Saturday, January 31, 2004
The Saddam Oil-Bribe story... I've been trying to track this story as it meanders through Western media. It first appeared in an Iraqi paper, Al-Mada, and thanks to Croooow blog I see it was reported on ABC news. NRO flogged it a bit this week, but I've not yet seen it in the Post. The Weekly Standard shot up a flare too, as you'd expect from those quarters.
It's a bombshell if true. I don't know if I'd touch it yet if I were the Post. (As my headline link shows, the Washington Times, via UPI, did). Even if untrue, it might have merit as a political story (looking into the motives and resentments of the Free Iraqis).
Paranoid Right-Wing Conspiracy member that I am, I do wonder how many western-media resources are being applied to check it out. In the meantime, cheers to ABC news. ABC does not credit Al-mada, unfortunately, as getting there first.
Update: For those who haven't been following the story, here's the gist, from the UPI story in the Washington Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Documents from Saddam Hussein's oil ministry reveal he used oil to bribe top French officials into opposing the imminent U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The oil ministry papers, described by the independent Baghdad newspaper al-Mada, are apparently authentic and will become the basis of an official investigation by the new Iraqi Governing Council, the Independent reported Wednesday.
"I think the list is true," Naseer Chaderji, a governing council member, said. "I will demand an investigation. These people must be prosecuted."
Such evidence would undermine the French position before the war when President Jacques Chirac sought to couch his opposition to the invasion on a moral high ground.
Unfortunately, the headline is stupefyingly misleading: Iraqi govt. papers: Saddam bribed Chirac. There's nothing in the UPI brief to support it, and his name does not appear on the list. A figure identified as one of his close associates does appear, but that's not good enough.
UPI ledes with the French angle, but the list of bribees spans the globe. Check out the ABC story linked above for a concise list. It includes officials close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and according to the MEMRI-translated Al-Mada story, "the Russian state itself." It also includes British politician George Galloway, a fierce opponent of the war. Denials all around so far.