Friday's papers point to a pivotal moment that pulled the wool from many U.S. officials' eyes. Chalabi had convinced his backers that he would be able to rally large numbers of Iraqis into taking up the sword against Saddam. In 1998, he convinced backers like Trent Lott (R-MS) and Jesse Helms to shove the Iraq Liberation Fund through Congress, which then poured millions into his group, ostensibly to encourage mass defections from Saddam's armies and take control of the country. That never happened, but a year ago, "as U.S. troops swept toward Baghdad, Ahmad Chalabi and about 400 hastily assembled fighters were secretly airlifted into southern Iraq to rally other Iraqis and begin a march toward Baghdad to help topple Saddam Hussein. Chalabi had predicted that he would become Iraq's Spartacus, mobilizing vast numbers behind him, according to U.S. officials.
... the White House threw good money after bad and continued to fund him to the tune of $340,000 a month until last week.
Conservatives were quick to seize on Chalabi as the hope of the future. Sens. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), as well as "Sen. Sam Brownback and David Schieffer, the [then] ambassador at large for war crimes," all "pledged their support" at a 1999 Iraqi National Congress summit in New York. Time Magazine wrote on 11/8/99 that Lott claimed, "I have repeatedly stated that the Iraqi National Congress has been effective in the past and can be effective in the future."
Perhaps Ahmad Chalabi's largest backer was senior Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, a major advocate of going to war with Iraq. Instead of admitting the egregious error in handing this power-mad exile so much money and power, Perle defended him to the end, even taking a swipe at the United States. Yesterday, Perle said, "The CIA despises Chalabi; the State Department despises him. They did everything they could to put him out of business. Now there is a deliberate effort to marginalize him." Perle added, "He has devoted his life to freeing his country...He is a man of enormous intelligence, and I believe the effort to marginalize him will fail. They will end up looking ridiculous."
"He has certain levers of power," said Diamond. "He's a shrewd player, and much of that power comes from the ministries that he controls."
As head of the Iraqi Governing Council's economic and finance committee, Chalabi has been able to install his relatives or friends as the minister of oil, the minister of finance, the central bank governor, the trade minister, the head of the trade bank and the managing director of Iraq's largest commercial bank. These connections reportedly have allowed firms controlled by his allies to make millions in government contracts.
(my remark: But this was of course OK for the Bush guys since that gave them control since Chalabi was their inside man)
But Chalabi's power in Washington has been even greater than it is in Baghdad.
Chalabi, who has degrees in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, has long allied himself with U.S. neoconservatives who advocated an American invasion to overthrow Hussein.
These allies -- ranging from Vice President Dick Cheney to Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, State Department official John Bolton and Pentagon adviser Richard Perle -- relied heavily on Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress to produce evidence about Hussein's alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. This information formed the central justification behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Much of the evidence eventually proved false, and some U.S. officials now conclude that it was fabricated, presumably by Chalabi's U.S.-funded organization of spies, exiles and hangers-on.
He was given control of the entire archive of the Hussein regime's secret documents, as well as the so-called de-Baathification process.