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Why are Ahmad Chalabi and his nephew suddenly facing criminal charges?

Oh, nation with a short attention span, you may remember Ahmad Chalabi as a bit player in one of our most popular reality TV shows, Gulf War II. Chalabi fed the U.S. government a Chalabinthian web of lies about how Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, chemical and biological weapons, a moon base, everybody's PIN number and puppies wired to explode when American children pet them. Naturally, the Bush administration, particularly the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz axis that's been itching to invade Iraq since the mid-'90s, was very impressed. They were so impressed, in fact, that they gave him lots of taxpayer cash to keep feeding us the lies. Brilliant!

Like that other reality TV fib-teller Omarosa, Ahmad's lying eventually caught up with him. Earlier this year, we cut off his allowance. Even more importantly, we signaled to Chalabi playa-haters (a distinguished list that includes many powerful people in both the Iraqi and U.S. governments, including the CIA, State Department, and elements of the U.S. military) that he was no longer "our" boy. Not long after that, his Baghdad residence was raided and ransacked by Iraqi police as American soldiers stood guard outside, whistling and looking up at the sky to appear nonchalant.

Not long after the raid, unsourced stories magically appeared in the press accusing Chalabi of informing an Iranian official that the United States had cracked the encryption that Iran's government uses to communicate with its people in Iraq. The story is a flimsy one — supposedly the U.S. "discovered" the Chalabi "leak" after intercepting a message that was broadcast between Baghdad and Iran. It's somewhat hard to believe that Iranian agents would find out that their code was cracked and then turn around and use the same code to tell their headquarters that the code was cracked.

The story of the criminal charges pending against Ahmad Chalabi are — seemingly, anyway — equally flimsy. During the raid, Iraqi police allegedly discovered counterfeit Iraqi dinars in his house. But let's not forget (of course, if you didn't know this in the first place, you couldn't really have forgotten) that Chalabi had dealings with Iraq's finance ministry during the post-invasion currency changeover. Old Iraqi dinars, with Saddam's mug, were replaced with new, non-Saddamite notes. Some of Chalabi's chums told British newspaper The Independent that Chalabi had a collection in his home of some of the funnier, Saddam-faced (read: worthless) counterfeits that some cunning Iraqis printed out at the Fallujah Kinkos in hopes of trading them in for new, legal dinars. Chalabi supposedly had about 3,000 dinars, the equivalent of about $1.50.

It's hard to pity Ahmad Chalabi, but his claims of being falsely accused for the sake of discrediting him seem pretty reasonable when you consider that his nephew, Salem Chalabi, was charged with murder on the same day that Ahmad was charged with counterfeiting. Salem is alleged to have threatened the late director-general of Iraq's finance ministry, Haitham Fadhil, while visiting his house. One problem, though: When Salem Chalabi was supposedly threatening the guy, he was actually in a busy meeting with witnesses; written minutes prove his whereabouts. Salem Chalabi is the attorney in charge of the tribunal that's putting Saddam Hussein and some of his top sidekicks on trial.

Why the Chalabis, and why now? It'll become more clear with time, but perhaps this all has something to do with the lawsuit that Ahmed Chalabi just filed in D.C. Superior Court alleging that the Jordanian government trumped up corruption charges against him in 1989 at Saddam Hussein's request. That the two prominent Chalabis in Iraq got hit with flimsy charges on the same day — and just days before one of them filed an important lawsuit — is a coincidence that deserves looking at.

We wanted to remake Iraq into an American-style democracy, right? Well, we've clearly succeeded. What could be more American than a trial by media?

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