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."

The New York Times today details
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. 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 Helana Cobban.
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
(.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 "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 on Kurdistan.

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
ran around posing as an independent expert on the region and,
specifically, an 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-Eds forThe New York Times --
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 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
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

What Galbraith kept completely concealed all
these years -- as he trapsed around advocating for Kurdish autonomy --
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:

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.

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

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: "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
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.

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."

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

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
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

UPDATE II: The New York Times is forced to publish an Editor's Note
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."

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