Courtesy Reuters

The End of the Chalabi Affair?

Of all the curious features of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, none has been curiouser than the administration's love affair with the erstwhile Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi. His generous monthly stipend was cut off recently, and even some of his strongest supporters at the Pentagon seem to be backing away from him now amid charges that key members of his organization, the Iraqi National Congress, passed secret intelligence to Iran. Yet historians will ask not only why he ultimately fell from grace, but rather how he could possibly have maintained his position as the administration's favorite Iraqi for so long in the face of a nearly unblemished record of error and deceit over the years.

Prior to his recent problems, Chalabi was most notorious for his role in feeding faulty intelligence to the United States and others about the urgent and dire threat posed by Saddam's unconventional weapons programs. The source of many of the Bush administration's starkest and now discredited prewar charges, Chalabi himself had few regrets, telling London's a few months ago that he and his colleagues were "heroes in error. As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."

Long before the intelligence scandals, however, Chalabi had been a controversial figure. He was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars from a Jordanian bank in the 1980s, and the CIA soured on him when he failed to deliver on promises to galvanize a viable opposition to Saddam Hussein during the early and mid 1990s. By the late 1990s, however, Chalabi had reemerged as a tireless advocate for the idea that Saddam could be overthrown at little cost and with little effort, were U.S. officials only willing to give the INC some support and help it take some Iraqi territory.

Appearing when Americans were increasingly uncomfortable with the existing policy of containment, Chalabi's views about "rollback" found favor with a number

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