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January 26, 2005

S'more Samir

Today's Samir Vincent news. My apologies if it's a bit disjointed. I'm typing this one-handed while a toddler sleeps in my lap. Welcome to the brave new world of Internet Journalism!

Three new stories on various parts of the Samir Vincent story. Well, two new ones, and one that's emerged from behind the wall of subscription.

The Weekly Standard's story on Saddam's Man in Washington is still imprisoned behind a subscriber login, but this free copy at Yahoo appears to be the same thing, though as with all Yahoo news links, it will eventually disappear.

For the most part, there's nothing new in it, though the conclusion points out that we can expect to learna great deal more in the near future, as Samir's testimony to Oil-For-Food prosecutors is acted upon.

What will we learn by pulling on the Samir Vincent thread? That's hard to know. Saddam Hussein's government, and particularly his intelligence services, compartmentalized information so that very few individuals had a full understanding of its operations.

Still, the 16-page document charging Vincent contains enough information to make many people nervous. To cite two examples: On page 4 we learn that Vincent "and other individuals, including United Nations officials, met in Manhattan in an effort to secure terms favorable to the Government of Iraq in connection with the adoption and implementation of Resolution 986" [emphasis added]. And on page 7 that Vincent "distributed to another individual a cash payment from the Government of Iraq in partial satisfaction of the agreements" to work for Saddam's regime [emphasis added].

The other two stories, from WorldNetDaily and The New York Post, focus on Vincent's contacts with Jimmy Carter and Jack Kemp, respectively.

First, the Post, which despite its tabloid reputation appears to be a far better media source than WorldNetDaily. It focuses on a 1998 Jack Kemp letter to leaders in Congress; one that is more or less a rehash of Iraqi talking points on the sanctions against that country.

Kemp's Dec. 18, 1998, letter to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), which called for congressional hearings into the Clinton administration's decision to bomb Iraq, has left investigators wondering whether he was pushing "talking points" drawn up by Virginia oil trader Samir Vincent, who pleaded guilty last week to charges that he received payments from Iraq to weaken U.N sanctions.

In the letter, Kemp — who has been questioned by the FBI about his contacts with Vincent — blasted U.S. policy and raised numerous Iraqi propaganda points.

Kemp asked, for example, if it was true "that around 4,500 children under the age of five are dying" in Iraq every month, and whether the U.S. government was refusing to have "direct contact with Iraq."

"The Iraqi government believes that nothing it can do will cause the United States to allow the economic sanctions to be lifted," Kemp said in the letter.

"Is it realistic to expect any regime to cooperate with U.N. inspectors if it believes the U.S. has declared de facto war on it and that nothing it can do will lead to a lifting of sanctions?" Kemp added.

Vincent was making eerily similar points to Kemp during their once-a-month meetings during the same period, Kemp's office admitted.
One congressional official involved in the U.N. oil-for-food investigation said, "Knowing what we know now, the question is: Where did Jack Kemp get this stuff?

"It looks like Samir Vincent did a very good lobbying job."

WorldNetDaily, on the other hand, reserves all its wrath for Carter--or rather the organization that wrote the press release that WorldNetDaily is presenting as news does--practically bending over backwards in an attempt to clear Jack Kemp from suspicion.

"President Carter and his associates should follow the lead of Jack Kemp, who has stepped forward and spoken candidly about his relationship with Samir Vincent," said Move America Forward Co-chair Howard Kaloogian. "Kemp obviously feels he has nothing to hide. After years of boisterously opposing U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, all we've gotten is months of silence from President Carter followed by a carefully guarded statement from his spokeswoman."

That organization, Move America Forward, also makes the ludicrous claim that they were the first to reveal "links between former President Jimmy Carter and Samir Vincent, a key figure in the U.N.'s oil-for-food scandal", when anyone with a browser could have discovered this a year ago. Many of course did.

It's too bad WorldNet didn't do at least some light editing here, because the nakedly political tone of the release will probably relegate some of the more interesting points it raises, such as the possible connections between Vincent organization A World of Friends, Friendship Force International and The Carter Center, to the media dustbin.

Then, public records revealed that Vincent was invited to be on the board of an organization, A World of Friends Inc., closely connected to Carter," said Melanie Morgan, co-chair of Move America Forward, which is running television ads attacking the U.N. on national cable news networks, conducting an online petition drive and soliciting contributions to spread the message of the TV spots.

"We know that Carter's son, Chip, gave Samir Vincent a tour of the Carter Center complex. What we want to know is whether the Iraqi agent directed oil-for-food money to the Carter Center in return for Carter promoting Saddam Hussein's position."

Carter and his associates have used the Carter Center as a weapon in the fight against America's foreign policy in Iraq. The board of directors includes Carter, his wife and Carter's ambassador to the U.N., Andrew Young
Move America Forward also is asking Friendship Force International to disclose its donor list. Friendship Force was the brainchild of Wayne Smith, a friend of Carter's. Carter and his wife were given the billing as the organization's leaders upon its founding.

In September 2003, Friendship Force International announced that it was experiencing financial problems. Revenues were falling below expectations, and from 2001 to 2003 the organization had to cut its employment roster by almost one-half.

"Were these people desperate for money? Given the association between Friendship Force players and Samir Vincent, the public has a right to know if this organization accepted oil-for-food money," said Kaloogian.

Smith left Friendship Force to join former Ambassador Young to launch A World of Friends Inc. The board of directors of A World of Friends Inc. had only seven members, Move America Forward noted, and one of those was Samir Vincent.

Here's a handy guide to the overlapping membership described in the passages above.

The Carter Center - Andrew Young, Jimmy Carter, Rosalyn Carter
Friendship Force - Wayne Smith, Jimmy Carter, Rosalyn Carter
A World of Friends - Samir Vincent, Wayne Smith, Andrew Young

Given the contacts described above, it's not unreasonable to ask why at the very least Wayne Smith and Andrew Young haven't been interviewed by the FBI--though it is possible that they have been and that news of those interviews has not come out as of yet.

One reason why that might be so is that, given the nakedly political and overly self-congratulatory nature of the Move America Forward press release, the regular media has dismissed it as partisan rhetoric rather than a situation worthy of investigation. I very much doubt if many mainstream journalists even bothered to read it all the way through, regardless of their particular political orientation. Indeed, the release may end up doing the exact opposite of what it was intended to do, protecting heretofore-unknown ties between Samir Vincent and Jimmy Carter, rather than exposing them.

&^$#*%$@ amateurs.

Update: Thanks to Hraka reader Serg for pointing out that Wayne Smith comitted suicide in June of 2004. The article implies that Rev Smith took his own life as a result of his struggle with myasthenia gravis; surprising, in that the disease normally responds to treatment.

The current treatments for MG are sufficiently effective that the outlook for most patients is bright. Although the treatments will not cure MG, most patients will have significant improvement in their muscle weakness. In some cases, MG may go into remission for a time, during which no treatment is necessary. There is much that can be done, but still much to understand. New drugs to improve treatments are needed. Research plays an important role in finding new answers and treatments for MG.

I wonder when exactly Samir Vincent began cooperating with the Oil-for-Food investigation. While it's certainly possible that the Rev. Smith's condition was one of the few that did not respond to treatment, the act was still committed after the news first broke about Vincent's involvement in the Oil-for-Food scandal, raising the perfectly logical if somewhat distasteful question of whether or not that news had anything to do with the Reverend's decision to kill himself. Admittedly, there is at present absolutely no evidence to suggest that it did, but until and unless the Friendship Force's books are opened to the public, that shadow of suspicion will not go away.

Blame Samir Vincent, who by his actions has inevitably tarred anyone and everyone with whom he ever had a relationship.

Posted by Bigwig at January 26, 2005 11:46 AM | TrackBack
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you figure out Mr Wayne Smith commit suicide last year? how the FBI is to speak to him? mmm?

Posted by: Serg at January 26, 2005 02:17 PM

Surely the FBI has a Ouija board...

Actually, I'd noticed he death after posting the article, but I hadn't a chance to get around to it yet. Thanks for pointing out, though.

Posted by: Bigwig at January 26, 2005 02:37 PM
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