Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Oil-for-food update

Up wandering the halls again with insomnia, and I came across this story at Michelle's site. It seems we have a a couple men who have plead guilty for their complicity in the UN's Oil-For-Food scandal:

Houston oilman David Chalmers, accused of funneling illegal payments to Saddam Hussein's regime at at time when Iraq was the target of strict economic sanctions, pleaded guilty today to a conspiracy charge.

Chalmers' business associate at Houston-based BayOil, Ludmil Dionissiev, pleaded guilty to one count of facilitating a shipment of merchandise into the United States, knowing that shipment to not be authorized by law.

That leaves Houston oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt as the lone defendant still slated to go to trial in September on charges he made millions of dollars in illicit payments to Saddam's government for the privilege of buying Iraqi crude.

Wyatt attorney Carl Parker said today that his client is not guilty and intends to proceed to trial. Parker said he does not believe today's guilty pleas will affect Wyatt's prospects.

"I don't think it will mean anything to Wyatt," Parker said. "I think the government made a stretch trying to tie them together in the first place. They're not partners. They haven't acted together."

The charges stemmed from oil sales conducted under the United Nations' scandal-plagued oil-for-food humanitarian program for Iraq.

The attorneys can spin this anyway they'd like. It's their job as lawyers to do that, but I agree with Michelle on Mr. Wyatt. Can you say "treason?" I knew you could:

Oscar Wyatt's defense lawyers are trying to ensure a jury never sees an Iraqi document they say suggests the Houston oil tycoon "has committed the deplorable crime of treason."

The 82-year-old Texas oilman is slated to stand trial in September on charges he funneled millions of dollars in illegal payments to Saddam Hussein's government in order to win lucrative oil export contracts.

The document in question suggests Wyatt discussed American troop levels and possible dates for an attack with members of Saddam's regime, prior to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

While the purported discussion about troop levels and attack dates are reminiscent of some of the armchair speculation common in the runup to the war, the details varied from what actually occurred when the war started.

Wyatt attorney Gerald Shargel, in an interview today, said the document contains "not a single fact that wasn't reported in media outlets both in the United States and internationally, not a single fact."

In a motion filed late Monday in U.S. District Court, Wyatt's lawyers argue: "This document essentially alleges that Wyatt has committed the deplorable crime of treason and aided an enemy of the United States." The filing does not contain the document itself, although Wyatt's lawyers have confirmed it is the one obtained by the Chronicle from other sources.

Wyatt's lawyers want U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to keep the document from being presented as evidence at the trial because "such actions would likely to be considered repugnant by most Americans and could potentially cause bias."

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, which is prosecuting the case, declined comment on the defense motion.

The handwritten notes, which Wyatt's lawyers say were found in the diary of Mubdir Al-Khudhair, a former official with Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization or SOMO, document a purported communication with one "Oscar Wayatt."

Written mostly in Arabic and dated Jan. 27, 2003, the notes are labeled "Information about the market."

But they appear to focus on the impending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"The current schedule is that the bombing will start on 2/15," the notes read, according to an English translation. "At that time there will be 160-180 thousand American soldiers. The ground attack will start at the beginning of March."

No media outlet was reporting information that was this detailed. This looks like he was tipping Saddam's people off to when the invasion would start, and when the bombing campaign would begin. It also gives the approximate number of troops involved from America. But what is even more interesting than this (not that giving sensitive data to an enemy isn't interesting) is this little snippet from this story in the International Herald Tribune:

In separate papers, lawyers for Chalmers, who also has pleaded not guilty, asked that evidence against Wyatt — including a picture of Wyatt with Saddam, evidence that Wyatt supplied satellite equipment to Iraq, evidence that Wyatt acted as a foreign agent for Iraq and evidence that Wyatt notified Iraqi oil officials about planned troop movements — be excluded from the trial.

"When the evidence that Wyatt disclosed American military plans to Iraq in early 2003 is added to the previously produced evidence that Wyatt visited Saddam Hussein in 1990 in an apparent effort to undermine the first Gulf War and that Wyatt provided satellite equipment to the Hussein regime, it is clear that the government will depict Wyatt as a traitor who repeatedly endangered the lives of American soldiers," the Chalmers lawyers wrote. "Because of the prejudicial spillover effects, the court should exclude the evidence from trial."

Giving aid and comfort to the enemy when hostilities are already underway (Gulf War I), and as they're about to start (Iraq invasion, 2003) comes down squarely on the definition of traitor. If any American citizen had done such a thing in World War I, World War II, Korea, or Vietnam, they'd be facing treason charges. Some people, like John Kerry during his "Winter Soldier" testimony, dangerously skate the line of treason. Like Kerry knew then, Mr. Wyatt knew that he was assisting Saddam Hussein with the sort of help given. But let's take a look at one more little twist in this tale. Would you believe that Ted Kennedy might have had some ties to Mr. Wyatt?

The document also claims Wyatt, of Houston, persuaded Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy to deliver a speech against the war with Iraq, the lawyers wrote.

A Kennedy spokeswoman denied the claim, noting that the senator came out against a possible war as early as September 2002, basing his decision partly on briefings by experts and insight from military personnel.

Yes, he did come out in September of 2002 against the war, but if we go back to the original story regarding Mr. Wyatt, we find this teeny, tiny tidbit of information:

The translated notes bear the date "01/27/2003," but they appear to have been scribbled on a calendar book opened to the page for Tuesday Aug. 13.

While no year is evident, Aug. 13 fell on a Tuesday in 2002.

Coincidence? Not likely. The notes kept that are being used against him were detailed and specific. It would be most interesting to see if there is a correlation, and if the charge is true that Mr. Wyatt coerced a sitting senator to come out against the war in the run-up to it. It's strange that if approached in August to voice his disapproval, Ted Kennedy waited until September. Now, his secretary could be correct, and that Kennedy waited until he had the facts in from the experts. I'm going out on a limb here when I say I trust that explanation as far as I can throw Uncle Teddy. He always has been a rather pugnacious opportunist. We'll see when Mr. Wyatt's trial starts, if it starts at all.

Publius II


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