The Inexplicable Enrichment Of Bush Cronies

Linked with Evelyn Pringle – USA.

By Evelyn Pringle, published 20 April 2007 on Countercurrents.org.

With a short and a long excerpt: It’s time for Americans to face the cold hard truth that nothing will be accomplished by allowing the daily carnage in Iraq to continue, and if Bush has his way, our young people will be dying in this war profiteering scheme until hell freezes over. Congress needs to authorize funding to pull our troops out of that deathtrap and not one dime more …

… When it comes to war profiteering, members of the Bush administration have given a whole new meaning to the “revolving door.” A whole gang of thugs has been robbing us blind in Iraq since day one and nobody seems to be able to stop it.

Congress knows what’s going on. Back on September 30, 2003, during the Senate debate over the first Iraq spending bill, Senator John Edwards said he refused to funnel the $87 billion to Cheney and other Bush cronies after learning that Bush’s former campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, who was later appointed to head FEMA, had quit his job 3 weeks before the bombs began to fall in Iraq to start the consulting firm, New Bridge Strategies, for clients seeking contracts in Iraq.

“First, Vice President Cheney’s Halliburton receives more than $2 billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts,” he said, “and now this.”

He called it outrageous and disrespectful to the young people serving in Iraq. “President Bush should start addressing this credibility gap by calling on Joe Allbaugh and his friends to stop using their influence to secure government contracts in Iraq,” he said.

Senator Edwards said there used to be talk about money for Iraq being a blank check but we now “know the president is writing it out to Joe Allbaugh and Halliburton and it’s all endorsed by Vice President Cheney,” he said.

In hindsight, Edwards should have expressed outrage at a few more people because the profiteering team at New Bridges was stacked with Republicans. The company’s address was the same as a lobbying firm run by Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee that went under the name of Barbour Griffith & Rogers.

And as luck would have it, Lanny Griffith was the CEO of New Bridge, and Ed Rogers was the vice president.

The firm’s initial web site told potential clients, “the opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq.”

And these greedy thugs were so shameless that they didn’t even try to hide their elation over all the money they planned to make in Iraq. “Getting the rights to distribute Procter & Gamble products can be a gold mine,” one of the firm’s partners told Naomi Klein, quoted in an article in Harper’s Magazine in September 2004.

“One well-stocked 7-Eleven,” the partner said, “could knock out thirty Iraqi stores; a Wal-Mart could take over the country.”

There were rumors that a McDonald’s might open, a Starwood hotel was mentioned, and General Motors was said to be planning a factory and according to Ms Klein, Citigroup was preparing to offer loans guaranteed against future sales of Iraqi oil.

However since the war never did end, in 2004, Joe Allbaugh abandoned the quest for reconstruction gold mine in Iraq and started a consulting firm with the former director of Cheney’s secret energy task force, Andrew Lundquist, and their first client was Lockheed Martin.

The marriage between the ex-campaign manager, Cheney’s buddy, and Lockheed apparently worked out much better than the plan to build 7-Elevens in Iraq, because Lockheed stock value has doubled since 2001, and according to the Excess Report, the firm’s CEO has made $50 million since 9/11.

It may well have been that Joe’s new firm was simply an outgrowth from the many other firms set up by this same gang because Haley Barbour had already worked as a lobbyist for a Lockheed.

On thing is certain, Lockheed was not lacking for administration insiders when Allbaugh came knocking. For instance, before Cheney took over as VP, his wife, Lynne served on the board of Lockheed, receiving deferred compensation to the tune of half a million dollars in stock and fees, according to a January 16, 2007 report by Richard Cummings.

Cummings notes that Cheney’s “2004 financial disclosure statement lists Lockheed stock options and $50,000 in Lockheed stock.”

In addition, Cheney’s son-in-law, Philip Perry, Cummings says, was appointed to serve as general counsel to the Department of Homeland Security, and he had been a registered lobbyist for Lockheed who had worked for a law firm representing Lockheed with the Department of Homeland Security.

According to Cummings, less than a month after 9/11, in October of 2001, the Pentagon announced a $20 billion contract for Lockheed for the development of the Joint Strike Fighter, called the F-35. At the time, Edward Aldridge was Undersecretary of Defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics, which was responsible for the approval of the contract. Aldridge left his government post in 2003, and he now just happens to serve on Lockheed’s board of directors.

However, the most stunning revelation in the Cummings report, is that in November 2002, Stephen Hadley, deputy national security advisor at the time, called Lockheed employee, Bruce Jackson, to a meeting at the White House and told him that the US was definitely going to war in Iraq but there was one small hitch, the administration could not decide what reason to use to justify it.

So Jackson formed the “Committee for the Liberation of Iraq,” and its mission statement said it was “formed to promote regional peace, political freedom and international security by replacing the Saddam Hussein regime with a democratic government that respects the rights of the Iraqi people and ceases to threaten the community of nations.”

According to Cummings, the “pressure group began pushing for regime change – that is, military action to remove Hussein – in the usual Washington ways, lobbying members of congress, working with the media and throwing money around.”

Jackson told Cummings that he did not see the point of going on about WMDs or an Al Queda link because he thought the human rights issue was enough to justify the war.

However, Hadley did not agree. “The committee’s pitch,” Cummings says, “or rationale as Hadley would call it, was that Saddam was a monster — routinely violating human rights — and a general menace in the Middle East.”

Jackson said he closed down the Committee in June 2003 because its human rights rationale had been abandoned. “We were cut out,” he told Cummings, “after the whole thing went to Rumsfeld,” and Hadley explained that “terrorism and WMDs” were now the rationale for the war, not human rights.

However, Cummings reports that members of the war sales team that served with Jackson have done well for themselves. The president of the Committee, Randy Scheunemann, became the president of the Mercury Group, and lobbied for Lockheed and others, and then set up the firms, Scheunemann and Associates, and Orion Strategies, which, among other things, consults with companies and countries looking to do business in Iraq.

In November 2003, another Committee member, Rend Al-Rahim Francke, was appointed Iraqi ambassador to the US.

Meanwhile back in Iraq goldmine, the Iraqis have nothing to show for all the torture that they have endured for the past 4 years. On average, Iraqis still get only about two hours of electricity a day, and the situation won’t be improving anytime soon because the US has not built a single major power plant.

And despite the $22 billion funneled to the war profiteers for reconstruction, a US official recently said, Baghdad may not have continuous 24-hour electricity until the year 2013.

For the people drawn to Iraq to fight against the occupation, this is not a war against Americans; it’s a war against Bush. He tore this country apart for no reason and then just as the Iraqis predicted, the greedy gang of thugs swooped in and ripped everybody off.

And there is no reason to believe that the thievery has ended or the situation in Iraq will get better because an audit released on January 31, 2007, by Inspector General, Stuart Bowen, reported that the $300 billion war and reconstruction effort continues to be plagued with waste and corruption, and yet Bush now wants us to hand over another $100 billion to be funneled through Iraq to the exact same gangsters.

We will never win in Iraq no matter how long we stay because the other side will always have more people willing to die for the cause, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if the number of daily attacks continues to escalate as they have for the last 4 years, the US will run out of troops before they do.

To reach Evelyn Pringle. evelyn-evelyn-pringle@sbcglobal.net

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