The nascent political order taking shape in Iraq also has a rough-and-tumble feel. A gaggle of political parties -- from the Kurdish Democratic Party to the Iraqi Communist Party to the hardline Islamic Da'wa Party -- have seized former Baath Party headquarters and other regime buildings around town. Iraq's most powerful exiled politician, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), has the choicest digs: a luxury private club with park-like grounds. Chalabi's men patrol the area dressed in camouflage uniforms, carrying assault rifles. The INC is linked to a militia called the Iraqi Free Forces, which was trained by U.S. special forces.
Almost all Iraqis are skeptical of Chalabi because they view him as the Pentagon's candidate to lead Iraq. Still, he has been meeting with leading Iraqis to win support. His men also seized tons of files from intelligence archives so he can later publish the regime's crimes. And he is helping to capture regime figures. Chalabi keeps saying that he's not interested in being Iraq's top dog, but his longtime American aide, Francis Brooke, says he might change his mind. "George Washington turned it [the first U.S. Presidency] down many times," he says. "I wouldn't be surpr