Saturday, June 05, 2004

Telling Times: Chalabi, James Bath & the Iraq War

Telling Times: Chalabi, James Bath & the Iraq War

Ahmed Chalabi
James R. Bath
Salem Bin Laden
Osama Bin Laden
George W. Bush

June 1977
June: After a failed attempt to win a US congressional seat, George W. Bush sets up his own oil firm, Arbusto Oil in the same Midland, Texas Petroleum Oil building that his father used to work from. One of his backers is James Bath, a Houston aircraft broker who represents bin Laden family interests in the US. Salem bin Laden, eldest of the bin Laden sons, is another major partner in the firm. Salem bin Laden will die in an unexplained flying accident near San Antonio in 1988. The 50 investors who put up $4.7 million to start up the company are, in Bush's words, "mainly friends of my uncle" who "did pretty good," although they lost most of the money they invested in the company. Jonathan Bush, George W.'s uncle, raises money for Arbusto from political supporters of the Reagan-Bush administration. The time is not propitious for startup oil companies; many quickly die off, but Arbusto stays afloat due to large cash contributions from family connections and international contributors interested in building relations with the Bush family. (In These Times, Project Censored, Consortium News, Bushwatch, American Free Press/Killtown)

December 1979
George W. Bush's Arbusto Oil receives $50,000 from James Bath, a close family friend who is also the sole US business representative for Salem bin Laden. It is suspected that the money came directly from the bin Laden family, but efforts to conceal this connection are successful, so no proof is forthcoming. After 9/11, the Bush administration harshly denied any connection to the bin Laden family. Bush first stated that he didn't know Bath at all, then backtracked and admitted that he knew Bath well and was aware of his ties to the bin Ladens. Bath also has deep ties to BCCI, the scandal-plagued Arabic bank with ties to terrorists, drug trafficking, and arms dealing. (In These Times, Project Censored, Killtown)

August 1988
Salem bin Laden dies. His business interests are inherited by Khalid bin Mahfouz, a powerful Saudi financial figure and BCCI partner. Bush family friend James Bath runs a business for Mahfouz in Houston, and joins a business partnership with Mahfouz and BCCI frontman Gaith Pharoun in Houston's Main Bank. (In These Times, Bushwatch)

June 1992
June 4: The FBI is purported to be investigating the connections between George W. Bush and James Bath. Bath was Salem bin Laden's official representative in the US, and is intimately connected with bin Laden's financial successor, Khaled bin Mahfouz, who is now known to be a prime source of Al-Qaeda funding. Bath, and by inference bin Mahfouz, are accused of funneling money to the Reagan and Bush administrations in order to influence American foreign policy. Allegations of the bin Laden family's attempt to influence President Bush through his son are made, but before proof can be collected, the investigation is quietly throttled. (CCR, Project Censored)

Following Bush's executive order of mid-1991 ordering the deposal of Saddam Hussein, the Rendon Group, a public relations firm with extensive experience working in Iraq for the CIA and the Pentagon, organizes the Iraqi National Congress as an eventual replacement for the Hussein regime. The head of the firm, John Rendon, gives the INC its name, coordinates its strategy sessions, lines up meetings with powerful GOP officials, and channels $12 million in covert CIA funds to the new group. In October 1992, Rendon names Ahmed Chalabi as the head of the INC. (Chalabi left Jordan in 1989 in the trunk of a car after a bank he ran collapsed; he was subsequently charged in absentia with embezzlement and sentenced to 22 years in prison.) Internal dissension all but destroys the group and ruins Chalabi's reputation with US intelligence. After Clinton's election, the US ceases supporting the INC and helps form its own opposition group, the Iraqi National Accord (INA). Both groups are severely damaged when Hussein's internal police captures and executes many members of both groups. Chalabi, dubbed by many a "limousine insurgent" who draws "more support on the Potomac than the Euphrates," according to one Middle East expert, continues to be trusted and wooed by Pentagon and other neoconservatives, some of whom privately dub him the "George Washington of Iraq." In 1997, Chalabi's fortunes improve when many of his Washington supporters form the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), which advocates the overthrow of Hussein and Chalabi taking his place as Iraq's leader. "Were it not for Rendon," a State Department official later reflected, "the Chalabi group wouldn't even be on the map." Nine days after the 9/11 attacks, the PNAC sends a letter to President G.W. Bush advocating not only the destruction of al-Qaeda, but the overthrow of Hussein as well as measures to be taken against the governments of Syria, Iran, Lebanon, and Palestine. (In These Times, Asia Times)