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Peter Galbraith and conflicts of interest

Posted by Christopher Shea  November 13, 2009 01:26 PM

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The debate continues over whether, or how, the foreign-policy expert Peter Galbraith's financial arrangements with a Norwegian oil company affected his actions as an advisor to the Kurds. Galbraith played a part--how substantial is a subject of dispute--in negotiations over how much political and economic autonomy Kurdistan would be granted, after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, vis-a-vis the central Iraqi government. More independence equalled more money for Galbraith, it now seems, since the Norwegian oil company had access to Kurdish oil.

Journalistically, however, there's no question that Galbraith, son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, should have disclosed his financial interests when he wrote on matters involving relations between the Kurds and the central Iraqi government. The New York Times today published a statement to that effect: It effectively says that the pieces Galbraith wrote for the Op-ed page from 2004 on were tarnished by that omission. (The editors say Galbraith signed a standard contract attesting that he had no financial interests related to what he was writing about, which was flatly untrue.)

No word yet from the New York Review of Books--Galbraith's main platform for journalistic commentary.* I certainly would have liked to have known, as I read his long polemical essays there in favor of Kurdish independence, that he stood to earn $100 million or more if his proposals were enacted.

It really is not sufficient that, as he told the Globe: "The business interest, including my investment into Kurdistan, was consistent with my political views."

*UPDATE, 11/18: The New York Review speaks.

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