May 23, 2004

Witness To The Chalabi Raid

Laurie Mylroie passes along an eyewitness account to the seizure and search of Ahmed Chalabi's house and the INC offices. Granted, there's a lot to learn yet about what Chalabi has done, but Bremer seems out of control right now. (Write Mylroie at sam11@erols.com to receive her email updates.)

From an American Friend Who Witnessed the Humiliating Raid Against Chalabi (With thanks to Harold Rhode) Sent: Friday, May 21, 2004 10:26 AM Subject: Baghdad update

Hi folks,

I wanted to let everyone know that I am safe in Iraq after what was a very eventful day yesterday. As most of you know, I work closely with Dr. Chalabi in Iraq, assisting the INC as a financial advisor. Yesterday, as I was sitting in my nightshirt and shorts, getting ready to face the day, my guard came in and told me that Dr. Chalabi’s guards were being arrested. Yelling to my friend and housemate Francis, I raced over to Dr. Chalabi’s house to find a confrontation between the Iraqi Police (IP), guarded by the US military and advised by plain clothed “advisors” to the IP. Two Americans demanding to know who was in charge of this operation, startled them. Suddenly some of the American “advisors” disappeared into their cars. The US military were fine—just obeying orders. After a back and forth with the IP and the US military, one unarmed IP was allowed inside to search for the persons for whom they had warrants.

It is helpful to understand that these “warrants” are coming from a special court established by Paul Bremer and reporting directly to him. The judge used to be a translator at the CPA Ministry of Justice and was imposed on the court by the CPA. His first charge was against Aras Kareem, the head of INC intelligence. According to the arrest warrant, he was charged with stealing 11 vehicles that belonged to the Ministry of Finance. Those 11 vehicles had been parked on INC property for protection and the MOF had taken the keys with them. The temporary offices of the MOF (its permanent building was damaged in the war) had no room for the vehicles. The MOF sent a letter to the judge saying there was no basis for the charges. The judge threatened the MOF lawyer with imprisonment if the MOF did not withdraw the letter. He also refused to take the letter from Aras’s lawyer. Even yesterday, when they came to arrest several people (none of course were at Dr. Chalabi’s house), their investigation was so poor that they did not even know the last names of the people they were trying to arrest. They tried to arrest one of Dr. Chalabi’s drivers just because his first name was Kamaran—a common Kurdish name. It would be like going to an office with a warrant to arrest Mike and arresting anyone with that first name.

After the police left (with nothing) I went over to China House—the INC office--where this time there was no pretense of arresting anyone. The plain-clothed American advisor without ID said they were seizing the building. I asked to see the warrant but none was available and no one would admit to being in charge. Under the watchful eye of these advisors, the IP ransacked the office, shooting Dr. Chalabi’s picture, overturning furniture, looting what they could carry off and spewing garbage everywhere. Dr. Chalabi had a group picture of his father—about 50 persons in total. The police had smashed the glass and punched a hole through the face of Dr. Chalabi’s father. We forget that Iraqis have long histories and long memories. That this police officer would recognize the face of Dr. Chalabi’s father in a sea of faces is illustrative of the roots of the invasion of his office.

Paul Bremer’s imperious manner has resulted in a tremendous loss of American and Iraqi lives. His subversion of Iraq’s nascent judicial system to silence a political opponent not only undermines Iraqi democracy but ours as well. I am okay in Baghdad, but angry.

Peg

I hope Bush does more than spout platitudes when he speaks to the nation tomorrow. We deserve to know what the hell's going on with Chalabi, how we're progressing in Fallujah, what the status is of WMD searches and interrogations. The secrecy and silence so far is an insult to the Americans who supported the liberation of Iraq.

And the failure of the administration to effectively tout their many positive accomplishments in Iraq is staggering. This war will be won or lost here at home, and the PR job done by the White House is almost nonexistent. The Oil-For-Food scandal has been strictly off limits as a topic for Bush, so afraid is he of upsetting the U.N. That needs to stop now. Handing over Iraq to an organization still scrambling to cover up the biggest fraud in history before that fraud can be investigated and prosecuted would be a complete sellout of the Iraqi people.

UPDATE 5/24: This report from Niles Lathem of the N.Y. Post says that:

Jordan's King Abdullah fueled the U.S. move against Iraqi leader Ahmed Chalabi by providing bombshell intelligence that his group was spying for Iran...

...An explosive dossier that the Jordanian monarch recently brought with him to White House sessions with President Bush detailed Mafia-style extortion rackets and secret information on U.S. military operations being passed to Iran, diplomats said.

As they say...developing.

Posted by dan at May 23, 2004 5:03 PM