The Viceroy and His Friends


Oh good. It looks as though we’re going to have as big a fight over postwar plans for Iraq as we did over the war itself. Just what we need, more of everybody being at everybody else’s throat.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who seems prepared to run the world, favors one Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, an exile-emigre group, as postwar leader (read figurehead-puppet). Chalabi is bitterly opposed by both the State Department and the CIA.

According to Knight-Ridder’s Jonathan Landay, American military planes flew Chalabi and 700 troops, the newly named “First Battalion of Free Iraqi Forces,” into Nasiriyah Sunday, April 6 to be integrated into Gen. Tommy Franks’ command. Landay reports, “Senior administration officials said that Chalabi had had difficulty recruiting enough forces to go into southern Iraq and may have tapped the discredited Badr Brigade, an Iranian-backed Shiite Muslim group, to get his 700 soldiers.” Think how happy the Iraqis will be to see some detachment from their old enemy Iran.

Landay also reports, “It was information provided by Chalabi that led Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz to a prewar belief that Iraqis would rise up and welcome the invading coalition with open arms, that the Republican Guard would surrender in droves and the government of Saddam Hussein would crumble in a matter of days.”

One hesitates to make sweeping generalizations, but anyone who has studied the history of emigre groups knows the endless infighting and delusional quality of the emigre culture. (See if you can think of an example.)

This gets better. Chalabi has been in exile for four decades and, in 1992, he was convicted on multiple counts of embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars in Jordan after the failure of his bank there. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison. He escaped from Jordan, reportedly in the trunk of a car, and wound up in London. Dick Cheney is also a Chalabi fan.

The Iraqi National Congress has received millions in American aid money, but the accounting has been very poor (a familiar story) and quite a bit of the money is unaccounted for. Chalabi favors Savile Row suits.

The Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz choice for “viceroy designate” of Iraq is Gen. Jay Garner, head of the Pentagon’s Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. Garner is a retired military man with links to both the international arms industry and a Jewish lobby group. After retiring from the Army, Garner became president of SY Coleman, a defense contractor specializing in military defense technology. He is currently on leave of absence from the company.

The problem of Garner’s alleged Zionist sympathies is also causing talk: He visited Israel as the guest of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and signed a statement in October 2000 blaming the Palestinian Authority for the violence after the collapse of peace talks and praising the “remarkable restraint” of the Israeli army.

The third member of the triumvirate that Rumsfeld & Co. want to run Iraq is former CIA chief James Woolsey, who said earlier this month that Iraq is the opening of the “Fourth World War” (counting the Cold War as III) and that America’s enemies include the religious rulers in Iran, states like Syria and Islamic terrorist groups.

So, we’ve got a crook, a Zionist, and an old spy who thinks this is the beginning of WWIV set to run Iraq. How lucky can the Iraqis get? Is this what we thought we were fighting for?

According to David Sanger’s analysis in The New York Times, “Some hawks in the administration are convinced that Iraq will serve as a cautionary example of what can happen to other sates that refuse to abandon their programs to build weapons of mass destruction, an argument that John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control, has made several times in recent speeches.”

The administration’s more pragmatic wing fears that the war’s lesson will be just the opposite: that the best way to avoid American military action is to build a fearsome arsenal quickly and make the cost of conflict too high for Washington.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch … Sen. Ted Stevens suggested that New York City’s cops and firefighters should work overtime without pay as a wartime sacrifice. “I really feel strongly that we ought to find some way to convince the people that there ought to be some volunteerism at home. Those people overseas in the desert—they’re not getting overtime. … I don’t know why the people working for the cities and counties ought to be paid overtime when they’re responding to matters of national security.”

Stevens, R-Alaska, had just voted for tax cuts that will give those who make a million dollars a year $92,000 more to spend on polo ponies. Some must sacrifice more than others.

Molly Ivins is a nationally syndicated columnist. Her book with Louis Dubose, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, is out in paperback.