Tag Archives: George W. Bush

Bush’s War on Terror Unending

Fifteen years ago George W. Bush launched the “War on Terror.” It was an incalculable strategic mistake, and there is no end in sight
President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast April 8, 2003. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair shake hands after a joint press conference following their meeting at Hillsborough Castle near Belfast April 8, 2003. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
September 24, 2016

Fifteen years ago this week President George W. Bush uttered a few phrases that have tainted much of what has happened in the world since.

He made an incalculable strategic mistake when, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 21, 2001, he declared war on terrorism.

“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there,” he said. “It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

Well, all these years later that end is now closer to achievement for the simple reason that it was the wrong objective with the wrong approach. Perhaps even worse, other contemporary and subsequent leaders, particularly in the West, have not had the wisdom or the guts to change the futile course on which Bush and his coterie launched the planet.

From the start of terrorism in the Middle East in the 1960s and 1970s, there has been no serious effort by Western political leaders to define and understand the underlying causes. Terrorism may be evil in its consequences, but it always stems from inequity, injustice, hopelessness and explosive frustration. Terrorism is an expression of political and social dislocation and history tells us it can never be defeated militarily. The only solutions to the causes of terrorism are political and social.

Despite this blindingly obvious fact, the notion has become so deeply embedded that military intervention is seen as the answer not only in response to acts of terrorism, but to all civic upheaval in unstable countries. What is only now beginning to sink in is the lesson that military intervention in a country comes with the responsibility to reconstruct the politics and administration afterwards. The United States with allies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Britain, France and Canada in Libya, have failed abysmally to follow through on military interventions with feasible and lasting reconstruction programs. Indeed, these three countries are now less stable – in the case of Libya, a wasteland of warring factions — and even more the founts of the social discord that breeds terrorism than before the military interventions.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron speaks after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Number 10 Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

It is easy to prophesy that there will be similar results from the Saudi Arabian military mission in neighbouring Yemen, where Riyadh is trying to stop the takeover by Houthi rebels and their allies linked to Iran. And if Russia’s campaign in Syria achieves its objective of keeping President Bashar Assad in power, the chances are the country will be partitioned and Damascus that will secure only a rump in the western region. The rest will likely be a battleground between Kurds and Sunni Muslim extremists such as the Islamic State group, which now occupies much of the east, with Turkey making forays from the north when the situation threatens to inflame its own Kurdish minority.

This culture of blind violence, that has dominated the international agenda since Bush’s 2001 speech and subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, got a long overdue drubbing on September 15. A British House of Commons committee, dominated by the ruling Conservative Party, delivered a damning indictment of its former Tory leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron, who championed and led the 2011 allied air campaign in Libya, in which Canada took part.

After resigning the Conservative leadership in June in the wake of losing the Brexit referendum, Cameron resigned from parliament two days before the committee report was published. He has thus avoided having to give serious answers to the questions about the Libyan intervention, though whether that was his intention only he knows.

Libya is now a disaster zone. It has two competing governments. Most of the country is in the hands of local, tribally-based warlords. It has become a haven for radical Islamic groups linked either to the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda. It is a highway for human traffickers bringing people from sub-Saharan Africa to the coast to be shipped across the Mediterranean to Italy. These people are economic migrants trying to take advantage of the European Community’s confused refugee laws and regulations. But these migrants encounter en route what amounts to slavery to the traffickers, and many thousands have drowned when the overcrowded and unseaworthy boats in which they are dispatched sink.

Among the hundreds of people dying in the sinking of rickety boats being used by people traffickers to take refugees from Africa to Europe are many Eritreans. Italy / boat people / The Italian Coastguard ship Gregoretti disembarks refugees and migrants rescued from the Mediterranean. / UNHCR / F. Malavolta / April 14, 2015

The Italian Coastguard ship Gregoretti disembarks refugees and migrants rescued from the Mediterranean in April, 2014. Photo by  F. Malavolta, UNHCR

For over 40 years Libya had been the domain of the thoroughly nasty dictator Muammar Gaddafi when, early in 2011, the so-called Arab Spring swept across the Middle East. From the movement’s inception in Tunsia, where another dictator was swiftly ousted from power, to Egypt, where the authoritarian Hosni Mubarak was removed by his own military, the quest for political reform appeared to be infecting the whole region.

Western governments were overtaken by self-delusion and short-sightedness. It was evident even at the time that their enthusiasm for the Arab revolutions was motivated — at least in part — by the hope that this upsurge of support for reform would justify the military interventions of the previous decade.

No such luck. Tunisia has made a reasonably successful political transition. But in Egypt an ill-considered swift introduction of elections brought to power the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s only organised opposition whose radical theology inspired al-Qaeda and several other violent Islamic groups. The army swiftly stepped in and Egypt is again a thinly disguised military dictatorship.

Syria, of course, is now approaching the fearful denouement of the nearly six-year civil war.

Libya under Gaddafi was a bizarre and Kafkaesque place that was also a true supporter of international terrorism. But Gaddafi was a cunning desert fox. When he saw the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the threats from Bush to take out Iran and North Korea because of their nuclear weapons programs, he rushed declare fealty to Washington. Gaddafi handed over the components of his own nuclear weapons program and named names in his own dealings in the international arms and terrorism trade.

His reward was lifting of embargoes and the arrival of much-needed foreign investment in his dilapidated oil industry.

But he remained unloved or trusted by his new friends in Europe and Washington. When the Arab Spring spread into Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi early in 2011 the West was temperamentally inclined to aid the rebels. When Gaddafi started to use his airforce to pummel the rebels, Cameron in London and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, led a campaign among the Arab League and at the United Nations for intervention. They urged the imposition of a no-fly zone and invoked the international community’s responsibility to protect civilians targeted in conflicts.

The Canadian government of Stephen Harper, and Canadians in general, were easy marks to sign on for this crusade. The haunting experience of General Romeo Dallaire and his inability to stop the genocide in Ruanda in 1993 because of his restricted UN mandate has become part of the Canadian national consciousness. Canada sent a frigate and six CF18 fighter jets to the mission.

With UN and Arab League backing, the intervention began on March 19, 2011, with French warplanes attacking Gaddafi’s air-defence systems preparatory to imposing the no-fly zone.

The report of the British House of Commons select committee, chaired by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, underlines that the objective protect civilians in and around Benghazi was achieved within 24 hours. That should have been the end, but it was just the beginning.

“There is a debate,” says the report of Blunt’s committee, “about whether that intervention was necessary and on what basis it was taken, but having been achieved, the whole business then elided into regime change and then we had no proper appreciation of what was going to happen in the event of regime change, no proper understanding of Libya, and no proper plans for the consequences.”

No attempt was made to use the political links to Gaddafi that had been established since he decided to ally himself with the West. Putting pressure on Gaddahi to moderate his response to the demands for reform might not have worked. But no one, especially not in Britain, even thought of trying it. Instead there was a rush to follow the Bush doctrine of bombing first and contemplating the resultant mess afterwards.

The result of the French, British and Canadian intervention – other participants were Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Spain, Qatar, Norway and the U.S. – “was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of Isil (the Islamic State group) in North Africa,” says the report.

A good day’s work, then, whose results President Barack Obama once cogently summed up in an interview as “a shitshow.”

Obama has tried to limit the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and the multi-national turmoil around Iraq and Syria, but he is just as guilty as others of projecting the quest for a military solution.

The additional disturbing element now is that the military campaigns have become largely invisible. In contrast to his affable, open and engaging personality, Obama is overseeing a war of secret assassination using armed drones in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and anywhere in Africa where militant Islamic groups operate. Inevitably, there are civilian casualties. The numbers may not match the unintended consequences of manned bomber raids, which also continue throughout the region, but the outrage and anger these killings cause among survivors are just as potent. Drone assassinations feed terrorism and make political and social solutions just as unobtainable as full-blown warfare.

The other arm of Western intervention in these conflicts is special forces, whose activities are also largely invisible and unreported.

The current response to terrorism is guaranteed only to continue feeding the bitterness at its source. Until that response changes from the military to the political and social, terrorist groups will continue morphing and moving, and Bush’s war will continue without end.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

Contact, including queries about syndication/republishing: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. He is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan,” and has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Squib: Rude but Necessary Questions for Americans

DEBORAH JONES: FREE RANGE
August 2, 2016

Rude and necessary questions for Americans include this: which action by United States leaders is more disrespectful of a nation’s men and women in uniform?

1. Sending thousands of U.S. service members to die invading Iraq for reasons based on lies, leading to at least 251,000 total violent deaths and releasing the furies, including of the Islamic State. (George W. Bush, backed by Hillary Clinton.)

2. Insulting the grieving parents of a soldier killed in that war. (The Orange Man who should not be named)

3. Avoiding or failing to fulfill military service, and later touting its virtues. (Current American Republican leader and former president George W. Bush. Avoidance of military service was and is not an issue in America for Clinton, mostly because she is a woman.)

 

 

 

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American media shares blame for Iraq fiasco

An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/Files

An explosion rocks Baghdad during air strikes March 21, 2003.REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/Files

TOM REGAN: SUMMONING ORENDA
July 9, 2016

Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry report, on Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, provided damning evidence of how the British people were misled by their political leadership, in particular then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. The report was so damning that it bled beyond Britain to “throw shade” (as they say) on the George W. Bush administration in the United States.

After the report was released July 6, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Bush administration was going to have a war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and no one was going to stop it. And that the administration would lie, misleading the public, to make it happen. Blair was, in reality, just an erudite pawn of the Bushies, in particular of the Dark Lord, then-Vice-President Dick Cheney.

But once again one of the main actors in this fiasco – a group enormously important in providing the false justification for the war, which in turn led to much of the violence and terrorism in the Middle East today – was hardly, if ever, mentioned.

That group is the American and British media –  the American media in particular.

There is a saying that in times of war “editors grow epaulettes.” In 2002 and 2003, editors and producers at newspapers, web sites, and cable news channels didn’t just grow epaulettes, they practically signed up for active duty.

As the commentary website Truthout said on the 10th anniversary of the war several years ago:

“In the days and weeks leading up to the invasion of Iraq, corporate media – and even NPR and PBS – were abuzz with the talking points of the Bush Administration, echoing claims that Iraq had its hands on “yellow cake uranium” and that it had a massive arsenal of “weapons of mass destruction.”

Thanks to the media’s repeated claims that Iraq and Saddam Hussein were immediate threats to our nation, in the weeks leading up to the invasion nearly three-quarters of Americans believed the lie promoted by Donald Rumsfeld that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the attacks of 9/11.

Most of America’s media forgot how to be journalists and became cheerleaders instead. This continued long after British newspapers like the Guardian were reporting there were no weapons of mass destruction. This refusal to accurately report the facts lasted so long that almost two years after suspicion was first raised about the Bush administration’s claims about “Yellow-cake uranium” and WMDs, almost 40% of the American public still mistakenly believed that Hussein both had weapons of mass destruction and was involved in the planning of 9/11.

This, sadly, was not the first time the American media were played for suckers by a Bush. In February of 1991, when there was still heated debate taking place in Congress about whether or not to go to war in the Gulf, a young Kuwaiti woman appeared in front of a House committee and said she had seen Iraq soldiers take babies out of incubators in Kuwait City in order to send the machines back to Baghdad for use by Iraqis. The comments inflamed lawmakers.

Meanwhile, at that moment, press releases about this incendiary allegation were flooding news rooms throughout the US.  The media, as one, sprang up in indignation. Story after story ran about the babies in the incubators.

There was only one problem. It wasn’t true. No member of the media had bothered to find out who the young girl was, or where she was from. It turned out she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and that she hadn’t actually seen Iraqi soldiers doing this, in fact she wasn’t even in Kuwait when this was supposed to have happened.

And all those press releases? Well, they had come from Hill-Knowlton, the DC PR firm who had been hired by the Kuwaiti government to lead the media down the primrose path to supporting the war. (The CBC show Fifth Estate later won an international Emmy for its work in exposing this manipulation. You can read the details below in a column I wrote for the Christian Science Monitor in September of 2002, “When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators.”)

I remember at the time, so soon after 9/11, there was discussion about the role of journalists. And generally the feeling was that journalists were American citizens first and media people second, and that their duty was to support the country and the president.

How wrong they were.

The first duty of any serious journalist is to the country and its citizens, and that means protecting that country from lies and manipulation by those in power, no matter the cost. Since most American journalists, and certainly almost all mainstream journalists, did not do this, the Bush administration, with the help of their lapdog in England, Tony Blair, was able to launch the world on a road to war that we are still on today.

If American journalists had actually done their jobs, had actually been journalists, and not just bought what the Bush administration said hook, line and sinker, think of how things might be different. If journalists had asked the questions that need to be asked, instead of turning into the cheerleaders that they did, the country (and the world) would have been much better served.

Unfortunately, not much has changed. If war was on the horizon again today, I have few doubts that the epaulettes would appear on the shoulders of editors again. For the sad truth is that far too many American journalists are not interested in bringing truth to the public, but in being popular, well-watched or read, making money and being invited to all the right parties in Washington and New York.

Copyright Tom Regan 2016

Contact Tom Regan:  motnager@gmail.com

Related stories on F&O:

Former British Prime Minister, Tony  Blair, delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, in London, Britain July 6, 2016.    REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, delivers a speech following the publication of The Iraq Inquiry Report by John Chilcot, in London, Britain July 6, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/Pool

Iraq Inquiry: a catalogue of political failure, by  Michael Holden and William James

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War involved a catalogue of failures, a seven-year inquiry concluded July 6 in a scathing verdict on Britain’s role in the conflict.

Links:

The Iraq Inquiry, by Sir John Chilcot: http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/

How the Media Fueled the War in Iraq, Truth Out: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/15234-how-the-media-fueled-the-war-in-iraq

When contemplating war, beware of babies in incubators, by Tom Regan, Christian Science Monitor:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p25s02-cogn.html

Media’s failure on Iraq still stings, CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/11/opinion/kurtz-iraq-media-failure/

Iraq War Media Reporting, Journalism and Propaganda, Global Issues:
http://www.globalissues.org/article/461/media-reporting-journalism-and-propaganda

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Tom Regan Tom Regan has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and with the National Film Board in Canada, and in the United States for the Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, and National Public Radio. A former executive director of the Online News Association in the U.S., he was a Nieman fellow at Harvard in 1991-92. He is based near Washington, D.C.

Return to Tom Regan’s page 

 

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Ahmed Chalabi: Death of a Salesman

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs 
November 6, 2015

ChalabiAhmed Chalabi is lucky he died this week. Had he lived even a few months longer he would have had to face yet more charges that he is personally responsible for the death and destruction that has wrenched the Middle East for nearly 15 years.

It is already well established that false information fed by Chalabi to the neo-conservative triumphalists around President George W. Bush about Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction provided the excuse for the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In the run-up to the March 18 assault on Iraq it was not just the justification for the invasion that the urbane and by all accounts charming and stimulating Chalabi, exiled head of the anti-Saddam Iraqi National Congress (INC), gave the Bush administration. The fantasists around President Bush imagined that after Saddam was deposed, Chalabi would be “the George Washington of Iraq.” The notion that the country would speed seamlessly from Saddam’s dictatorship to a Chalabi-led stellar Middle Eastern democracy was one reason why the post-invasion period received so little attention and went so disastrously wrong.

This grim history and Chalabi’s part in it is likely to be chewed over again early next year. That’s when the long-delayed publication is due of the British parliamentary inquiry into the so-called “dodgy dossier” of Chalabi’s fabricated “intelligence” that led Prime Minister Tony Blair to send British troops to join the invasion and occupation.

Ahmed Chalabi in discussion with Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld. Photo by MSgt. James Bowman

Ahmed Chalabi in discussion with Paul Bremer and Donald Rumsfeld. Photo by MSgt. James Bowman

 

Even before publication of that much anticipated report, however, Chalabi has been back under the microscope. The program he administered after the invasion to remove all senior and middle-rank members of Saddam’s Baath Party from the Iraqi military, government and judiciary is widely blamed for the administrative collapse of the country and the unsuccessful efforts to rebuild a functioning state.

The charges go further. Chalabi’s duping of the Bush clique and his post-invasion cleansing of all functioning administration in Iraq are being widely portrayed as causes for the rise of the Islamic State group and its successful occupation of northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria. Indeed, there is evidence that the Islamic State has attracted recruits from among former Baathists ousted in Chalabi’s purges of the old Baghdad regime.

So what Chalabi did 10 years ago is even being stretched to blaming him for the U.S. and allies having to mount an air war against the consummately brutal Islamic State jihadists. (New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised to swiftly withdraw Canada’s six CF18 fighter-bombers from this campaign.) Chalabi’s actions are also held ultimately responsible for Russia’s military intervention in Syria to protect Moscow’s ally, besieged President Bashar al-Assad. Washington is responding to Moscow’s air attacks, which are mostly aimed at what is dubbed the moderate opposition to Assad of the Free Syrian Army, by putting its own military boots on the ground. U.S. special forces soldiers are being sent to “advise” Free Syrian Army fighters.

President Barack Obama has made this decision through gritted teeth. A central theme of Obama’s nearly completed eight-year administration has been to get the U.S. out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan he inherited from George W. Bush.

That’s heaping far more guilt on Chalabi’s shoulders than can be justified. But if even half the allegations against him are true, the relatives of many hundreds of thousands of people who have died or suffered dislocated lives in the last 15 years could wish him dead. But so far as is now known, Chalabi died on Tuesday of a heart attack at his home in Baghdad, aged 71.

There is no doubt that Chalabi was a world-class con artist and a man supremely adept at manipulating other people’s fixations and weaknesses. But as one follows his story, what stands out is that he was without a clear philosophical or ideological purpose. He undoubtedly hated Saddam and the Baath Party, who he blamed for robbing his aristocratic family of its historic rights and stature. But there is no sense of a large objective behind his duplicity and chicanery. It often seems as though it was the confidence trick itself, not its repercussions, that gave him the most pleasure and sense of accomplishment.

That has also made him the perfect scapegoat for those in the administrations of George W. Bush and Tony Blair on whom the full blame for what has happened in the Middle East since 2003 should fall.

Only Blair, with the Chilcot report looming, has made a qualified apology for the Iraq debacle. He said in an interview with CNN recently that he was sorry for not appreciating that the intelligence on which the reason for the invasion was based was false, and that insufficient thought was given to how to reconstruct Iraq after the invasion.

Chalabi spent most of his life in exile. His family left Iraq when he was 12 years old and his early years were spent in the U.S. and Britain. After gaining a bachelor of science degree in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology he went on to win a Ph.D in mathematics at the University of Chicago, and then took up a teaching position at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon.

Notoriety began to gather around Chalabi after he founded the Petra Bank in Jordan in 1977. In 1989 he had a falling out with the Central Bank of Jordan, which accused him of embezzlement and false accounting. Chalabi fled the country, but was tried in absentia and convicted.

After the First Gulf War, when the U.S. and its allies liberated Kuwait from Saddam’s occupation, but did not follow through to depose the Baghdadi dictator, the Iraqi National Congress was founded in 1992. Chalabi became head of the INC’s executive council and quickly worked at getting funding from the U.S. to pursue the overthrow of Saddam. For a while in the mid-1990s Chalabi was in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, fomenting an uprising against Saddam, but when that was crushed he fled back to the U.S.

During this period Chalabi came to the attention of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and for a while was on the Langley payroll. But they had a very acrimonious falling out in the mid-1990s with the CIA suspecting Chalabi of compromising the agency’s covert action program in Iraq. All the CIA’s agents were exposed and a lucky few escaped. The CIA never trusted Chalabi again.

One of Chalabi’s first coups was to successfully lobby the U.S. Congress to pass the 1998 Iraqi Liberation Act. This allocated $97 million to support Iraqi opposition groups, of which the INC got a large chunk, including $33 million between March 2000 and September 2003.

Chalabi’s stock in Washington rose even higher in 2000 with the coming to power of George W. Bush and his coterie. Chalabi had already ingratiated himself with the conservative wing of the Republican Party, especially Richard Perle, chairman of Bush’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee. But most importantly for Chalabi was his association with Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary, who was consumed by personal guilt at the failure to overthrow Saddam in the First Gulf War. After the September, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, Wolfowitz was one of the first members of the administration intent on making the link between Saddam and al-Qaida. He persistently complained that the CIA was not looking diligently enough for this link.

After being repeatedly rebuffed by the CIA, Wolfowitz and his immediate colleagues set up their own special intelligence unit called the Counter-Terrorism Evaluation Group. This group turned increasingly to Chalabi and the INC for its information as did the Pentagon under their guidance. The CIA warned repeatedly that Chalabi was unreliable and not to be trusted, but this only reinforced Wolfowitz and his team in their conviction that the information they were receiving from Chalabi and the INC was pure intelligence gold. In the end, the Bush White House came down on Wolfowitz’ side and instructed the CIA to back off, which it did.

The result was that Chalabi was given an unobstructed channel to feed his stories into the White House decision-making system. All this information was aimed at propelling the U.S. into an invasion of Iraq.

Key to achieving that aim, of course, was for Chalabi and the INC to provide the evidence of links between Saddam and al-Qaida and Saddam’s development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that Wolfowitz and his team were avid to discover. Information fabricated by Chalabi and the INC became central to the public justifications for the invasion, made famously by Secretary of State Colin Powell before the United Nations Security Council in February, 2003, a month before the invasion, and by Blair in the British Parliament as the invasion began.

It was only after the invasion, the ouster of Saddam and destruction of the country’s administration that Washington and London discovered there were no WMD and no links between Saddam and Osama bin Laden. The conviction, especially in the Bush White House, that Chalabi would be welcomed by Iraqis as the savour and founding father of a democratic Iraq was equally fanciful. Chalabi was appointed to the Coalition Provisional Authority and briefly served as president of the body. He was also put in charge of the “de-Baathification” program under which all senior officials of the Saddam regime in the government, military and judiciary were removed. This purge left Iraq without any effective administration. That in turn ignited sectarianism and the decade of chaos that followed.

A few months after the invasion, Chalabi fell out with the Americans over their democratization plans, which didn’t, as he had hoped, amount to simply putting him in charge. Washingotn soured on Chalabi equally swiftly as his pre-invasion duplicity became more and more evident. The parting of the ways took concrete form in May, 2004, when the U.S. government announced it was ending the $330,000 a month it had being paying Chalabi since 1998, ostensibly to fund the INC.

Since then Chalabi has been an on-again, off-again presence in Iraqi politics. He briefly held a few senior posts, Deputy Prime Minister and interim Oil Minister among them. But the Iraqi voting public remained resolutely opposed to giving him its support for any major job in his own right.

In recent years Chalabi became a marginal, but divisive figure, recasting himself as an intemperate champion of the Shi’ia Muslim majority in opposition to the minority Sunnis. He has even been accused to reviving the “de-Baathification” program to eliminate his Sunni political enemies.

When he died this week, Chalabi was still a member of the Iraqi parliament and chairman of its finance committee. But George Washington he wasn’t and never could be.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Will Islamic State zealots bring U.S. and Iran together?

Relations between Iran and the United States have been ice cold since 1979. The terrorist attack of 9/11 could have been one opportunity for  a thawing, but “among the plethora of murderously stupid things former United States President George W. Bush did was to shut that door by including Iran in his “axis of evil” speech in 2002,” writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe

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James Foley. Photo © Jonathan Pedneault, courtesy of FreeJamesFoley.org

But now, the common threat posed by the Islamic State extremists — in the news this week for their grotesque murder of journalist James Foley — may finally open channels of communication. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column, Washington and Tehran find common cause against Islamic State:

It’s always a bit of a shock when the stern clerics that run Iran display an impish sense of humour.

So when Iran’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was quoted today as offering to help the West’s campaign against the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq in return for the lifting of crippling sanctions against Tehran, the natural inclination was to chuckle at his gall and turn the page.

But not so fast. A close reading of Zarif’s remarks shows that he was not being whimsical. He was entirely serious and while his suggestion is not feasible at the moment, it reflects the reality that there is a growing convergence of interests in the Middle East between Iran on one side and the United States and its European allies on the other.

That convergence has been brought into focus by the rise of the fanatical Sunni Muslim group, the Islamic State (IS) …  read Washington and Tehran find common cause against Islamic State. (Log in first; subscription required*)

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