William Rivers Pitt: The Chalabi Factor
The Chalabi Factor
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Friday 28 July 2006
Their man - the dissident leader who sat behind the first lady in the president's box during the State of the Union address in which Bush prepared the country for war - appeared to have been working for Iran all along.
- James Bamford, "Iran: The Next War"
Ahmad Chalabi has been many things to many people over the last several years. Officials in Jordan considered him to be a petty criminal, convicting him of 32 counts of bank fraud and sentencing him in absentia to 22 years in prison.
Chalabi was, for a time, the leader of a manufactured dissident group called the Iraqi National Congress, and received millions of American taxpayer dollars thanks to the passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act. This made him a source for New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who used his false information about Iraqi WMD capabilities to frighten the populace into war.
Chalabi enjoyed a short, shining moment in the spotlight during Bush's harrowingly incoherent speech to the United Nations in September of 2003. The occupation was only six months old at that point, and Bush was before that body to try to justify the whole thing. Below him, seated in Iraq's chair as if he were already in power, was Mr. Chalabi. Chalabi also sat beside First Lady Laura Bush during the State of the Union address that propelled America toward the invasion.
For Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the masterminds of the Iraq invasion, however, Ahmad Chalabi was the anointed one, a statesman-to-be, the man who would replace Saddam Hussein once they figured out a way to attack and overthrow his regime. Chalabi had been chosen for this position as early as 1997, before this whole mess was anything more than a twinkle in the vice president's eye.
As it turns out, September 11 gave Rumsfeld and Cheney the pretext they required. Once the so-called "cakewalk" of invasion was over, they believed, Chalabi could be installed as the next Iraqi leader and the nation could be happily run by remote control from Washington and Houston.
It didn't quite work out that way.
Chalabi was in the mix, to be sure. He ran for the prime minister's spot and was handily defeated, but resurrected himself long enough to become the oil minister. He was a mover and a shaker, adept at playing both ends against the middle, at one point standing as the avatar of American power and at another fashioning himself as the anti-American savior of Iraqi Shiites.
And then his house got raided, and the whispers began to percolate. Something happened with Iran, something bad, and soon enough it became clear that Chalabi was playing a double game. Rumsfeld's promise to put him in power, and to give him unfettered access to Iraq's vast oil wealth, had not been fulfilled. Chalabi, therefore, switched sides.
Author James Bamford, in a meticulously researched article for Rolling Stone titled "Iran: The Next War," has finally and completely ripped the cover off exactly what Mr. Chalabi was doing while dressed in the clothing of an ally of the Bush administration.
"For years," wrote Bamford, "the National Security Agency had possessed the codes used by Iran to encrypt its diplomatic messages, enabling the U.S. government to eavesdrop on virtually every communication between Tehran and its embassies. After the U.S. invaded Baghdad, the NSA used the codes to listen in on details of Iran's covert operations inside Iraq. But in 2004, the agency intercepted a series of urgent messages from the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Intelligence officials at the embassy had discovered the massive security breach - tipped off by someone familiar with the U.S. code-breaking operation."
"The blow to intelligence-gathering could not have come at a worse time," continued Bamford. "The Bush administration suspected that the Shiite government in Iran was aiding Shiite insurgents in Iraq, who were killing U.S. soldiers. The administration was also worried that Tehran was secretly developing nuclear weapons. Now, crucial intelligence that might have shed light on those operations had been cut off, potentially endangering American lives."
"On May 20th," continued Bamford, "shortly after the discovery of the leak, Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided Chalabi's home and offices in Baghdad. The FBI suspected that Chalabi, a Shiite who had a luxurious villa in Tehran and was close to senior Iranian officials, was actually working as a spy for the Shiite government of Iran. Getting the U.S. to invade Iraq was apparently part of a plan to install a pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, with Chalabi in charge. The bureau also suspected that Chalabi's intelligence chief had furnished Iran with highly classified information on U.S. troop movements, top-secret communications, plans of the provisional government and other closely guarded material on U.S. operations in Iraq. On the night of the raid, the CBS Evening News carried an exclusive report by correspondent Lesley Stahl that the U.S. government had 'rock-solid' evidence that Chalabi had been passing extremely sensitive intelligence to Iran - evidence so sensitive that it could 'get Americans killed.'"
"The revelation," concluded Bamford regarding Chalabi's spying, "shocked [Defense Intelligence Agency member Larry] Franklin and other members of [Defense Department official Douglas] Feith's office. If true, the allegations meant that they had just launched a war to put into power an agent of their mortal enemy, Iran. Their man - the dissident leader who sat behind the first lady in the president's box during the State of the Union address in which Bush prepared the country for war - appeared to have been working for Iran all along."
It is possible, by way of a long series of very deep breaths, to objectively encompass the vast array of blunders, missteps and outright catastrophes that have marked the passage of the Bush administration. We lost two towers in New York. We lost the city of New Orleans. We invaded and occupied a nation that was no threat to destroy weapons of mass destruction that weren't there. A lot of people have been killed and maimed, and our national bank account is deeply in the red.
And now comes this Chalabi revelation, and the deep breaths stop working. This man manipulated the neo-conservatives within this administration into an invasion with false information they were all too willing to believe, and did so to gain himself a nation and its oil revenues. Once this didn't work out, this man sold our soldiers and intelligence services out to Iran in hopes of wrangling himself into power by way of a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government run by remote control out of Tehran.
Ahmad Chalabi was able to do all this because Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration picked him, groomed him, touted him, championed him, and helped him along every step of the way. Ahmad Chalabi was the physical manifestation of their dreams for Iraq. He has become, instead, the physical manifestation of absolutely everything that has gone sideways since this catastrophe was first undertaken.
2,570 American soldiers are dead, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Those civilians are dying now at the rate of 100 a day, according to the Washington Post, killed in the streets in a wave of sectarian violence that has all but doomed that nation to complete chaos. Iran, more than any other nation, reaps the benefits of this terrible situation.
Ahmad Chalabi has been many things to many people. Now, with the story fully told, we know him to be a back-stabbing spy for Iran. We know him to be responsible for an unimaginable number of deaths, thanks to the assistance he gave Iran in tracking our troops and foiling our intelligence networks.
We know him to be a long-time friend and boon companion of Donald Rumsfeld.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.