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Enter the Consigliere

Baker's Bush bailouts continue


Even before Saddam was found in his hidey-hole, the White House put in the call for the Tejas Silvio Dante last week, summoning James Baker to help the administration clean up its increasingly complex Brave New Mess. Baker is the Bush family consigliere, a former Secretary of State and Treasury, and an experienced Middle East dealmaker. Dubya last called on Baker in 2000 to "take care of things" in Florida, helping Dubya assume the Presidency despite losing the election. This time around, Baker's primary task will be restructuring Iraq's $100 to $325 billion debt.

Baker is in many ways an ideal choice, but, as is the case with so many other Bush solutions, he's an equally questionable one. Baker is a senior counselor to the Carlyle Group, a global investment company with close ties to the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia is owed some $25 billion by Iraq. He's also a partner in a Houston law firm whose client list includes Halliburton, the company once run by VP Dick "Deferred Payments" Cheney that was awarded over $5 billion in no-bid Iraq reconstruction contracts (and is now facing allegations of profiteering to the tune of $60 million).

Baker enters this complex mess with the job of convincing creditor nations to forgive Iraq's debt -- key because Iraq's oil sales (even at prewar levels) won't come close to paying for a reconstruction that may run as high as $100 billion. Those oil sales are the very same ones, incidentally, that neo-conservatives insisted would pay for the entire Iraqi operation and then some; maybe we should have read the fine print.

Persuading France, Russia, Germany, Canada, and various Persian Gulf Arab states to forgive part of Iraq's debt and restructure the rest was made more difficult when Bush barred those same nations from participating in the American-financed Iraqi reconstruction projects. Bush argues that only those nations that contributed militarily to the deconstruction effort in Iraq should reap the benefits of reconstruction. Quid Pro Quo: the neo-con mantra.

Bush also scoffed at Germany's assertion that this policy violates international agreements. "International law? I better call my lawyer. I don't know what you're talking about, about international law," the president said.

Which brings us back to the simple question Baker needs to answer regarding the Bush Presidency: weren't we better off dealing with a simple blowjob than with the current convoluted cluster fuck?

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