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January 23, 2005

Head 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out

Today's Samir Vincent News Roundup;

The New York Times finally weighs in on the Vincent ties to Jimmy Carter and Jack Kemp, long enough to get a Carter spokesman's denial that Jimmy ever had relations with that man, Samir Vincent, aside from letting him into his home, and to get this statement from Jack Kemp.

Mr. Kemp said in a statement on Friday that he had met with Mr. Vincent first in about 1997 to discuss the American position on sanctions. He described the essence of the conversations by saying that Mr. Vincent had told him he was motivated "by the national security of the United States and thought the Iraqi government believed the sanctions would never be lifted, which he said he believed was leading them to obstruct inspectors from coming into the country."

Mr. Kemp said he agreed that sanctions might be lifted but only in exchange for an unconditional guarantee of unlimited and surprise inspections for unconventional weapons.

Mr. Kemp said he had had no dealings with Mr. Vincent on any other matters and received nothing in return for any discussions he had had with government officials about Iraq sanctions.

" dealings on any other matters.." Are we then to believe that Jack Kemp's much ballyhooed 21st-Century Marshall Plan Committee only existed to discuss the Iraqi sanctions? Were the other heavy-hitters on the council, including former Secretary of State James Baker and former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke, informed of this?

In fact, they probably were not, for as Kemp tells the Houston Chronicle, the council was set up to specifically to discuss the rebuilding of Iraq.

Kemp, the Republican Party's 1996 vice presidential nominee, acknowledged Friday he was questioned by the FBI about Vincent last October.

"I fully and completely cooperated with the FBI and was told they have no further questions," Kemp said in a prepared statement.

Kemp, who has known Vincent for seven or eight years, asked Vincent to serve on a Marshall Plan-style committee Kemp was trying to organize to rebuild Iraq.

"Vincent had many contacts in the provisional government in Iraq after the war and among average Iraqis, which we hoped to use as a means of establishing consultative groups to discuss what a Marshall Plan in Iraq would look like and how it would be implemented," Kemp said.

Sounds to me that Kemp and Vincent must have had at least one discussion dealing with a time in Iraq after sanctions had been lifted. What else could "what a Marshall Plan in Iraq would look like and how it would be implemented..." possibly mean?

Kemp admits to having known Vincent for seven or eight years, and the New York Post says they met monthly.

Vincent, who was charged by the Justice Department with illegally acting as Saddam's secret agent in the United States, had monthly meetings with Kemp to discuss U.S.-Iraq relations.

Even a conservative estimate would indicate Kemp and Vincent met dozens of times. Are we really expected to believe no subject of conversation other than sanctions ever came up, or is Jack Kemp simply trying to distance himself from the now radioactive Vincent?

Aside: Read all of the Chronicle article. The Chronicle is not only the first newspaper to detail Vincent ties to the Smithsonian Institute and NASA, but it also mentions his activities during the first Gulf War.

Speaking of things it's hard to believe, it does not appear as if the Washington Post bothers to read its own archives. As of today a total of six stories on Vincent have graced that paper's pages since his plea deal was announced, and none mention the "escape" so breathlessly detailed in those same pages back in August of 1990.

In fact, as far as most of the major media is concerned--aside from the Chronicle, whose stature is growing by leaps and bounds in my eyes--Samir Vincent seems to be a man without a history prior to 1992, which is the year when the indictment against him first lists his unlawful activities as having occurred. It's as if no one aside from the Chronicle reporters bothered to read anything else. The only other exception I've found so far is in the New York Times, and the closest that paper comes to acknowledging that Vincent had anything at all to do with Gulf War I is in this rather innocuous passage.

In December 1990, in the weeks before the Gulf War, Mr. Vincent helped evacuate Americans from Baghdad on a flight arranged by Mr. Wyatt and former Treasury Secretary John B. Connally. Mr. Vincent was described in a news account at the time as a Washington-based consultant.

Here's how the Gray Lady described it then (via Lexis/Nexis)

U.S. Embassy Faulted

But by mid-afternoon, the Iraqi authorities told the Connally group that they would approve exit visas for only 22 Americans, 8 of their relatives and 1 Briton. Only 5 of the 22 were from the "Coming Home" group, and many complained that the American Embassy should have intervened with the Iraqis or given them more assistance.

A spokesman for Mr. Connally, Samir A. Vincent, an Iraqi-born consultant from Washington, D.C., said as he ushered the 30 Americans into a bus bound for the airport at 4 P.M.: "We did our damnedest to get everybody out. If they are angry, they should be angry at the American Embassy. They didn't do anything for us."

Mr. Connally and Mr. Wyatt made similar remarks to reporters at the airport before departing. Later, an American Embassy official defended the embassy's performance, noting that Mr. Connally's mission to Baghdad had been officially discouraged by the State Department.

"Connally never called me; Wyatt never called me," said the embassy official, who did not want to be identified. "I don't know why the Iraqis didn't let Connally fill his plane up."

Odd, isn't it? Less than 4 months after he "escaped" from Iraq, Samir Vincent felt perfectly comfortable returning there, and neither of America's two major papers of record has managed to pick up on that--though to be fair, neither appears to have the same massive resources at their command that the mighty Houston Chronicle obviously does.

Postscript: The Weekly Standard has a subscriber only article up about Vincent that talks about his 1990 escape. If anyone has a copy/login let me know.

Posted by Bigwig at January 23, 2005 11:45 PM | TrackBack
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