Ahmad Chalabi, Now

I wonder which side Hitchens will choose. In the New York Times Magazine:

Instead of empowering Iraqis, Bremer set up an advisory panel of Iraqis — one that included Chalabi — that had no power at all. The warmth that many ordinary Iraqis felt for the Americans quickly ebbed away. It’s not clear that the Americans had any other choice. But here in his London parlor, Chalabi is now contending that excluding Iraqis was the Americans’ fatal mistake.

“It was a puppet show!” Chalabi exclaims again, shifting on the couch. “The worst of all worlds. We were in charge, and we had no power. We were blamed for everything the Americans did, but we couldn’t change any of it.”

It’s three and a half years later now. More than 2,800 Americans are dead; more than 3,000 Iraqis die each month. The anarchy seems limitless. In May 2004, American and Iraqi agents even raided Chalabi’s home in Baghdad. He has been denounced by Bremer and by Bush and accused of passing secrets to America’s enemy, Iran. At the heart of the American decision to take over and run Iraq, Chalabi now concludes, lay a basic contempt for Iraqis, himself included.

“In Wolfowitz’s mind, you couldn’t trust the Iraqis to run a democracy,” Chalabi says. “ ‘We have to teach them, give them lessons,’ in Wolfowitz’s mind. ‘We have to leave Iraq under our tutelage. The Iraqis are useless. The Iraqis are incompetent.’

“What I didn’t realize,” Chalabi says, “was that the Americans sold us out.”