American politics journal

Keeping It in the Family
The Chalabi Clan Continues to Confuse Looting with Banking

by Tamara Baker

April 15, 2003 -- SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA (APJP) -- As the fires of pillaging turn the skies of occupied Baghdad a sooty red, as looters take booty by force from journalists as well as from Saddam's deserted palaces, I can say only this:

Don't blame the looters too much. They're only emulating the familial habits of their viceroy-to-be, Ahmed Chalabi.

Mr. Chalabi, in case you didn't know, is the head of the Iraqi National Congress, and the guy who has most strongly urged his PNAC buddies Rumsfeld and Perle to invade Iraq. Rummy, in return, thinks that Chalabi would make a swell ruler of postwar Iraq -- and Chalabi agrees with him, of course. As does Dick Cheney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Joe Lieberman. (By the way: Remind me never again to let Lieberman anywhere near any slot on a Democratic presidential ticket. He's fallen far, far down since his honorable days as a Freedom Marcher, becoming just another DLC DINO. But I digress.)

It was Chalabi who told Rumsfeld, Perle and the rest of the PNAC Platoon governing the White House's foreign policy that there would be absolutely no resistance to the US troops, that they would always be greeted with flowers and candy. It was also Chalabi who kept insisting that Saddam had oodles and oodles of nasty weapons, including bioweapons, and was about to spring them on an unsuspecting world. At this writing, none of these alleged weapons have been found, and it hasn't been for lack of trying.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that those statements implicitly contradicted each other, the PNAC Platooners believed him utterly. They believed him even though, aside from a few visits in the 1980s and 1990s, he hasn't lived in Iraq since 1956 -- when his banker parents, friends of the British-installed "Iraqi royal family", fled the country one step ahead of angry mobs much like the ones currently stripping Baghdad of everything they can carry.

It was largely because of Chalabi's advice that Rumsfeld thought, as the NY Post's Ralph Peters states, that less than ten thousand ground troops would be needed to invade Iraq, and that Baghdad could be taken in a single Sunday drive. It took the Joint Chiefs of Staff several long months to persuade him to take as many troops as he did -- and they still weren't nearly enough, as sandstorms and fierce Iraqi resistance came close to severing the US' fragile supply lines. Only the immediate pressing into service of the troops held in reserve -- the additional troops that Rumsfeld had to be bludgeoned into sending, but kept offshore in ships because he felt he already had more than enough ground troops -- prevented the US from seeing a modern version of Corregidor played out in the Iraqi desert.

Just who is Ahmed Chalabi, that he can command the attention and respect of the men running the most powerful nation in the world, even after his words of wisdom have been shown to be so tragically wrong?

Is he a parliamentarian? Does he have experience in nation-building? Is he an honest and trustworthy man?

Unfortunately, for Iraq and for us, the answers to these questions are "no", "no", and "hell, no."

In fact, Ahmed Chalabi and his banker brothers have a long and sordid history of taking major banks in Jordan and Switzerland and flushing them down the toilet. When they aren't busy conning the world's financiers, they're trying to grift money and access from the US government -- although the CIA and the State Department, having been burned by him numerous times in the past, don't think as highly of him as do the PNACers.

First of the family's known victims was Jordan's Petra Bank. The Chalabis ran the bank and its various foreign branches into the ground in 1989, when Ahmed Chalabi absconded from the country just as $300 million of the bank's assets vanished. He was sentenced in absentia to twenty-two years in prison.

Chalabi, of course, wasn't about to let such damning circumstantial evidence keep him from worming his way into PNAC's good graces: He just kept saying that the Jordanians were ticked at him because he was about to expose their allegedly extensive ties to Saddam Hussein. (Which is itself ridiculous, considering that the Jordanians have been letting US troops use their land as a base for US attacks against Iraq).

Ahmed Chalabi seems to have continued his thieving ways into the 1990s. The CIA and the State Department suspect him of pocketing over $2 million in cash that was supposed to go to his Iraqi National Congress in 1998 and 1999. (They're also not too happy over what they see as his sabotaging a 1995 coup attempt against Saddam. Chalabi, of course, blames them.)

There you have it, America: A liar and a thief is going to bring democracy to post-Saddam Iraq.

And if you believe that, I have some gilt-edged shares in Petra Bank that I'd like to sell you.


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ISSN No. 1523-1690