“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Friday, November 18, 2005

your mission, if you take it, is to destroy the department of War

Two stories in the last two days shed little pinpricks of light on the wholly, deeply, astonishingly disastrous reign of Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. Rumsfeld has earned for himself a rare niche, as far as cabinet officers go. Usually, the worst ones are venal. The worst ones pocket money for selling federal mineral rights, or authorize bribes to quiet blown illegal operatives working for the White House. Rumsfeld is a different variety of cat. His mission has been to destroy the Department of War, and to do it while ensuring America’s defeat in Iraq against the insurgency. He came in with plans that would perfect the technostructure for our battle with Soviet forces on the plains of Poland, and has stuck to that task with all the vigor of the monomaniac in Dracula who collects flies. Apparently in the five long, long years he has been there, nobody told him that we aren’t endangered by Soviet forces any more. In an administration composed of Confederate re-enactors, I suppose it isn’t that odd that we have a Cold War reenactor as Secretary of War. It is sad, though.

The NYT today reported on a North Carolina felon who rehabilitated himself, at least financially, thanks to the Pentagon/Cheney plan for making spending in Iraq an excuse to directly route money to the network of pustular American war profiteers. If Haliburton gets its billions, why should we deny Robert Stein his paltry $82 million?

Unlike others who get out of prison and go through a period of uncertain employment, Stein got out of prison and made a beeline to where work was an unnecessary complement to Christmas. That is, he started working for the CPA in Iraq. Since the CPA was a pirate organization set up basically to steal Iraq’s resources and impose a thousand year neo-liberal Reich on the place (which lasted all of eighteen months), naturally they looked on pirates favorably.

As the NYT puts it:

“Along with a web of other conspirators who have not yet been named, Mr. Stein and his wife received "bribes, kickbacks and gratuities amounting to at least $200,000 per month" to steer lucrative construction contracts to companies run by another American, Philip H. Bloom, an affidavit outlining the criminal complaint says. Mr. Stein's wife, who was not named, has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case; Mr. Bloom was charged with a range of crimes on Wednesday.

In the staccato language of the affidavit, filed in Federal District Court in the District of Columbia, Mr. Stein, 50, was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, interstate transportation of stolen property and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
But the list of charges does little justice to the astonishing brazenness of the accusations described in the complaint, including a wire transfer of a $140,000 bribe, arranged by Mr. Bloom, to buy real estate for Mr. Stein in North Carolina. The affidavit also says that $65,762.63 was spent to buy cars for Mr. Stein and his wife (he bought a Chevrolet; she a Toyota), $44,471 for home improvements and $48,073 for jewelry, out of $258,000 sent directly to the Bragg Mutual Federal Credit Union into accounts controlled by the Steins.

Mr. Stein's wife even used $7,151.58 of the money for a "towing service," the complaint says. Much of this money was intended for Iraqi construction projects like building a new police academy in the ancient city of Babylon and rehabilitating the library in Karbala, the southern city that is among the holiest sites for Shiite Muslims.”

Stein obviously was inspired by Wolfowitz’s soaring rhetoric before the war, when the NYT reported on his testimony to the senate on February 28,2003:

Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high, and that the estimates were almost meaningless because of the variables.

Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. "To assume we're going to pay for it all is just wrong," he said.”

It would be just wrong to lavish that money on Iraqis, when Americans need their towing and jewelry looked after. And this is true even though – miraculously, who’d have thought it? We went past Wolfowitz’s high end estimate in eight months. But in the Bush administration, price is no object when you can stuff the pockets of your buddies with cash and you have the government to do it.

Well, wars are mostly about theft, and the U.S. policy of stealing greatly certainly didn’t begin with the Pentagon pumphouse gang under Rumsfeld. However, our biggest successes usually consist of getting some Central American caudillo to massacre peasants for us. Operating directly, with a black mask tied over our face, always gets us into Vietnam like situations.

Our second story, from the WSJ, is on a more technical matter. Having decided to occupy Iraq, in the first place, with far too few men, the Americans are now supposedly taking proactive measures. Every other day they launch much heralded offenses in Anbar province, or sweep through towns on Iraqi border with Syria, shooting people in great numbers and calling them insurgents – which is Pentagon speak for any Iraqi they have killed. In fact, D.C.’s pro-war clique has been chomping on the bit to attack Syria this year. Meanwhile, according to the WSJ, the Pentagon is withdrawing “foreign-area officers” from Iraq. They can’t afford em, it appears – not and go buying pieces of real estate in North Carolina, too.

What are foreign-area officers? In Iraq, they are officers trained to speak Arabic, and educated in Middle Eastern culture. The WSJ article concentrates on one “David,” who is deployed near the Syrian border:

“As they had done in the past, the Rangers took positions around each village and Bedouin encampment. At one village, an officer named David, accompanied by a small security team, strode into the center looking for someone who would talk. Unlike the clean-shaven, camouflage-clad Rangers, David wore a thick goatee and civilian clothes. The Rangers carried long, black M-4 carbine rifles. David walked with a small 9mm pistol strapped to his leg. The Rangers spoke English. He spoke Arabic tinged with a Yemeni accent.
As he recounts the day, David met a woman with facial tattoos that marked her as her husband's property. As they chatted, the pale-skinned, sandy-haired North Carolina native imitated her dry, throaty way of speaking. "You are Bedu, too," she exclaimed with delight, he recalls.

From her and the other Bedouins, the 37-year-old officer learned that most of the cross-border smuggling was carried out by Shamar tribesmen who peddle cigarettes, sheep and gasoline. Radical Islamists were using the same routes to move people, guns and money. Many of the paths were marked with small piles of bleached rocks that were identical to those David had seen a year earlier while serving in Yemen.”

As you can plainly see, having someone like David around doesn’t fit in with hiring mercenaries from GOP contributing “security” companies, so naturally they are taking him out.

“David is part of a small cadre of cultural experts in the Army known as foreign-area officers. The military would only allow him to be interviewed on the grounds that his last name and rank be withheld. U.S. officials say he'll be spending the rest of his career in the Middle East, often operating alone in potentially hostile territory. Naming him, they say, would make him more vulnerable to attack.

His colleagues in Iraq say his presence has been invaluable. "We ought to have one of these guys assigned to every [regional] commander in Iraq," says Col. John Bayer, chief of staff for Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. forces in the northern third of the country. "I'd love to say `assign me 100 of these guys.' "

That's not happening. Instead, the military is pulling David out of Iraq later this month along with seven other officers who make up his unit. Before the end of the year, David will resume his previous post in Yemen.”

And so it goes as we stay the course in Iraq. I wonder ‘stay the course” was what Bush used to say instead of chug-a-lug at the keg parties?



Belated congrats to William Vollman for winning the national book award. I interviewed him this spring about Europe Central for Publishers Weekly, and found him a very genial sort of guy. He was surprised that I was such an ardent fan of Argall. I have very nice memories of reading Europe Central in a hammock, drinking a tequilla, in a garden in Mexico -- an oddly idyllic context within which to read about twentieth century butcheries.

Other note. I'm going on vacation next Tuesday. I'll be back the eighth of December. Those of you who have contributed to LI during the last couple of weeks - our official total was something like 450 dollars by November 15th, which wasn't bad -- should be sending me mailing addresses for your dopamine cowboy stuff, and telling me exactly what you want.


Brian Miller said...

Hasn't every single war (except-perhaps????? WWII) involved this kind of profiteering and skullduggery? The Civil War was particularly noxious in this.
Do you think this war is worse than "usual."?

Or, is this the first war whose entire purpose was profiteering. I still love the wierd little Dead Kennedeys piece "Kinky Sex Makes the World Go Round" that has Margaret Thatcher moaning her way to orgasm while an American bureaucrat drones n about the profits and how the war will absorb the "surplus population."

roger said...

Brian, wow. The dead kennedy's irritated me after a while, what with their martyrdom over that album cover, but I missed the Margaret Thatcher orgasm!
I'm not sure if I'm not a better man to have missed the M.T. orgasm.

Oh, surely war profiteering is a standard vice of carrying on war -- from Morgan to Boeing. However, most wars don't begin with the assumption that somebody else is going to pay for it -- I don't believe that Forrestal, in WWII, said hey, Germany will pay for this one. Or that McNamara told the U.S. that the we could boost the South Vietnamese for the costs of dropping agent orange in the jungle.

And so the war profiteering has never been as deep into a war enterprise. The Bush administration is manned by an amazing number of people who will profit massively from this war, starting with the VP. I don't think there's any parallel.

Now Brian, don't be telling me about Margaret Thatcher orgasming again! I'm a sensitive guy, and subject to nightmares!