Monday, October 08, 2007

The GOP vs. the U.S. Military: Part Seven - Privatization

Looking back across earlier portions of this series, we can see these dismal trends continuing in real time. For example, see a detailed look at the effort to transform the US military into a force for radical christianity.

And yet, is it possible that -- after shouting into silence for years -- I can see hope at last? Signs of quiet back-pressure from the grownups of the U.S. Officer Corps have been evident ever since the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld and his replacement by the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Now, with the departure of “Rumsfeld’s Parrot” -- Gen. Peter Pace -- from the office of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it appears that the top tier of at least one department may be back in the hands of professionals and adults. (Read an excellent article about this.)

Will this be anywhere near enough? Alas, not when the President might still, at any moment, dash off an order hurling a gung-ho US Air Force -- and those Naval attack squadrons that cannot resist by working-to-rule -- into a rash and lobotomized series of pinprick provocations against Iran.

To prevent this... and stop this administration’s relentless, top-down treason in all its forms... another set of professionals must stand up and do their part. The FBI. The men and women of the intelligence services. Civil servants in every department. It is time for them to decide whose side they are on. Invoking long dormant protocols (or innovating new ones) for what to do when the nation’s immune systems have been infected and taken over by a virulent disease at the very top.

The social and political equivalent of AIDS.

Only now... back to our series on what has been done to our military by the Bush Administration and by a transformed and mutated GOP.


Privatization: Only the Best for Contractors, and the Worst for our Troops

So far, this series has examined many ways that the Bush administration (and allies) betrayed the U.S. military -- especially the Army and Marines -- as part of a larger War Against Professionalism. (See Part Three: Destroying Military Readiness).

Along this desolate journey, we have crossed a landscape of eviscerated national reputation, allies driven off, enemies emboldened and - worst of all - service men and women treated like expendable pieces in a game, played by overcompensating, macho little boys. And it gets worse.


But WHY quash, destroy or demoralize all government professionals? Especially stripping our defenses and crippling the military?. Why would Team Bush do such things?

The short answer is -- accountability. Or rather, avoidance thereof. The one trait that is common among government scientists, the civil service, the intelligence and law enforcement communities, and the U.S. Officer Corps is that these large pools of highly skilled and dedicated people have been trained to see. They are the ones who might puzzle together patterns, reveal corruption, or refuse to allow unconstitutional usurpations of undue power. If your aim were to seize permanent power in the United States -- or simply to stay out of jail, after robbing the U.S. blind -- it would make perfect sense to concentrate on paralyzing the professionals. And to hide it all in clouds of secrecy.

I am not the only one tracking this overall trend. With a far better soapbox than I, syndicated columnist Paul Krugman has also been on target. He had this to say, a few weeks ago (9/28/07) in the New York Times:

“Sometimes it seems that the only way to make sense of the Bush administration is to imagine that it’s a vast experiment concocted by mad political scientists who want to see what happens if a nation systematically ignores everything we’ve learned over the past few centuries about how to make a modern government work. Thus, the administration has abandoned the principle of a professional, nonpolitical civil service, stuffing agencies from FEMA to the Justice Department with unqualified cronies.”

Unqualified... but also obedient, dogmatic and willing to bully the civil servants under them, distracting, or re-assigning or cauterizing the careers of those who -- in the course of their duties -- happen to look in forbidden directions.

But (again) why?

Advice from the Watergate era still has resonance. Follow the money. Last time, for example, we saw how President Bush has invoked a “national state of emergency,” for six years, with the principal effect that it lets him bypass normal, competitive bidding rules in the areas of Defense and Homeland Security. Emergency contracts have been granted to companies that are blatant Bush-Cheney consorts, with little or no subsequent supervision or oversight.

Let there be no mistake. The left has been proved just plain wrong in its reflex explanation, that the Iraq War “was about oil.” The real profit has come from those non-competitive contracts. From the war itself.


* The very, very, very worst examples.... that we know of

One recent book that exposes the seamy side of privatization (though dipping now and then into polemical excess) is Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, by Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman.

I thought about writing my own summary, but the one on Amazon suffices: “In this shocking exposé, two government fraud experts reveal how private contractors have put the lives of countless American soldiers on the line while damaging our strategic interests and our image abroad. From the shameful war profiteering of companies like Halliburton/KBR to the sinister influence that corporate lobbyists have on American foreign policy, to the use of “emergency” declarations to evade normal contracting procedures, Dina Rasor and Robert H. Bauman paint a disturbing picture. Here they give the inside story on troops forced to subsist on little food and contaminated water, on officers afraid to lodge complaints because of Halliburton's political clout, on millions of dollars in contractors' bogus claims that are funded by American taxpayers, and privatized services that cost ten to thirty times as much as they did, when performed better by civil servants. Drawing on exclusive sources within government and the military, the authors show how greed and insider deals have conspired to undermine our fighting forces and threaten the security of our country.”

Phew. And you’ll find even more searing poignancy in some of the Amazon reader reviews! Take this excerpt:

“When I entered Baghdad in April 2003 and initially occupied Saddam's bombed out Ramadan palace to setup the new government, I was their as a civilian contractor. I was thrilled! I made more pay in 4 months as a contractor than in 4 years as a soldier. Months later, when I was called to service by my unit, I didn't respond to serve my country as a soldier because I was already in Baghdad. The army can't admit that's a problem, so they transferred me into the inactive reserves so I could stay in the war and make oodles of money. Again, I was thrilled! I stayed in Iraq and made so much money doing a job as good as a soldier with incompatible equipment impossible to interact with the army needs for 40x the military pay, that I bought a new house in Florida every other month. We didn't accomplish a damn thing as contractors. In fact, we broke more stuff than we brought and lost the rest but who cares? I wasn't responsible for it? The corporation was. Hell, I still have a bullet proof vest my corporation bought for me while soldiers were going into battle w/o body armor. I had the best! “

One powerful point in the book is how inefficient most Bush “privatizations” have been, especially in Iraq. The mythology, tenaciously clung-to by conservatives of all stripes, and not just neocons, has always been that corporate entities are universally more efficient that government ones. Study after study has shown that the real life facts are far more complicated, and often diametrically opposite to this article of faith. But when it comes to the privatization efforts of the Bush Administration, this hoary cliche is exposed as an utter travesty.

Bush’s own General Accounting Office (GAO) has declared -- that contractor-run services in Iraq average four to ten times as costly as the same services, when performed by soldiers or civil servants.

(A side note to ponder at leisure: whenever Democrats have de-regulated an industry -- e.g. banking, trucking, telecommunications, airlines, and the Internet -- the central effect was to increase competition. In fact, nearly all major DE-regulations during our lifetime have been promulgated by Democratic administrations, the exact opposite to popular conception.

(In contrast Whenever Republicans deregulate, it somehow always results in reduced competition, inefficiency and a subsequent, economy-rocking scandal. Clear examples include the Savings and Loan and cable industry “reforms”of the 1980s, supervised by George H. W. Bush, and Energy Industry “reforms” passed under George W. Bush. But none of these hold a candle against the half a trillion dollars that has gone into non-competitive, cost-plus Iraq War contracts, granted to Bush family friends.)


Meanwhile, on September 26, 2007, the GAO released a report revealing that the DOD and the VA are taking no better care of the wounded troops now than they were when the Washington Post broke the story about Walter Reed hospital, two years ago. MRAP armored (mine resistant) replacements for the humvee are tragically late, in the latest case of undersupplying the troops. And Iraqi civilians fume because delivery of basic services -- such as electricity and clean water and trash pickup, aren’t any better, after mountains of cash poured into infrastructure projects that get nothing done, making many yearn for well-ordered times before 2003.

And... oh... there was that missing billion dollars. In cash. That Bush officials simply “lost” in Iraq. By the side of a road. No heads rolled over that.

Can one even compare this to the so-called scandals under Bill Clinton? The difference in scale so boggles the mind that it may explain why Republicans could feel outrage at “Whitewater”, then simply blink in dull incomprehension over Neocon-era thievery. After all, you can imagine what you, personally, would do with $80,000. But a billion? In lost cash? The mind reels. It turns away.


* Even Worse -- Getting the Taxpayers to Subsidize the Creation of Private Armies for the Rich.

Of course, none of this more than touches upon the darkest aspect of the trend, described in Jeremy Scahill’s Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

“Based in the wilderness of North Carolina, it is the fastest-growing private army on the planet with forces capable of carrying out regime change throughout the world. Blackwater protects the top US officials in Iraq and yet we know almost nothing about the firm's quasi-military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside the US. Blackwater was founded by an extreme right-wing fundamentalist Christian mega-millionaire ex- Navy Seal named Erik Prince, the scion of a wealthy conservative family that bankrolls far-right-wing causes.”

I have been fuming over Blackwater Security Services, ever since this burgeoning mercenary enforcement company sent private troops to intimidate local cops and to illegally patrol public bridges, during the Hurricane Katrina crisis, violently preventing poor folks in New Orleans from crossing into rich enclaves, even when their only goal was to pass through, seeking safety and transportation on the other side. *

While this trend is frightening in at least a dozen ways that go far beyond the topic of this series. Our primary focus remains mainly on how privatization of force has affected the military.

Consider this: even extreme libertarians, like Ayn Rand, have always conceded that governments should retain “a monopoly on the use of coercion and force.” Yes, many rabid libertarians despise the modern state and rail against excessive bureaucracy. They wish the military would simply guard our borders. Courts should simply enforce contracts and punish bullies who use coercion privately. Indeed, within those ideal limits, libertarians hold with the social compact that founded America -- that private force is a dangerous vestige of the days of mercenary condottieri and rule by feudal lords.

Oh, it is easy to see where Blackwater fits into the grand scheme. Members of the US Officer Corps who seem pliable can be offered lucrative retirement jobs in a new force that does not answer to any of our accountable institutions, nor any of the rigorous procedures that have become core elements of character in our professional - and national - armed services.

As for why neocons are pushing this trend, as part of their larger-scale putsch, well, there is a long tradition. Caesar turned Roman legions into personal ones. The SA and SS could perform actions that the German Wehrmacht found unpalatable. And these predecessors, too, would up servicing the mighty while paid out of public coffers.

Still, one question especially bugs me. Put aside the Secret Masters of this program and the mercenaries themselves, and the fanatics. What about the old fashioned conservatives who still make up the bulk of the Republican Party? Have they no sense of imagination or shame? Do they ever, ever pause and ask themselves “what would I have done, if Bill Clinton had tried to pull even one percent of this stuff?”

Hypocrites who raged over Whitewater, but see nothing to worry about in Blackwater, have simply chosen sides for visceral reasons and will let their minds see nothing disturbing.

Above all, the “side” they have chosen is not us. America. Civilization. It is a partisan movement that’s been taken over by monsters.

==Continue to Part 8

 or return to Part 1 of this series

24 comments:

Dave Hardwick said...

David:

First, it was nice seeing you again at the SNS Dinner last May. Always a fun event!

I was thinking about your Ostrich Ammo comment, and I wonder if a re-frame could help break through the armor? For example, "Hey, did you hear that GW lost 10,000,000 $100 bills by the side of the road in Iraq?" Guy Kawasaki had a blog entry on this a week or so ago, and that this type of re-frame gets the message in under people's normal thinking defenses. It makes them think about what you say, instead of just nodding along with you. As to the amount of money, I think most people have exactly 0 idea of how much $1B is... gotta put it into terms that they can visualize: It's all about the Benjamins!

David Brin said...

See a sterling example of what I have been calling for... a retired military officer taking on a neocon jerk, straight-on!

http://massaforcongress.com/index.asp

More candidates like this one! Find one for your district!

David Brin said...

Just cross posted this on Kos at:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/10/8/224759/334

Please visit and "recommend" click my tip jar!

Oh, save up those: "What would you have said or done if BILL CLINTON had..."

I have already listed thirty or so. will post them soon.

Anomalous said...

ever since this burgeoning mercenary enforcement company sent private troops to intimidate local cops and to illegally patrol public bridges, during the Hurricane Katrina crisis

I am pleased that you noted this, as in the current talk about Blackwater it seems to go without mention that their "deployments" within our own borders have been, to say the least, not without controversy.

Your allusions to Brownshirts are what frighten me, as this would seem to fit into the picture that's forming. Was Blackwater deployed in New Orleans as a test bed for future larger-scale domestic deployments?

jeb said...

Bush's own General Accounting Office

Um, the GAO is an arm of congress, not the executive branch.

Aric Meyer said...

A good post. And I hadn't heard about Blackwater and Katrina... not very informed I guess. But an Amazon reader review is not exactly a reliable source, and therefore can not count as evidence.

Brother Doug said...

Great essay Brin:

I just finished Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater book. And totally agree with on the assessment.

I think the actual amount of cash lost was 8.8 billion almost 270 tons of it.

From a Rolling stone essay:
"In short, some $8.8 billion of the $12 billion proved impossible to find. "Who in their right mind would send 360 tons of cash into a war zone?"

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16076312/the_great_iraq_swindle

Brother Doug said...

opps I cut off part of the link:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16076312/the_great_iraq_swindle/3

And some more.

According to the most reliable ­estimates, we have doled out more than $500 billion for the war, as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction effort. And what did America's contractors give us for that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of nails in ditches. For the most part, nobody at home cared, because war on some level is always a waste. But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success?

Woozle said...

I've added the whole Iraqi spending orgy to the list of Bush hypocrisies (with thanks to Dr.B for linking to that page in one of his writings, I forget which one at the moment), plus another item at the top about how Bushco, despite their obsession with secrecy, couldn't keep a vital pre-announcement confidential for a few hours (or possibly days; it's not clear) and hence utterly blew an inside contact with Al Qaeda.

Tony Fisk said...

Hmmm, this wasn't in the script.

Iraq tells US to ditch Blackwater

(tinfoil hat time: of course, it *might* be convenient to have the loyal 'Schutzwasser' dobermanns closer to home than the regular troops if something requiring a bit of blind obedience was being contemplated on the domestic front)

wrt ostrich ammo, I think a simple foil to the 'Clinton Gambit' is "Well, yeah! But Bush isn't running in '08!". The only counter I can think of is:
"But X is, and this is how he responded to the issue...".

A list of such references would be a useful adjunct to that list.

Tony Fisk said...

...that list of ammo, that is!

David Brin said...

Useful site, Woozle.

I am drafting my "What if Clinton Had..." essay. I link to your site several times.

It's long, as you'd expect. Still, I hope many of you will chime in with zingers of your own.

David Brin said...

Tony, you betcha the Goppers will distance themselves from W. So it has to be the whole movement and mindset.

"I don't care how far you distance yourself. You guys aren't credible. You backed that guy to the hilt. You have no credibility at all."

Tony Fisk said...

ie the 'backing to the hilt' bit needs documenting (as should indications of backing off).

Woozle,

Your comment about BushCo spilling the beans on an Al Qaeda lead reminds me of this little incident a couple of years ago, when Howard announced a 'clear and present danger' to support the anti-terrorist legislation he was trying to shove through by hook or by crook.

Mark said...

Let there be no mistake. The left has been proved just plain wrong in its reflex explanation, that the Iraq War “was about oil.” The real profit has come from those non-competitive contracts. From the war itself.

Sorry to complain about it every time, but you keep bringing this up. In this case it is virtually impossible to find someone on the reactive left who doesn't complain about the non-competitive contracts and the power of military-industrial complex.

David Brin said...

I never said that the no one on the left has noticed corruption. What they have done is fixate so relentlessly and illogically on oil that it has tended to discredit them.

Think. If you see a panoply of crimes, which ones should you concentrate on?

1) A crime that you cannot p[rove, that seems to run diametrically opposite to evidence, and that when you shout about it, will make many people shrug?

2) A crime that is backed up by towers of evidence, that directly betrays everybody in sight, including the troops, and that shows the perps to be hypocritical bastards EVEN BY THE VALUES OF THE OTHER SIDE?

If you scream "they went into Iraq after oil!" a fair part of our population will answer "really? sounds good to me. Let's get more! And stop sniveling, you moralistic twerp."

But if you shout "Supposed capitalists are cheating instead of competing, stealing YOUR tax dollars and robbing Our Boys at gunpoint" who will defend that? We have to attack where it will hurt em. And that means picking where they are weakest.

Places where even conservatives will hate what they hear.

Mark said...

Perhaps you are correct, but personally I hear relatively little oil talk and lots of corruption talk. Perhaps that is selective hearing on my part, but I think it is actually selective hearing on yours.

Then again, I was about to use Haliburton as my example, but then I realized this was a bit of a Rorschach Test in that I associate Haliburton mostly with corruption and no-bid contracts but you probably associate them most with oil. Or more specifically, see others associating them with oil.

David Brin said...

Well well, if Don were still here, he'd insist it was oil, but that the neocons were incompetent.

And do you think Michael "it's all oil" Moore has changed his tune?

I will confess that dems and libs are starting to veer toward the real meat - corruption etc - and I may not be crediting that shift enough. But I can be forgiven, since I have been yowling for this shift for three years.

Again, it has to be parsed as sins against enterprise, against healthy capitalism, against America. Heck even against conservatism. It could be a rout.

ErnieG said...

Dave you are getting warmer.
The biggest problem this country has is a budget that is out of control.
The year in year out debasement of the dollar, and the inflation tax all are symptoms of this spending spree. When the real cost not what the feds call the CPI goes up 10% a year that is the real rate of inflation in the money supply, which translates into a 10% rise in the real cost of living every year.

Since 1913 the US dollar has been debased from being worth $20 per troy ounce of gold to the current $750 per troy ounce. I mention 1913, that is the year the federal reserve came into existence and is the cause of the debasement or inflation in the money supply. Governments have used debasement of the currency since time immemorial to pay for wars and other waste. As you can see we have debased the dollar 37.5 times its value from 1913, or 3750 %.

The real problem was stated back in the early 19th Century, Davy Crockett was campaigning in his congressional district in Tennesee and he met a farmer in his field who said he wouldn't vote for him. When Davy asked why he was told that the governments money was not his to spend. Davy had voted along with many of his colleagues to appropriate money to relieve the conditions of homelessness in Georgetown due to a large fire. This is what Farmer Bunce objected to. The constitution was clear Davy could not spend the money that way because the constitution did not give him that authority.

And that is why we have the problems today, an idea that the they (Congress) can vote any appropriation because the money supply is endless. We will just up the federal debt limit and borrow more.

Where you are wrong is the belief that anyone can be trusted with that power. Whether he is a democrat or a republican. That is why we need to go back to constitutional government and to eliminate the temptation of the Federal Reserve Money From Debt machine.

I see your indictment as first an indictment of government in general and then as an indictment of the current rascals in power, as Andy Jackson called them.

David Brin said...

I understand your Big L libertarianism. I once gave an LP keynote!

But I must tell you that it is mysticism on the oder of speaking in tongues and wrestling serpents and it guarantees that the LP will never be a player in the pragmatic running ot a modernist civilization.

I know PRECISELY what you are saying, and it is romanticism

Have you read my essays on a better libertarianism?

Zechariah said...

For the sci-fi fan in all of us, I wanted to point out a lumberjack walker. Yes, a walking robot vehicle. Slow, but it works.

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=CD2V8GFqk_Y

Tony Fisk said...

By the way, an interesting little news snippet that may or may not have any substance.

Next time you attend a rally, it might pay to take your butterfly net

David Brin said...

A long comment-missive. I'll bury it here so it won't interfere with my next big one.

John Mauldin is a brilliant financial analyst whose newsletter is filled with cogent insights. Alas, as a Texan FOB (Friend of Bush) is is an archetype ostrich. This time, he passed along a bucket of rationalizations by George Friedman, explaining "why Blackwater happened."

example passage:

Blackwater, KBR and all the rest are the direct result of the faulty geopolitical assumptions and the force structure decisions that followed. The primary responsibility rests with the American public, which made best-case assumptions in a worst-case world. Even without Iraq, civilian contractors would have proliferated on the battlefield. With Iraq, they became an enormous force. Perhaps the single greatest strategic error of the Bush administration was not fundamentally re-examining the assumptions about the U.S. Army on Sept. 12, 2001. Clearly Donald Rumsfeld was of the view that the Army was the problem, not the solution. He was not going to push for a larger force and, therefore, as the war expanded, for fewer civilian contractors.

The central problem regarding private security contractors on the battlefield is that their place in the chain of command is not defined. They report to the State Department, not to the Army and Marines that own the battlefield. But who do they take orders from and who defines their mission? Do they operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under some other rule? They are warriors -- it is foolish to think otherwise -- but they do not wear the uniform. The problem with Blackwater stems from having multiple forces fighting for the same side on the same battlefield, with completely different chains of command. Indeed, it is not clear the extent to which the State Department has created a command structure for its contractors, whether it is capable of doing so, or whether the contractors have created their own chain of command.


You get the picture? It's all Foggy Bottom's fault.

Here is my lengthy but focused reply to John which (alas) he'll never publish:



John, as usual, George F. makes many fine micro-points, while getting the macro-point entirely wrong..

Yes, the earlier post-Cold War consensus made some assumptions that broke in recent years. To use a medical metaphor, we assumed that we would either fight “emergency room” operations or else wars of “elective surgery.”

Elective surgery would include wars meant to enforce an elective national foreign policy. A regime change in Hait. Or stepping in to the Balkans. The rule for elective surgery is that you only go in if there is a clear plan, a timetable, an exit strategy, an international consensus or genuine coalition... and, above all, if the intervention will not adversely affect our vital interests: readiness, social cohesion and a tight budget. Such operations must also be very stingy with human life, especially our service men and women. Finally, it should be successful and increase the ability of the US to exert leadership in the world.

The Balkans intervention fit all of these qualities, leaving readiness and the budget untouched. US popularity skyrocketed, even in the Muslim world. military morale soared, along with re-enlistments. And nil cost included zero - that is zero - American lives lost.

The Afghanistan operation had the motivation of an “emergency room” procedure but was carried out according to Powell Doctrine “elective surgery” methodologies. Understandable, since it was actually war gamed, planned and put on the shelf much earlier. Around 1998, according to my contacts. President Bush had only time to say “Go!” to an existing plan. One that worked marvelously, much to Osama’s chagrin. (Clearly the main motive of 9/11 was to draw us into the killing zone where he had humbled one great power.)

At the end of that campaign, all of the criteria for a successful war of national policy - or elective surgery - had been accomplished.

Here’s the point relating to GF’s essay. Under an emergency room operation, peacetime laws and procedures remain in place. Laws having to do with treatment of prisoners. Laws relating to the spending of money. And laws regarding the vetting and letting of government contracts.

Specifically, peacetime laws require that service contracts be offered for bid int the most open way possible, to encourage the benefits of competition. That contracts be subjected to rigorous peer criticism. That the contractors submit to regular audits by both contracted and civil servant inspectors, who would themselves by appointed from among the qualified and subject to peer review.

These are only sensible processes, designed to apply BOTH the hand of competitive capitalism AND the eagle eye of dedicated civil servants to ensuring that the taxpayer dollar is wasted as little as possible, and that services are actually delivered without cheating or illegal acts.

ABove all, as GF does allude, elective surgery operations should only make brief and limited use of the National Guard and reserves. If we cannot exercise national policy with the army we have -- WHILE maintaining high readiness -- then Congress should be asked for a bigger army and the people should be asked to pay for it.

The law DOES allow an exception to these procedures. When the Commander in Chief declares a vital and urgent national state of emergency. In other words, when the war is a bona fide “emergency room” operation.

One could make a case that the First Gulf War was such an emergency. Our people weren’t in danger, but critical interests might have been. In any event, the mobilization of our NATO ground Army was easy to accomplish. A national consensus backed the war. It satisfied the Powell Doctrine in all ways but one, preserving our budget, popularity, readiness etc and achieving worthwhile goals at relatively low cost. The decision to piss away victory and leave the Southern Shiites to be slaughtered, after asking them specifically to rebel (“We’re on our way!) is a horrid blot on our national honor that has come back to haunt us. But one could call the fighting part of the war an emergency well done.

Above all, the very definition of emergency means --- “temporary.”

But back to those contractors. What GF relentlessly implies is that we had no choice but to hire contractors. Well, we could argue, in abstract, whether it is time to re-introduce a “slim draft”, or to solve our problems by PAYING for a bigger force, or... there are countless ways we might NOT have to hire contractors who cost 5-10 times either a soldier or a civil servant. But...

...but GF is evading the point. Which is that the Iraq Contractor Scandals are NOT an automatic result of having to hire contractors!

They are an automatic result of this administration declaring an endless “emergency” during which all normal and lawful systems of accountability were suspended, simply by fiat! Without competitive bidding, peer review, transparency, oversight, audits, or even supervision by disinterested civil servants OR auditing companies... what would you expect?

Dig it, my friend. The first two justifications for Iraq II were sold to us as “emergencies” -- WMDs and Saddam terror links. These fabrications were then used to justify emergency over-rides of every law and every grownup procedure. The resulting gravy train hemorrhage of taxpayer dollars has Barry Goldwater spinning in his grave.

Now? While “emergency” is still screeched from the rooftops, the explanation for the war as POLICY is that we are engaged in a “utopian exercise in nation-building in order to bring democracy and transform the middle east.”

Even giving the benefit of the doubt of good intentions, and however sweet that goal, it is ELECTIVE SURGERY by definition. Thus, it should be done according to the rules for elective policy wars. e.g. not reducing our readiness, disemboweling our finances, dividing the nation, driving away friends, recruiting terrorists, or tossing out every contracting law so that every contract just happens to go, at inflated rates, to a secretive member of a tight-knit FOB clan.

In this light, with the “emergency” justification exposed as a methodology to steal one third of a trillion dollars, what are we to make of this paragraph?

“Blackwater is the logical outcome of a set of erroneous geopolitical conclusions that predate these wars by more than a decade. The United States will be fighting multidivisional, open-ended wars in multiple theaters, and there will be counterinsurgencies. The force created in the 1990s is insufficient, and thus the definition of noncombat specialty has become meaningless.

"The Reserve/Guard component cannot fill the gap created by strategic errors. The hiring of contractors makes sense and has precedence. But the use of CIA personnel outside the military chain of command creates enough stress. To have private contractors reporting outside the chain of command to government entities not able to command them is the real problem.”

Individual correct statements, all adding up to a giant falsehood. We could have (and did) dealt with the 9/11 emergency without disrupting America, top to bottom. We could have eliminated Saddam as policy, calmly, without lying to invoke an emergency. We could have pursued our present goals in ways that built national consensus, preserved allies and readiness and obeyed the law.

And we could have hired and utilized contractors ACCORDING to law. After GF’s legerdemain, we are left with another “ostrich” distraction. An excuse to peer closely at a thread on the lapel of the criminal who is raping and killing our republic.

Zechariah said...

Oh, and I disagree with you to some degree about "pragmatism". That is what started our country on "preemptive warfare"

Ideologically we used to say that war was just for self defense. Then we started saying "okay, to defend our friends too", and now we go to war because it would be less costly than to suffer the first hit!

There have to be ideals that we are willing to stick with, to the death if necessary.