Remembering Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq’s Controversial Would-Be Leader

November 5, 2015 | Ira Stoll
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When Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi exile who hoped to play a leading role in the post-Saddam Hussein order, died earlier this week. Some took the occasion to blame him once more for the failures of the Iraq war, which he had enthusiastically advocated. Sharing personal reflections, Ira Stoll argues that these accusations are, at the very least, overblown:

Educated at MIT and at the University of Chicago, Chalabi yearned to bring to the Middle East the freedom, democracy, and rule of law that he enjoyed as a student in America. . . . A Shiite Muslim, Chalabi was remarkably comfortable with American Jews. . . . I first met Chalabi in the mid-1990s as the Washington correspondent of the Forward, a Jewish newspaper. A series of memorable lunches and dinners at London and New York ensued. Chalabi’s personal example disproved the claim from some extremists on the right that all Arabs or all Muslims were violent haters of Jews, of Israel, or of America. . . .

To me, Chalabi was Iraq’s Samuel Adams, its revolutionary leader who inspired, agitated, persuaded, and persevered in the face of overwhelming odds and when others lost hope.

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