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January 31, 2004

Googling Samir

The Weekly Standard profiles Shakir al Khafaji, one of the two Iraqi-Americans whose name appears on a list of people given lucrative oil contracts in return for supporting the Hussein regime in its struggles against the U.S.

Al-Khafaji first came to public notice after revelations that he gave former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter $400,000 to produce a film that criticized the United States for its role in the inspection process. Al-Khafaji, who is listed as a "senior executive producer" of the film, arranged meetings for Ritter with high-level officials in Saddam's government, a feat New York Times magazine writer Barry Bearak found "impressive." Ritter had previously been an outspoken critic of Saddam Hussein, and issued dire warnings about the status of the Iraqi dictator's weapons of mass destruction. His sudden flip--he is now a leading apologist for Saddam's regime--and revelations about Ritter's 2001 arrest for soliciting sex with minors have fueled speculation about the nature of his relationship with al-Khafaji.

There is another mention or two of Al-Khafaji floating around, but there's not much to be found out about the other Iraqi-American on the list, Samir Vincent.

He graduated from Boston College in 1962, after helping the track team to win the 1962 New England Track Championship, and is a member of that School's Varsity Club Hall of Fame. (from a September 3, 1990 Boston Globe story I found via LexisNexis, so no link. Sorry.) Samir went on to compete for Iraq in the 1964 Olympics, finishing 32nd in the Men's 400 m Hurdles, 37th in the Men's 110 m Hurdles, and 30th in the Triple Jump.

Jack Kemp knows him. (link goes to a google cache as the statement has disappeared* from the Empower America website. I'm reproducing it in full here because of that.)

Update: Free Republic also has a copy posted, from back in the summer of 2003.

I am flattered by the media speculation and the large number of e-mails, faxes and telephone calls I have received urging me to run for Governor of California. We love California, and running for governor might have been tempting to contemplate at another time when I was younger but I’ve truly retired from politics. There comes a point in one’s life when he cannot, should not, attempt to go back. He should go forward, and that is exactly what I am doing. I’ve started three businesses and am very involved with Bill Bennett, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Bill Cohen at Empower America in tax reform, enterprise zones, social security reform, education reform and creating a pro-democracy foreign policy.

In addition, I also have a passion for a rather huge undertaking I’ve begun with influential private and public-sector people to create a 21st-Century Marshall Plan Committee. The Committee is led by Ted Forstmann of Forstmann Little & Co. and includes Peruvian economist and writer Hernando de Soto, Iraqi-American businessman Samir Vincent, Afghan-American businessman Mahmood Karzai, Former Secretary of State James Baker, Former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, Former Trade Representatives Bill Brock and Charlene Barshefsky, Ambassadors Ed Djerejian, Richard Holbrooke, Jim Jones and others who want to work on helping to bring economic freedom and democratic self rule to Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia and the Middle East.

I do believe that with the right leadership and policies, California can recover from the many problems confronting it. In the 1980s there truly was an American Renaissance, and the same can happen again in California. We proved that ideas have consequences when Bill Roth and I helped Ronald Reagan plan, push and finally enact an economic recovery program based on tax reform, cutting tax rates, reducing regulatory controls, getting spending under control and making government work for the people not against them.

Although I will not run for Governor of California, I was particularly pleased that there were so many minority men and women involved in calls and contacts I received urging me to do so. My passion is for the Republican Party to be an inclusive, not an exclusive, party, a passion President Bush shares—a party dedicated to Lincoln’s principles of freedom, justice and equality of opportunity for all, and I will continue to work toward those ends both publicly and privately.

The deletion of Kemp's statement seems.....not quite well timed enough, not to mention suspicious. If you'd like to know why Samir's name has been removed from the Empower America site, there's some contact information here. Kemp has written extensively on Iraq--For the moment I'll have to leave ferreting out possible evidence of Samir's influence on him as an exercise for the reader.

Samir also appears in the Robert Parry book, Fooling America, apparently on pages 154-156. I'll see if I can find a copy at the library come Monday. No, I have no idea what the mission of is.

He's also met with Billy Graham, the late Cardinal O'Connor, and Jimmy Carter.

Many people are mobilizing to effect a change in this failed international policy. Iraqi-born U.S. citizen Samir Vincent, who has lived in the United States since 1958, calls action on the embargo a “political dead end.” He and Dr. Joseph Ritchie, also a private citizen, decided to go down a different road—away from politics and politicians, toward the world of religious belief and influence. The two businessmen prevailed upon Dr. Billy Graham to invite the Iraqi religious leaders to visit several sites in the United States—and later, London, England.

Vincent, a Chaldean Catholic, was with the delegation throughout the U.S. visit. Their travels—to Boston, Detroit, Atlanta, Plains (Georgia) and New York City—began inauspiciously with an hour-and-a-half grilling by U.S. immigration officials. Dr. Ritchie placed his private plane at the service of the three Iraqi churchmen.

Later, he remarked that he was most inspired by their interfaith partnership in this quest to end the sanctions. When he is asked if things are moving in a good direction, Dr. Ritchie says, “Anyone of goodwill who listens for an hour to the entire scenario wants to end the embargo, but Americans listen to soundbites. We have to deliver the message in soundbites.”

Patriarch Raphael, the English-speaking spokesman, put those brief messages out there. Dr. Graham, whose age and health limit his activities, met with the three leaders in Boston, pledging the Iraqi trio that he would “take up their cross,” though he did not speak out specifically against the sanctions.

What did the three leaders want of him? the evangelist asked. Patriarch Raphael responded, according to Vincent, who was an eyewitness, “Help our people by using your influence on the decisionmakers in your country to see clearly what they have done to Iraq with their malicious actions.”

Later that week, former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, welcomed the delegation to their home in Plains. Carter listened intently as the patriarch, flanked by Dr. Abdul Latif Al-Hemayem, Sunni Muslim leader, and Sayid Hussein Al-Sader, Shi’ite imam, described the crisis in Iraq.

Carter reiterated his opposition to the sanctions. He assured the delegation that he and Dr. Graham will cooperate in working for change. Carter’s son Chip is vice president of the Friendship Force, an organization seeking to promote global understanding by reciprocal visits between people of various nations. The younger Carter accompanied the delegation on a tour of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

In New York, the three Iraqi religious leaders met with Cardinal John J. O’Connor at his residence. Despite the cardinal’s illness, he was pleased to receive them. Cardinal O’Connor was distressed by the delegation’s description of the situation in Iraq. Vincent quotes the cardinal: “These sanctions must end. There is no just political or moral reason for them to exist.”

Some enterprising journalist ought to contact the various organizations associated with those three moral leaders, and inquire how much money they've gotten over the years from Mr. Vincent. How much of their message was financed in part by the suffering of the Iraqi people?

Update: Again via LexisNexis, a story by Keith Kendrick on Samir Vincent from the August 15, 1990 edition of the Washington Post.

Trapped in a Baghdad hotel last Wednesday, Samir Vincent was faced with two choices: stay and suffer under the boot of the Iraqi dictatorship or take a chance and flee.

With the atmosphere becoming more hostile by the day, Vincent, a geophysicist from Annandale, said he made a pact with Illinois businessman Michael Saba: they would pool their resources and make a run for it.


"The day after the crisis started, the American embassy called a meeting of U.S. citizens in our hotel in Baghdad, but the officials were very ambivalent about information they had and they said everyone was on their own," Vincent said.

"We decided to take the situation into our own hands, believing that the most the Iraqi authorities could do was to turn us back at the border," said Vincent, who had been in Baghdad for a week negotiating with an American company on behalf of his employer, Phoenix International of McLean.

He and Saba hired a taxi for $ 50 each to take them to the Iraqi border with Jordan, where they hoped U.S. embassy officials had arranged transport to take them to Amman.

The men met no resistance from the Iraqi border troops, who waved them through in a matter of minutes after checking their passports and determining that they had not broken through any roadblocks. But once over the checkpoint, they found themselves in a deserted "no-man's land" without transport.

Vincent and Saba had anticipated a long walk through the desert and had packed plentiful supplies of food and water, but they managed to reach Amman in just a few hours by hitch-hiking the 50 miles on trucks.

Once in the Jordanian city, Vincent said his first thoughts were to tell his family he was safe and well and that he would be catching a flight home the following day.

Speaking by telephone from his Northern Virginia home, Vincent, who refused to discuss details such as his age or his family, said: "We managed to get out before things got too dificult. The journey out of Iraq was quite uneventful."

Nevertheless, he said he was "very relieved" to be home and was now concerned about the safety of other Americans and foreigners.


Since returning to the United States, Vincent said he has spoken with other Americans who managed to leave Iraq via the same route. One of the escapees said he and several Americans, Britons and French had hitched a ride on a German bus that had been waiting on the Jordanian side of the border to pick up its citizens.

He said he was reluctant to go into depth about his ordeal because he was "very tired" by what had happened.

"I am just very relieved to be back with my family, and I hope that the other Americans and foreigners out there will be able to return to their homes," he said.

Was this an escape, or an "escape," planned to provide Samir with anti-Saddm credentials for use at a later time? Or perhaps Saddam was just an old softie when it came to escapees.

Update: The Michael Saba mentioned in the escape story above appears to be this Michael Saba. Is he the original source of the charge that neocons possess dual loyalties when it comes to the U.S. and Israel?

I will go back to March 9, 1978, when my friend Michael Saba, a widely cultivated and powerful American of Arab origin, found out that Steven Brian, then head of the foreign affairs committee in Congress and U.S. Defense Department aid for international security, was showing an Israeli delegation the Pentagon's documents on the Saudi bases and drafting "our policy" (the Israeli policy) toward the American one which he was supposed to represent.

Brian and the Israeli delegation were sitting at a table at the Madison Hotel, while Saba was sitting on a neighboring one. Thus, he was able to register the conversation. At that time, I was at the Madison Hotel, preparing to open an office for Al Sharq Al Awsat, a newly-created Arab newspaper published in London. I heard about Brian, whom Michael made the center of his national activities. From that time, I started following his steps, especially after I opened my private office, after two years, in the Madison building neighboring the hotel.

Steven Brian resigned after Michael Saba revealed his activities. Instead of being sued, Richard Perle, then Under Secretary at the U.S. Defense Department, appointed him as an assistant. Israel's gangs are not only the most ignoble but the most insolent too. Steven Brian, who was accused of handing over the Saudi bases to the Israelis, was employed in the Defense Department, where is kept the confidential defense information related to the Middle East. After 25 years, the neo-conservatives or Israel's gangs were accused of planning to destroy Iraq in favor of Israel, while a retired General Gay Garner, from the Jewish Institute for National Security, was sent to Iraq to rule a 24-million Arab and Muslim country.

Saba is still peddling that notion, at Aljazeerah, and Arab News, appropriately enough.

By now most of us have become familiar with the terms “neoconservative” and “chicken hawk.” These are words often used to refer to those in power throughout the US government and the American media whose foremost advocacy is for the good of Israel. Some say this group not only advocates for Israel as such but for the Likud Party of Israel and beyond that, many of the neoconservatives feel that Ariel Sharon is too much of a dove.

While researching for “The Armageddon Network” a quarter of a century ago, the same names and organizations appeared over and over again. Not only did we see the names of Richard Perle, Stephen Bryen, Elliot Abrams, Ken Adelman and Michael Ledeen (and their wives) but we also noted organizations such as the Coalition for a Democratic Majority (CDM) and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA).

You may also want to check out his review of the Frum and Perle Book, An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror. Short version--he didn't care for it.

There is an axis of evil; Israel, neo-conservatives and all those supporting or protecting them. This axis of evil is the reason behind the global hatred of the U.S., and the crazy terrorism that everyone suffers from.

The two writers call for overthrowing the Iranian and Syrian regimes, an offensive policy against North Korea, and a new siege of Cuba. However, their real war is against the United States itself, as they want the U.S. president to attack the CIA, the FBI, and the State Department, and to purify the Defense Department, until no one is left in the country except Israeli collaborators like them.

Michael Saba and Samir Vincent "escapes" together from Iraq in 1990,and in the years since both have made a living opposing U.S. policy in the Middle East. We now have evidence that Samir was financially rewared for doing so. Is there any reason to think Saba hasn't been? Another glance into LexisNexis reveals him to have been the vice-president of the Saudi Public Relations Company as recently as 1994, so we know he's been bankrolled by at least one repressive Middle eastern regime.

I think that's enough of an information dump for tonight. Anything else I find out will appear as normal.

Posted by Bigwig at January 31, 2004 10:05 PM | TrackBack
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.

So leading members of the anti-war movement weren't really objectively pro-Saddam.

They were subjectively pro-Saddam.

I seem to remember bitching pretty bitterly that the "neocon" label, as an insult, was as much anti-semitic as it was anti-Bush / anti-conservative / anti-war. I feel good to know my political instincts were right, horrified to know that one of our most horrid, long-lasting irrational hatreds is now soiling most of the left's present political positions, and some of the right.

Posted by: Blackavar at February 1, 2004 08:03 PM
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