Frum, Greenwald And Iraq

US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

Frum reflects, at length, on the Iraq War. This is where it gets really interesting:

The last time I saw Chalabi was in his London apartment, on the very eve of war. My little group arrived past midnight. Chalabi was listening to the evocative strains of Sufi music. He showed me a black-and-white photograph of seven men, wearing the clothes of the 1940s. They were the board of directors of a company his father had founded: a mixed group of Sunni, Shiite, and Christian, and even a Jew. Chalabi remarked that this picture was taken while Europe was tearing itself apart in genocidal violence. He didn’t add that it was taken shortly after British forces defeated a pro-Axis coup in Baghdad—but failed to prevent a murderous pogrom against Baghdad’s Jewish population.

I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those “others” was Vice President Cheney, it didn’t matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to U.S. dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia.

Greenwald claims this is proof the war was for oil, not against WMDs. But the two are not mutually exclusive. As for good faith, I’ve long since stopped believing that Dick Cheney believed there really were WMDs in Iraq – but I remain unsure about Bush. (As the archives show, I was seriously convinced by the WMD argument, because I wanted to be convinced, i.e. a useful idiot). But Glenn is not done with David, though:

Frum claims that he “was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration”. But, as Ruben Bolling just reminded me, Frum wrote a long and angry defense of Chalabi in 2004 at National Review, hailing him as “one of the very few genuine liberal democrats to be found at the head of any substantial political organization anywhere in the Arab world”, and ended with this proclamation: “Compared to anybody [sic] other possible leader of Iraq – compared to just about every other political leader in the Arab world – the imperfect Ahmed Chalabi is nonetheless a James bleeping Madison.” James bleeping Madison. Whatever attributes characterized David Frum back in 2003 and 2004, a skeptic of Ahmed Chalabi was not one of them, his present-day suggestions notwithstanding.

(Photo: US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (C) speaks to the media with Ahmed Chalabi (R), leader of the Iraqi National Congress, and Paul Bremer (L), top US civilian administrator in Iraq, prior to a meeting of the new Governing Council in Baghdad on September 6, 2003. By Rabih Moghrabi/AFP/Getty Images)