[FoRK] The Imperial Pentagon

Contempt for Meatheads jbone at place.org
Thu May 20 09:49:47 PDT 2004


	
First of two great Salon articles today...  no commentary necessary on 
this one, except to say:  if Wolfie were an entrepreneur interacting w/ 
his investors the way he and friends interact with the Congress, not 
only would he not be an entrepreneur for long --- he'd be in jail.  "We 
need more money.  No, we don't know how much.  A lot.  We're going to 
ask for a lot more later, too, and no - we don't know how much.  No, we 
don't know how long the money goes.  No, we don't have a business plan. 
  No, we don't have an elevator pitch --- just a couple of tag lines.  
No, we haven't been delivering on what we promised, really.  No, we 
aren't going to tell you how we're spending all that money.  Or, if you 
insist, we're going to lie to you about how we're spending it."   Etc. 
etc.  :-/

---

The imperial Pentagon
Rumsfeld and his minions are treating Congress as if it's on a 
need-to-know basis about Iraq -- from the number of private contractors 
there to how taxpayers' money is being spent to our military strategy.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Robert Schlesinger

printe-mail

May 20, 2004  |  The two companies -- CACI and Titan -- implicated so 
far in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal are notably missing from a list 
submitted earlier this month to Congress by Secretary of Defense Donald 
Rumsfeld of private security companies operating in Iraq.

On April 2 -- after a skirmish in Fallujah, Iraq, left four Blackwater 
employees dead, but before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke -- Rep. 
Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed 
Services Committee, sent a letter to Rumsfeld asking about the private 
security companies in Iraq: "Specifically I would like to know which 
firms are operating in Iraq, how many personnel each firm has there, 
which specific functions they are performing, how much they are being 
paid, and from which appropriations accounts."

A month later, on May 4, Rumsfeld responded with generic information. 
The Coalition Provisional Authority has paid $147 million to eight 
companies, he reported, and he offered a "current listing of known 
PSCs." Sixty firms were listed, but CACI and Titan were not among them. 
Also missing from the list were companies like the Vinnell Corp., MPRI 
International, SAIC, Eagle Group and WorldWide Language Resources, 
which are involved in training the new Iraqi Army, according to a Web 
site set up by the Department of Commerce.

Since the prisoner abuse scandal first broke at the end of April, 
members of Congress have been trying to understand exactly what these 
independent contractors are doing in Iraq. But questions remain 
unanswered concerning precisely what contractors did at Abu Ghraib and 
what they still do in other U.S.-run prisons, to whom they are 
responsible and, more broadly, what they are doing on such critical 
missions as counterintelligence. Congress has received only a trickle 
of information from the Pentagon, and this information is often 
incomplete if not outright deceptive, according to members of Congress 
and their staffs.

Rep. Skelton is not alone in receiving sketchy or misleading 
information about the contractors from the Pentagon. Another House 
member asked the Pentagon for the general disposition of private 
security forces in Iraq -- how many and where, roughly speaking. 
(Because the list is classified, the member cannot be named.) The 
member's office got back a detailed roster of around 900 private 
security firm employees, but none were associated with well-known firms 
like Blackwater and Kellogg, Brown and Root (a Halliburton subsidiary), 
and roughly one-third were non-U.S. citizens. This figure contrasts 
greatly with 20,000 contractors -- Rumsfeld's often cited number -- at 
large in the country.

The information blackout extends to other aspects of the Abu Ghraib 
issue. Defense Department officials turned over to Congress Maj. Gen. 
Antonio Taguba's report on prisoner abuse in Iraq only after it had 
been posted all over the Internet. Days later they passed along the 
6,000 pages of annexes backing up the report, but, according to one 
Capitol Hill staffer who has seen the annexes, the new material is 
incomplete. Some sections have cover pages, the staffer said, but 
nothing else. Notably, the enclosures to the statements of Col. Thomas 
Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was 
at Abu Ghraib, are among the crucial missing items.

Sen. Mark Dayton, a Minnesota Democrat who sits on the Armed Services 
Committee, recalled how until last month, members would receive regular 
briefings, all with the same message: Iraq was 95 percent pacified and 
the situation was improving. "Right now with the prison abuses, we're 
getting something along the same lines," Dayton said, that is: "This is 
one prison, a few incidents, caused by a few bad apples who weren't 
following all the procedures, regulations and instructions that have 
been handed down from above. No one else knew about it, they should be 
punished, end of story. The Red Cross indicates, having visited 14 
prisons, that it was far more widespread."

He added: The Pentagon has "been minimally responsive to Congress -- 
and only under duress and out of absolute necessity -- from the very 
beginning, although I question the accuracy of enough of the 
information that we have received that I'm not sure whether [this] 
information is better than no information."

Dayton is not alone in that view. "We have been treated as at best an 
inconvenience that they can avoid and deal with as they choose, and at 
worst we have been treated as though we are asking questions that are 
unpatriotic or causing problems for them," said Rep. Ellen Tauscher, a 
California Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

One Republican Senate staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, 
sarcastically echoed one of Secretary Rumsfeld's famous maxims when 
asked about how forthcoming the Pentagon has been with information. "We 
don't know what we don't know," the staffer said, adding, "The truth is 
that no one up here really knows what our overall strategy is, either 
politically or militarily, there. We find out in the newspapers."

Indeed, the media generally seem to be a better source of information 
for members of Congress than does the Pentagon. Dayton described a 
classified meeting that Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of 
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had with roughly 40 senators at the end of 
April. "They didn't mention one word on the '60 Minutes II' report that 
was going to be airing in literally hours" -- the story that ignited 
the Abu Ghraib firestorm.

Nevertheless, members of Congress are determined to get the information 
they want. So, for example, they have inserted language requiring 
answers to Skelton's questions into the military authorization bill 
that is moving through the House. "It's ridiculous to have to put that 
into law," one Democratic staffer told me. But members believe they 
have no other option.

Yet there's no guarantee that even that will do any good. Consider the 
Pentagon's record of informing Congress on how the billions of dollars 
in supplemental spending are being used. Starting with the first 
supplemental spending bill immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, Congress 
gave the Defense Department some flexibility, but required that it 
submit quarterly reports on how the cash was being spent. The reports 
came regularly for a while, but mysteriously stopped last year, just 
after the invasion of Iraq.

"The last one covered activity through February 28 of last year and was 
included in a report dated May 9, 2003," said a Democratic staffer on 
the House Appropriations Committee. "That was the last report we got 
until about a week and a half ago. They didn't meet all of the 
requirements of the law in terms of regular reporting on expenditures, 
and what they did tell us was so general that it was virtually 
meaningless."

The uncommunicative, even secretive, attitude of the Bush-Rumsfeld 
Defense Department was perhaps best summed up at a Senate Armed 
Services Committee hearing last month when Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., 
asked Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz for access to a report 
on Iraqi security forces by Maj. Gen. Karl Eikenberry. Wolfowitz said 
he would see if he was allowed to share the report. "We have just as 
much a right to this information as you do," an outraged Reed told 
Wolfowitz. Reed is still waiting to see the report.

"We are a government intricately reliant on checks and balances," 
Tauscher said. "This is not a kingdom with someone having complete fiat 
and decision power. This is a democracy, and people have got to have 
informed environments to make informed choices. But I'll tell you, it's 
very, very hard to keep someone accountable if the components of 
accountability are dismissed."



More information about the FoRK mailing list