NY Oil-for-food trial may look into oilman's alleged aid to Saddam Update: It's Teddy!

The WaPost has a sense of humor, entitling its story about Houston oilman Oscar S. Wyatt, Jr “NY Trial to Look at Wyatt’s Patriotism.” Wyatt is accused of conspiring to pay Saddam kickbacks so that his company could get oil contracts through the UN’s mismanaged Oil-For-Food debacle. He’s also accused of tipping Saddam to US troop positions, movements and possible angles of attack prior to the invasion. Because he fought (on the US side, evidently) in WWII, the defense plans to portray him as a patriot who just doesn’t like Bush.

The government said in court papers that it is entitled to portray a Texas businessman as so eager to win oil contracts from Saddam Hussein’s government that he told Iraqi officials about the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq and encouraged opposition to the war.

The government argued that jurors should hear about statements that Oscar S. Wyatt Jr. made to win favor with those who handed out lucrative Iraqi oil contracts. The documents were filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan late Thursday for Wyatt’s Sept. 4 trial…

The statements about him were contained in a diary kept by an employee of Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organization. The diary claims that Wyatt bragged at a Jan. 27, 2003, meeting that he had convinced a U.S. senator to speak out against an attack on Iraq. The diary said Wyatt also discussed the nature of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, including anticipated troop numbers, timing and direction of attack, prosecutors said.

The senator isn’t named. But if Wyatt actually did persuade a senator to speak out against the war prior to January 2003, the list of senators who were doing that at that time is much shorter than a similar list would be now. All would be liberal Democrats, fwiw.

Wyatt’s trial should be an interesting one to watch. The government will have to detail to some extent the Oil-For-Food program’s corruption, and we might get a glimpse of a more or less official take on who within the UN was involved in the process.

I’ve maintained for years now that OFF was one of the key reasons that we actually had to go to war because to a great extent it lessened the threat that Saddam could see arrayed against him (and from Saddam’s point of view, corruption for self-protection was the point of even starting OFF in the first place — he had no interest or need in actually helping the Iraqi people). To the extent that Saddam was buying alliances with key individuals around the world and to the extent that he was hearing from braggarts such as Mr. Wyatt is accused of being, it distorted his understanding of the seriousness of the threat that the US-led coalition posed for him. He must surely have thought that between all those billions in oil contracts and the corruption in the UN that went along with that, and his open supporters in Jacques Chirac and to a lesser extent Vladimir Putin (and the quiet non-belligerence of the Chinese), that the US would eventually stand down. Its allies were bought, the UN was corrupt and had a price, and some even in Bush’s country and at least one in his home state could be bought for the right price. How could the US seriously expect to wage war against him, he must have thought, when he can use the UN more or less against us and we’re predicating our war in part on enforcing UN sanctions?

Without all the corruption of OFF and what that said about the larger UN, and without all the underhandedness of “allies” like Chirac’s France, there’s a decent chance that Saddam would have understood the threat more clearly than he seems to have done, his survival instinct would have overtaken his ambitions for a while, and he would have been more compliant. The OFF corruption gave him reason to think he could keep in playing games forever, necessitating the drastic step that we had to take to prove him wrong.

Update: Reuters named the senator way back on August 14:

Wyatt is also asking to have portions of a diary of a former Iraqi state oil agency employee, Mubdir Al-Khudhair, omitted. It suggests Wyatt provided the Iraq government with information about when the United States would invade and bomb Iraq and how many soldiers would be sent, according to the motion.

“Such actions would likely be considered repugnant by most Americans and could potentially bias,” said the papers, arguing the diary was irrelevant to Wyatt’s case.

One diary entry also states that “Wyatt allegedly convinced Senator Edward Kennedy to deliver a speech against the war with Iraq,” according to the motion. A spokesperson for Senator Kennedy did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Why didn’t the Post name him then, since it was already out in a Reuters report? Is the Post covering for the senator from Chappaquiddick?

Swimmer did deliver a speech against the war in September 2002.

The Senate’s preeminent liberal said the Bush administration had failed to make a convincing case that war against Iraq was the only way to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, whom the U.S. and British governments accuse of developing weapons of mass destruction in violation of U.N. resolutions.

“I have come here today to express my view that America should not go to war against Iraq unless and until other reasonable alternatives are exhausted,” Kennedy said in a speech before the Johns Hopkins Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Interestingly, one of Kennedy’s arguments against the war was based on the presumption that Saddam had WMDs.

Kennedy warned that a war with Iraq could trigger Baghdad’s use of weapons of mass destruction, and possibly start a wider, destabilizing conflict in the Middle East.

None of this will matter, even if it turns out that an Oil-For-Food oilman actually did convince Kennedy to speak out against the war. Sen. Kennedy has already gotten away with murder, more or less, and with being a shill for the Soviets at the height of the Cold War. He’s made of Teflon.