Saturday, May 22, 2004

More On Chalabi

Message 1 of 1
Subject: NEWS & INTEL
Msg # 8193
Date: 5/21/04 4:12:18 PM EDT
Author: Sirgriffletny

THE PROGRESS REPORT by David Sirota, Christy Harvey and Judd Legum SIGN UP >> SEND TIP >> PERMALINKS >> MOBILE >> May 21, 2004 IRAQ How Far the Mighty Have Fallen

The raids on the residence and offices of Ahmad Chalabi mark the end of warm relations between the former exile and the Bush administration. The genie, however, may not be so easy to return to the bottle. After years of giving Chalabi power, money and influence, he reigns over a web of control "that stretches from the oil industry to the banking system to the purges of former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party." Analysts say that "unless the Bush administration moves to dismantle his empire, Chalabi will continue controlling much of Iraq's politics from behind the scenes, and he could seriously disrupt American plans for turning over nominal sovereignty to a new Iraqi government on June 30."

The fall of the darling of the right from leader of a free Iraq to embarrassing liability is another black eye for the Pentagon, which built its case for war based on unreliable and self-serving intelligence it received from Chalabi. The White House planned for massive stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction; a war which would pay for itself; a small postwar stabilization force; and a population ready to welcome American troops as liberators.

THE WORM HAS TURNED: Ahmad Chalabi responded to being jilted by his American protectors with agitated outrage, biting the hand that has fed him so long for so well. Speaking at a press conference after the raid on his complex, "Chalabi said his relationship with the Coalition Provisional Authority 'now is non-existent.'" He also ominously predicted, "If America treats its friends this way, then they are in big trouble."

THE STRAW THAT BROKE CHALABI'S BACKING: Today's papers point to a pivotal moment that pulled the wool from many U.S. officials' eyes. Chalabi had convinced his backers that he would be able to rally large numbers of Iraqis into taking up the sword against Saddam. In 1998, he convinced backers like Trent Lott (R-MS) and Jesse Helms to shove the Iraq Liberation Fund through Congress, which then poured millions into his group, ostensibly to encourage mass defections from Saddam's armies and take control of the country. That never happened, but a year ago, "as U.S. troops swept toward Baghdad, Ahmad Chalabi and about 400 hastily assembled fighters were secretly airlifted into southern Iraq to rally other Iraqis and begin a march toward Baghdad to help topple Saddam Hussein. Chalabi had predicted that he would become Iraq's Spartacus, mobilizing vast numbers behind him, according to U.S. officials." That's not what happened. "Instead of being the warrior-king who liberated town after town, 'he was jeered more than cheered. Iraqis were shouting him down. It was embarrassing,'" said another U.S. official. "We had to help bail him out." Even with this evidence that Chalabi was unable to rally the Iraqis, the White House threw good money after bad and continued to fund him to the tune of $340,000 a month until last week.

THE GREAT RIGHT-WING HOPE: Conservatives were quick to seize on Chalabi as the hope of the future. Sens. Trent Lott and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), as well as "Sen. Sam Brownback and David Schieffer, the [then] ambassador at large for war crimes," all "pledged their support" at a 1999 Iraqi National Congress summit in New York. Time Magazine wrote on 11/8/99 that Lott claimed, "I have repeatedly stated that the Iraqi National Congress has been effective in the past and can be effective in the future." And according to a 10/20/98 WP article, in 1998, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) called the legislation which poured money into INC coffers for an Iraqi revolution 'a major step forward in the final conclusion of the Persian Gulf War." (Nonsense, said Middle East analyst Kenneth Pollack at the time. "I think it would be a bloodbath...It would be criminal for the U.S. to go ahead and back these people...I think the legislation is idiotic.")

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: Perhaps Ahmad Chalabi's largest backer was senior Pentagon adviser Richard Perle, a major advocate of going to war with Iraq. Instead of admitting the egregious error in handing this power-mad exile so much money and power, Perle defended him to the end, even taking a swipe at the United States. Yesterday, Perle said, "The CIA despises Chalabi; the State Department despises him. They did everything they could to put him out of business. Now there is a deliberate effort to marginalize him." Perle added, "He has devoted his life to freeing his country...He is a man of enormous intelligence, and I believe the effort to marginalize him will fail. They will end up looking ridiculous."

WHAT TO WATCH: The WSJ reports, "Recent intelligence, including communications intercepts, suggest Chalabi...provided contacts in Tehran with details of U.S. security operations and political plans, the officials said." As the rest of the squalid Chalabi story unfolds, here's the question to ask: How did Chalabi get the top secret information in the first place? The FBI is investigating, but their main interstest "is not in Chalabi," said an FBI official. "Our interest is in how he got the information" that he allegedly gave to Iran. "He wasn't privy to information about our operatives and I don't think we'd trust the guy with the kind of secrets that would get our people killed," he said.

INTELLIGENCE Responsibility Goes to the Top Decisions made directly by President Bush and other top officials may have played an even greater role in setting the stage for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison than was previously suspected. In early 2002, President Bush designated Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners as "unlawful enemy combatants" that were "not subject to the Geneva Conventions." The decision "opened the door to use of interrogation procedures harsher than U.S. soldiers had been trained to perform under standard doctrine." Subsequently, "the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib prison was run by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and that had taken to Iraq the aggressive rules and procedures that it had developed for the Afghan conflict." Army documents reveal that members of that intelligence unit "have already been quietly punished in connection with the abuse of an Iraqi woman at the prison."

RUMSFELD PERSONALLY APPROVED HARSHER METHODS: In the autumn of 2002, Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved "harsh interrogation techniques...that were not in accordance with standard U.S. military doctrine." But the harshest procedures approved by Rumsfeld were abruptly halted in January 2003 after military lawyers expressed concerns "that some of those techniques went too far." New guidelines, however, were not approved until April 2003. No one knows the approved procedures were, either before or after the revisions, because administration officials refuses to release them. There are serious questions about whether "some approved U.S. interrogation procedures are in compliance with international law on the treatment of detainees."

BUSH DECLARING 'MAJOR COMBAT OVER' WEAKENED PROTECTIONS: When Bush landed on an aircraft carrier on 5/1/03 and declared major combat operations over in Iraq it had "direct but unpublicized consequences for those detained in Iraq." According to military officials his declaration meant detainees in Iraq "were no longer to be treated as prisoners of war, but instead as civilians held by an occupying power." As a result, the Iraqi prisoners "the detainees would come under the protections of the fourth article of the Geneva Conventions" which affords detainees fewer protections than those that apply to prisoners of war.

SANCHEZ TELLS INTERROGATORS TO MANIPULATE DETAINEES' EMOTIONS: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez issued an order on October 12, 2003, shortly before the most publicized abuses occurred at Abu Ghraib, "explicitly calling for interrogators to assume control over the 'lighting,, clothing, and shelter' of those being questioned there." Sanchez directed intelligence officers to work with the military police to "manipulate an internee's emotions and weaknesses." Many in Congress believe the "language in the memo helped set the stage for the abuses and were part of a Washington-inspired effort to squeeze more information from Iraqis."

CONTRACTORS USED FOR INTERROGATION TO AVOID OVERSIGHT: According to high-ranking military legal officers, "the Pentagon used private contractors to interrogate prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in a deliberate attempt to obscure aggressive practices from congressional or military oversight." Employees from two private companies -- CACI and Titan International -- were involved in the interrogations at Abu Ghraib. Contractors "are not subject to the same military legal code as uniformed soldiers." In addition, "they have...been exempted from local laws in Iraq, under a decree by the Coalition Authority." Although contractors could theoretically be prosecuted by the Justice Department for crimes they commit, "while seven U.S. soldiers are already facing court martials for their conduct at Abu Ghraib, no contractors have yet been punished despite being implicated in the abuses." In Afghanistan civilian contractors "have also avoided sanctions even though at least one has come under investigation in connection with the death of a prisoner at an army detention facility."

UNDER THE RADAR HALLIBURTON -- PROTESTS AMID NEW ALLEGATIONS: AP reports, "Halliburton Co.'s annual shareholders meeting drew about 500 protesters Wednesday... The event drew protests because of the oil services conglomerate's role as a major U.S. contractor in Iraq and that it was formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney." The protests come as Halliburton finds itself embroiled in new allegations of corruption, this time involving Morris Corporation, an Australian catering company required to supply meals to U.S. troops. Morris' $100 million contract to partner with Halliburton had been praised by Australia's government "as a signal Australian companies would get fair treatment in post-war Iraq... But the contract was cancelled six weeks after it was signed, with an insider involved in the deal alleging a Halliburton employee sought kickbacks worth up $3 million during negotiations." Now Halliburton is involved in a "messy legal brawl" with its former contractors, just the latest in a long line of investigations involving the vice president's former company. RIGHT-WING INSENSITIVE QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Being poor is a state of mind, not a condition." -- HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson's explanation yesterday to the House Financial Services Committee about why he refused to discuss housing the poor. BUDGET -- MODERATES NOT BUDGING: Just hours after President Bush met with conservatives on Capitol Hill yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) postponed a scheduled vote on the 2005 budget after moderates in his own party threatened to vote against it. They "oppose the plan because of concerns over cutting taxes at a time of record deficits, and they say there is no reason to change their minds." While House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) attacked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) because he opposed cutting taxes at wartime, the moderates are holding firm. Moderate Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) said "I think they're just sore we're right and we've gotten into deficits. We all try and be team players when we can, but I think the core Republican philosophy is fiscal conservatism." ENVIRO -- EPA STEPS UP FOR WOOD INDUSTRY: Relying on a "risk assessment generated by a chemical industry-funded think tank, and a novel legal approach recommended by a timber industry lawyer," the Environmental Protection Agency "approved an air pollution regulation this year that could save the wood products industry hundreds of millions of dollars." Among other things, the LAT reports the regulation, which was "ushered through the agency by senior officials with previous ties to the timber and chemical industries," ignores new scientific studies of possible health risks and drastically reduces emission standards for chemicals causing cancer and leukemia. Who wins from the EPA's new regulations? "Ultimately, 147 or more of the 223 facilities nationwide could avoid the pollution-control requirements. The exemptions will save the industry as much as $66 million annually for about 10 years in potential emission control costs." LABOR -- WEAKENING OSHA: AP reports the House voted this week to make "employer-friendly" changes to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the government agency responsible for enforcing workplace protection laws. Among the changes in the House bill is language "extending deadlines for companies" to deal with OSHA complaints. EDUCATION -- FUNDING CUTS MEAN TUITION HIKES: With the White House slashing federal funding to California, University of California students will face higher fees starting in the summer, for the third time in as many years. "UC regents yesterday overwhelmingly approved a 14 percent fee hike for undergraduates, a 20 percent increase for out-of-state and graduate students and a 30 percent boost for professional students... The fee increases will help UC absorb some of the $200 million in state budget cuts it will shoulder for the 2004-05 fiscal year -- roughly a 7 percent drop in UC's state funding." The fee increases in California reflect a trend across the country as states struggle with funding cuts—"Next year will be the fourth consecutive year UC's state funding will have been cut as California struggles with a fiscal crisis." LABOR -- OFFSHORING ACCELERATING: With the Bush Administration publicly endorsing offshoring, a new study shows "American companies are sending even more white-collar jobs to low-wage countries such as India, China and Russia than researchers originally estimated." Roughly 830,000 U.S. service-sector jobs — ranging from telemarketers and accountants to software engineers and chief technology officers — will move abroad by the end of 2005, according to a report released Monday by Forrester Research, Inc. The analysts also increased their long-term job loss prediction, estimating that 3.4 million jobs will leave the United States by 2015. Don't Miss DAILY TALKING POINTS: The Fall of Chalabi and the Conservative Brain Trust EVENT: The Impact of Offshoring on the U.S. Economy LABOR: The Des Moines Register asks, "On whose behalf is this U.S. Labor Department working anyway?" ENVIRO: EPA ignores possible health risks, instead approving air pollution regulation "that could save the wood products industry hundreds of millions of dollars." IRAQ: Conservatives launch ad hominem assault against Rep. Nancy Pelosi for questioning administration's war strategy OFFSHORING: American Progress holds event to examine impact of offshoring on U.S economy Contact The Progress Report: Daily Grill "I have repeatedly stated that [Chalabi's] Iraqi National Congress has been effective in the past and can be effective in the future. They represent the broadest possible base of the opposition... we are empowering Iraqis to liberate their own country." -- Trent Lott, 10/7/98 "Instead of being the warrior-king who liberated town after town, [Chalabi] 'was jeered more than cheered. Iraqis were shouting him down. It was embarrassing.'" -- WP, 5/20/04 Daily Outrage Conservative newspaper Washington Times runs headline: "Press can't let abuse story go; ignores positive developments" Archives Progress Report Columns Cartoons Sign up for e-mail delivery of The Progress Report


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