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William Rivers Pitt: Crawling King Snake Returns

The Crawling King Snake Returns

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 29 April 2005


The news media is reporting, with much fanfare and praise, that the new Iraqi MPs have appointed people to several cabinet posts, ending months of acrimonious fighting between factions. The New York Times reported it this way: "Almost three months after the January elections, Iraq's national assembly voted overwhelmingly to approve a Shiite-led cabinet today, creating the first elected government in Iraqi history."

All is not well in the democratic paradise that is Iraq, however. The Sunnis, who ruled Iraq through their alliance with Saddam Hussein, are heavily under-represented in the new parliament because most Sunnis boycotted the recent election. This lack of representation was partially addressed by the appointment of several Sunnis to various cabinet positions.

This did not quell passions. Saith the Times, "The leader of the Shiite political alliance that dominates the assembly and the cabinet, Abdul Aziz al Hakim, delivered a warlike speech that hinted at purges to come in the government's security forces. A Sunni Arab assembly member later stood up to angrily accuse the Shiites of dividing the country, and even said one member had threatened to gather evidence that would send him to the gallows. 'This is not a national government, it is a government of the winners,' said the Sunni member, Meshaan al Juburi. 'I am here to say that the Sunni Arab members have been marginalized, and the Sunni Arab political forces should be aware of that.'"

Several cabinet positions remain unfilled - Defense, Oil, Industry, Electricity and Human Rights - as the arguments continue, but a few have been filled by so-called temporary ministers. Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari will fill the Defense post until a permanent cabinet minister can be appointed.

Easily the most important cabinet position, the Oil Ministry, will be filled by a spy, an embezzler, a liar and a fraud. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Crawling King Snake himself, Ahmad Chalabi, got that most lucrative of gigs. Supposedly this is a temporary posting, but given Chalabi's alliances with a number of powerful Shia Ministers, don't hold your breath until he is replaced.

You have to love the pestiferous symmetry of this choice. There sat Chalabi on September 23th, 2003, in the Iraqi chair at the United Nations for Bush's abjectly humiliating speech to that body. Chalabi in that chair sent a definite and unavoidable signal to the world: This is our guy, and if we have our way, he is going to be running Iraq before too long.

Chalabi had been a boon companion of Donald Rumsfeld and the other neocon hawks who cobbled the war together with a tapestry of lies and fear-mongering. He was, in fact, Rumsfeld's hand-picked leader-in-waiting of Iraq as early as 1997, back when the Project for the New American Century was just coming together. Chalabi was once head of the Iraqi National Congress, a supposedly 'dissident' group fighting the rule of Saddam Hussein. The INC was, in fact, a creation of the CIA during Bush the Elder's term, a burr under Hussein's saddle once it was decided that this former ally was more trouble than he was worth.

Before and during this most recent Iraq war, Chalabi worked with the secret Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon to spread far and wide the fiction that Iraq was covered with weapons of mass destruction and al Qaeda terrorists. It was Chalabi who whispered this fiction into the ear of Judy Miller at the New York Times. Miller then reported it, thus giving the entire corporate media permission to spread it far and wide. If the Times says it, you see, it must be true.

A lot of this war belongs to Mr. Chalabi, so it is only appropriate that he be given the Oil Ministry, where he can wet his beak with abandon. He is no stranger to the process; Chalabi was convicted of 32 counts of bank fraud and sentenced to 22 years' imprisonment by a Jordanian court in 1992. He did not serve a day of the term, however, having fled the country before the hammer came down. With his new position, he can put those old skills to work for a far greater financial return.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. For the first time in Iraq's history, there are long lines at the gas pumps. Iraqis are required to wait for two days, sleeping in their cars, to get a rationed 7.5 liters of gas. Iraq is sitting on the second-largest proven stores of petroleum on the planet, and yet there are gas lines.

As journalist Dahr Jamail reported, the petroleum infrastructure under the control of the American military and American contractors is in good shape despite daily bomb attacks. They can pump the oil, but they aren't. Instead, they are sitting on it. For what purpose, no one is quite sure. Now that Chalabi is running that ministry, however, the gas lines are sure to continue.

And then there is the darker underbelly of Mr. Chalabi's checkered career. Back in May of 2004, the CIA came out with "rock-solid" evidence that Chalabi was an agent of the Iranian government, that he used his position with the Bush administration to push false data upon the gullible hawks in Washington. According to a report by Julian Borger in the UK Guardian, "The CIA has hard evidence that Mr. Chalabi and his intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, passed US secrets to Tehran, and that Mr. Habib has been a paid Iranian agent for several years, involved in passing intelligence in both directions."

"The implications," wrote Borger, "are far-reaching. Mr. Chalabi and Mr. Habib were the channels for much of the intelligence on Iraqi weapons on which Washington built its case for war. 'It's pretty clear that Iranians had us for breakfast, lunch and dinner,' said an intelligence source in Washington yesterday. 'Iranian intelligence has been manipulating the US for several years through Chalabi.' Larry Johnson, a former senior counter-terrorist official at the state department, said: 'When the story ultimately comes out we'll see that Iran has run one of the most masterful intelligence operations in history. They persuaded the US and Britain to dispose of its greatest enemy.'"

A thief, liar, fraud and spy now runs the Oil Ministry in Iraq. Just when you think Bush administration foreign policy cannot produce any more farcical sideshows, something like this happens and we realize that the bottom of the barrel has not yet been reached. This is democracy in the modern American style, it seems.

There are some domestic parallels. Yesterday, the House of Representatives folded under intense pressure and voted 406-20 to reinstate the ethics rules that had been cast aside only weeks before. The move to get rid of the rules was done to protect House majority leader Tom DeLay, who stands accused of a series of truly epic ethics violations. Now that the rules are back in place, DeLay is going to face a withering investigation of how he has operated.

My suggestion: DeLay should skip the country, head to Iraq, become a Shia and take that open position as Minister of Human Rights. It would be par for the course, and as far as ethics go, he would be in good company with Mr. Chalabi.


William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for truthout. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.' Join the discussions at his blog forum.

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