“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.