How can America win in Iraq? How soon can substantial numbers of our troops come home, satisfied that they are leaving behind a better Iraq — a difficult, often dangerous place still, but a freer, fairer, more hopeful one, no longer an enemy state, but one allied with us in the war against Islamofascist terror?
The answer to both questions depends, in great part, on whom the Iraqis choose as their new national leader, starting with the crucial Iraqi election, now less than a month away. If Iraqis end up with an effective prime minister who will fight hard against both terror and corruption, and work just as hard to give all Iraqis a stake in the unity of their state, and a loyal, decently equipped Iraqi security force to defend it, we could see substantial reductions in US troop requirements in 2006. If, on the other hand, Iraqis choose a weak, corrupt, and/or hopelessly sectarian and divisive prime minister, the odds on a satisfactory outcome any time soon are low. Thus, all Americans have a big stake in this Iraqi election, and if our press was doing its job, American voters would know enough about the main candidates, their past records, and their plans for Iraq's future to make a reasoned judgment about which one is most likely to advance the goals outlined above.
What Americans have gotten instead is a savage, sustained smear campaign against one candidate, Ahmed Chalabi, and a see-no-evil whitewash of another, Iyad Allawi. Dr. Chalabi is the candidate long favored by American officials in the office of the Vice-president and the Secretary of Defense, officials who believe we were right to topple Saddam Hussein and try to put someone truly different in his place. Dr. Allawi is the candidate favored by the Arab League and by American Arabists — former high officials and current members of the permanent bureaucracy at CIA and State — who were against the Iraq war from the start, convinced that the best we can realistically hope for in Iraq is another Sunni despot like the twenty we already have. The argument between these two groups is legitimate; the means the Arabists use to advance their argument — a CIA disinformation campaign against Chalabi and his American supporters — is not.
As Zell Miller pointed out in connection with the Wilson-Plame disinformation campaign that forced Lewis Libby, the Vice-president's national security advisor, from office, it is both illegal and unacceptable for CIA agents to mount disinformation campaigns at home. If our press were doing its job, these campaigns would be relentlessly exposed, not just in occasional editorials, but in regular news stories, and the actual records and plans of men like Chalabi and Allawi would be clearly and prominently displayed to the American people. Instead, with only a few honorable exceptions, both the mainstream media and far Left publications like the Nation have acted as one in echoing false charges against Dr. Chalabi, and ignoring disturbing charges about Dr. Allawi.
This shameful press behavior was on striking display at the American Enterprise Institute last Wednesday, when Ahmed Chalabi, after a long absence from Washington, spelled out his plans for giving all Iraqis a stake in their new government, and creating the security they need to maintain their new freedoms without need of a massive U.S. military presence. American journalists were there in force, and not one of them asked a single question about anything Chalabi said, anything else remotely connected to American hopes for the future of Iraq or the successful completion of our mission there. Instead, led off by David Corn of the Nation, they shouted out all the old CIA slanders, blaming Chalabi for the CIA's own mistaken assessments of Iraq's WMD capabilities before the war, and accusing him of being a corrupt politician who stole money from the Iraqi people and betrayed American secrets to the Iranians, totally ignoring the mountain of evidence showing that these charges are not only false but, often, completely ludicrous even at face value. See, e.g., the 2004 report of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the 2005 report of the Robb-Silberman commission, and two earlier articles of mine: here and here. See also this article.
Instead of reviewing all this evidence for the umpteenth time here, I want to focus instead on the contrasting record of Iyad Allawi, the candidate the American Arabist contingent and the Sunni despots of the Arab League see as a preferable choice to lead Iraq. Dr. Allawi headed the unelected government that ruled Iraq during the wasted year when Paul Bremer played at being MacArthur in Japan, and the corruption, on their watch, rivaled that of Saddam Hussein's UN-sponsored Oil-for-food scam. Allawi and Bremer didn't just close their eyes to the theft of hundreds of millions of dollars from the Iraqi people; they betrayed American and Iraqi hopes by letting crooked Iraqi officials buy essential equipment — helmets, body armor, weapons and vehicles — that was so grossly defective as to leave Iraqi soldiers and police impotent to protect themselves, let alone the Iraqi people.
The contrast with Chalabi's record in office couldn't be clearer. Chalabi has yet to hold the top job in Iraq, but as deputy prime minister in the government that replaced the Allawi-Bremer regime, he has rooted out corrupt and disloyal officials, instituted sensible procedures to prevent further rip-offs, and worked hard to get Iraqi security forces the equipment they need and to repair and protect Iraq's vital oil infrastructure. Best of all, he has come up with an imaginative plan to make Iraq's oil wealth a blessing instead of a curse by sharing it equally with all Iraqi citizens, Sunnis no less than Shia and Kurds. He has also worked harmoniously with our new Ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, the man who worked closely with a similar exile leader, Hamid Karzai, to bring us a considerable degree of success in Afghanistan. These are the facts that the American people deserve to know. How long will we have to wait before our press stops playing destructive disinformation games and begins to report them, accurately and honestly?
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