Reconstruction hilarities

More and better stories are coming out about the reconstruction.

There seem to be three major potential futures coming out of this:

  1. UN Managed Iraq: This is the route favored by just about everybody outside the administration and the extreme right. We’ve won the war, disarmed and deposed Saddam, now let’s let the UN oversee things. Opposing this approach is the administration which oversees the Pentagon currently handling the war and a State Department which is, at this point, markedly out of the power loop.

  2. Brain Transplant: Saddam is gone and so are the weapons. In order to have a quick transition of power and a clean exit strategy the U.S. and the UN cooperate to rebuild the infrastructure. The government can be run by the old Baathist administration as building a new human infrastructure would be an impossibly daunting task. This gives us a small footprint and gets us out of there quickly without riling up the Islamic community, and world community, more than we have to. This approach is favored by the State Department as a compromise that offers the US more control without really pissing off alot of folks or costing a huge amount of money. It’s largely opposed by the neocons and the Pentagon.

  3. 6 Million Dollar Iraq: This approach completely reinvents Iraqi politics and structure by imposing a federalist system and a close to democratic model. The advantages are, in theory, that each major geographic constituency under federalism (Sunni, Shia and Kurd) would have a degree of autonomy to run its own affairs. It would also be the ‘model’ democracy that has been one of the selling points of this ideological war. The downsides include a host of possible complications (including blood feuds, nationalist resistance, occupation rather than liberation) that could play out through this rebuilding process. Arab anger could rage out of control and we could face some major chaos, even beyond neocon expectations, in the region if we sit around Iraq too long. Another interesting complication: privatization of the oil industry. In the UN Administered or Head Transplant models we assume a state run oil industry. As that consolidates the resources in one place it offers the state a strong bargaining position with foreign oil companies. With the 6 Million Dollar Iraq we’d see smaller companies that might well be forced into considerably less advantageous contracts with foreign (re: American) oil companies that foot the bill for rebuilding in trade for ownership of these companies. It would prop up the federalist model on one hand but it would absolutely prove that the U.S. was in it for the oil to any outside observers.

Right now Ret. Gen. Garner and his crew are at a beachside resort in Kuwait with their Gurkha bodyguards making plans. But even they don’t know how all this is going to turn out.

From “Most Britons Back The War But Mistrust How The U.S. Is Waging It” in today’s NYTimes:

Similarly, Bruce Coleman, a retired oil engineer who spent a large part of his career in the Middle East, said the Americans — and particularly President Bush — had failed to recognize the magnitude of their undertaking.

“I don’t think Bush realizes the bottomless pit that these countries can be when it comes to aid and I don’t think the Americans realize what Iraq is,” said Mr. Coleman, 63. “It’s just an enormous desert, and it’s so poor. All you see when you go there is rust and sand and damaged buildings. Putting it right is going to cost billions.”

He likes the Americans, Mr. Coleman said, and feels close to them by virtue of tradition and a long and fruitful friendship. But that does not mean he has much confidence in their current project.

“The Americans, bless their hearts, are fairly parochial,” he said. “They don’t know anything about these countries they’re dealing with.”

And if the hilarities weren’t high-larious enough:

U.S., Allies Clash On Using Oil Profits For Reconstruction

UNITED NATIONS, April 2 – The Defense Department is pressing ahead with plans to temporarily manage Iraq’s oil industry after the war and to use the proceeds to rebuild the country, creating a conflict with U.S. allies in Europe and the Middle East, according to diplomats and industry experts.

The White House maintains that Iraq’s oil revenue is essential to financing the country’s postwar reconstruction. The administration intends to install a senior American oil executive to oversee Iraq’s exploration and production. Iraqi experts now outside the country would be recruited to handle future oil sales. Industry sources said former Shell Oil Co. chief executive Philip J. Carroll is the leading candidate to direct production.

But the postwar oil strategy is clouded by legal questions about the right of the United States to manage Iraq’s oil fields. Administration officials are searching for a legal basis to justify the U.S. plan. If the war succeeds, the United States may claim a legal right as an occupying power to sell the oil for the benefit of Iraq, people close to the situation said.

U.N. and British officials said the United States lacks the legal authority to begin exporting oil even on an interim basis without a new Security Council mandate. Iraq’s oil sales before the war were controlled by the United Nations under its oil-for-food program.

“We’re moving into a legal realm that is not clear,” said Jan Randolph, head of economic forecasting at the World Markets Research Center in London. “The impression we’re getting is that because the Americans are largely bearing the [war] costs, they will want to determine what happens next.”

David L. Goldwyn, president of Goldwyn International Strategies, said: “I don’t believe that the U.S. has the legal power under international law to seize and sell Iraq’s oil absent a new Security Council resolution.” Goldwyn, who was assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, added: “It is extremely doubtful any reputable oil company will purchase oil without clear title.” But some industry officials said oil companies might be willing to buy Iraq oil if purchases were guaranteed by the United States.


you are notorious for posting really funny and stupid (in a funny kinda way) shit here, but man, I have no idea why I clicked on this link - only find the most hilarious commentary from you that I’ve seen in a while.

You’re right though, Graham. In Iraq. Working in the name of the Holy Ghost. Man, thats gonna be funnee.

No money for you, you Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys!

“Tammany on The Tigris” From Joe Conason’s Journal today in

April 3, 2003 | Tammany on the Tigris
As American troops prepare for the perilous assault on Baghdad, others gather around the pools and beaches of Kuwait City. Anticipating the inevitable victory, the contractors, oil companies and bureaucrats await the spoils – and the decision about who will divide them.

A bitter struggle is raging already over the post-Saddam administration, with the major figures lined up more or less as they did in the pre-war struggle about whether to seek the U.N. imprimatur for the invasion. The Pentagon hawks want a military government controlled by the United States rather than the U.N., while the British government and the State Department regard an international presence as important to legitimize the new Iraq in the eyes of its neighbors and the world.

The excesses of the neoconservatives, as they concoct their postwar plans, are addressed in a surprisingly strong editorial today in the Washington Post, one of the nation’s most hawkish newspapers. The Post editorial board worries that “a secretive Pentagon-led group is already far advanced in plans to unilaterally install a postwar regime dominated by Americans and Iraqi exiles – one that would effectively exclude not only the United Nations but also European and Middle Eastern allies whose support will be essential to stabilizing the country. Even the State Department’s nominees would be shut out by Defense Department leaders who talk of leaping from military rule to an interim Iraqi government in 90 days with the help of the American officials who would run Iraqi ministries. This narrow approach could compound the diplomatic damage of the war and expose the United States and its soldiers to large and unnecessary risks.”

What that “Pentagon-led group” (shorthand for Rumsfeld, Cheney, Perle and Wolfowitz) appears to be imposing is their version of a Tammany-style patronage clubhouse, fronted by the U.S. military. For years now, the neocons have wanted to replace the Baathists with the Iraqi National Congress and their pal Ahmed Chalabi, its leader. Achieving this objective while simultaneously building democracy raises a troubling contradiction, however – since almost nobody in Iraq has ever heard of Chalabi, scion of a privileged Iraqi family that left the country decades ago. And many of those who have heard about him, over there and back here, would be none too pleased to see him in power.

Yet there are unmistakable signs that the Pentagon will try to wire Iraq for the Chalabi outfit. In today’s New York Times, a revealing report by Jane Perlez indicates that Rumsfeld has already leaked his choice to head the “all-important” new Ministry of Information in Baghdad. That would be R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director who now toils at the Booz Allen Hamilton international management consulting conglomerate. As an attorney, Woolsey has represented the Iraqi National Congress; his law firm, Shea & Gardner, registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for the INC. In short, Chalabi’s lawyer may soon be serving as information minister for the interim Iraqi government.

Among the harshest accounts of Chalabi’s career (aside from this excellent American Prospect profile by Robert Dreyfuss) was written last December by Arnaud de Borchgrave, former editor of the Washington Times and longtime fellow traveler of the neocons who has maintained an independent skepticism about this war. In that article, de Borchgrave recounts the unappetizing tale of Chalabi’s fraud conviction in Jordan, where the Iraqi exile was a favorite of the royal family until his bank failed spectacularly:

"No one is more upset at the idea of Mr. Chalabi becoming Washington’s man in Baghdad than Jordanian leaders, past and present. He was sentenced April 9, 1992, to 22 years hard labor by a Jordanian state security court on 31 charges of embezzlement, theft, misuse of depositor funds and speculation with the Jordanian dinar. The court also handed down harsh sentences and fines to 16 others, including several brothers and close relatives who were members of the board of Mr. Chalabi’s Petra Bank, or owners of affiliated companies.

"Mr. Chalabi, a one-time favorite of King Hussein’s royal court, had already skipped across the border to Syria hidden in the trunk of a royal palace car. Mr. Chalabi says former Crown Prince Hassan drove him to the border. Both the driver and the woman friend who organized the getaway deny this.

"No sooner did Mr. Chalabi reach London from Syria than he denounced the late King Hussein, accusing him of profiting from smuggling and weapons trading deals with Saddam.

“What was undeniable was that Mr. Chalabi’s Petra Bank, Jordan’s third largest, had gone belly up and some $300 million in depositors’ accounts had suddenly vanished.”

This is a remarkable piece, all the more so because it appeared in the pages of the Moonie paper. I found it on the Web site of Benador Associates, the New York public relations firm that represents Woolsey, Perle and many other members of the neocon network, including de Borchgrave.

Is installing Chalabi the true purpose of this war? Wouldn’t that be like appointing Ken Lay as president of the United States? That may not go over too well with the Iraqi people, or with Americans who believe we are sacrificing our young people to bring democracy to Iraq.

In Today’s Washington Post ‘Spoils of War’ an editorial by Bob Herbert.

Follow the money.

Former Secretary of State George Shultz is on the board of directors of the Bechtel Group, the largest contractor in the U.S. and one of the finalists in the competition to land a fat contract to help in the rebuilding of Iraq.

He is also the chairman of the advisory board of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a fiercely pro-war group with close ties to the White House. The committee, formed last year, made it clear from the beginning that it sought more than the ouster of Saddam’s regime. It was committed, among other things, “to work beyond the liberation of Iraq to the reconstruction of its economy.”

War is a tragedy for some and a boon for others. I asked Mr. Shultz if the fact that he was an advocate of the war while sitting on the board of a company that would benefit from it left him concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest.

“I don’t know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it,” he said. “But if there’s work that’s needed to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from.”

Jack Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps general, is a senior vice president at Bechtel. He’s also a member of the Defense Policy Board, a government-appointed group that advises the Pentagon on major defense issues. Its members are selected by the under secretary of defense for policy, currently Douglas Feith, and approved by the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

Most Americans have never heard of the Defense Policy Group. Its meetings are classified. The members disclose their business interests to the Pentagon, but that information is not available to the public.

The Center for Public Integrity, a private watchdog group in Washington, recently disclosed that of the 30 members of the board, at least 9 are linked to companies that have won more than $76 billion in defense contracts in 2001 and 2002.

Richard Perle was the chairman of the board until just a few weeks ago, when he resigned the chairmanship amid allegations of a conflict of interest. He is still on the board.

Another member is the former C.I.A. director, James Woolsey. He’s also a principal in the Paladin Capital Group, a venture capital firm that, as the Center for Public Integrity noted, is soliciting investments for companies that specialize in domestic security. Mr. Woolsey is also a member of the Committee to Liberate Iraq and is reported to be in line to play a role in the postwar occupation.

The war against Iraq has become one of the clearest examples ever of the influence of the military-industrial complex that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against so eloquently in his farewell address in 1961. This iron web of relationships among powerful individuals inside and outside the government operates with very little public scrutiny and is saturated with conflicts of interest.

The transitional government of Iraq is to be headed by a retired Army lieutenant general, Jay Garner. His career path was typical. He moved effortlessly from his military career to the presidency of SYColeman, a defense contractor that helped Israel develop its Arrow missile-defense system. The iron web.

Those who dreamt of a flowering of democracy in Iraq are advised to consider the skepticism of Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush. He asked: “What’s going to happen the first time we hold an election in Iraq and it turns out the radicals win? What do you do? We’re surely not going to let them take over.”

“Onward Christian Soldiers” from today’s Salon. It looks at the role the Religious Right and Evangelical broadcasters played in the Reagan era Lebanon disaster and are playing in Iraq now - and probably into the future.

What Kimball calls Stanley’s brand of Christian nationalism was on vivid display in an In Touch prayer pamphlet titled “A Christian’s Duty,” which features a list of daily prayers for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and for President Bush and his advisors. Framed in luminous shades of red, white and blue, the pamphlet includes a tear-off prayer pledge that can be mailed to the president. According to Black, In Touch Ministries has distributed 850,000 of the pamphlets across the U.S. and could exceed the 1 million mark very soon. Of course, during wartime it is common for religious leaders to ask their congregations to pray for their leaders to act wisely and for the safety of their troops. But some of the daily prayers in “A Christian’s Duty” are exceptional. For instance, one reads: “Pray that the President and his advisors will be strong and courageous to do what is right regardless of critics.”

“A Christian’s Duty” made a splash recently when the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that it had turned up by the thousands among U.S. Marines in Iraq. Because the ABC cited an anonymous embedded reporter, the report is almost impossible to confirm. Black denied that In Touch sent the pamphlets directly, hypothesizing that an individual member might have delivered them without In Touch’s knowledge. Centcom spokesman Col. Keith Oliver of the Marines said he is not familiar with the prayer guide, but added that he’s “not surprised at all that civilian ministries in the United States would be providing materials to our troops … It’s just as much a part of life on bases overseas as it is back in the towns and cities of America. But it’s curious to me that anyone would be alarmed. The Bible’s pretty clear about asking us to pray for our leaders.”

Oliver’s remarkable statement may be emblematic of a Christian zeal that has some support among troops in Iraq. One chaplain who may have taken In Touch’s pamphlet to heart is Josh Llano, a self-described Southern Baptist serving in the Army. An April 4 article in the Miami Herald reports that Llano has been offering baths at Camp Bushmaster in Iraq to soldiers who haven’t bathed in weeks – on the condition that he be allowed to baptize them. Like Stanley, Llano quotes from the Bible to justify war, telling the Herald that “we are called upon by our government to fight and that is giving to Caesar, as the Bible tells us.”

Stanley’s activity in the political arena also includes the seat he held on the board of the Religious Roundtable, a pantheon of the religious right that assessed the Christian credentials of Republican primary candidates during the 1996 campaign. And he has joined Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as a board member of the National Religious Broadcasters Association, a lobbying powerhouse that backed Bush II’s 2000 campaign and gave him a forum to push his war plans at its annual conference in February 2003. Still, until reports surfaced of In Touch’s prayer pamphlets in Iraq, he has been content to hang in the background while Falwell, Robertson and Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham, make headlines.

Graham recently caused a flash on the media radar when he announced that members of his humanitarian mission, Samaritan’s Purse, and the Southern Baptist Convention are poised to enter Iraq after the war to offer aid in the name of Jesus Christ. At In Touch Ministries, Black was skeptical about the plan. In Touch certainly wouldn’t rule out helping if the need is there, he said, but the ministry’s ultimate calling is to provide “the Truth” by cassette tapes, radio and TV.

Nevertheless, an open avenue into the Arab world is as crucial to In Touch as it is to Samaritan’s Purse. On its Web site, In Touch refers to the Middle East as the “10/40 Window … a 10-by-40 degree area north of the equator [which] houses the majority of the world’s people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their language. These people … are in desperate need of the Truth.” Stanley’s weekly sermons are beamed across the “10/40 Window” via satellite TV and shortwave radio by Middle East TV (METV), an American-owned Evangelical broadcast network. According to METV’s Web site, its mission is “bringing the Gospel message of hope and peace to the troubled Middle East.” Along with Stanley’s weekly “In Touch” show, METV offers a mixed fare of evangelical programming, American sports, and reruns of “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Gilligan’s Island” – all accompanied by Arabic subtitles. Since satellite dishes will probably become legal and popular in postwar Iraq, Stanley and METV’s audience there seems likely to grow.

When METV was founded in 1982 by an evangelical minister, Lester Sumrall, it started by operating out of a van in Israeli-occupied Southern Lebanon with the sanction of the Israeli government. It is now owned by LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association), the Sumrall family’s umbrella group, which includes a humanitarian mission and a tourism agency that, according to its Web site, works in tandem with Israel’s Tourism Ministry. When Israel ended its occupation of Lebanon in 1999, METV was forced to relocate to Cyprus.

Charles Kimball was in Israel and Lebanon to do interfaith work with the Mid East Council of Churches when METV started broadcasting evangelical programs like Pat Robertson’s “The 700 Club” in the area. Kimball recalls that Christians from Lebanon and the Galilee region of Northern Israel bristled at Robertson’s enthusiasm for the activities of the right-wing Christian Phalangist militia and the Israeli Defense Forces in Lebanon’s bloody civil war. And he says that METV’s broadcasts inflamed tensions between Lebanon’s indigenous Christians and their Muslim countrymen, who became suspicious that their Christian neighbors might have actually agreed with Robertson’s anti-Islamic vitriol.

In a worst-case scenario, the U.S. occupation of Iraq could resemble Lebanon’s civil war, in which the dissolution of a government allowed various ethnic groups and opportunistic outsiders to act out their long-standing rivalries. Centcom’s Col. Oliver was among Marines deployed to Lebanon in 1983 by President Reagan with the aim of restoring order to the country. As in the current war on Iraq, Oliver served as a spokesman for the Marines, eloquently explaining their noble intentions for Lebanon. Tragically, the Marines were sent packing by an Islamic radical with a fire in his heart and a truckful of deadly explosives. Oliver appears in Thomas Friedman’s book “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” standing around the rubble of the Marine barracks where 241 U.S. servicemen lost their lives. “You know,” he remarks in disbelief, “these people just aren’t playin’ with the same sheet of music.”

During the Lebanon conflict, Oliver says the Marines worked “hand-in-glove” with Pat Robertson and his Christian Broadcasting Network while he broadcast his overtly pro-American, pro-Israel sermons throughout the country. Despite the Marines’ fate there and the reports of Islamic militants filtering into Iraq to wage jihad against what they view as a new “crusade,” the Bush administration has not visibly discouraged ministers like Stanley and Graham from repeating Robertson’s actions. With its credibility at stake, an American-led interim government looks likely to dig in in Iraq for a long and delicate occupation of Arab land with a group of Southern Baptist evangelicals by its side. And a battle of biblical proportions may be just beginning.