BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


(Pass this blog off to one new person today. Thanks in advance.)


Arianna Huffington got some face time with Ahmed Chalabi, the "George Washington of Iraq," at a chi-chi restaurant in Manhattan.

I'll ask this question again: If Chalabi's got time to eat at Megu, why isn't he sitting before the Senate Committee on Intelligence?

(Megu review from the New York Magazine: "At the city’s latest high-end Asian eatery, the menu is baffling, the portions are small, the prices are astronomical, and the result is fantastic.")

Here are the key bits from Arianna's blog, minus her snarky comments and references to her pal John Cusack:
I arrived at Megu at 11:30 and was led past a phalanx of American security guards (provided, I was told, by the U.S. State Department), to a small, private room where Chalabi, his daughter Tamara (a Harvard PhD who lives in Baghdad and works closely with her father), and a half-dozen members of his entourage were seated.


Everything about him suggested a man in full: smart, articulate, and, above all, totally present.


But he is also a study in contradiction, at one moment talking like the only power broker who could bring Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis -- even former Baathists -- together, and then at the next moment coming across as a virtuoso victim, complaining that the CIA is trying to make him a scapegoat for all the prewar intelligence failures.

"They even tried to stick Curveball on me," he told me, reflecting on his long and bitter history with the agency.
For more info on "Curveball," check out this recent Brandoland post.

Back to dinner:
On the political front, Chalabi kept returning to his life's goal: to overthrow Saddam. Not because of WMD, he told me, but because of human rights abuses (he gave me a long exposition on Saddam's mass graves).

But I had spent some time researching Chalabi for the posts I wrote last week about his trip to Washington -- so what he had actually said in the lead up to the war was still fresh in my mind.

"Saddam is a major threat," he had said in July 2002. "You have the choice of using military force to liberate Iraq or of having your own civilians killed in the thousands."

Chalabi may want to rewrite history, but there is no question that he used the WMD threat again and again as a means to his end. And there is no question that Chalabi will now, and in the future, use all means at his disposal to achieve his ends.


Chalabi definitely wants American troops to stay in Iraq -- even though he had a lot of horror stories about the way the U.S. military is operating "with total immunity and impunity."

"American soldiers," he said, "are breaking into people's homes and are arresting and detaining Iraqi citizens without charges.

Even if they run over an Iraqi and kill him they will not be charged with a crime, because they are above Iraqi law."
He's convinced that the administration, for political reasons, is looking for a way out of Iraq.

And he wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

But his other objective, which he told me he was planning to discuss with both Rumsfeld and Cheney, is to change the way U.S. troops are operating in Iraq.

"America," he said, "has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs how U.S. forces operate inside a sovereign nation, with over 100 countries.

But the Bush administration refuses to have one with Iraq -- and, as a result, the U.S. Army is operating outside the law.

Rumsfeld feels that a SOFA will tie the hands of the U.S. military and not allow it to fight the insurgency. Of course, the lack of such an agreement has the opposite effect since it causes great resentment towards the U.S. among the Iraqi people."

Another thing made clear through the night was how much Chalabi hates Paul Bremer and what the Coalition Provision Authority did in Iraq.
For more on that subject, please read Naomi Klein's brilliant article, Baghdad Year Zero.
So much so that he's willing to praise Henry Waxman, who has criticized him harshly, but who, according to Chalabi, has done the most thorough work on what he regards as "the tragic waste and abuse of billions of dollars that belonged to the Iraqi people."
Chalabi praised Henry Waxman?!

That's like Tony Soprano praising the FBI agents who've been trying to send him to prison.
"The administration wants to cover this (waste and abuse) up," he told me. "Let's hope Waxman won't let them."
More shameless self-promotion: Here's another old Brandoland post on the waste and abuse of US cash money in Iraq.

The post includes some info on Dale Stoffel, the American "Defense Contractor" who was gunned down in Iraq AFTER he complained to US & Iraqi offcials about the 27 MILLION BUCKS the Iraqis owed him for "services rendered."

(Quickly: Stoffel knew that "something was wrong" with the way that $ was being dished out in Iraq, and even wrote in an e-mail to US military officials that "news of it will be on the front page under the photos of President Bush, Rumsfeld, me...Jobs will be lost and congressional hearings will be held.")

Final bits from Megu:
(Chalabi) wanted me to know that his meetings were not just with Republicans, but included Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Tom Lantos, and Dick Holbrooke.

"Ultimately," he said, "we have no friendships -- only interests."


Understanding Power, 101: There are no friendships - only interests.

Gives us new insight into Chalabi's dealings with Iran, doesn't it?

No evidence Iran supporting Iraqi insurgents: Chalabi

In an interview with CNN, Chalabi said that the current insurgency is based in western Iraq while Iran is the country’s eastern neighbor.

The Iraqi National Congress leader also stressed the need to strengthen the friendly trend in Tehran-Baghdad ties.
Dude plays all sides, doesn't he?
(Chalabi) also dismissed accusations he had transferred secret information from the U.S. to Iran.

“I officially reject the accusations,” Chalabi asserted. Referring to his recent trip to Iran, he noted, “I lobbied with them (Iranians) on Iran-Iraq ties and told them that democratic elections would soon be held in Iraq and that we seek transparent relations with Iran as much as we seek good and strategic ties with the United States.”
Hey, speaking of those strategic ties --

Rumsfeld Meets With Iraq's Chalabi

But not at Megu.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld discussed Iraqi security and political developments on Monday with Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile tainted by the since-discredited claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.


Pentagon officials did not allow TV or photo coverage of Chalabi's arrival at the Pentagon, and there was no coverage of the talks.
Spineless bastards all.
Chalabi met later with Vice President Dick Cheney, and he also had talks with Robert Zoellick, the deputy secretary of state.

Last week he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser.

In the 45-minute Rumsfeld meeting, Chalabi stressed the importance of improving the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S.-led military coalition to enhance the Iraqi security forces' ability to disrupt and ultimately defeat the insurgents, a Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


Chalabi is a now a deputy prime minister of Iraq and is considered a likely candidate to be the next prime minister.
That's why the Bushies are still playing ball with Chalabi.

Even though...
Last year, U.S. forces raided Chalabi's Baghdad office after he was accused of giving U.S. intelligence information to Iran.

He is still under investigation regarding those allegations.
Remember, there are no friendships.

Only interests.

"Always be closing!"

More later...


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