Thursday, August 18, 2005

'Under Auspices of Middle East Institute'

(Via Shakespeare's Sister of the Big Brass Alliance)

The National Security Archive, a non-govermental non-profit research institute and public interest law firm founded by journalists and scholars, have posted newly declassified State Department documents on their Website which reveal that "planning for post-Saddam regime change began as early as October 2001."

As Shakespeare's Sister put it in an e-mail to all the bloggers that banded together in May after British documents were leaked which more than suggested that the Bush Administration had not been honest with the American public regarding it's pre-Iraqi Freedom actions and policies: "American Documents Appear to Confirm Downing Street Memos."

"The declassified records relate mainly to the so-called "Future of Iraq Project," an effort, initially run by the State Department then by the Pentagon, to plan for the transition to a new regime after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. They provide detail on each of the working groups and give the starting date for planning as October 2001."

This is a pdf link of a State Department briefing held on November 1, 2002. The "Project History" section includes a timeline which mentions this interesting event held on April 9th and 10th of 2002:

"Planning Meeting with Iraqis under auspices of Midde East Institute."

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary auspices can be defined as "kindly patronage and guidance."

According to the Middle East Institute's About page:

"Since 1946 the Middle East Institute has been an important conduit of information between Middle Eastern nations and American policymakers, organizations and the public. We strive to increase knowledge of the Middle East among our own citizens and to promote understanding between the peoples of the Middle East and America. Today we play a vital and unique role in expanding the dialogue beyond Washington, DC, and actively with organizations in the Middle East. Our Public Policy Center and Department of Programs present programs with top regional experts and officials from the US and foreign governments."

Former Ambassador Edward S. Walker Jr. became president of the MEI on May 1st, 2001, after serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State under Colin Powell for five months (Walker was a Clinton Administration holdover).

On October 2nd of 2001 an "MEI Policy Brief" written by Ellie Gettinger, coordinator of the Young Leadership Division for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation was posted on the MEI Website, three weeks after 9/11.

Excerpts from "MEI Policy Brief: Iraqi Leadership on Trial?":

"After pushing the Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, the United States abandoned the area leaving Saddam Hussein in power. On October 2, Bakhtiar Amin spoke about his organization’s effort to bring the Iraqi leadership to trial for war crimes and other human rights abuses."

"Amin is the director of the Human Rights Alliance, an advocacy group supported by 270 non-governmental organizations. Through a branch of the organization called the Coalition for Justice in Iraq, he pushes the international community to form an ad hoc tribunal to try the Iraqi government. In his lecture on the three-decade rule of Hussein, Amin cited numerous abuses of international law. According to the Coalition for Justice, one million people, approximately five percent of the total population in Iraq, died at the hands of its authoritarian government. “Iraq, under Saddam Hussein’s regime,” stated Amin, “has become a land of sorrow and hopelessness.” Two examples of this misery in the history of Saddam’s rule are the gassing of Kurds in 1988 and the confiscation of Kurdish property."

"The Coalition’s efforts are two-fold. Within Iraq, people collect evidence of Hussein’s abuses. At this point, according to Amin, twenty tons of documents have been gathered and are being translated in preparation for future tribunals. Through offices in both the US and France, the Coalition for Justice in Iraq pushes for an expert commission to look into this documentation and decide whether or not the Iraqi government should be brought to trial."


"Yet Amin recognizes that the coalition requires more than European backing. He understands that there are no regional or national authorities able to conduct litigation against the Iraqi government. In order to bring Saddam Hussein to justice, the Coalition for Justice requires international support— problematic because of shifting allegiances and lack of consensus on the United Nations Security Council."

Beneath the "Policy Brief":

"The views expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect those of the Middle East Institute, which does not take a position on Middle East Issues."

According to the MEI Website:

"Policy Briefs serve as the official record for events held at the Middle East Institute and are brief summaries of the general lectures."

Interestingly enough, last year Bakhtiar Amin became Iraq's interim Minister of human rights.

There is no disclaimer beneath this "MEI Perspective" posted on January 22nd, 2002, written by MEI Vice President David L. Mack, a former Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Clinton Administration, called "To Help Overthrow Saddam, Announce a Pro-Iraq Policy."

Excerpts from the January 22nd, 2002 "MEI Perspective":

"Iraq is back on the US policy agenda with a momentum and intensity not witnessed in almost a decade. About time -- our Iraq policy stalled out years ago."

"Containment is no longer effective. It worked only as long as Saddam believed that we had the means and the will to back up UN resolutions with military action that would threaten his regime. Since the mid-1990s, he has successfully ignored our hostile rhetoric. The show of inspection and monitoring continued until 1998. But without the implied military threat backing its mandate, the UN Special Commission was increasingly frustrated by Iraqi half-truths and outright deception. September 11 was a good reminder of Saddam's long record of supporting terrorism with a global reach -- from bombs in downtown Damascus to assassinations in Amman, Abu Dhabi and London. Such terrorism linked with linked with his known readiness to use weapons of mass destruction is the ultimate nightmare."


"It seems obvious that a different government in Baghdad -- even a government that did not meet ideal standards of democracy -- would increase the prospect for Iraq's reintegration into the international community. The problem is devising a persuasive plan for reaching that end. Many proponents of regime change have made it sound far too simple. They underestimate Saddam's military and political resources and exaggerate the potential of the Iraqi exile opposition. The latter, with whom I have worked since 1991, are for the most part courageous and admirable. While they do not constitute a replacement government and are badly divided among themselves, they could be an important catalyst for changing the regime and assuring that the outcome is a better deal for the Iraqi people and the region. To do that, however, they would need both a decisive US military commitment and the support of at least a few key regional states. Before they take the obvious risks, key insiders also need to know that Iraq's future without Saddam will be dramatically better. Right now, those components are lacking."

That "MEI Perspective" draws heavily on an essay that David L. Mack wrote a few weeks before that was published in The Guardian.

Excerpts from "Iraq after Saddam":

"At issue now is the likely development of US policy toward Iraq. Will we take reckless measures? Or by failure to act forcefully as well as prudently, will we be reckless by omission? The Middle East can greatly benefit from the re-entry of Iraq into the international community under a new leadership. The United States should take the lead in making this happen."


"Current Washington thinking does not include the option of giving in to the Iraqi government. Instead, the debate is between restored containment and regime change. Put me down as a hawk at heart but a skeptic in my head. Most if not all at the top of the Bush administration reflect the same skeptical anti-Saddam approach. In the end, given a plausible plan for regime change, Secretary of State Colin Powell would be a ruthless hawk. Conversely, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld are not given to rash action."

"Saddam Hussein has a history of supporting terrorism with a global reach - from bombs in downtown Damascus to assassinations in Amman, Abu Dhabi and London. Such terrorism linked with weapons of mass destruction is the ultimate nightmare. Make no mistake, this Iraqi regime harbours a desire for revenge against at least Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the US and the UK. As a hawkish senior advisor to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld recently remarked to me, "Saddam will get us if we don't get him first"."

"To believe that you do not have to believe that Saddam Hussein was connected to the events of September 11 or the anthrax-laden letters. Personally, I do not subscribe to the view that he is behind everything bad, including the earlier bombing of the World Trade Centre. But I have no doubt that he retains both the desire and the potential ability to do us grave harm."

The Middle East Institute seems to have been an active player in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, even though MEI "does not take a position on Middle East Issues."

In February of 2002, Edward S. Walker Jr., President of the Middle East Institute, told The Washington Post that "contributions [from Saudi Arabia] covered $200,000 of the institute's $1.5 million budget."

And to make this story even stranger, Ambassador Joseph Wilson happens to be an MEI Adjunct Scholar. The far right tried to smear Joe Wilson as some sort of tool for Saudi Arabia.

But $200,000 only amounted to roughly 12 percent of MEI's budget in 2001.

Who else funds the Middle East Institute?

Sure wish I had an answer. But I can report that MEI offers corporate memberships:

"One of the main activities of the Middle East Institute is building bridges between corporations in the United State, Europe, and the Middle East. When we travel to the Middle East to meet with the region’s leaders, we actively promote U.S. trade and investment and work to develop emerging markets. At home, we maintain strong relationships with the U.S. Commerce Department, State Department, U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Chamber of Congress. We work to promote Middle Eastern economic reform and growth, especially job growth, because it is through jobs and the increasing integration of the Middle East into world markets that regional stability will be increased and the sense of isolation and frustration that breeds terrorism will be reduced."

"MEI maintains a confidential database of the business interests of our member corporations. Prior to making a trip to the region, we survey corporate members (at the higher membership levels) to see if there are special concerns related to their interests that we can raise during our trip. We tell the leaders with whom we meet which U.S. companies are supporting our efforts, and of their interest in doing business in the region. Upon request, we can also speak with a country’s ambassador in Washington and/or arrange a meeting between a company representative and the ambassador."

"Under the auspices of MEI, corporate members receive specially tailored, private briefings from U.S. ambassadors to the region, administration officials, members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff, the media, as well as MEI experts. A corporate advisory board assures that MEI programs address the true interests of corporate members."

Do you think any oil and gas companies help fund the Middle East Institute?


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