Chalabi’s Chance?

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The New York Sun

Well, well, well. Guess who has gone calling on Ahmad Chalabi. Why, if it’s not Brett McGurk, the senior aide of the State Department in respect of Iraq. He’s just fetched up at the home in Baghdad of the founder of the Iraqi National Congress. Mr. Chalabi is the visionary who won the Iraq Liberation Act of 1995. He’s the man whom the Left likes to blame for allegedly making up intelligence to trick America to going to war for Democracy in his country. The State Department hated him above all others.

Now it’s come a-calling. This news was brought in by Eli Lake, former diplomatic leg of the Sun, in a dispatch that the Daily Beast runs under the headline “U.S. Taps Old Allies for New Iraq War.” Mr. Lake is not reporting that the visit with Mr. Chalabi is going to lead to the return of American GIs to Iraq. He is following up on the dispatch Thursday in the Times that named Mr. Chalabi as among the challengers emerging to replace Prime Minister al-Maliki.

Let us just say that this is an encouraging development, all the sweeter for the all the hostility against Mr. Chalabi on the Left. Thomas Friedman of the Times once boasted in his column of never having never met him. Mr. Chalabi was despised by the CIA, patron of the Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy, which tried to put Mr. Chalabi in jail on bank fraud charges after a secret trial without due process. The Democrats who supported the war blame him for the intelligence failures.

These columns have long had a more favorable view of Mr. Chalabi, who is a member of parliament and has been in and out of the Baghdad government since the war. He was one of the founders of the United Iraqi Alliance, the largely Shiite political bloc that included Moqtada al-Sadr and the Hakim family. So he has been in and out of government. There are those we respect who will never forgive Mr. Chalabi’s maneuvering, but Washington hasn’t always been his fastest friend, either.

Indeed, it was our government that was behind the purge of Mr. Chalabi from the interim Iraqi government that was established in 2004 and led by Iyad Allawi. Relations were decidedly cool as Mr. Chalabi plotted his comeback. The Times reports that he’s now willing to bring the Baathists back into public life, meaning ending the anti-Baathist legislation he long supported. Mr. Chalabi, a Shia, seems to be acceptable to the Kurds. So we will see what happens.

Our own favorite Chalabi moment came when he was asked by an interviewer in Britain whether Iraq needed another strongman, a la Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. No, he retorted, what Iraq needed was another Ludwig Erhard. This was a reference to the Free German economics minister who set the stage for a Western victory in the Cold war by establishing sound money in West Germany. This brought the economy to life, setting the contrast between West Germany and the communist East.

It takes a profound understanding of the structure of liberty to make a remark like that off the top of the head. Chalabi learned his Madison, Hayek, and Smith at the University of Chicago. We wouldn’t want to make too much of the visit to Mr. Chalabi’s Baghdad compound by one state department aide. It’s way too soon to guess where the Iraq crisis is going. But it’s not too soon to savor the possibility that it might lead to the return to government of the man who did so much to embolden America to bet on democracy in Iraq in the first place.

The New York Sun

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