State Dept. Arabist found dead

A story about the death of John Kokal, a State Department official working in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (INR/NESA), is making the rounds on the alternative websites, but not the mainstream press. Many are reminded of the death of Dr. David Kelly, the British WMD expert:

In a case eerily reminiscent of the death of British Ministry of Defense bio-weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly, an official of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research Near East and South Asian division (INR/NESA), John J. Kokal, 58, was found dead in the late afternoon of November 7. Police indicated he may have jumped from the roof of the State Department. Kokal’s body was found at the bottom of a 20 foot window well, 8 floors below the roof of the State Department headquarters near the 23rd and D Street location. Kokal’s death was briefly mentioned in a FOX News website story on November 8 but has been virtually overlooked by the major media.

Kokal had reportedly worked on Iraq’s WMD program and had been part of the State Dept. team that doubted the case put forward by the Defense Dept. on Iraq. A French news site suggests that Kokal may have been part of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization of intelligence officials that have denounced in the press and in open letters the White House’s manipulation of intelligence on Iraq.

Hersh on counter-insurgency

The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh returns to an old hunting ground when he asks whether new plan by US Special Forces to form an assassination squad to tackle the Baathist/nationalist insurgency in Iraq will be a repeat of Vietnam:

The Bush Administration has authorized a major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq. In interviews over the past month, American officials and former officials said that the main target was a hard-core group of Baathists who are believed to be behind much of the underground insurgency against the soldiers of the United States and its allies. A new Special Forces group,
designated Task Force 121, has been assembled from Army Delta Force members, Navy seals, and C.I.A. paramilitary operatives, with many additional personnel ordered to report by January. Its highest priority is the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination.

This new policy is apparently a victory for Donald Rumsfeld, who is referring to the operations as “manhunts.” The assassination squads will receive the help of elite Israeli troops that have experience from carrying out the same types of operations in the occupied territories. This seems to be yet another instance where Israeli expertise from the occupation of Palestine is being used in Iraq — another example reported a few days ago is how US troops in Iraq are encircling Iraqi villages where they suspect guerrillas are operating with barbed wire. These operations will also rely on the expertise of former senior Baathist intelligence officers who will be trained to infiltrate the insurgency movement.

A former intelligence official said that getting inside the Baathist leadership could be compared to “fighting your way into a coconut–you bang away and bang away until you find a soft spot, and then you can clean it out.” An American who has advised the civilian authority in Baghdad said, “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla
versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”

Read the whole unbelievable thing.

Who’s Republican in Iraq

The Washington Monthly has this great who’s who of American officials in Iraq, which digs up quite a few Republican party fundraisers and other operatives. The list is quite impressive, running from long-time backers to the children of Reagan-era officials and former Carlyle Group executives.

It’s also driven journalists on the ground, watching these operatives move in and out of Saddam’s marble Republican Palace, which CPA commandeered as its headquarters, to joke: “They don’t call it the Republican Palace for nothing.”

The Baker-Saudi connection

Don’t miss TPM’s eye-opening post on President Bush’s appointment of James Baker as a personal envoy to Iraq to deal with, among other things, with the Saddam regime’s odious debt. Baker’s law firm currently represents Saudi Arabia, which was a major creditor to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and also sits on the board of the Carlyle Group, which advises Iraq on financial matters. Just follow the links.