Our Man in Baghdad

What a blast we're having in Iraq. And no wonder. Our main man there, Ahmed Chalabi, is less trusted by Iraqis than even Saddam Hussein. A comprehensive new poll of Iraqis (which somehow didn't make big news over here) reveals that Iraqis don't really have a favorite "national leader." Big surprise. But when they were asked, "Which one do you not trust at all?" the leader of the pack was Chalabi, the U.S. stooge who helped propagandize us into invading his ex-country. Chalabi garnered 10.3 percent of the disgust. A distant second was Saddam, with 3.3 percent. Not too good for a tyrant, Saddam. Let's pick up the pace. Oh, I forgot. We captured you and then sent a nattily dressed Chalabi into your cell to grill you when what you really needed was a shave and a shower. If Chalabi has any good qualities, they're harder to find than a WMD. In answer to the question "Which national leader in Iraq, if any do you trust the most?" Saddam fared better than Chalabi again, 3.3 percent to 0.2 percent. (None and Not Sure got nearly 60 percent, and Ibrahim Jaaferi was the leading human with 7.7.)

See the full results of the survey here. If you're unclear about the history of Chalabi, one of the best recent stories about this sordid character is a solid retelling by Guardian (U.K.) columnist Isabel Hilton, which you can read on the fine Australian website of Melbourne's daily paper The Age.

Why is it imperative that you supplement your reading with a heavy dose of foreign-written news? Think back to the close pre-war working relationship of The New York Times's Judith Miller and Chalabi. On that score, some good ol' Amurricans have been on the ball. As Slate's Jack Shafer noted last August, "No mainstream journalist bit harder on the Iraqi defectors' [WMD] claims than Judith Miller. . . . Her closeness to Chalabi cannot be denied." The most telling note in Miller's own words was in an e-mail that The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz uncovered. In a monumental piece last May, Kurtz reported that Miller e-mailed Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns during a turf battle, "I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have done most of the stories about him for our paper, including the long takeout we recently did on him. He has provided most of the front page exclusives on WMD to our paper."


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