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Grand Old Profiteering

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  • ProudLiberal7@aol.com
    Grand Old Profiteering --Conservatives accuse Richard Clarke of using 9/11 revelations to peddle his book, but plenty of Republicans are cashing in on the war
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 30, 2004
      Grand Old Profiteering

      --Conservatives accuse Richard Clarke of using 9/11 revelations to
      peddle his book, but plenty of Republicans are cashing in on the war on

        Joe Conason, Salon, March 30, 2004


      While Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist quickly backed away from the
      most damaging assertions he made during his floor tirade against Richard
      Clarke Friday, admitting that he had no evidence of contradictions in
      the former counterterror chief's sworn testimony, he stuck to his
      depiction of Clarke as a rapacious ex-staffer looking to cash in on his
      past public service.

      "I am troubled that someone would sell a book, trading on their service
      as a government insider with access to our nation's most valuable
      intelligence, in order to profit from the suffering that this nation
      endured on Sept. 11, 2001," said the Senate majority leader solemnly. In
      fact, what really disturbs Frist and other Clarke critics is the
      prospect of yet another bestseller that portrays the Bush White House in
      an unflattering light. Because they have no problem with profiteering,
      from Washington to Baghdad, when the business at hand suits their own
      partisan or pecuniary purposes.

      For example, Frist displayed no such qualms when he published his own
      little tome on bioterrorism in March 2002, titled "When Every Moment
      Counts: What You Need to Know About Bioterrorism From the Senate's Only
      Doctor." During the anthrax mail attacks that followed Sept. 11, he
      showed up almost daily on television news programs to discuss the
      threat. That allowed him to reap further publicity and royalties from
      public fears by tapping out the "essential manual" that promised to save
      the lives of readers and their families in the event of a bioterror
      assault (for only $29.90 retail). Perhaps the government ought to inform
      and protect citizens against bioterror, but Frist immediately recognized
      a promising privatization opportunity.

      Republicans like Frist certainly aren't complaining about Karen Hughes,
      the once and future Bush advisor and ghostwriter whose new book, "Ten
      Minutes from Normal," will debut tonight on ABC's "20/20." Why should
      they complain? According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Hughes
      dutifully "avoids controversial subjects, giving scant attention to the
      war in Iraq and the exploding federal deficit," while hinting that her
      boss may well have been chosen by God to combat terrorism, borrowing
      from the Old Testament Book of Esther to ask whether Bush had "come to a
      royal position for such a time as this." If that sounds undemocratic and
      possibly blasphemous, it's just politics -- and business -- as usual
      among the Lone Star profiteers.

      Were Frist truly concerned about profiteering from government service
      and wartime agony, he might have raised his smooth voice about those
      former Bush administration officials now seeking their fortunes in Iraq.
      The best-known is Joe Allbaugh, who managed the Bush-Cheney campaign
      four years ago, served as head of the Federal Emergency Management
      Agency for a few years, and then abruptly quit to form a new company in
      March 2003, just as our troops were speeding toward Baghdad. New
      Bridges,  his Houston-based firm, is blatantly oriented toward
      exploiting Allbaugh's crony connections to help "companies engaging the
      U.S. Government process to develop post war opportunities." In plain
      English, that means obtaining a chunk of those billions in federal
      contracts, for a nice fat fee.

      Yet even Allbaugh is small-time compared to the latest defector to the
      private sector, Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim, who announced two
      weeks ago that he will be leaving for a partnership at Booz Allen
      Hamilton, the technology and management strategy giant that is one of
      the nation's biggest defense contractors. Although Zakheim is not nearly
      as familiar as Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul
      Wolfowitz, or Defense Policy Board member Richard Perle, he too has been
      identified as one of the ultrahawkish "Vulcans" who shaped Bush foreign
      and military policy from its earliest days. Zakheim has bustled through
      the revolving doors before, serving as a deputy undersecretary of
      defense during the Reagan administration, where he worked for Perle
      before leaving government to join a missile-defense contractor.

      At the mammoth Booz Allen firm, Zakheim will join R. James Woolsey, the
      former director of central intelligence and Perle associate on the Bush
      Defense Policy Board. These were the defense intellectuals who favored
      invading Iraq long before Sept. 11 -- and long before any U.N.
      resolutions on the topic were introduced.

      So far Booz Allen has yet to win any major Iraq contracts of its own,
      although it has shared Pentagon boodle for several years with Kellogg
      Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary that is by far the biggest
      contractor out there. (At a recent hearing on Halliburton's
      scandal-scarred performance in Iraq, Zakheim did his best to defend the
      vice president's old company. "They're not doing a great job," he
      shrugged, "but they're not doing a terrible job.")

      Booz Allen swiftly jumped on the Baghdad bandwagon last May, when it
      co-sponsored (with the Republican-connected insurance giant American
      International Group) a postwar conference on "The Challenges for
      Business in Rebuilding Iraq" that featured speeches by Woolsey and
      Undersecretary of Defense Zakheim. (The price of admission for industry
      executives ranged from $528 to $1,100 a head.) Included was the chance
      for executives to participate in a "not-for-attribution session that
      will permit a dynamic, frank exchange of views on the opportunities and
      challenges businesses will face in post-conflict Iraq."

      More recently, Booz Allen was listed as a partner in a controversial
      $327 million contract to outfit the new Iraqi army. The prime contractor
      in this murky deal was Nour America Inc., which on closer inspection
      turned out to be controlled by a close associate of Ahmad Chalabi, the
      dubious former exile promoted by Perle, Woolsey and their ideological
      associates as the best possible leader for Iraq after Saddam. Chalabi is
      a leading member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council and
      enjoys enormous influence inside the Defense Department, which issued
      the Nour contract.

      Unfortunately Nour had scant qualifications, if any, for the lucrative
      contract. After protests from more qualified contractors who had lost
      out, the contract was withdrawn for rebidding. Meanwhile, Booz Allen
      denied any role in the Nour affair, aside from a post-bid $50,000
      consulting contract.

      Such tawdry matters have nothing to do with Dov Zakheim, of course. As
      he told reporters when he announced his plan to leave government service
      for the private sector, he departed the Pentagon because he wants to
      spend more time with his grandchildren.

      --Joe Conason writes a twice weekly column for Salon. He also writes a
      weekly column for the New York Observer. His new book, "Big Lies: The
      Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth," is now

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