Chalabi to U.S.: “Thanks, suckers.”

Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, has basically called the United States a sucker to its face.

Thanks to Josh Marshall for spotting this, but Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Iraqi National Congress, has basically called the United States a sucker to its face.

“As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful,” Chalabi is quoted as saying. “That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.”

As Marshall points out, “What was said before” was the discredited claptrap about weapons of mass destruction that was used as a pretext for war. Much of the information about Iraq’s alleged WMD programs was funneled through the INC — information that has been universally discredited. “We are heroes in error,” said Chalabi.

And now, he said, all that is “not important.”

Every American should be outraged that Chalabi would be so open about conning the United States into sacrificing 547 American lives (and counting) and spending hundreds of billions (and counting) on a war sold to the American people as a cakewalk, necessary and supported by allies. It has been none of those things. Of course, America’s leaders were willingly conned, hopping into bed with Chalabi and his cronies and whispering, “lie to me, baby.” The Bush Administration was complicit in the con — a co-conspirator, even — and that, too, is inexcusable.

It is these lies from Chalabi and repeated by the Bush Administration that enrages those of us who opposed the war. What I don’t understand is why being lied to so baldly and badly doesn’t also send those who supported the war into apoplexy. And why aren’t the war-supporters also enraged by the awarding of $400 million in military contracts to a start-up company with extensive business and family ties to Chalabi?

(One $80-million contract went to Erinsys Iraq, formed in Iraq immediately after the invasion and which is bankrolled by Nour USA Ltd., incorporated in the United States in May 2003. A Chalabi friend of business partner, Abul Huda Farouki, founded Nour. As Newsday reports, “within days of the award last August, Nour became a joint venture partner with Erinys and the contract was amended to include Nour.” Chalabi personally received a $2-million fee for helping arrange the contract — a charge Chalabi denies. And soon after the contract was awarded, Erinsys Iraq started recruiting from the ranks of the Iraqi Free Forces, the INC’s feckless militia, leading other Iraqi officials to accuse Chalabi of raising a private army.)

That Chalabi and others in the INC have a clear conscience should not come as a surprise. They aren’t Americans and they don’t have to answer to the American people. Their interests lay in removing Saddam by any means necessary, even if it meant getting American soldiers to do the dirty work of dying. I can even understand that, sort of; I fully expect nationalists of any stripe to serve their country. But I can’t accept that Iraqi “patriots” — as Chalabi and his people no doubt call themselves — should pocket American taxpayers’ money while American soldiers are dying. And I really can’t stomach those American “patriots” at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. not only allowing that to happen but actively colluding with a convicted con-man. (By the way, the Pentagon is still paying the INC for information, having set aside between $3 million and $4 million for 2004.)

Make no mistake: “what was said before” is very important. This is not an “oops, my bad” kind of thing. Information fed by the INC to the Pentagon and repeated by the Bush Administration lead millions of Americans to believe that the safety of the nation was imperiled. That the war was necessary, if nothing else. That the men and women who died did not do so in vain. To have Chalabi dismiss all that as “not important” is an insult of staggering callousness.

“The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat,” Chalabi said. “We’re ready to fall on our swords if he wants.” Don’t bother, Ahmad. More than 500 good men and women have already done so.

Sunday Express: Bin Laden ‘Cornered’

The Sunday Express in London is reporting that U.S. and British Special Forces have “cornered” Osama bin Laden.

The _Sunday Express_ in London is reporting that U.S. and British Special binladen.jpg
Osama bin Laden, the Napoleon of Terror
Forces have cornered Osama bin Laden in the mountains of northwestern Pakistan and are just waiting for the word to go get him. We’ll see how this plays out. The _Express_ isn’t always the most reliable of newspapers.
_[I updated the link to a better version of the story — thanks, Steve! — and corrected a misspelled word in title. “Cornerd”? Jeeze. — Ed.]_
UPDATE 8:04 PM EST Pakistan is “denying any knowledge that bin Laden is trapped”:,4057,8764279%255E401,00.html.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said bin Laden had not been “boxed in”.
“I do not have any such information,” he said.

Curiouser and curiouser. There have been mutterings of bin Laden’s imminent capture for weeks, and the “spring offensive”: against the tribal areas is likely gearing up. I thought it was weird that the U.S. was so open about its plans to step up against al Qaeda, but on reflection, feel the Pentagon was trying to flush bin Laden out. Has it done so or is this just more disinformation designed to spread confusion among bin Laden’s followers?

An email received, questions asked

An email I received today from a soldier’s wife asks some hard questions as to why America is in Iraq. The author has good reason to be concerned.

I received this email today:

Well, I was going to post a comment, but it just didn’t seem appropriate because I didn’t really have anything to add. I’m a military spouse, and this is the first time I’ve ever even heard of your website. My husband, who happens to be a Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, was deployed last Saturday (whoever picked that date should be shot, I swear! :)) back to Iraq. Since I can’t get a straight answer out of his command, or the military in general, let alone any government official (huge surprise there…). I was wondering if you could offer some insight into exactly why we are sending thousands of troops back into Iraq this month. I understand that their purpose, ostensibly, is to relieve those that have been on the ground for a year now, but I thought that we would be receiving some relief from other countries’ troops, and that now that we were no longer officially on a wartime footing, the number of our troops in Iraq would be decreased, not increased.
Anyway, call me crazy (or maybe I just misunderstand), but the entire situation lacks any sort of sense that I can detect. A transition of power is all well and good, but if it’s to be anything other than a puppet government, shouldn’t the UN be directing it, not GWB?
Any input would be appreciated…
Julia [Last name withheld by request]

Julia has agreed to allow me to post her email and my response. Here it is.
First of all, I hope your husband will be OK. I’m so sorry he shipped out on Saturday (Valentine’s Day), and it seems that the military has the mother of all bad timings. My best friend in the world has also been mobilized (He’s Army Reserve) and he’s due over there in early March. He has two daughters (5 and 3) and a lovely wife. They mobilized him a week or so before Christmas, and gave him five days to get his affairs in order.
Anyway, on to your question: Yeah, it’s the largest troop rotation since WWII, and it’s to spell the guys who have been there for a year. But your question is more about why isn’t anyone helping us out. Well, there are several reasons:

  1. Bush alienated so many allies in the run-up to the war that they’re disinclined to support us now, especially if, like France and Germany, they have massive majorities in their populations opposed to the war. Even if France and Germany wanted to help out (and there are growing signs that they do) it will be very difficult for them to do so without sparking massive protests in the streets of Paris and Berlin. They’re democracies, after all, and they do have to listen to the voters on occasion.
  2. Rumsfeld blew it and put in too few men when the Americans first went in. That initial mistake is a root cause of the main problem: a lack of security. Many foreign governments don’t want to send their soldiers to fight a war — again one that their people probably opposed. Peacekeeping is one thing, fighting a war is another.
  3. The Bush Administration has not evidenced a willingness to trust the U.N. — not without reason. The U.N. probably isn’t in step with American goals in Iraq, which were not WMD or freeing the Iraqi people, but far more about maintaining a strategic base of operations in the heart of the Middle East from which to pressure Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Check out Why Iraq? as to my theories on this.

As to why there’s an increase in the number of troops, it’s got to do with overlapping and training the new guys. But there are also some thoughts that the 200,000+ that will be in Iraq during the rotation will be for a spring offensive against the insurgents. We’ll see what happens.
Best wishes, and give my respect and regards to your husband, please.
thank you,
By publishing Julia’s letter, I’m hoping to spark a dialogue among the readers, so she might gain a deeper insight.

Very busy

I’ve been extremely busy these last few weeks, and it’s affected the frequency that I can post here. My apologies.

Sorry, all, for the paucity of posts. I’ve been trying to cram about six columns and four features for the magazine where I freelance before my May departure date. I’m also teaching again, and that takes up some time in preparation. Finally, i try to study my Arabic as much as I can. I’m also researching a story on the hawala money-trading system. Something has had to give and frequent posts was the victim.
The upside is that with so much freelance work crammed into a short amount of time, it will bring in a fair amount of scratch. The downside is obvious: I don’t have the time to write so much about stories such as the United Nations nixing the plans for early elections and whether there are circumstances under which NATO might help out in Iraq.
So, again, my apologies. I wish I could write more often. I will write as often as I can.
Thanks for your understanding.

Civil War a Real Possibility

This is not good. Insurgents shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) staged a daylight raid on a security compound and Iraqi police station today, killing 20 and freeing upwards of 70 prisoners. This was the second attack on the station in two days, with Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command and Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., 82nd Airborne Division commander, escaping injury in the previous attack. Are these the opening salvoes of an Iraqi civil war?

This is not good. Insurgents shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) staged a daylight raid on a security compound and Iraqi police station today, killing at least 20 and freeing upwards of 70 prisoners. This was the second attack on the station in two days, with Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command and Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., 82nd Airborne Division commander, escaping injury in the previous attack.
The Iraqi police were apparently no match against today’s attackers.

The brazen, bloody battle on the heels of the Abizaid attack raised questions about the preparedness of some Iraqi police and defense units to take on security duties as the U.S. administration wants. After the Thursday attack, Abizaid said of the Iraqi civil defense unit in Fallujah: ”Obviously they are not fully trained. They’re not ready.”

One Iraqi policeman not injured in the attack said he may leave the force if things don’t get better. “We joined the police to provide security, but no one wants security, they (insurgents and criminals) want to chaos to continue.”
Police Lt. Col. Jalal Sabri complained that the Iraqi security forces still don’t have adequate weapons or training. “We don’t have any kind of heavy weapons, no effective weapons,” just automatic rifles, he said. Today’s attackers wore masks, carried hand grenades and used heavy machine guns, mortars and RPGs, according to NPR and the Associated Press.
In general, it’s been a bad week in Iraq. Six U.S. troops have died since Feb. 9, and eight were wounded in attacks, roadside bomb explosions and accidents. The USAID, the American aid agency, said in a confidential report that violence in general is on the upswing and that the country faces a real danger of “Balkanization.”
“High-intensity attacks involving mortars, hand-grenades and small-arms more than doubled from 316 in December to 642 in January; non-life threatening attacks including drive-by shootings and rock-throwing rose from 182 in December to 522 in January. The report also recorded a total of 11 attacks on coalition aircraft.”
The report said some of the civilian violence was ethnic, and noted that that several corpses, probably of ex-Ba’athists, were found in the south “with hands bound and bullet wounds to the head.”
On the one hand, the attack against Abizaid could be seen as a failure. They didn’t kill him. But as Stratfor points out, the chance of success in such an attack was low anyway. Abizaid is well-protected by highly armed, well trained troops. But Stratfor also points out that the attack itself was a gutsy move. The attackers got off three RPGs and the Americans got lucky. And today’s prison break, in broad daylight, should be seen for what it is: a major success for the insurgents.
This is a real problem. Since September 2003, the Americans have stepped up the offensive against the insurgency by sending intelligence teams into the “Sunni Triangle” armed with cash to buy information. They captured Saddam Hussein in December. The guerillas were thought to have been scattered into smaller groups that weren’t able to coordinate.
From the USAID report, it seems the guerillas have intensified their efforts and reestablished their communication and coordination networks. In short, it now appears that the U.S. is at best holding steady against the insurgents and could very well be losing ground again 11 months after the start of the war. In a guerilla war, if you’re not gaining ground, you’re losing.
Adding to the volatility, the United Nations said elections were unlikely before the planned June 30 transfer of sovereignty.

“It’s not a question of delaying (the handover). It’s finding a new timetable,” Ahmad Fawzi told BBC radio. “Elections will take place when the country is ready and that will be after the handover of power.”
Fawzi, a spokesperson for UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, was speaking a day after Brahimi held talks with top Iraqi Shi’a cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has spearheaded calls for elections before the June 30 handover.

Brahimi and Sistani are in a delicate dance, with everyone looking at the Americans to see if they have a handle on the situation. If attacks are increasing both in number, intensity and boldness then it’s pretty obvious that the plans for the sovereignty transfer is in serious jeopardy.
Looming over all the violence and uncertainty is the spectre of civil war, which was made all the more real by the horrific twin car bombings earlier this week which killed more than 100 Iraqis. And, as noted, the frustrations and tensions are spreading. In Kurdish Suleimaniya, thousands demonstrated for an independent Kurdistan that includes the three autonomous provinces and the disputed Kirkuk province.
In an NPR story this morning (sorry, no link yet), one expert warned of a civil war that was “a combination of Lebanon and the Congo,” which should send a chill down anyone’s back. A massive civil war in the Middle East would mean Turkey, Iran, Syria and possibly Jordan and Saudi Arabia would be forced to intervene. The region is home to 64 percent of the world’s proven crude oil reserves. A massive disruption of that supply would send the world economy into crisis that could spark other regional conflicts as countries scramble for reliable crude supplies.
It would be better to delay the transfer and prepare for the earliest possible elections that are transparent and fair than rush a transition that could lead to a spiral of violence that could lead to a catastrophe.

Military Strapped, General Angry

The 2005 Bush budget includes no funds for the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, which means the services will have to make do until a supplemental appropriation comes through. Also, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker failed to say to the Senate Armed Services Committee if he supports the invasion of Iraq. His silence speaks volumes.

Shameful. Because President Bush’s 2005 budget didn’t include any spending for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military will run out of funding at the end of September unless Bush requests a supplemental appropriation.
Now, this is an important story, and shows the depths of dishonesty to which this administration will sink when it comes to cooking the books. Or maybe it’s just incompetence. Congress approved two administration requests last year totalling nearly $166 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, which were _not_ popular — especially that $87 billion Bush asked for. The president is going to have to come back and ask for more money, and if he waits until the end of September that won’t go down well with the voters. Joshua Bolten, the White House budget director, said a supplemental bill could be as much as $50 billion.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Army is spending $3.7 billion a month in Iraq and $900 million a month in Afghanistan.
But the most interesting part of the story came when committee chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., asked the joint chiefs if they had any doubts about the intelligence they had before the war. The story says, “Three said they still support the decision to go to war, in spite of questions being raised about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction at the time U.S. troops invaded.”
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper and Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations, all said they supported going to war despite doubts about the intelligence regarding Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Gen. Schoomaker didn’t “address the issue,” the story says.
That’s interesting. The general in charge of the branch that’s taking it on the chin in Iraq declines to state he supports his commander-in-chief’s decision to go to war? He wasn’t on active duty at the time, yes, but if he supports the decision, he wouldn’t be criticized for saying, “I wasn’t on active duty when we went to war, but I support the decision now that I’m in charge of the Army.” No one in the White House would fault him for that. But he can’t criticize his commander-in-chief, even implicitly; it’s not allowed under Title 10, Section 888, Article 88 of the U.S. Code.

Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

So rather than risk court-martial or a demand for his resignation, he shuts up, begs off. I think with the lack of financial support from the White House, and the less than full-throated defense of the president’s policies from one of his joint chiefs, Bush has made some enemies in the services.
Hardly surprising. To date, one U.S. soldier is missing and 535 are dead in Iraq. Exactly 100 have died in Afghanistan. More than 2,600 soldiers have been wounded, and that number is likely much higher. Most of those casualties have been U.S. Army, and now the Bush White House forces the Armed services to dip into their maintenance and modernizing funds to fight two hot wars? That maintenance and modernizing money is used to replace old weapons with new ones. It’s to replace tires, boots, damaged bullet-proof vests and pay for ammunition. It’s not money for sexy, new, expensive weapons system — it’s money that keeps American soldiers alive. Schoomaker knows this, and his silence speaks volumes.

Smoking gun? What’s Bill Smoking?

Bill Safire strangely uses the Zarqawi memo as proof that Saddam had links to al Qaeda. Instead it’s proof that the U.S. invasion has opened opportunities previously denied to terrorists.

There he goes again. Bill Safire is beating the same old drum about al Qaeda and Saddam using faulty logic. This time, he points to the 17-page letter captured from Hassan Gul, who appears to have been acting as a courier between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan. The letter asks al Qaeda to reinforce Ansar al-Islam in its attacks on Shi’ite targets in the hopes of sparking a “sectarian war.” Zarqawi appears to be the author of the letter, according to U.S. sources.
(By the way, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has expressed uncertainty regarding the authenticity of the Zarqawi memo.)
Bill Safire toots his own horn:

On Sept. 24, 2001 — not two weeks after 9/11 — Kurdish sources led me to report: “The clear link between the terrorist in hiding [Osama] and the terrorist in power [Saddam] can be found in Kurdistan. . . . The Iraqi dictator has armed and financed a fifth column of Al Qaeda mullahs and terrorists. . . . Some 400 ‘Arab Afghan’ mercenaries . . . have already murdered a high Kurdish official as well as a Muslim scholar who dared to interpret the Koran humanely.”

Well, sure there were and are links between Ansar and al Qaeda. I pointed that out in January last year. But a linkage between Ansar and Osama doesn’t prove a linkage between Saddam Hussein and Osama. As I wrote then:

No doubt Saddam is providing funding to the group in an effort to destabilze Iraqi Kurdistan. But other countries are funding the group, including Iran and Turkey. The Kurds realize that their neighbors have no interest in seeing an independent Kurdistan and will support any group that might thwart those ambitions.
… Because [Ansar al-Islam militants] are operating in an area that has been freed of Baghdad’s influence I find it hard to believe that they are operating with Saddam’s “blessing.” More likely, Tehran is helping them more than Baghdad is, and the Iraqi president is taking advantage of their presence to keep the Kurds off balance. Getting money from both Saddam and al Qa’ida does not logically lead to a linkage between Iraq and Osama bin Laden. Ansar wants to destroy the Kurdish secular government and set up an Islamic state under shar’ia, the harsh Islamic law of the Taliban. Baghdad, however, is a secular gangster regime. If Ansar were ever to gain control of Iraqi Kurdistan — an impossible dream for the insurgents — Baghdad would immediately launch a campaign to crush the Islamists, who have no intention of co-existing peacefully with Saddam. I might add, too, that if the above scenario were to come to pass, the United States would be glad to see Saddam wipe them out.

Safire starts wrapping his flights of illogical linking with this quote: “Of the liberation’s three casus belli, one was to stop mass murder, bloodier than in Kosovo; we are finding horrific mass graves in Iraq. Another was informed suspicion that a clear link existed between world terror and Saddam; this terrorist plea for Qaeda reinforcements to kill Iraqi democracy is the smoking gun proving that.”
Hm. Seems to me that linking Saddam to world terror in early 2004 would require Saddam Hussein to actually, oh, I don’t know, be in power and in control of Iraq. Last time I checked he was a guest of the U.S. military and hadn’t been running the country since April 2003. Safire is becoming some kind of Jaubert-like figure on this meme that has been denied by almost everyone — now — in the White House. The exception being, of course, Vice President DIck Cheney.
I have no doubt al Qaeda and Ansar are operating in Iraq and attempting to spark a civil war. It’s part of the terror network’s spring offensive. But Iraq is one of the battlefields because the chaos and insecurity of the country following the invasion last March has given Islamist terrorists a freer range of movement in a country that previously was closed to them. The failed policies of the Bush Defense Department regarding Iraq has created a failed state, which is conducive to allowing terrorists to work and live. The Zarqawi memo isn’t proof a Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda; it’s proof that the American occupation of Iraq opened up opportunities for al Qaeda to act where it couldn’t before.