See what your dollars have bought ...
With only three months to go before L. Paul Bremer trades in his Iraqi pro-consul baton for beachwear and a hard-earned vacation, the country's most controversial politician is already well positioned to become prime minister.
Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's heartthrob and the State Department's and CIA's heartbreak, has taken the lead in a yearlong political marathon. Temporary constitutional arrangements are structured to give the future prime minister more power than the president. The role of the president will be limited because his decisions will have to be ratified by two deputy presidents, or vice presidents. Key ministries, such as Defense and Interior, will be taking orders from the prime minister.
Chalabi holds the ultimate weapons -- several dozen tons of documents and individual files seized by his Iraqi National Congress from Saddam Hussein's secret security apparatus. Coupled with his position as head of the de-Baathification commission, Chalabi, barely a year since he returned to his homeland after 45 years of exile, has emerged as the power behind a vacant throne. He also appears to have impressive amounts of cash at his disposal and a say in which companies get the nod for some of the $18.4 billion earmarked for reconstruction. One company executive who asked that both his and the company's name be withheld said, "The commission was steep even by Middle Eastern standards."
Chalabi is still on the Defense Intelligence Agency's budget for a secret stipend of $340,000 a month. The $40 million the INC has received since 1994 from the U.S. government also covered the expenses of Iraqi military defectors' stories about weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's links with al-Qaida, which provided President Bush with a casus belli for the war on Iraq.
(That's from <$Ad$>this piece
It's not quite so clear to me that Chalabi is really
in line to be prime minister. (Our presumed desire not to have the place blow up in our face any sooner than necessary would seem to militate against that option.) But it's certainly nice to know that we've equipped him with enough patronage opportunities and ammunition for blackmail to give him a running start, isn't it?
Think about it. We
invaded Iraq. We
occupy Iraq. Why exactly was Chalabi's INC -- itself a creation of the US government
, though later a bamboozler of the same -- allowed to seize the files of the Iraqi secret police? Obviously, this is really more of a rhetorical than an actual question. But we know from post-Communist Eastern Europe -- and actually countless other sorrowful examples -- that the possession of secret police archives in a formerly authoritarian or totalitarian state is an invitation to abuse, corruption, blackmail and all manner of bad acts, if not entrusted to the surest, most ethical and responsible of hands. Needless to say, those aren't adjectives that leap from the lips when talking about this guy.
With all the multiple and mushrooming investigations
of Chalabi and possible wrongdoing he may have committed, rather than continue to give him taxpayer dollars, perhaps we might better spend our time considering how to take him into custody while we're still the sovereign authority in Iraq and have it within our power.