02/20/2004WASHINGTON -- Years ago my dear friend, the eccentric but brilliant British writer Frieda Utley, used to say after evenings of impassioned arguing about politics, life and love: "It finally all comes down to washing up." Then she'd go do the dishes.
Me? I have my own little responses. When some smarty-pants in some administration says vaingloriously that HE cannot tell ME something, I tell him (admittedly in a somewhat smart a...lecky way), "Just remember, I'll be here long after you're gone." Others I tell for the good of their soul, "You know, this story is going to come out in the end anyway."
Those little nuggets of wisdom seemed to resurface this week in the next chapter of the "Chalabi Saga," which is getting so sinuous it might replace the never-ending Forsytes.
What we're seeing is a continued washing up after the dirty business of getting America into war in Iraq, thanks to my smart-alecky journalist friends.
You DO remember Ahmad Chalabi? He's the sleek, arrogant one from the corridors of political London who wants desperately to be president of Iraq. Chalabi courted American neocons here and figured he could "buy" an American war, even on the cheap, by feeding false intelligence to gullible fanatics. He is wanted in Jordan on his conviction as a bank embezzler who was sentenced in absentia in 1992 to 22 years of hard labor -- but hey, nobody's perfect.
In fact, Chalabi was made to order for the people who wanted to invade Iraq -- and it is abundantly clear that his intelligence was made to order, too.
This week, Chalabi, who has been serving as president of the Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad, gave an interview there to the London Daily Telegraph in which he effectively admitted that the intelligence he avidly supplied to the civilians at the top of the Pentagon and others was cooked up.
"We are heroes in error," he said in the interview, shrugging off the criticisms coming from Washington. "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. Our objective has been achieved. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."
Months ago, United Press International's Martin Sieff reported that Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress coached a number of Iraqi army defectors and others, in great detail, to convince American intelligence that Saddam was hiding a veritable arsenal of chemical and biological weapons as well as an active nuclear bomb program.
American officials last week actually named one of the most bold cases. It was the claim that came from an INC-coached major in the Iraqi intelligence service who said that Saddam had mobile biological weapons laboratories -- the man even passed a lie detector test. But the claim had a life of its own and continued to be cited by American officials until arms inspector David Kay returned from Iraq and confirmed that the trucks had been built to hold equipment to make hydrogen for weather balloons.
All along, Chalabi was bitterly distrusted in Washington by both the CIA and the State Department. The intentions of Chalabi & Co. could not have had access here -- or the success in getting us into this war -- without the "American Likudniks" within the neoconservative war party.
Douglas Feith, deputy to Donald Rumsfeld, has long been known as a far-right supporter of Ariel Sharon's Likud Party in Israel. He argues that there is no difference between U.S. and Israeli security concerns; other officials such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and David Wurmser are right behind him.
The fact that so many of the authors of this war are Jewish is not important. That they uncritically fit the alien shroud of Israeli far-right expansionist policy over American security policy is. They supported Chalabi so recklessly because he promised to immediately open relations between Iraq and Israel and begin piping oil to Israel.
As this incredible saga of using America to fight other people's wars continues -- some analysts here call it a "coup," some call it a "hijacking" of our policy; I prefer "conspiracy" -- the wash-up takes ever new configurations. The beleaguered neocons, responding to allegations that they led America into a falsely defined war, are diverting attacks from themselves to the CIA. Richard Perle, who as head of the Defense Policy Board had great input into the preparations for war, actually said this week: "The CIA has an almost perfect record of getting it wrong in relation to the Gulf going back to the Shah of Iran." He called for a "shakeup" in the intelligence establishment, which means "heads should roll." Neocon David Brooks even wrote in a New York Times column recently that there were no neocons! And one story going around town has Dick Cheney angrily accusing Colin Powell of bungling Iraq because he didn't let Chalabi immediately take over.
A coup? A hijacking? A conspiracy? Come to think of it, the situation more closely resembles the word "neocon" -- just take off the "neo."