THE IRAQI CHAMELEON:
The rise, fall and resurrection of Ahmad Chalabi is symptomatic of the
Iraq Affair, an affair run by protagonists on both sides who, in ordinary times, would
face the courts or at least human rights tribunals. Think only of the U.S. soldier
who shot dead an unarmed and wounded Moslem fighter in a mosque and that in
front of a camera. The soldier was acquitted of any wrongdoing. On Guatanamo
Bay American interrogators allegedly flushed the Koran, each book sacrosanct to
Moslems, down the toilets of prisoners to taunt them. Goodbye Geneva
Convention, welcome the era of barbarity. Perhaps the law will yet catch up with
some of these villains at some future date. America has a way of purifying itself
periodically by denying it ever happened.
Now Chalabi is a convicted crook. Though like most crooks he pleads
innocent. For years he has played the role of a human chameleon adopting
different colors to survive and prosper. He has done well. He manipulated the U.S.
into the disastrous war with Iraq by supplying the serial liars who claimed to have
knowledge of Saddam Husseinâ€™s WMDs and his links to Al Qaeda. He was
adopted and then dropped as the Bush administration and the Pentagonâ€™s
favorite candidate to replace Saddam. When the WMD excuse went sour even the
CIA, Chalabiâ€™s long time mentor, bad-mouthed him. He allegedly siphoned
hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayersâ€™ money into an ineffective anti-
Saddam opposition he controlled and milked. During the sack of Baghdad
members of his gang were accused of atrocities and looting. There are allegations
he counterfeited Iraqi dinars after Sadamâ€™s ouster.
But today Chalabi, the great manipulator, ex playboy, ex convicted
banker, ex guerrilla gang-owner, ex U.S. MIT graduate and British citizen, is Iraqâ
€™s Deputy Prime Minister in the U.S.-created new â€˜democraticâ€™ regime in
Iraq. His nephew is the Finance Minister. The nomination may be a travesty but in
a perverse way it is also a credit to the single-minded perseverance of one manâ
€™s dark ambition and the influence of a corporate America who sees Chalabi as â
€˜Our Man in Baghdad.â€™ Corporate America is not interested in the presidency
or the premierâ€™s job, only in oil. And only the gullible still doubt the U.S.
administration does not call the shots behind the â€˜democratically electedâ€™
government of Iraq.
Chalabi had set himself a single goal in life: To become the leader of
Iraq, a country from which he and his affluent family had been kicked out and
dispossessed. Now he is only one step from his goal on which he embarked with
diabolical efficiency. He was convicted, in absentia, for embezzlement in Jordan
after a bank he ran collapsed with $300 million in missing deposits. Sentenced to
22 years in jail he has not served a single day. Instead he reinvented himself as
the leader of a phantom-like Iraqi opposition, the Iraqi National Council (INC), a
loose association of exiles whose common aim was to overthrow Saddam with U.
S. aid. In the process Chalabi hoodwinked (or was allowed to hoodwink) the most
powerful nation. Indirectly his informants can be held responsible for the deaths of
tens of thousands, the destruction of Iraq, the specter of a civil war, religious
division, a split in the western world and the sell-out of Iraqâ€™s oil wealth.
This is the man most likely to eventually succeed Saddam with American
The lesson from Ahmad Chalabiâ€™s case should not be lost. After all
he represents the moral decline that has infested our own governments and their
financiers, the corporate world. The cancer has seeped into our system over
decades as we supported other Chalabis, dictators, bullies, killers and ambitious
generals under the guise of national security. In reality however these favorite
sons became our puppets, people who sold and still sell their countryâ€™s
resources to the commercial interests of the colonizer. For the sake of huge profits,
we tolerated and still tolerate their lies, their manipulations - even their crimes, all
for the sake of the bonanzas coveted by politicians, corporate executives and
shareholders. We convert these villains into heroes, saviors, icons and friends.
Once their usefulness is exhausted we discredited them.
Watch out Ahmad Chalabi.
We accept the Chalabis so a tiny minority in our society can accumulate
fabulous fortunes. We promote the Chalabis, we finance them and, if necessary,
crown them. In this game for gains the cost in human lives, in misery and
destruction, has become irrelevant. Only a positive financial balance sheet counts.
In spite of our oft-lauded era of enlightenment, with emphasis on human
rights, gender equality and an end to racial discrimination, not much has changed
since colonial powers placed shady individuals on thrones as complacent partners
in the rape, pillaging and exploitation of acquired colonies. Our greed has not
diminished, only our methods have changed. Now, in the era of mass
communication, we make our â€˜partnersâ€™ palatable to the public or, when we
are ready to dump them, unpalatable.
In the Chalabi case we followed a biblical strategy: We hailed, vilified and
then resurrected the man. Even Israel jumped aboard. After all, Chalabi may be an
Arab, but his regime will ensure Iraq poses no further threat to the existence of the
Jewish State. At least so he has promised. This is Realpolitik. As for the U.S.:
Under Chalabiâ€™s tutelage Iraqâ€™s vast oil resources will be privatized. The
main beneficiaries, surprise, surprise, will be American oil concerns. The oil barons
have already envisaged a bonanza since the current Iraqi oil production can be
tripled, even quadrupled. This offers the world a few additional decades of carbon
dioxide poisoning, our oil giants a new lease on life and alternative energy sources
the coup dâ€™grace. Far more important: Washington, already in control of Saudi
Arabia, the worldâ€™s largest oil exporter, will be able to determine who obtains
the oil and at what price.
And thatâ€™s the way the System works.