Sir, – Although hundreds of reputable journalists supported the invasion of Iraq, Fintan O’Toole singles me out for criticism, especially for supporting Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress in the Sunday Independent (“How journalists were complicit in one of the great con jobs of modern times”, Opinion, March 25th). I want to make three points in reply.
First, as I regularly wrote in the Sunday Independent, for me the issue of weapons of mass destruction was irrelevant to the removal of Saddam Hussein, whom I believed should be deposed as a tyrant for using chemical weapons on the Kurds.
I still believe the invasion of Iraq was justified – it was welcomed by most Iraqis at the start – but that justification was destroyed by the aftermath when the incompetence and indifference of US forces lost that initial goodwill, mostly by disbanding Iraq’s army.
Second, I met Mr Chalabi in Washington in 2001. I admired him and his secular Iraqi National Congress (who had convened in secret in Drogheda in 1998) and saw them as freedom fighters in exile.
I never took a penny for giving them television training, because I believed in their cause.
Finally, in 2005, when Irish journalist Rory Carroll was abducted by a Shia faction in Baghdad, his mother, Kathy Carroll, a neighbour, asked me to help. I called in my credit with Mr Chalabi, then deputy prime minister of Iraq, who secured his release. I cannot claim my influence was crucial but I believe the Irish link was important. Mr Carroll, writing after his release, credited Mr Chalabi with securing his freedom. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Fintan O’Toole has written an appropriately stinging summary of the credulous and undisciplined behaviour of the media in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq.
I would add another band of virile warriors: public intellectuals posing as tough guys. The most conspicuous of these may have been Christopher Hitchens, soi-disant man of the left.
He personified a wide swath of the American commentariat that embraced the opportunity to show off their Churchill chops. – Yours, etc,