On Monday, the Obama administration announced that 200 more American troops were headed to Baghdad to support U.S. embassy officials and support staff. The Department of Defense revealed that at least 100 U.S. troops were to be shifted forward to provide additional support to Iraqi security forces. What remains of Iraq may not, however, be Iraq for long; the Kurdish north of the country is preparing to seek its independence – a development which would have been destabilizing to the region 10 years ago, but is now welcomed by benefactor states like Turkey.
President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievement, the withdrawal of American military commitments to Iraq, has collapsed. It is a catastrophic and ongoing defeat for Obama’s doctrine of retrenchment. The public voted for withdrawal and Obama’s ability to achieve that was one of the few remaining examples of his administration’s competence. As Iraq implodes, cynicism has returned with a vengeance and Obama’s plummeting job approval rating reflects that.
With the stage set, the latest news out of that chronically unstable nation must be driving Obama’s supporters insane.
Ahmed Chalabi, a name widely circulated in the Bush era prior to the 2003 invasion as a likely successor to Saddam Hussein’s government, is back in the news. While Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress has only one seat in that country’s parliament – the one he occupies – his name is again being floated as a potential replacement for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Iraq’s political parties held round-the-clock meetings the past three days to try to agree on the shape of a new government in time to convene Parliament on Tuesday and being choosing new leaders,” The New York Times reported on Tuesday. “Mr. Chalabi’s name was one of the two being prominently mentioned to replace the incumbent prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.”
The left vehemently opposed Chalabi’s ascension to power in Iraq and blames him for swaying the Bush administration toward supporting the invasion in the first place. But that was more than a decade ago, so it’s all water under the bridge, right? Maybe the lede in the Times’ story offers some clues:
He took millions of dollars from the C.I.A., founded and was accused of defrauding the second-biggest bank in Jordan and sold the Bush administration a bill of goods on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
… guess not.
The left-leaning press has been building a case against Chalabi since the Clinton administration. An exhaustive 2004 report by Salon’s John Dizard details how the Iraqi exile conned the Bush administration into pursuing his lifelong dream of returning to Iraq as a figure of authority.
Chalabi appears to have recognized that the neocons, while ruthless, realistic and effective in bureaucratic politics, were remarkably ignorant about the situation in Iraq, and willing to buy a fantasy of how the country’s politics worked. So he sold it to them.
A helpful timeline in Mother Jones magazine shows how Chalabi had been agitating for the overthrow of Hussein’s government since the mid-1990s. Each time, offering a half-baked plan that would not require much more than a financial commitment from the United States.
MoJo also reported that the famous 2001 footage of Iraqi military officials training Arab fighters to hijack airlines was a “bogus Chalabi plant.”
“But still,” wrote former MoJo reporter Aram Roston in 2008, “Chalabi’s allegations about Saddam’s role in training hijackers had found their way into the White House press ofﬁce as it made the case for war.”
The transcript of an interview Chalabi gave PBS in 2003 shows why he fell out of favor. The inability of American forces to uncover massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction dealt his credibility what many believed was a fatal blow. The press never forgave him, and the figures of authority in today’s center-left movement were weaned on anti-Chalabi exposés.
In the pantheon of figures the left regards as personally responsible for The Tragedy of Tragedies that was the Iraq War, Chalabi occupies a position as condemnable as that of Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld. His rehabilitation would represent yet another rebuke of the Obama administration’s efforts to reverse Bush’s footprint on geopolitics. And it would drive the left positively insane.