Max Rodenbeck writes in the current New York Review of Books that he recently interviewed a self-appointed regional governor in Iraq, who had taken up residence in a palace formerly owned by "Chemical Ali." After the interview, Rodenbeck learned from his driver that the governor had secretly received an interesting visitor:
Late the previous night, a car had come to the villa. A stooped, thin, balding man was released from the trunk of the car, spent several hours with the governor, and departed at dawn in the same manner. The midnight guest ... was none other than Ezzat Ibrahim, the king of clubs in the Pentagon's Most Wanted deck, a former ice merchant who had served as Saddam Hussein's most loyal deputy since the 1968 coup that brought his party to power.
It was odd that this man would harbor a wanted member of Saddam's regime -- and yet he did so:
The governor who was helping to harbor this man had spent many years in exile, hounded by Saddam's agents. His joy at the toppling of the Baath Party was apparent. He gushed about the debt of gratitude which he said all Iraqis should feel toward America. He professed deep respect for the local American commanding officer, a man he met with regularly. But did he trust the Americans? No.
Rodenbeck had asked the new occupant of Chemical Ali's palace if he knew Ali's whereabouts:
"Chemical Ali, no," he said. "But I do know where others are hiding. Why don't I tell the Americans? Because I am a son of Iraq and my children will be raised here. Perhaps in future I would be judged a traitor."
He paused, pushing away an empty coffee cup. "Look, fugitives from the old regime are being sheltered by tribes that owe them favors. It is not simply a matter of honor, or fear of retribution. The real problem is that the Americans won't say what they plan to do with their 'pack of cards.' Will they send them to Guantanamo? Will they just let them go? If we knew that these bloody criminals would be tried here by an Iraqi court, it would be a different story."
Rodenbeck filed his report on July 16. About a week later, the U.S. caught up with two of the aces in the deck -- and the result sure wasn't a trial in an Iraqi court. I wonder how the governor felt about that.