Wired magazine has a poll to find "The Greatest Self-Promoter of All Time". Most nominations went to familiar media figures like Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. I nominated Ahmed Chalabi, as the guy who talked the Bush administration into invading Iraq.
Self-promoter? Con man? Whatever.
"Put me in charge of Iraq" he said "The Iraqi people will acclaim me as their leader, and I will turn Iraq into a true paradise of Democracy, give the US all the military bases it wants, sell off Iraq's oil, and recognize Israel."
So we did. And we found that his description of his popularity was, ahem, a bit exaggerated. The vast majority of Iraqis had never heard of him, and those who had, hated his guts.
And here we are, five years later, with an unwinnable quagmire. Near as I can tell, there are no good answers.
According to Brigadier General Mark Scheid *, Donald Rumsfeld told his strategy group to stop working on plans for the Iraqi occupation -- and he'd fire anybody he caught working on them. Now, with the military, this means that somebody else is working on it, and that those particular people didn't have a "need to know". Nothing sinister, just standard OPSEC.
But we've never seen any evidence for any planning. Supposedly the State Department had been working on plans for occupying Iraq for years. They were trashcanned as "not suitable". All we saw was "everybody sit down and don't move until we have this figured out". They did, however, manage to guard the oil ministry. Figures.
And that lack of planning is, IMHO, the biggest war crime of the whole Iraq mess. There comes a point where stupidity becomes criminal, and this is 'way past that point.
There's an old saying that "you can't swindle an honest man." Your friendly average swindler plays on one of the great human desires -- the desire to get in on the inside of a crooked game. Chalabi told the Administration exactly what they wanted to hear, and they fell for it like a ton of bricks. Makes those guys in Nigeria look like rank amateurs.
* I couldn't find an original source, so the link is to a moderately right- of- center blog run by some very well respected legal types. It's a sad commentary on current journalism that blogs are a better resource than the mainstream media for historical (2005) information.