ho ho ho! It's an early Christmas for James Baker
year the elves at his law firm, Baker Botts of
Texas, have been working day and night to prevent
the families of the victims of the September 11
attack from seeking information from Saudi Arabia
on the Kingdom's funding of Al Qaeda fronts.
tough work, but this week came the payoff when
President Bush appointed Baker, the firm's senior
partner, to "restructure" the debts of the nation
who will net the big bucks under Jim Baker's plan?
Answer: his client, Saudi Arabia, which claims
$30.7 billion due from Iraq plus $12 billion in
reparations from the First Gulf war.
ponder what's going on here.
are talking about something called "sovereign
debt." And unless George Bush has finally 'fessed
up and named himself Pasha of Iraq, he is not
their sovereign. Mr. Bush has no authority to
seize control of that nation's assets nor its
our President is not going to let something as
trivial as international law stand in the way
of a quick buck for Mr. Baker. To get around the
wee issue that Bush has no legal authority to
mess with Iraq's debt, the White House has crafted
a neat little subterfuge. The official press release
says the President has not appointed Mr. Baker.
Rather Mr. Bush is "responding to a request from
the Iraqi Governing Council." That is, Bush is
acting on the authority of the puppet government
he imposed on Iraqis at gunpoint.
will grant the Iraqi 'government' has some knowledge
of international finance; its key member, Ahmed
Chalabi, is a convicted bank swindler.
Bush team must see the other advantage in having
the rump rulers of Iraq pretend to choose Mr.
Baker; the US Senate will not have to review or
confirm the appointment. If you remember, Henry
Kissinger ran away from the September 11 commission
with his consulting firm tucked between his legs
after the Senate demanded he reveal his client
list. In the case of Jim Baker, who will be acting
as a de facto US Treasury secretary for international
affairs, our elected Congress will have no chance
to ask him who is paying his firm.Š nor even require
him to get off conflicting payrolls.
takes the Bush administration' Conflicts-R-Us
appointments process to a new low.
maybe there's no conflict at all. If you see Jim
Baker's new job as working not to protect a new
Iraqi democracy but to protect the loot of the
old theocracy of Saudi Arabia, the conflict disappears.
debt totals something on the order of $120 billion
to $150 billion, depending on who's counting.
And who's counting is VERY important.
of the so-called debt to Saudi Arabia was given
to Saddam Hussein to fight a proxy war for the
Saudis against their hated foe, the Shi'ia of
Iran. And as disclosed by a former Saudi diplomat,
the kingdom's sheiks handed about $7 billion to
Saddam under the table in the 1980's to build
an "Islamic bomb."
Iraqis today and those not yet born have to be
put in a debtor's prison to pay off the secret
payouts to Saddam?
Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, says
'No!' Wolfensohn has never been on my Christmas
card list, but in this case he's got it right:
Iraq should simply cancel $120 billion in debt.
the World Bank is in charge of post-war debt restructuring.
That's why the official name of the World Bank
is "International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development." This is the Bank's expertise. Bush
has rushed Baker in to pre-empt the debt write-off
the World Bank would certainly promote.
is our President so concerned with the wishes
of Mr. Baker's clientele? What does Bush owe Baker?
Let me count the ways, beginning with the 2000
last week Baker said, "I fixed the election in
Florida for George Bush." That was the substance
of his remarks last week to an audience of Russian
big wigs as reported to me by my somewhat astonished
colleagues at BBC television.
was Baker, as consiglieri to the Bush family,
who came up with the strategy of maneuvering the
2000 Florida vote count into a Supreme Court packed
claim to have fixed the election was not a confession;
it was a boast. He meant to dazzle current and
potential clients about his Big In with the Big
Boy in the White House. Baker's firm is already
a top player in the Great Game of seizing Caspian
Sea oil. (An executive of Exxon-Mobil, one of
Baker Botts's clients, has been charged with evading
taxes on bribes paid in Kazakhstan.)
IN THE FAMILY
the years, Jim Baker has taken responsibility
for putting bread on the Bush family table. As
Senior Counsel to Carlyle, the arms-dealing investment
group, Baker arranged for the firm to hire both
President Bush 41 after he was booted from the
White House and President Bush 43 while his daddy
was still in office.
to think of it, maybe I'm being a bit too dismissive
of the Iraqi make-believe government. After all,
it's not as if George Bush were elected by voters
either. It would be more accurate to say that
TWO puppet governments have agreed to let the
man who has always pulled the strings come out
from behind the curtain, take a bow, take charge
-- then take the money and run.
Posted: December 9, 2003