02 October 2008

McCain: Six degrees (actually two degrees) of Chalabi

During the last presidential debate, John McCain correctly said: "The next president of the United States is going to have to decide how we leave (Iraq), when we leave, and what we leave behind. That's the decision of the next president of the United States."

Shouldn't, then, presidential candidates not have lobbyists that are making millions of dollars on the Iraq War as their chief advisors? The lobbying firm founded by McCain's senior advisor Charlie Black, BKSH (B stands for Black) has received over 1.6 million from Occidental Petroleum for services. Late in July, OP CEO Ray Irani told Wall Street analysts in a conference call "There are some very large fields in Iraq which are going to become available. The huge ones will be run by...the oil majors and companies our size."

What Black's firm mostly has to offer in Iraq is access to the operations and contacts of Ahmed Chalabi, who was Iraq's Oil Minister as late as 2006 while serving as Deputy Prime Minister. This April 2008 article in The Nation reports that seven months after the Senate Intelligence Committee was told that Chalabi had misled the U.S. Congress on WMDs, Chalabi was riding a helicopter again with Gen. Petraeus, and Black's firm is the primary middleman that U.S. companies use to avoid having to pay Chalabi directly.

"The business elite was eager for a seat at the table. Corporate executives flocked to conferences, corporations set up divisions to work on developing business in Iraq, consultancies thrived and newsletters proliferated to detail legal niceties and dispense advice. BKSH was going to get in on the ground floor of the industry. Charles Black said it was a busy time. "After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein a lot of US companies, some of our long-term clients as well as some people who weren't our clients, came to us and were looking to do business in Iraq," he explained. The problem, he said, was that BKSH was not "going to be over there. We didn't have an office over there or have full-time personnel." (endquote)

"But the Chalabi operation did. Margaret Bartel, an accountant who had been hired by the State Department to sort out the INC's books and stayed on to become a key member of the organization's staff, was taking in Defense Intelligence Agency funds and delivering them to Chalabi's intelligence operation. Zaab Sethna, Chalabi's press aide, was also in Iraq. As Black explains it, "Peg was there and Zaab was there, so we just referred business to them." Bartel and BKSH reached an agreement: in exchange for a referral fee, BKSH would send clients to Bartel's consulting company, which would set them up with contacts, influence, housing, security and everything else they would need to get themselves started on Iraqi reconstruction. In the gold rush of 1849, they say, it was not the miners who got rich but the operators who sold the picks and the shovels and the wagons and the denim. So it was in Iraq, with the likes of Bartel, the INC and BKSH. The American businessmen would be the miners taking their chances, and the PR operatives and INC loyalists were selling the picks and shovels."

McCain, who has said previously the US could be in Iraq for "100 years or more," said in the Friday debate "the important thing is, if we suffer defeat in Iraq, which General Petraeus predicts we will, if we adopted Senator Obama's set date for withdrawal, then that will have a calamitous effect in Afghanistan and American national security interests in the region. Senator Obama doesn't seem to understand there is a connected between the two."

The MSM has an absolute responsibility to ask John McCain, on behalf of the public, if Charlie Black has influenced his decision to stay in Iraq longer than the recommendations of General Petraeus, who told Financial Times in late August that U.S. troops could be out of Iraq by July of next year.

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