Wednesday :: May 18, 2005

Target In Sight - Stay On It!

by pessimist

It's been a good week for American progressives! We now have a lot to work with in our exposure of Bu$hCo, thanks in no small part to British MP George Galloway's testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations:

Galloway faces US Senate hearing

British MP George Galloway said today he intended to use a US senate hearing as a platform to put those responsible for the Iraq war on trial. In Washington to address the senators who have accused him of receiving vouchers for millions of barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein’s regime, Mr Galloway vowed to show the world who was the real guilty party. “I am determined, now that I am here, to be not the accused but the accuser,” he said. "The people who have been guilty of massive profiteering in Iraq is the US themselves, and I intend to put them on trial."

Galloway said: "They will have to show me the money," he said. "Anyone can put anyone’s name on documents. If there was a person who gave me millions of dollars, you’d know about it by now. I don’t look like a millionaire, I don’t act like a millionaire, I am not a millionaire."

The former Labour MP accused the US Government of using the issue to divert attention from the consequences of the Iraq war.

Diversion of attention by Bu$hCo is still going to be attempted, however - thanks to the very person who came to Washington to clear himself.

Galloway's reputation and honesty are going to be used as one distraction as Bu$hCo shifts into attack mode to weaken his charges:

Galloway attacks Senate Committee
18 May 2005

Following one and a half hours of evidence against him at a US Senate Committee hearing, British MP George Galloway turned the tables on accusers who alleged that he made gains during Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Mr Galloway told committee chairman Norm Coleman, 'everything I said about Iraq turned out to be right, and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,000 people have paid with their lives.' His scathing denunciation of the Iraq venture left some US lawmakers squirming in their seats, particularly when he urged them to refocus their UN investigations from the world body and onto the role played by Washington.
However, speaking after the hearing, Mr Coleman said he did not think Mr Galloway had been a 'credible witness'.

Note the spin inherent in this reportage:

UK’s Galloway puts US Senators to Shame: Delivers passionate speech exposing the real corruption

George Galloway had vowed to give US senators "both barrels" and after sitting - coiled - through an hour-and-half of testimony against him, he unloaded all his ammunition. Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr Galloway went on the attack. One observer of Capitol Hill politics declared the result: "Galloway by a knockout - before round five." Others cast the confrontation as Braveheart on Capitol Hill.

In the face of Mr Galloway’s refusal to accept anything the senators were claiming might be true, they tried to establish a link between a Jordanian businessman who they believe received oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, and Mr Galloway’s children’s charity. Mr Galloway said the businessman had given money to the charity but he, Mr Galloway, had never known where it came from. Senator Levin later said he was "deeply troubled" that Mr Galloway had "ducked the question". The senators believe that it came from Iraq, but they could come up with no proof and their questions ended.

It was Mr Galloway who looked most satisfied as he left the vast, wood-panelled committee room. Outside in a corridor he told reporters he thought he had put the committee on the ropes, saying of Mr Coleman: "He’s not much of a lyncher." Though he left the building professing himself satisfied with his trip to Washington, only time will tell whether Mr Galloway has blown away the allegations he described as the "mother of all smokescreens".

The senators, however, were playing down the confrontation. "This was not a wrestling match," Mr Coleman protested. "It wasn’t a contest." Mr Coleman said he didn’t think Mr Galloway had been a "credible witness". If it was found he had lied under oath, there would be "consequences", he said.

It won't just be the American media that takes up this counterattack against Galloway - the British media has its pro-Bu$hCo elements as well:

Galloway bluster fails to convince Senate

Galloway yesterday failed in his attempt to convince a sceptical US Senate investigative committee that he had not profited from oil dealings with Iraq under the UN’s controversial oil-for-food programme.

Despite a typically barnstorming performance full of bluster and rhetorical flourishes, the former Glasgow Kelvin MP was pinned down by persistent questioning over his business relationship with Fawaz Zureikat, the chairman of the Mariam Appeal - set up to assist a four-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukaemia.

And it was a Democrat senator, Carl Levin, rather than the Republican committee chairman, Norm Coleman, who gave him the hardest time as Mr Galloway sought to turn the tables on his inquisitors, leaving him no closer to clearing his name than when he took his seat in front of the sub-committee of the Senate’s homeland security and government affairs committee in Washington.

Time and again, Mr Levin questioned him, requesting wearily that he deliver a straight answer to a straight question. But Mr Galloway could, or would not.

So there's some more fuel for the wrong-wing distraction fire fight - Carl Levin got the props that should have gone to Normie!

But that isn't going to be the weapon of choice. This will:

Duel on the Hill

If there was a chink in Mr Galloway's armour it concerned his friend, Fawaz Zureikat, the Jordanian contributor to the Mariam charity appeal who documents did show trading in oil with Iraq. The MP would not say whether he would have been troubled to discover the source of his largesse. But of proof of wrongdoing on his own part, there was none. These exchanges may not have settled anything definitively, but they did serve as a reminder of the passion and fury that is still generated on both sides of the Atlantic by Iraq's unfinished war.

So far, this looks like there should be a big opening for the Righty Whirlitzer to be spinning up. But maybe we should look into this a little deeper and see if these allegations have any merit. Note how Normie gets what he gives - in spades:

'I am not, nor have I ever been, an oil trader'

In their cross-examination, the senators focused on Mr Galloway's relationship with Fawaz Zureikat, a Jordanian businessmen with extensive dealings in pre-war Iraq who served as chairman of and as principal contributor to Mr Galloway's charity, the Mariam Appeal. They suggested Mr Zureikat had been oil trading in his name, and the MP must have known about it. Once more, the accused sought to turn the tables on his accusers.

When Mr Coleman asked how he could have failed to be aware of Mr Zureikat's oil deals, Mr Galloway turned the attention to Mr Coleman's campaign fundraising.

He said: "Well, there's a lot of contributors, I've just been checking your website..."

"Not many at that level, Mr Galloway," the senator interjected.

"No, let me assure you there are," Mr Galloway went on. "I've checked your website. There are lots of contributors to your political campaign funds, I don't suppose you ask any of them how they made the money they give you."

Mr Coleman stuck to his task. "If I can get back to Mr Zureikat one more time, do you recall a time when you specifically had a conversation with him about oil dealings in Iraq?"

"I've already answered that question," Mr Galloway replied. "I can assure you, Mr Zureikat never gave me a penny from an oil deal, from a cake deal, from a bread deal or from any deal."

The Righty Whirlitzer Spins!

He danced around many of the questions, frequently responding, "I can do better than that" and answering a slightly different question. His biggest stumble came when he mistakenly assumed Mr Levin had backed the war.

This must have pissed off the long-term member from Michigan, for he began to issue some very Bu$hCo-sounding questions:

Mr Levin's investigation of the US government's own failure to police sanctions provided Mr Galloway ammunition for his counter-attack. But he made no more headway than his Republican counterpart in his cross-examination of the witness. When Mr Levin invited Mr Galloway to say whether he was alleging the documentary evidence was forged, the British MP replied:
"Well, I have no way of knowing, sir."

"That's fine. So you're not alleging," Mr Levin persisted.

"I have no way of knowing."

"Is it fair to say, since you don't know, you're not alleging? "

"Well, it would have been nice to have seen it before today," Mr Galloway said.

The minuet of exchanges played on for another few minutes before the senators gave up frustrated. They had come equipped for a trial and found themselves in the role of stooges for a man accustomed to playing to the gallery.

That's the story we're going to be hearing about a lot over the next several days. From the wrong-wing, we'll be hearing about how Galloway didn't answer the questions.

From the progressives - and it is a very welcome tale indeed - we'll be hearing about how Galloway got the better of Bu$hCo.

But it is going to be used to cover the real story - the story of how the administration of George W. Bu$h aided and abetted Saddam's violations of the UN Oil For Food program.

Partial transcript of Galloway’s barnstorming appearance before the Senate.

(note: Galloway delivered this passionate speech looking the Senators in the eye, not referring to notes even once. Anyone that’s seen American politicians knows that most of them only read prepared statements... this performance by Galloway on live TV puts American politicians, esp the weak-kneed Democrats, to shame.
- Matthew Davis, BBC)

Senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong, and 100,00 people have paid with their lives - 1600 of them American soldiers sent to their deaths - on a pack of lies. 15,000 of them wounded - many of them disabled forever - on a pack of lies.

If the world had listened to Kofi Annan, whose dismissal you demanded; if the world had listened to President Chirac, who you want to paint as some kind of corrupt traitor; if the world had listened to me and the anti-war movement in Britain - we would not be in the disaster were are in today.

Senator, this is the mother of all smokescreens. You are trying to divert attention from the crimes that you supported, from the theft of billions of dollars of Iraq’s wealth. Have a look at the real oil for food scandal, have a look at the fourteen months you were in charge of Baghdad, the first fourteen months, when 8.8 billion dollars of Iraq’s wealth went missing, on your watch. Have a look at Halliburton and the other American corporations that stole not only Iraq’s money, but the money of the American taxpayer. Have a look at the 800 million dollars you gave out to American military commanders to hand out around the country, without even counting it, or weighing it.

Have a look at the oil that you didn’t even meter, that you were shipping out of the country and selling, the proceeds of which went, who knows where.
Have a look at the real scandal breaking in the newspapers today, revealed in the earlier testimony in this committee, that the biggest sanctions busters were not me or Russian politicans, or French politicians.
The real sanctions busters were your own companies with the connivance of your own government.

U.S. turned a blind eye to Iraqi sanction violations

The Guardian reports on Tuesday that the United States administration turned a blind eye to extensive sanctions-busting in the pre-war sale of Iraqi oil, according to a new Senate investigation. A report released Monday night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but made no move to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.

In fact, the Senate report found that U.S. oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.
According to the Senate report: "The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions, ...
... On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.
The report is likely to ease the intensified pressure from conservative Republicans on Kofi Annan to resign from his post as UN secretary general.

Yesterday's report makes two principal allegations against the Bush administration.

Firstly, it found the U.S. treasury failed to take action against a Texas oil company, Bayoil, which facilitated payment of "at least $37m in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime".

The surcharges were a violation of the UN Oil for Food programme, by which Iraq was allowed to sell heavily discounted oil to raise money for food and humanitarian supplies.
However, Saddam was allowed to choose which companies were given the highly lucrative oil contracts. Between September 2000 and September 2002 (when the practice was stopped) the regime demanded kickbacks of 10 to 30 US cents a barrel in return for oil allocations.

In its second main finding, the report said the U.S. military and the state department implicitly gave the green light for shipments of nearly 8m barrels of oil bought by Jordan, a vital American ally, entirely outside the UN-monitored Oil For Food system.

Though Jordan was permitted to directly buy some oil under strict conditions the purchases appeared to be made under-the-counter.
The Jordanian oil purchases were shipped in the weeks before the war out of the Iraqi port of Khor al-Amaya, which was operating without UN approval or surveillance.

Investigators found correspondence showing that Odin Marine Inc., the U.S. company chartering the seven huge tankers which picked up the oil at Khor al-Amaya, repeatedly sought and received approval from U.S. military and civilian officials that the ships would not be confiscated by U.S. Navy vessels in the Maritime Interdiction Force (MIF) enforcing the embargo.

Odin was reassured by a state department official that the U.S. "was aware of the shipments and has determined not to take action". The company's vice president, David Young, told investigators that a U.S. naval officer at MIF told him that he 'had no objections' to the shipments. "He said that he was sorry he could not say anything more. I told him I completely understood and did not expect him to say anything more," Mr Young said.

An executive at Odin Maritime confirmed the senate account of the oil shipments as 'correct' but declined to comment further.

The report further details a series of efforts by UN monitors to obtain information about Bayoil's oil shipments in 2001 and 2002, and the lack of help provided by the [Bu$hCo] U.S. treasury. Following repeated requests over eight months from the UN and the U.S. state department, the treasury's office of foreign assets control wrote to Bayoil in May 2002, requesting a report on its transactions but did not "request specific information by UN or direct Bayoil to answer the UN's questions".

This all happened, I reiterate, during 2001 and 2002. Whose administration was in power during those years? Bill Clinton is to blame for this how?

But I digress.

Bayoil's owner, David Chalmers, has been charged over the company's activities. His lawyer Catherine Recker told the Washington Post: "Bayoil and David Chalmers [said] they have done nothing illegal and will vigorously defend these reckless accusations."

It was not clear last night whether the Democratic report would be accepted by Republicans on the Senate investigations committee. The Pentagon declined to comment. The US representative's office at the UN referred inquiries to the state department, which fail to return calls.

Typical Bu$hCo behavior - lie low until you can lie again - when the uproarious storm passes:

How the oil-for-food programme was exploited

The riveting confrontation yesterday between George Galloway and the Congressional panel probing the scandal of the United Nations oil-for-food programme for Iraq proves one thing - that few emerge with any credit in the maelstrom left by Saddam Hussein's elaborate scheme to smuggle oil, enrich himself, and grease the palms of potential allies abroad and at the UN.

Over the last five days, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee for Investigations has issued three reports on the scandal, showing how Saddam reaped over $10bn manipulating Iraq's oil sales for the seven years it operated, between 1996 and 2003.

Piker! Enron got almost that much out of California in just a few months alone!

But I digress.

It is now clear the former Iraqi dictator found two distinct ways of exploiting his country's oil exports, in the process reaping income that helped keep his regime afloat despite tight international sanctions.

The first method - outlined in the first two reports issued by the whole committee - was aimed at officials and influence-wielding figures abroad. These latter were awarded vouchers to buy the oil at below-market prices. They could then sell it on at a hefty profit.

"The plan was simple," Norm Coleman, the Republican chairman of the committee, declared as he opened proceedings. Iraq especially rewarded foreign officials, journalists and even 'terrorist entities.' The aim was to build international support for the regime, and to erode backing for sanctions. These, in essence, are the allegations against Mr Galloway, the former French minister Charles Pasqua and various senior figures in Russia.

All are from countries with veto powers at the UN, which could block further measures against Iraq.

This is a good point! All of these countries have at times done things in direct opposition to Bu$hCo de$ire$. What better way to ease this opposition by presenting 'evidence' that proves involvement by the various governmental officials in this scandal? It also serves to redirect attention, as will the new furor over MP Galloway's bitch-slapping of Norm Coleman.

You DO note that Normie's 'taking it like a man' for the 'good' of the Party?

But I digress.

All have denied the charges, none more vehemently and caustically than the British MP, who was allotted 20m barrels of oil, according to Iraqi documents and testimony from former Saddam regime officials interviewed by the committee. But "If I'd bought or sold a drop of Iraqi oil, you'd know about it already," Mr Galloway said after his bravado performance.

Through The Levin Looking Glass

In sheer terms of money however, the third report issued by the Democratic minority on the Committee, is even more shocking. It alleges that the US government turned a blind eye as Bayoil, a Texas oil company, imported Iraqi oil and paid $37m of kickbacks to the Saddam regime. Also, as a member of the Security Council, Washington did nothing to prevent Saddam sellling oil worth a claimed $8bn, to Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Turkey, in violation of sanctions.

Bayoil - an alleged central player in the Russian end of the vouchers scam and whose founder David Chalmers was indicted in April on kick-back charges - offers a case-study of how the system worked prosecutors say.

Setting out the 'Russian connection', the subcommittee says that Bayoil strove to be a buyer of Iraqi oil under the UN-administered programme. But it was initially blocked by a ban by Saddam on direct sales to oil companies from the US and Britain, the two allies operating the no-fly zones in Iraq, and the strongest backers of sanctions.

Bayoil, it is claimed, on occasion arranged deals between Baghdad and Vladimir Zhironovsky, one of the Russians named, a former Russian presidential candidate and a fierce critic of the West. The oil was made over to a Russian third party, which never took delivery but sold it on to Bayoil. The report says that the company paid 'an agreed premium' to Mr Zhirinovsky.

Documents suggest that Iraq itself received $4m in connection with these deals. In one case it is said to have 'facilitated' a $2m surcharge payment, in other words a kick-back, to the regime in Baghdad.

"On the one hand, the United States was at the UN trying to stop Iraq from imposing illegal surcharges on oil-for-food contacts," Carl Levin, the panel's senior Democrat said as the hearing began yesterday. "On the other hand, the US ignored red flags that some US companies might be paying those same illegal surcharges." America, he said, "should look in the mirror."

According to the Democratic minority report, these dealings flourished in large part thanks to 'minimal attention' from the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) - the Treasury's department supposed to monitor US application of UN sanctions - as Bayoil handled over 200m barrels of Iraqi oil imports into the US between 2000 and 2002.
The US government not only did not try to stop the shipments, Mr Levin's report said, 'It appears to have facilitated them' despite widespread recognition that they were 'a blatant violation' of sanctions and [in spite of] an alert from the UN itself in mid-2001 that Bayoil could be abusing the oil-for-food programme.

Mr Levin's charges are a bipartisan embarrassment, implying that both the Democratic administration of Bill Clinton and the current Bush administration bore some responsibility. But the fact that they were issued only by Democrats, suggests that arguments between the parties, in what is the most bitterly divided Senate in memory, could affect the Committee's work.

Mr Coleman has earned himself a high profile by demanding the resignation of Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, over the Iraqi oil scandal.

If Democrats are right, blame belongs much closer to home.

And that is the motive for the upcoming distraction campaign which is now getting under way to prevent the compliant news media (the 'means') from taking up this real story now that MP Galloway has provided an opportunity for the Righty Whirlitzer to fire up into full-scale obstruction-of-justice mode.

As much as I admire and appreciate the actions and statements of George Galloway, we should be careful about allowing the most potnet weapon the anti-Bu$hCo crowd has had access to in years to be used against us. We have to keep the focus on Bu$hCo and this willful violation of the very sanctions they so stringently promoted upon everyone else. They have to be strongly reminded, as George Galloway loudly proclaimed:

"I don’t have to answer to them. They don’t rule the world."

• BBC Scotland flew its own reporter, Bob Wylie, out to cover Mr Galloway’s appearance, while the corporation is looking to make job cuts and savings.

Note to the American Media: This is how you let the public know you are being obstructed in the performance of your tasks by your management. You just might be surprised at how much support you will find as a result.

But I digress.

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pessimist :: 1:25 PM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!