The death of Ahmed Chalabi of a heart attack, aged 71, is another mark that the era of the Iraq War is receding into the past, even as the consequences of it continue to shape our present.

Chalabi was for decades a largely self-appointed leader of the Iraqi resistance in exile, but what he became was a client — a creation of the West, permitted to reverse engineer the appearance of a resistance movement with generous funds. Chalabi needed the West to go to war against Iraq, and after 9/11 he got his chance, introducing to Western intelligence agencies’ prized informants for the case for war, based on suspicion of weapons of mass destruction.

We now know that those informants made it all up, and when no documentary evidence was forthcoming, the US, UK and Australia scrambled for any flimsy evidence available.

The willing gullibility, if not outright duplicity, of Western leaders in regard to this information remains one of the great betrayals of people by their elected leaders in the past century. The cynicism and disdain displayed for the necessary parts of democracy was near-total.

The pseudo-journalists willing to go with them — in Australia they are concentrated at News Corp — are, if anything, even more contemptible.

The leaders who gave us this war are now trying to blame its catastrophic consequences on Barack Obama, a final act of cynicism to accompany Chalabi on his funeral procession. But they cannot avoid a further accounting for their actions, with the much-delayed Chilcot report on the war about to land. Years late, let’s hope it was worth the wait and that its delay was due to thoroughness, not cowardice.

If the former, there will be a fresh opportunity to hold the now discredited leaders of this disastrous passage in Western power to account, for the only reason that matters: so that we can enforce and affirm that any debate about going to war should be conducted in the spirit of truth, with the aim of avoiding all unnecessary conflict, and with a commitment to moral seriousness.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey