Chalabi & Co. Off Pentagon Payroll

Well, well, well. Finally Chalabi’s umbilical cord to the Pentagon is cut. Richard Oppel writes in the New York Times:

The United States government has decided to halt monthly $335,000 payments to the Iraqi National Congress, the group headed by Ahmad Chalabi, an official with the group said on Monday.

Mr. Chalabi, a longtime exile leader and now a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, played a crucial role in persuading the administration that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. But he has since become a lightning rod for critics of the Bush administration, who say the United States relied on him too heavily for prewar intelligence that has since proved faulty.

Mr. Chalabi’s group has received at least $27 million in United States financing in the past four years, the Iraqi National Congress official said. This includes $335,000 a month as part of a classified program through the Defense Intelligence Agency, since the summer of 2002, to help gather intelligence in Iraq. The official said his group had been told that financing will cease June 30, when occupation authorities are scheduled to turn over sovereignty to Iraqis.

Internal reviews by the United States government have found that much of the information provided as part of the classified program before American forces invaded Iraq last year was useless, misleading or even fabricated.(ed: Emphasis mine.)

Could this be the result of what Juan Cole points out today was a significant statement by Secretary of State Colin Powell in an interview on Meet the Press from Jordan:

By now most persons with a television and an interest in US affairs will have seen the bizarre scene in which Deputy Press Secretary Emily Miller, an aide to Colin Powell, attempted to pull him off camera and stop him from answering a question put by Tim Russert of Meet the Press. What is bizarre is that she actually tried to lie to Powell and convince him that Russert had finished the interview. If I were Powell, I’d try to find out for whom she is really working. When Powell told her to get out of the way and came back on camera, he made a startling admission, in bold, below.

MR. RUSSERT: Thank you very much, sir.

In February of 2003, you put your enormous personal reputation on the line before the United Nations and said that you had solid sources for the case against Saddam Hussein. It now appears that an agent called “Curve Ball” had misled the CIA by suggesting that Saddam had trucks and trains that were delivering biological chemical weapons.

How concerned are you that some of the information you shared with the world is now inaccurate and discredited?

SECRETARY POWELL: I’m very concerned. When I made that presentation in February 2003, it was based on the best information that the Central Intelligence Agency made available to me. We studied it carefully. We looked at the sourcing and the case of the mobile trucks and trains. There was multiple sourcing for that. Unfortunately, that multiple sourcing over time has turned out to be not accurate, and so I’m deeply disappointed.

But I’m also comfortable that at the time that I made the presentation it reflected the collective judgment, the sound judgment, of the intelligence community, but it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong and, in some cases, deliberately misleading. And for that I’m disappointed, and I regret it.

Powell for the first time has gone beyond admitting that the intel on Iraq WMD was inaccurate to calling some of it deliberately misleading. If it was deliberately misleading, however, that implies that someone deliberately misled. That is, there are human actors with intentions. If a government official deliberately misled Powell on this matter, that is clearly a crime that should be prosecuted.

So, will the other shoe now drop? Is Powell laying the groundwork for an impeachment of Douglas Feith or Paul Wolfowitz?

It may well have at least jarred Chalabi loose. After his statement yesterday blaming the assassination of IGC puppet president Saleem on Fallujah, an implicit criticism of the American policy of turning the town back to the rebels and some Baathist generals and retreating, it would seem that Chalabi is now off the reservation and openly disagreeing with his former patrons. Of course the money should have been cut off long ago, well before the “Heroes in Error” statement when Chalabi crowed publicly about how his lies helped the Bush Administration build their fraudulent case for war and surely after the “Curveball” story (which was the basis for Colin Powell’s “Winnebagoes of Death” section of his humiliating presentation to the UN Security Council) came to light. As for the well-deserved demise of Feith and Wolfowitz, we can continue to hope that they receive their comeuppance also, but considering how reluctant the Bushistas are to do the right thing, it will probably require the further unravelling of the multitudes of scandals (torturing Iraqis, Plame, etc.) currently embroiling the neocons.