Incredible. This article in the Daily Telegraph has to be one of the most disjointed and confused articles I've read in a long time. But the information it contains, or alleges, makes it worth wading through.
First, it says that Francis Brooke, Ahmed Chalabi's long-time Washington handler, lobbyist and press maven, is the subject of an arrest warrant in Iraq. But he's absconded, if that's the right word, back to Washington.
I don't know quite what to make of this. The charge seems to be that he obstructed the raid on Chalabi's INC headquarters in some fashion. But it's not clear from the article that he did anything more than give the Iraqi police executing the warrant some grief. Nor is it clear, from the context, why that should be a crime.
[For Monday, the Washington Post has some follow-up on Brooke's warrant.]
The real nugget, however, is this passage tucked down at the bottom of the article ...
Last night, it emerged that on the same day as the raid, computer files belonging to the British consultant investigating the oil-for-food scandal were destroyed by hackers and a back-up databank in his Baghdad office wiped out.
Claude Hankes Drielsma, a British businessman and long-time acquaintance of Mr Chalabi, accused America and Britain of mounting a "dirty tricks" campaign to obstruct his inquiry. "I think you have to expect this to happen with events of the magnitude of those we are dealing with," he said.
His report on oil-for-food, written for the international accounting company KPMG, was due to be released in three weeks but its publication has been delayed for at least three months, he said.
"This report would have been even more damning than anticipated. This would not sit comfortably with the political agenda in Washington or London.
"I believe that what Washington wants is to keep the lid on things until after the presidential election. The White House believes that the report will be detrimental to President Bush's re-election campaign."
Now, we've discussed before that <$Ad$>the charges relating to the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq all stem from documents which Ahmed Chalabi says he has and says are valid, but which none but his political associates have been allowed to see.
Hankes Drielsma is a longtime Chalabi crony from the UK who Chalabi brought in to run his own investigation of the documents.
[A side note: no one disputes that there was widespread corruption in the oil-for-food program. Saddam and his cronies siphoned off all sorts of money; and that was known long before the war. The new charges relate to various international politicians, journalists and diplomats who were allegedly bought off with contracts from the program.]
In any case, basing an international scandal on documents which Ahmed Chalabi assures you he has but for some reason won't show you would seem a rather dubious proposition in the first place. But, if I read that passage from the Telegraph article correctly, Hankes Drielsma seems to be saying, in essence, that both his hard-drives exploded, that for some inexplicable reason it's America's fault, that the report was going to be incredibly damning, but now all the data is gone so it's going to be months, if not longer, till he can pull the evidence back together.
Am I missing something, or is this the dog ate my homework?
A final note: what gives me some pause about this story is that unlike the Brooke case, no other paper seems to have reported anything on this at all. And given it would be a pretty consequential matter, I find that rather odd.