simply became tiresome to people, and his cuddling up to Moqtada al-Sadr was the last straw for many.

The moral of this story is: Once you start bullshitting, it's really hard to stop.

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