Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Bush Administration Should Follow Lead of Iraqi Voters And Reject Chalabi

It's time for the U.S. to part ways with Ahmed Chalabi.

It seemed that even the Bush Administration was through with Chalabi last year, when the FBI began an investigation into whether Chalabi shared with Iranian officials closely guarded information about U.S. methods used to spy on the Iranian regime, as well as notifying Iranian officials that American intelligence had broken Iran's secret communications codes. This after Chalabi shrugged off the fact that the Iraqi National Congress had provided false information to the Bush Administration -- some would suggest it fed the administration information it wanted to hear -- about pre-war Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction.

But it's not easy to break ties with the man conservatives once dubbed the "George Washington of Iraq."

Even with the ongoing FBI investigation, Chalabi weaseled his way back into good favor with the administration, holding a round of meetings last month with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley. How? With help from BKSH & Associates, a K Street lobbying firm headed by Republican insider Charles Black.

But now, even the Bush Administration should admit that the U.S. folly with Chalabi has to end.

Preliminary results from the recent Iraq election show that Chalabi and the INC are not popular.

During the campaign, Chalabi's campaign posters proclaimed "We Liberated Iraq." Maybe that was a mistake. Maybe many Iraqi voters took the "We" to mean "Me and the U.S.A." And one thing anyone associated with the U.S. should realize is that Iraqis recognize propaganda when they see it.

Iraqis have made clear that they want to be led by Iraqis, not U.S.-backed puppets. The INC scored a minuscule 0.36 percent of the votes in Baghdad, and just 0.34 percent in the Shiite city of Basra. In the violent Sunni province of Anbar, 113 people voted for him.

That has led Chalabi to say that the election results are fraudulent. But that should be a tough sell with Bush and his administration, which has proclaimed the Iraq elections a "resounding success."

Who will win this battle of spin? Will the elections be a success, except for the INC results? Or will the Bush Administration once and for all cut ties with Chalabi and the INC?

***

This is a bad marriage, in which both sides used the other for selfish reasons.

Chalabi and the INC have taken advantage of the U.S. financially -- to the tune of $100 million over 13 years, including $39 million from the Bush Administration. Facts be damned, the INC used the United States to complete its quest of toppling Saddam.

Chalabi doesn't care that he lied to us, perhaps because he knows that the neoconservatives were looking for a "patriot" to embody their belief that the U.S. should topple Saddam, and in doing so would be greeted as liberators.

The neocons may get their wish of a Democratic Iraq, albeit not for the reasons stated by the Bush Administration in the run up to war.

But with multiple excuses to rid themselves of Chalabi -- the FBI investigation, the false pre-war information on Iraqi WMD, the INC's lack of popular support today -- it's time for the Bush Administration to stop taking calls placed on Chalabi's behalf by his Republican lobbyist friends. It's time for them to say goodbye to this selfish loser.

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