Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain needs to explain his own deep ties to Chalabi

Earlier today, teacherken had a very important diary about the connection between McCain campaign honcho, lobbyist and political advisor Charles Black and Ahmed Chalabi, who we all know as the de facto Iranian double agent who duped the US with bogus intelligence about Saddam.

But there is something that has only been noted here and there which really merits more probing, and certainly demands an explanation from McCain himself - especially if he is to claim that he is not clueless on foreign policy and that is his own connections to Chalabi and how he helped Chalabi dupe the US, how he stood by Chalabi and how he propped up Chalabi all while Chalabi was working for Iran (even FoxNews reported that Chalabi was spying for Iran).

And before you wonder whether this a stretch, it is something that dates back more than a decade, showing a long relationship between John McCain and the man who scammed our country into the worst foreign policy clusterfuck in my lifetime, if not longer. Let’s flash back to 1997, when:

he tried to pressure the Clinton administration into setting up an Iraqi government in exile. Despite opposition from the Pentagon and the State Department, the next fall, McCain co-sponsored the Iraq Liberation Act, committing the United States to overthrowing Saddam and funding opposition groups.

The chief beneficiary of this Act? One Ahmed Chalabi.

However, this is just the very beginning. It is likely that McCain became more involved with Chalabi through Randy Scheunemann who, as Cliff Schecter points out in his book, The Real McCain:

Scheunemann, is largely credited with bringing McCain into the neoconservative fold and creating the rogue-state rollback strategy. Beginning in 2000, when Scheunemann became a key advisor, McCain sought to distinguish himself from other Republican presidential candidates and House isolationists. McCain began reading the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard and conferring with its editors, especially Bill Kristol.3

Scheunemann joined Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz on another bright idea: giving approximately $350,000 per month in taxpayer money to Iraqi National Congress kingpin Ahmad Chalabi. As we now know, Chalabi lied to the United States about Saddam Hussein’s capabilities and purportedly passed on classified U.S. intelligence to his friends in Iran.

Schenuemann and McCain go back to the 1990s, where he was highly influential to McCain on foreign policy:
Randy Scheunemann, who had drafted the Iraq Liberation Act and was on the board of Kristol's Project for a New American Century, became McCain's foreign policy adviser.


McCain unveiled his new approach in a March 1999 speech at Kansas State University.


The centerpiece of the speech was a strategy that McCain called "rogue-state rollback." Scheunemann says he invented the term, adapting it from the conservative critics of 1950s cold war containment. According to this strategy, the United States would back "indigenous and outside forces that desire to overthrow the odious regimes that rule" illiberal states. At the head of this list of regimes was Saddam Hussein's.

So now that we have established the history of this relationship, and the genesis of McCain’s obsession with overthrowing Saddam (as far back as the 1990s), let’s look at how this has impacted the relationship between McCain and Chalabi - and how McCain has never explained his support and actions that led to Chalabi duping the US into invading Iran - all while benefitting himself in the process.

In a book that was recently released about Chalabi and the US and the Iraq invasion, there were revelations that showed a relationship between McCain and Chalabi going back to 1991:

One of his key backers has been John McCain, who was one of the first patrons of Chalabi’s grand-sounding International Committee for a Free Iraq when it was founded in 1991. McCain was Chalabi’s favored candidate in the 2000 election since Chalabi knew that he would be able to free up the $97 million in military aid plus millions pushed through in Congress and earmarked for Chalabi’s exile group, the Iraqi National Congress, but held up by the Clinton State Department.

But wait, there’s still more.....

Back to the article by John Judis in 2006 linked above. Even as the invasion was beginning and there was debate and questions as to the intent and loyalties of Chalabi (as evidenced by the US raid on his home in early 2004), McCain was still pushing hard for Chalabi:

As the war unfolded, McCain remained a Chalabi booster. With the Iraqi military crumbling in early April, McCain signed a letter with four other Republican senators complaining that Chalabi's INC was not being funded. Appearing on "Good Morning America," he argued for "bringing in Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress as soon as possible."

Despite all of this, as well as the actions of Chalabi that were most certainly in support of Iran and even more certainly against the interests of the United States, McCain is still unapologetic. As recently as this past March, McCain was supporting his decisions to back Chalabi:
Asked by The Times this month if he regretted backing the 1998 law, which produced few discernible results other than bolstering Chalabi, McCain said he did not.

I think McCain owes it to America to let us know how a double agent who was giving the United States false information in order to benefit himself and the Iranian government was either able to dupe him for nearly two decades or whether he still thinks that this double agent who was working for a group that McCain has called a terrorist organization is a “patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart”.

Either way, it shows a stunning lack of ability on John McCain’s part to effectively represent the United States and its interests from a foreign policy perspective.

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