November 06, 2003

The Prince of Darkness Talking

The Prince of Darkness Talking Peace in Knightsbridge!

The NYT has a piece that has a hyped-up, Dowdian "International Man of Mystery" Richard Perle meeting a Lebanese-American businessman in Knightsbridge (a Mr. Imad Hage).

The agenda? Allegedly exploring the potential for an 11th hour deal with Saddam that would allow the Anglo-American armada arrayed on the Kuwait border to stand down.

After all, Saddam wanted to make a deal!

Call it the NYT antidote to the WaPo story of a few days back detailing the Franco-Russian role in perhaps making war in Iraq more likely.

Over chez the de Villepin fan club, of course, it's the coarse, war-mongering unilateralist Bushies that are to blame for the rush to war:

"No meetings took place, and the invasion began on March 20. Mr. Hage wonders what might have happened if the Americans had pursued the back channel to Baghdad.

"At least they could have talked to them," he said." [emphasis added]

With all due respect to Mr. Hage--the Iraqis could have chosen much more plausible intermediaries if they were seriously pursuing an 11th hour settlement.

Think I'm being unfair to our spur of the moment shuttle diplomatist?

Check out this humorous snippet:

"A week later, Mr. Hage said, he agreed to hold further meetings in Baghdad. When he arrived, he was driven to a large, well-guarded compound, where he was met by a gray-haired man in a military uniform. It was Tahir Jalil Habbush, the director of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, who is No. 16 on the United States list of most wanted Iraqi leaders. Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush asked him if it was true that he knew Mr. Perle. "Have you met him?"

Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush began to vent his frustration over what the Americans really wanted. He said that to demonstrate the Iraqis' willingness to help fight terrorism, Mr. Habbush offered to hand over Abdul Rahman Yasin, who has been indicted in United States in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Mr. Yasin fled to Iraq after the bombing, and the United States put up a $25 million reward for his capture.

Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush offered to turn him over to Mr. Hage, but Mr. Hage said he would pass on the message that Mr. Yasin was available.

Mr. Hage said Mr. Habbush also insisted that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and added, "Let your friends send in people and we will open everything to them." [emphasis added]

This rings like an episode out of the Keystone Kops.

The risible query, "have you met [Richard Perle]?", from the Iraqi intelligence operative to Mr. Hage--as if to establish his bona fides in terms of access to the Straussian ruling class calling the shots in the Beltway.

The, hey, take one of the '93 WTC bombers home with you (btw, does this mean that the NYT does believe that Saddam had ties to international terror?)--he won't bite on the flight home!

Folks, all this is simply not serious.

As Perle says (the NYT spins it so that Perle is now "playing down" the importance of Mr. Hage as a serious channel to extract concessions from Saddam--but Perle actually said he was "dubious" about the whole affair):

"He said he found it difficult to believe that Mr. Hussein would make serious proposals through such a channel. "There were so many other ways to communicate," he said. "There were any number of governments involved in the end game, the Russians, French, Saudis."

"(I)nvolved in the end game"? France?

Say it ain't so. And in what fashion?

Developing, as they say.

Full Disclosure: In a previous incarnation, I worked for Richard Perle [ed. note: Do I have to say this each time I blog something about Perle? Think this will be the last].

UPDATE: Here's how a serious newspaper should have handled this story-- soberly and calmly--sans hype. (hat tip: Volokh)

Is Tina Brown sexing up NYT stories on the sly?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Check out the Beeb spin--there was a full blown Iraqi "package of concessions" that was rebuffed by Washington.

Posted by Gregory at November 6, 2003 11:13 AM
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