View Full Version : Galbraith's vast, undisclosed interests in the policies he spent years advocating as an 'expert'

Magda Hassan
11-13-2009, 02:29 AM
The sleazy advocacy of a leading "liberal hawk"

Peter Galbraith's vast, undisclosed financial interests in the policies he spent years advocating as an "expert." Glenn Greenwald
Nov. 12, 2009 |
(updated below - Update II)

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_MnYI3_FRbbQ/SvwLzT5_DXI/AAAAAAAACPQ/cp8M-2VjZ1k/s200/galbraith.png (http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_MnYI3_FRbbQ/SvwLzT5_DXI/AAAAAAAACPQ/cp8M-2VjZ1k/s1600-h/galbraith.png)The New York Times today details (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/world/middleeast/12galbraith.html?hp) the unbelievably sleazy story of Peter Galbraith, one of the Democratic Party's leading so-called "liberal hawks" and a generally revered Wise Man of America's Foreign Policy Community. He was Ambassador to Croatia under the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s and, in March, 2009, the Obama administration (specifically, Richard Holbrooke, Galbraith's mentor) successfully pressured the U.N. (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article5977459.ece) to name Galbraith as the second-in-command in Afghanistan. The NYT does a good job today of adding some important details to the story, but it was actually uncovered by Norwegian investigative journalists and reported at length a month ago in pieces such as this one by Helena Cobban (http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48904). In essence, this highly Serious man has corruptly concealed vast financial stakes in the very policies and positions he has spent years advocating while pretending to be an independent expert.

Galbraith was one of the most vocal Democratic supporters of the attack on Iraq, having signed a March 19, 2003 public letter (http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2003/KristolTestimont030408.pdf) (.pdf) -- along with the standard cast of neocon war-lovers such as Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Danielle Pletka, and Robert Kagan -- stating that "we all join in supporting the military intervention in Iraq" and "it is now time to act to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power." As intended, that letter was then praised by outlets such as The Washington Post Editorial Page, gushing that (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1P2-238799.html) "it is both significant and encouraging that a bipartisan group of influential foreign policy thinkers, veterans of both Democratic and Republican administrations, has signed on to a statement of policy on Iraq that makes sense on the war." Throughout 2002 and 2003, Galbraith appeared in numerous outlets -- including repeatedly on Fox News and with Bill O'Reilly -- presenting himself as a loyal Democrat firmly behind the invasion of Iraq. In 2002, he was an adviser to Paul Wolfowitz (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/10/15/former_diplomat_denies_iraqi_oil_dealings_influenc ed_views/) on Kurdistan.

After playing a key role in enabling the invasion of Iraq, Galbraith first became one of a handful of U.S. officials who worked on writing the Iraqi Constitution, and after he resigned from the government, he then continuously posed as an independent expert on the region and, specifically, an "unpaid" adviser to the Kurds on the Constitution. Galbraith was an ardent and vocal advocate for Kurdish autonomy, arguing tirelessly in numerous venues for such proposals -- including in multiple Op (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/25/opinion/25galbraith.html?scp=4&sq=Peter+Galbraith&st=nyt)-Eds (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/02/03/opinion/a-hole-in-the-heart-of-kurdistan.html?scp=5&sq=Peter+Galbraith&st=nyt) for (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/opinion/23galbraith.html?scp=3&sq=Peter+Galbraith&st=nyt) The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/01/opinion/01galbraith.html?scp=6&sq=Peter+Galbraith&st=nyt) -- and insisting that Kurds must have the right to control oil resources located in Northern Iraq. Throughout the years of writing those Op-Eds, he was identified as nothing more than "a former United States ambassador to Croatia," except in one 2007 Op-Ed (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/opinion/23galbraith.html?scp=3&sq=Peter+Galbraith&st=nyt) which vaguely stated that he "is a principal in a company that does consulting in Iraq and elsewhere." When he participated in a New York Times forum (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/02/opinion/02veepdebatefortheweb.html?pagewanted=2&sq=Peter%20Galbraith&st=nyt&scp=2) in October, 2008 -- regarding what the next President should be required to answer -- he unsurprisingly posed questions that advocated for regional autonomy for Iraqis generally and Kurds specifically, and he was identified as nothing more than the author of a book about the region.

What Galbraith kept completely concealed all these years was that a company he formed in 2004 came to acquire a large stake in a Kurdish oil field whereby, as the NYT put it, he "stands to earn perhaps a hundred million or more dollars." In other words, he had a direct -- and vast -- financial stake in the very policies which he was publicly advocating in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and countless other American media outlets, where he was presented as an independent expert on the region. As Cobban wrote:

For the preceding four years, while Galbraith was an influential participant in Iraq-related constitutional and political discussions, he also had an undisclosed financial interest in a KRG-authorised oil development venture. . . .
Here in the U.S., Galbraith has long been associated with the "liberal hawk" wing of the Democratic Party . . . Many members of this group have been liberal idealists - though some of those who, on "liberal" grounds, gave early support to Pres. George W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq later expressed their regret for adopting that position.
Galbraith has never expressed any such regrets, and last November, he was openly scornful of Bush's late-term agreement to withdraw from Iraq completely. The revelation that for many years Galbraith had a quite undisclosed financial interest in the political breakup of Iraq may now further reduce the clout, and the ranks, of the remaining liberal hawks.

Unfortunately, that last sentence is likely wishful thinking. What Galbraith has done, as sleazy and dishonest as it is, is simply par for the course in accountability-free Washington.

Galbraith's relationship with the Kurds goes back many years. He undoubtedly knew that overthrowing Saddam would empower his Kurdish friends and their ability to dole out oil contracts. Indeed, in his own 2006 book, he recounts that he began working on Kurdish autonomy and independence "two weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein." Less than a year later, having helped convince the public -- and many Democrats -- to invade Iraq, he formed a company that then acquired a huge stake in Kurdish oil. And he then spent years running around trying to use his status as Foreign Policy Community expert to exploit the war he cheered on for his own massive personal gain, while keeping completely concealed those glaring conflicts of interests.

Reider Visser, a historian of southern Iraq, told The Boston Globe last month (http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2009/10/15/former_diplomat_denies_iraqi_oil_dealings_influenc ed_views/): "Galbraith has been such a central person to the shaping of the Iraqi Constitution, far more than I think most Americans realize. All those beautiful ideas about principles of federalism and local communities having control are really cast in a different light when the community has an oil field in its midst and Mr. Galbraith has a financial stake." So here's a leading advocate of the war on Iraq who used his influence in the U.S. Government and the Foreign Policy Community -- as well as the break-up of Saddam's regime -- to enrich himself on Iraqi oil. As the NYT put it:

As the scope of Mr. Galbraith’s financial interests in Kurdistan become clear, they have the potential to inflame some of Iraqis’ deepest fears, including conspiracy theories that the true reason for the American invasion of their country was to take its oil. It may not help that outside Kurdistan, Mr. Galbraith’s influential view that Iraq should be broken up along ethnic lines is considered offensive to many Iraqis’ nationalism. Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerry, who have been influenced by Mr. Galbraith’s thinking but do not advocate such a partitioning of the country, were not aware of Mr. Galbraith’s oil dealings in Iraq, aides to both politicians say.
Some officials say that his financial ties could raise serious questions about the integrity of the constitutional negotiations themselves. "The idea that an oil company was participating in the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution leaves me speechless," said Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, a principal drafter of the law that governed Iraq after the United States ceded control to an Iraqi government on June 28, 2004.
In effect, he said, the company "has a representative in the room, drafting."

Remember how all those freakish and paranoid people -- on the crazed "Arab street" and in American-hating leftist circles -- actually believed in "conspiracy" theories such as the wacky notion that one of the motives for invading Iraq was a desire to exploit its oil resources?

Here we have yet another example of one of America's most Serious and respected "experts" advocating various policies while maintaining huge, undisclosed financial and personal interests in his advocacy. He was given access to every major media outlet virtually on demand to do so -- the NYT, The Washington Post, NPR, CNN, Fox -- all while those interests remained concealed. His uniting with the country's most extreme neocons to support the Bush administration's attack on Iraq didn't prevent the Obama administration from pushing him to be hired as the U.N.'s number two official in Afghanistan. He continued to be revered by leading establishment Democrats as an important and respected expert. In other words, Peter Galbraith is a perfect face showing how America's Foreign Policy Community and our political debates function.

UPDATE: Jonathan Schwarz recalls (http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/003144.html) what was done to those who suggested that part of the motive in invading Iraq might have something to do with that country's oil reserves.

UPDATE II: The New York Times is forced to publish an Editor's Note (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/opinion/12op-ed-note.html?_r=1) today in light of this story, noting that "Mr. Galbraith signed a contract that obligated him to disclose his financial interests in the subjects of his articles"; he "should have disclosed to readers that Mr. Galbraith could benefit financially" from the policies he was advocating in his Op-Eds; and "had editors been aware of Mr. Galbraith's financial stake, the Op-Ed page would have insisted on disclosure or not published his articles."

-- Glenn Greenwald


David Guyatt
11-13-2009, 09:19 AM
The surprise is that we should be surprised by what is, these days, typical self interested behaviour of our political, diplomatic and ruling classes.

Jan Klimkowski
11-13-2009, 02:08 PM
From the headline I thought this was JK Galbraith, but it transpires that Peter is the son of John Kenneth.

Something is going down here, and I'm not sure quite what. Prima facie, Peter Galbraith has behaved illegally and disgracefully, by not recusing himself from the drafting of Iraqi constitutional documents and by not declaring his substantial financial interest in the Kurdish oilfield.

Having stated that, the timing is interesting.

The NYT piece on Galbraith's undeclared financial interests is based on research by Norwegian investigative journalists which is at least a month old. Also, I wouldn't be remotely surprized to learn that all the major players - neocons especially - have similar financial conflicts of interest which are not currently major news stories in the NYT and other MSM organs.

So, why now?

Here are a few snippets from his wiki:

From 2000 to 2001 he served with the United Nations in East Timor, where he was head of the UNTAET political section and Cabinet Member for Political Affairs and Timor Sea in East Timor's first Transitional Government. He was East Timor's lead negotiator for maritime boundaries with Australia and produced two agreements, including the 2002 Timor Sea Treaty, that effectively quadrupled East Timor's share of the petroleum resources between the two countries.

He was also a Professor of National Security Strategy at the National War College, in 1999 and between 2001-2003.[2] In 2003, he resigned from the U.S. government service after 24 years.

Galbraith was a good friend of the twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto, dating back to their student days at Harvard and Oxford Universities, and was instrumental in Bhutto's release from prison in Pakistan for a medical treatment abroad during the military dictatorship of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq.

Galbraith was announced as the next United Nations' Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan on March 25, 2009.[7] He is considered a close ally of Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan.[8]

However, Galbraith abruptly left the country in mid September 2009 at the request of UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Kai Eide following a dispute over the handling of the reported fraud in the 2009 Afghan presidential election. [9] On September 30, the UN announced that he had been removed from his position by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[10] In response to his firing, Galbraith told The Times, "I was not prepared to be complicit in a cover-up or in an effort to downplay the fraud that took place. I felt we had to face squarely the fraud that took place. Kai downplayed the fraud."[11][12]

Fwiw - here are some MSM accounts of that recent Afghan spat.

October 1, 2009

Sacked envoy Peter Galbraith accuses UN of 'cover-up' on Afghan vote fraud
James Bone in New York

The top American in the UN mission in Afghanistan was fired yesterday after refusing to take part in what he called "a cover-up" of fraud in the Afghan election.

Peter Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, left the country abruptly last month after a clash with his Norwegian boss, Kai Eide.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, announced yesterday he was dismissing Mr Galbraith "in the best interest of the mission”.

"I think it's astonishing that the United Nations would dismiss an official because he was concerned about fraud in a UN-funded and UN-supported election," Mr Galbraith told The Times yesterday from his farmhouse in Vermont.

"I want to emphasise that my position was not for or against any candidate. It was simply that the votes should be honestly counted.

"I was not prepared to be complicit in a cover-up or in an effort to downplay the fraud that took place. I felt we had to face squarely the fraud that took place. Kai downplayed the fraud."

The row between Mr Galbraith and Mr Eide goes to the core of international strategy in Afghanistan and has split the UN mission there. Sources said five members of the UN mission in Afghanistan had offered their resignation in support of Mr Galbraith.

Mr Galbraith, a former US ambassador in Croatia, accused his old friend Mr Eide, a former UN representative in Bosnia, of refusing to do anything that jeopardised his relationship with President Karzai.

He said that, before the August 20 election, he wanted to take steps to minimise fraud by eliminating "ghost" polling stations in Taliban-held territory - but Mr Eide rejected the proposal.

During the election, the UN collected data on fraud - but Mr Eide ordered that it not be shared with the Election Complaints Commission, he said.

After the election, Mr Eide objected to Mr Galbraith's insistence that the Independent Election Commission stick to its published anti-fraud criteria, he added.

Nevertheless, Mr Galbraith said that the original row when he left the country had helped push the UN towards a greater focus on fraud.

Preliminary results show Mr Karzai with 54.6 per cent - more than the 50 per cent threshold needed to win re-election without a run-off. An audit of suspect ballots is under way, but UN officials expect the final results to be announced on Wednesday.

Mr Galbraith called the auditing of ballots a "good process" and said it was likely to yield a credible result.

Although a dispute over policy, the row has a personal dimension. Mr Eide introduced Mr Galbraith to the Norwegian anthropologist who became his wife, and the two couples have gone on sailing holidays together off the Dalmatian coast.

Nevertheless, Mr Eide lobbied hard behind the scenes to stop Mr Ban appointing Mr Galbraith as his deputy, but the United States insisted on the appointment.

The row between the two men escalated when Mr Eide left Afghanistan after the election to celebrate his wedding anniversary in Norway with his wife, leaving his deputy in charge.

Sources say a senior American diplomat, Donald "Larry" Sampler, is one of a number of American officials who have been approached to replace Mr Galbraith.

Mr Galbraith is expected to receive one month's pay in lieu of notice and may be entitled to a lump sum "termination indemnity" based on the number of months left on his one-year UN contract, which began in March


JOHN HOCKENBERRY, for The Takeaway: So we learned this yesterday from the communications department at the United Nations -- the secretary general has decided to recall Mr. Peter Galbraith from Afghanistan and to end his appointment as the deputy special representative of the secretary general for the U.N. assistance mission in Afghanistan. He expresses his thanks to Mr. Galbraith for his hard work and professional dedication.

Peter Galbraith joins us now, he is the former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan. It occurs to me, Peter, in the midst of Hamid Karzai attempting to be re-elected in the middle of a total strategy change going on between the U.S. and NATO in Afghanistan, that this is particularly oddly timed, your dismissal here, and good morning to you ... from Vermont.

PETER GALBRAITH: Good morning, John. Setting aside the personal issues involved, I couldn't agree with that statement more. First, as a general matter, I think it sends a very odd signal to dismiss a senior U.N. official because he was concerned about fraud in a U.N.-supported and U.N.-funded election. But here we are, in the critical week, 10-day period that a rather controversial recount procedure is under way, in an environment in which, frankly, many Afghans, and certainly the Afghan opposition has no confidence in the leader of the U.N. mission that they think, rightly, that he's biased towards the president. And they've seen me as the person who was pushing for a fair count and for making sure that all was done possible to deal with the fraud.

HOCKENBERRY: Alright, Peter Galbraith, let's just focus on that very clearly. What evidence do you have that the reason you were dismissed was because you wanted to speak out about the evidence of fraud in the Karzai government, and in this election? And secondly, the U.N. would say, you just couldn't get along with your boss, Kai Eide?

GALBRAITH: Well, let me begin by saying that I did not want to speak out publicly about the fraud, and I did not speak out publicly about the fraud. This was a private disagreement between me and the head of the mission; it was a long-running policy dispute about how to deal with it, which unfortuneately, through no fault of either of us, became public when somebody leaked the fact I had left Kabul to a British newspaper. And now, as evidence of this, we actually, I had agreed with the United Nations that they would issue a statement yesterday which stated the truth, which is that I had left or had been recalled because of a disagreement about electoral fraud. That was not the statement they issued. They then began to background this to suggest that it was a personality dispute, which it was not. Incidentally, the head of the mission has been a friend of mine since 1994, we worked together in the Balkans when I was ambassador to Croatia and he was deputy to my counterpart, Thorvald Stoltenberg. We vacationed together in the Adriatic, he introduced me to my Norwegian wife, so we had a good personal relationship, but we had a profound disagreement about policy.

HOCKENBERRY: So let's talk about what the implications are for this disagreement. Why would the United Nations want to project that it was anything other than independent on the matter of the election campaign in Afghanistan right in the middle of a conflict that's going on there? It seems to send the message that Washington is pulling the strings at the United Nations? I don't know what it sends.

GALBRAITH: Well, first, I don't think this reflects President Obama's policy, and indeed, the United States has been quite forward in wanting to have genuinely free and fair elections. And so, too, has the United Nations. The position that I took was really not mine; it was the position that represented the views of the entire professional staff of the United Nations mission that were working on the elections. There was no division in the United Nation mission on this. They were all taking the same view as me; the only exception was at the head, and of course the head is the one who gets to call the shots.

HOCKENBERRY: Alright, then, the question becomes, and again I'm just scratching my head, Peter, and we've talked before on all kinds of subjects, and I know your long experience in the diplomatic corps... but what kind of magic does Hamid Karzai have that he can survive despite all of these accusations, the problems he's had with warlords, even ran with a warlord as his running mate in this election campaign?

GALBRAITH: That is one of the questions that we don't know the answer to. But I want to say that the position that I took has nothing to do with whether Hamid Karzai or somebody else should be president of Afghanistan. It is much more basic, which is that the people of Afghanistan voted on the 20th of August -- in parts of the country they took considerable personal risk to go vote -- and they deserve to have their votes counted honestly, and the results not be marred by the inclusion of well over a million fraudulent votes.

HOCKENBERRY: Is it possible, though, you know I have to ask this, that perhaps you may have allowed your ego to get in the way of this issue of the people who voted in Afghanistan, and that someone who could have been an advocate is now out of the United Nations because of personnel issues that really sort of exploded in your face?

GALBRAITH: Well, I don't understand, how did my ego get in the way?

HOCKENBERRY: That you pushed this too far. That if you were still there, you could actually have more of an impact.

GALBRAITH: John, in fact my involvement on this was rather low-key. I was hardly an activist. The final straw on this was a call that I made to chief electoral officer when the so-called "Independent Afghan Election Commission"

HOCKENBERRY: ... right ...

GALBRAITH: ... was about to make a decision to abandon the safeguards which would exclude fraudulent ballots.

HOCKENBERRY: Understood. I had to ask, Peter, I had to ask. That was a great laying-out of what's going on in Afghanistan. Peter Galbraith, former U.N. envoy to Afghanistan, talking about the conditions and circumstances of his dismissal.


David Guyatt
11-13-2009, 02:23 PM
Ah, it begins to look like he broke ranks and is now being punished for doing so.

I suppose the old saw about those in glass houses throwing stones is appropriate here.

Then again I don't suppose any honest unimpeachable persons would be appointed to these types of positions in the first place, as there is no leverage over them.

Jan Klimkowski
11-13-2009, 03:48 PM
Ah, it begins to look like he broke ranks and is now being punished for doing so.

I suppose the old saw about those in glass houses throwing stones is appropriate here.

Then again I don't suppose any honest unimpeachable persons would be appointed to these types of positions in the first place, as there is no leverage over them.


It appears that Peter Galbraith was allowed his share of the pie, until he broke ranks.

He is now being punished to remind the others of the consequences of even the merest display of independent thought.

Btw - are we really meant to believe that noone knew nuffin, guv, about Galbraith's interests with a company looking to exploit Kurdish oilfields?