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Friday, October 28, 2005

post coital, after the press conference post

Fitzgerald’s interview was a pretty impressive performance.

With the spotlight on Cheney’s office, we hope some reporters will take a look at the Oil-for-food investigation that wrapped up this week. The headlines, of course, packaged the report in terms of nationalities – the dirty French, the dirty Russians. But that kind of packaging is a joke. Corporations involved in selling oil related equipment or buying oil from Iraq are necessarily of the scale to be multinationals. Our interest, really, is in the subsidiaries of Haliburton. We already know that, contrary to what Cheney claimed in the 2000 campaign, Haliburton companies Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Pump did business with Iraq. And we know that after the Clinton administration blocked Haliburton from dealing with Iraq from its American base, Haliburton did an end run through France. The dirty officials in France have never properly suffered, but the corporations involved in propping up Saddam haven’t either.

According to a WSJ summary in the April 28, 2004 edition:

“Halliburton, which has won business in the Gulf country since the war, did tens of millions of dollars of business with Iraq in the late 1990s, when it still was led by the current U.S. vice president, Dick Cheney. Much of that business was done through French units.
Halliburton won more than $30 million of deals with Mr. Hussein's Iraq in the 1990s, U.N. documents show.
The largest part came when Mr. Cheney led the company from 1996 to 2000. Mr. Cheney said during the 2000 election campaign that Halliburton had a policy against trading with Iraq. The Halliburton contracts mentioned in the U.N. documents involved units and joint ventures that came with the purchase of Dresser Inc. in 1998. Those units were sold from December 1999 to April 2001. "Contracts were initiated prior to the merger," a spokeswoman for Halliburton said.
At least one French unit, Dresser-Rand SA, part of a joint venture in which Halliburton had a 51% stake, registered $6 million of oil spare-parts sales with the U.N. oil-for-food program from 1998 to 2000, after Halliburton acquired Dresser, U.N. documents show.
Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., the French unit of another joint venture, signed about $25 million of Iraqi contracts at a time when Halliburton owned 49%, documents show.”
The article also makes the point that French companies, blocked by the Bush’s for bidding on Iraqi contracts, simply use their U.S. subsidiaries to do the bidding.
What is weird about the Halliburton business is that Cheney felt so comfortable simply lying about it in the 2000 election. Lying is Cheney hallmark – not the statement that can later be parsed apart into some miserable combination of half truths. Often, Bush’s statements come down to that – or come down to reneging on promises. This is the bottled water of politics – politicians are always experimenting with the unique relationship between the promise and the truth, that no man’s land of the performative. Cheney will actually make categorical statements that are simply untrue, bald as a baby lies. In this, he is a unique D.C. figure. And we hope that his being called to testify in the Libby trial, which seems inevitable, will up the ante on that unpleasant character trait.

PS – the best background story on the Fitzgerald investigation, we think, is Chris Lehman’s at the NY Obs. He quotes the right people (Bramford, Powers) who preserve a sense of the intelligence communities' histories. This is a traditional Republican scandal. They always have to do with some covert military aggression. They always have to do with erasing the boundary between intelligence and politics. And they are always peopled with brain dead enthusiasts and pipesmokers – the supposed gray eminences who are keeping control of things, the John Mitchells, the Poindexters, the Cheneys. I don’t think the article is yet online, more’s the pity

Douglas Feith looks more and more like the man who filled Oliver North’s shoes:
“The C.I.A. kept looking and saying, ‘We’re not finding any evidence,’” said James Bamford, the author of A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies. “And the Pentagon was angry that this was coming out of the agency. And so that’s why they had this special unit. That’s why [David] Wurmser was in there—to become the anti-C.I.A.”
Mr. Wurmser, Vice President Cheney’s Middle East advisor, was recruited by Under Secretary for Defense Policy Douglas Feith to create the Office of Special Plans, a policy group in the Pentagon formed to cherry-pick information that would provide the casus belli for invading Iraq. Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, famously referred to the unit’s handiwork as “a Chinese menu,” offering a readymade connoisseur’s choice of reasons to topple the Hussein regime in Iraq.
“It started within Feith’s Special Plans group,” said a former senior White House official who requested not to be named. “That’s where you first see this business of taking one’s animosity toward Langley and the agency and finding intelligence that would support one’s own position.”
This is so déjà vu, to those with the eyes to see it. And the background of these people have brushed against Republican scandals before. Remember, Cheney was Ford’s staffer advising on intelligence during the Church commission.
“The Plame leak is in itself evidence of how Bush administration officials failed to apprehend the most basic operations of intelligence. “I’ve talked with a number of people who knew [Valerie Plame Wilson] and worked with her,” said Burton Hersh, the author of The Old Boys, the groundbreaking study of the C.I.A.’s Cold War career. “And the whole idea that she [or] her undercover status was not that important is ridiculous. She was key to the effort to contain nuclear proliferation in the Third World. Once she’s taken out, her whole network of people can be exposed. That shows you a disconnect across the board. This was a network trying to keep jihadists from acquiring nuclear weapons …. You know, it’s hard enough to keep these people undercover. To lift that cover for short-term political advantage—that’s indefensible. And to punish Joe Wilson like this—it’s suicidal.”

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