Bandar's Briefs

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Much to chew on from Bob Woodward's latest; the most interesting (and potentially sickening) to me is the contention that Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the corrupt public face of one of the world's crappiest dictatorships, was informed about the Bush Administration's decision to go to war before Colin Powell was. Excerpt:

So on Saturday, Jan. 11, Cheney invited Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador, to his West Wing office. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were also there.

Prince Bandar had served during four American presidencies. At age 53, Bandar was almost a fifth estate in Washington, amplifying Saudi influence and wealth. He insisted on dealing directly with presidents and is almost family to Bush's father, former president George H. W. Bush. And he had maintained his special entree to the Oval Office under this President Bush. [?]

"You can count on this," Rumsfeld said, pointing to the map. "You can take that to the bank. This is going to happen."

Two days later, Woodward reports, Bandar's old racquetball partner Powell was briefed by President Bush. Today, Condi Rice has been issuing heated denials:

"It's just not the proper impression that somehow Prince Bandar was in the know in the way that Secretary Powell was not. It's just not right. Secretary Powell had been privy to all of this. He knew what the war plan was."

In other Bandar/Wooodward news news:

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, promised President Bush the Saudis would cut oil prices before November to ensure the U.S. economy is strong on election day, journalist Bob Woodward said in a television interview Sunday.

In an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" about his new book "Plan of Attack" on the Bush administration's preparations for the Iraq war, Woodward, a senior editor at the Washington Post, said Prince Bandar pledged the Saudi's would try to fine-tune oil prices to prime the U.S. economy for the election—a move they understood would favor Bush's re-election.

NEXT: Scalped

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  1. Now when gasoline prices plummet just before the election, will it help or hurt Dubya?

    Or will Bandar keep oil prices high to avoid hurting his good buddy, Dubya?
    Yeah, that’s the ticket!

  2. I don’t understand the outrage about the oil issue. If oil prices remain high this is proof that our president has failed to negotiate on our behalf, but if the come down then this is proof of unseemly influence? Let’s face it, despite the sticker shock, in macro-economic terms, Middle East oil is too cheap to switch to alternative energy. There is no such thing as foreign oil independence in a world commodity market. People are always bitching that the President (any president) isn’t tough enough on OPEC, but how are we supposed to negotiate when it is us who depend on them. The only thing we can do is threaten them, and I guess that is what the whole Iraq thing was about.

    rA

  3. Another thing rA fails to grasp is how Bandar was bitching to the Wall St Journal the other day about how the US is shooting itself in the foot regarding its gasoline refinery capability, what with no new refineries and all these “blends” nobody understands the need for.
    But when it comes to pulling the strings on crude supply and prices, Bandar is the master puppeteer.
    I now get the feeling Bandar was expressing his frustrattion he could not control gasoline prices like he can crude prices.
    In commodity terms he can’t control the price of the “crush,” just the “bean.”
    OPEC is Bandar’s UN: a fictional cover for the real superpower which is Saudi Arabia when it comes to crude.

  4. So by the logic the hawks used regarding Spain (we should do the opposite of what the nasties want us to do), we should vote for Kerry since the Saudis want Bush to win. They don’t get much nastier than Saudi Arabia.

  5. Mmm. There’s the matter of $700 million diverted from afghanistan to the pre-Iraq effort. Last I checked, Congress has to approve those types of expenditures. Smells like Iran-Contra.

  6. > Prince Bandar pledged the Saudi’s would try to fine-tune oil prices to prime the U.S. economy for the election — a move they understood would favor Bush’s re-election. It was not clear from the interview precisely when Prince Bandar’s pledge was allegedly made. “Saudi Arabia’s policy is consistent. Number one: we will not allow any shortages in the market,”

  7. If this whole thing is about oil how come gas is 2.50 a gallon?

  8. Next time we make a sweetheart deal for oil with dicators, let’s make sure it’s worth hundreds of billions, like France and others got from Saddam Hussein, and not the piddly amounts Bush seems willing to settle for.

  9. Vlad: “like France and others got from Saddam Hussein”

    Your claim is bullshit.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-levitte7apr07,0,3864773.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

    “France was never a major destination for Iraqi oil during the program. In 2001, 8% of Iraqi oil was imported by France, compared with 44.5% imported by the U.S., which was the No. 1 importer all along. “

  10. Walter W.:

    “U.S. is also where you invest your money without fear of confiscation”

    Uless the US government decides to freeze your assets like they have done many times in the past, then you are just out of luck.

  11. I?d like to hear Woodward say something like this: ?When I interviewed Rice a few days after 09/11 she said George wanted to go to war with Iraq, and pronto.?

    But a man could die of old age before that is going to happen. That leaves a few options. We can either accept the Woodward dogma on spec (like the Jesus crowd accepts the God story), or we can say Woodward doesn?t know his butt from brunch, or we can admit that we really don?t know a whole lot more than we did before we read the thrilling excerpt.

    BTW, ?sickening? works in the context of pedophile priests much better than it does with revelations about political squabbling and backstabbing (assuming the story is true). And even if true, that behavior is more likely to elicit a yawn from me rather than a ride in a Buuuu-ickkkkkkkk. They’re politicians, man, they eat their young and screw each other.

  12. > I don’t understand the outrage about the oil issue.

    See if you can spot the difference here:

    “Look, Bandar, I’ve met with my entire cabinet and this is our policy. Now, obviously, this benefits Saudi Arabia greatly. What kind of assistance with this war effort can the United States expect? How much of the check are you going to pick up? How many Sunni troops are you sending to police their co-religionists in the Sunni triangle and reduce the US death toll? etc., etc.”

    and

    “Bandar, we’re telling you before we’ve even told our own Secretary of State that we’re absolutely definitely starting the overthrow of Saddam soon. Now, can we count on you to lower oil prices right before the election to help us out in November?”

    It’s an outrage because it proves how the Bush admin is not about the interests of the US and it’s citizens, it’s only about grabbing and maintaining power by any and all means and using that power to persue a personal agenda to benefit only their little cabal and its cronies.

    Exactly the Libertarian critique of the State, no?

  13. Rumsfeld gave Franks a blank check worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the book, but Congress was kept in the dark about it.

    About that, Woodward told Mike Wallace in the 60 Minutes interview, “(At) the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn’t know and it is done.

    “They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. … Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this.”

    i find it amazing that these revelations, while perhaps not unprecedented, are not the megaphone point to take from woodward’s book and interview.

    any historian or political scientist can tell you that only two controls in government determine power: control of the army and of revenues/taxation.

    i think it’s been plain since korea that the president controls the army essentially without supervision. but it’s only now that it is becoming very clear that revenues are controlled within the white house without supervision as well — if the president can finance a $700mm war without any legislative approval, he has the money.

    how can one reconcile this unilateralism and consolidation of power under one man and one office with checks and balances, separation of powers and the remainer of the locke/hobbes/montesquieu republican model?

    plainly, you can’t. there is no important separation of powers any longer in the united states. we are not a republic anymore. THIS IS NOW AN ELECTIVE DICTATORSHIP, for all practical purposes — and i wonder exactly how long such an institution can remain elective?

    for me, everything else in woodward’s book pales in importance by comparison. there has been much speculation about the extent of “black ops”, much of it well founded in the trillions of dollars the pentagon facetiously admits to “losing” — as if such a sum could be lost. now we are getting confirmation that entire open wars are financed in violation of the constitution.

  14. There is a reason why Bush arrogantly says, and says quite often now days, “I don’t intend to lose (the presidential election).”

    The fix is in, will it be exposed in time for the election?

  15. “I endorse Bob Woodward’s new book.”

    — William Casey, deceased CIA director

  16. well, i don’t know if the fix is in — i’m not a conspiracy theorist — despite the fact that bush is possibly conspiring with foreign heads of state to temporarily influence economic conditions in favor of his re-election. it’s a step beyond the usual fiddling with domestic economic controls, like the money supply, but not a “fix” a la richard j. daley.

    however i will say that, for me, this election (and all subsequent presidential elections) will not be “over” if the incumbent party loses until after the peaceful transfer of power at the inauguration. the time between the first tuesday in november and mid-january should be a time of much scrutiny.

  17. “Bob Woodward is the only man who really gets to the heart of issues” John Belushi

  18. I don’t understand how this report could be accurate. I thought we had concrete evidence that Bush was going to war on Sept 12, and EVERYONE knows that GW was swaddled in Iraqi maps with routes of advance drawn on them.

    You are all fools! This is just a distraction from the LIEEESS!

  19. Oil schmoil. Remember in the few months after 9-11 when news reports identified our soldiers only by their first names (to prevent reprisals) and W was ripping Congress for war-related leaks? Now we find out that the VP _and_ SecDef shared the Iraq war plans with Bandar. How the heck could they be so sure that Bandar wouldn’t spill the secrets to his friends? What confidence did they have that the plan’s details wouldn’t find their way to Iraq and other enemies? This is maybe the most distressing bombshell against the Administration I’ve seen yet. These guys are way too cozy with the Saudis!

  20. Brad,

    You forgot the part where the president looked the American people in the eye and swore up and down that “war is a last resort,” that he was not determined to invade Iraq, and that no blood had to be spilled in Saddam would just let the inspectors do their job.

  21. Hans: “It also doesn’t hurt that France was pumping goods into Iraq during the sanctions (to the tune of $700M in 2001 alone. ”

    Hans you didn’t tell us, for how much was the US “pumping goods” into Iraq for that same year?

    Beside, If France was promised (not sure what does that mean- was there a contract?) wxploratory work in Iraq, They at least negotiated these sweetheart deals. Unlike one country I know, they didn’t send in the army to get these deals.

  22. anon and zorel,

    I never meant to imply that the U.S. was squeaky clean on this one. Just that there were a lot of negotiations between Iraq and France during the sanctions (which anon’s response to Vlad seemed to question). This whole Iraq thing has been a debacle at least as far back as Bush I and Reagan, and everyone involved from the U.N to the U.S. and almost every country in between comes out stinking like horse manure. Not that anyone should be surprised, we are talking about governments here..

  23. Is everyone up to speed on this one more way Iraq has Bush painted into a corner?
    Now Bandar can’t lower gasoline prices before November since we’ve all been let in on the secret.
    I don’t like the fact Bush has also painted me into a corner–even though my car of preference is a Geo Metro.

  24. Hans,

    The issue is not who imported how much from the oil market. The issue is, Saddam “gave” millions of barrels of oil (kind of like options) to his supporters (bribes to people in France, Russia, etc.) at dirt cheap rates. They would then sell these at market rates and kicked back a % to Saddam. The second leg of the scam is suppliers charged high prices to provide “food” (as in “oil for food”) and other goods to Iraqis and provided kickbacks to Saddam from the profits.

    Normal trade is not the issue (someone has to buy the oil and someone has to sell the food) – it is the corruption (bribes for support) that is the issue. UN is a bigger culprit than France or Russia.

  25. anon, you’re right *during* the program. TotalFinaElf was just doing all of that exploratory work in Iraq oil fields so they could get big contracts when the sanctions were *lifted*. It also doesn’t hurt that France was pumping goods into Iraq during the sanctions (to the tune of $700M in 2001 alone. Vlad is right, they had tenative sweethart deals with Saddam if they could get the sanctions lifted.

    http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=1708304

  26. Oil has to be sold to the United States or it just sits there, earning nothing. OPEC nations that get too greedy, as in 73, are reminded that the U.S. is also where you invest your money without fear of confiscation, and that bashing America devalues your own investments.

  27. Be careful what you wish for.

    Diplomacy is a tricky business. Defining who the President may or may not speak to, and how, and when, significantly limits the ability of our head of state to function effectively in the world of international diplomacy.

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