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[casi] Ah, to be the breath of Iraq's liberation

Satires of Ahmed Chalabi move into the mainstream, and into today's Minneapolis
StarTribune ...

- Drew Hamre


Ah, to be the breath of Iraq's liberation

You are Ahmed Chalabi! You left Iraq when you were 12 years old, but history
doesn't matter. You are the future of Iraq, and the very breath of its

So go, you Armani-clad warrior, to arms, and ride with the wind.

You're Ahmed Chalabi! You collect a Ph.D. from Wolfowitz's school. You collect
31 felony indictments from Jordan. You collect friends from every gutter of the
Beltway (Rumsfeld, Lieberman, McCain). You finagle the promise of $97 million
from Congress! Now suit up, you Rolex-armored samurai. Go with the wind.

You are Ahmed Chalabi! "The time to overthrow Saddam is now," you write in 1993.
But your 1995 putsch is squashed. ("Putsch": the sound it made.) Perhaps the
news disturbs you at your London club. A quick steam; you gird your loins. A
glance in the gilded mirror. Oh! Resplendent warhawk!

You are Ahmed Chalabi! The media is besotted; the Iraqi-threat storyline is the
purest gold. BBC2 reports on Saddam's A-bomb test under Lake Rezazza. Your
defectors told this tale! ("And so quiet, this bomb," seismologists snickered in
Tel Aviv and Damascus.) The engineer Al-Haideri who built weapons labs in
tunnels! Inspired! Your fable in the New York Times and StarTribune! Iraq's
pressurized-water reactor! Your gossip! In the Wall Street Journal! You hire a
former CIA director to represent you. Prague! Anthrax! The Trade Center bomb!
McVeigh! There is no bugle to which Woolsey does not charge. In combatting
Saddam, where is the line between delusional paranoia and good PR?

Yellowcake! "Not my tale," you say, and who can contradict? The investigation
stalls and stinks in Congress, like a raccoon rotting in a chimney flue.

You are Ahmed Chalabi! The State Department questions your accounting and
freezes your funds. But you hint that Iraq's oil contracts might be redrawn.
Suddenly money seems not a concern, dear boy. UNSCOM, the CIA, the DIA, the
State Department and the Joint Chiefs have cast you aside, but no matter. You
whisper directly into the credulous, Fox-like ears of the world.

And so war comes, and thousands die. You return by night, unannounced, airlifted
into a cloistered compound. You take your place on the council, and show your
disrespectful feet to the legions of the conquered. You are Ahmed Chalabi.
Thousands more die, and again, and again. Beneath your feet, the oozing
trillions. There is no end in sight.

Eighty-seven billion dollars is merely the latest installment. We can't afford
new border guards. We can't hire marshals in the air or terminal security on the
ground. We can't spend scant millions to disarm Soviet weaponry, can't even
squeeze the topic onto Vladimir Putin's agenda while we beg instead for troops.
God knows what we've ignited in Iran and North Korea. The shuttle is aground and
the grid is dark. We can't afford to protect the airlines against Stingers, nor
protect troop transports, nor pay veterans the benefits they were promised. The
federal debt will strip our feral children bare. And if Boeings hit the Towers
today, would even pliant Britain gasp or jeer?

You are Ahmed Chalabi! The government flies you to Manhattan, and you take
Iraq's seat at the U.N. the very night President Bush pleads to the Assembly,
echoing Warren Zevon's great song of plans gone awry: "Send lawyers, guns and
money. It has hit the fan."

And you aren't surprised to learn that Zevon died that night with a smirk on his
lips, because that is the way the world works. And you are Ahmed Chalabi.

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