Monday, April 28, 2003
Well here's your daily scary link. Geeeeeaghah!
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More about Iraqi bribery, this time of journalists. You should really read the whole thing but here are a few of my favorites:
"SCATTERED AMONG the loose papers and bound files unearthed last week at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Baghdad was "letter no. 140/4/5," labeled "Confidential and Personal" and addressed to "The President's Office--Secretariat." The letter concerns George Galloway, a pro-Saddam member of the British Parliament, who founded a charity known as the Mariam Appeal, ostensibly to aid Iraqi children suffering under U.N. sanctions. The missive, from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, is a request that money be funneled directly to Galloway. It reads in part: I'd like to take a moment to point out that Saddam came to power in 1979. Even if his salary as president was 1 million dollars a month, he could not have accumulated 2-40 billion dollars. That money was stolen from the Iraqi people. Remember that when you hear about how "Iraq is bankrupt, its economy and infrastructure shattered by years of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations following the invasion of Kuwait." It wasn't the sanctions that hurt Iraq. It was Saddam Hussein. Could that $2-40 billion have prevented all those dead Iraqi children? Could the oil for food money have fed them? Yes. Instead it went to pay politicians and journalists and to buy hideous palaces.
His projects and future plans for the benefit of [Iraq] need financial support to become a motive for him to do more work. And because of the sensitivity of getting money directly from Iraq, it is necessary to grant him oil contracts and special and necessary commercial opportunities to provide him with a financial income under commercial cover without being connected to him directly.
The letter further conveys Galloway's demand that "the name of Mr. Galloway or his wife should not be mentioned."
It also describes a meeting between Galloway and an Iraqi intelligence officer and states that Galloway sought to "ensure confidentiality in his financial and commercial relations with the country and reassure his personal security." Galloway, the letter went on, "needs continuous financial support from Iraq." He got it. Galloway "obtained through Mr. Tariq Aziz three million barrels of oil every six months, according to the oil-for-food programme. His share would be only between 10 and 15 cents per barrel. He also obtained a limited number of food contracts with the Ministry of Trade."
The letter, discovered by David Blair, a Baghdad-based reporter for the London Daily Telegraph, and his Iraqi translator, was revealed early last week. The next day, the Telegraph reported that Galloway had asked for more money, something the regime initially said it couldn't provide. But late Thursday, the Christian Science Monitor, relying on separate documents, reported that Galloway received $3 million a year from April 4, 2000, to January 14, 2003.
A letter accompanying that final payment authorizes the "Manager of the security department, in the name of President Saddam Hussein, to order a gratuity to be issued to Mr. George Galloway of British nationality in the amount of three million dollars only." It praises Galloway for "his courageous and daring stands against the enemies of Iraq, like Blair, the British Prime Minister, and for his opposition in the House of Commons and Lords against all outrageous lies against our patient people."
The bottom line: George Galloway was paid more than $10 million to propagandize for the Iraqi regime.
The Galloway revelations surely help explain the ravings of a fringe British politician. But they are more important for what they reveal--or more precisely, remind us--about the Iraqi regime.
Saddam Hussein has a long history of bribing anyone who could help his regime--businessmen, diplomats, politicians, and journalists. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, Saddam lavished Arab leaders with gifts and contracts in exchange for their support. Shortly before his 1990 invasion of Kuwait, he shipped 100 new Mercedes 200 Series cars to top editors in Egypt and Jordan. Two days before the first attack, he offered Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak $50 million in cash, ostensibly for grain. After the invasion, he sought to buy neutrality or at least complacency by promising Mubarak and other Arab leaders that he would forgive all Kuwaiti debts once Iraq annexed the tiny nation as its nineteenth province.
"To lots of people, Saddam Hussein and his regime was a godsend," says a Washington-based columnist for a prominent Arabic-language newspaper. "Only a few journalists [in the Arab world] didn't take money from him."
Estimates of Saddam Hussein's personal fortune range from $2 billion to $40 billion. Over the past two weeks, coalition soldiers found nearly $800 million in U.S. cash stashed in a high-rent Baghdad neighborhood. With that kind of money at his disposal, it's no wonder Saddam Hussein could buy journalists in countries like Jordan, where the average per capita income is $1,630."
"At the same time, Saddam began to realize the importance of good press. "Media people were paid monthly by the Iraqi embassy in Amman," says Nimat, "in cash. They were also given presents, like cars and expensive watches." And Saddam built a "housing complex for the Jordanian Press Association" in Amman, according to Nimat, at a cost of $3 million.
Saddam bought good press in less obvious ways, too. "He would award big contracts to newspapers in Jordan to publish all sorts of stuff, like Iraqi schoolbooks and other things," says Nimat. "The contracts were worth millions, and no one ever found out if they ever printed the books. No one cared."
Saddam got what he wanted. His atrocities mounted, but newspapers in Jordan--even those that offered pointed critiques of Jordan's King Hussein--would print nothing critical of Saddam Hussein.
"It's been going on for almost a quarter century," says Nimat. "In the newspapers in Jordan, you wouldn't have seen anything negative about Saddam Hussein. I don't want to generalize too much, but many of the editors were bought by the regime."
"What Saddam did in Jordan, he did in other poor countries in the region like Egypt and Yemen and Mauritania," says Nimat.
One "top Egyptian editor" told the Wall Street Journal back in 1991 about a conversation he had with Saddam. "I remember his saying, 'Compared to tanks, journalists are cheap--and you get more for your money.'"
MANY OF THESE CORRUPT PRACTICES are confirmed in a CIA report entitled "Baghdad's Propaganda Apparatus" obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD. The report indicates that the Iraqi regime redoubled its information efforts in 1998.
"Iraqi propaganda themes are delivered effectively and resonate with many worldwide audiences and with those in the region predisposed to anti-US messages," the report says. Saddam Hussein personally supervised the effort, keeping "close control over the messages and delivery mechanisms."
SALAMA NIMAT, the Jordanian journalist, says it's not just Arab journalists who took money. "The Western media has been playing the game, too, including Americans."
In Dearborn, Michigan, one radio station has for years broadcast a weekly, two-hour pro-Saddam program. According to Iraqi Americans who monitored the broadcasts, each program began with the Baath party anthem.
Ismail Mansour, a Pentagon-trained Iraqi American working with coalition forces in Iraq, says the regime's money reached well inside the United States, going to journalists and others. "In America, Saddam friends give money and they make protest," he says. "In the Arab world, it's the same thing. They pay money to do that."
One of those "Saddam friends" is Shakir al-Khafaji, an Iraqi-American businessman from Detroit. Since 1992, al-Khafaji has served as president of the regime-backed Expatriate Conferences, held in Baghdad every other year. The government provided subsidized travel for Iraqis living outside of the country.
Al-Khafaji first came to public notice after revelations that he gave former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter $400,000 to produce a film that criticized the United States for its role in the inspection process. Al-Khafaji, who is listed as a "senior executive producer" of the film, arranged meetings for Ritter with high-level officials in Saddam's government, a feat New York Times magazine writer Barry Bearak found "impressive." Ritter had previously been an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and issued dire warnings about the status of the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction. His sudden flip--he is now a leading apologist for Saddam's regime--and revelations about Ritter's 2001 arrest for soliciting sex with minors have fueled speculation about the nature of his relationship with al-Khafaji.
Al-Khafaji has long claimed that he cares only about the Iraqi people, an assertion too preposterous even for Ritter, who told THE WEEKLY STANDARD in 2001 that his patron was "openly sympathetic with the regime in Baghdad." That stands to reason. The Falcon Trading Group, a company that al-Khafaji founded in 1993 in Johannesburg, South Africa, has done nearly $70 million of business with Saddam's regime.
Al-Khafaji told Baghdad Radio on June 14, 2000, that he hoped to arrange a delegation so that members of the U.S. Congress could "get acquainted with the Iraqi people's suffering as a result of the unjust embargo clamped on it." He got his wish two years later, when he accompanied Reps. Jim McDermott, Jim Thompson, and David Bonior to Baghdad last fall.
McDermott, in particular, caused quite a fuss when in a September 29 appearance on ABC's "This Week" from Baghdad, he claimed, "The president of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war." Moments later, despite 12 years of evidence that the Iraqi regime had lied about its weapons program, McDermott said, "I think you have to take the Iraqis on their face value."
Of course, no one can say what the congressmen's motives were for their trip. But judging from a press release the trio issued before they left, on September 25, it's clear it wasn't to secure unfettered inspections. Although the congressmen warned about the "dangerous implications of a unilateral, preemptive strike," they didn't mention inspections once.
On October 25, McDermott received a check for $5,000 from Shakir al-Khafaji. The money, first reported by Amy Keller in Roll Call, had been deposited in an account for the McDermott Legal Expense Trust, a fund the congressman set up to pay legal bills in a lawsuit brought against him by Rep. John Boehner. (In 1996, McDermott had released to the media the transcript of a phone conversation between Boehner and Newt Gingrich, taped by a Florida couple.)
No one has accused McDermott of being a mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein simply for financial reasons. Indeed, McDermott has been saying stupid things for years with no evidence anyone has paid him to do so. A spokesman for McDermott says he "doesn't know off the top of [his] head" whether McDermott has plans to return the money.
The formidable task of sifting through the mountains of documents Saddam's regime left behind is only beginning. Many of the answers at this point are obscured by more questions.
But George Galloway most assuredly wasn't the only person lining his pockets by defending Saddam Hussein. Journalists and diplomats and businessmen have been doing it for years. Their stories will be told."
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More tidbits from the Telegraph.
"French helped Iraq to stifle dissent
By Alex Spillius and Andrew Sparrow
France colluded with the Iraqi secret service to undermine a Paris conference held by the prominent human rights group Indict, according to documents found in the foreign ministry in Baghdad.
Various documents state that the Iraqis believed the French were doing their utmost to prevent the meeting from going ahead.
Ann Clwyd, the Labour MP who chairs Indict, said last night that she would be demanding an apology from the French government for its behaviour, which she described as "atrocious".
The files, retrieved from the looted and burned foreign ministry by The Telegraph last week, detail the warmth and strength of Iraqi-French ties.
They include a six-page letter dated February 1998 from Saddam Hussein to Jacques Chirac, welcoming the French president's support in the campaign against sanctions and assuring him that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
The documents regarding Indict show that pro-Saddam elements, "Iraqi and Arab brothers", gained access to the conference, which opened on April 14, 2000, at the Hotel La Concorde Lafayette.
Indict's attempt to mount a protest outside the Iraqi ambassador's residence was foiled by the authorities.
A month after the meeting, a letter headed "Role of Southern France" (sic) from Saddam's office authorised the finance ministry to pay $383,439 to undisclosed beneficiaries.
Perhaps the most damning document is from the Iraqi intelligence service, Iris. The service, known as the Mukhabarat in Iraq, operated as the domestic secret police and as an external intelligence agency.
Its role abroad was to collect intelligence, murder opponents and maintain relations with friendly groups. The document, dated March 28, 2000, is from the head of Iris to Saddam's office.
At the time the organisation was run by Tahir Jalil al-Habbush, number 14 on America's wanted list. The letter appears to be written by a different hand from one revealed last week purporting to record that George Galloway benefited from contracts under the oil for food programme. But it carries the same signature.
It states that "one of our sources" met the "deputy spokesman" of the French foreign ministry, "with whom he has good relations".
It claims that the spokesman from the justice and interior ministries had sought to find a legal way of preventing the Indict meeting.
The paper said it had been agreed that no Iraqi opposition leaders would be granted visas for France to attend the conference. It is not clear if Iraqis living outside the country were granted visas.
Although the conference went ahead, the Iraqis regarded moves to undermine it as a striking success.
A memo dated April 18, 2000, was sent to Saddam's office by the then foreign minister, Mohammad Said al-Sahaf, who later became the information minister nicknamed "Comical Ali". It is headed "The Failed Enemy Conference in Paris" and says that the French media ignored the event.
Miss Clwyd, MP for Cynon Valley, recalled various attempts at disruption.
Saddam supporters staged a protest outside before it started, she said, and at one point a bomb scare led to the hall having to be evacuated.
Victims of Saddam's regime gave evidence at the conference and filming was strictly forbidden because they feared being identified.
But someone smuggled in a camera and started filming, Miss Clwyd said.
"The police were called. But they could not take the film from the man because he was an Iraqi accredited to the Moroccan embassy."
The French foreign ministry denied collusion.
A Quai d'Orsay source said it should not come as a surprise that French officials met Iraqi intelligence officers in Baghdad. But he denied accusations of specific collaboration to disrupt the conference."
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