We haven’t had much to say about the the raid on Ahmed Chalabi’s house and the allegations that Chalabi spied for Iran. In my case, this is because it’s difficult to know what to make of these stories. Joel Mowbray argues in the Washington Times that Chalabi is the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by the State Department and the CIA, with the assistance of the Washington Post and CBS News, and aimed ultimately at least as much at the hawks in the Defense Department as at Chalabi. Frank Gaffney, also in the Washington Times, has a similar take. He argues that Chalabi is a scapegoat for the administration’s increasingly troubled Iraq policy. But a third Washington Times piece, this one by Bruce Fein contends that Washington is finally holding Chalabi accountable for his “monumental delusions in blithely assuming an effortless transforming of post-Saddam Iraq into a thriving and friendly secular democracy,” as well as for providing bogus information prior to the war.
It is reasonably clear that, contrary to what some once believed, Chalabi cannot serve as the cornerstone of our relations with the post-Saddam Iraq. In fact, he seems quite irrelevant to those relations. And even if one regards his pre-war role favorably, there is little reason at this point for the U.S. to try to make him relevant. At the same time, there is no good reason to treat him as a punching bag unless, as CBS claims, the evidence of major wrongdoing on his part is “rock solid.” It should take more than a CBS report paraphrasing “government officials” to convince us that this is the status of the evidence against Chalabi.
HINDROCKET adds: On our radio show tonight, we interviewed Frank Gaffney. He says that Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has specifically credited Chalabi with intelligence that has saved American lives. Gaffney views the current attack on Chalabi as an outgrowth of longstanding hostility against him by the CIA. We have no way to judge whether that is true, but Gaffney’s suggestion that General Myers’ assessment should be given more credence than anonymous attacks by other government officials makes sense, unless and until we have more facts.
Of course, as Deacon points out, this is a very different question from whether and to what extent Chalabi has ongoing relevance in post-war Iraq.
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