Thursday, May 20, 2004

"too clever by half..."

In an absolutely stunning article, Andrew Cockburn goes behind the Chalabi bust.

Another benefit was his money. One former covert operator happily recalled the inaugural meeting of the Iraqi National Congress in Vienna, Austria in June 1992, which was wholly, if secretly, funded by the CIA: "There wasn't a single person there who didn't believe he was paying for it all out of money he had embezzled from the Petra Bank!" (I asked one investigator who had spent years probing the Petra wreckage if anyone from the US government had ever queried him on the true facts of the fraud. "No", not once," he answered, adding that journalists had also steered clear of the ugly truths about Chalabi's banking career.)

"He doesn't want colleagues, only employees," says one former INC associate sadly. "And he prefers to bring in outsiders who can't work independently of him." As example, this Iraqi opposition veteran cites INC official Zaab Sethna, an American of Pakistani origin, and Francis Brooke, Chalabi's Washington lobbyist. During last year's war, Brooke, a fundamentalist Christian, told Harper's Magazine that he would support the elimination of Saddam, "the human Satan," even if every single Iraqi were killed in the process.

Other key aides who have stuck by him over the years include Nabil Mousawi, a former Leeds pizzeria manager who first attracted Chalabi's notice when he volunteered to work the copy machine at the INC's inaugural meeting. Entifadh Qamber, now the INC spokesman in Baghdad, has been similarly loyal. Known for his verbal and physical aggressiveness, Qamber once punched out an elderly Iraqi critic live on television.