“Where Plan A Left Ahmad Chalabi” Dexter Filkins

Chalabi "There was the money issue, too. Throughout the 1990’s, as the C.I.A. and Congress funneled millions of dollars to Chalabi’s organization, the Iraqi National Congress, rumors swirled about corruption. One of the skeptics was W. Patrick Lang, a senior official at the Defense Intelligence Agency. In 1995, Lang told me, he was sitting in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, when he overheard a group of Iraqis talking about the money they had received from the American government.

“I knew who these guys were, and I heard them speaking Arabic, and it was obviously Iraqi Arabic,” Lang said. “So I went over and sat next to them and listened. So what they were talking about was how to spend the Americans’ money, going on shopping trips, stuff like that. Oh, they were talking about going shopping for jewelry for women, toys for kids. Consumer goods. They were also talking about Las Vegas. ‘We will sneak out of here and go to Las Vegas. We have a lot of money now.’ ”

A couple of years later, Lang said, he visited the office of Senator Trent Lott, then the Senate majority leader. After introducing an Arab businessman to Lott, Lang sat in Lott’s anteroom with a number of Capitol Hill staff members who helped draft the Iraq Liberation Act, which provided millions of dollars to Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. They were praising Chalabi: “They were talking about him, that Chalabi fits into this plan as a very worthwhile, virtuous exemplar of modernization, somebody who could help reform first Iraq and then the Middle East. They were very pleased with themselves.” Lang, an old Middle East hand who had worked in Iraq in the 1980’s, said he was stunned. “You guys need to get out more,” Lang recalls saying at the time. “It’s a fantasy.”

Years later, Lang said, many of the same men who were sitting in Lott’s office that day became key players in the Pentagon’s plans for an invasion of Iraq." Dexter Filkins


At the time of the incident in the Four Seasons I was no longer working for DIA, having left about a year before. Pat Lang


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22 Responses to “Where Plan A Left Ahmad Chalabi” Dexter Filkins

  1. J says:

    isn’t life interesting where one can learn ‘much’ from just ‘listening’ in a hotel lobby/bar. one never knows who is ‘listening out there, and ‘understands’ what is being said. 🙂

  2. will says:

    Those unguarded Irakis had no clue the mild mannered Professor was a speaker or Arabic.
    The NYT needs to look in the mirror. It would see gullible Judith Miller who was spoonfed WMD by one Irving Scooter Libby.
    From the article:
    “This is an urban myth”– that he mislead the Bush administration about W.M.D.s. Chalabi also says that the Iraqi defectors that he provided to U.S. agents for intel on Iraq’s Hussein regime were pretty much random guys that Chalabi wouldn’t vouch for at all.”
    And how is the occupation going? “The Americans screwed it up,” says Chalabi.
    But what of Chalabi’s role in the leadup to war?
    “It was Chalabi, after all–a foreigner, an Arab–who persuaded the most powerful men and women in the United States…”
    The Chalabi role is overrated and Scooter, Wolfie, Feith, Judith Cambell underrated.
    Regards, Will

  3. W. Patrick Lang says:

    This hotel is the traditional and daily gathering place for much of the Washington expat community, especially the Middle Eastern types.
    This was in the “Palm Terrace” or whatever they call it now. pl

  4. johnf says:

    Call me fanciful if you like, but I’ve always thought that Richard Perle and Achmed Chalabi are one and the same guy. They look remarkably similar – though Chalabi has slightly better taste in ties – and you never see them in the same room together.
    I reckon he/they ran the Iraq War out of the backroom of a New Jersey pizza joint.

  5. blowback says:

    I am sorry but nobody can claim they weren’t warned about Chalabi. He was after all wanted by the Jordanians for a fraud on a fairly large scale at the Petra Bank which severely damaged the Jordanian economy.

  6. confusedponderer says:

    Remarkable enough Chalabi is now residing in London. Maybe the Iraqi climate right now is just too hot for him? … certainly only for the moment, because I think he has enough ambition to delude himself about his chances in his former country without US backing.

  7. ali says:

    When DC decides a foreign government must fall I suspect that greedy huddles of the suddenly well larded are a familiar sight in hotel lobbies within the Beltway.
    How many administrations have either been credulous or suspended disbelief when confronted with the shabby reality of the readied palms of the men they’d built up as liberators?
    In itself this is not necessarily foolish; sleek chaps with an “entrepreneurial” bent like Chalabi often see rewarding opportunities in toppling the established order. These self seeking rogues are often in the passionate vanguard of the cause. For every pious Robespierre there are many aspiring Dantons.

  8. zanzibar says:

    Neo-con rats jump a sinking ship.
    Neo Culpa
    Is it finger pointing time or what? Primary war promoters throw the Decider under the bus. We live in interesting times!

  9. confusedponderer says:

    don’t dismiss them so easily. I heared the death bell for them a couple of times, and, speaking in that metaphor, saw them returning like a zombie (or, in another metaphor, returning periodically like a teenager’s herpes).
    Josh Muravchic praises the Decider in his latest article:
    And, he seems quite undaunted (perhaps, whistling in the dark cellar, but anyway).

  10. zanzibar says:

    confusedponderer, no doubt they are like a multi-headed hydra. The cabal have survived many twist and turns from the Nixon era to Iran-Contra to now. They’ll be back that’s for sure.
    What caught my attention was Perle, et al throwing Cheney/Rumsfeld under the bus on Iraq. And they have all been part of the cabal for decades.
    Excuse my cynicism, right now they are all safely ensconced in their mansions plotting their next “stratagery”. They are after all the chess players who make a buck with every move. As you pointed out Chalabi is hanging out in his nice digs in London care of the US taxpayer funds that he diverted and I read Allawi is building himself an estate in Beirut which must at least be partially financed by reconstruction funds that seem to have magically disappeared.

  11. ikonoklast says:

    Chalabi in London, enjoying the fruits of his scams. Delicious. How many governments has he taken over the hurdles and come out on top smelling like a … well, a turd by any other name smells just as foul, unless you’re deceived into thinking you’re running for the roses, the grand prize of Iraq.
    The man is on track to be the con man of the century (now that Rove appears to be failing). Anybody know how much he got paid for selling US codes to the Iranians? And would anyone care to wager on whether he’s convinced them that he’ll be invaluable to them in Baghdad once the Americans leave? Tehran’s new man on the scene – hip, slick, cool … and gone, daddy!

  12. confusedponderer says:

    zanzibar, ikonoklast,
    IMO the current wave of neo-con mea culpas is aimed at re-establishinging some respectability to allow them participate in DC’s day today business in the near future. It hurts business for a lobbyist when he’s no longer welcome to all the interesting cocktail parties, much more when a Democratic takeover of congress is possible.
    Their tune is a variant of the ‘National socialism was not per se a bad idea … just that anti-semitism bit was a wee bit crass!’ theme.
    Indeed: Hadn’t those morons Rumsfeld and Cheney (not to mention dived-off Libby, Wolfowith, Feith) implemented it so poorly, brilliant neo-con strategy would have been a catastrophic, more, cataclysmic success!

  13. ikonoklast says:

    Yes, it’s agonizingly depressing, like a bad 50’s sci-fi flick where the mad scientist is ranting about his latest failure: “My theory is sound! But those incompetents ruined me … they laughed at me … I’ll show them, I’ll show them all … the fools!” Or Dr. Frankenstein bemoaning Igor’s screwup at the mortuary. “If only he would have brought me McCain’s brain instead of that cretin Bush’s …”
    Really, what will it take to get these mindless zombies out of the halls of power? Garlic over the doors of the White House?
    “[N]eoconservatism itself—what he [Adelman] defines as ‘the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world’ —is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, ‘it’s not going to sell.'”
    As if it were a marketing problem, like selling radioactive hand soap or dioxin-laced breakfast cereal.
    Note to all neocons: Using destructive power for good doesn’t work. Check out the late show monster classics, or rent a Godzilla movie. Watch and learn. And pray we don’t find your undead asses with a hammer and wooden stake after the sun comes up.

  14. Yohan says:

    The intel community knew all about how corrupt and worthless Chalabi was even in the 90’s. He was already passing documents over to the Iranians at that point so why it was such a shock that he was still doing it in 2003 is itself a shock to me. His run ins with Robert Baer in northern Iraq were yet further reasons why the CIA hated him. The neocon idiots in the civilian Pentagon, however, loved that he gave them exactly what they wanted to hear and so were willing to believe anything.

  15. taters says:

    Weren’t the Gucci Guerillas based out of London from jump street?

  16. taters says:

    Dear Col.,
    Fascinating. The ability be able to detect a Gulf accent from across a room is pretty amazing to me. Sadly, it also underscores your line “Arabic speakers need not apply” from “Drinking the Koolaid.”

  17. W. Patrick Lang says:

    They were pretty loud and Iraqi arabic is quite distinctive. pl

  18. jonst says:

    Totally clueless on this. Perhaps you can provide some insight. Are there 2 or 3, what I will call, sub-dialects, of Arabic? IOW….Egyptians, and other nations in North Africa speak one dialect? And Gulf groups another dialect? Or are broken down along the lines of what are refereed to today as “nations” in the Middle East? So that the Moroccan dialect, is distinct from the Jordanian one? And so on.

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    If there are further questions. please ask.
    Basically, there are as many dialects of Arabic as there are peoples. pl

  20. Juno888 says:

    What caught my attention was Perle, et al throwing Cheney/Rumsfeld under the bus on Iraq. And they have all been part of the cabal for decades.

  21. Will says:

    i don’t know anything about iraqi dialect b/ i could identify egyptian in a hearbeat.
    the soft arabic j becomes a hard g. for instance the arbabic word for beautiful derived from camel, jamal becomes gamal. rebuplic, jamhurihay becomes gahurihay and so forth.
    i was led to this post by a google alert on pat lang which included this wiki link
    wiki Link to Dialects_of_Arabic

  22. Will says:

    it must always be mentioned that a unifying force in the Arabic language is the Koran which is in classical Arabic. The written language is in classical language and for a long time broadcast TV & radio was also in classical arabic which preserved case ending and inflections similar to Latin which the colloquial speech did not.
    This served a similar function in as church Latin in the middle ages, furnishing a mutually intelligble language throughout Europe, at least a written one.
    I have read that Henry VIII’s brother, Arthur, and Catherine of Araagon could not at first communicate b/c their Latin was mutually not intelligible.

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