Ahmed Chalabi, a con artist who spent a decade convincing America’s foreign policy establishment to topple a dictator so the Chalabi family could resume extracting their home nation’s wealth, died of a heart attack today, about 15 years too late. If you haven’t read it in a while (or at all), now is a good time to revisit Jane Mayer’s 2004 account of how long and how hard Chalabi worked to make regime change in Iraq the main foreign policy priority of a bunch of deeply stupid but powerful people, who grew to believe, despite of the overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary, that the deeply unscrupulous exile could be a credible leader of a secular and democratic Iraq.
In Jordan, banking officials scoff at Chalabi’s claims of innocence. Petra had opened a subsidiary in Washington, D.C., in 1983, and after the bank’s collapse, according to a top Jordanian finance official, investigators combed America for forty-five days, trying to locate the bank’s hidden assets. Almost all the assets listed on the books, the official said, were worthless, except for an auxiliary office that was listed as a repository for valuable bank records. The investigators soon discovered that the “office” was a country estate with a swimming pool, in Middleburg, Virginia. It belonged to the Chalabi family, which was charging the bank a monthly rent. “There was not one business record in the whole place,” the official said. “This man is a vicious liar. There is no end to it. It’s like you find someone killing with a gun in his hand, and he says he’s innocent. He just wears you down.” The official declined to be named, because he feared Chalabi’s influence. “He has more powerful friends in Washington than you or me,” he said, adding, “Really, some of your people are such suckers.”
In lieu of flowers, the Chalabis request that you send unreliable exiles with dubious information to Judy Miller.