Belaboring the Obvious

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lessons Learned....

One of the very odd little tidbits in Seymour Hersh's last piece in The New Yorker ("The Redirection") is that Elliott Abrams convened a little pow-wow a couple of years ago of all the Iran-Contra alumni in the Bush administration to assess the mistakes they made. Oh, no, this was not a pity party to commiserate with each other over their foolishness in funding terror to disrupt an elected government with illegal arms sales to a second, embargoed country. This was, apparently, a review of how they got caught and a skull session on how not to get caught in the future:

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal “lessons learned” discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: “One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office”—a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

It was only one paragraph (which mostly served as a lead-in for a longer explanation of why Negroponte ended up back in the State Dept.) in a long, long article, so, I suppose, it would escape the notice of most of the media (Tom Engelhardt did notice, prompting this blog entry). But, just musing about the possibilities implicit in such a meeting, would it be too far out of orbit to suggest that, maybe, just maybe, the remaining core of Iran-Contra felons were planning on doing it again?

Hersh suggests that, yes, they might be, further suggesting that the very secretive and ideological Office of the Vice President has been funding Sunni jihadis in Lebanon with "black" money. Hersh makes the point that now, as then, the Saudis have been quietly offering both cash and logistical support. That this situation seems to be a repeat of the aftermath of the U.S.'s proxy war with the Soviet Union is duly noted, with the proviso by the Saudis that:

This time, the U.S. government consultant told me, Bandar and other Saudis have assured the White House that “they will keep a very close eye on the religious fundamentalists. Their message to us was ‘We’ve created this movement, and we can control it.’ It’s not that we don’t want the Salafis to throw bombs; it’s who they throw them at—Hezbollah, Moqtada al-Sadr, Iran, and at the Syrians, if they continue to work with Hezbollah and Iran.”

There is a lot of money floating around without any accounting, thanks to the Iraq invasion. Quite apart from the unaccounted-for billions in Iraqi oil-for-food fund monies which the U.S. seized for reconstruction and interim government operation, and which was sent to the country as cash from the U.S. Reserve Bank in N.Y., almost always as pallets of $100 bills (regarding this, there's still been little written about the three Blackhawk helicopters full of money--perhaps as much as $1.5 billion in cash--delivered to a person unknown by the embassy official in charge of the money and of whom no identification was required). Quite apart from those irregularities, there's the money which Saddam and his sons had squirreled away all over the country. Early in the invasion and occupation, reportedly, $600 million was found in one cache alone. There were likely others which did not receive any public attention, and that money hasn't been subject to any public accounting, either.

Conceivably, there could be several billion dollars from many different sources available for any new "off-the-shelf, standalone enterprise," as Ollie North had referred to illegal White House wars of choice. In a time of stratospheric defense budgets and huge amounts spent on the occupation of Iraq, this may not seem like much, but, for reference, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia funded that guerrilla war in Afghanistan against the Soviets, for almost nine years, for five or six billion.

Engelhardt makes a natural and certainly partially correct assumption--that this money is being used broadly in the Middle East to diminish the strength of Iran and to prop up Saudi Arabia's interests in Iraq, and he properly notes the ironies implicit in funding the same sort of Saudi radicals who, only five years ago, attacked us on our own soil.

But, what if there's so much "black" money around that the Middle East is only one consideration in President Cheney's grand scheme of things? What if the daydreams of those old hands at Iran-Contra still drift southward? What if, at this moment, there are action plans for the "problem" areas in Latin America--Nicaragua, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela and--dare one say it again--Chile? After all, there's already been an attempted coup in Venezuela. Ecuador and Bolivia are looking less and less stable after upheavals in their political systems after decades of pro-U.S. and pro-U.S. multinational governments. Chile's new president is a victim of Pinochet's U.S.-supported dictatorship, with intimate knowledge of its workings, and is no fond friend of the United States--note that Bush's recently-completed "tour" of Latin America avoided most of the above countries.

How many other places could part of a few billion dollars buy some political destabilization and terror operations, far beyond the view of the recently reopened eyes of Congress? Georgia, the Ukraine, Chechnya, Russia? Indonesia? Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Somalia, the Congo? The Philippines? The United States?


  • BRILLIANT! Just stunning and sickening, all in one. Who, besides Sy Hersh, can keep this in focus? What do we do to bring this forward?
    thanks for writing this...why does it feel so alone, to be able to see the history, and the same old usual suspects up to their same games?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:53 PM  

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