Ahmad Chalabi, center, former Pentagon favorite in Iraq, arrives to a reopening of a Sunni mosque in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, Iraq, in this Feb. 10, 2007 file photo.
Karim Kadim/AP

A blast from the neocons’ past

When it comes to U.S. policy in Iraq, the feeling of deja vu is hard to miss. Dick Cheney is all over the airwaves; the media is treating Ken Pollack and Doug Feith as credible experts; Bill Kristol and John McCain are repeating familiar talking points; and even Judith Miller is around, complaining about the media.
 
If only there was some ridiculous bow we could put on top of this absurd box. Oh look, there’s one.
Despite some troubling episodes over the past decade, at least two top advisers to President George W. Bush think Ahmad Chalabi could be the one to save Iraq.
 
Chalabi, 69, is also the one credited with giving the Bush administration tenuous justification for invading Iraq, delivering false intelligence that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He was later accused of spying on the U.S. for Iran.
This is not satire, in case you were wondering.
 
In fact, the National Journal piece reports that Richard Perle – yes, there’s been a Richard Perle sighting – is talking up Chalabi as the right leader for Iraq. “Chalabi is far and away the most competent and the most capable of salvaging this situation,” Perle said.
 
He’s not the only one. Paul Wolfowitz, who also seems to be spending quite a bit of time in the public eye lately, his failures notwithstanding, also had kind words for Chalabi during a Bloomberg News interview over the weekend.
 
“The man is a survivor,” Wolfowitz said. “That’s impressive. I think he wants to succeed in what he does, he’s smart; maybe he’ll figure out a way to do it.”
 
What’s more, the New York Times reported just last week:
He took millions of dollars from the C.I.A., founded and was accused of defrauding the second-biggest bank in Jordan and sold the Bush administration a bill of goods on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
 
At first championed by the Bush administration’s neoconservatives as a potential leader of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi ended up persona non grata, effectively barred from the wartime American Embassy here. Now, in an improbable twist of fate, Mr. Chalabi is being talked about as a serious candidate for prime minister. He has also been back to the embassy.
Eric Boehlert noted some relevant details that the NYT report didn’t mention: “Chalabi was reportedly the main source of bogus information that former Times reporter Judith Miller used in her thoroughly discredited work about Iraq’s supposedly brimming stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.”
 
The fact that former Bush/Cheney officials are still, even now, talking up Chalabi’s name tells us quite a bit about how far the policy debate has progressed – or in this case, hasn’t – over the last 12 or so years.
 

Foreign Policy, Iraq and Neoconservatives

A blast from the neocons' past