[R-G] Palast: Bush’s Fake Sheik Whacked

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Wed Sep 19 10:07:56 MDT 2007

Bush’s Fake Sheik Whacked:
The Surge and the Al Qaeda Bunny
Published September 17th, 2007 in Articles

A special investigative report from inside Iraq
Bush and Abu Risha Photo by AFPby Greg Palast

Monday, September 17, 2007- Did you see George all choked up? In his  
surreal TV talk on Thursday, he got all emotional over the killing by  
Al Qaeda of Sheik Abu Risha, the leader of the new Sunni alliance  
with the US against the insurgents in Anbar Province, Iraq.

Bush shook Abu Risha’s hand two weeks ago for the cameras. Bush can  
shake his hand again, but not the rest of him: Abu Risha was blown  
away just hours before Bush was to go on the air to praise his new  

Here’s what you need to know that NPR won’t tell you.

1. Sheik Abu Risha wasn’t a sheik.
2. He wasn’t killed by Al Qaeda.
3. The new alliance with former insurgents in Anbar is as fake as the  
sheik - and a murderous deceit.

How do I know this? You can see the film - of “Sheik” Abu Risha, of  
the guys who likely whacked him and of their other victims.

Just in case you think I’ve lost my mind and put my butt in insane  
danger to get this footage, don’t worry. I was safe and dry in  
Budapest. It was my brilliant new cameraman, Rick Rowley, who went to  
Iraq to get the story on his own.

Rick’s “the future of TV news,” says BBC. He’s also completely out of  
control. Despite our pleas, Rick and his partner Dave Enders went to  
Anbar and filmed where no cameraman had dared tread.

Why was “sheik” Abu Risha so important? As the New York Times put it  
this morning, “Abu Risha had become a charismatic symbol of the  
security gains in Sunni areas that have become a cornerstone of  
American plans to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq though much of  
next year.”

In other words, Abu Risha was the PR hook used to sell the “success”  
of the surge.

The sheik wasn’t a sheik. He was a fake. While proclaiming to Rick  
that he was “the leader of all the Iraqi tribes,” Abu lead no one.  
But for a reported sum in the millions in cash for so-called,  
“reconstruction contracts,” Abu Risha was willing to say he was  
Napoleon and Julius Caesar and do the hand-shakie thing with Bush on  

Notably, Rowley and his camera caught up with Abu Risha on his way to  
a “business trip” to Dubai, money laundering capital of the Middle East.

There are some real sheiks in Anbar, like Ali Hathem of the dominant  
Dulaimi tribe, who told Rick Abu Risha was a con man. Where was his  
tribe, this tribal leader? “The Americans like to create characters  
like Disney cartoon heros.” Then Ali Hathem added, “Abu Risha is no  
longer welcome” in Anbar.

“Not welcome” from a sheik in Anbar is roughly the same as a kiss on  
both cheeks from the capo di capi. Within days, when Abu Risha  
returned from Dubai to Dulaimi turf in Ramadi, Bush’s hand-sheik was  

On Thursday, Bush said Abu Risha was killed, “fighting Al Qaeda” -  
and the White House issued a statement that the sheik was “killed by  
al Qaeda.”


There ain’t no Easter Bunny and “Al Qaeda” ain’t in Iraq, Mr. Bush.  
It was very cute, on the week of the September 11 memorials, to tie  
the death of your Anbar toy-boy to bin Laden’s Saudi hijackers. But  
it’s a lie. Yes, there is a group of berserkers who call themselves  
“Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.” But they have as much to do with the real  
Qaeda of bin Laden as a Rolling Stones “tribute” band has to do with  
Mick Jagger.

Who got Abu Risha? Nothing - NOTHING - moves in Ramadi without the  
approval of the REAL tribal sheiks. They were none-too-happy, as  
Hathem, noted, about the millions the US handed to Risha. The sheiks  
either ordered the hit - or simply gave the bomber free passage to do  
the deed.

So who are these guys, the sheiks who lead the Sunni tribes of Anbar  
- the potentates of the Tamimi, Fallaji, Obeidi, Zobal and Jumaili  
tribes? Think of them as the Sopranos of Arabia. They are also  
members of the so-called “Awakening Council” - getting their slice of  
the millions handed out - which they had no interest in sharing with  

But creepy and deadly or not, these capi of the desert were effective  
in eliminating “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.” Indeed, as US military so  
proudly pointed out to Rick, the moment the sheiks declared their  
opposition to Al Qaeda - i.e. got the payments from the US taxpayers  
- Al Qaeda instantly diappeared.

This miraculous military change, where the enemy just evaporates, has  
one explanation: the sheiks ARE al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Just like  
the Sopranos extract “protection” payments from New Jersey  
businesses, the mobsters of Anbar joined our side when we laid down  
the loot.

What’s wrong with that? After all, I’d rather send a check than send  
our kids from Columbus to fight them.

But there’s something deeply, horribly wrong with dealing with these  
killers. They still kill. With new US protection, weapons and cash,  
they have turned on the Shia of Anbar. Fifteen thousand Shia families  
from a single district were forced at gunpoint to leave Anbar. Those  
moving too slowly were shot. Kids and moms too.

Do the Americans know about the ethnic cleansing of Anbar by our  
erstwhile “allies”? Rick’s film shows US commanders placing their  
headquarters in the homes abandoned by terrorized Shia.

Rick’s craziest move was to go and find these Shia refugees from  
Anbar. They were dumped, over a hundred thousand of them, in a cinder  
block slum with no running water in Baghdad. They are under the  
“protection” of the Mahdi Army, another group of cutthroats. But at  
least these are Shia cutthroats.

So the great “success” of the surge is our arming and providing cover  
for ethnic cleansing in Anbar. Nice, Mr. Bush. And with the US press  
“embedded,” we won’t get the real story. Even Democrats are buying  
into the Anbar “awakening” fairy tale.

An Iraqi government official frets that giving guns and cover to the  
Anbar gang is like adopting a baby crocodile. “A crocodile is not a  
pet,” he told Rick. It will soon grow to devour you. But what could  
the puppet do but complain about his strings?

This Iraqi got it right: the surge is a crock.

Greg Palast is the author of “Armed Madhouse: from Baghdad to New  
Orleans - Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone  
Wild.” See Palast’s reports for BBC Television’s Newsnight, now  
filmed by Rick Rowley and partners, at www.GregPalast.com

On his departure from Iraq, Al Jazeera’s English language network  
agreed to broadcast the Rowley/Enders film. I urge you to see it:  
click here. Palast will update the report today on Air America’s  
Randi Rhodes show.

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