Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Taking Care of Business, Part 4

We continue from Part 3. Here we review commentary that provides some background to the BAE scandal, from Brothers in Arms: Bandar Bush Took a Billion in Bribes to Push UK Weapons Deal by by Chris Floyd:

So says the Guardian, which has had a sneak peek at the evidence compiled by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in its lengthy investigation of vast corruption in a decades-long arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the Anglo-American arms merchant, BAE, Tony Blair's favorite war profiteer. The SFO's probe was preemptorily quashed by Blair's ever quiescent attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, last December. Now the Guardian has learned that BAE paid a quarterly bribe to Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud -- long-time ambassador to the United States, and so intimate with America's ruling family that the president nicknamed him "Bandar Bush." BAE was plying Prince Bush with $30 million every quarter -- for ten years. Nice work if you can get it.

The background to this sordid business can be found in a piece I did last year: Last Bad Deal Gone Down: War Profits Trump the Rule of Law. A brief excerpt below sets the scene:

Slush funds, oil sheikhs, prostitutes, Swiss banks, kickbacks, blackmail, bagmen, arms deals, war plans, climbdowns, big lies and Dick Cheney – it's a scandal that has it all: corruption and cowardice at the highest levels, a festering canker at the very heart of world politics, where the War on Terror meets the slaughter in Iraq. Yet chances are you've never heard about it – even though it happened just a few days ago. The fog of war profiteering, it seems, is just as thick as the fog of war.

Sound familiar?

But here's how the deal went down. On Dec. 14, the UK Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith (Pete Goldsmith as was, before his longtime crony Tony Blair raised him to the peerage), peremptorily shut down a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into a massive corruption case involving Britain's biggest military contractor and members of the Saudi royal family. SFO bulldogs had just forced their way into the holy of holies of the great global backroom – Swiss bank accounts – when Pete pulled the plug. Continuing with the investigation, said His Lordship, "would not be in the national interest."

It certainly wasn't in the interest of BAE Systems, the British arms merchant which has become one of the top 10 U.S. military firms as well, through its voracious acquisitions during the profitable War on Terror – including some juicy hook-ups with the Carlyle Group, the former corporate crib of George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush and still current home of the family fixer, James Baker. BAE director Phillip Carroll is also quite at home in the White House inner circle: a former chairman of Shell Oil, he was tapped by George II to be the first "Senior Adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Oil" in those heady "Mission Accomplished" days of 2003. BAE has allegedly managed to "disappear" approximately $2 billion in shavings from one of the largest and longest-running arms deals in history – the UK-Saudi warplane program known as "al-Yamanah" (Arabic for "the dove"). Al-Yamanah has been flying for 18 years now, with periodic augmentations, pumping almost $80 billion into BAE's coffers, with negotiations for $12 billion in additional planes now nearing completion. SFO investigators had followed the missing money from the deal into a network of Swiss bank accounts and the usual Enronian web of offshore front companies.

From The Highjacking of a Nation, Part 2: The Auctioning of Former Statesmen & Dime a Dozen Generals by Sibel Edmonds, November 29, 2006:

The foreign influence, the lobbyists, the current highly positioned civil servants who are determined future 'wanna be' lobbyists, and the fat cats of the Military Industrial Complex, operate successfully under the radar, with unlimited reach and power, with no scrutiny, while selling your interests, benefiting from your tax money, and serving the highest bidders regardless of what or who they may be. This deep state seems to operate at all levels of our government; from the President's office to Congress, from the military quarters to the civil servants' offices.

Of course, instead of "Congress" say "Parliament", instead of "President" say "Prime Minister" -- you get the idea.

Returning to Brothers in Arms: Bandar Bush Took a Billion in Bribes to Push UK Weapons Deal:

Bandar Bush was instrumental in setting up the deal in the first place, the Guardian notes, wheeling and dealing with Maggie Thatcher from his Washington redoubt. The prince -- one of the leading figures in perhaps the most repressive and extremist Islamic state on earth -- has continued to be influential with the White House even after stepping down as ambassador in 2005. (He's now head of the repressive state's security organs.) He's also played a key role in L'il Bush's political career -- making a deal to cut oil prices before the 2004 vote and publicly endorsing his "brother" in the election. One cannot but speculate on how much of the dirty BAE money was used to grease the overt and covert ops of the Bush political machine. According to the Guardian, Bandar's BAE bribes were drawn from BAE's slush fund and deposited in Bandar's account in Washington's Riggs Bank -- the notorious money-laundering outfit used for decades by American and foreign elites to wash their filthy lucre. L'il Bush's uncle, Jonathan Bush, was a top executive at Riggs Bank when it was hit with a record $25 million fine in 2004 for skirting money-laundering laws, as David Sirota -- and then the Washington Post -- reported.

From Cracking the Case: An Interview With Sibel Edmonds by Scott Horton, August 22, 2005:

SH: So let's get into some of that criminal activity then. The semi-legit organization that I think you are most often referring to is the American Turkish Council, which is headed by Brent Scowcroft, a former national security adviser of the United States, and is packed with the leaders of Raytheon, Motorola, Boeing, Lockheed, Martin Marietta, and some of the most powerful company names in the military-industrial complex.

SE: Correct.

SH: Is the ATC just one of many semi-legitimate organizations that you are referring to, or is most of this story focused on the ATC itself?

SE: There are many.

SH: And many organizations that you actually were overhearing?

SE: I cannot talk to you about what I was overhearing, but as I have pointed out there are several organizations.

Returning to Brothers in Arms: Bandar Bush Took a Billion in Bribes to Push UK Weapons Deal:

When questioned by the Guardian about the payments, BAE's defense was bold -- and probably accurate: "We have little doubt that among the reasons the attorney general considered the case was doomed was the fact that we acted in accordance with... the relevant contracts, with the approval of the government of Saudi Arabia, together with, where relevant, that of the UK [Ministry of Defence]." Goldsmith's office offered a similar assertion: "There were major legal difficulties [with the SFO investigation] given BAE's claim that the payments were made in accordance with the agreed contractual arrangements."

In other words, the bribes to Saudi royals were probably built into the contract from the beginning, in secret codicils that would have required the approval of UK government official for two decades, encompassing the years of Thatcher, John Major (who served as head of Carlyle's European operations from 2001 to 2004) and Tony Blair. Thus, even though such payments are illegal under UK law -- and have been outlawed in the United States since 1977, as the Guardian notes -- BAE can ultimately point to government sanction for its corruption... in the all-absolving name of "national security," of course.

From Cracking the Case: An Interview With Sibel Edmonds by Scott Horton, August 22, 2005:

SH: Okay, and you mention when you talk about criminal activity, drug-running, money-laundering, weapons-smuggling...

SE: And these activities overlap. It's not like okay, you have certain criminal entities that are involved in nuclear black market, and then you have certain entities bringing narcotics from the East. You have the same players when you look into these activities at high-levels you come across the same players, they are the same people.

SH: Well, when we're talking about those kind of levels of liquid cash money we probably also have to include major banks too, right?

SE: Financial institutions, yes.

Returning to Brothers in Arms: Bandar Bush Took a Billion in Bribes to Push UK Weapons Deal:

In a real sense, however, this story is not even news: "Bush Crony Takes Bribes in Oil and Weapons Deal." What's so unusual about that? It is, in fact, the way the world is run, and has been run since time immemorial. The elite insiders grease each other up like swingers at an orgy, wriggling and wallowing in the blood that lubricates their fortunes. Then they step out into the light of day -- in thousand-dollar suits, in princely robes -- and mouth pieties for the rubes and suckers they despise. The conclusion of the December piece on the BAE bagmen still applies:

Lord knows – and Lords know – that unseemly accommodations sometimes have to be made in this world, especially in geopolitics. A wink here, a little baksheesh there between unsavoury characters are often better than, say, launching a war of aggression and murdering more than half a million innocent people to achieve your political and commercial ends. But in the BAE case, as in so much else in politics, it is the hypocrisy that rankles most. Western governments obviously believe they must give guns and bribes to extremist tyrants in order to obtain the oil that keeps their own nations in such disproportionate clover – but they lack the guts to say so in plain language, dressing up this ugly business with meaningless trumpery about freedom, peace and security.

Are they trying to mask their own cynicism – or protect the tender sensibilities of their electorates, who might prefer sugared lies to acknowledgements of the dirty deals that undergird their way of life?

This idea that they are giving "guns and bribes to extremist tyrants in order to obtain the oil" would be the fall-back position, if they suddenly got indicted.

From 'The Stakes Are Too High for Us to Stop Fighting Now' An interview with FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds by Christopher Deliso August 15, 2005:

SE: Look, I think that that [the AIPAC investigation] ultimately involves more than just Israelis -- I am talking about countries, not a single country here. Because despite however it may appear, this is not just a simple matter of state espionage. If Fitzgerald and his team keep pulling, really pulling, they are going to reel in much more than just a few guys spying for Israel.

CD: A monster, 600-pound catfish, huh? So the Turkish and Israeli investigations had some overlap?

SE: Essentially, there is only one investigation -- a very big one, an all-inclusive one. Completely by chance, I, a lowly translator, stumbled over one piece of it.

But I can tell you there are a lot of people involved, a lot of ranking officials, and a lot of illegal activities that include multi-billion-dollar drug-smuggling operations, black-market nuclear sales to terrorists and unsavory regimes, you name it. And of course a lot of people from abroad are involved. It's massive. So to do this investigation, to really do it, they will have to look into everything.

CD: But you can start from anywhere --

SE: That's the beauty of it. You can start from the AIPAC angle. You can start from the Plame case. You can start from my case. They all end up going to the same place, and they revolve around the same nucleus of people. There may be a lot of them, but it is one group. And they are very dangerous for all of us.

Do you see the connection to what we addressed in Part 3? How Ari Fleischer, on behalf of Bandar Bush's brother in the White House, can say all that nonsense about how the Saudis are such good allies in the War on Terror, even though their sorry kingdom is in fact not just the source of the extremist ideology that motivates the jihadists, but is also a source of money and even the holy warriors themselves?

The Bush Administration puts out that story, because it's all "the same nucleus of people." London, Washington, Riyadh, Dubai, Rawalpindi.... "There may be a lot of them, but it is one group. And they are very dangerous for all of us."


anticant said...

What interests me is, what do the Saudis want all those warplanes FOR? Any ideas, YD?

Yankee Doodle said...

They're nervous about Iran. It's an old Arab/Persian rivalry, competing interests across the Gulf. Add to that Saudi Wahhabi hatred for Shi'ites. Saudi Arabia is biting off more than it can chew.

But, the Saudis are trying to play this smart. They have essentially bought one Sunni army, Pakistan, and are working to buy another, Turkey. Add to that the fact that Saudi Arabia has control over some of what we think is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and the Saudis think they're gaming this correctly.

The RSAF is there to keep Iran from moving south across the Gulf, and that's why Riyadh needs to strengthen it.

Riyadh is trying to maneuver the US and Israel into taking out Iran, which would just leave Saudi Arabia with the job of destroying us brothers and sisters of apes and pigs at some point.

anticant said...

"which would just leave Saudi Arabia with the job of destroying us brothers and sisters of apes and pigs at some point."

Exactly! We are considerately providing the funds, and the weapons, for our own destruction. Which may well happen sooner than we like to think, if they get their hands on Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.....

I give us another decade, at most, to sort out this unholy mess. So far, apart from your insightful posts, there's little sign that any Western politicians and analysts are reading the omens correctly.

anticant said...

BTW the Queen - who is the only palatable member of her ghastly family - lost a lot of my respect when she burbled on to King Abdullah at a recent state banquet about "our shared values". One knows these speeches are drafted by officials, and she is just a mouthpiece, but I would have thought that even she would have jibbed at being asked to spout such mendacious bilge.

Presumably the Saudis regard female heads of state as honorary men!