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August 19, 2003

DEFUNDING THE ENEMY -- Amir Taheri reports:

August 19, 2003 -- BARRING a last-minute miracle, the pan-Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party, one of Jordan's oldest political organizations, is expected to file for bankruptcy within the next few weeks.

The party's headquarters in Amman is a scene of daily demonstrations by creditors waving unpaid bills.

To make matters worse, the party has to finance the repatriation from Iraq of over 3,000 Jordanian and Palestinians students it had sponsored. The students were sent to Iraq with scholarships from the Ba'athist regime in Baghdad; Iraq paid the Jordanian party $600 a year for each student. But last month, the newly appointed Iraqi Governing Council scrapped the scheme as part of a broader de-Ba'athification program.

"We are in a tight spot," says Ahmad al-Najdawi, a party leader. "People don't understand that no more money is flowing [from Iraq]."

Jordan's Ba'athists are not alone in facing bankruptcy.

Two prominent Lebanese pan-Arabists have fled to France to avoid paying the mobs they hired for pro-Saddam demonstrations in Beirut last winter. And other pro-Saddam Ba'athists are facing unpaid bills for anti-war demonstrations they organized in Morocco, Algeria and Egypt.

At the time, those efforts were seen in the West as a sign that the "Arab street" was about to explode against the U.S.-led coalition.

You mean those folks were bought-and-paid-for shills instead of serious patriots? Perish the thought. That's not what the press told us at the time! But then, it wasn't just the Arab Street that Saddam was paying for:

Documents now being studied by the Iraqi research group also reveal that Saddam had a network of support in several European countries, notably Britain, France and Austria.

At least three French political parties received financial contributions from Saddam between 1975 and 1990. Several prominent French politicians, including former Cabinet ministers, received money from Saddam. Several British politicians, including at least one member of parliament, were among the recipients of Saddam's largesse.

Conducted by several groups, the current work on Saddam's secret documents is largely chaotic. It is, perhaps, time for the Governing Council to take control of the project and make sure that the seized documents are not used, and abused, for selective leaks and the settling of personal scores.

The people of Iraq have a right to know exactly who worked for a regime that wrecked their country and ruined their lives for over three decades.

And not just the people of Iraq.

UPDATE: And not just defunding 'em, either, as U.S. forces have bagged Saddam's Vice President.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Hmm, of course it's not just Saddam -- here's a report that Al Jazeera is paying people to protest, and encouraging them to act in ways that'll cause U.S. troops to fire:

Any Credibility that Al Jazeera may have had before today has been smashed. Today a demonstration was to be held to demand the release of an Imam who was a close personal friend of Saddam and used his Mosque to store weapons and as a Refuge for Baath Party members. The Demonstration was to be broadcast live on the Arab News Network and they wanted to get real exclusive News. They wanted Americans to fire on the crowds. In order to ensure that we would, they PAID people to carry weapons in the crowd and to fire them at us in order to provoke a Violent Response from US troops.

Thing is, this isn't the first time Al Jazeera has PAID for the spreading of Anti-American Sentiments in this country or even this city. And these people are so desperate for money right now that they will do anything for it. A little boy who used to hang out at the Gate of the Civilian/Miltary Operations Center (C-MOC) and has since we occupied the building was given money and photos of Saddam Hussein and told to run through the streets shouting Anti-American slogans. Now, this boy had until that day been at the C-Moc every day, hanging out with American Soldiers who treated him pretty well. When stopped by us and asked why he was shouting such things, he replied that two men had paid him to do so. ... The two men turned out to be Local Al Jazeera correspondents.

Sounds like a security issue for CentCom to me.