It's amazing what counts as a 'conspiracy theory' these days.
Last week, in my column in The Hill, I described how the war crimes tribunal in Iraq is being run by Ahmed Chalabi's nephew, Salem. And at the same time Salem is in the Iraqi contracts business with, Marc Zell, the former law partner of Doug Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, whose office has oversight over doling out Iraqi reconstruction contracts.
(This article on the tribunal by Robert Collier in the San Francisco Chronicle, which I hadn't seen when I wrote the original column, is quite good.)
This week, in a letter to the editor, David Epstein, a former member of the law firm Feith & Zell (the firm in which Doug Feith and Marc Zell were the two named partners), writes in and says the following ...
âI danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales.â This line from a 1920s song came to mind after reading Josh Marshallâs April 23 attack on Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith (âDictatorship ended, cronyism is doing nicelyâ).
The âconspiracy theoryâ is that Ahmed Chalabi is on the Iraqi Governing Council, his nephew Salem returned to Baghdad and he is seeking to do business in the reconstruction of Iraq. The article reports that Salem Chalabi is doing business with Mark Zell, who was once in the law firm of âFeith and Zell PCâ and who uses the Internet name of âfandz.com.â
So there is the dance.
In fact, Feith withdrew from the practice of law when he went to the Pentagon in the summer of 2001. Upon his withdrawal, his name was dropped from the firm name.
The remaining attorneys disbanded at the end of 2001, going in a number of different professional directions. How do I know? I was a member of the firm for 10 years.
So Mr. Zell kept the Internet name. Few people outside the law firm probably knew that this jumble of letters, âfandz.com,â ever had an association with Doug Feith. It is not a brand name. It is not âCoca-Cola.â Moreover, the issue is not what either Messrs. Chalabi or Zell are doing or what Internet name Mr. Zell uses. The suggested challenge is to the conduct of Doug Feith. The article does not offer a scintilla of evidence about any improper conduct by him.
I don't know what all this razmataz is about <$Ad$>the URL of the website. It strikes me as a diversion from the point.
But what's the 'conspiracy theory' here exactly?
More and more, it seems, in neoconservative circles in Washington, a 'conspiracy theory' is an assertion or argument one simply doesn't like. The phrase 'conspiracy theory' is added on to the response as a sort of literary slur.
So let me try this one again: the nephew of America's one-time favorite to run post-war Iraq probably shouldn't be the one who runs the war crimes tribunal that sits in judgment over Saddam. If he does, he probably shouldn't also be in the reconstruction contracts business with the ex-law and business partner partner of the top Pentagon appointee whose office a) drew up most of the policies for the occupation and b) has oversight over doling out the contracts.
I understand that well-meaning people are sometimes importuned to write such letters on behalf of those who aren't in a position to respond themselves. But how is that a 'conspiracy theory' exactly. It seems more like pointing out the obvious.