Man Without Qualities

Friday, June 04, 2004

Herr Doktorprofessor Tells The Truth! III: Mr. Chalabi's Secrets

The Man Without Qualities does not know Ahmad Chalabi personally, but the already superhot invective and wild maneuvering surrounding him is absolutely fascinating. To read Mr. Okrent from the New York Times, one could easily conclude that the only meaningful question remaining concerning Mr. Chalabi whether his constant prevarication is pathological or merely strategic:

On Friday, May 21, a front-page article by David E. Sanger ("A Seat of Honor Lost to Open Political Warfare") elegantly characterized Chalabi as "a man who, in lunches with politicians, secret sessions with intelligence chiefs and frequent conversations with reporters from Foggy Bottom to London's Mayfair, worked furiously to plot Mr. Hussein's fall." The words "from The Times, among other publications" would have fit nicely after "reporters" in that sentence. The aggressive journalism that I long for, and that the paper owes both its readers and its own self-respect, would reveal not just the tactics of those who promoted the W.M.D. stories, but how The Times itself was used to further their cunning campaign.

But, as the Wall Street Journal points out, Chalabi personally has by no means been shown to be the kind of sinister prevaricator the Times and Okrent are making him out to be. If the Times didn't do enough checking and follow-up to suit their current or previous standards, fine. But the efforts to twist their own deficiencies into an excuse for a purer shade of hostility towards Bush in their reporting is disingenuous and -- as Don Luskin correctly put it -- rings fundamentally false.

There are well-known signs that Mr. Chalabi has been in a kind of death battle with George Tenet - who has now resigned as head of the CIA without good explanation.

And now, entirely contrary to the spirit of the New York Times' castigation of Mr. Chalabi, we have a very high profile defense of Mr. Chalabi coming from the Defense Department:

The U.S. military has rated intelligence from the Iraqi National Congress led by Ahmad Chalabi as the best received from any anti-Saddam Iraqi group.

A U.S. Army report determined that INC intelligence was the best of five Iraqi organizations that helped topple the Saddam regime. The report said INC tactical military information provided accurate and wide-ranging intelligence on the situation in Iraqi cities and the location of leading Saddam aides.

"In the final analysis, the INC has been directly responsible for saving the lives of numerous soldiers as a result of early warning and providing surveillance of known enemy elements," the army report said.

The report was commissioned in March 2004 as part of a Defense Department review of the cooperation by five Iraqi organizations, including Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish groups.

The Defense Department is, of course, headed by Donald Rumsfeld, who only yesterday said that while he was aware of the press reports that an investigation was underway regarding allegations that Mr. Chalabi had betrayed the US to Iran by disclosing the fact that the US had broken the Iranian code, a piece of information Mr. Chalabi was never supposed to have and says he didn't have. Mr. Rumsfeld said had no personal knowledge of any such investigation: "I don't know that there is an investigation. I said I've read that in the press. If there is one then that's a good thing because people ought to be investigating possible wrongdoing, if there has been wrongdoing." Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides have, of course, historically been big supporters of Mr. Chalabi. The President recently backed Mr. Rumsfeld strongly and publicly in the face of his critics efforts to use the Abu Graib situation to dislodge the Defense Secretary.

Just how good is Donald Rumsfeld's relationship with George Tenet, anyway?

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