Chalabi Timeline

Kevin Drum has assembled a timeline of Ahmed Chalabi’s activities from graduating with a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1969 to today in an attempt to answer the question Why exactly is Ahmed Chalabi hated by so many people?

Bottom line: practically every group that has ever worked with Chalabi has eventually felt betrayed by him. This includes, at a minimum: (1) the Jordanian government, (2) the CIA, (3) the State Department, (4) Paul Bremer and the CPA, (5) the United Nations, (6) the NSC, and (7) the DIA. Oh — and quite possibly, (8) George W. Bush.

But at least the cuddly ayatollahs in Iran still seem to like him. It’s good to have at least a few friends who stay loyal through thick and thin.

An impressive record to be sure. Clearly, Chalabi is a very talented and charming individual, able to continuously reinvent himself and become chummy with powerful people. But being distrusted by both the CIA and the State Department–a hard trick indeed–should have sent up a giant red flag.

Update: Bob Novak makes similar observations in today’s column.

There was no lack of warning to the Pentagon about its commitment to Chalabi. Jordan’s King Abdullah told senators that he informed the Bush administration that Chalabi, wanted on criminal charges in Jordan, is a ”thug.” The leading two Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel — issued similar warnings. The CIA informed President Bush that the INC’s intelligence about Iraq was unreliable and often just plain wrong. Powell and Armitage were precise in their forecasts of the embarrassments ahead.


Will Bush ask uncomfortable questions about how this man ended up wielding authority over Iraq? Republican senators, who do not yet want to be quoted by name, feel there must be some accountability for this massive blunder, as there must be for the prisoner abuse scandal. They want the president at least to consider whether Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and others should pay with their jobs for putting Chalabi in power.

It’s certainly a fair question. I resisted the calls for Rumsfeld’s ouster when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, as it seemed pretty ridiculous to blame him for something so far outside his span of control. Increasingly, though, it appears that the problem extends much higher, possibly as high as Rumsfeld’s fair haired boy Douglas Feith.

The combination of the prison abuses themselves, the absolute bungling of the handling of the politics of the scandal coverage–allowing the steady drip, drip, drip of news rather than cauterizing the wound–and the Chalabi debacle may indeed be enough to warrant a major cabinet reshuffling.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.