"As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."
Those were the words last week of Ahmed Chalabi, head of the INC, member of the IGC, and central player in a scandal the scope of which Americans are only now beginning to grasp.
The "what was said before" that Chalabi is referring to, of course, are the numerous bogus claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he peddled into American governmental channels over the last half dozen years and more.
After these words he was kind enough to say that "the Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants."
Now, I can't say that I was particularly surprised by this, though I didn't expect him to be quite so public about it. For months, when asked about what happened with all their crackerjack intel and defectors, those in Chalabi's entourage have responded with a blase version of 'the ends justify the means'. The general idea they communicate is: Okay, so there weren't any weapons. But we wanted Saddam gone. And he's gone. Our conscience is clean.
Not quite an admission, but also quite a ways from a denial. In other words, more or less what Chalabi told the Telegraph: "What was said before is not important."
Now, to me Chalabi's motives are extremely suspect. But there are many, many Iraqi nationalists who were willing to do or sacrifice anything to rid their country of this brutal dictator. And from that perspective I can understand how their consciences would be clear. They're not Americans. They're not bound up in the ins-and-outs of truth-telling in the context of American domestic politics. Their primary interest is not the vital interests of the United States. What they're trying to do is overthrow a tyrant in their country. And if that means hoodwinking the great power to come in and do the job or perhaps just telling the leaders of the great power what they want to hear, then so be it.
There's no point belaboring this hypothetical. I don't think it really applies to the people in question here. I am only trying to sketch out a potential way to see the rights and wrongs of all this from a very different perspective.
However that may be, Chalabi seems to be at the point of all but calling us suckers to our faces. If we were scammed, you'd think we'd be a bit angry about it -- right? -- even if we helped bring it on ourselves and even if some of our leaders were complicit in the scam.
Yet, we really don't seem to be angry at all. We funded Chalabi's pre-war intelligence operation in Iraq -- thus placing ourselves in the pathbreaking position of bankrolling a disinformation campaign against ourselves. (Much of his other money came from Iran. But we can get into that later.) And amazingly, we're still funding it.
According to this KnightRidder article from late last week the Pentagon has set aside between $3 and $4 million to fund Chalabi's Information Collection Program through 2004. So we want to keep buying Chalabi's prized intel for at least the next ten months?
We're far past the point where there's any question that basically all the intel we got from Chalabi was bogus. We're not far from the point of concluding that it was knowingly bogus or at least passed on with a willful indifference to its validity. And we're still going to pay his 'intelligence' operation $4 million more this year?
Isn't the $400 million worth of contracts to companies tied to his family enough to keep him happy?