Inside the halls of the State Department, career members of the Foreign Service have been buzzing about a prospect that excites them very much: President John Kerry. Never mind that their current boss is President George W. Bush.
Bush administration officials are assumed by the public to be loyal to the president, but the fact is that Bush?s foreign policy team is dominated by people who were not appointed by him?and most of them desperately want Bush to lose come November.
And if Bush doesn?t act soon, their wish might be granted.
For proof, look at the ?scandal? surrounding Iraqi Governing Council member and longtime U.S. ally Ahmed Chalabi. Almost two weeks after Chalabi?s Baghdad home was raided?and he had been publicly smeared with anonymous quotes continuously??intelligence officials? told the New York Times a downright silly story.
Well, it would be silly if any idiot who believed it was true took a moment to use some common sense.
Quoting anonymous government officials, the Times informed readers that Chalabi informed Iran that the U.S. had broken their codes. How did U.S. officials make this shocking discovery? Iranian agents in Baghdad used that same broken code to tell their bosses what they had learned?rather than simply protect that valuable tidbit by having someone hand-deliver the message 90 miles away in Tehran.
Confused? Chalabi, you see, has been hated by State and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for different reasons, for years.
State?s diplomats have long resented the Iraqi?s promotion of a war against Saddam that none of them wanted. And Chalabi?s push for a strong, secular democracy in the heart of the Arab world would threaten the most cherished of all State Department objectives: stability.
Although the CIA largely shares State?s worldview, its contempt for Chalabi is personal. In the mid-1990?s, the CIA organized a ham-handed coup attempt against Saddam. Chalabi warned them it wouldn?t work. He was right?and said so publicly. The CIA fumed. Bad blood has existed ever since.
In striking Chalabi, State and CIA are not simply attacking him, but his allies inside the administration, the decision to go to war in the first place, and most significantly, President Bush himself.
And that?s not unintentional.
State Department diplomats and ?intelligence officials? from State and CIA hate Bush?s political appointees?the hawks inside the Pentagon, the so-called ?neocons??almost as much as they do Chalabi. Luckily for them, they can?they hope?kill two birds with one smear campaign.
After all, it was the administration hawks?primarily based in the Pentagon, though there are others, such as Vice President Dick Cheney and a handful at the State Department?who championed Chalabi from the very beginning of this administration.
This is most likely why anonymous ?intelligence officials? leaked to the New York Times last week (and again yesterday) that there was an investigation that centered on ?a handful? of officials, most of whom ?are at the Pentagon.?
The dividing line is very clear: on one side are the president?s political appointees, and on the other are careerists who have no loyalty to the commander-in-chief.
To fully appreciate the mutinous sentiment at State, consider that it is a place where its employees feel free to display on desks and doors political cartoons lampooning President Bush. Anecdotally, many Foreign Service members joined anti-war rallies last spring, according to several State Department officials.
The undermining is not merely symbolic, either.
Last spring, State Department officials learned from Pyongyang representatives in New York that North Korea was admitting, for the first time, that it was reprocessing plutonium. It kept that bombshell a secret, even from the White House, because it knew administration hawks would cancel upcoming talks?something for which State had lobbied very hard.
The insubordination continues to this day. Bureaucrats at State and CIA?despite CIA Director George Tenet having claimed the case for WMD was a ?slam dunk??largely did not support the war. They can no longer win the fight on the decision to go to war, but taking out Chalabi is the next best thing. It calls into question the motives and justification for the war, and in the process, defends the institutional integrity of both State and CIA.
So far, the White House has not refereed the open revolt within its ranks. This has only emboldened the president?s enemies at State and CIA. If there is evidence against Chalabi?beyond Iran sending a message in a code it had supposedly just been told was broken?it should be put on the table.
But if not, if this smear campaign is merely a bluff to carry out character assassination, then Chalabi might not be the only one who unfairly falls from grace.