Wednesday, February 23, 2005

UNCLE BUCKY (and other Iraq news)



If You Can't Find Something Nice To Say...

In a "highly unusual" shift from past practice, the White House has
excised a full chapter on Iraq's economy
from last week's Economic Report of the President, "reasoning in part
that the 'feel good' tone of the writing would ring hollow against the
backdrop of...suicide bombings, assassinations, sabotage and mile-long
gasoline lines." The decision to delete a completed chapter from the
report, says the Washington Post, is unprecedented, heightening concern the
administration "does not value lengthy, reasoned analyses of its
policies." Moreover, the omission underscored the administration's concerns
about continuing violence and bloodshed in Iraq. Despite winning modest
commitments from NATO this week, President Bush still faces daunting
challenges in the country, including corruption and a political
environment unfriendly to White House aims.

WHO IS JAFARI?: Ibrahim Jafari is poised to become Iraq's new prime
minister. Jafari, a devout Shiite, lived in Iran for years as an exile,
then in London until 2003. His political party, the Dawa Party, has close
ties to Iran. Jafari "refuses to shake the hands of women and was
behind a move last year to make Islamic law Iraq's legal basis for dealing
with issues such as marriage, divorce and inheritances." As the LA Times
points out, now "the U.S. faces the prospect of dealing with a
government whose views may be closer to Tehran's than to Washington's
." It may be a far cry from the Bush administration's visions of "a
pro-U.S. regime that would support American military bases, embrace U.S.
businesses and serve as a model for democracy in the region," leaving
the U.S. in the "position of providing its armed forces to protect a
government led by an Islamist with ties to Iran

CHALABI'S POWER PLAY: Yesterday, news sources reported that the
power-hungry former Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi withdrew his disruptive
challenge to become the next prime minister of Iraq. Remember: with Chalabi,
there's always an angle. Today, there are reports the former White House
darling may have been bribed into withdrawing his name with an offer
for another top position. The Christian Science Monitor reports the
leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), one
of the most powerful blocs in the Shiite alliance, met with Chalabi and
"offered to make him the top financial overseer in Iraq
( , responsible for
the oil, trade, and finance ministries in exchange for him
withdrawing." Chalabi's aides
confirmed that offer.

SYMBOLIC COMMITMENTS: President Bush was "all smiles" on Tuesday when
he received a pledge from NATO that all 26 member nations will
contribute support to Iraq. NATO's gift, however, "looks smaller when
unwrapped." Reports indicate the contributions will be "modest [and] largely
symbolic." France, for instance, will be contributing " one officer to the
Iraq training mission
( --
in Brussels. He'll be stationed at NATO headquarters 'validating
equipment provisions.'" Belgium is sending 10 driving instructors... to the
German-led mission in the United Arab Emirates. " In a sign of lingering
," France, Germany, Spain, Belgium and Greece are still refusing
to send any actual personnel to Iraq.

UNCLE BUCKY: It's not bad news for everyone in Iraq, however. Just ask
William H.T. Bush, or, as President George W. Bush calls him, Uncle
. Bucky Bush just made a cool $450,000 in war profits from Iraq through
the St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc.
Uncle Bucky, who sits on the company's board, cashed out a half-million
of the company's stock options last month. ESSI's stock prices
skyrocketed "to record heights" with Uncle Bucky's nephew's decision to invade
Iraq. ESSI raked in millions from contracts to refit military vehicles
with extra armor, build $19 million worth of its protective shelters
for chemical and biological weapons (despite the fact that no biological
or chemical weapons have been found in Iraq), and provide
communications support services to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Of course,
the company hasn't been without its share of trouble, even with a family
member in the White House: some of ESSI's sole-source contracts (with a
value of $158 million) are now under investigation by the Pentagon.
(Share your views on Uncle Bucky at
( )