Published on Thursday, November 12, 2009 by Salon.com
The Sleazy Advocacy of a Leading 'Liberal Hawk'
Peter Galbraith's vast, undisclosed financial interests in the policies he spent years advocating as an "expert."
The New York Times today details  the unbelievably sleazy story of Peter Galbraith, one of the Democratic Party's leading so-called "liberal hawks" and a generally revered Wise Man of
Galbraith was one of the most vocal Democratic supporters of the attack on Iraq, having signed a March 19, 2003 public letter  (.pdf) -- along with the standard cast of neocon war-lovers such as Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Danielle Pletka, and Robert Kagan -- stating that "we all join in supporting the military intervention in Iraq" and "it is now time to act to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." As intended, that letter was then praised by outlets such as The Washington Post Editorial Page, gushing that  "it is both significant and encouraging that a bipartisan group of influential foreign policy thinkers, veterans of both Democratic and Republican administrations, has signed on to a statement of policy on Iraq that makes sense on the war." Throughout 2002 and 2003, Galbraith appeared in numerous outlets -- including repeatedly on Fox News and with Bill O'Reilly -- presenting himself as a loyal Democrat firmly behind the invasion of
After playing a key role in enabling the invasion of Iraq, Galbraith first became one of a handful of U.S. officials who worked on writing the Iraqi Constitution, and after he resigned from the government, he then ran around posing as an independent expert on the region and, specifically, an adviser to the Kurds on the Constitution. Galbraith was an ardent and vocal advocate for Kurdish autonomy, arguing tirelessly in numerous venues for such proposals -- including in multiple Op -Eds  for  The New York Times  -- and insisting that Kurds must have the right to control oil resources located in Northern Iraq. Throughout the years of writing those Op-Eds, he was identified as nothing more than "a former
What Galbraith kept completely concealed all these years -- as he trapsed around advocating for Kurdish autonomy -- was that a company he formed in 2004 came to acquire a large stake in a Kurdish oil field whereby, as the NYT put it, he "stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars." In other words, he had a direct -- and vast -- financial stake in the very policies which he was publicly advocating in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and countless other American media outlets, where he was presented as an independent expert on the region. As Cobban wrote:
For the preceding four years, while Galbraith was an influential participant in Iraq-related constitutional and political discussions, he also had an undisclosed financial interest in a KRG-authorised oil development venture. . . .
Here in the U.S., Galbraith has long been associated with the "liberal hawk" wing of the Democratic Party . . . Many members of this group have been liberal idealists - though some of those who, on "liberal" grounds, gave early support to Pres. George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq later expressed their regret for adopting that position.
Galbraith has never expressed any such regrets, and last November, he was openly scornful of Bush's late-term agreement to withdraw from
Unfortunately, that last sentence is likely wishful thinking. What Galbraith has done, sleazy and dishonest as it is, is simply par for the course in accountability-free
Galbraith's relationship with the Kurds goes back many years. He undoubtedly knew that overthrowing Saddam would empower his Kurdish friends and their ability to dole out oil contracts. Indeed, in his own 2006 book, he recounts that he began working on Kurdish autonomy and independence "two weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein." Less than a year later, having helped convince the public -- and many Democrats -- to invade
Reider Visser, a historian of southern Iraq, told The Boston Globe last month : "Galbraith has been such a central person to the shaping of the Iraqi Constitution, far more than I think most Americans realize. All those beautiful ideas about principles of federalism and local communities having control are really cast in a different light when the community has an oil field in its midst and Mr. Galbraith has a financial stake." So here's a leading advocate of the war on Iraq who used his influence in the U.S. Government and the Foreign Policy Community -- as well as the break-up of Saddam's regime -- to enrich himself on Iraqi oil. As the NYT put it:
As the scope of Mr. Galbraith's financial interests in Kurdistan become clear, they have the potential to inflame some of Iraqis' deepest fears, including conspiracy theories that the true reason for the American invasion of their country was to take its oil. It may not help that outside Kurdistan, Mr. Galbraith's influential view that
Some officials say that his financial ties could raise serious questions about the integrity of the constitutional negotiations themselves. "The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless," said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, a principal drafter of the law that governed
In effect, he said, the company "has a representative in the room, drafting."
Remember how all those freakish and paranoid people -- on the crazed "Arab street" and in American-hating leftist circles -- actually believed in "conpriacy" theories such as the wacky notion that one of the motives for invading Iraq was a desire to exploit its oil resources?
Here we have yet another example of one of
UPDATE: Jonathan Schwarz recalls  what was done to those who suggested that part of the motive in invading
UPDATE II: The New York Times is forced to publish an Editor's Note  today in light of this story, noting that "Mr. Galbraith signed a contract that obligated him to disclose his financial interests in the subjects of his articles"; he "should have disclosed to readers that Mr. Galbraith could benefit financially" from the policies he was advocating in his Op-Eds; and "had editors been aware of Mr. Galbraith's financial stake, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his articles."
© 2009 Salon.com
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs