Friday 28 July 2006
Their man - the dissident leader who sat behind the first lady in the
president's box during the State of the Union address in which Bush
prepared the country for war - appeared to have been working for Iran
- James Bamford, "Iran: The Next War"
Ahmad Chalabi has been many things to many people over the last several
years. Officials in Jordan considered him to be a petty criminal,
convicting him of 32 counts of bank fraud and sentencing him in absentia
to 22 years in prison.
Chalabi was, for a time, the leader of a manufactured dissident group
called the Iraqi National Congress, and received millions of American
taxpayer dollars thanks to the passage of the Iraqi Liberation Act. This
made him a source for New York Times reporter Judy Miller, who used his
false information about Iraqi WMD capabilities to frighten the populace
Chalabi enjoyed a short, shining moment in the spotlight during Bush's
harrowingly incoherent speech to the United Nations in September of
2003. The occupation was only six months old at that point, and Bush was
before that body to try to justify the whole thing. Below him, seated in
Iraq's chair as if he were already in power, was Mr. Chalabi. Chalabi
also sat beside First Lady Laura Bush during the State of the Union
address that propelled America toward the invasion.
For Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and the masterminds of the Iraq
invasion, however, Ahmad Chalabi was the anointed one, a
statesman-to-be, the man who would replace Saddam Hussein once they
figured out a way to attack and overthrow his regime. Chalabi had been
chosen for this position as early as 1997, before this whole mess was
anything more than a twinkle in the vice president's eye.
As it turns out, September 11 gave Rumsfeld and Cheney the pretext they
required. Once the so-called "cakewalk" of invasion was over, they
believed, Chalabi could be installed as the next Iraqi leader and the
nation could be happily run by remote control from Washington and Houston.
It didn't quite work out that way.
Chalabi was in the mix, to be sure. He ran for the prime minister's spot
and was handily defeated, but resurrected himself long enough to become
the oil minister. He was a mover and a shaker, adept at playing both
ends against the middle, at one point standing as the avatar of American
power and at another fashioning himself as the anti-American savior of
And then his house got raided, and the whispers began to percolate.
Something happened with Iran, something bad, and soon enough it became
clear that Chalabi was playing a double game. Rumsfeld's promise to put
him in power, and to give him unfettered access to Iraq's vast oil
wealth, had not been fulfilled. Chalabi, therefore, switched sides.
Author James Bamford, in a meticulously researched article for Rolling
Stone titled "Iran: The
War," has finally and completely ripped the cover off exactly
Mr. Chalabi was doing while dressed in the clothing of an ally of the
"For years," wrote Bamford, "the National Security Agency had
the codes used by Iran to encrypt its diplomatic messages, enabling the
U.S. government to eavesdrop on virtually every communication between
Tehran and its embassies. After the U.S. invaded Baghdad, the NSA used
the codes to listen in on details of Iran's covert operations inside
Iraq. But in 2004, the agency intercepted a series of urgent messages
from the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. Intelligence officials at the
embassy had discovered the massive security breach - tipped off by
someone familiar with the U.S. code-breaking operation."
"The blow to intelligence-gathering could not have come at a worse
time," continued Bamford. "The Bush administration suspected that
Shiite government in Iran was aiding Shiite insurgents in Iraq, who were
killing U.S. soldiers. The administration was also worried that Tehran
was secretly developing nuclear weapons. Now, crucial intelligence that
might have shed light on those operations had been cut off, potentially
endangering American lives."
"On May 20th," continued Bamford, "shortly after the discovery
leak, Iraqi police backed by American soldiers raided Chalabi's home and
offices in Baghdad. The FBI suspected that Chalabi, a Shiite who had a
luxurious villa in Tehran and was close to senior Iranian officials, was
actually working as a spy for the Shiite government of Iran. Getting the
U.S. to invade Iraq was apparently part of a plan to install a
pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, with Chalabi in charge. The
bureau also suspected that Chalabi's intelligence chief had furnished
Iran with highly classified information on U.S. troop movements,
top-secret communications, plans of the provisional government and other
closely guarded material on U.S. operations in Iraq. On the night of the
raid, the CBS Evening News carried an exclusive report by correspondent
Lesley Stahl that the U.S. government had 'rock-solid' evidence that
Chalabi had been passing extremely sensitive intelligence to Iran -
evidence so sensitive that it could 'get Americans killed.'"
"The revelation," concluded Bamford regarding Chalabi's spying, "shocked
[Defense Intelligence Agency member Larry] Franklin and other members of
[Defense Department official Douglas] Feith's office. If true, the
allegations meant that they had just launched a war to put into power an
agent of their mortal enemy, Iran. Their man - the dissident leader who
sat behind the first lady in the president's box during the State of the
Union address in which Bush prepared the country for war - appeared to
have been working for Iran all along."
It is possible, by way of a long series of very deep breaths, to
objectively encompass the vast array of blunders, missteps and outright
catastrophes that have marked the passage of the Bush administration. We
lost two towers in New York. We lost the city of New Orleans. We invaded
and occupied a nation that was no threat to destroy weapons of mass
destruction that weren't there. A lot of people have been killed and
maimed, and our national bank account is deeply in the red.
And now comes this Chalabi revelation, and the deep breaths stop
working. This man manipulated the neo-conservatives within this
administration into an invasion with false information they were all too
willing to believe, and did so to gain himself a nation and its oil
revenues. Once this didn't work out, this man sold our soldiers and
intelligence services out to Iran in hopes of wrangling himself into
power by way of a Shiite-dominated Iraqi government run by remote
control out of Tehran.
Ahmad Chalabi was able to do all this because Donald Rumsfeld and the
Bush administration picked him, groomed him, touted him, championed him,
and helped him along every step of the way. Ahmad Chalabi was the
physical manifestation of their dreams for Iraq. He has become, instead,
the physical manifestation of absolutely everything that has gone
sideways since this catastrophe was first undertaken.
2,570 American soldiers are dead, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi
civilians. Those civilians are dying now at the rate of 100 a day,
according to the Washington Post, killed in the streets in a wave of
sectarian violence that has all but doomed that nation to complete
chaos. Iran, more than any other nation, reaps the benefits of this
Ahmad Chalabi has been many things to many people. Now, with the story
fully told, we know him to be a back-stabbing spy for Iran. We know him
to be responsible for an unimaginable number of deaths, thanks to the
assistance he gave Iran in tracking our troops and foiling our
We know him to be a long-time friend and boon companion of Donald Rumsfeld.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.