Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A gift for any true populist

Peter W. Galbraith is a gift that just keeps on giving.

David Warsh does a great job tracing his career and the scandal over his oil deal in Kurdistan.

Galbraith also helped push corruption in Afghanistan into the headlines in this country. Thus, he helped create the current impasse on Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's recommendations.

Inside the beltway, the deciders might want to downplay the issue because what's a little corruption among the right kind of people. (Hey, he's John Kenneth Galbraith's son, not some hick like Sarah Palin).

Warsh, though, shows why these peccadilloes have big consequences:

Galbraith’s enthusiasm for Kurdish independence always undermined Bash administration war aims in Iraq – there’s nothing new about that. But the the disclosure of his financial involvement in Kurdish affairs muddies the issue because it impairs American credibility in Iraq. Faisal Amin al-Istrabadi, one of the architects of the law that governed Iraq after the US ceded control in 2004, told the Times reporters, “The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless.”

Of course, the same thing happened with Russia during the 1990s (Warsh discussed that in his article). American interests took a hit while insiders tried to get rich.

Worst of all, the press largely ignored the story. (Lawrence Summers is one of the righteous DC elect you see). How bad is Washington's memory?

Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers provided some measure of cover for his old friend Shleifer when the Harvard scandal broke in 1997. After becoming president of Harvard University, in 2001, he again shielded Shleifer from the consequences of an ultimately successful Justice Department law suit. And as chief economic strategist for the Obama administration, he enlisted Nancy Zimmerman, Shleifer’s wife and a successful hedge fund operator, in a “kitchen cabinet” of informal advisers, according to a Times dispatch earlier this year. The story of Harvard’s Russia scandal is barely known outside a limited circle of specialists in foreign aid.

Yes, by all means. Let's have more stories about Carrie Prejean and her sex tapes. Let's set 11 journalists to work "fact checking" a book by a former VP candidate. Clearly there are no real stories to cover in Washington.

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