Greg Palast, unable to attend hearings in Washington Thursday, has submitted the following testimony:
Chairman Conyers, It’s official: The Downing Street memos, a snooty New York Times “News Analysis” informs us, “are not the Dead Sea Scrolls.” You are warned, Congressman, to ignore the clear evidence of official mendacity and bald-faced fibbing by our two nations’ leaders because the cry for investigation came from the dark and dangerous world of “blogs” and “opponents” of Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush.
On May 5, “blog” site Buzzflash.com carried my story, IMPEACHMENT TIME: “FACTS WERE FIXED,” bringing the London Times report of the Downing Street memo to US media which seemed to be suffering at the time from an attack of NADD — “news attention deficit disorder.”
The memo, which contains the ill-making admission that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed” to match the Iraq-crazed fantasies of our President, is sufficient basis for a hearing toward impeachment of the Chief Executive. But to that we must add the other evidence and secret memos and documents still hidden from the American public.
Other foreign-based journalists could doubtless add more, including the disclosure that the key inspector of Iraq’s biological weapons, the late Dr. David Kelly, found the Bush-Blair analysis of his intelligence was indeed “fixed,” as the Downing Street memo puts it, around the war-hawk policy.
Here is a small timeline of confidential skullduggery dug up and broadcast by my own team for BBC Television and Harper’s on the secret plans to seize Iraq’s assets and oil.
February 2001 – Only one month after the first Bush-Cheney inauguration, the State Department’s Pam Quanrud organizes a secret confab in California to make plans for the invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam. US oil industry advisor Falah Aljibury and others are asked to interview would-be replacements for a new US-installed dictator.
On BBC Television’s Newsnight, Aljibury himself explained,
“It is an invasion, but it will act like a coup. The original plan was to liberate Iraq from the Saddamists and from the regime.”
March 2001 – Vice-President Dick Cheney meets with oil company executives and reviews oil field maps of Iraq. Cheney refuses to release the names of those attending or their purpose. Harper’s has since learned their plan and purpose — see below.
October/November 2001 – An easy military victory in Afghanistan emboldens then-Dep. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to convince the Administration to junk the State Department “coup” plan in favor of an invasion and occupation that could remake the economy of Iraq. And elaborate plan, ultimately summarized in a 101-page document, scopes out the “sale of all state enterprises” — that is, most of the nation’s assets, “… especially in the oil and supporting industries.”
2002 – Grover Norquist and other corporate lobbyists meet secretly with Defense, State and Treasury officials to ensure the invasion plans for Iraq include plans for protecting “property rights.” The result was a pre-invasion scheme to sell off Iraq’s oil fields, banks, electric systems, and even change the country’s copyright laws to the benefit of the lobbyists’ clients. Occupation chief Paul Bremer would later order these giveaways into Iraq law.
Fall 2002 – Philip Carroll, former CEO of Shell Oil USA, is brought in by the Pentagon to plan the management of Iraq’s oil fields. He works directly with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. “There were plans,” says Carroll, “maybe even too many plans” — but none disclosed to the public nor even the US Congress.
January 2003 – Robert Ebel, former CIA oil analyst, is sent, BBC learns, to London to meet with Fadhil Chalabi to plan terms for taking over Iraq’s oil.
March 2003 – What White House spokesman Ari Fleisher calls “Operations Iraqi Liberation” (OIL) begins. (Invasion is re-christened “OIF” — Operation Iraqi Freedom.)
March 2003 – Defense Department is told in confidence by US Energy Information Administrator Guy Caruso that Iraq’s fields are incapable of a massive increase in output. Despite this intelligence, Dep. Secretary Wolfowitz testifies to Congress that invasion will be a free ride. He swears, “There’s a lot of money to pay for this that doesn’t have to be U.S. taxpayer money. …We’re dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon,” a deliberate fabrication promoted by the Administration, an insider told BBC, as “part of the sales pitch” for war.
May 2003 – General Jay Garner, appointed by Bush as viceroy over Iraq, is fired by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The general revealed in an interview for BBC that he resisted White House plans to sell off Iraq’s oil and national assets.
“That’s just one fight you don’t want to take on,” Garner told me. But apparently, the White House wanted that fight.
The general also disclosed that these invade-and-grab plans were developed long before the US asserted that Saddam still held WDM:
“All I can tell you is the plans were pretty elaborate; they didn’t start them in 2002, they were started in 2001.”
November/December 2003 – Secrecy and misinformation continues even after the invasion. The oil industry objects to the State Department plans for Iraq’s oil fields and drafts for the Administration a 323-page plan, “Options for [the] Iraqi Oil Industry.” Per the industry plan, the US forces Iraq to create an OPEC-friendly state oil company that supports the OPEC cartel’s extortionate price for petroleum.
The Stone Wall
Harper’s and BBC obtained the plans despite official denial of their existence, then footdragging when confronted with the evidence of the reports’ existence.
Still today, the State and Defense Departments and White House continue to stonewall our demands for the notes of the meetings between lobbyists, oil industry consultants and key Administration officials that would reveal the hidden economic motives for the war.
What are the secret interests behind this occupation? Who benefits? Who met with whom? Why won’t this Administration release these documents of the economic blueprint for the war?
To date, the State and Defense Department responses to our reports are risible, and their answers to our requests for documents run from evasive to downright misleading. Maybe Congress, with it’s power of subpoena, can do better.
Blogs, the Media and Democracy
Let me conclude with a comment about those pesky “blogs” that so bother the New York Times. We should stand and offer a moment of quiet gratitude to the electronic swarm of gadfly commentators who make it so much harder for the US media to ignore news not officially blessed. Yes, Judith Miller’s breathless reports for The Times that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction may have maintained “access” for the mainstream press to its diet of White House propaganda, but the blogs insure that, whatever nonsense the US press is biting on, the public need not swallow.
This week Greg Palast’s investigative team was named winner of a 2004-5 Project Censored award from the California State University at Sonoma Journalism School for their exposÃ© of the secret US plans to seize Iraq’s oil assets. Special thanks to the chief investigator on Iraq, Leni von Eckardt, as well as additional support from Matt Pascarella. The investigation was conducted for Harper’s Magazine, BBC Television Newsnight and “blog” outlet TomPaine.com.
View the BBC television reports and the Harper’s and related reports at www.GregPalast.com