November 14, 2015


Ahmed Chalabi was right that Saddam Hussein had to be removed (Chibli Mallat, 11/10/15, The Guardian)

If one had to single out an Iraqi leader responsible for ending Saddam Hussein's 40-year dictatorship, only deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi would qualify. Both friends and enemies will grant that. Beyond it, however, the dinner table goes up in flames. I never met a person who provokes such passion in Washington, London, Beirut or Baghdad.

Chalabi holds a special place among those who opposed dictatorship. His sudden death was a big shock. I regret the way that controversy over weapons of mass destruction and Chalabi's financial probity tainted his image. I have seen him dealing with several organisations over the years - the International Committee for a Free Iraq; the Iraq Trust, designed to share the proceeds of oil exports equitably among Iraqis; and Indict, formed to try Saddam et al. There were healthy disagreements in all three ventures, but there wasn't once a whiff of impropriety in Chalabi's dealings.

As for WMD, my recollection starts in the mid-1990s. Chalabi had a good rapport with US thinktank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, or Winep. A long lecture he gave there focused on the danger that Ba'athist Iraq represented for regional and international security. It was couched in WMD-talk language. I didn't object; in Halabja, gas had been used deliberately by a government for the first time since the first world war. This was a good reason to request accountability for the crime, and sufficient to indict the Iraqi leadership and remove it from power. The prospective use of WMD was more intricate morally, especially because Israel had built nuclear weapons in the Middle East. I argued that the reason we worked against dictatorship was for what it did more than for what it might do. I distinctly remember Chalabi's response: "This is what they want to hear."

...that was why W let Blair and Powell run with the WMD argument.

Posted by at November 14, 2015 10:18 AM