November 12, 2003

There's A Rat In The Kitchen

I remember living in London about 10 years ago and seeing news stories about how the UK government was trying to help build up an "Iraqi Opposition" to topple Saddam Hussein. Western governments were befuddled by the Iraqi people's inability to rise up spontaneously and overthrow the despot, so they eagerly courted Iraqi dissidents and tried to help them form a more unified opposition. Even then, it was a hopeless case.

Like Tito in Yugoslavia, Saddam had cleverly exploited tribal ethnic and religious tensions to keep his opponents eternally wary of each other. Sunnis, Kurds, Shi-ites - they all hated each other.

Then along came Ahmed Chalabi. This man was a dream come true for the Western spy agencies. He talked their language and he seemed to be able to always provide them with exactly the right information. He knew exactly where the WMDs were being hidden, how many tonnes of anthrax Saddam was hiding in the desert, how far his nuclear programs had gone, how closely he was tied to Al Quaeda and other terrorists. Eureka!

The truth is, the US and British governments were so desperate to find an Iraqi Opposition that they actually CREATED Ahmed Chalibi. He was just a clever con-man who saw their need and offered them exactly what they wanted - information. In return, they wined and dined him for years. Chalibi was given the red carpet treatment in London, Paris and Washington.

As his perceived influence grew, his power base among Iraqis also began to grow. Soon he really WAS someone important. By the time the US invaded Baghdad, he was the obvious puppet leader of the provisional Iraqi government-in-waiting. Just the kind of guy the CIA could count on to keep quiet about oil pipeline deals and such.

But ordinary Iraqis had never heard of Ahmed Chalibi, unless it was in reference to his widely publicised fraud conviction in Jordan.

Then came the war. While US forces were toppling statues, Chalibi's supporters formed armed gangs that went around Baghdad intimidating people in a desperate bid to build influence and take advantage of the chaos. Chalibi himself appeared on chat shows around the world, sounding less and less believable every day.

Now that the US is getting bogged down in Iraq, the neo-cons want Chalibi to act. They want him to show some leadership, to bring the Iraqi Governing Council into line, to produce visible results for their US TV audience - like a draft consitution, for starters. But the truth is, Chalibi is incapable of anything like that. So are most of the other hand-picked puppets of the Governing Council, most of whom spend their time overseas "brokering deals" in plush restaurants and hotels.

So now it's showdown time. Yesterday Paul Bremer was rushed back to Washington for urgent discussions. The neo-cons are now telling Chalibi and his Council colleagues that if they can't get their acts together, they will be replaced. In return, the council is demanding an immediate handover of power. Either way, the Iraqi people lose: they get prolongued chaos under US occupational foreces, or they get an incompetent government that will probably not be able to stop a descent into civil war.

As the Council members know, the big question for Bush is: WHO IS GOING TO REPLACE THEM???

This is just another sign of the Bush administration's childish simplification of very complex issues. How else do you convince yourself that you can waltz into two Arab countries in two years and be welcomed by grateful citizens waving US flags? How else do you imagine that you can defy the international community and not become an international pariah?

Or perhaps, at this stage, with elections looming and polls plummetting, it has become a blame game. Perhaps Chalibi will become the World's Greatest Fraud, a new Face Of Evil (replacing Osama and then Saddam). Perhaps Bush & Co. will choose to blame Chalibi and his Council for failing to establish a viable government within their allocated timeframe ("everything would've been just dandy if these dang Iraqis had gotten their acts together").

Perhaps they will also blame Chalibi for the false information they received in the leadup to the war. That will take the blame off both the White House and the CIA (who will be duly grateful). Now THERE'S an exit strategy!

If the US public buys such a line, it could get Bush across the line in 2004. That is all Bush and his team want. Once they are re-elected, as you well know, they will do whatever they please. Four more years to tarry in Iraq, get the oil wells functioning properly, and start reaping the benefits of their "grand plan" (aka the Project For A New American Century).

As I said on Saturday, May 31, 2003 (only my second post on this Blog) perhaps the Bush boyz never really planned to fix Iraq in a hurry. Perhaps they plan to hang around as long as possible, maintaining an acceptable level of chaos as an excuse for their presence. Because the longer US troops can hang around, the more oil the Bush boyz get their hands on. Plus they keep their military poised for action right in the Middle of the East, exactly where the big money is.

Yee ha! Feel the power!


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