July 19, 2004


Has Iyad Allawi gamed Paul McGeough? Newsweek reports:

U.S. officials say privately he may actually have planted the stories about summary executions as part of a psychological smoke-and-mirrors game. "He wants to project that dual role -- to the West as a committed democrat, and to the Iraqis as a tough guy who got things done," says one diplomat.

Via Professor Bunyip, who had this to say earlier, and who points to a time and motion study of Allawi’s alleged execution schedule.

UPDATE. Iraqi Human Rights Minister Bakhtiar Amin, interviewed by the ABC’s Geoff Thompson, seems a little surprised by the allegations against Allawi:

BAKHTIAR AMIN: It's shocking news to me and I haven't heard about it, and I have strong doubts about it. Doctor Iyad Allawi has shot six people personally?
GEOFF THOMPSON: Yeah, I could show you the story (sounds of papers rustling).
BAKHTIAR AMIN: I must be uh …
GEOFF THOMPSON: This ran on the front page of an Australian newspaper on the weekend …
BAKHTIAR AMIN: I'll check this information, but I have strong doubts about it. It would be …
GEOFF THOMPSON: You haven't heard anything about this?

No, he apparently hasn’t. Amin says that McGeough’s report may be tested in court. Meanwhile, McGeough is sticking to his story:

In an environment like Iraq it's very difficult to separate out what people are telling you from what they are hearing.

In these two cases, these two men sat before me. They spoke reluctantly, they spoke carefully and considerately.

When I tested parts of their story they didn't suddenly provide information where none was available.

They seem to me to be telling what they had seen, they were believable too.

I had an independent set of Iraqi eyes and ears (of an interpreter) listening and watching on these interviews and that person, whom I have worked with for some time and who I trust, he found the stories believable.

The claims haven’t received much traction outside of Australia, however. Pakistan’s Daily Times wonders why:

The US media has surprisingly failed to pick up the shocking disclosure by Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s leading newspaper, that the Irqai Prime Minister Iyad Allawi personally executed six suspected insurgents in a Baghdad police station.

Kim Beazley is among the dubious:

Opposition defence spokesman Kim Beazley expressed doubt about the story.

"If there were an allegation in this country, two anonymous sources would be regarded as rather thin to go to print," he said.

"The Middle East is a giant bazaar of rumours."

UPDATE II. Another threat to Iraq has been exposed by a credible source:

A former federal Liberal Party president says Prime Minister John Howard should be tried and punished for war crimes over the Iraq conflict.

John Valder told a peace forum in Sydney today the invasion of Iraq by the United States-led coalition was one of the great military atrocities of our time.

Posted by Tim Blair at July 19, 2004 06:44 AM

And it's always so easy, too.

Posted by: Rebecca at July 19, 2004 at 07:52 AM

Yet to come: the introduction of the partner "good cop". Dunno who Allawi'll select for that role yet. Anyone got a nomination?

Posted by: ras at July 19, 2004 at 07:55 AM

Well, if this is true, he certainly fooled Miranda Divide.

Not that that's really difficult. She believe in Graham "I hate da blacks" Thorn.

Posted by: Quentin George at July 19, 2004 at 08:15 AM

Anyone can fool Miranda Divide, just provide her the opportunity to say the opposite of anything on this site and she'll froth herself into an orgy of negativity. Tim Blair "The sky is blue" :: Miranda Divide "HA HA BLOGSHEEP you believe everything the administration says, good job! You'll probably go bring more freedom to the world next! Blogjerks!"

Posted by: Sortelli at July 19, 2004 at 09:37 AM

Iyad Allawi has learned the Kerry nuance flip/flop. I am a committed democrat, no I am actually a murdering dictator.

Posted by: perfectsense at July 19, 2004 at 09:59 AM

If this is true, then it demonstrates two things:

1. After 18 months in Iraq, Paul McGeough was as clueless about its people and cultures as the day he arrived; and

2. The Iraqis understand how clueless people like McGeogh are and use them effortlessly.

Posted by: Hanyu at July 19, 2004 at 10:25 AM

How this story about Alawi even warranted publishing without any facts or witnesses smacks of more Anti-Bush hysteria.

Lets not forget what McGeough said to Maxine McHugh on Lateline on Friday night, 17/07/2004, when she asked him how the two witnesses would stand up to the obvious scrutiny the media would put them under in future interviews.
McGeough: "I wont be giving their names to anyone to interview".
Tell me Paul, that wouldn't be because they don't exist would it?

To put this into context. If you make an allegation about someone's illegal actions it is a requirement by law to have proof and to supply any witnesses sourced for the proof. Witnesses can be granted protection in private sittings in extreme circumstances to protect their well being, but they still must supply statements about the alleged crime, even if it's only in front of one member of a court in private. If these measures are not met then the case will inevitably be thrown out of court due to lack of evidence. There will be no charges laid and the accused is free to go with the apologies of the court.
Now McGeough thinks his journalistic bias should override international law and the world should just believe him so he can make a motza from the SMH and at the same time try to discredit the coalition.

Remember also that these witnesses never came forward with this story, McGeough just 'found them'.

I wonder if the number of supposedly dead insurgents killed by Alawi is relative the the amount of money McGeough offered them to lie???

Posted by: scott at July 19, 2004 at 10:30 AM

From reading wog, it appears that McGeough is claiming, simutaneously, that both unnamed men supported the alleged shootings AND they both fear for their own safety for ratting out Allawi. Picture it: Allawi executes Iraqi terrorists in front of a small group of Americans and Iraqi police. No dissenting voices from that small group have come forward to condemn or expose the killings, just a couple of guys to say "Yeah, it was great, I saw it. No, I don't remember when it happened, but I'm glad those killers are dead. Oh, by the way, don't tell anyone I told you or I'm dead too."

The only reasonable explination for McGeough's scenario is that those men were told by Allawi to come forward in secret. That McGeough is willing to swallow their line and not expose them as conspirators to the shooting says a lot about him.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 19, 2004 at 10:45 AM

"But in a sharp reminder of the Iraqi hunger for security above all else, the witnesses did not perceive themselves as whistle-blowers. In interviews with the Herald they were enthusiastic about such killings, with one of them arguing: "These criminals were terrorists. They are the ones who plant the bombs.""

From McGeough's story, emphasis mine. The whole thing is bullshit and McGeough's been had.

Posted by: Sortelli at July 19, 2004 at 10:55 AM

Thank fuck the average SMH letter writer is not
judge and jury.

Allawi did it, cos Paul "no names,no dates" says

Posted by: fred at July 19, 2004 at 11:41 AM

However, the SMH and its running dog, the ABC, seem to be back-pedalling furiously on this story, which is very downplayed and defensively reported on today's front page. Even the number of usual outraged letter writers has been limited.

Also, coverage of Tony Abbott's alleged "indecent assault" 20 years ago(the charge was dismissed), hasn't been given the headline treatment I expected. The lawyers must be running the shop today.

Posted by: Freddyboy at July 19, 2004 at 11:55 AM

Paul McGeough has just been on 6pr radio in Perth. He used every rumour (including the "hit man" one) possible in a searingly obvious attempt at character assasination of Allawi, so much so that it left me wondering whether this whole story (from McGeough's point of view) is more about character assasination than prisoner assasination. Regarding the "witnesses" credibilty, when asked the only slightly non soft ball question by his mate Paul Murray (mates by Pauls own description) about their credibility he went into a monologue that eventually come down to his and hsi interpretors gut feeling.
I don't know whether its possible but if anyone can get hold of the transcript it would be well worth the trouble.

Posted by: M. at July 19, 2004 at 12:15 PM

this all comes down to the fact that Allawi must respect the rule of law. arrest-convict- THEN shoot in the head.

Posted by: rocsoe at July 19, 2004 at 12:30 PM

Via Craig Brett, Zeyad at Healing Iraq knew about this — and marked it down as a nutty rumor — over two weeks ago.

Posted by: Michael Ubaldi at July 19, 2004 at 01:05 PM

David Marr will really turn the blowtorch on the Herald tonight.

Posted by: david at July 19, 2004 at 01:06 PM

Sad.... I was hoping that the executions were real.

Is McGeough actually in Baghdad.... Iraq ???

Maybe he is down on the waterfront in UAE and his flow of information is coming 6th or 7th hand.

Posted by: Shaun Bourke at July 19, 2004 at 01:15 PM

the shocking disclosure by Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s leading newspaper

Someone should inform the Pakistan Daily Times that the SMH is not "Australia's leading newspaper".

I think I'll drop them an email at editorial@dailytimes.com.pk

Posted by: EvilPundit at July 19, 2004 at 01:25 PM

"Thank fuck the average SMH letter writer is not
judge and jury"

Lucky indeed for all of us Fred. In fact the serial leftist pests that populate the SMH letters page like squatters in a Fitzroy terrace, will indeed be tearing at cloth and gnashing their teeth if Howard gets back in again. None of them will be able to comprehend that 'their' view is not shared by the majority of Australian voters.

Time for Ms. Eckersley and the Rev Rankin to get a real job.

Posted by: nic at July 19, 2004 at 01:37 PM

Is McGeough actually in Baghdad.... Iraq ??? Maybe he is down on the waterfront in UAE and his flow of information is coming 6th or 7th hand.

Hell, it's been done before.

Posted by: Michael Ubaldi at July 19, 2004 at 01:41 PM

I wrote about this theory -- Allawi or an ally planted the story -- yesterday. Keep up!

Really, it's the most plausible explanation, especially after the hand chopping one.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 19, 2004 at 01:49 PM

Memo to the three Johns: Valder, Hewson and John Malcolm Fraser: Howard's achieved more than any other Liberal. Get over it fellas. Move on with your lives.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at July 19, 2004 at 02:07 PM

AOG: You've had more luck than me. I put this question to the SMH reader-feedback service yesterday:

Might it be possible for you to provide information on what Mr Paul McGeough's plans had been prior to his publication of the Allawi prison-murder story?
In particular, was it his intention to depart from Iraq at about this time, regardless of any story he might have published prior to departure?

See, I don't think a foreign correspondent does anything to ruin his prospects for staying in country unless he absolutely has to. If he was moving on anyway, post handover, then this shoddy story was an arivoir piece whose purpose was point-scoring and big-noting, not newsworthiness or accuracy.

Still no answer from the SMH.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at July 19, 2004 at 02:14 PM

David Marr will really turn the blowtorch on the Herald tonight.

Still laughing, David, you bastard!

The interesting thing now is not whether Paul McGeough is full of shit, but whether he retains his job. I've put money on him getting the gentle nudge and going quietly.

Posted by: Hanyu at July 19, 2004 at 02:23 PM

PS: Central to this little theory is my curiosity as to whether McGeough had to flee Iraq. Maybe he was leaving anyway. That would catch him in a lie as to the circumstances of his exit strategy and cast a darker shade of doubt on the Allawi clam itself.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at July 19, 2004 at 02:26 PM

Bang on, Currency Lad (re query to SMH). But I think McGeough's overplayed his hand. It's probably just starting to dawn on him, and I think by the end of the week he'll be less cocky.

The only shooting McGeough was witness to was the bullet he put through is own foot.

Posted by: Hanyu at July 19, 2004 at 02:27 PM

erratum: 'clam', above, should be 'claim'. I have no desire to shed light on Dr Allawi's clam.

Posted by: CurrencyLad at July 19, 2004 at 02:29 PM

Would someone wheel John Valder back into his ward. He needs his medication.

Posted by: ilibcc at July 19, 2004 at 02:31 PM

Further to Currencylads theory, is it not Possible that our daring correspondent simply wanted a valid excuse to flee Iraq?

Working in a country where the odd car goes boom, RPGs fly and, on occaision, westerners get shortened by a head or so - is it not possible that one could simply jot down the most extreme rumour one hears, pass it off as fact and hop on a plane out of the country declaring that it is no longer safe for you to be there?

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at July 19, 2004 at 02:50 PM

If Paul 'Piers' McGeough's story is true, then:

1. Allawi trusted the two witnesses such that he's comfortable murdering six prisoners, in their presence;

2. the two witnesses then have a road to Damascus (hehe!) conversion, and decide to confess this horror to, of all people;

3. an obscure Australian journalist, who can't speak their language, which necessitates a translator being brought in on the secret, further compromising their identity, and meaning that;

4. all Allawi would have to do, to discover the witnesses identities, and then silence them forever, is...question, McGeough's translator.

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at July 19, 2004 at 03:05 PM

...David Marr will really turn the blowtorch on the Herald tonight...

LOL! Thanks, David.

Posted by: Byron_the_Aussie at July 19, 2004 at 03:07 PM

A former federal Liberal Party president says Prime Minister John Howard should be "tried and punished" for war crimes over the Iraq conflict.

Yep that's how the left want to do things around here. Always guilty until proven inoccent.

Too bad we don't follow their standards, I for one would be happy to put a bullet in David Hicks' brainpan.

Posted by: Jon at July 19, 2004 at 05:23 PM

Doesn't even pass the laugh test. Prime Minister-elect of Iraq offs six (or was it seven?) jundies in a petrol station (with witnesses!) and it takes some eighth-string Ocker journo to bring it to the world's attention? Give me a fucking break already.

Having said that, summary executions of Muslim terrorists would be a good thing. The population of Camp X-ray could be reduced by 90% if a robust line on charges of "wanting to kill Yids and New Yorkers on account of having read Chairman Mohammed's Little Red Book' were followed.

Posted by: David Gillies at July 19, 2004 at 05:58 PM

I have to admit, I can live with the idea that the PM may actually have implemented rule 303

Perhaps we should ask ours to do the same...

Posted by: Harry Tuttle at July 19, 2004 at 06:19 PM