21 January 2004

New York Daily News - Daily Dish & Gossip:
Breaking the ice in Baghdad

I'm told that New York Times foreign-policy columnist Thomas Friedman has become the target of a snarky anecdote told by Ahmad Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

According to a source close to Chalabi, he likes to recount that for half a dozen years he tried to arrange a meeting with the influential pundit, only to be dissed and ignored.

But last summer, after the invasion of Iraq, it was Friedman who tried unsuccessfully to get an audience with Chalabi (about whom he has written skeptically).

According to the Chalabi version, the two finally met in Baghdad at a dinner where Friedman arrived with top American official Paul Bremer.

Their encounter allegedly went like this:

Friedman: 'I've been trying to see you.'

Chalabi: 'I'm sorry it didn't work out.'

Friedman: 'Well, I'm not the type of journalist you don't see.'

Chalabi (laughing): 'Well, that's what I just did.'

In his retelling, Chalabi then rolls his eyes and adds: 'Tom Friedman must believe he's a very important journalist.'

Still, Friedman and Chalabi ended up having a long chat at the dinner.

The mystified Timesman disputes Chalabi's story. 'Let's just say I have a different recollection,' Friedman told me.